Something is Rotten in the United States of Denmark

The Transatlantic Bad Influence of American Political Rhetoric and its Rhetorical Remedies


Although Donald Trump himself is no longer in the White House, Trumpism has far from disappeared. On the contrary, the impact of its braggadocious populism is felt in political cultures beyond the United States, including Denmark. While US culture has long had a substantial influence on the everyday lives of Danes, often in productive ways, Trump-inspired right wing rhetoric has crossed this culture bridge to wreak democratic havoc and seems to be intent to stick and stay.

In this talk, visiting PhD student Frederik Appel Olsen reflects on his research stay at UW by considering the relationship between political rhetoric as it unfolds in the US and Denmark, on the one hand, and the influence of US-based rhetorical theory in a Danish academic setting, on the other. Might the latter be the remedy for the former?

The talk is built around case examples of how American right wing rhetoric sneaks into the public debate in Denmark as speakers employ rhetorical strategies borrowed from across the Atlantic. It ends on a more positive note, however, as it is argued that the American study of rhetoric is indispensable not only in understanding and dealing with Trumpism and similarly odious discourses, but also in enabling rhetorical studies more broadly at the University of Copenhagen’s rhetoric department specifically.


Frederik Appel Olsen is a PhD student at the Department of Communication at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. His PhD project is about scientific activism and ethos in the climate crisis, with a focus on social movements such as Scientist Rebellion. However, his research interests also cover political rhetoric, public debate and polemics. Frederik is visiting the University of Washington September 2021-January 2022 and has been working under the supervision of Professor Leah Ceccarelli.

Jan 26 at 12:30pm

Zoom Link