In the article “Monica Lewinsky breaks silence on affair with Bill Clinton,” by Bob Fredericks, the rhetorical frames and visuals reinforced the author’s frame against Lewinsky. Priming enforces rhetorical frames, mentally or verbally, which teach us how to think about a person, group or issue correlated to previously presented information about that group. Frames also impact the cause, moral evaluation and solution about the issue.
In paragraph 18, Fredericks describes Lewinsky by saying, “she also whines about how the Internet magnified the story after it broke in 1998…” The use of the word ‘whines’ acts as a rhetorical frame to discredit what Lewinsky says about the media’s later coverage. This impacts the framing of the story to pit Lewinsky against the scandal and the Clinton administration.
In a subsequent paragraph, Fredericks utilizes another rhetorical frame when he said, “She also said her decade-long silence fueled suspicions that she’d had been paid off to keep her yap shut.” The word ‘yap’ is another rhetorical frame to discredit Lewinsky’s words. The negative connotation primes the audience for information that is not important and is synonymous to the word rant. Both illicit a cognitive reaction in the reader to ignore the following phrase or phrases.
The last example from this article to utilize rhetorical devices to drive the framing of the story occur in paragraphs 32 and 33.
She also adds in a girlish style that she does regret the whole thing.
“I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton. Let me say it again: I. Myself. Deeply. Regret. What. Happened.”
The above two paragraphs further enhance Lewinsky’s immaturity and inability to voice her side of the story, due to her age. Thus, the word “girlish” makes her quote, in subsequent paragraphs, less intellectual because of one word sentences.
Each of these carefully crafted words illicit a negative connotation among members of the audience as a priming mechanism to highlight her youth to explain the cause of the scandal. This is an example of salience in which one piece of information is more noticeable for the audience and is therefore the focus of the story.
When looking at framing in the media, there are four elements to dissect to grasp the story’s purpose: problem, cause, moral evaluation, and treatment. The problem, also called the subject, would be a scandal between President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, an intern. The cause was Monica Lewinsky displayed “undisguised lust for the married president” in a professional environment, which the audience may feel like she is “the girl who cried wolf.” This suggests the treatment is to punish Lewinsky for her breach in professionalism.
It is important to recognize the power of rhetorical frames in establishing cause and treatment. Media utilize this method to uphold the Clinton family while passing the blame solely to Lewinsky, which explains why she continues to struggle in the workforce.
But, there is another aspect that is commonly overlooked in regards to how to frame a story. That aspect is visuals. Although Bill and Hillary Clinton did not get a divorce, as a result of the scandal, the images of them display confrontation based upon the look Hillary gave her husband after an address and also her face in the last photo when Bill whispers in her ear. This friction symbolizes the struggle this administration faced throughout the scandal. The pictures of Lewinsky with President Bill Clinton and her holding up her right hand work together to show a correlation between her and the problem; but, it fails to clarify that correlation does not equal causation. Still, the video of Clinton speaking to the press begins with business as usual with only a 30 second clarification about the scandal. Thus, each visual element further perpetuates the problem was caused by Lewinsky.
Frames are powerful tools the media has at its disposal. It emphasizes small elements salience to call upon a common belief in American culture, eg. the President of the United States is a leader and role model who always looks out for the best interest of the American people. Based upon that culture, it is easy to frame Monica Lewinsky as the problem since she was a naïve girl who lacked privilege, in comparison to President Clinton, and who had no control over her emotions. Thus, white privilege disassociated Clinton with a scandal due to his privilege and access to power, which is common among celebrities.