Patriotism, Courtesy of Toby Keith: The Voice of Country Music After September 11

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Virginia Tech

In releasing the songs "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" and "American Soldier" in the aftermath of September 11, country artist Toby Keith enacts a tradition that has been established in the world of country music since the Civil War, that of producing wartime songs of patriotism. I conducted an organic analysis of both songs as rhetorical acts produced and consumed within a particular rhetorical context. Because country music is fundamentally a discourse that celebrates the attitudes, values and experiences of its audience, I first analyzed these two songs as instances of epideictic rhetoric. As an epideictic rhetor, Keith reinforces the traditional values of the country music audience, uniting them in celebration of the communal identity that renders them a rhetorical community. That shared identity enables Keith to advance a rhetorical vision of a post-September 11 reality, attributing meaning to the events of September 11 and the ensuing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. I use pentadic analysis to illuminate the vision presented in each song, and I utilize both media coverage and the Billboard charts to determine how well this vision "chained out" amongst the country music audience. Lastly, I utilize media coverage to explore the rhetorical context in which these songs were written and consumed.

Toby Keith, Dramatism, Symbolic Convergence, Epideictic Rhetoric, September 11, Country music