Legitimizing state violence: A comparative positioning analysis of discourses from the government and citizen supporters of the antidrug operations

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The present study proposes two distinct yet bidirectionally related forms of legitimation of state violence: those enacted by the government and those enacted by its citizens. We anchor this proposal upon a positioning framework. To demonstrate this conceptualization, we used a mixed methods approach that uses quantitative text mining procedures to supplement a qualitative positioning analysis. We analyzed a corpus of 18,968 words from presidential speeches to represent the government. At the same time, a corpus of 21,763 words from prodrug war Facebook comments to represent the citizens. We built and validated a classification model using support vector machines (SVM), which successfully distinguished between government and citizen utterances with an accuracy of 78.12%. Within the qualitative positioning analysis, we analyzed three storylines for the government and three storylines from the citizens. We show that bidirectional legitimation manifests between unique storylines of the government and citizens that share similar positionings. This study suggests that citizen discourse constructs state violence as acceptable on a different and yet equivalent level to the discourse of government politicians. We recommend for research in sociopolitical fields to shift in focus to comparatively analyze the unique discourses of both citizens and governments for episodes of national violence.