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Photo: “Donald Trump (40525854191),” by Gage Skidmore licensed under CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic. Hue modified from the original.

Goss, Brian Michael. “Shield and sword: discursive kevlar and national review’s discourses on the first trump impeachment (2019-2020).” Atlantic Journal of Communication (2022): 1-18.


This investigation introduces a concept that bookends Herman and Chomsky’s seminal theorization of flak. While both Kevlar and flak are deployed on contentious grounds, flak goes on the attack against ideological opponents whereas discursive Kevlar assumes a posture of defense. Kevlar is also distinct from media management strategies that coopt news media and create a Teflon coating around an administration. A case study of National Review’s coverage of the first Trump impeachment maps out Kevlar tendencies. The investigation analyzes the array of Trump-affirming defenses that National Review marshaled during the impeachment. Despite its rarefied reputation, National Review’s discourses were saturated with punditry that refused considered analysis; exceptions to the rule of Kevlar on behalf of Trump are also discussed. National Review’s Kevlar campaign included pervasive attempts to delegitimize the Democratic Party, beginning with vagueness that glossed over the proximal cause of impeachment: Trump’s extortive shakedown of Ukraine’s government over congressionally-certified funds in an effort to seed news narratives favorable to Trump’s 2020 campaign. National Review constructed further Kevlar defenses through “whataboutism” toward Democrats while the publication’s misgivings about Trump were tempered by “confirming criticisms.” One implication is that Trump’s illiberal political project has been immeasurably assisted by elite (“tree-tops”) rightwing platforms.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.