Protest Rhetoric

Social Movements

Social Movements: "an organized, uninstitutionalized, and large collectivity that emerges to bring about or to resist a program of change in societal norms and values,operates primarily through persuasive strategies, and encounters opposition in a moral struggle. (Stewart, Smith and Denton, 1994, p.1-7)

Types of social movements:






Key questions about social movements:

Who benefits?

Who loses?

What is the ideology?

What assumptions in the status quo are being challenged?


Examine the group's:





Degree of openness

View of Human Nature

View of Conflict

Nature of Persuasion

Nature of the "the People"

Type of Environment

Bowers, J. W., Ochs, D. J. and R. J. Jensen, (1993), The Rhetoric of Agitation and Control, Prospect Heights,IL:Waveland.

1.Petition-normal discursive means of persuasion: speeches, petitions to the government, letters....

2.Promulgation- win and attract support of new members: posters, meetings, notices to the media....

seek legitimizers

stage news worth events

3.Solidification- unite followers inside the group: essays, plays, songs, art work, symbols, slogans

use of positive terms

c-r groups

in-group publications

4.Polarization- moves individuals into agitation; division of us versus "them"

flag issues

flag individuals

5.Nonviolent resistance- sit-ins, boycotts, fasts, picket lines, prayer meetings....


6. Escalation and Confrontation- escalate tension until the establishment is confused, overreacts, looks foolish or acts afraid. This may force the SQ to give in to some demands.

use rumor, threaten disruptions, be verbally or nonverbally offensive, have non-negotiable demands, use token violence

7.Ghandi vs. guerrilla- the movement splits into two or more groups. The larger group is nonviolent and the smaller group

(underground) is committed to violence.

8.Guerrilla- large scale guerrilla attacks take place. The underground group now has support from some members of the community.

9.Revolution- full scale war or civil war breaks out. Armies are used.

Rhetoric of Control

1.Counter persuasion or Avoidance- evasion, buck-passing, postponement, secrecy, denial of means

2. Suppression-harassment, denial of demands, banishment, attempts to kill or control the leaders

3.Adjustment- changing names, sacrificing personnel, accepting some agitation, incorporate some of the dissent personnel or dissent ideology.

4.Capitulation- give in to most of the demands