Monday, February 25, 2013

DeLuca's idea on environmental activism and rhetoric

In "Making Waves", Kevin DeLuca seems to argue that political environmental activism is an anomaly in the traditional sense of "civil discourse" in the rhetorical sense.  In the past there have been certain norms and boundaries that were followed. If you had a protest you got the proper paperwork from the city government to do so. Now, he claims "when taken seriously as rhetorical activity, image challenge a number of tenets of traditional rhetorical theory and criticism, starting with the notion that rhetoric is 'reasoned discourse,' with 'reasoned connoting 'civil' or 'rational' and 'discourse' connoting 'words.'"  Essentially, political activism is the next step in the evolution of rhetorical theory. No longer are we defined by using words alone but also actions, including impromptu protests and other ways of challenging the status quo including possible illegal activities such as trespassing and civil disobedience. 

DeLuca gives three snap-shot examples and shows how recent political activist groups sought to create a change. Greenpeace successfully brought to the American conscious the act of illegal whale hunting. The leaders of Greenpeace are influenced by Marshall McLuhan and his ideas of attracting media attention. Then he examines Earth First! and their occupation of trees to save them from being cut down. The backlash they faced in their "ecoterrorism" lead to violence and possibly even murder. In Kentucky, strip-mining and hazardous waste dumping have not only left the earth barren, but also effected the health and lives of the citizens living there. Civil disobedience by a group of elderly citizens brought about public attention and legislative action.

The history of rhetoric is also important to remember and DeLuca shows how culture in the last 50 years has help the evolution of rhetoric become what it is today. Historically, Deluca mentions Aristotle's On Rhetoric and the long standing tradition of eloquent speech and decorum used when engaging. He goes on to explain the civil disobedience of the 60's and 70's died off with the era of Regan and only now are we seeing the next steps of real rhetorical change. 

Many examples since the writing of this article bear witness to this idea. This article written in 1999 and since then the explosion of the internet has allowed such  flow and exchange of information like never before. Also, movements such as Kony, the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring further this idea, although not tied to environmentalism, necessarily but the use of "mind bombs" to impact the public consciousness. 

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