Continuity and Change in the Rhetoric of the Moral Majority

Continuity and Change in the Rhetoric of the Moral Majority

Continuity and Change in the Rhetoric of the Moral Majority

Continuity and Change in the Rhetoric of the Moral Majority

Synopsis

The persuasive strategies employed by the Moral Majority in the early 1980s reassured and calmed a segment of the American population left confused and uncertain by recent national events. David Snowball's analysis of this powerful movement reveals that, while the fundamental message of the Moral Majority remained constant, its subsequent changing popular image and maturing rhetoric, which initially added momentum to its rapid rise, may have been at the root of its swift decline by the end of the decade. Although the study's primary focus is on the organization itself, the analysis also provides valuable insight into the nature of the American political system's response to counter-elite movements in general.

Excerpt

Those of us from the discipline of communication studies have long believed that communication is prior to all other fields of inquiry. in several other forums I have argued that the essence of politics is "talk" or human interaction. Such interaction may be formal or informal, verbal or nonverbal, public or private, but always persuasive, forcing us consciously or subconsciously to interpret, to evaluate, and to act. Communication is the vehicle for human action.

From this perspective, it is not surprising that Aristotle recognized the natural kinship of politics and communication in his writings of Politics and Rhetoric. in the former, he establishes that humans are "political beings [who] alone of the animals [are] furnished with the faculty of language." in the latter, he begins his systematic analysis of discourse by proclaiming that "rhetorical study, in its strict sense, is concerned with the modes of persuasion." Thus, it was recognized over 2,000 years ago that politics and communication go hand in hand because they are essential parts of human nature.

Back in 1981, Dan Nimmo and Keith Sanders proclaimed that political communication was an emerging field. Although its origin, as noted, dates back centuries, a "self-consciously cross- disciplinary" focus began in the late 1950s. Thousands of books and articles later, colleges and universities offer a variety of graduate and undergraduate coursework in the area in such diverse departments as communication, mass communication . . .

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