, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 423-452
Date: 29 Jan 2010

Styles of Rejection in Local Public Argument on Iraq

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A campaign to pass city council resolutions opposing an American invasion of Iraq in the Fall of 2002 and Spring of 2003 provided an opportunity to examine contrasting styles of public argument. This paper examines an extensive set of news and editorial articles as well as the actual deliberations before city councils. An argument’s style constructs a relationship between the speaker, audience, and issue through the strategic use of language. Two conflicting styles of argument were apparent in these deliberations: a protest style and a dissent style. Each style operated within a different normative frame that managed tensions between unity and division, participation and its lack, and inclusive and exclusive reasoning. While protest and dissent styles conflict, each frames important relationships for public discourse and deliberation.

A preliminary version of this article was presented to the Rhetoric and Public Address Interest group of the Western States Communication Association, February 2008. The research is from the author’s dissertation: Public Deliberation and Going to War under the direction of Drs. Karen Tracy and Gerard A. Hauser at the University of Colorado, Boulder, 2006.