Rhetorical Practice in an Anti-Nuclear Weapons Campaign

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This article presents a rhetorical analysis of peace activists' discursive practices in a victorious campaign to defeat a Department of Energy plan to build a nuclear weaponsplant in the state of Idaho. Employing ideas derived from Michel Foucault and Kenneth Burke, a model of political movements as victimage rituals is applied to this campaign. This model suggests that activists must resort to the use of melodramatic rhetoric in power struggles with their opponents. Two main features of activists' discourse are highlighted: the vilification of pronuclear agents and the constitution of activists as moral agents defending the environment and public health from those agents. The results indicate that a focus on negative environmental and health effects can be an effective rhetorical strategy in local struggles against the war machine.