Institutional Social Movement Strategies

People use various rhetorical techniques in order to have an impact on their audience. Four of these are: (a) conveying a sense of their own reality by invoking ideals (b) reverting to cultural norms to teach a lesson / persuade; (c) a transcendent appeal and (d) the moral arena of have or have not. Each of these can be exemplified in the attached essays.


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It seems to me that Cathcart”s essay best signifies this. The author discusses when and when not a movement can be described as confrontational. He goes into great lengths discussing the terms confrontational against other realistic terms and arguing where or not it can be accurately used in this sense. The author tries to get to the pith of the sense of the movement — to touch at its reality. Man he says acts as ‘symbol makers’. We often attach symbols to things that distort the rhetoric of the moment. There is also a dialectical ambiguity in discourse that can subvert morals and can inject rhetorical form with political or social agenda.

Cathcart concludes that his most genuine definition for movement would be ‘confrontational’ in an agonistic manner where loyalties are affirmed tested and changed, and where people work together to produce change. Confrontation can also be redemptive, as well as the fact that there are two types of movements: positive and negative.

What Cathcart is doing through his rhetoric, in other words, is invoking ideals though a discussion of reality, though a discussion of the analysis of the etymology.

The movie demonstrates this with the Twitter scene where buses and students rights are discussed and the essnce of the theme about fees and buses debated to its root. The three presenteers dicuss vaious aspects of the issue approaching it form its core reality. Students debate that core relaity


Beasly shows how rhetoric has been the vehicle for shaping American identity as ‘one if us’ rather than as ‘one of them’. Certain U.S. presidents too — especially Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge – achieved progressiveness by asking Americans to include minorities as part of ‘us’. It was in this way that they helped women sufracgacy and helped women gain voting rights. Presidential rhetorical taught cultural norms through their inclusive messages. According to Rorty (whom Beasly often quotes) rather than some Hegelian metaphysical spirit shaping U.S. change, it was presidential rhetoric that focused on institution and crated cultural norms and customs. It was this rhetoric that shaped progress.

In the movie with presenters arguing for students to take buses at least during one episode they revert to cultural norms as for instance the woman syaign that it would cut costs (which they all want) as well as reduce pollution.


Lyndon’s speech appeals to transcendental ideals. Take these utterances for instance:

‘Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man.” He uses lofty words “: the greatest nation on earth” when speaking about America.

Speaking about the Negroes, he says: “should we defeat every enemy, should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation…. For with a country as with a person, “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” ‘Religious flourishes stand side by side with national ardor and patriotism.

He reminds his listeners that “This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose.” Later he extolls himself as a president who wants to be remembered mainly for moral virtues rather than for his power. He ends with: “Above the pyramid on the great seal of the United States it says — in Latin — “God has favored our undertaking.”

God will not favor everything that we do. It is rather our duty to divine His will. But I cannot help believing that He truly understands and that He really favors the undertaking that we begin here tonight.”

His entire speech is a rhetoric-based on transcendental values. This is the secret of its success.

This transcendental appeal is seen in the movie by one of the participants arguing that the university is seen as a well-established recognized institution throughout the country and has to live up to its ideals.


President Lyndon Johnson’s “We Shall Overcome” became particularly memorable due to tis language of shared interests and aspirations (what he called “the American Promise”). It was this lofty moral rhetoric that enabled him to push through and accomplish America’s most important civil rights law — the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The speech too has had an enduring impact on Civil Rights.

The speech achieved its impact through the rhetoric of ‘American promise’ which implied a vow and its fulfillment; a relationship between government and people; a moral message or narrative that connects both. All men are created equal; all men want certain exigencies such as liberty; American has promised all men — regardless of race — possession o9f these. This extends to White as well as Black.

The sense of promise and urgency gave the speech its power and it also transmitted the symbols, beliefs, and values of a political ideal. It was his appeal to the sacred American Promise that tied listeners to the sentimentality of old, placed his appeal in a moral arena, and accorded it a transcendence that made it memorable.

This is seen in the movie where in the second clip, the boy argues that people have to know about this. The girl agrees: “yes, they have to.”


Beasly VB Engendering democratic change

Cathcart, RS: Movements as confrontational form

Pauley, GE LYNDON B. JOHNSON, “WE SHALL OVERCOME” (15 MARCH 1965) Voices of Democracy 3 (2008): 17-33

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