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Title: A rhetorical analysis of wind concerns Ontario's use of melodrama to promote online opposition to industrial wind turbine developments
Authors: Cotton, Brent Douglas
Keywords: blogs;divisive humour;environmental grassroots organizations websites;environmental rhetoric;headlines;melodrama;Green Energy Act Ontario;industrial wind turbine opposition;participatory journalism;rhetorical analysis;Wind Concerns Ontario
Issue Date: 5-Feb-2018
Abstract: In 2009, the Ontario government implemented the Green Energy Act (GEA). Within this initiative, the GEA heavily subsidized renewable energy developments and instituted procedural mechanisms to expedite such developments across the province. In doing so, the GEA altered the landscapes of numerous rural Ontario communities. Since 2009, nearly 2 500 industrial wind turbines (IWTs) have been constructed – turbines approximately 80 meters high with blades exceeding 40 meters. In response to this alteration, roughly 50 grassroots groups have designated themselves as “Not A Willing Host” of IWTs. This phenomenon represents a paradoxical “green on green” (Warren et al. 2005) controversy in which pro-environmental arguments figure centrally (though not exclusively) within grassroots opposition to a government-led ‘green’ initiative. To understand the scope and style of these arguments as a form of environmental communication, my dissertation undertakes a textured rhetorical analysis of Wind Concerns Ontario’s (WCO) online opposition – the most prominent grassroots IWT opposition group within the province. Drawing on Schwarze’s (2006) theory of environmental melodrama, my rhetorical analysis illustrates that WCO’s use of ‘embedded third-party edited blog posts’ constitutes an environmental melodrama – a melodrama that is enacted through WCO’s appropriation of journalistic conventions. In communicating these posts, WCO often inserts its own headline, lead, visual and/or caption to frame the linked item as part of its oppositional discourse. I argue that this complex and contemporary rhetorical strategy functions as a form of participatory journalism to promote political homophily and create an echo chamber in which the ideological underpinnings of IWT opposition coalesce and reverberate, while contrary ideologies are dismissed. This research contributes to further mapping the parameters of the IWT controversy in Ontario. It also contributes to an understanding of the rhetorical repertoire of environmental melodrama by highlighting its discursive complexity and malleability – notably the incorporation of technocratic discourse conventions and divisive humour – two features not typically associated with this rhetorical form. Furthermore, by exploring the characteristics and implications of melodrama – a rhetorical form common in public disputes – this research will inform citizens and stakeholders who find themselves imbricated amidst a social controversy, environmental or otherwise, and navigating a potential rhetorical response.
Appears in Collections:Doctoral Theses
Human Studies and Interdisiplinarity - Doctoral Theses

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