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Chapter 2 Claims Norton Media Library Joel Best
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Rhetoric of claims Many claims tend to use a standard format with three components Grounds Warrants Conclusions
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Rhetoric of claims Grounds: Descriptions of the troubling condition Basic rhetorical recipe Typifying examples/atrocity stories which shapes public’s perception of what the condition is like; notice however that these stories do not reflect “typical” cases The problem is named and given an orientation (e.g., medical condition, scientific trouble, etc.) Statistic(s) offered that implies how severe the troubling condition actually is Big numbers preferred because they suggest that condition is widespread and thus serious enough for others to pay attention
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Rhetoric of claims Other types of grounds Claims that problem is getting progressively worse Construct profiles of both victims and villains Range claim: many different kinds of people are hurt by the troubling condition Challenges to other ways of constructing the social problem
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Rhetoric of claims Warrants: why we should be concerned about the troubling condition; focuses on why “ought to care” Utilize values (standards of good and bad, right and wrong that a majority of people share) Since different people hold to different values, best to use multiple warrants in order to cover as many possible reasons why people should care as possible
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Rhetoric of claims Conclusions: what should be done about the social problem; the solution Proposed solution must be in line with the grounds and warrants put forth by the claimsmaker Might offer both short-term and long-term goals (policy changes)
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Claims and Audiences Claimsmakers must try to create claims that others will find persuasive Valence issues: topics that nearly everyone will agree are significant social problems; easier for claimsmakers to make certain kinds of claims about these social problems Position issues: topics over which it is unlikely that most people will ever come to consensus; more difficult for claimsmakers to persuade most individuals, so often target those who think like themselves
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Claims and Audiences Audiences are differentiated or segmented Different social demographics often creates smaller audiences which worry about only certain kinds of social problems the most These segmented audiences may have different interests and ideologies Tactics for claimsmaking to various kinds of segmented audiences “Preach to the choir: make claims only to those who think as your group does Seek out the widest possible audience, for claim, often using multiple grounds and warrants to accomplish this claimsmaking goal
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Claims and Audiences Audiences are not passive but active; they might seek out some claims; reject others; and pick and choose what makes most sense to them. Successful claimsmakers are aware of this and pay attention to how the audience is responding to their claims
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Claims and Audiences Social problems marketplace At any given time, there are numerous claims about a variety of social problems being made and which are bombarding the audience Claimsmakers struggle to get the audience’s attention and keep refining their claimsmaking in an effort to be more successful Even if their issue has been come well-established as a social problem, claimsmakers need to keep refining their claims so that the problem does not become stale and cause it to lose attention by policymakers and the general public
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Claims and Audiences How do claimsmakers refine claims to keep audience attention? Domain expansion: redefine/broaden the definition of the problem, thereby adding in more possible victims to help and villains to control Piggyback: when a newer claim builds upon an older, more established social problem’s claimsmaking, saying that “it is just like X” where “X” is the more established problem
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Claims and Audiences Most claimsmaking campaigns that are not about valence issues will inspire counterclaims Often involve disputes over grounds or warrants “Stat wars” over which statistics are more reflective of the “true” situation Debates over ideologies (usually linked to warrants) Usually both sides nuance and modify claims as a response to counterclaims by the other side(s)
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Cultural resources While it is possible to create claims however claimsmakers want to, in practical reality, claims need to make sense to the intended audiences and to the claimsmakers themselves Thus claimsmaking requires that claimsmakers be attuned to the cultural context where the claims are being made
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Cultural resources So claimsmakers must tap into cultural resources – the well of words, ideas, and images that most people (of that culture) see as reasonable Any one culture contains a large number of words, ideas, and images to choose from It is also not necessarily internally consistent and cohesive, which allows claimsmakers about the same social problems to construct it in a variety of ways Culture is constantly changing, so claimsmakers need to be aware of any shifts in meaning, etc.
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Cultural resources Cultural resources both limit and enrich claimsmaking process Constrains claimsmakers by making them ground their claims in what others are likely to see as practical and reasonable But within the realm of the reasonable, claimsmakers will have a broad range of words, images, and ideas from which to select
Social Problems Copyright © 2008 W.W. Norton & Company Case study: Claims about gay marriage
End Chapter 2 This concludes the Norton Media Library Slide Set for Chapter 2 W. W. Norton & Company Independent and Employee-Owned Social Problems By Joel Best
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