Blog 5 – Digging deeper into partisan conceptions of the NSA

A couple things this week. First, I want to bring up an article that came up in my exploration of news on the topic:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/22/privacy-and-the-threat-to-the-self/

Here Lynch suggests modern conceptions of privacy are rooted in Cartesian conceptions of the mind—conceptions that he, as a philosopher, believes are rightfully outdated, but still apply in this case. Most notably he suggests that privacy concerns fall into two broad categories. First there is the political concern that a total absence of privacy would allow others to control us, perhaps a bit indirectly, but control nonetheless. More essentially, though, he suggests that privacy—privileged access to one’s own mind—is essential for personhood, pointing out that the elimination of privacy is a common dehumanizing tactic, which I suppose hearkens back to Foucault’s panopticon.

Next, I want to talk about some preliminary conclusions from my review of partisan commentary written in the immediate aftermath of the NSA spying revelation (or at least the latest NSA spying revelation). The first thing I noticed was that the writers from the right are strongly divided on the issue, with some of them suggesting this is essentially the end of personal liberty. Generally these arguments are linked to recent topics that gained a lot of traction with the right (the Ohio IRS issue, and occasionally Benghazi). Other right wing writers, while being careful to state that Obama is a would-be dictator and generally underhanded person, take an equally strong stance in support of the spying. However, I think there are some interesting parallels hidden under this disagreement. First, both are essentially dismissive of the notion of a public sphere capable of having an impact on the state in the way Habermas imagines. Second, and perhaps causing the first point, both offer, perhaps in place of the regulatory power of the public sphere, a reliance on virtue. That is, one simply trusts “good” people, and “bad” people (or institutions) can never be trusted nor limited by any conversation. Thus those who oppose the spying base their position on assertions that the government (sometimes Obama, sometimes government in general) is simply wicked, and the only way to contain it is to cut off all its access to information. Defenders of the program, on the other hand, rely on two arguments. First, they attempt to define public and private in such a way as to suggest the spying only affects public information (a focus on meta-data). Alternately, they try to distinguish between “good”—and therefore trustworthy—elements of government (basically those associated with intelligence and the military) and “bad”—untrustworthy—elements (everything else). The irony, of course, is that what we have in all these articles is an element of a public sphere seeking to influence government in a very Habermasian sense, primarily through an argument that the government is too fundamentally wicked and corrupt to be influenced by any public sphere arguments.

On to the left next week.

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A slight detour and some thoughts about constructed publics

I’m wandering slightly off track this week, but reading Simons has pushed me to revisit a foundational question. As a bit of shorthand I have frequently talked about studying liberal or conservative communities via analysis of media targeted to subsets of these communities. Of course I recognize the issue is more complex than that, and Simons’ discussion of public participation makes me feel the need to explore this in greater detail.

 

The first level of this exploration is built around the argument that political identity is ultimately an individual element, and so any study of media is looking at something else, perhaps something related, but perhaps not. Inevitably it will be pointed out that media have an agenda quite apart from accurately representing any given political identity. This is certainly true to some degree, and I’ll come back to it in a bit, but let me turn the tables a bit and consider the nature of that agenda, which, I would argue, is quite simply profit. Leaving the whole of Marx aside, this actually turns out to be quite convenient for me, as the profit motive demands media appeal to their audiences, and for Burkean’s like myself that means the media needs to construct an image of political identity with which audience members will identity. I should clarify here that my focus on highly partisan/ideological publications is again rather helpful here, as such publications don’t need (or want) to appeal to a general audience, focusing instead on the core believers. In fact, the fragmentation of modern media, where we can all hear only those voices supporting our position if we so choose (and so many of us do), helps make the whole project much more tenable.

 

There is another aspect that has to be considered, though, which is that publics are often not organic. In Simons’ text, she discusses the various publics involved in the disposal process, but what struck me is that the whole notion of mandated public input seems like an attempt to manufacture a public. Simons argues that the result is not a single public, but rather a series of existing publics actively participating, but the notion of a manufactured public remained with me. Clearly, I’m wondering how much the media are constructing the political identity, and how much they are merely reflecting what exists. Certainly the process of identity formation is not solely driven by media, and as Foucault points out, instead involves the interaction of multiple nodes of power as individuals adopt, reject, alter, and remix these constructed identities, but the question remains. However, I would suggest that this sort of chicken/egg question doesn’t really need to be answered, and in fact that the claim that an answer is possible may indicate some modernist leanings insofar as it asserts there is a “correct” (and likely fixed) identity, rather than just the moderately fluid rhetorical construction that we must call the truth. This quite the rabbit hole, obviously, but let me just suggest that if one wants to qualify my project as studying media constructions of political identity at a particular moment and nothing more, I’d be okay with that. But I still think the notion of manufactured publics is an interesting angle and worthy of greater exploration. I suspect that, despite Simons argument that it didn’t happen in her study, it can be done, and more importantly, is being done all the time.

Looking for that sweet spot: the intersection of theme & theory

This week I’ve added eight more articles to my potential-corpus list, and have tried to branch out slightly, though more branching in coming. All the articles come from the first three days after the NSA story broke (so June 6-9) in an attempt to capture initial impressions. I don’t necessarily think such impressions are better that the “consensus” discourse that appears when various publics have worked their way to an settled view of an event, but I do think initial and consensus articles are likely different, and for this project I’ll try to stick to the first. (Though I’m focusing on articles rather than blogs [mostly] so these are not the very first reactions, but merely among the first.) As such, what I’m producing is a synchronic snapshot of political impressions—a still image that is designed to determine… Well, I’m not sure what yet. I’ll get to that. In any case, my previous articles came from The Nation and the National Review. This week I’ve added another “mainstream” right-wing publication, The Weekly Standard, and two more left-wing publications: Mother Jones and the partially user-written DailyKos website. Next week I’ll look further afield, focusing more on sources much further from the mainstream (though DailyKos is pretty far already). My goal for today’s blog, as I hinted at a few sentences ago, is to begin to hone in on a specific topic, trying to find the intersection between visible themes in the readings and elements of public rhetoric theory as we’ve discussed it so far.

 Potential Angles:

  1. Rei and Cintron both talk about how specific terms come to function as topoi, but as topoi that carry meaning, organize beliefs, and promote action in ways that are quite specific to the publics that use them. It is likely that I might find such terms and explore how they (or it—maybe it’ll just be one term) are used in ways that help define the public. From this perspective, it may be that what appear to be politically-aligned publications might be revealed as distinct publics, using terms in distinct ways.
  2. A related approach (they’re all pretty related, actually) might be to focus on Asen’s suggestion that rather than focusing on persons or topics, the “ways in which counterpublics set themselves against wider publics may be most productively explored by attending to the recognition and articulation of exclusion through alternative discourse norms and practices” (abstract). This would likely require first limiting the corpus to texts representing (creating?) specifically counterpublics. I’m not sure how much of a limitation this would actually be, though, as I’ve found in other research at a different time and on a different topic, that most texts in political communities tend to present themselves as victimized underdogs, and this, I believe, implies that even the most powerful political communities may be organized by their opposition to a perceived more-powerful other. That might be interesting in itself, if it turns out to be supportable.
  3. Finally, virtually all the authors address the issue of the NSA in part by offering a definition of public and private. This is obviously right at the heart of Habermas and all subsequent pieces we’ve read, so it seems a likely angle. Here, my real question would be how much the ideological and/or partisan affiliation of the various publications aligns with their particular take on public/private. Again, it could be interesting if this were a means of finding alternative means of grouping or identifying political leanings. I would add that this approach might be productively viewed as a subset of approach #1, with the focus on “private” (and maybe “public”) as the specific topoi under examination.

Public Rhetorics – blog 2: Are left/right using different dramatistic norms?

I’ve done a bit of reading on the initial reactions of conservative (National Review) and liberal (The Nation) articles on the NSA spying issue. The Guardian published the Snowden leaks about the extent of the domestic spying on June 6th, and I’ve looked at the first seven or so editorials from these two publications. So far, there are some interesting, but not entirely surprising distinctions.

First, a slightly surprising similarity: both left and right consistently condemn the spying. There are some minor caveats, as the one or two authors at the National Review try to offer support for some more limited level of domestic spying (interestingly by an attempt to define “public” and “private”), but generally both sides object. This is a bit of a surprise from the right because they had previously been fierce defenders of Bush’s domestic spying through the NSA, and from the left because the person in charge of the spying is a Democrat. This fact alone suggests that the right is particularly concerned with attacking the political opposition, while the left is quite willing not to defend “its own.” (Or, perhaps that the left does not see Obama as particularly representative of the self, I suppose).

The key difference between the groups is the way in which they frame the issue, not surprisingly. The right brings all of its attacks back to Obama and to “government” in general. The authors use incredibly strong language (the end of freedom, a “sinister merging of party and state”), and make continual connections previous political issues they’ve been discussing (the Ohio IRS targeting of Tea Party, Benghazi, etc) to promote a narrative of evil villains and innocent victims. The left, on the other hand, seems to focus on the legal issues, removing the focus on Obama as the agent, and discussing instead the framework of laws and policies, as well as the extensive involvement of non-governmental groups such as certain corporations and private firms. Of course this has the effect of reducing the perceived agency of Obama in particular. From a dramatistic perspective, one could argue that the left adopts a primarily scenic perspective, with some focus on agency. The right adopts an almost totally agent & act perspective.

Moving to the issue of publics, what strikes me is how distinct these two publics are. Habermas of course didn’t see these multiple publics (and was appropriately brought to task for it), but despite the common topic (politics, the NSA, privacy), the entirely different approaches to motives as seen by the differing dramatistic emphases implies these authors are participating in surprisingly (depressingly?) distinct publics. It may even be the case that the narratives adopted by each make the two publics almost incommensurable (in a Kuhn-ian sense), though I would hesitate to make such a claim, if only because it would mean the end of real political discourse insofar as it undermines hope for a truly inclusive public space.

My last thought is that the right (or again, the few authors from the right that I read) might be seen as a counterpublic, existing primarily to oppose Obama rather than to support any particular policy, while the left is not so focused on pure opposition to the right. If this is so (and I certainly don’t have anything close to enough to support such a claim now), then the next question would likely be how much these roles are determined by political context. Is the out-of-power public innately a counterpublic? And then, what does it mean to be out of power? (Republicans certainly retain quite a bit of political power, despite holding only the House.) And finally, to what extent can we get an accurate sense of a public by looking only at media? Given the need for media to respond to existing publics I think this is not a totally crazy approach, but one certainly needs to be mindful that this is only one piece of a larger conversation. I suppose this is a problem in trying to “explain” any public, though.

Preliminary Musings on My Public Rhetorics Project

My dissertation will focus on the narrative construction of political identity, specifically looking to see if the left and right (yes, I know the dichotomy is inaccurate, simplistic, and problematic) use different narrative forms. Given this, I’m inclined to look at a political issue and see how the left and right deal with it. Summer classes are always tough for me because I like to let a few ideas ferment (ripen?) before settling on one, but with the compressed schedule I’ll just jump in and say that I’m going to look at how the left and right address the recent revelations about the NSA spying.

 

Politically this is a particularly interesting issue because it directly challenges both sides. The left, so vocally opposed to George W Bush’s domestic spying, is suddenly faced with a similar (though not identical) program being run by a Democratic president. Likewise the right, whose central governing philosophy of late seems to be reflexive opposition to anything Obama or the Dems support, faces the unappealing choices of either rejecting a policy they fiercely supported five years ago, or defending Obama, their central villain.

 

Perhaps more importantly for this class, though, is the way the issue reveals some of the internal struggles within each community. A great deal of the inaccurate/simplistic/problematic objections to seeing politics as left vs. right is that neither left nor right is actually a single public. Instead, both are a variety of publics align at times, but certainly compete as well. Furthermore, there are great disparities of power between participants in any particular public, as well as between the various publics themselves.

 

My early thought on how to enter into a study of this is rooted in Hauser’s statement that “we may redress these [Habermas’] problems by reconceptualizing the public as a plurality of publics grounded on their capacity for rhetorical engagement- I will contend that publics are emergences manifested through vernacular rhetoric” (p. 14). So if each public is created by what it does—its political discourse, then it may be that the key distinctions can be found in how they do it—their “vernacular rhetoric.” Or, as Hauser says, “sensible thought about publics requires capturing their activity: how they construct reality by establishing and synthesizing values, forming opinions, acceding to positions, and cooperating through symbolic actions, especially discursive ones” (p. 32). My general plan is thus to attempt some form of diachronic tracing by looking at the foundational symbols or phrases (or something) that serve as warrants for a givent public’s claims about the spying issue. I don’t quite know where this will go, and it seems awfully unformed as yet, but I suppose I need to hold my nose and jump into the iterative cycle somewhere.

 

As a secondary thought I was quite struck by Fraser. I was especially provoked by her suggestion that social/class/etc differences between members of a public could not just be “bracketed,” but must instead be functionally eliminated. This seems impossible, at first, and in a real sense it is, but the internet offers an giant step in this direction, I think, decontextualizing the comments of various subscribers to a website, for example, to such a degree that many (though certainly not all) of the distinctions between users become invisible. My hunch, though, is that this has not had the utopian effects Fraser imagines, and that instead of promoting equal discourse, it has promoted equal shallowness and petty insults. Maybe I’m wrong, though. In any case, it might be interesting to look into this more (but I suspect this is theoretically well-trodden territory, so maybe not).

And as a final thought, Fraser offers an offhand point about how the relationship between various publics is often adversarial. However, where would these conflicts play out? Is there a public sphere that mediatates between public spheres? A meta-public sphere? If political identity is actually composed of lots of competing political public spheres, there must be a space for them to relate to one another. Right?

In Praise of the Sophists — Steve’s Reading/Theorist Analysis

In Praise of the Sophists

The underlying plot behind the story of the Sophists would make a fine movie: the heroes work their way into status and power, but the aristocratic elite don’t like what they’re hearing and spend a few generations attacking their ideas (and what they imagine their ideas to be). Because of this (and maybe because of a few other reasons as well), the development of the Western intellectual tradition stagnates, devolving into a hopeless quest for certainty for the next two thousand years. But in the end, the Sophists return (okay—jus t their ideas return, and only some of them at that) to great acclaim and get to do the whole I-told-you-so bit.

This is obviously a little ridiculous, but I think in many ways it captures the essence of the Sophist’s place in the western intellectual tradition. They not only deserve much of the credit for creating rhetoric and philosophy, but their role as teachers-for-hire plays a pivotal role in the development of the first semi-democracies by helping create a class of people newly able to participate as equals in public debate. We—citizens of our republic, students in a rhetoric and tech-com program, and current or prospective teachers (mostly)—would not be here without the sophists, In essence, I think there are three areas in which the Sophists deserve particular merit insofar as they either foreshadow or directly lead to the dominant and successful practices of the current day: a philosophy that denied transcendental knowledge, a belief that argument and reasoning were skills that could be taught, and a market-oriented approach that attached monetary value to learning and to teaching. And at the risk of sounding a bit like a high school five-paragraph essay, I want to look at each of these things in turn, and put forth my little plug for why the Sophistic approach was so productive (and perhaps also hint at why the Platonic approach was so destructive).

Perhaps the most foundational aspect of the Sophistic approach is their unwillingness to reduce philosophical questions to revealed or divine truth. B & H write that the Sophists argued that the transcendent (ideal) was either inaccessible to humans, or did not exist (24). This step is, I believe, the first essential step toward democracy, and certainly the first step toward science, as it allows for the testing of arguments. As B&H state, since knowledge relies on sense data, “certainty or absolute truth is not available to humans… but probable knowledge can be refined by pitting opposing positions against one another and examining the arguments thus brought forward” (22). Or, stated in a more post-modern way, humans have the ability to create truth (as opposed to the capital-T Truth of transcendental knowledge) through social interaction and the testing of hypotheses. I would add that this seems like such a simple idea, and indeed it is almost foundational (ironically) in the halls of academia, but frankly it remains a rather shocking idea virtually everywhere else.

In any case, this idea is the core of the Sophists’ second great virtue: their belief that anyone (who could pay) could—and should—be taught to think and speak effectively. This notion flows rather naturally from their rejection of transcendental knowledge, of course, and ultimately serves to undergird the notion of democracy itself. Because there is no objective way of knowing, language (rhetoric) becomes the only way of separating better ideas from worse ideas. Thus truth is not found by pretending that language is objective, but by acknowledging its subjectivity and seeking to understand it (23ish). This also connects to their belief in the importance of kairos, which B&H explain as follows:  “the idea that elements of a situation, its cultural and political contexts, rather than transcendent unchanging laws, will produce both the best solutions to problems and the best verbal means of presenting them persuasively” (25). (And doesn’t the insistence on the importance of context sound a lot like Crawshay-Williams, by the way.) But without the notion of divine sanction determining membership in the ruling (and thus the deciding) classes, the notion of restricting rhetorical debate to a hereditary upper class becomes unsupportable. If rhetoric is the path to truth, and there is no transcendental force decreeing that only certain people have access to Truth (because there is no Truth, merely truth), then the best results should be achieved by the interaction of skilled rhetoricians. And what is the best route to skill? Teaching. So the Sophists, with their willingness to teach anyone were offering the keys to social mobility and democracy. I would add that the aristocracy (Plato—I’m talking about you!) hated this idea, and the bad name of the sophists is largely a product of Plato’s hatred of the idea that the common person should be offered the skills to compete with the upper class. He (Plato) insisted that teaching rhetoric to commoners was akin to handing loading rifles to babies (okay—that’s actually my metaphor; he actually compared rhetoric to cooking instead of the “medicine” of philosophy). So the Sophists got a bad name because Plato hated democracy. Basically.

My last bit in this excessively long post is more speculative, and refers to the Sophistic practice of selling their instruction. I think even today there is a sense that this transactional market-oriented approach to knowledge is a bit unseemly. Certainly we have famous Stewart Brand claim that “information wants to be free,” which has been partially taken up by some new media theorists, as well a throng of young people raised in the era of napster and its descendents. But we might also point to the belief that teachers should be paid very little, with the joy of teaching apparently supposed to be the compensation. (A smart and otherwise sensible friend of mine once said that the virtue of low teacher pay is that it ensures we have only the best teachers, because we know they’re not in it for the money. I asked if he felt he felt the quality of engineers at his job would be improved by a 60% pay cut, and he began to come around.) And even in academia, there is a powerful tension between the belief that universities should be getting students jobs and the belief that universities should be improving their minds for more abstract (social, personal, political) reasons. And I’ll admit I find myself a bit torn. (Is a college a business? Probably, I think, but it’s certainly a rather unusual sort of business.) But I’d suggest that the ultimate effect of de-monitizing knowledge is that the production of knowledge becomes limited to those who are independently wealthy. They are the only ones who can fool around with speculation about the nature of matter or the retrograde motion of Mars. Everyone else, as the saying goes, has to “work” for a living. In other words, knowledge work is not seen as work at all. And now, even though the university system with its staff of paid knowledge producers and disseminators has been one of the most powerful economic engines of all time, this bias persists. So, let’s drop Plato, that academic and social and fiscal elitist, and reclaim the glory of the Sophists.

 

Some Questions for a now-hypothetical discussion

 

  1. The sophists were attacked for valuing “pretty” language over “substance.” To what extent is this an accurate criticism? To what extent is it, if true, a legitimate concern?
  2. How (if at all) can one reconcile the market approach of the Sophists (education for sale) with the current belief in universal education (through grade 12, at least)?
  3. Plato’s dialogue “Gorgias” is essentially an attack on a series of Sophists. I’ve always felt this dialogue is really a bit of a straw man, and that the Sophists aren’t fairly presented (they make odd suggestions like insisting that knowledge of a subject is unrelated to one’s ability to argue on that subject, for example.) Am I off in thinking this? Why/why not?
  4. The Sophists basically suggested we can’t have certainty, and that debates about the probable were the best route to knowledge. How can we reconcile this with the differing skills of debaters? Wouldn’t it just end up with the best debater winning rather than the best (most productive/useful/effective) idea? Is there some “foundation” beyond the debate to which we can turn?
  5. The previous question expresses the root of Plato’s fear of the Sophists. Essentially, he thought persuading the “mob” was a terrible approach and led to seeking what was popular rather than what was right. Therefore, he thought we should turn decision making over to those with access to real wisdom (which he say as an almost mystical access to Truth). Both Platonic and Sophistic strands exist in our current political debates. Where do you see them? Which are “winning”? Do you have an preferences?

Black and White and Gray: Narrative Form in Partisan/Ideological Media

 

Introduction & Rationale

My study begins with the presumption, per Fisher (1984; 1985; 1989), that political commentary is narrative in nature.  In addition, as per Nossek and Berkowitz’s (2006) suggestion that societies as a whole have master narratives, I presume the possibility that smaller groups—narrative communities, if you will, such as adherents to a political party or ideology—might also share a master narrative unique to that group that operates as a template into which new events and characters are fit.  “Membership” is such groups would be premised upon acceptance of the narrative, and the group’s worldview would be shaped in an ongoing way by the application of the master narrative template.  Furthermore, the multiple studies of melodramatic form suggest that not only would these narrative communities have a master narrative, they might also (or even only) have a master narrative form.  However, while multiple sources identify a reliance on melodramatic form, all these studies are focused exclusively on the political right, which calls into question the universality of this particular narrative form.  Finally, given the unique rhetorical situation in which partisanship and ideology are largely in conflict, it becomes possible to examine how each publication balances support for these two communities.

Thus my research questions for this study, focused around how political media and the communities they represent create a narrative image of the world, are as follows:

  1.  Is it possible to discern a “master” narrative form of the political/ideological Left and Right, as represented by The Nation and the National Review?
  2. How do these political media address events that might threaten the community’s political identity, or might set its ideological identity against its political identity?

 

 Methods

 From the Right, this paper examines 17 articles totaling approximately 18,000 words published in the National Review (6 published prior to the commencement of U.S. intervention, and 11 after), and from the Left it examines 7 articles totaling approximately 9000 words from The Nation (3 prior to U.S. intervention and 4 after).  The two narrative forms examined are melodramatic and dramatic, defined as follows:

  •  Melodrama relies on “two-dimensional characters,” representing a “valorized ‘us’ and a dehumanized or demonized ‘them’” (Simons, 2007, p. 338), and arranged in the roles of hero, villain and victim (Anker, 2005).  Additionally, the moral legibility of melodrama is created not only by the nature of the characters but by plot devices such as “grandiose events, unprovoked actions, hyperbolic language, and spectacles of suffering” (Anker, p. 24).

 

  •  Dramatic form (defined by contrast to melodrama) adds a depth to these characters that complicates (but does not necessarily prevent) their categorization by type.  Additionally, dramatic form should mute the grandiosity of the events and the extent of the suffering of participants.

 To determine which narrative forms were used I examined how each publication characterized the key participants in the Libyan drama, as well as how each described the stakes of the conflict. 

To address the second research question, I examined how each publication dealt with two potential conflicts: (1) members of the opposite party who acted in accordance with that publication’s stated goals, or (2) members of the same party who acted in opposition to the publication’s stated goals.

 Results

 National Review: Though no single author produces a complete narrative, they all rely almost exclusively on five core characters described in uniformly melodramatic terms: the three villains of Qaddafi, Arabs and Arab states in general, and Obama; the heroic Unites States; and the two victims of the Libyan people and the United States (the U.S. playing, as suggested by Anker, the dual role of hero and victim).  Additionally, there are two essential levels of consequences, both of them fundamentally melodramatic in form.  Finally, though the authors were almost uniformly in favor of U.S. intervention, there was not any praise of Obama’s decision to intervene, but instead merely a shift to a new focus of criticism. 

The Nation: The writers in The Nation, with one exception, rely primarily on dramatic form, but still construct a narrative that tends toward a hero/villain/victim construction.  However, the participants, even Qaddafi himself, are generally presented with at least some degree of complexity, and the consequences—and especially the motives—of U.S. intervention (or lack of intervention) are portrayed as uncertain.  Finally, the authors exhibited great willingness to criticize not only Obama, but other media voices in favor of U.S. intervention.

Conclusion & Parting Thoughts

 These two partisan/ideological media outlets play a key role in the maintenance of core political narratives by contextualizing new information into existing narratives, and more importantly by contextualizing new information into a core narrative form—melodramatic for the National Review and dramatic for The Nation.  Thus, while the National Review operates almost exclusively in the binary world of good and evil, The Nation largely stakes it claim in the murky shades of gray that lie between these poles. Furthermore, perhaps because of their respective narrative forms, the National Review was more partisan than ideological, while The Nation tended to be more ideological than partisan.  While the scope of the article is too narrow to offer a generalized claim about the form of the narratives of Left and Right, it does suggest further study of other media and of other contexts,.

Possible future research questions:

  • How does media format affect the dominant narrative form? (Is television or radio more/less melodramatic than print?)
  • Might narratives surrounding a domestic policy dispute utilize a different narrative form?
  • What is the relationship between narrative form and policy preferences, and is political loyalty a product of narrative preference, or is narrative preference a product of political loyalty.  Or neither.  Or both.
  • Is bipartisanship possible when one group (or both groups) is operating from a melodramatic form where the political opposition is categorized as a villain?
  • What does this say about the possibility of persuading members of these groups?  Must persuasive narratives utilize the form of the audience’s community?
  • What other “narrative communities” might exist?