Missing the (Turning) point
The erosion of democracy at an American University
On August 25, 2017, student members of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a right-wing conservative organization who advocates for smaller government and free market enterprise, recruited on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) campus. Members of the UNL community protested nearby. Part of the protest was recorded on video and released to social media leading to harsh public criticism that accused the university of restricting free speech and being an unsafe environment for conservative students. Drawing on cognitive linguistics (e.g. metonymy, framing) and multimodal critical discourse analysis (MCDA), this paper explores how the TPUSA incident at UNL was recontextualized in local and national media discourse, the ways in which the social actors and events were framed, and its consequences. The authors show how these representations reinforce dominant neoliberal discourses (which correlate with right-wing discourses) that negatively impact public education, providing a necessary counter to a populist political climate in which anti-intellectualism reigns.
Keywords: free speech, Turning Point USA, anti-intellectualism, multimodal critical discourse analysis
Published online: 06 February 2019
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