Publication details [#11330]

White, Christianna I. C. 2004. Accident or crash? The rhetoric of the anti-drunk driving movement. Ames, Ia.. 201 pp.


This dissertation argues that the work of the contemporary anti-drunk driving movement has, since its inception in the early 1980s, been successful and that its work is rhetorical activity. This study examines that activity: how it is situated; what it looks like; how it has changed over time; and how it has shaped both public policy and private behavior. The study provides a historical and cultural context for the movement, a taxonomy of movement stakeholders and their discourse, and analyses of artifacts with visual and verbal features. The taxonomy characterizes movement stakeholders (advocacy organizations, government entities, research entities, and the media); reviews literature by and about movement stakeholders; and models this successful social change movement. The three criteria for selecting artifacts for analysis are: chronology (including before and during the contemporary movement to demonstrate trends over time); representation; and richness of the data (the corpus analyzed is representative of the discourse of the anti-drunk driving movement). I use Thomas Huckin's "six general stages" ("Context-Sensitive Text Analysis," 1992) to identify and analyze representative features of genres that constitute the corpus of the movements discourse (e.g., brochure, information booklet, magazine article, public service ad, press release, and newsletter). My three complementary research approaches are: rhetorical analysis, discourse analysis, and case study techniques that privilege the voice of a drunk-driving crash survivor who has held nearly all movement stakeholder positions over her 20-year involvement in the movement. After discussing four features of the movements discourse (gendered language, slogans, figurative language, and stories that put a face on the victim), I provide close analyses of movement artifacts. I argue that contemporary movement leaders effectively forged alliances with key movement stakeholders, appropriated genres that had demonstrated success; adapted these communication strategies to contemporaneous circumstances, and kept pace with new technologies to carry the movement's message widely, first to garner grassroots support, then to popularize their cause, and finally to establish and maintain the funding and general support necessary to influence the passage of legislation, including the national legal drinking age of 21 and .08 blood alcohol content laws. (Christianna White)