When a controversial event forces the contemporary American public to engage with important socio-political issues that intersect with constructions of race, gender, and class, the underlying social conditions too often remain unexamined. Our public discourse instead works to sensationalize and polarize discussion of such events; as an effect, participants in the discourse engage in rhetorical strategies that rely on the emotions of indignation, anger, and blame. This essay looks back to the discursive exchanges that arose in response to the Duke lacrosse scandal of 2006. I analyze three "representative" patterns of public response, while also interpreting the cultural conditions that enabled these responses. In doing so, I highlight unproductive patterns of discourse and offer strategies that might help us to move toward more democratizing communication in the future.

About the Author(s)

I am a doctoral candidate, teaching fellow, and graduate assistant director of the writing program, in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill. I specialize in rhetoric and composition, especially collective invention, women's historiography, public memory, theory, and queer rhetorics.



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