Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Metaphor, Malheur, and Government: A Comparative Rhetorical Examination of Metaphor Usage the Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

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  • On January 2, 2016 a militia occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and captured national attention. The militia vowed to occupy until certain demands were met, and among these demands was a call for less federal control of land. While the occupation lasted 41 days, the militia remained unable to negotiate any of their demands with the federal government. Thus, the occupation and this iteration of a modern militia movement were unsuccessful. There is extensive research addressing the evolution of the militia movement. However, there is a glaring absence of literature addressing rhetoric created by militia groups. Therefore, this research serves to address this gap by comparing rhetoric cultivated by the Malheur militia and Governor Kate Brown to determine why the Malheur militia’s movement was unsuccessful. This research focuses primarily on metaphor usage and the messages they derive within three discourses created by the parties mentioned above. As a stylistic token, metaphor is able to suggest various audiences most receptive to the messages and understanding cultivated by the metaphor. By comparing Governor Brown’s rhetoric with the militia’s, this research revealed several interesting conclusions. First, that the militia used significantly more metaphor in their discourse to justify their actions amongst a wider audience. Secondly, Governor Brown’s subdued use of metaphor only served to reinforce society’s expectations of the occupation and militia. Lastly, the Malheur militia’s movement was unsuccessful because the metaphors in their discourse didn’t appeal to a larger public. Through metaphor, the militia remained unable to connect and identify with the larger public.
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