1968: Music as Rhetoric in Social Movements

Mark Goodman    
Stephen Brandon    
Melody Fisher    


In 1968 social movements sparked rhetorical discourses which occurred in many nations and on hundreds of colleges and in communities across the United States.  These rhetorical discourses ultimately changed the direction of human events.  Sometimes these points of ideological protests shared views on specific issues, especially demonstrations against the Vietnam War, but each conflict was also its own local conflict.  There is no evidence that any specific group organized the protests, or that speakers motivated demonstrations, or that the rhetoric of one protest caused other protests.  Yet, the protests were not just spontaneous fires that happened to occur in the same year. So, how is it that so many protesters shared the desire for change and shared rhetoric, but each protest was sparked by local issues?  Answering that question provides insight into how the rhetoric of social movements occurred in 1968.                Many scholars call for the study of the social movements of the 1960s.  Jensen (1996) argues, ?The events of the 1960s dramatically increased the interest in studying social movements and forced rhetorical scholars to reconsider their methods for studying public discourse? (p. 28). To Lucas (2006), ?Words became weapons in the cultural conflict that divided America? (x). Schippa (2001) wrote, ?Many accounts identify the 1960s as a turning point. For better or for worse, there was a confluence of changing rhetorical practices, expanding rhetorical theories, and opportunities for rhetorical criticism. The cultural clashes of the 1960s were felt perhaps most acutely on college campuses. The sufficiency of deliberative argument and public address can be said to have been called into question, whether one was an antiwar activist who hated LBJ's war in Vietnam or a pro-establishment stalwart trying to make sense of the rhetoric of protest and demonstration. Years later, scholars would characterize war itself as rhetorical. What counted as rhetorical practice was up for grabs?(p. 261).               First, this paper will frame the protest movement of 1968.  Then, we will search for the common factors that shaped the protests of 1968, focusing on the role of music. This analysis will provide insight into how music became a rhetorical force in a significant social movement of the 20th Century.

Palabras claves

pp. 71 - 85

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