There are many ways to define the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole but there are particular areas that make it almost impossible to determine whether or not the movement is a success or a failure. This issue has not come to light because of the inability to analyze this movement enough to know how it really works. Through the use of the three sources and theories/arguments given to me over the semester of being in this course there are certain areas of the movement that my analysis pertains to that hopes to depict how the movement is a success but through unorthodox means in defining itself compared to past social movements. These unorthodox means can be defined in Kenneth Burke’s Punitive Priests and the Redeeming Prophets. “ Burke argues priesthoods that work to maintain the social order govern orientations. This can lead to cultural lag or the gap that results when a priesthood fails to maintain an orientation in light of communal changes. To account for cultural lag, a community can develop prophets who work to revise the orientation (Milford, 45).” Burke’s theory on prophets being the revisionists of orientation within the social order, makes the argument for the Black Lives Matter movement to represent this sort of prophetic system of combating the failure of the priesthood or governmental/social order of creating equality for all lives. This theory is the basis of the analysis made on the BLM movement and how this movement is a success in light of all the negative sides stated by both outside sources as well as the sources given to me.
Focusing on chapter three first in the Persuasion and Social Movements book, you first find how this movement differs from prior social movements especially over ones on civil rights issues. A good statement by The New Yorker helps explain what is being said by the public viewing the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole. “Black Lives Matter has been described as “not your grandfather’s civil-rights movement,” to distinguish its tactics and its philosophy from those of nineteen-sixties-style activism. Like the Occupy movement, it eschews hierarchy and centralized leadership, and its members have not infrequently been at odds with older civil-rights leaders and with the Obama Administration- as well as with one another (The New Yorker, March14, 2016).” This ascribes to the prophets stated within Kenneth Burke’s theory. This comparison can be made by what burke writes is the purpose of the prophets, “ prophets seek new perspectives whereby the vestigial structure may be criticized ( Milford, 50).” Just like the prophets focus on new perspectives and are not controlled by no one but their own morals and intentions it pushes for the revision of present structures whether it be old civil right movements/intentions or a positive connection to the priesthood in place (Obama Administration). This shows that the movement is heading in the right direction in defining the legitimacy of the movement with debates being sparked on how far the movement can go especially in the split shown at the White House between BLM leaders and activists. “While Black Lives Matter’s insistent outsider status has allowed it to shape the dialogue surrounding race and criminal justice in this country, it has also sparked a debate about the limits of protest, particularly of online activism ( The New Yorker, March14, 2016).” This helps show that even though it is different from many other movements in legitimizing their movement, this movement’s legitimacy stems from the outside media of the public wanting to know exactly what the intentions of this movement really is in regards to the overall meaning to protesting. “ Gaston Rimlinger and Joseph Gusfield, for example, argue that a social movement can be successful only if its demands and methods somehow become legitimate in the eyes of institutions, the public, and potential members (Stewart, Smith and Denton Jr., 62). The legitimacy is through the criticism of the movement itself from both its new style of demands and methods of going after what the movement is demanding.
Another large piece of the movement that plays a role in defining what the movement is trying to do is sowing distrust. This both negatively impacts this movement as well strengthening its meaning. The negative side would be that there is a lack of understanding of what the movement truly stands for, making for many individual interpretations to be made by anyone trying to figure out what exactly the movement is fighting for, a couple good examples would be in video three where there is a individual who states that they think the movement is made up while the other individual disenfranchises the movement due to the name of the movement which is never determined on whether or not it is separating a certain culture of people compared to others. These are the only two things that may go against the movement but it is this distrust that strengthens it as well. A good example would be the statement made by BLM leader Aislinn Pulley where she did not attend the meeting with the Obama Administration at the white house. She said that she, “ could not, with any integrity, participate in such a sham that would only serve to legitimize the false narrative that the government is working to end police brutality and the institutional racism that fuels it (The New Yorker, March14, 2016).” This statement sows the distrust of the government in a way that helps add reasoning to why the BLM movement is moving forward from the false narratives that may or may not be there but due to the use of this distrust of the Obama Administration as well as the false narratives of ending police brutality it allows for the webpage source that I was given to serve a meaningful purpose in the movement (Copwatch). Just like there is the creation of the cultural lag in the theory of Burke by the priesthood there is a cultural lag of false narratives that have not changed that allows for this distrust to rise and allow for this movement to gain reasoning and purpose for being around. This movements metaphorical bread and butter is using this distrust by giving reasoning for the need of the movement to be successful. Think of the movements leaders in this issue as being the persuaders on what to distrust. “ Persuaders may capitalize on a sense of distrust and suspicion that permeates our social interactions, particularly when it comes to government in all of its forms (Stewart, Smith and Denton Jr., 287).” Although it may have issues with gaining trust itself, the movement capitalizes on the already present false narrative that has not yet been revised or changed.
Now the last part of the method dealing with the book is the one with the least amount of information to stem research from due to the lack of a centralized leadership to dissect for ideas and morals that may determine the present meaning of the movement as well as what the future holds for the movement and what it will be fighting for or against. Another comparison is made toward Kenneth Burke’s theory pertaining to the prophetic redemption where, “prophets represent voices from within the community but outside the priesthood’s jurisdiction, meaning they are not as influenced by the priesthood’s hierarchical pressure that often silences dissenters (Milford, 50).” This represents the Black Lives Matter movement in that they are outside the jurisdiction of the government due to them being individuals under no real leadership sharing multiple perspectives and opinions into a melting pot which flows over with ideas that the outside public get to shape into their own interpretations making it more of a personal issue on what is happening in the civil rights sphere of institutional racism as well as police brutality. This new way of approaching what social movement is makes up why BLM movement is different from prior civil rights movements. Although this is a layered system that eventually grows into shared ideas allowing the rise of different leaders based on how they want to define Black Lives Matter. To truly understand the leadership of BLM you must also understand that Burke, “characterizes prophets as rhetorical counterweights to the priesthood that governs a community’s orientation (Milford, 50).” This follows a leadership that has never really occurred in prior movements where it changes as the movement changes. “Leaders and followers must evolve as their movements encounter wars, economic depressions, inventions, the resignation or replacement of institutional leaders, as well as political, religious, and social trends that greatly affect progress (Stewart, Smith and Denton Jr., 130).” Just as prophets in the theory continuously find new perspectives to revise with so too does the theory use new leaders to argue new points in their movement to eliminate inequality and racism, a good quote to argue this is when, “ the White House had invited DeRay Mckesson, Brittany Packnett, and Aislinn Pulley, all of whom are prominent figures in Black Lives Matter, which had come into existence- amid the flash points of the George Zimmerman trial; Michael Brown’s death, in Ferguson, Missouri; and the massacre at the Emanuel A.M.E. church, in Charleston, South Carolina- during Obama’s second term (New York Times, March14, 2016).” The leadership has constantly changed and these are just the leaders so far due to the ever changing events that have been unfolding in the last few years. Through the use of adaptive leadership to deal with new issues, the movement is able to continue it’s reasoning for existing by combating new issues with new perspectives.
Now after stating the foundation of my argument through my method using the Persuasion and Social Movements book, I used the rhetorical devices, fallacies, and Perelman arguments that we learned to further my method of formulating my argument on this movement using the things we learned throughout the course to look at the movement as a whole to determine if the Black Lives Matter movement is successful. By connecting one rhetorical device, fallacy, and Perelman argument I was able to understand that the movement has a floor or base that it runs on. Starting with the rhetorical device found in all three sources there was a use of erotema, which is asking a rhetorical question. Where each source had a different way of asking the rhetorical question, like the video being a social experiment it still asked viewers a rhetorical question at the end of the video whether or not Black Lives Matter is a real movement and whether or not it is having any affect in society which it did due to the different responses to the different signs. In the New Yorker there is a question at the beginning of the article that states, “A new kind of social movement found its moment. What will its future be? (The New Yorker, March14, 2016).” This gives the reader, including me an idea to have when considering if the movement is heading in the right direction and whether it will continue to be successful which through the persuasion book, I state that it is because of the many ways the movement is different from prior movements compared to in the article. Now for the last rhetorical question it was found in a tweet saying, “ Why would NYC buy the NYPD body Cameras? (Copwatch, September29, 2016).” The page knows why, it is just wanting to state the obvious and show the ever present false narrative of police brutality being taken care of which the Black Lives Matter movement is fighting against. Through the use of putting all three rhetorical questions found within each of the sources I noticed that every single source understands what the movement is doing but just wanted the viewer of the page or video to know what exactly is being protested and why the Black Lives Matter movement is needed to fight these issues, making it more of a reason to know that the movement is heading in the right direction and will stay successful because they are winning over the public by letting the public think of their own interpretation. Just like the prophets that ask the questions moving the majority to new perceptions of what needs to be changed like false narratives.
The second most prominent of these three ways of interpreting the movement was the use of the fallacy over emotional appeal which determines if something is true because it makes us feel good or untrue because it doesn’t. Video three and the twitter page Copwatch state the same thing wanting to draw the same emotional appeal of sorrow and anger over the inequality of black lives when dealing with law enforcement officials pushing the viewer of the video or page to feel anger towards those who don’t feel for other lives especially black lives. A good example would be a quoted tweet by Christopher Hayes stating, “ The cop seen on that video throwing Blake to the ground had been the subject of 5 complaints in a 7 month period in 2013 according to WNYC (Copwatch, Septemeber11, 2016).” Now for the press source the emotional appeal is more of needing to understand what Black Live Matters was originally meant for, mourning. “ The phrase “black lives matter” was born in July of 2013, in a Facebook post by Alicia Garza, called “ a love letter to black people.” The post was intended as an affirmation for a community distraught over George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin, in Sanford, Florida (The New Yorker, March14, 2016).” The movement is not only to shift the anger of events that have occurred but protest to stop shooting like this from happening but to mourn all those that have been lost by the needless racism and brutality by keeping the slogan of Black Lives Matter as the name of the social movement making it more of a impactful movement to those wanting to be apart of the change.
The most prominent was the Perelman argument around the premise of values (where there is agreed upon guides to actions) both concrete and abstract values. There are values in all three sources although most are abstract all of them are wanting to move the BLM movement forward by following them. The video being over the abstract value that the movement is deeper than just the sign, by showing the sign you are not even scratching the surface of what the movement is trying to do and by noticing how influential each sign was it shows where the movement must go to achieve success. Now for the press and social media source both held values that impact the movement in their own ways, adding to what the movement is trying to do. The twitter page having a header “ If you see something, film something. Film the Police (Copwatch, December13, 2014).” This header although abstract it shows that there is a value that is shared throughout the movement and due to it being so successful in showing police brutality, people now in the movement don’t even have to be reminded by the page to film police but they do it almost by muscle memory now. The New Yorker puts the icing on the cake where values of the movement are stated directly by one of the movements leaders Aislinn Pulley that she, “ could not, with any integrity, participate in such a sham that would only serve to legitimize the false narrative that the government is working to end police brutality and the institutional racism that fuels it (The New Yorker, March14, 2016).” Bringing all these values together is what draws me to conclusion that the Black Lives Matter movement is in the right direction to have success now and into the near future due to there being a foundation of both concrete values as well abstract values that will play a vital role in fighting police brutality and institutional racism.
To end the method process I use the social media source individually, considering data that is prevalent in defining the Black Lives Matter Movement as a whole. Splitting it into the same categories finding rhetorical devices, fallacies, and Perelman arguments. Going down the line starting with another rhetorical device found within the Copwatch twitter page, metonymy is shown in the most recent tweet made by the page where it states that, “ Even during the blue moon when a police department finds fault with an officer who murders someone, copologists will still defend the cop (Copwatch, May8, 2017).” They use copologists instead of apologists which argues in defense of something controversial, so in this case copologists defend cops. What is interesting is that it occurs at least another 5 times within the first 100 tweets and videos/photos shared on the page. Now for fallacies there are uses of wishful thinking throughout the page where things are true because the one running the page wants them to be especially laws. “ We need to build systems of community accountability for the institutions that were set up to break up or marginalize our communities (Copwatch, May8, 2017).” These thoughts are laid throughout the 25,900 tweets as well as photos and vines that number up to 1,000’s. Although most being over the safety and need for Copwatching to occur at times of police brutality to stop it, the thoughts grow broader to other things like two days ago. Now for the Perelman argument that you can apply to almost every single tweet is direction where doing B will slippery slope to D. A great tweet to show this is the tweet on 11/12/16 where the tweet says, “ The age of federal liberal “reforms” to police departments is once again at an end, and now many depts. Have #bodycams to surveil activists.” This is one of 50 in the first 100 tweets of the page that argues this especially around the shift to the election and the candidates that were winning for example Donald Trump. This twitter page with these three reoccurring rhetorical device, fallacy, and Perelman argument is what helps show that the BLM movement like Copwatch are continuously adapting to the scheme of things both at a local government level and national level.
For the analysis of why I chose the argument for Black Lives Matter movement, there is a quote to keep in mind as we bring everything together in the analysis of the methods we used in determining whether or not the movement is successful although not in the typical manner of a successful social movement. “ Burke asserts that over time, a priesthood arises that protects and upkeeps the orientation in an effort to maintain the community’s value structure (Milford, 48).” This mash-up theory states that the priesthood is put in place to take care of the values of the community but over time these values may be misinterpreted or somewhat vague making things like police brutality and institutional racism to occur calling for prophets to bring new perceptions up to deal with these issues. The method helps state that the BLM movement models that of the prophet in Kenneth Burke’s Punitive Priests and the Redeeming Prophets sharing similar ways of changing things in society. This is exactly why I choose the argument that the Black Lives Matter Movement is successful. Just like prophets have a loose interpretation of having leadership above them as well as holding certain values, they both are able to consider new leaders as well as new ideas to help the betterment of society as a whole while holding the priesthood or government in check due to them having no jurisdiction over them. I state legitimizing the social movement, sowing and capitalizing on distrust, as well as changing leadership as the movement changes because it shows how the movement may seem unable to adapt or be successful because of all the moving parts but that is what makes it different from prior social movements especially civil right movements. Kenneth Burke sums up why I argue for the movement being a success by this quote from the mash-up, “ As one of the “reigning symbols of authority,” the priesthood governs the significant rituals of the community that reinforce “obedience” to the orientation. Thus, when parties challenge the orientation and its priesthood, they are easily marginalized and driven “ into a corner” and rebuked for their “disobedience to the reigning symbol” (Milford, 48).” This movement has no real centralized leadership, multiple ideas and values that are constantly changing this makes the movement capable of being that of the redeeming prophets. It also shares the adaptive perspectives that are learned from the Copwatch page that allows it to find new ways to understand and protest/fight against new government opposition. Although prophets and the Black Lives Matter movement have a weird way of getting their points and ideas across they are the best way to get things to change in society without being under any jurisdiction that may stop it that is why I argue that this movement is successful and will continue to be successful even though it’s structure is very unorthodox from earlier civil right movements.