Toward a New Climate Rhetoric: Appropriating Authority, Mobilising Anger and Radical Politics to Activate the Alarmed Youth
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The climate and ecological crises are the most urgent existential threats facing humanity. Creative communication approaches on this topic are required to counter the ideological constraints of mainstream news media and reticence of climate communicators. This exploratory research project aimed to develop a radical new rhetoric, imagining a youth-fronted web show–called ‘House on Fire’–targeted to young people alarmed by the crises. The aim was realised by merging popular ecological and leftist literature, appropriating the authority and legitimacy of the television news studio, and harnessing the emotional power of anger. Research-led practice was chosen to subjectively pursue this creative work, with a production phase incorporating screen-writing exercises, a pilot production to test different emotional frames, and a longer production which synthesised these frames. These productions took place in the AUT studio, utilising student volunteers as presenters and crew. Heuristic inquiry provided the framework to reflect upon the research and draw out core themes. Key findings which emerged from this, shared as stories from the production, included: the rhetorical force of anger as an emotional frame; no neutral exists in the studio space, and its conventions are inherently formal; it is possible to appropriate the studio for activist communication, however, technical constraints arise and diligent adaptations are necessary; the studio can be a space for conducting creative research. It is proposed that future research could develop this exploratory project as a web series for YouTube. It is suggested that activists should offer more complex and holistic communication approaches than mainstream news media and climate communicators, including centring anger as a frame and ascriptions of guilt in class-conscious rhetoric.