A study of the rhetorical strategy of maligning as exemplified in anti-Mormon rhetoric, 1847-1890



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This thesis analyzes a cross-section of anti-Mormon rhetoric, 1847-1890, to determine how maligning was employed as a persuasive strategy and the effect it had on the Mormon movement. Maligning is defined as a rhetorical strategy characterized by invective and/or misleading devices designed to discredit a person, cause, or movement. Polarization, ego-involvement, source credibility, fear appeals and scapegoating are central concepts in the strategy of maligning. Each of these concepts plays a specific role in the formation of attitudes. Thus, the end product of maligning is to create, through the use of various devices, negative attitudes result ant in negative behavior toward the person or movement being attacked. Specific purposes of the study were: 1. To define and identify the motives and objectives of certain anti-Mormons who employed maligning, 2. To define and identify the various rhetorical devices that comprise the strategy of maligning, 3. To determine how maligners employed these devices in an attempt to achieve their objectives, and 4. To evaluate, pragmatically, the success of the maligners. By determining how maligning was used as an identifiable rhetorical strategy to gain certain objectives, the thesis of this study can be concluded: that the rhetorical strategy of maligning was skillfully used to produce political and social effects detrimental to the espoused purposes of Mormonism, 1847-1890. The results of this study demonstrate the maligners were instrumental in producing certain political and social effects that forced the Mormon Church to dissolve the "People's Party" and abandoned its doctrine of plural marriage; statehood for Utah was withheld until these two conditions were forthcoming.