The Carnival of the Courtroom: Public Moral Argument, Antiwar Protest, and the Chicago Eight Trial
Depretis, Abbe Sentina
Gaines, Robert N.
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In this project, I examined rhetorical activities of the 1969–1970 Chicago Eight Trial, focusing on discourse from the trial itself (e.g., from the eight defendants, the judge, the lawyers, and the court reports) and discourse occurring outside the trial (e.g., newspaper reports) from 1968 to the present. Because the Chicago Eight Trial played an important role in the discussion of the Vietnam War and the antiwar movement, I sought to interrogate the rhetorical dimensions of the discourse within the trial, in the media coverage of the trial, and among the participants during the trial. This case was situated within the context of antiwar protests in the United States as well as the transformative context of the 1960s, specifically contestations about the Cold War, civil rights, political assassinations, and the military draft. Overall, this project was intended to deepen understanding of how public moral argument, Baktinian carnival, and guerrilla theater functioned in discourses of the Chicago Eight Trial, whose defendants aimed to challenge the dominant sociopolitical culture over the U.S. war in Vietnam. In addition, the Chicago Eight Trial was a prime example of the ways that public moral arguments can be used to disseminate messages about the political, ethical, and social conditions in the United States. Finally, in this project, I sought to understand how the rhetoric involving the Chicago Eight Trial was framed by the defendants and by the media. The project contributes to literature about framing, protest movements, and social change.