Abstract

In this project, we’ve combined methods and resources from history, communication, and rhetorical criticism in order to unpack the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which the coal industry chips away at the credibility of reformers. The coal industry has played a central role in shaping the economic, political, and social systems of Appalachia as well as public discourse and shared values in the region. This study analyzes the framing of the terms “environmentalist” and “activist” in Coal Age magazine, a widely read industry publication, from 2011 through 2016. Industry actors are commonly depicted as good neighbors, rational conservationists, and (almost always) men of action, while “environmentalists” are their meddling, litigious, irrational, often malicious, self-serving foils. Print propaganda like this has had real-world consequences for those who oppose the industry’s environmentally destructive practices.

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