Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication. The 15th biennial Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE). June 17-21, 2019, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Culture-Jam or Log-Jam?: Rhetorics of Spectacle Protest in the Free the Snake Flotilla

Casey Schmitt's picture
Schmitt, Casey R.
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Scholarly papers

This paper applies rhetorical criticism to the material and image rhetorics of the annual Free the Snake Flotilla demonstration to explore whether the leisure-structured spectacle gathering functions as persuasive/disruptive culture-jam or, rather, merely a space of constitutive identity performance. Initial analysis suggests that the Flotilla—an annual group kayak, canoe, and paddleboard float along the Snake River, calling for the removal of “deadbeat dams”—invites a degree of confusion from outsiders, by depending on the material markers of simple leisure watersport (i.e., outdoor exercise gear, high-end kayaks, Patagonia labels) but also encourages insider identification with the collective cause through participation in the ludic atmosphere. The paper also traces Nez Perce, Colville, Kalispel, Coeur d’Alene, and Spokane participation in the event as a notable moment in Native American resistance rhetoric and media spectacle, to argue that such demonstrations are particularly open avenues for Indigenous protest.