Victims or Villians? Examining the Social Claims for Undocumented Immigrants


A copy of the in class presentation;  Undocumented Immigrants

Preliminary research on the subject

 The audience is challenged to develop an  understanding of a complex array of factors when assessing social claims concerning undocumented immigrants in this country.  Among these are:

 Geographics – physical boundaries play a role in the circumstances.  i.e. Mexican and Latino immigrants have far greater access to the U. S. borders through land routes than immigrants from other areas that require travel by air and sea. 

 Demographics – the origin and destination of immigrants are affected by the proximity to international borders and entry points, i.e. Immigrants will tend to settle in states near  their entry points. Arizona and California have higher immigrant populations  than other states and therefore experience more of the difficulties detailed in the claims.

 Economics –  The disparity of local economies across international borders helps determine the motivations for immigrants to cross those borders. 1) The economic differences between Mexico and the United States provide a much more compelling reason to cross borders than those that exist between Canada and the United States. 2) Immigrants will be drawn to states with industries that profit by employing low wage workers. Service industry jobs near the borders, low tech food processors and agricultural jobs are common draws for undocumented workers looking for work. This drives both  companies and  immigrants to maneuver around existing immigration laws.

 Politics: Governments across the globe struggle to balance internal and international economic factors in order to create regulations that bring order to the immigration process.  The U. S. faces different challenges with each nationality in light of the other factors listed above.

 Rather than relying on claims-makers for my education , I tried to find some analytical and objective information to increase my understanding of the situation.   

 My preliminary research led me to a variety of sources:

 TheU.S. government provides objective information on the size, location and makeup of the immigrant population.

From the U. S Census Bureau

Nativity Status and Citizenship in US   2009

Place of birth of foreign born population 2009

The Foreign-Born Labor Force in theUnited States: 2007

From theU.S. bureau of labor statistics

Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-Born Workers Summary

 The Urban Institute consolidated much of the census data providing a coherent, understandable snapshot of the immigrant population’s geographics and demographics.

Undocumented Immigrants: Facts and Figures

 Other useful sources were those that outlined claims and provided evidence that contradicted those claims. Aviva Chomsky’s book ‘They Take Our Jobs and 20 Other Myths about Immigration’ deconstructs popular immigration myths while providing an analysis that compares fact and popular opinion on immigration issues. 

 The Southern Poverty Law Center and About .com, both immigrant advocacy groups, provide similar facts vs. claims analyses.

 This research, admittedly, relies primarily on left leaning resources.  One reason is that the more conservative sites I looked at almost inevitably provided claims masquerading as ’facts’ with little or no referenced sources to back them up, leaving the audience with no way to determine the veracity of the information. See more on this later in the post

 The following CILE site illustrates the  point:

Citizens for immigration law enforcement: ‘Illegal immigration facts’.

This site tries to persuade the audience based on ideologies rather than substantive information

 Framing the claims

 In investigating the claims a pattern arose which enabled a categorization of the claims and claims-makers..

1) Those claims that were made at the individual level could be characterized by underlying tones of xenophobia, racism, nationalism and fear. Sponsored by conservative organizations these claims are often driven by strong personal emotion and unsupported allegations and less by objective evidence.  Typifying stories outline the problems caused by the presence of ‘illegals’. Their diagnostic frame sees the immigration problem  as one of individuals ignoring laws and bringing poverty and disease to this country. Their corresponding  prognostic frame proposes prosecution, imprisonment and deportation of ‘illegals’ as the solution.  A healthcare claim on the CILE site advocates sending immigrants with healthcare issues back to their own country. In their typifying story the problems experienced by a specific hospital caring for uninsured ‘illegals’ are not put into any societal context. Is the problem specific to this hospital? How many hospitals are similarly affected?  How did the ‘illegal patient’ come to be injured?  Perhaps working for less than minimum wage at a plant with substandard working conditions? None of this background is readily available.

The most radical, right leaning sites advocate a position that cultural diversity itself is evil and undermines successful nation states. Immigration is part of an evil scheme to establish an ‘Atheistic Materialistic Totalitarian Dictatorship’ and  illegal immigrants are responsible for bringing a litany of diseases into the country: ‘Tuberculosis, hepatitis, dengue fever, chagas, and even leprosy are being imported into the U.S. inside the bodies of illegal aliens…And you thought they only carried heroin-filled balloons inside their bodies!’  

 Certainly, these are blatant, fear  driven ( see Glassner), appeals to an audience that is easily swayed by emotions rather than facts. The motivational frames are entirely emotional.  These claims-makers often rely on religious references and graphic representations of the flag and  the constitution to help frame their claims.   

2) Institutional claims were those that saw government regulations and procedures as the problem.  They tend to be more rational and fact based in their claims. In their diagnostic arguments they strive to provide  factual evidence of the problems associated with poorly constructed laws which, intentionally or not, trap immigrants in untenable conditions. One well documented paper points to complex tax laws that do not make sense and may be viewed as a way to take advantage of the immigrant population that is unable to advocate for itself.

 Other claims discuss current healthcare regulations and how new universal healthcare laws will effect undocumented immigrants and their access to care.

 These claims generally reflect a thoughtful, logical gathering of objective evidence in support of a prognistic frame that advocates  institutional and regulatory reform as a solution for undocumented immigrant issues. This information would appeal to an informed, well educated, audience. The motivational frames are primarily logical.

3) Finally, Global claims look to the social problems created by a global, capitalist economic model as the cause of issues with immigrants. The claim is that Globalization allows large corporations to move about and to exploit less economically advantaged populations for increased profits.  Solutions, if considered, include the idealistic notion that change can be brought to the current world economic order. Motivational frames are altruistic and idealistic but not very realistic.   

The players –  victims and villains


Ironically, the undocumented immigrants are alternatively viewed as  villains in individual framed claims and victims in institutionally framed claims.  Conservative claims-makers, as expected,  view the situation from an individual attribute level portraying immigrants as the villains and U.S. citizens as the victims.  Liberal claim-makers portray social institutions as the villains with immigrants playing the role of victims.

 The Media

 A very brief search of two popular media sources seems to indicate that coverage of immigration issues is relatively unbiased. Certainly, a  broader, more extensive analysis , not allowed for in this context, is needed to confirm these conclusions.

 A Google inquiry of NY Times articles on the subject yields a variety articles detailing positive and negative views on the subject:

Illegal Immigrants are Bolstering Social Security with Billions

Senate Democrats Reintroduce Dream Act

Obams Courts Latino Voters with Immigration Speech

Utah Immigration Law is Blocked

New Call in Albany to Quit U.S. Immigration Program

U. S. Warns schools Against Checking Immigration Status 

A similar query from USA Today reflects both positive and negative aspects of immigration:

 Illegal immigrants might get stimulus jobs, experts say

Fewer illegal immigrants entering USA

Rising health care costs put focus on illegal immigrants

Illegal immigrants face threat of no college

 As might be expected, the media will tend to lay low to avoid controversy in this issue.  I would not expect the media to take a strong stand in this controversy as it is caught between appealing to the personal interests of its customers, the general populace, and the economic interests of its owners, big business, which in this case conflict..

 Audience beware

 The audience varies widely in this country as do the claims surrounding undocumented immigrants. The claims-makers are challenged to construct claims differently for different audiences in order to collect sufficient support. My analysis of the claims-making going on now in the U.S.  points to  some interesting contradictions.

 Conservative republicans, normally in favor of decreased govt. intervention and increased corporate profits, need to find a way to appease their popular base by demanding immigration reform while still protecting corporate interests which favor immigration. What seems to be happening is that the republicans make a show of implementing reform legislation, but then do little to actually enforce the regulations that are put in place. One paper looks at the pattern of immigration law enforcement as a source of the problems that currently exist in the U.S.

The Illegal Alien Problem: Enforcing the Immigration Laws

An individual writing on Yahoo! sums up the issue as follows :  “On one hand you ( the conservatives) say you want to defend our Constitution and its nation of laws. On the other hand you worship corporate profits. So when the time comes to stoping companies from hiring illegals you oppose prosecution. Who wins in the case of The United States Constitution vs. Corporate profits?”  

Another interesting example of ideological conflict is pointed out in Aviva Chomsky’s book. Folks who look to the US Constitution and its ideologies as a remedy for their claims face an ideological dilemma.  They are adamantly in favor of the constitutional claim that all ‘men’ are created equal but are not a bit uncomfortable with the notion that undocumented immigrants should be denied equal rights. Perhaps the dilemma could be resolved with a constitutional amendment that provides that all ‘US citizens’ are created equal.

 As illustrated  in the above discussion, a thoughtful audience audience is challenged to  ‘decode’ the diagnostics and prognostics, ideologies and facts, presented by the claims-makers to determine if their claims are valid and if the solutions actually  remedy the problem or just distract the audience from the real issues at hand. The issue is far more complex than I imagined but this research certainly allows me to more carefull  consider claims regarding immigration reform within our existing social contex.

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further investigation into nuclear vs renewable energy

In response to my contention in class that many issues in the nuclear vs. renewables debate were not quantifiable I was challenged to do some additional research.

The first task was to better organize my investigations. In the effort I found that

The nuclear vs. renewables argument encompasses a number of sub-issues, some of which are outlined below.  Each topic deserves its own research and analysis in the larger decision making process. Each renewable can have its own set of parameters upon which to be evaluated. Several of these are easy to quantify such as the economics or cost effectiveness as discussed in my previous post on this topic.  Finding and understanding objective data in other areas can be more of a challenge.

nuclear vs renewable fuels issues



The second task was to find measurable ‘objective’ research for the additional outlined topics. In this brief effort I located several new articles.

One attempt to quantify the variables involved is an article that appears on the site This Week in Nuclear ‘Nuclear Energy’s Tiny Environmental Footprint’.

The article references what seems to be a well researched study on the land use demands expected from renewable vs nuclear sources. These include a reference from The Nature Conservancy:  ‘Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat for the United States of America.’

It is an attempt to comparatively estimate the land use intensity of different energy production methods. This pro-nuclear analysis conveniently ignores the non site related impacts of nuclear energy. For this info we look to a paper from the US Department of Energy ‘Measures of the Environmental Footprint of the Front End of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle. .

There is no direct reference  to renewables here but the nuclear info seems comprehensive and useful for comparative purposes.

Additional efforts to quantify the seemingly unquantifiable include: ‘The Application of Probabilistic Risk Assessment Techniques to Energy Technologies’

The abstract from the ‘annual review of energy’ indicates this is an attempt to comprehensively evaluate the comparative risks of different energy technologies. Unfortunately, The article text is pay per view.  The 1981 publication date might affect the relevance of the conclusions but it certainly indicates that there are acceptable methodologies for evaluating these very complex issues and that other like research is probably available. One additional topic was added to my investigation during this research. It is not only important to assess the probability of a disaster but also our collective ability to effectively deal with the consequences of an event like the recent one in Fukushima.

Two conclusions from this exercise:  1) I was incorrect about the inability to quantify many  topics   2) properly investigating and evaluating  these types of social issues represents an overwhelming task for many audience members.

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The nuclear vs renewable energy debate – an investigation


This investigation focuses on determining whether renewable energy sources can be viewed as a reasonable alternative to nuclear energy.  The arguments for renewable vs. nuclear energy sources vary to include economic, environmental, social, and moral aspects


 The economic arguments concerning the viability of nuclear energy viewed seem to be the most comprehensively covered of these topics by the experts. This is also the most quantifiable aspect of the nuclear vs. renewables debate.

 The World Nuclear association, as one would anticipate, presents a very favorable view of nuclear power economics based solely on their own economic projections.

 Their figures indicate nuclear power generation is cheaper than all considered alternatives including coal gas and wind.  They put the overnight cost at$4,000/KW.  They suggest that govt. subsidies for the industry are a good investment in America’s energy future. 

 The Union of Concerned Scientists presents a strong counter argument to this industry claim maintaining that nuclear power is, in fact, one of the most expensive methods of power generation.

 This group does not dispute the economic projections presented by the nuclear industry but rather looks at the overwhelming historical evidence that actual operating costs of nuclear facilities have, on average, exceeded projections by a remarkable 207% making nuclear much more expensive than alternate energy sources.  They point to survey of economists regarding projected costs of nuclear energy. The survey shows that industry and govt. analysts agree on the $4000/KW figure while Wall Street and independent analysts’ projections put the cost of operations at over $10,000/KW, over twice the industry estimate.  They argue that the government’s reliance solely on nuclear industry estimates is imprudent and puts a huge financial risk on the taxpayers and ratepayers who will eventually carry the cost of projected overruns as has happened in the past. They also contend that if the economics of the industry made sense Wall Street investors would step up investment making govt. subsidies unnecessary. If Wall Street does not support industry expansion the taxpayers should not be required to. The US goal of reducing carbon emissions over the next 40 years can be better achieved by investing in renewables and efficiencies that would also drive down energy costs instead of increasing them with nuclear expansion.            

 The question here is whether the audience for this claim, the US government, is persuaded by industry projections or industry history.

 The cogent economic arguments come from respected organizations supported by facts and documented research. The merits of this information seem to present a dilemma for the audience.  The reader can be comforted by the extensive documentation and expert references but at the same time he/she is very much challenged to investigate the complex primary economic data sources to validate claims made by the authors.

 Other Aspects of the debate   

 As the issue strays from economics the ability to collect objective measurable data decreases. The audience needs to rely on popular sources and is challenged to engage much more critically when digesting this material.

 These less objective issues include the relative risk of living near a nuclear facility vs. other types of energy sources, the morality of leaving future generations to deal with nuclear waste generated in the process and the relative environmental damage resulting from each alternative. The following site gives a brief and comprehensive summary of the issues with little regard to verifiable references.  

 This pro-nuclear site maintains that the amount of radiation experienced near a nuclear plant is often less than that living near a coal plant and that the amount of either is negligible compared to common ambient radiation experienced everyday from other sources.  This author does briefly touch on the popular risk of nuclear disaster but dismisses it by maintaining that nuclear plants have the ability to shut down completely in any emergency even though several major disasters have resulted by the inability to do just that. This inability to address the most serious risk of nuclear energy leads me to question this author’s fundamental argument in favor of nuclear energy:  If everything works the way it is supposed to, nuclear is the best option – not very convincing.

A second article on environmental footprints of nuclear vs. renewable plants tries to better quantify the issues by measuring the comparable eco footprints.           

 The environmental footprint of a wind farm is the land it is located on while the environmental footprint of nuclear facility includes uranium mining, processing nuclear fuel rods and the storage of nuclear waste. Interestingly, the author contends that with both having a significant negative impact on the environment the environmental issue should not be a deciding factor in a decision of which type of energy to support.

A serious investigation of these issues can lead the audience to previously unexplored options.

 As an example: a UK based environmental organization argues for renewable energy in the form of microgneration as an alternative to large nuclear facilities.

 Rather than look primarily to mass produced, environmentally destructive energy technologies, we should be encouraging the use of locally generated power. Use of individual wind and solar technologies limit the impact of obviously destructive facilities like nuclear generators but also helps to alleviate the negative impact of large wind farms. The author argues that a decentralization of power generation leaves a society less vulnerable to disaster, leaves the decision of energy type to be customizable to the local environment, and eliminates need for distant transmission lines and associated loss of energy resulting from long distance transmission.  The author unfortunately concedes that the resurgence of popular interest in nuclear power compared with the weak and diffuse support for microgeneration will overshadow the ability to grow the deserving microgen industry.

 Many organizations attempt to lure the audience in with seemingly neutral articles labeled with titles like ‘pros and cons of nuclear energy’. These sources give high level statements with few references to claims in an issue. These seem useful in identifying the basic issues to be further investigated by the audience.

 Others with pro- con titles actually ‘help’ the audience to reach a very biased conclusion after presenting the neutral ‘facts’. My brief investigation shows these type sites lean mostly to the anti-nuclear side of the argument.

 The wide variety of approaches to the nuclear issue is demonstrated in a site that questions the morality of nuclear energy and global warming in the context of personal growth and a search for the meaning of life:

 This comprehensive review argues against almost every aspect of nuclear energy including global warming, waste disposal, weapons production, economics etc

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the dangers of innovative building design

Recent years have seen a trend to innovative architecture styles demonstrated in many public works projects. Many of these buildings seem to be guided more by the developer’s desire to experiment with new building forms than by the functional uses of the buildings. (establish widespread occurrence of the problem)  The designers and builders seem to be asking whether the buildings are fun or interesting to look at. Do they demonstrate some innovative style? Will the architect be memorialized for bringing his/her interesting visions to the community?  In these cases there seems to be decreased concern about whether the building is functionally efficient Is the building creating a pleasant environment for the occupants?  Is it appropriate for the local climate?  Is it easy to navigate? Is it accessible to the community it is designed to serve?  Most individuals would conclude that function is more important than form, especially in public building design (outline the basic sociocultural rule being violated) (point to unspecified building developers as villains)

 Bad building design can have a disastrous effect on the community it is designed to serve. Interestingly, the negative effects may not always be obvious to the casual observer. (create a sense of worry and unintended negative consequences). One example of ill-conceived building design and its consequences is illustrated on the campus of Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. (Typifying story) The campus consists of three office and classroom buildings located in the hills on the outskirts of Pittsfield. The effects of bad building design were discovered almost accidentally as school counselors investigated ways in which to ease student stress on campus. 

 Faculty and staff at Berkshire Community College (BCC) have long sought to identify and eliminate the factors that cause student stress as they make the transition from High school to college. Changing social groups, more demanding coursework and moving away from home have long been accepted as factors but after listening to a number of student focus groups recently held at the college several counselors feel they have identified a previously unacknowledged factor that could be contributing to increased stress among students at BCC. A number of students in the focus groups reported a sense of increased anxiety as they approach the campus each day for classes. There is a vague sense of directional confusion and a notion that they are becoming lost while moving from building to building and even navigating the roads on campus.  Psychologists studying the students’ anxieties are now calling the condition Spatial Dysphoria Syndrome (SDS). 

Their research has determined the cause of the syndrome, SDS, to be continued exposure to an environment that challenges one’s sense of logical building configuration and direction. Students, especially those new to campus, often report an inability to navigate from one building to the next without inexplicably loosing their sense of direction.  This sense of hopeless wandering through the campus often causes students to loose track of time and some even miss parts of their critical first class periods. The students themselves seemed to be unaware of this until they began to honestly share their feelings in the focus groups. Several of the students interviewed were initially reluctant to admit that they had indeed become lost on such a relatively small campus, feeling that it reflected badly on their ability to cope with their environment. Mary P., a first year honor student at the school, noted “I’ve lived in Berkshire County all my life. I often drive through Park Square in Pittsfield and navigate through the challenging Wal-Mart parking lot to shop….. But this campus presented some very different challenges for me.”(typifying story).   As they opened up about the issue the students began to wonder if the stress of feeling lost had even affected their grades. One study compared a group of students’ high school grades to their first semester grades at BCC. The statistics indicate that a number students with a high school GPA of 4.0 had seen their averages plummet to 3.8 at BCC, further adding to the stress these young people are subjected to in college.(use objective facts- statistics to support a claim).  Other students experienced similar poor performance in their classes which could negatively affect their opportunities as they seek to transfer to 4 year colleges and pursue careers.   (establish the consequences and generate sympathy for innocent student victims). 

 Dr. Margaret Smith a respected Psychologist at UMass Amherst and one of her students recently published their research on the subject in the New England Journal of Student Psychology. (gain credibility by quoting experts) They traced the SDS symptoms to the unusual configuration of the campus buildings, noting particularly that the two classroom facilities each have four levels.   The 100 series classrooms and offices are located on both the first and second levels of the building while the 200 series rooms can be found on both the third and fourth level of these same buildings. Entrances and exits to the buildings can be difficult to locate as well. Many classrooms are only accessible through their own dedicated entrances forcing students to exit and reenter a building in order to reach an office on another floor in that same structure. In related research, it was found that mice exposed to changing cage configurations performed worse in learning new tasks than a control group that had stable cage configurations. Dr. Smith acknowledges that continued exposure to confusing building configurations may have enduring negative psychological effects. “Susceptible students could even experience PTSD like symptoms. This could explain some student’s anxiety and inability to concentrate in class, as well as physical symptoms such as increased heart rates and blood pressure that occur as these students travel to campus for classes. 

Dr. Smith noted the disturbing association between SDS and decreased academic performance by analyzing a survey given to the focus group participants. Students were asked to rate their importance of specific stress sources in their campus experience. They were asked to rate coursework difficulty, social experiences, SDS and remoteness from family on a scale 1 to 5.  She found that those students who rated SDS high (5) in their individual surveys showed the most dramatic decrease (- .4) in their GPA compared to their high school grades. (use of statistics to support claim)

 To further validate their studies the researchers interviewed several non students who occasionally visit the campus.  They found many of these individuals to have similar unexplained feelings of confusion as they approach the BCC facilities. (Establish the greater extent of the problem).  

Dr Smith cautions that students enrolling in classes at the BCC campus or entering any new building for work or school need to be aware of these issues and seek counseling if they experience these problems.   The college administration had no comments regarding the research but did note that many of their academic offerings were available on-line for students concerned about this issue. 

Planners of future public works construction projects should be cautiously aware of the dangers in adopting ‘innovative’ building designs and the negative psychological effects it can have on their communities. (establish solutions for the problem)

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pros and cons of Genetic Engineered (GE) Crops

The pros and cons of Genetically Engineered (GE) Food




Site 1


Genetic Engineering could be a threat to Human and Environmental Health

Say No to Genetic Engineering

What’s wrong with Genetic Engineering?

Who is the claims-maker?
The claims-maker is a well known environmental and social activist organization with views ranging from moderate to far left. The site is organizationally sponsored and guides the audience to experts in various related fields to support their claims.  These experts are scientists, government representatives and others from various fields that support the claim being made to regarding the evils of genetically engineered foods.

Greenpeace has been very effective over the years in creating itself as a highly visible and powerful focal point for environmental advocacy. It has the means to create media attention for its causes as a strategy for getting audience attention.

What are the claims-making strategies for constructing grounds?

 The claims-maker is opposed to the perceived threat of global capitalism and is showing that GE crops are a means of acomplishing this.

The claims-maker is attempting to paint GE foods as an unknown threat being used by global capitalists to gain control over the world’s food supply. The goal is to establish GE foods as a capitalist tool that should be feared and resisted at any opportunity.

Developing nations, with limited food supplies are particularly vulnerable to this menace.

What are the typifying stories?

 The typifying stories are collected from around the world and for this issue include:

 a) The threat of GE engineered eggplant crops pose to the Philippine organic produce initiative and potential contamination of clean local crops.  The theme is big business victimizing local farmers.

 b) Courts, citizens and even religious organizations throughout the US and  Europe are banning GE crops and awarding local farmers damages purportedly caused by corporate efforts to plant GE crops without proper authorization.  Theme –Support from these organizations, govts., citizens and even the Vatican should be enough to convince the audience that GE crops need to be resisted. All of these organizations can’t be wrong.

 c) The references in this site focus more on the potential negative economic impact of GE crops that any direct health and safety issues that might result from the proliferation of these crops.

 The threat is that corporations with patented GE crops could gain unwelcome access to control over the world’s food supply from local producers. 

What are the extreme consequences?

 Greenpeace is concerned about the ability of evil, global corporations to control worldwide food production. A quote from the director of Greenpeace international suggests:

GE crops are designed by predatory multinationals prepared to sue farmers for storing seeds from one harvest to plant for the next. Many governments are allowing corporations to patent seeds, helping them to prevent farmers from planting saved seeds, a fundamental right which is the basis of the livelihoods of millions of small farmers.

Does timing influence the claims-making in this case?

Timing is relevant in the sense that it has only been in the last few decades that genetic science has progressed to the point where engineering is possible. 

 Opposition claims would, obviously, not be reasonable without the advent of this new GE industry

Is the diagnostic frame social or individual or a mix of both?

 The diagnostic frame here is social with emphasis on the impact of GE products on susceptible global populations, primarily third world farmers and their national economies. 

What are the motivational frames by describing the cultural themes and the claims-making strategies?

 The motivational frames are very clearly to prevent powerful multinational corporations from increasing their economic power by wresting control over the world’s food supply.  This plays to fears that huge, evil multinational corporations will become the inevitable rulers of our economies and our lives.

 Evil corporate multinationals are victimizing the helpless local farmers    

Site 2


Renaissance Universal…The case against genetically modified foods

1. Who is the claims-maker?


The claims-maker is an on-line magazine/ activist organization. 

 The claims made here are contained in a site sponsored by Renaissance Universal who describe themselves as follows:  Renaissance Universal is a network of people who believe that we must make an effort to improve society and the world, for ourselves and for coming generations. This involves a renaissance based on neo-humanistic values. Such a renaissance will not only redesign the major institutions of society but will foster individual growth and self-realisation as well. Renaissance Universal seeks to communicate and create expanded opportunities for concerned individuals to co-operate, discuss and channel their creative talents in positive personal and social directions.

The site draws upon various experts from the scientific and environmental community to support their claims

Interestingly – the site also prominently displays ads promoting several organizations in the organic foods industry, which could lead the skeptical audience to suspect that the real motivation of the claims-maker is to drive consumers to choose pure, natural, organic products over the potentially harmful GE products that they proceed to disparage.

What are the claims-making strategies for constructing grounds?

The claims-maker is ideologically opposed to genetic engineering and trying to persuade others to their case


What are the typifying stories?

There are no real stories but, rather, a number conjectures by their ‘experts’  about the potential harm GE foods could bring to the public health and welfare.

Scientific explanations that sound plausible are backed up with no evidence of any actual occurrence of these situations or that any GE foods already on the market have produced measurable harm to consumers

Examples from the readings suggest that: GE foods have unknown characteristics that might inadvertently harm anyone who consumed them, familiar foods can become allergenic: ordinary foods may become toxic; GE foods could promote the development of antibiotic resistance making it difficult or impossible to treat common diseases. No evidence is presented to back these claims.
What are the extreme consequences ?

There are no explicit statements but throughout the text the implication is that those who might unknowingly consume GE goods might suffer a number of negative health effects including being poisoned or suffering sickness due to altered resistance to antibiotics. 

Does timing influence the claims-making in this case?

As noted before the controversy over GE foods has only arisen as technology recently allowed science to begin to realistically alter an organism’s DNA

Is the diagnostic frame social or individual or a mix of both?

The frame here seems to be more individual with an obvious attempt to scare the audience into believing that GE foods are potentially  harmful to their health. 

4. What are the motivational frames by describing the cultural themes and the claims-making strategies?

This is an attempt to establish GE foods as mysterious entities appearing undetected in the grocery store such as infant formulas which are not explicitly labeled as GE.  Unaware consumers cannot know if they are eating GE foods.

The motivational frames are fear and worry of the unknowns that can be brought about by scientists who meddle with nature and bring about terrible unintended consequences.

The claim that the consumer cannot know if a product is GE attempts to generate sympathy for the innocent victim being duped by the less than ethical producer selling the unlabeled product to an unsuspecting consumer.



Site 3




Arguments in favor of genetically modified crops  
Who is the claims-maker?

AgbioWorld  world is an organization that describes itself as follows;

Scientists In Support Of Agricultural Biotechnology

AgBioWorld aims to provide science-based information on agricultural biotechnology issues to various stakeholders across the world. The AgBioWorld ‘Declaration in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology’ has been endorsed by over 3,400 scientists, including 25 Nobel Laureates such as Dr. Norman Borlaug, Dr. James Watson, Dr. Arthur Kornberg, Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, Dr. Peter Doherty, Dr. Paul Berg, Mr. Oscar Arias Sanchez and Dr. John Boyer.
What are the claims-making strategies for constructing grounds?

A scientist in the GE industry is attempting to dispel fears that have arisen about GE crops and protect the industry.


 What are the typifying stories?

The claims-makers point to the many positive effects that GE crops have had over the recent past in both agriculture and medicine and the lack of any evidence of any harm caused.  Examples include 1) the significant reduction in pesticide use 2) increased yields of staple crops 3)  They link their claims of social instability resulting from food shortages to the current uprising in Egypt where food prices have drastically increased

What are the extreme consequences?

The inability of current agricultural techniques to continue to support the expanding global population leading to massive starvation, economic disruption and increased global instability.
3. Does timing influence the claims-making in this case?

As noted before the controversy over GE foods has only arisen as technology recently allowed science to begin to realistically alter an organism’s DNA

Is the diagnostic frame social or individual or a mix of both?

The diagnostic frame here is social with emphasis on the need to support effective methods of increased global crop production to maintain global economic stability.

What are the motivational frames by describing the cultural themes and the claims-making strategies?

The claims-makers establish their expert scientific credentials by detailing member’s backgrounds, including the impressive fact that many members are Nobel Laureates. 

They seek to demystify GE crops by making them an extension of the selective breeding process that has been used in agriculture for centuries.  GE crops need not be feared.

This group approaches the subject calmly, basing their claims on scientific facts which discredit opponent’s attempts to create fear within the audience

The claims-makers here establish their credibility as experts who know what they are doing and what they are talking about. Their expertise is emphasized in order to establish audience confidence in their claims.  They also approach the subject calmly and rationally in order to promote audience confidence.

They challenge the audience to imagine what the world would be without the benefits of GE crops.  






Site 4



Genetically Modified Food and the Global Fight Against Hunger


Who is the claims-maker?

. Randy Krotz has 25 years experience in agricultural and biotechnology related marketing and communications. He has served as Director of Public Relations at Monsanto and the National Corn Growers Association.   Mr. Krotz references the 2010 Bio International Conference which lists the following participants: Dow Agroscience, Baxter. Genentech, Astra Zeneca, Pfizer, Bayer Crop science, all of whom are involved in the bioengineering industry.  The association with the biotech/GE industry is a clear indication of his bias in his assessment of the GE issue.

What are the claims-making strategies for constructing grounds?

An industry group attempts to minimize fears  of GE crops.

.What are the typifying stories?

There are no specific personal stories but the article paints a broad global picture with huge portions of the population going hungry without the increased production yields that result from GE products.  This article seeks to discredit opponents of GE products efforts ‘to restrict the benefits these crops can have in feeding the planet.  They also rely on the reality that 2 billion acres of genetically modified crops have been grown and consumed without even one incidence related to human health. As with the other pro GE site the claims make use of real data to support their claims. The challenge to opponents is to produce evidence backing their claims of ill effects of GE crops

What are the extreme consequences?

The implied worst case scenario is that GE crops are prohibited resulting in millions starving to death due to deceased global food production.

Does timing influence the claims-making in this case?

Once again the recent emergence of genetic engineering technology and its commercialization has prompted this debate

Is the diagnostic frame social or individual or a mix of both?

The framework here is social relying on the implied notion that millions will perish if GE crops are prohibited.  People will starve to death without GE products

What are the motivational frames by describing the cultural themes and the claims-making strategies?

As with site 3 the strategy here is to reference recent advances in the GE field and the economic advantages that adopters of GE crops have enjoyed.  References are made to the increasingly large numbers of farmers who are electing to plant GE crops.  The inference is that all of these early adopters can’t be wrong in their decisions.

The claims-maker seeks to minimize fear of GE crops by clearly stating facts and backing the facts with scientific evidence

The theme is an appeal to the audience to prevent the horrors of mass starvation by allowing the continued adoption of GE crops.

Summary comments

Are the claims are competing and on what dimension?

I selected competing claims sites 1 & 2 opposing and sites 3 & 4 in favor  

Opposition to GE crops

Although they are competing they use very different strategies and mind sets to establish claims and persuade their audiences.  Both rely on generating a strong sense of fear of the unknown to make their case.

Greenpeace does not address potential health and environmental risks that might be expected by the organization but, rather chooses to build on fears of increased global corporate control that might result if GE crops are allowed to proliferate around the world.  The frame is broadly social and economic drawing on themes of capitalist exploitation.

Renaissance International chooses to focus very specifically on the potential health risks that GE crops pose to the public. Although their ‘scientific experts’ seem to be effective in generating a fear of the unknown dangers they, strikingly, present no real evidence of any harm despite the existence of large numbers of GE products in  markets for a number of years.

The remaining two sites cited in favor of GE products rely on a calm, rational presentation of the facts supporting their case for GE. These scientific experts support their claims by citing facts and figures related to the already existing GE products that exist in the market.          

Summarize your sense of the claims-making for this social problem.

The objective facts and data available concerning GE crops are overwhelmingly in favor of their expansion.  Advocates are able to back their claims of the benefits with critical data from many actual instances where society has benefited from their use. 

Opponents of GE appear to have realized their dilemma and have turned their focus to the ‘potential harm’, health and economic, that might  result from increased use of  GE crops. A fear of the unknown is the basis for their claims, emotion rather than fact based.

This research project leads me to the conclusion that organizations relying primarily on emotion to support their claims could  be suspect as they  are either unable to support their arguments with facts or, worse, hiding the facts that do not support their cause in order to deceive the audience.  

It seems that a rational, logical audience looking at the facts in this case should be persuaded in favor of GE. The opposition claims-makers will be limited to recruiting audience member who are subject to a fear of the unknown or who have committed to ideologies that oppose the expansion of corporate economic control.

Simply reviewing the opposition sites could easily incite an audience to buy into the fear they are promoting.   Reviewing only these sites prevents the audience from knowing that real evidence exists which contradicts the claims. It seems to point to the fact that a responsible audience has a clear obligation to carefully review both sides of an issue before taking a stand.

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