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ERIC Number: ED420880
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1998-Apr-2
Pages: 13
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Jimmying Heaven's Gate: A Folk Rhetorical Approach to Internet Communication.
Howard, Robert Glenn
In March 1997 Marshal Applewhite and his band of 40 "web site building multidimensional New Agers" committed ritual suicide to pass through where physical bodies cannot go. A folklorist who belongs to an Internet current events newsgroup had been reading Applewhite's posted comments since 1995. On his web page, Applewhite noted how "it is nearly impossible to take advanced, non-human concepts and force them into comprehensible human language." When the group posted, they faced much social recalcitrance. Successful communication on the Internet demands that the communicators be ready and willing to engage in debate. In almost all Heaven's Gate newsgroup posts examined, this Internet norm is completely disregarded. Although the news media focused on Applewhite's use of the Internet to recruit new members, the group made little effort to persuade non-believers, and their most ambitious goal was probably the location of individuals already spiritually prepared for a Heaven's Gate conversion experience. The folklorist, who had been studying Internet millennial communication for almost three years, attempted to approach Heaven's Gate's campaign with an open and educated mind and to follow their arguments. All of their many 1996 postings presented similar evolutionary claims and employed similar rhetorical strategies. Studying the rhetoric of their postings reveals they were looking for individuals already in a spiritual and emotional state that made them ready for an emotive conversion experience. As insane as the beliefs of the Heaven's Gate individuals were, they knew exactly what they intended to do and, by their own standards of judgment as well as by rhetorical analysis, they did just exactly what they wanted to do. (NKA)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A