Fear of the Irreparable: Narratives in Vaccination Rhetoric
Abstract

This commentary examines a recurring theme throughout many of the vaccination narratives in this collection—the theme of fear—and how fear ultimately operates as a persuasive tactic in vaccination discourse. Fear appears throughout the narratives as a both direct and indirect rationale for the vaccination choices parents want to make or preserve. This commentary examines the narratives rhetorically for how fear operates persuasively, specifically by arguing that fear is the product of an “argument of quality.” As arguments that value the unique event over the norm, arguments of quality are particularly persuasive when they are presented as producing irreparable results, which, however unlikely, cannot be recovered if they come to fruition. These narratives, therefore, reveal how fear is persuasive in these narratives and across the controversy, and explain why arguments that dismiss rare events as unlikely are ineffective persuasive tactics.


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