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Javnost - The Public, Vol. 29 - 2022, No. 3

Serious Grappling with Satire: Rhetorical Genre Affordances and Invitations to Participation in Public Controversy

, , pages: 284-300

Rhetorical genres play a structuring role in public discourse by framing issues and influencing argumentation norms. In public controversy, struggles for dominance between genre frameworks can accompany substantive argumentation. This article presents a case study of the interconnected controversies about the Swedish school application system and public service legitimacy following a news satire programme Svenska Nyheter episode. It introduced a web tool simplifying applications, circumventing what was argued to be segregating effects of a fragmented first-come-first-serve system. The satiric framing invited carnivalesque civic engagement, while the private school sector’s response promoted a forensic debate on the programme’s legitimacy, with its own invitational pull. While these competing genres dominated different institutional media arenas, they significantly blended in online civic participation. Satirising techniques were appropriated to create agency in the “serious” forensic discourse and vice versa, indicating that boundaries of carnivalesque and serious modes are not as maintained by engaged citizens as by institutional actors.

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