Douglas Walton’s argumentation theory as a tool for media text analysis
By Marko Joensuu
In his book Media Argumentation: Dialectic, Persuasion and Rhetoric (2007) Douglas Walton presents a new way to analyse and evaluate media arguments. Walton’s dialectical approach is based on a dialogical understanding of arguments, which, when applied to journalistic texts, can offer a fresh perspective into how journalists utilise sources in moving arguments forward. If Walton’s theory is integrated with narrative theory and frame analysis, journalistic texts can be perceived as dialogical argumentation within narrative framing.
Argumentation theory is a multidisciplinary field with strong roots in Aristotelian logic, rhetoric and dialectic and drawing new ideas from such diverse fields as communication theory, linguistics, philosophy, discourse analysis, and social psychology. Argumentation theory focuses on the structures of practical reasoning. It emerged as a modern discipline in the 1970s.
Walton’s argumentation theory approaches argumentation from dialectical perspective, but its foundations are in informal logic. As there is a vibrant conversation between different streams within the argumentation theory, it seems useful to outline the main streams that have influenced Walton’s approach or are close to it.
1. The New Rhetoric
The roots of modern argumentation theory are in the Aristotelian logic, rhetoric and dialectic. But whereas logic survived over centuries as part of scientific and mathematical explorations, the use of rhetoric and dialectic in science withered over centuries.
The New Rhetoric was one of the first streams within the argumentation theory. According to Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca (1969, 1), the New Rhetoric was a departure from the Cartesian understanding of reason that had dominated Western philosophy since the 17th century; it defined argumentation as “opposed to necessity and self-evidence" and focused on “the credible, the plausible, the probable”.
Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca sought to establish practical reasoning outside the boundaries of logic and beyond the limitations of scientific experiments. They saw argumentation theory as study of discursive techniques for persuasion and separated reasoning related to discovering truths from reasoning related to adherence. Looking back at Aristotle’s work, they discerned two potential but diverging pathways – dialectic and rhetoric. In their view, Hegel had defined the word dialectic so exhaustively that it made it difficult to repurpose it as the foundation of a new scientific discipline. But rhetoric was a dead word that could be invested with new significance. They saw dialectical reasoning as “running parallel with analytic reasoning but treating of that which is probable instead of dealing with propositions which are necessary” and rhetoric as the study of “the opinionable”. (1969, 2-5)
The New Rhetoric began as a study of argumentation structures that focused on the power of adherence rather than the formal validity of arguments and their truth value. Hence it can give great insights into journalistic argumentation, but these insights are detached from the journalistic ideals of factuality and fairness.
Standing at the crossroads of logic, dialectic and rhetoric, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca chose the path of rhetoric. They discounted logic as unpragmatic, but they did consider dialectic; in the end, they perceived rhetoric to be the more promising starting point. Others, such as Walton, would choose logic and dialectic as the beginning of their quest.
2. Informal logic and pragma-dialectics
Informal logic began to shape as a discipline in North America in the 1970s with some previous developments in Great Britain in the 1950s. Walton began his work by researching informal fallacies in the 1970s; this research fell into the area of informal logic. Johnson and Blair made the first thematic use of the term informal logic at a 1978 conference; they defined it as a discipline that assesses the validity of arguments in natural language. Walton was one of the first to associate informal logic with pragmatics and to see it as rule-based (if, then) rather than criteria-based. Until Walton, most saw the focal point of argumentation to be a text written for an audience, but Walton began to see argumentation as a dialogue. (Johnson 2008, 233-238, 242) Walton’s dialectical shift is not dissimilar to pragma-dialectics, but unlike pragma-dialectics, it rests on the foundations of informal logic.
Unlike with the New Rhetoric, the initial starting point of informal logic was the normativity and validity of arguments rather than their persuasive power. Seeing informal logic as rule-based has enabled its use in developing AI.
Walton sees formal and informal logics as complementary: formal logic focuses on the syntactic/semantic study and informal logic on pragmatic study of reasoning. (Johnson 2008, 243)
Pragma-dialectics was developed by Van Eemeren and Grootendorst at the University of Amsterdam around the same time than informal logic began to take shape in North America. They sought to combine the logical insights of dialectics with the pragmatics of linguistics and ground argumentation theory within the normative ideal of critical rationality – and ideal critical discussion. Pragma-dialectics brings the dialectical and rhetorical dimensions of argumentation together. (Van Eemeren & Houtlosser 2000, 293-295)
Tindale (1996, 21, 26), who is an informal logician, criticises pragma-dialectics and Walton for restricting fallacies “to the violation of rules for conducting a critical discussion” and yet looking for objective criteria for deciding fallacies beyond “the intersubjective agreement of discussants.”
Unlike Tindale (1996, 19-20) who initially seems to have seen Walton as a pragma-dialectician, pragma-dialecticians themselves seem to relate to Walton as close to being a formal dialectician (Eemeren 2017, 334). This is because Walton still gives normativity a reference point outside the rules of an ideal conversation, whereas pragma-dialecticians define fallacies mainly as breaking the rules of a particular conversation.
Tindale thinks that pragma-dialectics must discover objective criteria for rationality outside the conversation and criticises it for relying on these kinds of objective criteria unknowingly. He sees pragma-dialectics as much more rhetorical than its self-understanding, as its rules of conversation seem to be defined by an audience. (1996, 29-30)
Crosswhite (2013, 404, 411) also sees hidden layers of rhetoric in Walton’s work and in pragma-dialectics and both projects as extensions of the New Rhetoric. But these dialectical approaches still have their dialogical emphasis, which makes their approaches somewhat different from the New Rhetoric.
3. Walton’s New Dialectic
Walton describes dialectic as “the study of two parties reasoning together with each other by argument and objection.” It is the task of rhetoric to invent arguments but the task of dialectic to evaluate them critically. According to Walton, rhetoric, the inventing of persuasive arguments, and dialectic, judging them, both utilise similar underlying structures, which are in dialogue format. (Walton 2007, 2-4)
It is the dialogical aspect of Walton’s theory that makes it useful in the study of journalistic texts, as they have usually been amalgamated from a variety of sources to make an argument crystallised often in the headline, at least before the online clickbait journalism.
Walton defines dialectic as informal or applied logic and, unlike rhetoric, as genuinely considering different sides of an argument. In his view, the apparent problem with applying dialectic into media argumentation is that dialectic is dialogical, whereas in many cases media argumentation appears monological, making rhetoric seem a better way to approach it. Walton’s solution to this apparent problem is that a media argument presenter is in fact simulating a dialectical argument when he uses simulative reasoning to anticipate objections to the argument. The presenter chains arguments together and uses audience commitments as premises. He chooses an argumentation scheme or a chain of argumentation and applies it from the premises to the conclusion via a rhetorical trajectory. (Walton 2007, 15, 17, 348-349)
In this respect, Walton’s New Dialectic resembles the New Rhetoric, as it seems that the rhetorical choices are firmly linked to the commitments of the universal and specific audiences: rhetoricians would also anticipate the audience’s objections. But when it comes to journalistic texts, their dialogical nature can be pushed beyond them being anticipatory and invisible simulations. A dialogue-based argumentation scheme resembles the way journalists compile texts or reports from different sources through either real or simulated truth-seeking. So, even when in Walton’s understanding the dialogical nature of media arguments often remains hidden and their nature monological, when it comes to journalistic texts, this simulated, invisible argumentation becomes visible through the journalistic use of sources. So, whether the dialogical approach is epistemologically correct or not, it nevertheless creates a powerful analytical tool for journalistic research with two clear benefits. First, the dialectical aspect enables perceiving the journalistic use of sources as part of an argument, because a media text can be defined as a dialectical process of simulated truth-seeking. Second, the commitment to reason beyond a journalistic conversation as a genre within the theory’s aspect of informal logic retains is rootedness in truth-seeking, which is still an important journalistic ideal.
In political journalism, this dialogical attempt at discovering truth is reflected in trying to hear different sides of a debate, even when in practice, this simulation is often simplified and presented dualistically. For example, during the London mayoral election in 2016, the media focused on the two main candidates (based on polls) rather than on their whole spectrum.
The New Dialectic exposes some of the shortcomings of the New Rhetoric: if we analyse journalistic texts only from the persuasive perspective, we miss the fact that at least at some level journalism attempts to be anchored in facts beyond their persuasive power. Journalism might not be able to make any grand claims for objectivity, but unlike the New Rhetoric, Walton’s New Dialectic gives a theoretical foundation for truth-seeking journalism.
Walton’s argumentation model is based on public commitments rather than inferred beliefs or knowledge (Walton 2007, 84-85). What matters is the public commitments rather than private beliefs. For example, when it comes to Brexit, it doesn’t matter whether Prime Minister Theresa May truly believes in Brexit or not, but her stated commitment to it matters, as that is what matters in negotiations, and that is what frames the media debate.
Much of Walton’s work concerns practical reasoning, which is common in politics and political journalism. Practical reasoning is made of a chain of practical inferences. A practical inference has two premises: a goal and an action. The question is which specific action would best contribute to the goal. This reasoning can accommodate values as well as facts. (Walton 2007, 31-32, 34)
Walton’s argumentation theory has been criticised for a lack of solid theory of knowledge. Di Bello and Verheic (2018, 304) criticise some of Walton’s later work on argumentation theory from the perspective of contemporary epistemology. They see Walton abandoning the idea that knowledge implies truth, as in their view he sees knowledge as fallible.
Traditionally, knowledge is defined as justified true belief. In Walton’s evidence-based epistemology propositions supported by evidence or proved to be true are accepted rather than believed to be true, and they remain defeasible: knowledge collection is a procedure that “admits of retraction”, knowledge base remains incomplete and it can be fallible. Scientific inquiry has three stages: opening, argumentation and closing stage where a proposition is accepted as knowledge or rejected. (Walton & Zhang 2013, 173-178) In Walton’s view, knowledge-creation is evidence-based social practice where “the attainment of truth is not necessary”. (Prakken and Sartor, 2009).
Nevertheless, Walton’s epistemology retains the value of truth-seeking; it is just that we can never be absolutely certain that we have reached the final truth.
Assessing Walton’s work, Tindale & Reed (2010, 9) see it focus on fallacies with them viewed as “unfair argumentation tactics”. Govier also (2010, 19) points out that Walton has not sought to draw any distinction between fact and value.
When it comes to media argumentation, this lack of distinction between facts and values has no disadvantages. Traditionally, journalism has differentiated editorials from news stories as two different genres with news stories based on facts and editorials on values (Gajevic 2016, 866). But facts and values are always mixed in our argumentation; they are merely presented differently in editorials than in news stories.
Ben-Borath argues that news have been fragmented internally because the journalistic monologue has been replaced by conversational style in primetime news making the journalist less dominant. There is less fact checking as conversation is often live, and the narrative authority of a journalist is replaced by discursive engagement. This has made the production process of news more visible. (2007, 413, 422-423, 426) This increased visibility of news production processes has made audiences see the news as more opinion-based than before, perhaps paving the way of some defining real news as fake news.
Hornmoen & Steensen have proposed that dialogue should be seen as a journalistic ideal and as a road to acknowledging a truth. Dialogue reveals the plurality of truths through illuminating an issue from many sides and is a decision-making process towards democratic agreement. They have looked at Walton’s six basic dialogue types – persuasion, inquiry, negotiation, information seeking, deliberation and eristic and applied them to different activities in the journalistic process. For example, on the level of finding story ideas they have defined the journalist, audiences, editor, private connections and social media connections as types of participants and the process of finding story ideas as information seeking dialogue. They see the whole journalistic process from beginning to receiving it as deeply dialogical in nature. They have also classified investigative news story, commentary journalism, an interview and a live journalistic blog as particularly dialogical in nature. (2014, 547-552)
This mapping is useful, although it ignores the argumentative dimension of Walton’s theory. Also, incorporating the concept of simulating an argument by orchestrating sources in news stories or by anticipating counter-arguments in editorials allows us to see practically all journalistic texts and not just their production processes as profoundly dialectical and dialogical.
4. Framing, enthymemes and presumptive arguments
Aristotle’s enthymeme, conventionally seen as an argument with a missing premise, or alternatively seen as an argument that is mostly true, is defined by Walton as a defeasible argument represented by an argumentation scheme. Walton defines enthymeme as “a plausible argument based on defeasible generalization” rather than a deductive argument with a missing premise. Enthymeme was seen by Aristotle as connected to non-scientific arguments that are less rationally compelling than scientific arguments tend to be, and Walton sees it as a vehicle for mass media rhetorical arguments. (Walton 2007, 13, Walton & Reed 2005, 340)
The way enthymemes work resembles the way frames work. Van Gorp (2007, 64) refers to “frame package” as “a cluster of logical organized devices” with frame “manifesting” through various framing devices pointing “at the same core idea”. He sees frame packages as reasoning devices that contain explicit (manifest) and implicit (latent) statements.
Matthes (2012, 254) sees frames “operationalized as bundles of consistent issue arguments, originally proposed by opponents or proponents.”
Argumentation theory and frame analysis appear to look at the same textual structures from different perspectives.
Walton has also worked extensively in analysing presumptive reasoning, which is also common in politics. Presumption is the conclusion of a presumptive defeasible inference.
By taking a proposition for granted, a politician can shift the burden of disproving it to the hearer. (Macagno & Damele 2013, 361)
Presumption shifts the proof to the respondent, so that the conversation can move forward when the proponent is lacking objective evidence. This presumptive status is provisional.
Bodlovic (2017, 531-532) criticises Walton’s concept of presumptive arguments for being so heterogenous and broad that its theoretical usefulness becomes unclear. In his view Walton’s model of presumptions fails in shifting the burden of proof to the opponent.
But it is easy to see how common presumptive arguments are in political journalism. Both Leave and Remain campaigns utilised presumptive arguments extensively during the Brexit referendum. For example, the Express quoted the UKIP leader Nigel Farage on Tuesday 21 June 2016 two days before the referendum: “We will exit a failed political union, one which is now a disaster zone.”
It is a presumptive argument to claim that the EU is failing, and it is powerful because it takes a lot more time and effort to disprove it than to claim it, and its disproval doesn’t even seem to be possible within the confines of everyday media space, especially as large parts of the British media have for decades tended to repeat these kinds of arguments. It is also an argument from authority, as the MEP Nigel Farage could position himself as an expert who knew what was really going on in the EU, which gave the argument added weight.
5. Walton’s mass media argumentation model
Walton’s mass media argumentation model is based on argumentation schemes – premise-conclusion inference structures – that utilise common forms of arguments.
According to Walton, mass media argumentation appears to fit the rhetorical rather than the dialectical model. But in his view, the shortcoming of the rhetorical approach is that it focuses on the audience’s psychology and is empirical rather than normative. Nevertheless, rhetoric is also built on argumentation schemes and thus has similar underlying normative components than dialectic. (Walton 2007, 17-19, 22)
The objective of pragma-dialectics and Walton is to improve the quality of the conversation hence merely descriptive analysis of conversation isn’t adequate for the dialectical project. And when it comes to media texts, the dialectical project gives the analysis a useful comparison point beyond the analysed media text.
Argumentation schemes include deductive, inductive but also defeasible arguments. Defeasible arguments can be weak, but they may still warrant rational acceptance. An example of a defeasible argument that might be accepted is an argument from popular opinion. (Walton 2007, 26, 29-30)
For example, the argument based on the results of a non-binding but advisory referendum can be a defeasible argument that warrants acceptance – within limits. With Brexit, “the will of the people” has been used as an appeal to an ‘eternal, unchanging truth’ mainly by Brexiteers, but attacked as a defeasible argument by Remainers who would in their argumentation accept the results of the democratic vote, but seek to emphasise its limited, situation-dependent scope.
Walton modifies the concept of the dialogue to include simulative reasoning, which is used in multi-agent computing. This makes his model applicable to mass media argumentation research. He has developed a Persuasion System, which aims to demonstrate that media arguments have clearly definable characteristics that utilise dialectical structure of dialogue and rhetorical trajectory. (Walton 2007, 5)
Walton seeks to combine empirical research of data with using dialectical methods to identify fallacies and biases. According to Walton, applying both dialectic and rhetoric to media texts shows how the audiences are persuaded because they find the arguments reasonable, and dialectic can show how even arguments appealing to emotions are in fact based on argumentation schemes. Emotional arguments can be essentially reasonable because they are based on the premises that accurately represent the audience’s commitments and goals, their hopes and fears and their normal “means-end ways of thinking” about life. (Walton 2007, 325)
In this dialogue-based argumentation dialogue might be silent and invisible, but whether it appears like a monologue or dialogue, the arguer nevertheless relies on understanding what premises the silent or vocal partner in conversation will be able to accept. It is this silent dialogue that many informal logicians seem to perceive as revealing the hidden rhetorical layer in Walton’s theory, as it can resemble appealing to a rhetorical audience. But in Walton’s case the invisible dialogue is not being used as a tool to map the most effective ways to persuade but to assess the reasonability of arguments. And in that sense, his approach remains dialectical even when the dialogue is silent.
5. Fifteen basic components of media argumentation
After analysing different media argumentation schemes, Walton presents fifteen components of media argumentation. This is a normative assessment, as he is attempting to define the rules of reasonable media argumentation based on critical dialogue model.
In summary: media arguments are meant to be plausible. When analysing them, it is essential to identify the premises, conclusion and the link of inference between them. Media arguments are structured as argumentation schemes where the major premise is often defeasible and holds presumptively, subject to exceptions. Media argumentation relies extensively on practical reasoning. Media arguments need to be assessed critically from a dialogical perspective. Persuasion is central to media argumentation, but its premises are based on assumed, explicit audience commitments rather than psychological beliefs. Argumentation strategies are important to understanding the structure of media argumentation. They are rhetorical trajectories that guide the arguments to their conclusion. One common way to judge popular opinion is polls. Public opinion formation is a deliberation process that goes through several stages. Media argumentation takes the form of five stages in a feedback cycle (argument invention, construction, sending, processing, feedback) which helps to modify an argument to make it more plausible. Both the proponent and the respondent in a dialogue are agents in a multi-agent system, which enables the proponent to use simulative reasoning. Gricean implicature – the unsaid but assumed – plays an essential role in designing an argumentation strategy. Anticipating the implications that the other agent can reasonably be expected to draw helps to devise a scheme with missing assumptions and premises, so that the audience can make its own conclusions or fill in unstated premises. In this Persuasion System, bias is a central category for evaluation. (Walton 2007, 327-328, 350-353)
In the Persuasion System there is a set of commitments by the audience, a thesis that the proponent is promoting as a new commitment, a set of argumentation schemes the proponent is utilising to infer propositions from other propositions, and a set of dialogues (deliberation, persuasion, negotiation etc.) he can choose from. There is a set of propositions representing common knowledge shared by the proponent and the audience. It has two subsets: a domain-dependent set of facts of the case and the common ways of doing things and common knowledge broadly familiar to any audience. What makes media argumentation possible is simulative reasoning used by the participants. The proponent uses simulative reasoning to judge how the audience is thinking, what their commitments are, what inferences they are likely to draw, and generally, how they are likely to respond. (Walton 2007, 353)
In many ways, this dialectical approach resembles the New Rhetoric, but the normativity and dialogical aspects bring important differences, which are particularly helpful in analysing news rather than editorials. Also, the focus on stated commitments rather than assumed beliefs enables the analysis of texts meaningfully without having to either assume or measure psychological impact. Also, the normativity of the New Dialectic is limited in a sense that it makes no claims for epistemological objectivity but still maintains a reference point in the reality outside the text, which is essential for journalism to retain a meaningful function in society. This approach brings persuasion and reasonability together, which are both important aspects of journalism.
6. Model applied
Gajevic (2016, 865, 866) sees editorials as an argumentative and persuasive form of journalism.
It is easy to see the persuasive aspect of editorials, but the clear benefit of Walton’s model is that its emphasis on dialogical argumentation enables the analysis of not just editorials but also news stories as argumentation. If argumentation is dialogical, then the whole news story can be approached as an argument, especially when we can understand the journalistic narrator’s use of sources as part of a simulated, dialogical argument.
I will apply the model to an article in the Independent on Sunday 26 June 2016, the weekend immediately after the referendum vote, to analyse the temporal relationships within the narrative argumentation.
The headline of this news article says: “Brexit campaigners admit ‘there is no plan’ for what comes next as rivals plan for Tory leadership bids”.
The headline relies on a presumed reader commitment that politicians should have a plan and uses temporal relationships as political commentary: there is no plan for Brexit (the long-term future of the whole nation) but there are many plans for short-term leadership bids (short-term, selfish political interest). The admission that there is no plan contains both an implied premise (that there should be a plan) and the conclusion that there is no plan. This headline summarises the following, more nuanced narrative as a clear dialogical argument, as it utilises the source of “Brexit campaigners” dialectically.
Initially, it might seem that the following paragraphs don’t really support this conclusion, and that the writer has simply lifted the conclusion from a quote. But the journalistic narrator is utilising the temporal relations in the news narrative to bolster the claim by his source that there is no plan for Brexit.
The subheading moves to immediate politics of choosing the next prime minister, as David Cameron has just resigned: “Figures on both sides of the debate have suggested that the next Prime Minister should come from the Leave Campaign”.
Headline: There is no plan
Subheading: The plan should come from Leave Campaign
1st paragraph: Next PM must be Brexit backer (source: Ian Duncan Smith)
2nd paragraph: Boris Johnson and Michael Gove maintain low profile amid calls for them to take responsibility (source unclear)
3rd paragraph: Johnson ally admitted that “there is no plan” and that Brexiteers expected Downing Street to have a plan (source: Johnson ally)
4th paragraph: MPs who consider leadership challenge incl. Boris Johnson (source unclear)
5th paragraph: Liam Fox, an ardent Brexit campaigner the first to say publicly that he was considering leadership bid + speculation about Michael Gove (source: Fox + unclear sources)
6th paragraph: Calls not to have leadership contest at all but joint leadership with May and Johnson for national unity (Source: Justine Greening)
7th paragraph: Duncan Smith says public unlikely to accept Remainer as PM (source: Ian Duncan Smith)
8th paragraph: Theresa May backed remain but kept low profile – Osborne may still run (journalistic commentary)
9th paragraph: Ian Duncan Smith says that public wouldn’t accept a Remainer as PM (source: Ian Duncan Smith)
10th paragraph: new PM must deliver the mandate to leave (source: Ian Duncan Smith)
11th paragraph: Ian Duncan Smith’s comments at odds with Ms Greening’s calls for unity leadership (source: Justine Greening and journalistic commentary)
12th paragraph: Ms Greening – there should be united leadership (source: Justine Greening)
13th paragraph: no public statements from Gove and Johnson (journalistic commentary)
14th paragraph: Government under pressure to trigger article 50 immediately (journalistic commentary)
15th-17th paragraph: Lord Heseltine says that the country has been sold a “fools promise” and the Brexiteers should be in charge of negotiations so that they won’t be able to blame anyone else (source: Lord Heseltine)
18th paragraph: Heseltine warns that situation for industry and commerce was deteriorating by the day (source: Lord Heseltine)
19th paragraph: EU states have said that Britain must activate Article 50 urgently (source: EU foreign minister)
20th paragraph: Hammond said that the UK government should not be under pressure to begin formal talks but that a loss of access to single market would be catastrophic (source: Hammond)
Simplified argument structure
Headline: There is no plan
Subheading: A Brexiteer should lead Brexit
Paragraphs 2-3: Brexiteers have no plan for Brexit and they avoid responsibility
Paragraphs 4-5: Brexiteers have a (short-term & clear) plan to be Prime Minister
Paragraphs 6-13: dialectical and dialogue-based narrative argument presenting views from various sources related to the choice of the next Prime Minister
Paragraphs 14-20 present the dangers and time pressures of the situation by utilising various sources and journalistic commentary.
This argumentation structure follows practical reasoning in a dialogue format expressed through a journalistic narrative. The first part of the article presents mainly the views of the Brexiteers whereas the second part of the article focuses on the views from the EU and Remainers. Initially, it might seem that the writer is giving the Brexiteers more importance, but in fact he is featuring them to support his argument that there is no plan for Brexit with Tories fighting selfishly over leadership. The second part of the article seeks to present the factual reality outside the leadership contest: the clock is ticking whilst Tories are fighting over leadership.
Neiger and Tenenboim Weinblatt have divided temporal layers in news narratives into eleven layers starting from distant past through immediate past and present to distant and unknown future. Through analysing Israeli and American print and online news stories they have identified five common temporal clusters with the largest focusing around the present but with strong immediate past and future layers. This focus on now is what we traditionally consider to be news, but other clusters contextualise the now with references to distant, long-range or midrange or recent past whereas other clusters project the immediate, near, midrange, foreseeable and distant/unknown future. (2016, 143, 152, 155-156)
The main bulk of the paragraphs in the Independent’s article seem to deal with the immediate and near future, but looking at the juxtaposition of temporal relationships, it becomes apparent that the whole article has been built to support the conclusion of the headline through utilising temporal relationships:
Distant/unknown future: there is no plan for Brexit
Immediate/near future: there are many plans for leadership challenge
Implied conclusion: Brexiteers don’t really care about Brexit but they care about their selfish contest for party leadership
It is the juxtaposition of short-term future and long-term future that becomes the main supporting argument for the conclusion that there is no plan for Brexit, and the journalist uses temporal relationships deliberately as one of his main tools for argumentation through a narrative.
From framing perspective, the headline frames the political reality by contrasting the lack of planning for long-term future of the nation with plenty of planning for the short-term leadership contest because of selfish career interests of individual politicians. Also, it creates an expectation of an uncertain foreseeable future for Britain, and the following paragraphs have been built to support this framing. As narratives can also be seen as arguments used to support premises and are seen by Ellis as the medium “most associated with” the “overlap between the dialogic and deliberative experience” (Ellis 2014, 95, 97), Walton’s argumentation theory combined with an understanding of news stories as narratives gives additional insights into how this framing is achieved and brings some structure and consistency into how to discover and analyse frames used in the news stories.
One of the most useful possibilities within Walton’s argumentation theory is perceiving the journalistic use of sources as dialectical and dialogical argumentation. To my knowledge, Walton hasn’t really dealt with this, perhaps as his project has been to formalise the argumentation schemes within conversations taking place in different parts of society, and this exercise alone has produced a huge volume of books and articles. Nevertheless, this approach offers a fruitful way to research journalistic texts.
Ben-Porath, Eran N. 2007. “INTERNAL FRAGMENTATION OF THE NEWS.” Journalism Studies 8 (3): 414–31.
Bodlovic, Petar. 2017. “Dialogical Features of Presumptions: Difficulties for Walton’s New Dialogical Theory.” Argumentation 31: 1–22.
Di Bello, Marcello, and Bart Verheij. 2018. “Douglas Walton: Argument Evaluation and Evidence.” Argumentation 32 (2): 301–7.
Eemeren, Frans H. van, and Peter Houtlosser. 2000. “Rhetorical Analysis Within a Pragma-Dialectical Framework.” Argumentation 14 (3): 293–305.
Ellis, Donald. 2014. “Narrative as Deliberative Argument.” Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict 7 (1): 95–108.
Gajevic, Slavko. 2016. “Journalism and Formation of Argument.” Journalism 17 (7): 865–81.
Gorp, Baldwin. 2007. “The Constructionist Approach to Framing: Bringing Culture Back In.” Journal of Communication 57: 60–78.
Govier, T. 2010. “Reflections on Facts, Values and Argument”. In Reed, Chris, and Christopher W. Tindale, eds. Dialectics, Dialogue and Argumentation. an Examination of Douglas Walton’s Theories of Reasoning. 19-29 London: College Publications.
Hornmoen, Harald, and Steen Steensen. 2014. “Dialogue as a Journalistic Ideal.” Journalism Studies 15 (5): 543–54.
James Crosswhite. 2013. “The Rhetorical Unconscious of Argumentation Theory:” Philosophy & Rhetoric 46 (4): 392–414.
Johnson, Ralph H. 2008. “Making Sense of ‘Informal Logic.’” Informal Logic 26 (3): 231
L, Perelman CH and Olbrechts-Tyteca. 1969. THE NEW RHETORIC: A TREATISE ON ARGUMENTATION. University of Notre Dame Press.
Macagno, Fabrizio, and Giovanni Damele. 2013. “The Dialogical Force of Implicit Premises. Presumptions in Enthymemes.” Informal Logic 33 (3): 361.
Matthes, Jörg. 2012. “Framing Politics: An Integrative Approach.” American Behavioral Scientist 56 (3): 247–59.
Reed, Chris, and Christopher W. Tindale, eds. 2010. Dialectics, Dialogue and Argumentation. an Examination of Douglas Walton’s Theories of Reasoning. London: College Publications.
Tenenboim-Weinblatt, Keren, and Motti Neiger. 2017. “Temporal Affordances in the News.” Journalism 19 (1): 37–55.
Tindale, Christopher W. 1996. “Fallacies in Transition: An Assessment of the Pragma-Dialectical Perspective.” Informal Logic 18 (1).
Van Eemeren, Frans H. 2017. “Argumentation Theory and Argumentative Practices: A Vital but Complex Relationship.” Informal Logic 37 (4): 322–50.
Walton, D., and C. A. Reed. 2005. “Argumentation Schemes and Enthymemes.” Synthese 145 (3): 339–70.
Walton, Douglas. 2007. Media Argumentation. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.
Walton, Douglas, and Nanning Zhang. 2013. “The Epistemology of Scientific Evidence.” Artificial Intelligence and Law 21 (2): 173–219.