imageHere’s a word to stitch into your vocabulary pocket.


The word means a manufactured controversy.

And what an elegant word to share with my propaganda, persuasion and framing students.

Leah Ceccarelli, a professor specializing in rhetoric at the University of Washington, talked about the word at a meeting on journals and science, sponsored by the National Science Communication Institute.

Examples abound.

Remember the brouhaha that erupted when Oprah Winfrey declared she would never again eat hamburgers on hearing about Mad Cow disease?

No cases of Mad Cow have ever been reported in the United States.

Or consider the manufactroversy over vaccines and autism.

No scientific evidence has ever been advanced that shows a connection with vaccines and autism.

Still, news reports suggest this is a controversy. Yet no data exist.

I pluck from my own pocket the case of Kennewick Man, where the invented conflict over Who was here first was advanced.

The ancient bones–about 9200 years old–resemble no modern-day peoples.

Some scientists argue that early settlers like Kennewick Man could have travelled from more than one location to North America, meaning, they represent more than one type of genetic pool.

But for most American Indians weighing in on the controversy over Kennewick Man, the issue of Who was here first is irrelevant.

Who was here first is a manufactroversy created by folks to recast the conflict in a political dimension, thus distracting critics from the issues important to Native tribes.

At the heart of the issue is who gets to frame the nature of the debate.

10 November blog for National Native American Heritage Month


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, authenticity, ethics, framing, human origin, Indian, journalism, Kennewick Man, Lakota, NAGPRA, Native Science, neuroscience, risk, science, science communication, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Manufactroversy

  1. Jeff Nguyen says:

    “If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed,” Paulo Freire once said. As long as the dominant culture controls the discourse, those are the narratives our children will hear.


  2. Suzanne Atkin says:

    Very interesting indeed. Perhaps the manufacturing of this word is all the example one needs.


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