The Proclamation of Restoration of the Independent Nation of Hawai’i:
A Fantasy Theme Analysis

By Darin J. Arsenault, May 1997

Table of Contents



When investigating the rhetoric of the Independent Nation’s Proclamation of Restoration of The Independence of the Sovereign Nation State of Hawai’i speech, several fantasy themes appeared. Fantasy theme analysis offered reasonable explanations as to how Independent Nation themes move listeners and readers to act. Therefore, for this study, symbolic convergence theory and its corresponding fantasy theme analysis is utilized as theory and method for rhetorical investigation of this speech. The purpose of this chapter is threefold. First, symbolic convergence theory is defined and explained. Second, fantasy theme analysis is discussed, including some of the contention over this method. Third, symbolic convergence and fantasy theme analysis will be justified as to how it benefits the current study.

Symbolic Convergence Theory

Symbolic convergence theory was developed by Bormann (1972, 1973, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1994, 1996) upon the work of Robert Bales’ (1950, 1970) studies of small group interaction analysis. While Bales (1950) was studying dimensions of small group interaction, he attempted to revise interaction process studies by conducting content analyses of spoken discourse. Among his other results, Bales noticed that within group interaction, difficult tasks prompted some members to experience anxiety. This category, which Bales labeled "show of tension release," was later changed to "dramatize" because of a unique phenomenon. During moments of stress, some members would release tension by becoming dramatic and telling stories. In other words, in order to cope with anxiety, members would dramatize unrelated thoughts or ideas and relate it to the task at hand. Bales explained that these dramatizing statements contained aspects identifiable in theatrical presentations: settings, characters, and symbolic actions. He argued (1950) that dramatizing spreads to others

within the group when

1) elements are selected for more extended group discussion, 2) accidents are taken advantage of for the creation of symbolic meaning, 3) the selected elements and chance combinations are elaborated, 4) the elaboration is performed as a cooperative process, and 5) the group process has the qualities of a chain reaction -a process which reinforces itself increasingly in an accelerated growth curve of interest, excitement, and involvement.... (p. 150)

Such elements become symbolic units that can be studied and analyzed by communication scholars.

The process of dramatizing relied upon unrelated thoughts or ideas Bales (1950, 1970) labeled "fantasy." Bales’ idea of fantasy should not be considered an illusory statement but one that has little to do with the "here and now" of the present task. A group member, for example, can be worried about group decisions that must be justified to an advisory committee before a certain deadline and make a comment such as "This is like a war. One minute they throw shells at us, the next, grenades." The group can choose to accept this fantasy and further elaborate upon it, or do nothing. If the group chooses to "go with" this thought and expand upon it, a chain reaction or "fantasy chaining" is said to be taking place.

These fantasy chains are intersubjective: group members spin off each other, ie. create different combinations of facts to create a symbolic similarity of attitudes and value statements. Objects and actions in the real world are internalized by the group member, cognitively sorted and smoothed out or altered to appear consistent with one’s internalized personal beliefs. Members of groups tend to spin these combinations with each other to make sense of interactions and perceive similarities, attitudes, and sense-making.

Around the time of Bales’ later work (1970), Ernest Bormann was considering small groups in the realm of mass communication, so as to provide insight into how messages were passed from small groups to contexts such as the media and public address. Bormann (1972) noted that Bales (1950, 1970) work implied "the dynamic process of group fantasizing" (p. 396). Group fantasizing was an extension of individual fantasizing.

Bormann (1972) became interested in Bales’ (1950, 1970) studies for two reasons. First, Bormann (1982) noted that it implied that there was a relationship between the rational and the irrational of Cassirer’s Language and Myth, translated by Langer (1946). Cassirer pointed out that humans create symbols such as myths, art, and language which take on a life of their own. Langer noted that rational thought (such as logic) differed from the irrational (creative thought) because the two were separate modes or kinds of thought. Langer noted that human language accounted more for creativeness than logic. Bormann (1972) argued that this is where the relationship between the two was tied together in the form of fantasy. Fantasy not only signified the nonrational but the rational as well. Bormann (1972, 1985) suggested that it could connect the two because one could use creative thought to construct logic in his or her discourse. The meaning in the message, if accepted by others, would be where fantasy chaining could take place.

Second, Bormann (1972, 1982, 1985) argued that dramatizing and fantasy could provide theoretical grounding to account for human communication. Bormann noted that two types of theories explained communicative behavior: special and general theories. Special communication theories, he reasoned, are restricted to explaining how specific episodes happen, and cannot be generalized to different contexts. Conversely, general theories explain events that are repeatable in different contexts. Bormann realized that fantasy chains could be investigated within such contexts as group, organizational, and mass settings, providing richness of experience. This would allow critics to make more sense out of what was symbolically happening within interactions and note when these patterns repeated to other contexts. Bormann (1972) explains that investigators can see when fantasy is taking place, regardless of context, by noticing when

...the tempo of the conversation would pick up. People would grow excited, interrupt each other, blush, laugh, forget their self-consciousness. The tone of the meeting, often quiet and tense prior to the dramatizing, would become lively, animated, and boisterous... (p. 397)

Here, Bormann explains that inside-jokes were indicative that a fantasy (i.e. group theme) was taking place. In other words, inside-jokes could be considered a "trigger" or criterion that a group fantasy is happening. For Bormann (1985), a trigger is defined as

...a code word, phrase, slogan, or nonverbal sign or gesture; it may be a geographical or imaginary placed or the name of a persona; it may arouse tears or evoke anger, hatred, love and affection as well as laughter and humor.... (p. 132)

The trigger is a force that motivates the listener to become emotionally involved with the message.

Fantasies can therefore be analyzed to see how the group as a whole actively perceives itself. This analysis is what Bormann calls "fantasy chain" or "fantasy theme" analysis. Bormann (1972) explains that

...the explanatory power of the fantasy chain analysis lies in its ability to account for development, evolution, and decay of dramas that catch-up groups of people and change their behavior.... (p. 399)

In this way dramatizing can be depicted as process and fantasy theme becomes its method.

Over a period of time, Bormann (1980, 1982, 1983, 1985) extended Bales’ (1950, 1970) fantasy chains into what is now known as symbolic convergence theory. This theory has two axioms. First, it is grounded in the belief that communication creates reality. This happens throughout the process of communication. In their group interactions, people try to make sense out of what is happening. To do this, they create and use symbols to frame their understanding of reality within their groups. Symbols define what people understand about their realities because they are used to make sense out of one’s social and physical environments. In essence, these symbols link people together. Communication thus creates reality because it helps participants make sense out of their perceptions through the use of shared symbols.

Second, interlocutors tend to create a shared reality where their "private symbolic worlds incline toward each other, come more closely together, or even overlap during certain processes of communication" (Bormann, 1983, p. 102). In other words, participants want to gain better understanding of each other, and try to share meaning. People interconnect symbols into group-shared themes. Those themes that are not accepted by the group will be discarded; themes that are representative of what members think is happening will be retained. Thus, group members form and utilize similar versions of shared reality via intragroup communication. At this point members can chain out fantasies to non-group members.

Symbolic convergence theory thus relies upon perceived and shared aspects of fantasy. The upcoming section will further detail fantasy by superficially relating fantasy themes, fantasy types, and rhetorical vision to analysis of the Proclamation of Restoration. Fantasy theme will thus be related to its method, fantasy theme analysis and to the current study.


Fantasy Theme Approach To The Independent Nation

Fantasy theme analysis can be used to analyze symbolic convergence in a group by observing or questioning members’ motives for group interaction. Bormann (1972) argues that these motives are rhetorically "discovered" by the critic as he or she analyzes and explains what is happening between members within the group. The method of fantasy theme analysis utilizes the following dramatistic criteria:

  1. Who are the people involved?
  2. Where do the dramas take place?
  3. What are the scenes?
  4. What meanings are inherent in the dramas?
  5. How does fantasy theme work to attract the unconverted?

Bormann (1972) argues that not all questions need to be answered to find insight; in fact, examination of one or any combination will result in a better understanding of a rhetorical situation. Therefore, fantasy theme analysis requires the rhetorical investigation of drama within social situations. As mentioned previously, dramas depict the setting of an event, the heroes and villains, what is going on, etc. Dramas also rely on fantasy being transacted between group members and passed on to the public. Bormann notes (1973, p. 152) that "a drama to be compelling requires plausibility, action, suspense, and sympathetic characters." Throughout this process, fantasies, fantasy themes, fantasy types, and rhetorical visions must be defined, described, and linked together in order to be compelling.

The process of analysis is systematic. First, fantasies must be defined. The rhetorical critic using fantasy theme as method must first investigate social descriptions of an event via such mediums as media representation, texts, and documents in order to determine what fantasies are taking place. When looking for fantasies, the rhetor will search for various aspects of drama which indicate fantasy is taking place (Bormann, 1994): dramatis personae, setting, action, saga, and rhetorical community. Dramatis personae describe not the static personality but the changing persona of the main characters. These characters are depicted as heroes or villains or secondary characters. Dramatis personae can be individuals, groups, organizations, myths, or legends. Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele and the Independent Nation are examples of dramatis personae heroes, whereas the State Government of Hawaii and the American Federal Government can be seen as villains. Setting in fantasy themes refers to where the fantasy takes place, be it in a real or imaginary place. Settings can be forests, deserts, war scenes, or tropical beaches. An example of setting for the current study would be ‘Iolani Palace, where the Overthrow of Lili’uokalani took place, and modern rallies and demonstrations are held at this very spot. Action in fantasy themes has to do with the plot lines. This tells members and constituents what is happening in the drama. Chapter II’s depiction of Bumpy Kanahele’s imprisonment as a political prisoner is an example of action. Saga depicts the ongoing story. Members know when the drama starts and where it ends, where a new adventure begins, and how it continues. The Proclamation of Restoration within the Independent Nation’s automated electronic mail system represents the ongoing saga of the Independent Nation and the Kanaka Maoli, be it through attempts to gain legitimacy for the movement, acts of public protest, or the consequences of Kanahele’s and others’ actions. Rhetorical community refers to the "community at large." These are the people who are involved in acknowledging the drama and nurturing the fantasies and fantasy themes, such as Independent Nation group members, non-members who are Hawai’ians, and mainland Americans trying to make sense of it all by listening to or reading the Nation’s Proclamation. When the rhetor seeks the above information, he or she is re-creating the fantasy themes of the group. Thus, fantasy themes are the "stories" or depictions of social events that describe an account’s social reality. By determining what characters, setting, action, saga, and rhetorical community exist within the drama, the rhetor is ascertaining how the group "shape[s] and organize[s] experience, slanting [sic] in a way that attributes motives to the central characters and makes the interpretation of events possible" (Rybacki & Rybacki, 1991, p. 90). The rhetor examines how events are slanted and how the group fits itself into this depiction of social reality. Thus a fantasy theme analysis of the Proclamation of Restoration will reveal how Independent Nation writers perceive their reality.

Fantasies and fantasy themes often involve a story about historical or future events which may have happened to or affected the group in some way (Bormann, 1972). For example, in many organizations the story of how the organization was formed and who the principal players were often play a central role in group fantasies. In this way the group reaffirms its existence and interprets current experiences through this slanting. The critic gains an understanding of how the group manifests itself and its connection to society by looking at such views.

Second, the critic should also investigate fantasy types. Fantasy types are scenarios that are repeated over and over again (Rybacki & Rybacki, 1991). Although there may be some differences in stories, the characters, settings, and plot of the group remains basically similar. When stories are repeated enough, premises no longer need to be repeated because the audience knows the missing parts. Because these stories, although missing "pieces," are still recognizable to the audience, the fantasy type becomes a trigger. An example of this is a phrase such as "...our lands were stolen...." Audience members do not need to be reminded of Lili’uokalani’s intentions or the consequences of her actions to the current Hawai’ian. Further, as the trigger is "pulled," members share a common thread of emotion through the message. Positive events lead to positive feelings, negative events lead to negative feelings. A depiction of Lili’uokalani as "our Queen" can lead to a general feeling of warmth to other Hawai’ians if one is by descent at least hapu-Hawai’ian and moderately ethnic. The phrase "trial and tribulation" in reference to Lili’uokalani can change this feeling in the same person to one more of anxiety or even anger. In this way Lili’uokalani functions as a trigger or fantasy type to move the person to act.

Third, the critic performing a fantasy theme analysis wants to explain the group chaining of fantasy in terms of rhetorical vision. Bormann (1985, p. 133) defines rhetorical vision as the "unified putting together of the various scripts that gives the participants a broader view of things." Rybacki and Rybacki (1991, p. 96) describe it as the "total of all the communication acts that, when taken together, comprise the index of the complete drama." A rhetorical vision can be construed as a slogan, name, or label, usually with a short title, that defines and provides social reality for the group and its followers. Examples of these would be "Say No to Drugs," "Old School," "Hawai’ian Sovereignty," Independent Nation," and "Aloha ke kokua" (Welcome, people). A speaker or member wanting to invoke rhetorical visions in his or her audience only needs to bring up such a slogan, name, or label in order to get some response. The critic will need to find out what motives drive members to act. By uncovering these motives, the rhetorical critic will more deeply understand why a group responds to fantasy themes, types, and visions. Such is the case within the current study.

Sometimes more than one rhetorical vision can be found within a rhetorical artifact (Foss, 1996). For example, a critic may find that one fantasy theme describes a battle scene whereas another theme represents a home scene. The critic must henceforth find the relationship between these settings, dramatis personae, and rhetorical community, as well as any other thematic elements that appear. It is up to the critic to link such themes together -he or she may find that two visions are presented in order to unify two different rhetorical communities, communities that normally would not agree to the same message.

In summary, the critic willing to undertake a fantasy theme analysis must find and uncover fantasy themes, fantasy types, and rhetorical visions within a specified rhetorical artifact. Once these elements have been located, the critic must link said elements together and find out where and how they relate. Differing or opposing visions should be addressed and examined more closely to find out what the rhetoric symbolizes to different communities.

In order to justify the use of fantasy theme analysis, studies using this critical method must be discussed. The upcoming section will describe some analyses that have been done and explain how they link to the present study.

Current Literature on Fantasy Theme Studies

Since its inception, studies utilizing fantasy theme analysis have gained popularity. Examples of fantasy theme analyses include studies of political campaigns (Bormann, 1973, 1982a; Callahan, 1993; Rarick, Duncan, Lee, & Porter, 1977), political incumbency (Porter, 1976), religious movements (Bormann, 1977), television shows (Foss & Littlejohn, 1986; Schrag, Hudson, & Bernabo, 1981), scientific views of homosexuality (Chesebro, 1980), teachers’ bargaining groups (Putnam, Van Hoeven, & Bullis, 1991), and romantic novels (Doyle, 1985). Fantasy theme analyses provide critics with crucial clues as to how rhetors craft messages to symbolically address audiences. These studies suggest common patterns to fantasies that exist in specific message genres. This implies that there may be patterns in the current study that are similar to previous studies. Examples of such studies follow.

Several fantasy theme analyses provide similarity to the present study in terms of their group focus. Hensley (1975) focused on how the American Protestant Church’s Disciples of Christ used postmillenialism messages to convince its growing members that people could live in paradise now rather than waiting for their own deaths and resurrection. Postmillenialism messages relied upon the Bible’s New Testament as a source, arguing that "the ultimate action [was] to conquer the enemy and restore paradise-the coming of Jesus and the establishment of the church" (p. 252). Hence, Jesus for these revivalists represented a hero, a persona whose love for all supported the churches’ and Christian peoples’ final endeavors to eradicate evil so that all could live in peace. This vision had such rhetorical appeal reaching all levels of the populace that it boasted a membership of one million by the year 1900.

Schrag, Hudson, and Bernabo (1981) discuss rhetorical visions of collectivity emerging in mid-70’s American television shows such as M*A*S*H, Taxi, Barney Miller, and Lou Grant. Collectivity

...directly confronts the most cherished ideals of the "me" generation by saying lives are spent dependent in one way or another upon other people and groups, that cooperation is an option in human interaction, that the greatest happiness, the most serious challenge, and the fullest understanding come in the company of others.... (p. 12)

Television writers for these shows are depicted as creating messages that deal seriously with the difficulties of interpersonal life. Watchers are cautioned to be aware of others when communicating in interpersonal relationships. Fantasy chaining here involved the actors on each show being involved in visions of collectivity. Themes such as "alliance in action" showed how hard-pressed characters were in fostering one another’s positive experiences as group members.

Hensley’s (1975) and Schrag, Hudson, and Bernabo’s (1981) group focus indicates that other studies too should focus on what kind of symbols groups latch on to and how rhetors unify different elements into coherent visions. This applies to the current study because it implies that attention should focus on different rhetorical communities and how Nation images and messages within the Proclamation of Restoration may be crafted for them to act upon.

Other studies such as Bormann (1973) and Porter (1976) center on individuals or persona within campaigns and their need for consistency within rhetorical vision. Bormann’s (1973) study of George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign demonstrated how people who are relatively unknown can become popularized through fantasy chaining. McGovern was perhaps best known for his "1000 percent" backing up of running mate Senator Eagleton. However, McGovern dropped his backing for Eagleton after the media publicized information that Eagleton suffered from a nervous breakdown. This inconsistency on McGovern’s part lost him the electoral vote because his persona changed, hurting his credibility. Americans could not support a candidate who one moment proclaimed public support for a running mate and the next moment changed it.

Porter’s (1976) analysis of Nixon’s image control emphasizes the importance of channel choice and timing of messages. After losing the previous presidential election to Kennedy, Nixon realized how important publicity and control of imaging was. Nixon thereafter took great care to maintain a certain public presence, especially after he took office. This imaging was controlled by him and a group of staff who had experience in communication and mass media. The public outcry over the Watergate incident quickly changed the way the public viewed Nixon. One of the principal failures of Nixon’s group involved its disregard of negative media statements -they waited until it was too late to refute the charges. The press, therefore, took steps to destroy any fantasy chaining Nixon and his aides used to defend themselves.

The need for consistency within rhetorical vision also applies to the idea of collectivity within the Independent Nation’s Proclamation of Restoration. If some tenets of the Proclamation are internally inconsistent it may prevent group acceptance because participants will recognize these flaws as illogical. If Independent Nation admonitions within the Proclamation differ too much from listeners’ perspectives such messages will be refused and regarded as noncredible. Thus the current study will concentrate on how images within the Proclamation are made consistent and how what these images suggest about the rhetorical communities addressed.

What is perhaps most pertinent to the current study is Bormann’s (1977) study of different movements in which he examines the use of calamity. Calamity is a rhetorical form that functions to point out the evil or villainy in a rhetor’s enemy. The enemy can be a person, group, object, image, or feeling. The rhetor uses calamity to point out the evils in society that must be removed or reduced so that the general population can survive and regain its lost path. For Puritan preachers prior to 1650 "sin was prior to and caused the evil" in humanity (p. 131). After this period preachers changed their sermons’ to focus on the absence or presence of calamity as an indication of a person’s sinfulness. In this way calamity operates as a "jeremiad" or way of thinking that moves the spectator to action out of a sense of guilt or anxiety. Nothing happened by chance because all was determined by God. Calamity here can also be applied to the current study. The critic can determine which messages reflect a focus on finding good within evil and how these work to prompt listeners to act. Fantasy themes within the rhetorical vision must operate together to prompt listeners to collectively unify, overthrow a common villain or villains, and change a horrible past to a better tomorrow.

It is important to note here that not all scholars are proponents of fantasy theme analysis. Mohrmann (1982a, 1982b) appears to offer the most critical reasoning against fantasy themes. First, Mohrmann argues that Bormann and other proponents of fantasy theme analysis disregard Bales’ emphasis on Freudian hidden meanings. Bormann (1982b) refutes that investigating individual hidden meanings is not the point of fantasy theme analysis. Instead, he argues that critics are interested in finding hidden meaning in group motives within the process of sharing fantasies. Therefore, Freudian analysis is not required.

Second, Mohrmann (1982a, 1982b) argues that fantasy theme analysis is not definitive enough--criteria such as fantasy types are not fully explained. It is difficult to tell the difference between fantasy theme and fantasy type, Mohrmann declares, because the two tend to overlap in meaning. Bormann (1982b) agrees, noting that because fantasy theme analysis is a relatively new form of criticism, it has taken time to develop. In his later articles (1985; with Cragan & Shields 1994, 1996) he answers these charges by giving full definitions and conceptualizations. For example, his 1994 article differentiates fantasy theme as "the content of the dramatizing message that sparks the fantasy chain" (p. 281), whereas a fantasy type is a "general scenario that covers several of the more concrete fantasy themes" (p. 281). It is reasonable to expect that future studies such as the current one will continue to expand symbolic convergence and fantasy theme analysis as well as provide additional definitions.

In essence, these aforementioned studies demonstrate that groups such as the Independent Nation of Hawai’i must take special care in providing messages to the populace, especially with all of the public controversy that surrounds such a group. The Proclamation of Restoration is such a message. The writers should be expected to craft a group persona to the public that supports common goals and images such as unification towards the cause of sovereignty. The critic is therefore responsible for considering and evaluating how this group can create and chain out such images and information.

The fantasy theme analysis methodology is especially useful for studying the Proclamation of the Restoration of the Independence of the Sovereign Nation State of Hawai’i document because this document was crafted by skillful rhetors who have created fantasy themes to motivate people to act. As we will see in Chapter IV, the Nation has accomplished this task through a campaign of themes within a rhetorical vision of an Independent Nation. This attempt at persuasion is especially aimed at convincing various communities to share a rhetorical vision of restoration of the monarchy. The three previously mentioned issues of self-determination, land control, and environmental protection will be addressed in depth in Chapter V as fantasy themes are uncovered. Fantasy theme analysis will provide critics with a better understanding of how the Independent Nation’s Proclamation of Restoration can extend fantasy themes to very different rhetorical communities.