The Blogora: The Rhetoric Society of America


Mitt Romney's Corporation People

Submitted by John W. Pell on August 16, 2011 - 2:45pm

This fall I will be teaching a course entitled “Writing Wrongs: Human Rights in the Age of Facebook.” The goal of this course is to help first-year writers consider the rhetorical strategies human rights organizations utilize when communicating with the public via social media. The course opens with the initial question: who is a human? Or, at least, how is the concept of human constructed rhetorically?

In seeking out textual examples that address this question, I found the following article last week:

The article discusses comments made by Mitt Romney on the campaign trail concerning the “personhood” of corporations. What I find so interesting about Romney’s comments (and the Supreme Court’s recent ruling concerning corporations and their political contributions) is his seeming obliviousness to the implications of this view of corporations on the work of human rights. Whether discussing the Civil Rights Amendments or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a clear and central question is how can legislative bodies protect “citizens” or “humans” from unfair socio-economic structures. What happens to that question when the socio-economic structures that have historically contributed to the abuses of others are now “people?”

I look forward to discussing these questions with my students this fall and I will be intrigued to see what they see as the human rights impact of viewing conglomerates of people as singular entities. I will continue to noodle over this serious issue, but in the spirit of levity I conclude with the following:

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Submitted by syntaxfactory on August 17, 2011 - 6:06am.

Not the same kind of legal fiction Romney is talking about, but perhaps useful as a way in to critiquing the idea of the legal fiction, if you like poetry?

William Empson's "Legal Fiction"

Law makes long spokes of the short stakes of men.
Your well fenced out real estate of mind
No high flat of the nomad citizen
Looks over, or train leaves behind.

Your rights extend under and above your claim
Without bound; you own land in Heaven and Hell;
Your part of earth's surface and mass the same,
Of all the cosmos' volume, and all the Stars as well.

Your rights reach down where all owners meet, in Hell's
Pointed exclusive conclave, at Earth's center
(Your spun farm's roots still on that axis dwells);
And up, through the Galaxies, a growing sector.

You are nomad yet; the lighthouse beam you own
Flashes, like Lucifer, through the firmament.
Earth's axis varies; your dark central cone
Wavers, a candle's shadow, at the end.

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