The Blogora: The Rhetoric Society of America
political rhetoric


my google news alert experiment

Submitted by Jim Brown on February 15, 2007 - 7:50pm

So, I'm conducting a very informal experiment. I've set up a google news alert for the word "rhetoric" that sends me a daily email of usually about 10 news stories. It's interesting to see how rhetoric is always getting toned down. It's also interesting to see Bush's rhetoric regarding Iran soften only a day after it was heating up. (Josh Gunn...I'll be expecting a comment here.)

But the most interesting story came in today's email. It's a piece in the Newport Beach Daily Pilot called "Rhetoric Outside, Reasoning Inside" about a pro-choice panel discussion at a church (where the "reasoning" was happening) that was surrounded by activists with signs that likened abortion to murder (this, as you've probably guessed, was where the "rhetoric" was happening).

While I'm obviously disappointed that our "r" word is being pitted against reason here, there are some other interesting things going on here. For one, the "reasoners" are meeting in a church. This troubles any notion that religion is opposed to "logic" or "reason." Also, the participants and audience members of the panel discussion had to be on a guest list. Presumably, this kept the "rhetoric" out of the discussion.


Taxes as an investment

Submitted by Jim Brown on February 13, 2007 - 5:18pm

As I read this story in The Daily Texan about how high school dropouts are "costing Texas big money," I was reminded of George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant. In an extension of the arguments in Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff discusses how conservatives have framed certain debates and how Democrats have allowed them to. Thus, taxes are framed as a burden...something to avoid. An alternative that Progressives might pursue, Lakoff suggests, is to frame taxes as an investment in our system/children/way of life.

So, as I read about the monetary cost of dropouts (and not the social, ethical, or moral costs), I wonder when and how progressives might finally reframe the debate. I would like to believe that, given the option, Americans (and Texans) might choose to think of high school drop outs as something more than a line on the balance sheet.


Iran Humor

Submitted by Jim Aune on February 11, 2007 - 8:34pm

From Talking Points Memo:

At a farewell reception at Blair House for the retiring chief of protocol, Don Ensenat, who was President Bush's Yale roommate, the president shook hands with Washington Life Magazine's Soroush Shehabi. "I'm the grandson of one of the late Shah's ministers," said Soroush, "and I simply want to say one U.S. bomb on Iran and the regime we all despise will remain in power for another 20 or 30 years and 70 million Iranians will become radicalized."

"I know," President Bush answered.

"But does Vice President Cheney know?" asked Soroush.

President Bush chuckled and walked away.


Dated rhetoric

Submitted by Cynthia on February 11, 2007 - 1:51pm

Nothing against Burke, but somehow this feels a little less like entering the Burkean parlor and more like jumping in the fray. In fact, today's 'inthefray' features a story about "Russian Intellectual Football," which should have been Secretary of Defense Robert Gate's way of describing Putin's jabs at the U.S. yesterday, rather than his dismissal today of said comments as "dated Cold War rhetoric," according to CNN. Putin does have a rhetorical point, but it's not dated...U.S. policies do seem to 'incite' other countries (and non-sovereign entities, such as terrorists) to seek nuclear weapons. My rhetorical point is that rhetoric, once again, gets a bad rap. How, for millennium's sake, are we going to get our politicians and journalists to stop calling thinking they don't like 'rhetoric'?


Theory and Explanation

Submitted by Jim Aune on February 11, 2007 - 1:48pm

As a result of our theory discussions in the past few weeks, I have a clearer idea of what is meant by hermeneutic v. anti-hermeneutic strategies of reading in contemporary rhetorical/literary theory. I want to up the ante in the discussion a bit by introducing causal argument into the mix, using research on the persistent religiosity of the U.S. as an example. The stakes, as usual, are answers to the question: "What are we doing when we say we are doing rhetoric?"

Thesis 1: What we call "rhetoric" in its various forms across cultures involves the identification of causal mechanisms related to symbolic inducement. By "causal mechanism" I mean not a "law" but rather an observed regularity in the relationship between a persuasive strategy and its effects, a regularity that may be undermined in the given case by any number of situational factors. "Rhetoric" is thus an "offshoot" of ethical and political studies in that all require a certain habit of mind--"prudence"--for their practice: the ability to size up a situation and craft responses quickly.