Blog Post

Shaping Public Opinion with Money

[I published the following op-ed in my local paper, The South Bend Tribune, on June 2, 2018:  I share it here with readers of The Daily Doublespeak.]

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Sometimes, the influence of money on shaping our politics and opinions seems far away. Sometimes, it seems close to home.

Readers of the South Bend Tribune’s opinion page … Read more

Daily Rhetricks

Daily Rhetrick: September 21, 2018

Septermber 21, 2018

UNDERLYING NARRATIVE

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has proved himself adept at the three hurricane narratives universally expected from leaders: (1) the storm arrives as a beast with evil intentions (“Florence is an uninvited brute who doesn’t want to leave,” September 13, NPR Morning Edition); (2) after the storm is over, the battered victims respond with “toughness,” … Read more

Blog Post

Rollbacks: Fixing What Isn’t Broken

In its August 2, 2018 news release about the rollback of the clean car emissions standards, established in 2012 in the Obama administration, the EPA never actually uses the term “rollback.”  In fact, the official statement refers to itself only as a “notice of proposed rulemaking.”

Most news coverage, however, has appropriately called the new rules a rollback because they … Read more

Daily Rhetricks

Daily Rhetrick: September 17, 2018

September 17, 2018 DOUBLE STANDARD

In 2016 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell led the Republican Senate in its refusal to hold hearings on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a refusal unprecedented and purely partisan; yet this afternoon on the floor of the Senate, McConnell expressed indignation that Democrats would want an additional hearing on the current Supreme Court nominee, … Read more

Blog Post

Handling Deceit with Rhetorical Analysis

Does not an outright intention to deceive thwart the whole enterprise of rhetorical dialectic–that is, the search for truth? Rhetoricians analyze a type of deception that can be said to occur in any instance of persuasive behavior. We call it “stance” or “point of view,” or the “enthymeme”–a speech act performs a “trope” or a turning away from pure objectivity. Read more

Blog Post

Appeals to Nuance and Platforming The Accused of Sexual Assault

One of the attractions of demagoguery—the political appeals to popular prejudices—is that it offers simple explanations to complex issues. Nuance can be lost in dangerous ways when demagoguery reigns supreme. It is often a pride of intellectuals to be champions of nuance in the fight against demagoguery. However, sometimes nuance can be a rhetorical tactic. This is apparent in the … Read more

Blog Post

The United States is No “Democracy”

The American system of government is routinely referred to as a “democracy.” Indeed it is a virtual stock term found everywhere in American public discourse. The Corpus of Contemporary American English, consisting of 560 million words from five genres (speech, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic texts) collected during the period 1990-2017, counts 1565 instances of “democracy” paired with … Read more

Blog Post

The Guardian misses a point about Steve Bannon

Last Wednesday (5 September 2018), The Guardian‘s Jason Wilson published an opinion piece called “The consequences of Steve Bannon’s ideas need to be interrogated, not just his words.” Wilson is responding to an interview Steve Bannon did on ABC, during which he “sought to distance himself from the openly neo-Nazi far right, blaming their surge on the … Read more

Blog Post

Pleading the 25th

Everyone reading this is probably familiar with the events of the past week. On Tuesday, September 4, excerpts from Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book Fear were released, describing a Presidency in a state of “nervous breakdown” descending from the top, with high-ranking administration officials constantly scrambling to nullify the President’s worst decisions, such as assassinating Syria’s president or declaring war on Read more