Thursday, December 10, 2009

Greenpeace and a New Reality

“If we accept the challenge, address needs, rather than greeds, live lifestyles of quality rather than quantity, and get on with the job, Planet Earth may recover, may forgive. Over time, its resilience and our care may enable a sustainable future for all.” –Jim Bohlen, Founder of Greenpeace

The basic definition for ideology is the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group. According to David Sills in his article “The Environmental Movement and Its Critics”, the environmental movement “seeks to bring about changes in the social order- in this case it is working toward a more rational use by man of his physical environment” (16). This can be considered as the ideology of the environmental movement, specifically of environmental groups such as Greenpeace. To change social opinion in favor of a particular ideology requires certain rhetorical strategies that convince an audience that your opinions are valid and spark a desire for social change. An understanding of the rhetorical language of a group like Greenpeace first requires an understanding of language itself. By looking at Bakhtin’s philosophy of language, which includes his theory of a consciousness that is shaped by society and how social factors such as audience and situation shape verbal interaction, and applying his theories to a rhetorical theory of social movements, we may begin to analyze the rhetoric strategies of Greenpeace and understand how they work and why Greenpeace has changed the discourse of environmentalism and has helped shape a new reality of social consciousness through language. The new reality of social consciousness to which I am referring is commonly termed “the green movement”, a fairly new development in our popular culture that has influenced everything from what kinds of bags we bring to the grocery store to what kind of cars we drive. References to the green movement are seen now more than ever in popular media and are often used in advertising to entice consumers to buy from a more “environmentally friendly” company as opposed to the competition. As demonstrated by this upsurge in popularity of “going green” we can see that the social discourse about the environment has changed, and that change has been brought about through language. If language is what shapes reality, then Greenpeace has shaped a new reality of environmental consciousness through language, and this new reality is the green movement.

In his work titled Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, Mikhail Bakhtin states that “everything ideological possesses meaning: it represents, depicts, or stands for something lying outside itself. In other words, it is a sign. Without signs, there is no ideology” (Bakhtin 1210). If we accept Bakhtin’s assertion that there is no ideology without signs, then it logically follows that we must first identify his definition of the sign and its place within his philosophy of language to properly address the ideology of any social group or movement. According to Bakhtin, philosophies that localize ideology in the individual consciousness and do not acknowledge the material reality of every ideological sign are overlooking the “fact that understanding itself can come about only within some kind of semiotic material” (1212). In other words, consciousness manifests itself in the material form of the sign and signs only emerge in the process of interaction between one individual consciousness and another. The consciousness of one individual is only consciousness because of the process of social interaction that makes it so (1212). Bakhtin reiterates this point by stating that “the only possible objective definition of consciousness is a sociological one” and “consciousness takes shape and being in the material of signs created by an organized group in the process of social intercourse” (1213). We can conclude from this that consciousness is never individual, but always shaped by the social interaction of signs. Language, specifically the word, is what Bakhtin calls “a neutral sign”, one that can carry out ideological functions of any kind depending on how it is utilized (1213). In his chapter on verbal interaction, Bakhtin states that “word as sign is a borrowing on the speaker’s part from the social stock of available signs, the very individual manipulation of this social sign in a concrete utterance is wholly determined by social relations” (1215). The orientation of the speaker and the audience in this social relationship is crucial to the effectiveness of the utterance. If the social group to which the speaker addresses himself is of like moral and ethical values, then the social force generated can be great. As Bakhtin states, the consciousness inside the mind of an individual person is small, but once it enters into the power of specific social organizations it can become “a real force, capable even of exerting in turn an influence on the economic bases of social life” (1218). Situation and audience are both crucial components to the success of the speaker’s utterance and its subsequent understanding and influence as a social force.

If we apply Bakhtin’s argument that language can only be properly understood as a dialogue within a social chain and not in the individual consciousness, then the next step would be to look at the specific rhetoric of social movements and their ideologies and how the language used shapes the discourse within individual social groups. Rhetorical scholar and critic Michael Calvin McGee proposes a rhetorical theory of social movements which states that “social movements are changes in the meanings of the world, redefinitions of reality, with such realities always being constructed through the filter of rhetoric” (DeLuca 36). McGee is in essence stating that it is the language of the social movements that shapes the reality of the social consciousness, from which we can assume that without language this reality would not exist. The ideology of a particular social group is expressed through language and that language consists of signs, signs which can only be recognized by their relationships to other signs, which means that there must be social interaction between more than one consciousness because according to Bakhtin “signs emerge, after all, only in the process of interaction between one individual consciousness and another” (Bakhtin 1212). This rhetorical theory of social movements studies the social consciousness of a society as it is shaped by the social discourse. McGee also points out that groups, “through their rhetorical tactics and strategies create social movements, changes in public consciousness with regards to a key issue or issues, measurable through changes in the meanings of a cultures key terms in public discourse” (DeLuca 36). The key to success in changing the “public consciousness” is the organization of a particular social group. The successful social movement group will address itself to the proper addressee, or a group of individuals who share similar values as the speaker. What Bakhtin calls the “we-experience” is more vivid when the collective in which an individual orients himself is stronger, more organized, and more differentiated (Bakhtin 1216). The implication of this for social movement groups is the importance of knowing ones audience and in what ways they should direct their rhetorical strategies and tactics in order to change the public discourse, or the reality of the social consciousness, in favor of their own goals. There is a lot to be gained by social movement groups who direct their rhetoric to a specific social group or as Bakhtin says “the situation shapes the utterance” (Bakhtin 1215). The situation that environmental social movement groups such as Greenpeace find themselves in encourages them to use specific rhetorical strategies, or specific “utterances”, to change the social consciousness and shape a new reality.

We may now ask how a group such as Greenpeace has participated in changing the public discourse of the environmental movement and how they have helped shape a new reality of social consciousness with regards to the environment through the use of rhetorical language. I would like to discuss three major rhetorical strategies utilized by Greenpeace in their attempt to communicate their ideology and become an active social force, the first of these being the ability of Greenpeace to align itself with mainstream environmental groups as wells as grassroots environmental groups. Mainstream groups use practices often associated with the modern institutions that they are criticizing, such as “reliance on scientific expertise, legal acumen, and legislative lobbying” (DeLuca 71). Grassroots groups can be characterized by tactics that “run the gamut from petitions and letter-writing campaigns to alternative assemblies and even full-scale sabotage” (DeLuca 26). The Greenpeace organization often uses traditional lobbying efforts to draw attention to their campaigns, yet they are also known for attempting to employ strategies that are deemed unacceptable by mainstream environmental organizations such as staged events that include “blocking entrances to power plants, clogging waste valves that deposit carcinogens into waterways, hanging banners from smokestacks and skyscrapers, intercepting whaling vessels, dying seal skins to render them worthless to hunters, disrupting nuclear testing, and organizing marches” (Shaiko 97), these tactics being those of a more grassroots movement. By situating itself between the mainstream environmentalists and the grassroots movements, Greenpeace has ensured that they are leaving themselves open for the largest audience possible by not placing themselves at either extreme; with the identification with both mainstream and grassroots movements they manage to alienate less people than they would if they were to be considered as part as either one of the extremes on the spectrum. The second strategy used by Greenpeace is what I like to call “exhilaration through participation”. Direct mail is what Greenpeace depends on for the bulk of its funding and it is a medium through which a member of the organization is able to live vicariously through the relatively few activists of Greenpeace that are directly involved in the action. The direct mail of Greenpeace usually has a specific formula: it chronicles the arrests of the group’s activists and the dangers they face because of their radical actions on behalf of the environment, it then tells readers that they will not have to subject themselves to these dangers and that all they have to do is send money and the leaders will take the risks (Shaiko 93). This tactic appeals to the emotional and adventurous sides of the members and makes them feel as if they are actively participating in a radical environmental movement without really having to do much more that fund the campaigns. The final strategy of Greenpeace that I would like to discuss is the utilization of the media. Greenpeace has a reliance on the media for coverage of their staged events in order to increase the impact of what they are doing for the general population, because what is the use of a protest if nobody is around to see it? In order to become less reliant on direct media coverage, Greenpeace also produces its own pictures through film and videos (Shaiko 97). According to Kevin Michael DeLuca in his book Image Politics, Greenpeace is “certainly the first environmental group whose primary rhetorical activity is the staging of image events for mass media dissemination. Although media tactics are not new, Greenpeace is the first group both to explore fully and trust in the progressive potential of television” (3-4). With this rhetorical strategy, Greenpeace is using the language of new media to reach a wider audience in an attempt to shape the social consciousness.

Critics of environmental movements such as Greenpeace often point to a very specific concern, which is a concern for who the active participants of the environmental movement are. As stated by David Sills, “the environmental movement is frequently criticized for the composition of its membership; it is, say its critics, too much a movement of the rich, the upper-middle class, or simply the middle class; it has little appeal to blacks and the poor; it is, in a word, elitist” (26-27). Studies have shown that the people most concerned with the environment are those with more education and higher incomes, or those who make up the upper middle class. The poor are often those most affected by a deteriorating environment, particularly from various forms of urban pollution, but have generally not become interested or involved in the environmental movement (Sills 31). Arguments against environmental movements emphasize that “most of the remedies to environmental problems that have been proposed require the poor to pay a disproportionate share of the costs” and the successes of the environmental movement will lead to “a slowing down of economic growth” (Sills 31). The loss of jobs among the lower classes is a real concern in the wake of the successes of environmental groups such as Greenpeace. In his book Making Waves, one of the founders of Greenpeace, Jim Bohlen, acknowledges this concern by introducing the term ‘greenwash’, which simply meant that “industry equated protection of the environment with a loss of jobs: an argument that scared off support for environmental organizations” (147). Bohlen’s reply to this concern was brief and fairly vague; he simply says that in the future “The Greens will present a workable economic platform that is inclusive, and based upon quality rather than quantity oriented lifestyles” (150). Perhaps the reason for this vagueness is that Greenpeace is not necessary concerned with economic problems related to their goals: their concern is to reshape the social consciousness to reflect their own ideology. If we accept this as their goal, then the audience to whom they have directed their rhetorical strategies, which is upper middle class white people, is the perfect choice. According to authors Garrett O’Keefe and Robin Shepard, “change among significant numbers of members of a community over time is required for effective environmental action in most cases” (664). In other words, social change is a numbers game: the more people willing to participate, the better. O’Keefe and Shepard also suggest that “in some cases, the populations involved have to be selective” (664). People of the middle and upper middle classes have large numbers and generally a larger influence on society as a whole than the poor classes, they also have more disposable income to give to social groups, therefore groups such as Greenpeace must, going back to Bakhtin, orient themselves as speakers to the audiences that will be the most receptive to their “utterances”. The language of Greenpeace is shaped by the audience that it is addressing, or “the immediate social situation and the broader social milieu wholly determine- and determine from within, so to speak- the structure of an utterance” (Bakhtin 1215). Members of environmental movements are members because that is who the rhetorical strategies are directed towards, for example, environmental protesters who are “white, apparently middle class, many dressed in tie-dye shirts, Patagonia windbreakers, environmental t-shirts, sandals, and hiking boots, do not match the subject positions of terrorist or criminal as popularly constructed. White, middle-class America looking at images of these activists may not see the Other but their children or themselves in the 1960’s” (DeLuca 126-27). The importance of audience in rhetorical strategies cannot be overlooked, even if that means ignoring one group of people in favor of the other to accomplish one’s own goals. The importance of tailoring one’s argument to a specific audience can be found as far back as the classic scholarship of Aristotle. As Edward Clayton points out in his article “The Audience for Aristotle’s ‘Rhetoric’”, focusing on one’s intended audience is consistent with Aristotle’s own approach, he states that “he is clearly aware of the importance of tailoring one’s message to the audience that will be receiving it” (184). Greenpeace knows which members of a social group have the most influence and the most money to give and they tailor their rhetorical strategies accordingly to affect the social discourse in the most effective way.

Social awareness and involvement in the environmental movement, or “the green movement”, is more active now that ever in the past. Concern for the environment has hit mainstream popular culture and politics, and I think in large part because of the effort of environmental groups like Greenpeace. I have attempted to illustrate how this has been accomplished by broadening the scope of understanding to include the nature of language itself, how that language can be applied to an ideology and how rhetorical strategies use language to relate a specific ideology to an audience. Language in a social context is what shapes our reality and Greenpeace has used rhetorical language to shape a specific reality of environmental consciousness. Although some critics claim that environmental groups such as Greenpeace tend to ignore large populations of society, I feel that they simply have chosen their audience and in turn have directed their rhetorical language to a specific group that will give them the most return. Hopefully the social consciousness regarding concern for the environment will continue to expand to include all social groups and eventually the ideology of the environmental movement will become the ideology of the entire public consciousness.

Works Cited:

Bakhtin, Mikhail. “Marxism and the Philosophy of Language.” The Rhetorical Tradition. Ed. Patricia Bizzel and Bruce Herzberg. New York: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2001. 1210-1226.

Bohlen, Jim. Making Waves: The Origins and Future of Greenpeace. Montreal: Black Rose Books, 2001.

Clayton, Edward W. “The Audience for Aristotle’s ‘Rhetoric’.” Rhetorica 22 (2004): 183-203.

DeLuca, Kevin Michael. Image Politics. New York: The Guilford Press, 1999.

O’Keefe, Garrett J. and Robin L. Shepard. “Overcoming the Challenges of Environmental Public Information and Action Programs.” The Persuasion Handbook: Developments in Theory and Practice. Ed. James Price Dillard and Michael Pfau. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2002. 661-690.

Shaiko, Ronald G. “Greenpeace U.S.A.: Something Old, New, Borrowed.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 528 (1993): 88-100.

Sills, David L. “The Environment and Its Critics.” Human Ecology 3 (1975): 1-41.

WebCT Posts

I chose the section/subsection The Enlightenment: Rhetoric and Psychology because I found the connection between rhetoric and psychology interesting, most notably the change from the scene of rhetoric from the public forum to the individual mind. I think that this shows the larger shift of the concern for the community to the concern for the self that took place after the classical period and that continues today. The modern day rhetorician is no longer trying to convince the public as a whole but rather each individual…I want to ask if this makes the job of the rhetorician much harder today than it would have been in the classical period because now he has to approach his speech with the psychology of each individual that he wishes to persuade in mind or if it does not really change anything because the psychology of each person can be argued to be basically the same. But as it is pointed out in the subsection titled New Rhetorics, the psychology of the audience is changing to include women and different races and thus the modern day rhetorician mush accommodate many more varying psychologies than in the past. While writing this I have specifically in mind someone like a politician who is running for president or high public office in America today- is it harder for the politician today to persuade an audience than in the classical period because he must persuade a larger group of individual psychologies with varying points of view? I argue that it would be much more difficult to be successful at rhetoric in the modern day than in the classical period.

Both Plato and Gorgias have valid points of view on the purpose of rhetoric but I find myself leaning more towards the principles put forth by Gorgias when I am forced to enter the dialectic and chose a side. Gorgias’ view that human beings are never able to obtain absolute knowledge and therefore must only concern themselves with probabilities seems more realistic and practical than the view of Plato. Plato’s view that individuals may be able to understand absolute truth through rhetoric is admirable, but it also seems to be a bit idealistic. My understanding of the purpose of rhetoric is that it is used to persuade an audience or individual to your point of view and if we follow Gorgias’ line of reasoning that humans are unable to ever know transcendent knowledge and absolute truth and therefore must work with probabilities, then I feel that his rhetoric will be more accessible and more useful than that of Plato who uses a more analytic rhetoric to discover the transcendent truth that Gorgias argues doesn’t even exist. I’m afraid that if one spends all of their time using rhetoric to gain knowledge of the absolute truths and those truths are in fact, as Gorgias asserts, unattainable by human minds, then all that effort will have gone to waste whereas if we follow Gorgias’ idea that we must basically work with what we have, which is provisional knowledge, studying rhetoric may actually be of some use when we can use it to persuade others to our way of thinking.

I respect Lunsford and Ede’s attempt at a re-reading of their own work that does not invoke the traditional oppositional critique that tends to negatively focus on the work of others. I also like that the authors address the American mythology of success and note that while their essay is considered “successful” we must acknowledge that the traditional definition of success is that those individuals who work hardest for success deserve it and these authors have chosen instead to take a poststructuralist view that “calls attention to the role that shared assumptions and ideologies play in enabling or hindering communication” (p.814). It seems that it would be much more difficult to not only review your own work, but to also point out its “exclusions and repressions” than it would be with someone else’s work. Personal fondness for an essay that I’m sure they put a lot of time and effort in to make it the best it could be at the time could make the process of re-reading to find inaccuracies in the work difficult and then to proceed to share those inaccuracies with a larger audience in this essay could be even more so. I applaud these writers for looking past this difficulty in order to teach their students , as they put it “to interrogate not only the discourses of schooling but personal, communal, and professional discourses as well” (p.821). Lunsford and Ede’s desire to have their students represents themselves as fully as possible and take responsibility for their words is commendable, and I think that through this exercise of critiquing their work without wholly praising or admonishing it but rather pointing out its “successes” and failures will bring their students closer to an understanding of the author’s goals.

I found Aristotle’s Rhetoric to be the most useful writing about rhetoric that we have read thus far. It basically lays out everything you need to know about rhetoric and is very detailed and specific. I particularly like how Aristotle points out the usefulness of rhetoric. He states that “rhetoric is not bound up with a single definite class of subjects, bus is as universal as dialectic; it is clear, also, that it is useful” (p.181). Because rhetoric is not associated with a definite class of subjects, such as medicine or mathematics, it may be used to instruct or persuade in any art and because of its range can be considered a very valuable tool. If one were to question the importance of rhetoric or ask that most common question among disenchanted students of “why do we need to know this?” this idea presented by Aristotle would be a valid response. We need to study rhetoric because it is not only a valuable tool in the study of composition, but it can be used in all areas of art and science. Aristotle’s Rhetoric can be used as a handbook of sorts as it defines all aspects of rhetoric and gives insight into the arrangement of such things as speech and style. Rhetoric is a useful tool and Aristotle’s Rhetoric is useful in helping to understand how and when to use rhetoric to one’s full advantage.

While both Crassus and Antonius agree that a natural ability is essential, they differ most notably on the breadth of knowledge that one should have in order to be a good orator. Crassus believes that only one who has knowledge of all subjects and arts will be able to be a complete orator, while Antonius believes that there is neither the time nor the need for one to gain all of that knowledge and one can still be a good orator without such rigorous standards. While Crassus’ view is admirable, I believe that it is too idealistic. The idea that one is even able to attain an in depth knowledge of all subjects and arts and additionally, is able to argue the relevant points of these subjects eloquently and spontaneously sounds ridiculous. I don’t think that there is any person out there who would be able to commit so much information to memory and be able to recite it at any given moment, which is impossible for anyone in my opinion. I tend to side with Antonius on this subject because I feel that he takes a more practical approach. I especially like Antonius’ idea that if an orator does not have a wealth of knowledge on a particular subject that he is arguing that all he must do is simply “borrow” the knowledge from someone who is more experienced in the field of study. Antonius believes that knowledge of general culture is sufficient for the student orator and to impose such difficult standards for young students would serve as a deterrent for many of them. I agree and feel that Crassus idea of what an orator should be is way too intimidating for anyone to achieve and most would simply give up at even the thought of pursuing his recommended course of study.

In his argument against Quintilian, Ramus disagrees with Quintilian’s view that an orator must be a man of virtue and instead states that “rhetoric is not an art which explains all the virtuous qualities of character” and “the artist must be defined according to the rules of his art…and nothing further”(683). Although I think that many of Ramus’s ideas regarding rhetoric are limiting, such as that rhetoric only deals with style and delivery, I do agree with his definition of the orator rather than Quintilian’s. Ramus makes a good point when he says that rhetoric is a virtue of the mind, but followers of rhetoric can still be “men of the utmost moral depravity” (685). Just look at politicians today, most people know that these rhetoricians are not all “men of virtue” and lack many moral values. The important thing is that they are able to appear like they have impeccable morals and virtue. Their mastery of rhetoric is what gives them the appearance of being virtuous men, but they are not virtuous men who practice rhetoric. Ramus’s point is validated further when we look at the success of these men. A politician who is a skilled rhetorician can persuade the public to vote him into office, support his policies, etc. despite the fact that he is not a virtuous man, and in most cases when the audience even knows about past scandals that he has been involved in. This begs the question of who is the better rhetorician, the man of virtue and good morals that Quintilian promotes or the man who despite his moral depravity still manages to sway the masses to supporting his goals and points of view?

I agree completely with Lyons in his article when he says that “no student should encounter a Native American text without having learned something about Indian peoples’ historical and ongoing struggles for sovereignty” (1143). Students typically learn about Native American history sometime during elementary or middle school and often the teaching is filled with stereotypes, inaccuracies and biased opinions that do not represent the truth about the history of the Native American people. Rhetorical sovereignty is crucial for the Native Americans to have a say in their own textual representation rather than how they are represented in texts that are based on a type of rhetorical imperialism. In order for us to understand Native American history and the need for sovereignty, we must have the Native American voice present in the rhetoric. If we would actually listen to the rhetoric of the Native Americans then we could learn a lot from them. For example, the type of government that Lyons points out in his article, a nation-people rather than a nation-state: rather than a nation of individuals, the national identity is found in the concept of the people and the betterment of the people rather than the individual. As Lyons states, it is the “we” rather than the “I”, and I hope that by teaching this model of Native American government to our students we can fight against what Lyons perfectly summarizes as “an age of unchecked American imperialism, rampant consumer capitalism on an unprecedented global scale, haphazard and unsustainable depletions and abuses of natural resources, naked European and American aggression around the globe, racism, sexism, homophobia, and the ever-widening gap between rich and poor in America and everywhere” (1141). Not only to the Native Americans need their own voice in writing to tell the truth about their history and their need for sovereignty, those of us who are non-Native Americans need their history and rhetorical sovereignty to use as a model for the betterment of ourselves and our ways of thinking, if we could just take the concept of the “we” instead of the “I” and teach it to our students it could change so much and perhaps the future generations will learn to have more respect for each other and the planet that they live on than we do now or have in the past. We need to enter the “new Ghost Dance” by respecting and appreciating Native American history and culture and all that it can teach us and future generations.

I want to focus on Campbell’s ideas regarding “the consideration which the speaker ought to have of the hearers” in chapter seven of The Philosophy of Rhetoric since I’m interested in the role of audience for my paper. I like that he includes consideration for the audience in his essay and emphasizes that the successful orator should not only strive to convey understanding, but must also engage the imagination, memory and passion of the audience. He is right in stating that “fitness of the arguments…depends on the capacity, education, and attainments of the hearers” and this shows the importance of the speaker knowing his audience. The first step in having a persuasive argument is to know the audience that you are trying to persuade and tailoring your argument for that particular audience. Sparking the imagination of the audience is also essential to maintain the attention of the audience and to ensure that the audience remembers what the speaker has said. I couldn’t agree with this more: how many times have you been excited by a boring speech or even remembered what the speaker was talking about? The most successful speakers, such as politicians, have the ability to rouse the audience’s imagination and make their speeches memorable. The final aspect that an orator must keep in mind, according to Campbell, is passion. Campbell states that passion must be engaged to animate the speaker’s ideas. One of the most valuable ideas that Campbell gives us is that using passion is twofold: the first part being to excite passion in the hearers and the second is “to satisfy their judgment that there is a connection between the action to which he would persuade them, and the gratification of the desire or passion which he excites” (927). Appeals to both the rational and the pathetic are necessary to persuade an audience successfully and must work together to augment an argument. I feel that Campbell understands the importance of the audience and has clearly outlined a strategy for a speaker to follow if he wishes to be coherent, animated, memorable and successful when speaking to the “hearers”.

I can see both sides of the remediation argument. One the one hand, it may be helpful to have a population of students defined as “remedial” who are considered unprepared for the academic writing of the university put into classes where they receive additional writing instruction, on the other hand, these students are in a way being sequestered from the academic community and perceived as a sort of “lower-class” student. My concern is for the mental state of the student who is placed in these remedial classes. While the extra writing instruction may be beneficial to their future university professors, what does the labeling of being “remedial” do to the student? If you are told that you are lacking, somehow not as deserving or intelligent as other students, that you need additional instruction to be up to par with the rest of the student population, would you be thankful for the remedial class or resentful? Education, like most institutions, revolves around categorization. What grade are you in? What is your major? What is your GPA? We as students are constantly being categorized into groups according to our academic achievements (or failures) going all the way back to grade school, remember honor roll? Were those students who made honor roll in 3rd grade somehow better or more intelligent than those who didn’t? No. Some may have had above average intelligence, but most were probably just good at school, or taking tests, or had better opportunities than others. The same goes with remedial college writing classes. When we place students into remedial classes we are telling them that they are less than, the other students have made the honor role and they have not: I think that this sends a message to the student that says “why try? I’m second best and I always will be”. The term “remedial” is convenient in a way of categorization for academia, it allows teachers to recognize and instruct those students who are not up to the expected standards of the university, but the term is also extremely damaging, it is calling the student “less than” other students and instead of encouraging the student to perform better, I think that all its doing is making the student feel bad about his/herself. I agree with Rose that the teaching of writing should be incorporated into the curriculum of the university and that it is an ongoing process in which each student is in their own place and going at their own pace- the role of the teacher should be to encourage, instruct and inspire that writing, not to discourage the student by deciding that they are “remedial” and therefore deserve to be excluded from the rest of the student population.

My understanding is that the perspective of both Bakhtin and Foucault is that language is not a reflection of meaning, society, or the speaker’s psychology, but that meaning is constructed within language itself. Bakhtin says that meaning does not belong to a word, but that “meaning belongs to a word in its position between speakers; that is, meaning is realized only in the process of active, responsive understanding” (1226). So if words do not have meaning unless they are used in a verbal interaction between a speaker and an audience, then the conclusion can be reached that reality is constructed by language. If meaning is only to be found within a dialogue then there is no meaning without dialogue, therefore language and discourse is what constitutes reality. It can be difficult to accept that words have no meaning unless they are used in a “process of active, responsive understanding” because we are taught that words represent objects and ideas and gives those things their meaning and that we know the meaning of something because of the word that labels it, but Bakhtin argues that the meaning of an object or idea does not come from the word given to that item, but from how it is used and understood between speakers. Although I can see the point of this argument, it is hard to understand that the words used in language are not reflections or representations of meaning and that instead the discourse and use of the words between speakers is what constitutes meaning.

Works Cited:
Bizzel, Patricia,ed. and Bruce Herzberg. The Rhetorical Tradition. New York: Bedford/St.Martin's, 2001.
Miller, Susan. The Norton Book of Composition Studies. New York: Norton & Company, 2009.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Annotated Bibliography

Aristotle. “Rhetoric.” The Rhetorical Tradition. Ed. Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2001. 179-240.

This is the philosopher Aristotle’s theory of rhetoric. Most of the five cannons of rhetoric can be found in this text which are invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery. I used this text as a basis for my paper, most notably the part of the Rhetoric where Aristotle discusses the role of audience and how important it is for the speaker to know the characteristics of his audience.

Burke, Richard J. “Politics as Rhetoric.” Ethics 93 (1982): 45-55.

In this article the author proposes to develop a type of politics conceived as rhetoric, separate from politics as a conflict of forces and politics as an application of moral principles. What I used most in this article was the authors discussion about the rhetoric of a presidential election to illustrate the importance of the role of the audience and the decisions made in politics.

Clayton, Edward W. “The Audience for Aristotle’s ‘Rhetoric’.” Rhetorica 22 (2004): 183-203.

This article is an investigation of the four most widely accepted theories of Aristotle’s intended audience for his Rhetoric. The author goes through each theory and ultimately decides that the intended audience for Rhetoric was Aristotle’s students. I chose this article to supplement my review of Aristotle’s discussion in Rhetoric of the role of the audience. I feel that if we understand Aristotle’s intended audience then our understanding of his work regarding audience in Rhetoric will be improved.

Rank, Hugh. “Political Rhetoric.” The English Journal 69 (1980): 38-43.

This article analyzes political rhetoric in an attempt to better illuminate the complexities of political rhetoric in modern day society. This article was helpful in that it details the strategies used by the political speaker to win over audiences and it also outlines what audiences are looking for in a political rhetorician.

Rizzo, Sergio. “Why Less Is Still Moore: Celebrity and the Reactive Politics of Fahrenheit 9/11.” Film Quarterly 59 (2005-06): 32-39.

The author of this article explores why although left-leaning scholars sympathize with Moore’s message and objectives, they see his tactics as counterproductive. I chose to use this article because it shows how when the rhetorician does not consider his audience, his work will fail to provoke the intended action even if the movie is a commercial success. I feel that this article supports my idea that the politicalrhetorician, no matter the medium, must never take the audience for granted and if they do there will be negative results that the rhetorician was not seeking.

Paper Proposal

My paper topic will revolve around Aristotle, politics and the role of the audience. I will apply the teachings found in Aristotle’s Rhetoric, specifically his teachings about the role of audience, to modern day politics. My tentative thesis is that the audience of the present day political rhetorician should be not be underestimated and should be considered as the most important aspect of rhetoric above all others including style, form, content and delivery. I think that my project is relevant because the audience of today is so broad and varied, modern day politicians only speak in broad terms and never really give a clear answer to any important questions. As a member of this audience myself, I would like to write a paper that points to the importance of the audience in hopes that politicians consider their audiences more carefully and we can move away from what Richard Burke terms in his article, a “rhetoric-weary” society that is constantly underestimated and placated with “half-truths and rationalizations that fall just short of outright lies” (Burke 54).
Since an understanding of Aristotle’s intended audience is important to our understanding of Rhetoric, I will begin my paper by giving a brief review of what Aristotle says about the role of the audience in Rhetoric and supplement that with Edward Clayton’s article “The Audience for Aristotle’s Rhetoric”, which details four of the most widely accepted theories about who Aristotle’s audience was. I will follow this introduction of the role of audience according to Aristotle with a compare/contrast to the role of the audience in present day political rhetoric.
I will devote the first part of this discussion to the political speaker. Using Hugh Rank’s article “Political Rhetoric”, I will explain how political speakers use the tools of rhetoric to cater to their intended audiences and what audiences are looking for in the political speaker. Rank discusses the idea that the “persuaders are not only seeking something from us, we are also seeking something from them” (40). I will discuss the tools of the political speaker to accomplish his/her goals and get what they want from the audience and how the politician makes sure that the audience receives what they are seeking from the speaker.
The second part of this discussion will focus more on the audience of the political speaker. Rather than showing the devices used by the speaker to persuade the audience, I will focus on the rules that the audience has set forth for the speaker to follow in order to gain their favor. Using the article “Politics as Rhetoric” by Richard Burke, I will outline what he terms the “rules” of the game, the game being political rhetoric. I will discuss the “agreed-upon rules” between the audience and the politician that must be followed in the game of rhetoric. I will also discuss how the audience and their response to the rhetorician are the most important factor to the art of rhetoric above all others, because without the acceptance of the audience the rhetorician will fail, no matter how well they have stayed true to other aspects of rhetoric such as style, form, content and delivery.
I will finish my paper with a move away from politicians and audience to political film and audience. More specifically, I will look at the popular film Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore. I chose to use this specific film because it has a decidedly liberal point of view and is obvious in its attempt to sway the audience to the specific viewpoint of the filmmaker. I will discuss why this film was both a success and a failure and how the filmmaker utilizes aspects of rhetoric but yet fails to recognize the power of the audience and their perceptions of not only the film, but the filmmaker himself and how this affects the rhetoric presented to them in the film and its desired affects.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


The Debate between Cicero and Antonius:


De Oratore-
• Format imitates the Platonic dialogue
• Participants are all historical figures known to Cicero in his youth:

• Aristocratic politician
• Considered Cicero’s spokesperson in De Oratore
• Mark Antony’s grandfather (Antony was responsible for Cicero’s death)
• Contests the views of Cicero as expressed through Crassus in De Oratore

Opposing views on rhetoric: (Book 1)

• One attains excellence in oratory by uniting broad learning and the study of both rhetoric and philosophy
• A good orator is rare because a knowledge of a great variety of subjects must be mastered- an orator must gain knowledge of all important subjects and arts (291-292)
• Excellence in speaking cannot be made manifest unless the speaker fully comprehends the matter he speaks about (296)
• Without the knowledge of philosophers (that of the characters of men, the whole range of human nature, motives, etc) an orator is nothing at all (297)- philosophy and rhetoric cannot be kept separate
• The complete and finished orator is he who on any matter whatever can speak with fullness and variety (297)
• Natural talent is the chief contributor to the virtue of oratory but art can give this talent a “polish” and good abilities may through instruction become better (305)
• The audience will turn a penetrating eye upon the orator and focus on his defects more than his good points (305)
• The better the orator, the more nervous he will be about speaking (306)
• The orator must be well versed in law


• Natural eloquence can profit from instruction only in a more narrowly conceived, formulaic rhetoric
• Such a large amount of knowledge as suggested by Crassus is hard to achieve while still maintaining the other engagements of life (300)
• There is a danger of moving away from speaking the common language and instead speaking in the “polished and flowery” language of the philosophers (300)
• Disagrees with Crassus that an orator should be omniscient in every topic and every art and instead says that he must be one who can use language agreeable to the ear, arguments suited to convince and have intonation, delivery and charm (311)
• Says that by Crassus’ reasoning, everyone who is outstanding in one art and has embraced another art as well is to create the belief that such subsidiary knowledge is a specific part of that wherein he excels (312)
• The orator does not require philosophy- says they should be “kept back for a restful holiday” (313)
• Philosophy and rhetoric are two distinct things and eloquence can exist apart from philosophy (315)
• The orator does not need a knowledge of law (315)- if one needs legal information they can simply look it up and most cases are won through the wit and charm of the orator (316)
• Antonius has never felt the want of knowledge of law when arguing his own cases and it was Crassus’ power of eloquence, not his knowledge of common law, that have proved of service to him in court (317)
• The field of study for an orator must be narrowed- knowledge of history, public law and the ways of the ancients can all be borrowed from others with more expertise in the fields (318-319)
• Students do not have the time nor the capacity at their young age to attain all of the knowledge that Crassus requires of a good orator (319)
• Instead of judging the orator harshly, the audience will think the features of the orator are fascinating even if they are not all perfect (319)

Book 2:

• Rhetoric as theoretical or practical
• Pragmatic suggestions on argumentation, audience, emotion, wit, arrangement and memory
• Deals greatly with the specific and practical uses of argument in rhetoric. A lot of what is said in Book 1 regarding presentation alongside theory is further examined. Antonius spends most of the central portion of Book 2 clarifying and elaborating on establishing facts and stating a case under a general proposition. This all furthers Book 1’s setup of the three forms of oratorical argument which include forensic, deliberative and panegyric.
• Antonius does touch on audience and securing their goodwill. Antonius goes through the many ways of creating a connection with the audience without losing their affection and goodwill. These tactics seem to be based on or at least calling on the practices of Gorgias and Aristotle when it comes to swaying an audience.

Book 3:

• The focus of Book 3 is heavily based on style as well as delivery. Book 3 does not have as much meat as Book 2. A lot of what Book 3 touches on we have seen presented in, give or take, the same manner as Aristotle and Plato.


1) Is a broad knowledge of all subjects necessary to be a good orator as Crassus asserts or can one be a good orator by having a natural ability of eloquence and borrowing knowledge from others when needed as Antonius states?
2) Must one have knowledge of philosophy to be successful in rhetoric or are they two distinct areas of study that can be considered separately?
3) Will an audience judge an orator on their faults or focus on their good points while overlooking the imperfections?
4) Is it true that the more nervous an orator is before speaking, the better he is? What role does modesty play in the creation of a good orator?
5) Must an orator be well versed in law in order to argue in a courtroom or can he simply rely on his eloquence and let the attorney handle the legal details?
6) Does the age of the student play a role in how much he can learn or how much time he is willing to devote to the study of knowledge or is it simply one’s own individual discipline and capacity for learning that determines these things?
7) Is Crassus’ view of what an orator should be too idealistic? Is it attainable?
8) How is Cicero’s perspective of the use of the Three Forms of Oratory (forensic, deliberative, panegyric) any different from that of Aristotle? Do you see any consistencies or contradictions between the two?
9) In Book 2 Antonius focuses on technique and the practice of rhetoric. Antonius puts a great deal of emphasis on the natural ability of the rhetorician and the need to master the theoretical perspective of rhetoric. Do you feel that Antonius is being realistic when he states that one cannot be a successful orator without great theoretical knowledge? Also, do you think that Antonius is being too bullish with his views on classical training as a whole?
10) In Book 3 Crassus goes through the many uses of style and language, do you think that style outweighs the practical arguments in a speech? Is it possible to be convincing without using eloquent language? If so, is style even needed if the practical argument is so persuasive?

Works Cited:
Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzberg, ed. The Rhetorical Tradition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Two Aristotelian Analyses:
I decided to show how Rick’s speech in Casablanca illustrates the 3 types of appeals discussed by Aristotle and how Kate’s soliloquy in Taming of the Shrew illustrates the 3 types of speech.

“We’ll always have Paris” – Casablanca

Types of Appeals:

An appeal to logos is a logical or rational appeal that stresses the reasonableness of the rhetorician’s argument: Rick uses a rational argument that if Ilsa does not get on the plane then they will both likely end up in a concentration camp.

An appeal to pathos raises emotions favorable to the rhetorician’s position: Rick is trying to do something on his without her and it would be better for everyone involved (Rick, Ilsa and Victor) if she would just follow his direction.

An appeal to ethos raises emotions favorable to the rhetorician’s moral character: Rick is trying to be noble and make sure that others are safe; he is willing to sacrifice his own interests for the greater good and wants Ilsa to do the same.

Kate’s Soliloquy – Taming of the Shrew

Types of Speech:

A political/deliberative speech urges us either to do or not to do something: Kate urges the women to be soft and respect their husbands.

A forensic speech either attacks or defends somebody: Kate defends the husbands by outlining all that they do for their wives and stating that all they ask in return is love.

A ceremonial speech either praises or censures somebody: Kate praises the men and censures the women.

Audience: Kate’s description of the ideal wife is based on what the audience (men) thinks an ideal wife should be. Kate is acting the part of an ideal wife and using the rhetoric of war and the military to appeal to the men.

Syllogism: Husband is the king-> a king is a ruler-> a husband is the ruler over his wife.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


It’s a slow night in the ER and three doctors are discussing universal health care in America…
Dr. Smith: So what do you two think of this universal health care issue out there?
Dr. Jones: I think it’s ridiculous; people seem to think that they have a basic human right to healthcare but I call it a privilege and I don’t think it should be the tax payer’s job to pay for that privilege.
Dr. Brown: How can you say that? Of course it’s a basic human right, and all tax payers should be willing to pay for the health of their fellow citizens in this country.
Dr. Jones: This is a capitalist society, Dr. Brown, and we have done very well for ourselves following that model…if we institute a national health care plan then we just take a step closer to becoming an unfair socialist nation!
Dr. Smith: Calm down Dr. Jones, I think it would benefit all of us to look at both sides of the issue, I believe that we will find that there are both good and bad points to instituting a universal health care system in America.
Dr. Jones: Sorry about that, I just got a little carried away for a minute there…
Dr. Brown: It’s ok, I know that it can be a passionate issue for many people nowadays.
Dr. Smith: Tell me about it. I hear people discussing it almost every day around here.
Dr. Jones: Me too.
Dr. Smith: So Dr. Jones, beside the cost to tax payers, what is your main objection to the system?
Dr. Jones: My fear as a physician is that we will be so over-regulated because of medical centralization that we will be too caught up in administrative processes to help the people that we normally would and could under our current system.
Dr. Brown: I believe that your fears are completely unfounded Dr., just think what a single payer system could do cut our overhead and paperwork.
Dr. Jones: Yes but if that’s true, then that brings to light the whole other issue of what will happen to those people’s jobs that do all of that paperwork. Think of all the medical insurance workers, billers and administrative staff that will no longer be necessary under a universal health care system and will therefore lose their jobs.
Dr. Smith: I heard that countries in Western Europe still allow private healthcare to be available so people may chose either option, if America adopts the same policy then many people will still be able to keep their jobs to provide for those who chose not to use the universal health care system.
Dr. Brown: I don’t know about you, but I got into this profession to help people and I say that if a universal health care system allows more people to receive the treatment that they need, then I’m all for it!
Dr. Smith: Although I still have some reservations, I have to say that I agree with Dr. Brown, taxes and administrative overhead aside, the real issue is whether you think it’s worth it for people to receive the medical care that they need but cannot afford under our current system?
Dr. Jones: We’ll all have to wait and see what happens but I did become a Dr. to help people and if universal health care ends up working to the advantage of the public, then I guess that I’ll give it a chance.
Dr. Brown: Well at least now you’re willing to consider the benefits of universal health care instead of immediately dismissing it.
Dr. Jones: I am and I’m glad we had this talk.
Dr. Brown: Me too.
Dr. Smith: Well I’ve just been paged, looks like we’ve got someone coming in…better get going.
Dr. Brown: Ok, talk to you later.
Dr. Jones: Bye guys, have a good night.