Sunday, September 14, 2008

Persuasion, Propaganda, and Subtlety of Speech

As a University instructor of Accelerated Composition, I help students engage "texts" of all kinds: poems, editorials, cartoons, video, comics, ads, news photos, essays, sitcoms, etc.

I encourage them to "read critically," that is, to identify the context of the "text," and the rhetorical approach. As we engage such multi-modal "texts," we discuss logos, ethos, pathos, arrangement, invention, publication context, occasion, etc. We look for subtleties, and shadings, and angles, and nuances as we analyze each piece.

I'm not sure if the rhetoric of the following pieces wouldn't fry our "critical reading grids."

Maybe there's too much info for a critical reader (accustomed to handling more subtle material) to easily digest. Maybe I should add another element to the grid: YELLING!!! (The old saw goes, "If you can't raise your argument, then raise your voice.") I would posit that something approaching consensus might be reached on the question, "As a reader/audience, do you find this rhetorical approach persuasive?"

Then, again, it's very possible that persuasion is not the point of such rhetoric.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hold On There, Missy!

Oh, the enlightened age in which we live - where women can run for president, or vice-president, and be treated exactly the same as their male counter-parts.
Well, sometimes.
Or maybe not.

"There's also this issue that on April 18th, she [Palin] gave birth to a baby with Down's Syndrome....Children with Down's syndrome require an awful lot of attention. The role of Vice President, it seems to me, would take up an awful lot of her time, and it raises the issue of how much time will she have to dedicate to her newborn child?" –CNN's John Roberts on the August 29th, "Newsroom"

"Adding to the brutality of a national campaign, the Palin family also has an infant with special needs. What leads you, the Senator, and the Governor to believe that one won't affect the other in the next couple of months?...She has an infant -- she has an infant with special needs. Will that affect her campaigning?" -ABC's Bill Weir on "Good Morning America," August 30.

"Is she prepared for the all-consuming nature of the job?...Her first priority has to be her children. When the phone rings at three in the morning and one of her children is really sick what choice will she make?" - Washington Post's Sally Quinn, in an August 29, online column.

I can't remember when a male politician was scrutinized for his ability to handle parental duties. Old habits are hard to break, I guess. The ruts of theatrical marginalization (in this case, women portrayed as belonging in the kitchen, baking cookies, changing diapers, etc.) run deep. Too deep for some wagons to escape them in favor of a new path. At least Obama and Cosby are talking about the duties of fathers in our communities.

(Theatrical Marginalization IS "the past coming at you from the future." Just watch for the comparisons between Biden and Palin as regards their hair, makeup, hugs, spouses, etc. And, did you notice that no one ever mentioned that Obama, McCain, and all other male politcians wear "Pant Suits?")