W hen the military uses the phrase “self-injurious behavior incidents” regarding detainees at Guantá-namo Bay, it means what most of us call “attempted suicides.

146

W hen the military uses the phrase “self-injurious behavior incidents” regarding detainees at Guantá-namo Bay, it means what most of us call “attempted suicides.” In fact, when the word “detainees” is used, it means what most of us call “prisoners.” “Waterboarding” sounds at fi rst like something you’d expect to see young people doing on a California beach, not a torture technique that involves forced simulated drowning. Less remarkable, perhaps, but possibly more relevant for most of us, we’ve heard the term “downsized” used when someone is fi red or laid off. “Ethnic cleansing” covers everything from deporta- tion to genocide.

What we have to say may be important, but the words we choose to say it with can be equally important. The examples just given are cases of a certain type of linguis- tic coercion—an attempt to get us to adopt a particular atti- tude toward a subject that, if described differently, would seem less attractive to us. Words have tremendous persua- sive power, or what we have called their rhetorical force or emotive meaning —their power to express and elicit images, feelings, and emotional associations. In the next few chap- ters, we examine some of the most common rhetorical techniques used to affect people’s attitudes, opinions, and behavior.

Students will learn to . . . 1. Define the difference between

rhetoric and argument

2. Detect rhetorical devices and their persuasive impact

3. Recognize prejudicial and nonprej- udicial uses of rhetorical devices

4. Identify and critique the use of euphemisms, dysphemisms, weaslers, and downplayers

5. Identify and critique the use of stereotypes, innuendo, and loaded questions

6. Identify and critique the use of ridicule, sarcasm, and hyperbole

7. Identify and critique the use of rhetorical definitions, explana- tions, analogies, and misleading comparisons

8. Identify and critique the use of proof surrogates and repetition

9. Identify and critique the persuasive aspects of visual images

Persuasion Through Rhetoric Common Devices and Techniques 5

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RHETORICAL DEVICES I 147

Rhetoric refers to the study of persuasive writing. As we use the term, it denotes a broad category of linguistic techniques people use when their pri- mary objective is to infl uence beliefs and attitudes and behavior. Is Hezbollah, the Shia paramilitary organization based in Lebanon, a resistance movement of freedom fi ghters or a dangerous terrorist organization? The different impres- sions these two descriptions create is largely due to their differing rhetori- cal meaning. Does Juanita “still owe over $1,000 on her credit card”? Or does Juanita “owe only a little over $1,000 on her credit card”? There’s no factual difference between the two questions—only a difference in their rhetorical force. The thing to remember through these next few chapters is that rhetorical force may be psycho- logically effective, but by itself it establishes nothing. If we allow our attitudes and beliefs to be affected by sheer rhetoric, we fall short as critical thinkers.

Now, before we get in trouble with your English teacher, let’s make it clear that there is nothing wrong with trying to make your case as persuasive as possible by using well-chosen, rhetorically effective words and phrases. Good writers always do this. But we, as critical thinkers, must be able to distinguish the argument (if any) contained in what someone says or writes from the rheto- ric; we must be able to distinguish the logical force of a set of remarks from their psychological force.

One of the things you will become aware of—as you read these pages, do the exercises, apply what you have learned to what you read and write—is that rheto- ric is often mixed right in with argument. The message isn’t that you should deduct points from an argument if it is presented in rhetorically charged language, and it isn’t that you should try to take all the rhetoric out of your own writing. The message is simply that you shouldn’t add points for rhetoric. You don’t make an argument stronger by screaming it at the top of your lungs. Likewise, you don’t make it stronger by adding rhetorical devices.

Many of these rhetorical bells and whistles have names because they are so common and so well understood. Because they are used primarily to give a statement a positive or negative slant regarding a subject, they are sometimes called slanters. We’ll describe some of the more widely used specimens.

RHETORICAL DEVICES I Our fi rst group of slanters consists of what are usually single words or short phrases designed to accomplish one of four specifi c rhetorical tasks.

Euphemisms and Dysphemisms Language usually offers us a choice of words when we want to say something. Until recently, the term “used car” referred to an automobile that wasn’t new, but the trend nowadays is to refer to such a car as “pre-owned.” The people who sell such cars, of course, hope that the different terminology will keep

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful . . . and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.

—G EORGE O RWELL

Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne.

—Q UENTIN C RISP, Manners from Heaven

■ Such images as this add to the negative impact of the “death tax,” described in the box on the next page.

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148 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

potential buyers from thinking about how “used” the car might be—maybe it’s used up! The car dealer’s replacement term, “pre-owned,” is a euphemism —a neutral or positive expression instead of one that carries negative associations. Euphemisms play an important role in affecting our attitudes. People may be less likely to disapprove of an assassination attempt on a foreign leader, for example, if it is referred to as “neutralization.” People fi ghting against the government of a country can be referred to neutrally as “rebels” or “guerril- las,” but a person who wants to build support for them may refer to them by the euphemism “freedom fi ghters.” A government is likely to pay a price for initiating a “revenue enhancement,” but voters will be even quicker to respond negatively to a “tax hike.” The U.S. Department of Defense performs the same function it did when it was called the Department of War, but the current name makes for much better public relations.

The opposite of a euphemism is a dysphemism. Dysphemisms are used to produce a negative effect on a listener’s or reader’s attitude toward some- thing or to tone down the positive associations it may have. Whereas “freedom fi ghter” is a euphemism for “guerrilla” or “rebel,” “terrorist” is a dysphemism.

Euphemisms and dysphemisms are often used in deceptive ways or ways that at least hint at deception. All the examples in the preceding paragraphs are examples of such uses. But euphemisms can at times be helpful and construc- tive. By allowing us to approach a sensitive subject indirectly—or by skirting it entirely—euphemisms can sometimes prevent hostility from bringing ratio- nal discussion to a halt. They can also be a matter of good manners: “Passed on” may be much more appropriate than “dead” if the person to whom you’re speaking is recently widowed. Hence, our purpose for using euphemisms and dysphemisms determines whether or not those uses are legitimate.

It bears mentioning that some facts just are repellent, and for that reason even neutral reports of them sound horrible. “Lizzie killed her father with an ax” reports a horrible fact about Lizzie, but it does so using neutral language. Neutral reports of unpleasant, evil, or repellent facts do not automatically count as dysphemistic rhetoric.

“Wardrobe malfunction”

Justin Timberlake’s phrase for his tearing of Janet Jackson’s costume during the half-time performance at Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Real Life

The Death Tax Here is Grover Norquist, who is the head of Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, D.C., in a press release from that organization:

Over seventy percent of Americans oppose the Death Tax, and with good reason. It is the worst form of double-taxation, where, after taxing you all your life, the government decides to take even more when you die.

“Death Tax” is a dysphemism, of course. The estate tax is a tax not on death but on inherited wealth, imposed on the occasion of a person’s death. And the person paying the tax is not the deceased, but the inheritors, who have never paid tax on the money.

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Weaselers Weaselers are linguistic methods of hedging a bet. When inserted into a claim, they help protect it from criticism by watering it down somewhat, weakening it, and giving the claim’s author a way out in case the claim is challenged. So, what a claim asserts, a weaseler either minimizes or takes away entirely.

Without doubt you’ve heard the words “up to” used as a weaseler a thou- sand times, especially in advertising. “Up to fi ve more miles per gallon.” “Up to twenty more yards off the tee.” “Lose up to ten pounds a week.” None of these guarantee anything. Sure, you might lose ten pounds, but you might lose nothing. The statement still stands, thanks to “up to.”

Let’s make up a statistic. Let’s say that 98 percent of American doctors believe that aspirin is a contributing cause of Reye’s syndrome in children, and that the other 2 percent are unconvinced. If we then claim that “some doc- tors are unconvinced that aspirin is related to Reye’s syndrome,” we cannot be held accountable for having said something false, even though our claim might be misleading to someone who did not know the complete story. The word “some” has allowed us to weasel the point.

Words that sometimes weasel—such as “perhaps,” “possibly,” “maybe,” and “may be,” among others—can be used to produce innuendo, to plant a suggestion without actually making a claim that a person can be held to. We can suggest that Berriault is a liar without actually saying so (and thus without making a claim that might be hard to defend) by saying that Berriault may be a liar. Or we can say it is possible that Berriault is a liar (which is true of all of us, after all). “ Perhaps Berriault is a liar” works nicely, too. All of these are examples of weaselers used to create innuendo (to be explained below).

Not every use of words and phrases like these is a weaseling one, of course. Words that can weasel can also bring very important qualifi cations to bear on a claim. The very same word that weasels in one context may not weasel at all in another. For example, a detective who is considering all the

Great Western pays up to 12 percent more interest on checking accounts.

—Radio advertisement

Even aside from the “up to” weaseler, this ad can be deceptive about what interest rate it’s promising. Unless you listen carefully, you might think Great Western is pay- ing 12 percent on checking accounts. The presence of the word “more” changes all that, of course. If you’re getting 3 percent now, and Great Western gives you “up to 12 percent more” than that, they’ll be giving you about 31⁄3 percent—hardly the fortune the ad seems to promise.

In the Media

Innuendo with Statistics Taxpayers with incomes over $200,000 could expect on average to pay about $99,000 in taxes under [the proposed] plan.

—Wall Street Journal

Wow! Pity the poor taxpayer who makes over $200,000! Apparently, he or she will pay almost half of that amount in taxes.

But think again: In the words of the New Republic (February 3, 2003), “The Journal’s sta- tistic is about as meaningful as asserting that males over the age of six have had an average of three sexual partners.” Bill Gates and many billionaires like him are among those who make over $200,000.

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150 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

possible angles on a crime and who has just heard Smith’s account of events may say to an associate, “Of course, it is possible that Smith is lying.” This need not be a case of weaseling. The detective may simply be exercising due care. Other words and phrases that are sometimes used to weasel can also be used legitimately. Qualifying phrases such as “it is arguable that,” “it may well be that,” and so on have at least as many appropriate uses as weasel- ing ones. Others, such as “some would say that,” are likely to be weaseling more often than not, but even they can serve an honest purpose in the right context. Our warning, then, is to be watchful when qualifying phrases turn up. Is the speaker or writer adding a reasonable qualifi cation, insinuating a bit of innuendo, or preparing a way out? We can only warn; you need to assess the speaker, the context, and the subject to establish the grounds for the right judgment.

Downplayers Downplaying is an attempt to make someone or something look less impor- tant or less signifi cant. Stereotypes, rhetorical comparisons, rhetorical explanations, and innuendo (all discussed later) can all be used to downplay something. Consider this statement, for example: “Don’t mind what Mr. Pierce says in class; he’s a liberal.” This attempt to downplay Mr. Pierce and whatever views he expresses in class makes use of a stereotype. We can also downplay by careful insertion of certain words or other devices. Let’s amend the preceding example like this: “Don’t mind what Mr. Pierce says in class; he’s just another liberal.” Notice how the phrase “just another” denigrates Mr. Pierce’s status still further. Words and other devices that serve this func- tion are known as downplayers.

Perhaps the words most often used as downplayers are “mere” and “merely.” If Kim tells you that she has a yellow belt in the Tibetan martial art of Pujo and that her sister has a mere green belt, you would quite natu- rally make the assumption that a yellow belt ranks higher than a green belt. We’d probably say that Kim’s use of the word “mere” gives you the right to make that assumption. Kim has used the word to downplay the signifi cance of her sister’s accomplishment. But notice this: It could still be that Kim’s sister’s belt signifi es the higher rank. If called on the matter, Kim might claim that she said “mere” simply because her sister has been practicing the art for much longer and is, after all, not that far ahead. Whether Kim has such an out or not, she has used a downplayer to try to diminish her sister’s accomplishment.

The term “so-called” is another standard downplayer. We might say, for example, that the woman who made the diagnosis is a “so-called doctor,” which downplays her credentials as a physician. Quotation marks can be used to accomplish the same thing:

She got her “degree” from a correspondence school.

Use of quotation marks as a downplayer is somewhat different from their use to indicate irony, as in this remark:

John “borrowed” Hank’s umbrella, and Hank hasn’t seen it since.

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RHETORICAL DEVICES I 151

The idea in the latter example isn’t to downplay John’s borrowing the umbrella; it’s to indicate that it wasn’t really a case of borrowing at all. But the use of quotation marks around the word “degree” and the use of “so-called” in the earlier examples are designed to play down the importance of their subjects. And, like “mere” and “merely,” they do it in a fairly unsubtle way.

Many conjunctions—such as “nevertheless,” “however,” “still,” and “but”—can be used to downplay claims that precede them. Such uses are more subtle than the fi rst group of downplayers. Compare the following two ver- sions of what is essentially the same pair of claims:

(1) The leak at the plant was a terrible tragedy, all right; however, we must remember that such pesticide plants are an integral part of the “green revolution” that has helped to feed millions of people.

(2) Although it’s true that pesticide plants are an integral part of the “green revolution” that has helped to feed millions of people, it was just such a plant that developed a leak and produced a terrible tragedy.

The differences may not be as obvious as those in the cases of “mere” and “so-called,” but the two versions give an indication of where their authors’ sympathies lie.

The context of a claim can determine whether it downplays or not. Consider the remark “Chavez won by only six votes.” The word “only” may or may not downplay Chavez’s victory, depending on how thin a six-vote margin is. If ten thousand people voted and Chavez won by six, then the word “only” seems perfectly appropriate: Chavez won by just the skin of his teeth. But if the vote was in a committee of, say, twenty, then six is quite a substantial margin (it would be thirteen votes to seven, if everybody voted— almost two to one), and applying the word “only” to the result is clearly a slanting device designed to give Chavez’s margin of victory less importance than it deserves.

As mentioned earlier, slanters really can’t—and shouldn’t—be avoided altogether. They can give our writing fl air and interest. What can be avoided is being unduly swayed by slanters. Learn to appreciate the effects that subtle and not-so-subtle manipulations of language can have on you. By being aware, you decrease your chances of being taken in unwittingly by a clever writer or speaker.

Identify any of the rhetorical devices you fi nd in the following from the previ- ous section of the text (euphemisms, dysphemisms, weaselers, downplayers). Not every example may contain such a device.

1. You say you are in love with Oscar, but are you sure he’s right for you? Isn’t he a little too . . . uh, mature for you?

2. He was at the bar for two hours, officer, but I know he had only four drinks during that time.

3. “The key principle is ‘responsible energy exploration.’ And remember, it’s NOT drilling for oil. It’s responsible energy exploration.”

—Republican pollster Frank Luntz

Exercise 5-1

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152 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

4. Of course, it may be that Roethlisberger didn’t even commit the assaults he was accused of.

5. Try the Neutron Diet for just four weeks, and you can lose as many as twenty pounds!

6. Republicans stand on principle against the irresponsible plans put forth by environmental extremists to wreck the economy.

7. “Despite what many politicians continue to say, the success of the surge strategy put in place by Generals Petraeus and Odierno is undeniable.”

—House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio)

8. Obama and his Democrat-Communist party have bloated the already bloated federal bureaucracy by 25% in ONE YEAR.

9. Charles, be sure to tinkle before we leave! 10. Him? Oh, that’s just my brother.

RHETORICAL DEVICES II These next three slanting devices rely, in one way or another, on unwarranted assumptions. We have to depend on unstated assumptions all the time, but as you’ll see, we can get into trouble when those assumptions are not trustworthy.

Stereotypes You often hear references to “the liberals,” “the right-wingers,” “the Jews,” “the Catholics,” “the Evangelicals,” and, lately, “the Tea Partiers.” These terms are almost always used when the speaker or writer is making use of a stereotype. A stereotype is a generalization or an assumption about all the members of a group that is based on an image of those in the group. Ameri- cans are often stereotyped as being friendly and generous, but also as being impatient and domineering. Asians are often stereotyped as being reserved but clever. Some stereotypes are negative and even vicious: women are emotional, men are insensitive, lesbians hate men, southerners are bigots, gay men are effeminate, and so on. Of course, a moment’s thought tells us that none of these characteristics could reasonably be applied to all the members of the group in question.

Some of the slanters we’ve already talked about can involve stereotypes. For example, if we use the dysphemism “right-wing extremist” to defame a political candidate, we are utilizing a negative stereotype. Commonly, if we link a candidate with a stereotype we like or venerate, we can create a favor- able impression of the individual. “Senator McCain addressed his opponent with all the civility of a gentleman” employs a favorable stereotype, that of a gentleman, in a rhetorical comparison.

Our stereotypes come from a great many sources, many from popular lit- erature, and are often supported by a variety of prejudices and group interests. The Native American tribes of the Great Plains were considered noble people

Mention the strict regulations— not protocols or rules— governing nuclear power plants.

—R epublican p ollster F RANK L UNTZ, in “An Energy Policy for the 21st Century,” advis- ing Republicans how to sell nuclear energy

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In the Media

We Get Dumber in Company of Blondes

LONDON—From Marilyn Monroe to Paris Hilton, “blonde” has long been code for a woman who’s long on looks and light on brains.

Now French researchers have found that the stereotype can actually affect mental performance.

A recent study showed that otherwise intel- ligent men performed below par on general knowledge tests after viewing photos of blonde women.

The real surprise? Women’s performance also dipped in the tests.

The study, published in the Journal of Exper- imental Social Psychology, examined people’s ability to answer Trivial Pursuit game questions after viewing photos of women with different hair colors.

Exposure to blondes resulted in the lowest scores.

Thierry Meyer, joint author of the study and professor of social psychology at the University of Paris X-Nanterre, said that the study proves a general phenomenon.

“There’s a decrease in performance after an unobtrusive exposure to a stereotype about people who have the reputation to be cogni- tively impaired,” he said.

In plainer language, blondes might make people act in a less intelligent manner because the people believe—whether they want to admit it or not—that they are in the presence of someone who’s not very smart.

Previous studies also have shown how infor- mation from a person’s social context can influ- ence their behavior.

For example, when people are exposed to elderly people, they tend to walk and talk more slowly. When people sit beside someone who is fidgeting, they tend to fidget as well.

“The mere knowledge of a stereotype can influence our behavior,” said Clementine Bry, another author of the study.

It’s not clear how the stereotype of the dumb blonde came about, although some researchers point to the 1950s movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Marilyn Monroe. But through the years a wide range of blonde actresses— from Mae West to Suzanne Somers to Goldie Hawn—have perpetuated the stereotype.

Bry was quick to point out that there is “absolutely no scientific evidence” to support the stereotype of the dumb blonde.

“Stereotypes are cultural beliefs about social groups, and are not truthful pictures of who people are,” she said.

—Shelley Emling, Cox News Service

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154 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

by most whites until just before the mid-nineteenth century. But as white people grew more interested in moving them off their lands and as confl icts between the two escalated, popular literature increasingly described Native Americans as subhuman creatures. This stereotype supported the group inter- ests of whites. Confl icts in general, but especially confl icts between nations, produce derogatory stereotypes of the opposition; it is easier to destroy ene- mies without pangs of conscience if we think of them as less “human” than ourselves. Stereotyping becomes even easier when there are racial differences to exploit.

Nicholas Kristof notes that it isn’t just the ignorant and uneducated whose thinking runs to stereotypes:

In times of stress, even smart and sophisticated people tend to be swept up in prejudice. Teddy Roosevelt said in 1886: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t inquire too closely in the case of the tenth. The most vicious cowboy has more moral principle than the average Indian.” *

The fact that nothing could have been further from the truth seems to be irrel- evant once the blood pressure gets up. (It’s also helpful to remember that the stereotypical cowboy of the movies was hardly realistic. After all, it was not the pillars of society who moved West and became cowboys during the nine- teenth century.)

Innuendo The next batch of slanting devices doesn’t depend as much on emotional asso- ciations as on the manipulation of other features of language. When we com- municate with one another, we automatically have certain expectations and make certain assumptions. (For example, when your instructor says, “Every- body passed the exam,” she doesn’t mean that everybody in the world passed the exam. We assume that the scope of the pronoun extends to include only those who took the exam.) These expectations and assumptions help fi ll in the gaps in our conversations so that we don’t have to explain everything we say in minute detail. Because providing such details would be a tedious and prob- ably impossible chore, these underlying conversational factors are crucial to the success of communication.

Consider this statement:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proof that there is at least one candidate in this race who does not have a drinking problem.

Notice that this remark does not say that any opponent of the speaker does have a drinking problem. In fact, the speaker is even allowing for the fact that other candidates may have no such problem by using the words “at least one candidate.” But because we assume there would be no need to make this remark unless there were a candidate who had a drinking problem, the speaker

*Nicholas D. Kristof, “Bigotry in Islam—and Here,” New York Times, < www.nytimes.com >, op-ed section.

The city voluntarily assumed the costs of cleaning up the landfill to make it safe for developers.

—Opponents of a local housing development

The opponents neglected to mention that the law required the city to assume the costs. This bit of innuendo on the part of the opponents sug- gested, of course, that the city was in bed with the developers.

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■ As discussed later in the text, the power of photographs and other images to convey emotions is somewhat analogous to the rhetorical force of language. For example, what emotion is elicited by this image?

casts suspicion on his opponent. This is sometimes referred to as signifi cant mention or paralipsis. It is one form of innuendo, which includes many ways of getting a point across without explic- itly committing oneself to it.

Another example, maybe our all-time favorite, is this remark:

I didn’t say the meat was tough. I said I didn’t see the horse that is usually outside.

— W. C. Fields

As you can see, the use of innu- endo enables us to insinuate something deprecatory about something or someone without actually saying it. For example, if someone asks you whether Ralph is telling the truth, you may reply, “Yes, this time,” which would suggest that maybe Ralph doesn’t usually tell the truth. Or you might say of someone, “She is competent—in many regards,” which would insinuate that in some ways she is not competent.

Sometimes we condemn somebody with faint praise—that is, by prais- ing a person a small amount when grander praise might be expected, we hint that praise may not really be due at all. This is a kind of innuendo. Imagine, for example, reading a letter of recommendation that says, “Ms. Flotsam has done good work for us, I suppose.” Such a letter does not inspire one to want to hire Ms. Flotsam on the spot. Likewise, “She’s proved to be useful so far” and “Surprisingly, she seems very astute” manage to speak more evil than good of Ms. Flotsam. Notice, though, that the literal information contained in these remarks is not negative in the least. Innuendo lies between the lines, so to speak.

Loaded Questions Another form of innuendo, one distinctive enough to warrant its own heading, is the loaded question. If you overheard someone ask, “Have you always loved to gamble?” you would naturally assume that the person being questioned did in fact love to gamble. This assumption is independent of whether the person answered yes or no, for it underlies the question itself. Every question rests on assumptions. Even an innocent question like “What time is it?” depends on the assumptions that the hearer speaks English and has some means of fi nding out the time, for instance. A loaded question is less innocent, however. It rests on one or more unwarranted or unjustified assumptions. The world’s oldest example, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” rests on the assump- tion that the person asked has in the past beaten his wife. If there is no reason to think that this assumption is true, then the question is a loaded one.

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156 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

Identify any rhetorical devices you fi nd in these passages that were described in the previous three sections of the text (stereotypes, innuendo, loaded ques- tions). Not every example may contain such a device.

1. An attorney questioning a witness: “So, if you were awake when you crossed the bridge, just when did you go to sleep at the wheel?”

2. No, I’m sure you’ll enjoy playing tennis with Jerome. He gets around pretty well for a guy his age.

3. Frankly, I believe that fl ash memory will make any kind of moving-part memory, such as hard drives, completely obsolete.

4. Larry Kudlow, on CNBC (in an American Spectator interview): “[Former Treasury secretary] Bob Rubin’s a smart guy, a nice man, but he hates tax cuts. To listen to Rubin on domestic issues, you could just die. He’s a free-spending left-winger.”

5. Has Harry been a faithful husband? Well, he’s not been through a Tiger Woods phase.

6. Why is it, do you suppose, that pit bulls are all mean and vicious? 7. I wouldn’t worry about the train being late. This is Germany, you know. 8. Why did Obama fail to act swiftly to end the BP oil spill? 9. It goes without saying that kid will do well in school. His kind always do. 10. The Pope does not molest children.

RHETORICAL DEVICES III Humor and a bit of exaggeration are part of our everyday speech. But they can also be used to sway opinions if the listener is not being careful.

Ridicule/Sarcasm Also known as the horse laugh, this device includes ridicule and vicious humor of all kinds. Ridicule is a powerful rhetorical tool—most of us really hate being laughed at. So it’s important to remember that somebody who simply gets a laugh at the expense of another person’s position has not raised any objection to that position.

One may simply laugh outright at a claim (“Send aid to Russia? Har, har, har!”), laugh at another claim that reminds us of the fi rst (“Support the Equal Rights Amendment? Sure, when the ladies start buying the drinks! Ho, ho, ho!”), tell an unrelated joke, use sarcastic language, or simply laugh at the person who is trying to make the point.

The next time you watch a debate, remember that the person who has the funniest lines and who gets the most laughs may be the person who seems to win the debate, but critical thinkers should be able to see the difference between argumentation on one hand and entertainment on the other.

Notice that we are not saying there’s anything wrong with entertain- ment, nor with making a valid point in a humorous way. Jon Stewart makes

Exercise 5-2

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RHETORICAL DEVICES III 157

his living ridiculing others (as well as himself). But often there is a serious critical point along- side or underneath the humor- ous presentation.

Hyperbole Hyperbole is extravagant over- statement. A claim that exag- gerates for effect is on its way to becoming hyperbole, depending on the strength of its language and the point being made. To describe a hangnail as a serious injury is hyperbole; so is using the word “fascist” to describe parents who insist that their teenager be home by midnight. Not all strong or colorful language is hyper- bole, of course. “Oscar Peterson is an unbelievably inventive pianist” is a strong claim, but it is not hyperbolic—it isn’t really extravagant. However, “Oscar Peterson is the most inventive musician who ever lived” goes beyond emphasis and crosses over the line into hyperbole. (How could one know that Oscar Peterson is more inventive than, say, Mozart?) The test for hyperbole is basically a test for any kind of initial plausibility (see Chapter 4, p. 111). A hyperbolic claim will typically have little or none.

Dysphemisms often involve hyperbole. So do rhetorical comparisons. When we use the dysphemisms “traitorous” or “extremist” to describe the views of a member of an opposing political party, we are indulging in hyper- bole. If we say that the secretary of state is less well informed than a beet, that’s hyperbole in a rhetorical comparison. In similar ways, rhetorical expla- nations and defi nitions (see next two pages) can utilize hyperbole.

Hyperbole is also frequently used in ridicule. If it involves exaggeration, a piece of ridicule counts as hyperbole. The foregoing example, saying that the secretary of state is less well informed than a beet, is hyperbole in a rhetorical comparison used to ridicule that official.

A claim can be hyperbolic without containing excessively emotive words or phrases. Neither the hangnail nor the Oscar Peterson example contains such language; in fact, the word “unbelievably” is probably the most emotive word in the two claims about Peterson, and it occurs in the nonhyperbolic claim. But a claim can also be hyperbole as a result of the use of such lan- guage. “Parents who are strict about a curfew are fascists” is an example. If the word “mean” were substituted for “fascists,” we might fi nd the claim strong or somewhat exaggerated, but we would not call it hyperbole. It’s when the colorfulness of language becomes excessive —a matter of judgment—that the claim is likely to turn into hyperbole.

Hyperbole is an obvious slanting device, but it can also have more subtle—perhaps unconscious—effects. Even if you reject the exaggeration, you may be moved in the direction of the basic claim. For example, you may reject the claim that Oscar Peterson is the most inventive musician who ever lived, but you may now believe that Oscar Peterson must certainly

A feminazi is a woman to whom the most important thing in life is seeing to it that as many abortions as possible are performed.

—R USH L IMBAUGH

A rhetorical definition with hyperbole. (A straw man, too, but that’s for a later chapter.)

■ Much sarcastic comment resulted from Sarah Palin’s use of notes penned on her palm. She even got in on the act herself in a later speech.

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158 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

be an extraordinary musician—otherwise, why would someone make that exaggerated claim about him? Or suppose someone says, “Charlotte Church has the most fabulous voice of any singer around today.” Even if you reject the “fabulous” part of the claim, you may still end up thinking Charlotte Church must have a pretty good voice. But be careful: Without support, you have no more reason to accept the milder claims than the wilder ones. Hyperbole can add a persuasive edge to a claim that it doesn’t deserve. A hyperbolic claim is pure persuasion.

RHETORICAL DEVICES IV Defi nitions, explanations, analogies, and comparisons are all used in straight- forward ways most of the time. But, as we’ll see, they can also be used in rhe- torical fashion to slant a point one way or another.

Rhetorical Definitions and Rhetorical Explanations We encountered rhetorical (or persuasive) defi nitions in Chapter 3. “Real” defi nitions are primarily used to clarify meaning; rhetorical defi nitions use

On Language

Legislative Misnomers Several polls have reported that voters sometimes indicate approval of a measure when they hear its title but indicate disapproval after they’ve heard an explanation of what the measure actually proposes. This isn’t surprising, given the misleading proposal titles assigned by mem- bers of Congress and state legislatures, and by authors of ballot measures. Here are a few exam- ples of recent laws, initiatives, and so on, the names of which don’t exactly tell the whole story:

Healthy Forests Initiative (federal)—Reduces public involvement in decision making regarding logging, reduces environmental protection requirements, and provides timber companies greater access to national forests

Clear Skies Act (federal)—Loosens regulation of mercury, nitrous oxide, and sulphur diox- ide, and puts off required reductions of these substances for several years beyond the lim- its of the current Clean Air Act; allows companies to trade off “pollution credits” so that some communities would get cleaner air and others dirtier air

Limitations on Enforcement of Unfair Business Competition Laws (California)—Makes it impossible for consumer groups of all types to sue corporations and businesses to prevent fraud, false advertising, and other deceptions before they take place

Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (Arizona)—Requires law enforcement officers to determine immigration status of individuals whom they reason- ably suspect to be illegal aliens

Right to Work (many states)—Prevents unions from collecting fees from nonmembers of bargaining units

Prohibition of Discrimination and Preferential Treatment (California)—Weakens or elimi- nates affirmative action programs

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RHETORICAL DEVICES IV 159

emotively charged language to express or elicit an attitude about something. Defi ning abortion as “the murder of an unborn child” does this—and stacks the deck against those who think abortion is morally defensible. Likewise, “human being” could be restricted in its meaning to an organism to which a human gives birth. Under this defi nition, abortion could not be classifi ed as homicide.

In Chapter 3, we explained three forms defi nitions typically take. It’s worth noting here that even defi nitions by example can slant a discussion if the examples are prejudicially chosen. Defi ning “conservative” by pointing to a white supremacist would be a case in point. Bill Maher once defi ned a con- servative as one who thinks all problems can be solved by either more guns or more Jesus. If one wants to see all sides of an issue, one must avoid defi nitions and examples that slant a discussion.

Rhetorical explanations are the same kind of slanting device, this time clothed as explanations. “He lost the fi ght because he’s lost his nerve.” Is this different from saying that he lost because he was too cautious? Maybe, but maybe not. What isn’t in doubt is that the explanation is certainly more unfl attering when it’s put the former way.

We recently saw a good example of a rhetorical explanation in a letter to an editor:

I am a traditional liberal who keeps asking himself, why has there been such a seismic shift in affirmative action? It used to be affirmative action stood for equal opportunity; now it means preferences and quo- tas. Why the change? It’s because the people behind affirmative action aren’t for equal rights anymore; they’re for handouts.

This isn’t a dispassionate scholarly explanation but a way of expressing an opinion on, and trying to evoke anger at, affirmative action policies.

Rhetorical Analogies and Misleading Comparisons A while back, Robert Kittle, the editorial page editor of the San Diego Union- Tribune, referred to the Social Security system as a Ponzi scheme. (Ponzi schemes, named for Carlo Ponzi, who was responsible for some famous examples, are pyramid schemes designed to bilk money from people who fall for them; Ber- nie Madoff, who made off with $65 billion of other people’s money, is the most famous recent practitioner.) To compare the Social Security system to such a scheme is to make a rhetorical analogy —a comparison of two things or a likening of one thing to another in order to make one of them appear better or worse

■ Stereotypes. (DOONESBURY © G. B. Trudeau. Reprinted with permission of Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved.)

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160 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

than it might be. Now, people use analogies for various explanatory purposes; if a friend knows nothing of rugby, for instance, you might help him understand something about it by comparing it to football. In the foregoing case, how- ever, editor Kittle’s comparison was designed not to enlighten but to persuade. “Ponzi scheme” has a strong negative connotation, and calling something a Ponzi scheme portrays it in a bad light.

Rhetorical analogies are often used as a substitute for arguments, and it is easy to see why. Facts are required to show that Social Security is fi nancially unsustainable; it’s less work and possibly just as effective to call it a Ponzi scheme. This kind of persuasion often works very well, producing conviction in the listener without the necessity of proof.

Rhetorical analogies include both metaphors and similes. “Hillary’s eyes bulge just a little, like a Chihuahua’s” is a simile; “Jenna is a loose cannon” is a metaphor.

Rhetorical analogies also include comparisons. “You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than of winning the lottery.” Or Dave Barry’s description of parenthood: “Having kids is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain.” These are colorful ways of making a point, but of course they do not constitute reasons for accepting that point.

Some comparisons can be problematic, leading us into error if we’re not careful. Advertising slogans often use comparisons that can mislead us because of their vagueness. “Now 25 percent larger,” “New and improved for- mula,” or “Quietest by far.” We learned what problems vagueness can cause in the previous chapter; it returns to haunt these comparative claims. Larger than what? Improved how? Unless the terms of the comparison are spelled out and the manner of comparing made clear, such claims are worth very little. As we also saw in the previous chapter, claims made in advertising are not our most reliable sources of information, and that includes comparative claims.

Following are some questions that you would be wise to keep in mind when considering comparisons. They include reference to omissions and dis- tortions, which can be among the more subtle forms of rhetorical devices.

1. Is important information missing? It is nice to hear that the unemploy- ment rate has gone down, but not if you learn the reason is that a larger percent of the workforce has given up looking for work. Or, suppose someone says that 90 percent of heroin addicts once smoked marijuana. Without other information, the comparison is meaningless, since 90 percent of heroin addicts no doubt listened to the Beatles, too. Our local U.S. congressional representative Wally Herger recently warned his con- stituents that Social Security is in dire straits. At one time, he said, there were 42 workers to support a single retiree, and now there are only 3. This does indeed sound ominous, except Representative Herger didn’t mention that the 42-to-1 ratio was at the startup of Social Security before many had retired; he also failed to mention that the 3-to-1 ratio has been around for the past 25 years, during which period Social Security accumulated a surplus.*

2. Is the same standard of comparison used? Are the same reporting and recording practices being used? A change in the jobless rate doesn’t mean much if the government changes the way it calculates joblessness, as

* Statistics from our colleague, Professor (of American history) Carl Peterson.

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RHETORICAL DEVICES IV 161

In the Media

A Misleading Mathematical Visual Sometimes a straightforward mathematical comparison can become misleading by the way it’s presented. The bar graph below, from a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, compares Democrats, Republicans, and Independents with respect to their agreement with a court’s judgment that the feeding tube should be removed from Terri Schiavo, a case dis- cussed in the text, page 166. From a casual look at the bar graph, it might seem that Democrats are much more in favor of removing the tube than Republicans or Independents.

But look at the numbers rather than the bars themselves, and we get a different story. The first graph shows us only the parts of the bars, from 53 percent to 63 percent. If we display the entire bars, from 0 to 100 percent, the graph looks like this:

In this case, the Democrats look (correctly) to be only somewhat more in favor of removing the tube. The lesson here is to avoid drawing conclusions until you’ve had a close look at the data, including the manner in which it is displayed.

Comparison originally made by truthout.org.

63

55

57

59

61

54 53

56

58

60

62

Democrats

Question 2: Based on what you have heard or read about the case, do you agree with the court’s decision to have the feeding tube removed?

Republicans Independentsemocrats publicans ependent

62

CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll

Results by party

54 54

Sampling error: 1/27%

AgreeA

100

20

40

60

80

10

30

50

70

90

Democrats

Question 2: Based on what you have heard or read about the case, do you agree with the court’s decision to have the feeding tube removed?

Republicans IndependentsDe c ts epublicans dependents

62 54 54

Pe rc

en ta

ge w

ho a

gr ee

RESULTS BY PARTY: CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll Margin of error: 1/27%

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162 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

sometimes happens. In 1993, the number of people in the United States with AIDS suddenly increased dramatically. Had a new form of the AIDS virus appeared? No; the federal government had expanded the defi nition of AIDS to include several new indicator conditions. As a result, overnight 50,000 people were considered to have AIDS who had not been so consid- ered the day before.

3. Are the items comparable? It is hard to compare baseball sluggers Barry Bonds and Willie Mays if one but not the other used steroids, or if one had the benefi t of improved equipment. It’s hard to derive a conclusion from the fact that this April’s retail business activity is way down as com- pared with last April’s, if Easter came early this year and the weather was especially cold. That more male than female drivers are involved in traf- fi c fatalities doesn’t mean much by itself, since male drivers collectively drive more miles than do female drivers. Comparing share values of two mutual funds over the past ten years won’t be useful to an investor if the comparison doesn’t take into account a difference in fees.

4. Is the comparison expressed as an average? The average rainfall in Seattle is about the same as that in Kansas City. But you’ll spend more time in the rain in Seattle because it rains there twice as often as in Kansas City. If Central Valley Components, Inc. (CVC), reports that average salaries of a majority of its employees have more than doubled over the past ten years, it sounds good, but CVC still may not be a great place to work. Perhaps the increases were due to converting the majority of employees, who worked half-time, to full-time and fi ring the rest. Comparisons that involve averages omit details that can be important, simply because they involve averages.

Averages are measures of central tendency, and there are different kinds of measures or averages. Consider, for instance, the average cost of a new house in your area, which may be $210,000. If that is the mean, it is the total of the sales prices divided by the number of houses sold, and it may be quite different from the median, which is an average that is the halfway fi gure (half the houses cost more and half cost less). The mode, the most common sales price, may be different yet. If there are likely to be large or dramatic variations in what is measured, one must be cautious of fi gures that represent an unspecifi c “average.”

Never try to wade a river just because it has an average depth of four feet.

—M ARTIN F RIEDMAN

The wrong average can put you under.

In 2003, the administration proposed a tax cut that, it was said,would give the average taxpayer $1,083. The “average” here is the mean average. However, most taxpayers, according to the Urban Institute–Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, would have received less than $100 under the administra- tion’s proposal.

Misleading averages

Real Life

Cause for Alarm? According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, cocaine use among Americans twelve to seventeen years of age increased by a whopping 166 percent between 1992 and 1995. Wow, right?

Except that the increase in absolute terms was a little less spectacular: In 1992, 0.3 percent of Americans aged twelve to seventeen had used cocaine; in 1995, the percentage was 0.8 percent of that population.

Be wary of comparisons expressed as percentage changes.

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RHETORICAL DEVICES IV 163

Explain how rhetorical defi nitions, rhetorical comparisons, and rhetorical explanations differ. Find an example of each in a newspaper, magazine, or other source.

Critique these comparisons, using the questions about comparisons discussed in the text as guides.

Example

You get much better service on Air Atlantic.

Answer

Better than on what? (One term of the comparison is not clear.)

In what way better? (The claim is much too vague to be of much use.)

1. New improved Morning Muffins! Now with 20 percent more real dairy butter!

2. The average concert musician makes less than a plumber. 3. Major-league ballplayers are much better than they were thirty years ago. 4. What an arid place to live. Why, they had less rain here than in the desert.

Exercise 5-3

Exercise 5-4

In Depth

Visual Hyperbole, Ridicule, or Just Beefcake? Former Governor Schwarzenegger of California was the point of all manner of jokes, both verbal and visual. Most good satire and parody contain more than a kernel of truth. Schwarzenegger’s fame as a bodybuilder and later as the star of such action movies as the Termina- tor series helped him get elected and also have been the source of most of the humor about him. Here, he appears in his Conan the Barbarian gear, overseeing the settling of California by whites in the nineteenth cen- tury. We think the main point here is simply to show the governor without a shirt.

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164 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

5. On the whole, the mood of the country is more conservative than it was in the nineties.

6. Which is better for a person, coffee or tea? 7. The average GPA of graduating seniors at Georgia State is 3.25, as com-

pared with 2.75 twenty years ago. 8. Women can tolerate more pain than men. 9. Try Duraglow with new sunscreening polymers. Reduces the harmful

effect of sun on your car’s fi nish by up to 50 percent. 10. What a brilliant season! Attendance was up 25 percent over last year.

PROOF SURROGATES AND REPETITION These last two devices stand more or less alone; they don’t fi t comfortably into any of the other groups, so we’ve made a group of just the two of them.

Proof Surrogates An expression used to suggest that there is evidence or authority for a claim without actually citing such evidence or authority is a proof surrogate. Some- times we can’t prove the claim we’re asserting, but we can hint that there is proof available, or at least evidence or authority for the claim, without committing ourselves to what that proof, evidence, or authority is. Using “informed sources say” is a favorite way of making a claim seem more author- itative. Who are the sources? How do we know they’re informed? How does the person making the claim know they’re informed? “It’s obvious that” sometimes precedes a claim that isn’t obvious at all. But we may keep our objections to ourselves in the belief that it’s obvious to everybody but us, and we don’t want to appear denser than the next guy.

Proof surrogates are sometimes used as part of a more general scheme of insinuating one’s way into another’s confi dence. Most good salespersons know that if they can establish some common personal ground with a client, they are more likely to make a sale, and the same is true in general for trying to persuade one’s listeners that some claim is true. One way of making a per- sonal connection is by establishing, or insinuating, that one is part of the same group as one’s listeners. It’s “just us” instead of “us and them.” We generally feel more favorably toward members of groups to which we belong, and this “in-group” bias can help bring one’s listeners over to one’s side. It’s simply true that we tend to hold our comrades—members of our own group—to a lower standard of proof than we do outsiders.

Many proof surrogates play on this presumed in-group status. When someone says, “As we know . . . ,” to disagree is tantamount to admitting you are not among the in-group. Similarly, “As everybody knows . . . ,” threatens to put one who disagrees among the uninformed outsiders.

The preceding considerations are fairly subtle but often more effective than we might like to admit. Other proof surrogates are rather more blunt: “Studies show” crops up a lot in advertising. Note that this phrase tells us nothing about how many studies are involved, how good they are, who did them, or any other important information. Here’s a good example of a proof surrogate from the Wall Street Journal:

There is no other country in the Middle East except Israel that can be considered to have a stable government. . . . Is Saudi Arabia more stable? Egypt? Jordan? Kuwait? Judge for yourself!

—“Facts and Logic About the Middle East”

Proof surrogates often take the form of questions. This strategy can also be analyzed as switching the burden of proof (see Chapter 7).

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PROOF SURROGATES AND REPETITION 165

We hope politicians on this side of the border are paying close attention to Canada’s referendum on Quebec. . . .

Canadians turned out en masse to reject the referendum. There’s every reason to believe that voters in the U.S. are just as fed up with the social engineering that lumps people together as groups rather than treating them as individuals.

There may be “every reason to believe” that U.S. voters are fed up, but nobody has yet told us what any of those reasons are. Until we hear more evidence, our best bet is to fi gure that the quotation mainly refl ects what the writer at the Journal thinks is the proper attitude for U.S. voters. Without a context, such assertions are meaningless.

Remember: Proof surrogates are just that—surrogates. They are not real proof or evidence. Such proof or evidence may exist, but until it has been pre- sented, the claim at issue remains unsupported. At best, proof surrogates sug- gest sloppy research; at worst, they suggest propaganda.

Repetition

“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly—it must confi ne itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.” (Joseph Goebbles, Nazi Minister of Propaganda)

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” (Vladimir Lenin, Rus- sian revolutionary)

We don’t want to set Goebbles and Lenin up as models for critical think- ing, but we are forced to admit that both had huge success at convincing large numbers of people to believe what they wanted them to believe. And the technique of repetition, simply making the same point over and over at every opportunity, was a main tool in their various campaigns. Similarly, in adver- tising and in politics today the constant repetition of a theme seems eventu- ally to have a dulling effect on our critical faculties, and we can become lulled into believing something simply because we’ve become used to hearing it. A critical thinker needs to remember: it takes evidence and argument to provide believability; if a claim is not likely to be true on the fi rst hearing, simple rep- etition does not make it more likely on the hundredth.

Identify any rhetorical devices you fi nd in these passages that were described in the previous four sections of the text (ridicule/sarcasm, hyperbole, proof surrogates). Not every example may contain such a device.

1. Medical school, huh? Right. You and your fancy 2.9 grade point are going to get into a fi ne medical school all right.

2. Laboratory tests have shown that Cloyon produces a sweeter taste than any other artifi cial sweetener.

3. I’ll tell you, there’s never been anybody in the entire state of Florida as blitzed as Tom and I were last night.

4. Anybody who understands how alcohol works can tell you that three drinks is enough to make that guy seriously impaired.

Exercise 5-5

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166 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

5. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles chart, it takes only three drinks to impair somebody his size.

6. “Cable news has gone round the bend: The only thing you hear on Fox News is right-wing rants, and the only thing you hear on MSNBC are left-wing rants.”

7. That the president is a Marxist simply cannot be denied by any serious observer of contemporary politics.

8. In the 1988 U.S. presidential election, campaigners for Democrat Michael Dukakis took a photograph of Dukakis in an M1 Abrams Tank. The photo was supposed to shore up Dukakis’s credentials as strong on defense. Unfortunately, Dukakis had a silly grin and was wearing a helmet too large for his head, and the effect of the photograph was to make him appear diminutive and goofy. The photo was widely shown in the months preceding the election—but not by the Dukakis people. Instead, it was picked up and shown by his opponent, George H. W. Bush. After looking at the photo at the following link, state which technique was being used by the Bush campaign: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ File:Michael_Dukakis_in_tank.jpg>.

9. If you want to work your way up from being a hostess to being a server at The Cheesecake Factory, plan on it taking about a thousand years.

10. The proposal isn’t bad when you consider it comes from a group of knuckle-dragging morons.

PERSUASION USING VISUAL IMAGES

Before the digital age, it was much easier to take photographic evi- dence at face value. Even then, however, all kinds of things could be done to manipulate an image and a viewer’s perception of what was taking place. But some photos and videos do not need any manipulation at all to produce a mistaken impression in the viewer. You might recall that, in 2005, a Florida woman named Terri Schiavo became the center of a controversy regarding whether she was in a “persistent vegetative state” (PVS) and could ever be expected to regain consciousness, never mind recover. Videotape made by family members sometimes appeared to show her responding to the presence of her mother. Bill Frist, himself a heart surgeon and at that time majority leader of the U.S. Senate, saw the tape and claimed that Ms. Schiavo seemed to be responding to visual stimuli. Other doctors, including her own, said that the facial expressions some took as conscious response were often exhibited by those in a PVS and were not signs of awareness. After her death, an autopsy showed that Ms. Schiavo’s brain had shrunk to half its normal size, and what was left was severely damaged, including her visual cortex—she had been blind for some time before her death. The likelihood of her having anything like consciousness near the end was virtually a medical impossibility.

We describe this story to illustrate how a piece of videotape can be ambiguous—that is, it can be open to more than one interpretation. What app eared to be the case to some viewers turned out to be a mistaken impression—

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PERSUASION USING VISUAL IMAGES 167

leading them to make claims that turned out to be false. (Photos, videos, and other imagery technically cannot be true or false; but claims based on such imagery are true or false.)

As we said earlier, though, some people are not willing to let well enough alone. They perform image manipulations of various sorts to try to create mistaken impressions. Following is a list of tricks from the website <http:// schools.hpedsb.on.ca/sg/trenton/FakeImages/> .

FAKES AND MISLEADING IMAGES CAN BE THE RESULT OF . . .

* Deliberately manipulating an image (e.g., adding, deleting, combining)

* Using unaltered images but with misleading captions * Deliberately selected camera angles that distort information * Lack of authority (i.e., author name, credentials);

inconsistency when compared to official images * Stills taken from movies: out of context, they are given false

descriptions * Stills taken of models purported to be the real thing * Stills that are genuine and unadulterated but “staged” * 100% digital fabrications

In the Media

Now You See Him—Now You Don’t

Hu Jintao greets Deng Xiaoping in versions of the photo, from above clockwise, featuring a blurred audience, a dark background and with Jiang Zemin.

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168 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

In the Media

The Daschle Salute

This looks like a big-time “Oops!” moment for Tom Daschle, former majority leader in the U.S. Senate. In fact, as explained in the text, it is a clever attempt to influence opinion against Das- chle through photo manipulation.

The photos in the box “Now You See Him—Now You Don’t” on the previous page are from Hong Kong’s newspaper, The Standard, from Septem- ber 2, 2004. The original photo (lower right) showed China’s then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (in the gray jacket on the right) shaking hands with Hu Jintao (wearing the tie), who has been China’s president since 2003. The per- son between them in the original photo is former President Jiang Zemin. We don’t know what might have become of Jiang’s reputation (he continued in high office for some years after the photo was made), but his image suffered a disappearing act.

In the next box, “The Daschle Salute,” it looks as though Tom Daschle (the majority leader in the Senate at the time) doesn’t know how to salute the fl ag or doesn’t know his right hand from his left. In reality, he did it correctly, but someone reversed his image, fl ipping it right-to-left so that he appeared to be saluting with his left hand rather than his right. There are two clues to the doctoring that went on in this photo. It would take not just a critical thinker but a sharp eye to spot them. The fi rst is that Daschle is married and wears a wedding ring. If this were really his left hand, one would see his ring. The second clue is more convincing. It’s that his coat is buttoned backwards: Men’s clothing always has buttons on the right side of the garment, so it’s the left side that closes over the right. In the photo, the right side of Daschle’s jacket closes over the left, indicating that it isn’t just his hand that is on the wrong side, his clothing would have to be reversed, too!

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RECAP 169

In Depth

Don’t Get Carried Away! Once you’re familiar with the ways slanting devices are used to try to influence us, you may be tempted to dismiss a claim or argument just because it contains strongly slanted language. But true claims as well as false ones, good reasoning as well as bad, can be couched in such language. Remember that the slanting itself gives us no reason to accept a position on an issue; that doesn’t mean that there are no such reasons. Consider this example, written by someone opposed to using animals for laboratory research:

It’s morally wrong for a person to inflict awful pain on another sensitive creature, one that has done the first no harm. Therefore, the so-called scientists who perform their hideous and sadistic experiments on innocent animals are moral criminals just as were Hitler and his Nazi torturers.

Before we dismiss this passage as shrill or hysterical, it behooves us as critical thinkers to notice that it contains a piece of reasoning that may shed light on the issue.

We would not expect your typical newspaper reader or web surfer to be able to identify manipulated photos wherever they appear. We certainly couldn’t do it, and some images are so carefully done nobody could spot the problem with them.* So, what is a critically thinking person to do? It’s the same answer you’ve heard before in these pages: Be careful. Be aware that even though most people mean to be helpful and tell you what they actually believe, a substantial number of them are out to fool you.

*What appears to be a wonderful paint-job illusion on the truck pictured above is actually a Photoshopped illustration. You can see other examples of illustrations on the same truck at www.britannica.com/blogs/2009/02/ optical-illusion-of-the-day-truck-art/.

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170 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

Things to remember from this chapter: ■ Persuasion is the attempt to win someone to one’s own point of view. ■ Rhetoric seeks to persuade through the use of the emotive power of

language. ■ Although it can exert a profound psychological infl uence, rhetoric has no

logical force; only an argument has logical force—i.e., can prove or support a claim.

■ There are a multitude of rhetorical devices in common use; they include the following:

— Euphemisms: seek to mute the disagreeable aspects of something or to emphasize its agreeable aspects

— Dysphemisms: seek to emphasize the disagreeable aspects of something — Weaselers: words and phrases that protect a claim by weakening it — Downplayers: techniques for toning down the importance of something — Stereotypes: unwarranted and oversimplifi ed generalizations about the

members of a group or class — Innuendo: using words with neutral or positive associations to insinuate

something deprecatory — Loaded questions: questions that depend on unwarranted assumptions — Ridicule and sarcasm: widely used to put something in a bad light — Hyperbole: overdone exaggeration — Rhetorical defi nitions and explanations: used to create favorable or

unfavorable attitudes about something — Rhetorical analogies and misleading comparisons: these devices per-

suade by making inappropriate connections between terms. — Proof surrogates suggest there is evidence or authority for a claim

without actually saying what the evidence or authority is — Repetition: hearing or reading a claim over and over can sometimes

mistakenly encourage the belief that it is true

■ These devices can affect our thinking in subtle ways, even when we believe we are being objective.

■ Some of these devices, especially euphemisms and weaselers, have valu- able, nonprejudicial uses as well as a slanting one. Only if we are speak- ing, writing, listening, and reading carefully can we distinguish prejudicial uses of these devices.

■ Although photographs and other images are not claims or arguments, they can enter into critical thinking by offering evidence of the truth or falsity of claims. They can also affect us psychologically in a manner analogous to that by which the emotive meaning of language affects us, and often even more powerfully.

Recap

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EXERCISES 171

Exercise 5-6 You will want to recognize when someone is using rhetorical slanting devices to infl uence your attitudes and beliefs. Let’s see if you can identify some of the more common devices. Select the best answer.

1. “Making a former corporate CEO the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission is like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.” This is best seen as an example of a. rhetorical analogy b. rhetorical explanation c. innuendo d. dysphemism e. not a slanter

2. “Right. George Bush ‘won’ the election in 2000, didn’t he?” The use of quotation marks around “won” has the effect of a a. weaseler b. dysphemism c. downplayer d. rhetorical explanation e. not a slanter

3. “The obvious truth is that bilingual education has been a failure.” In this statement, “the obvious truth” might best be viewed as a. a proof surrogate b. a weaseler c. innuendo d. a dysphemism e. not a slanter

4. After George W. Bush announced he wanted to turn a substantial portion of the federal government operation over to private companies, Bobby L. Harnage Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said Bush had “declared all-out war on federal employees.” Would you say that the quoted passage is a. a rhetorical explanation b. a euphemism c. a weaseler d. hyperbole/a rhetorical analogy e. not a slanter

5. “Harry and his daughter had a little discussion about her outfi t . . . one that left her in tears.” a. a loaded question b. a euphemism c. both a and b d. neither a nor b

6. “Before any more of my tax dollars go to the military, I’d like answers to some questions, such as why are we spending billions of dollars on weap- ons programs that don’t work?” This statement contains an example of

Additional Exercises

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172 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

a. a downplayer b. a dysphemism c. a proof surrogate d. a loaded question e. hyperbole and a loaded question

7. “Can Governor Evans be believed when he says he will fi ght for the death penalty? You be the judge.” This statement contains a. a dysphemism b. a proof surrogate c. innuendo d. hyperbole e. no slanters

8. President Obama promised change, but he has continued to turn govern- ment operations over to private companies, especially in Iraq and Afghan- istan, just like his predecessor did. a. hyperbole b. a dysphemism c. a loaded question d. a proof surrogate e. no slanter

9. “Studies confi rm what everyone knows: smaller classes make kids better learners.”

—Bill Clinton

This statement contains: a. a proof surrogate b. a weaseler c. hyperbole d. an innuendo e. no slanter

10. man selling his car: “True, it has a few dents, but that’s just normal wear and tear.” This statement contains what might best be called

a. a loaded question b. innuendo c. a dysphemism d. a euphemism

Exercise 5-7 Determine which of the numbered, italicized words and phrases are used as rhetorical devices in the following passage. If the item fi ts one of the text’s categories of rhetorical devices, identify it as such.

The National Rifl e Association’s campaign to arm every man, woman, and child in America (1) received a setback when the president signed the Brady Bill. But the gun-pushers (2) know that the bill was only a small skirmish in a big war (3) over guns in America. They can give up some of their more fanatical (4) positions on such things as assault weapons (5)

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EXERCISES 173

and cop-killer bullets (6) and still win on the one that counts: regulation of manufacture and sale of handguns.

Exercise 5-8 Follow the directions for Exercise 5-7.

The big money guys (1) who have smuggled (2) the Rancho Vecino develop- ment onto the November ballot will stop at nothing to have this town run just exactly as they want. (3) It is possible (4) that Rancho Vecino will cause traffic congestion on the east side of town, and it’s perfectly clear that (5) the number of houses that will be built will overload the sewer system. But (6) a small number of individuals have taken up the fi ght. Can the developers be stopped in their desire to wreck our town? (7)

Exercise 5-9 Follow the directions for Exercise 5-7.

The U.S. Congress has cut off funds for the superconducting super- collider that the scientific establishment (1) wanted to build in Texas. The alleged (2) virtues of the supercollider proved no match for the huge (3) cost overruns (4) that had piled up like a mountain alongside a sea of red ink. (5) Despite original estimates of fi ve to six billion dollars, the latest fi gure was over eleven billion and growing faster than weeds. (6)

Exercise 5-10 Read the passage below and answer the questions that follow it. Your instruc- tor may have further directions.

Another quality that makes [Texas Republican Tom] DeLay an un- Texas pol is that he’s mean. By and large, Texas pols are an agreeable set of less-than-perfect humans and quite often well intentioned. As Carl Parker of Port Arthur used to observe, if you took all the fools out of the [legislature], it would not be a representative body any longer. The old sense of collegiality was strong, and vindictive behavior—punish- ing pols for partisan reasons—was simply not done. But those are Tom DeLay’s specialties, his trademarks. The Hammer is not only genuinely feared in Washington, he is, I’m sorry to say, hated.

—Excerpt from a column by Molly Ivins, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

1. What issue is the author addressing? 2. What position does the author take on that issue? 3. If the author supports this position with an argument, state that argument

in your own words. 4. Does the author use rhetorical devices discussed in this chapter? If so,

classify any that fall into the categories described in this chapter.

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174 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

Exercise 5-11 Follow the directions for Exercise 5-10, using the same list of questions.

Schools are not a microcosm of society, any more than an eye is a micro- cosm of the body. The eye is a specialized organ which does something that no other part of the body does. That is its whole signifi cance. You don’t use your eyes to lift packages or steer automobiles. Specialized organs have important things to do in their own specialties. So schools, which need to stick to their special work as well, should not become social or political gadfl ies.

—Thomas Sowell

Exercise 5-12 Follow the directions for Exercise 5-10, using the same list of questions.

Here is what I believe: The country has just witnessed an interlude of religious hysteria, encouraged and exploited by political quackery. The political cynicism of Republicans shocked the nation. But even more alarming is the enthusiasm of self-described “pro-life” forces for using the power of the state to impose their obtuse moral distinctions on the rest of us. The Catholic Church and many Protestant evangelicals are acting as partisan political players in a very dangerous manner. Once they have mobilized zealots to their moral causes, they can expect oth- ers to fi ght back in the same blind, intolerant manner.

—William Greider, “Pro-Death Politics,” the Nation, April 2, 2005

Exercise 5-13 Follow the directions for Exercise 5-10, using the same list of questions.

Asked whether he would be resigning, [U.N. Secretary General Kofi ] Annan replied, “Hell, no. I’ve got lots of work to do, and I’m going to go ahead and do it.” That’s doubtful. His term is up at the end of 2006, and few—after the mess he’s caused—take him seriously. He may have a lot of “work” he’d like to do, but he won’t be permitted to do it. All around Annan is the wreckage of the U.N.’s spirit of high-level cronyism.

—Editorial in the National Review Online, April 1, 2005

Exercise 5-14 Follow the directions for Exercise 5-10, using the same list of questions.

“It is not the job of the state, and it is certainly not the job of the school, to tell parents when to put their children to bed,” declared David Hart of the National Association of Head Teachers, responding to David Blunkett’s idea that parents and teachers should draw up “contracts”

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EXERCISES 175

(which you could be fi ned for breaching) about their children’s behav- ior, time-keeping, homework and bedtime. Teachers are apparently concerned that their fi ve-to-eight-year-old charges are staying up too late and becoming listless truants the next day.

While I sympathize with Mr. Hart’s concern about this neo-Stalinist nannying, I wonder whether it goes far enough. Is it not high time that such concepts as Bathtime, Storytime and Drinks of Water were subject to regulation as well? I for one would value some governmental guid- ance as to the number of humorous swimming toys (especially Hungry Hippo) allowable per gallon of water. Adopting silly voices while read- ing Spot’s Birthday or Little Rabbit Foo-Foo aloud is something cry- ing out for regulatory guidelines, while the right of children to demand and receive wholly unnecessary glasses of liquid after lights-out needs a Statutory Minimum Allowance.

—John Walsh, the Independent

Exercise 5-15 Choose which answer is best from among the alternatives provided.

1. “Yes, there may be instances of abuse connected with the new immigra- tion law. But on the whole it will help Arizona deal with a serious prob- lem.” This contains: a. a downplayer b. a proof surrogate c. hyperbole

2. “Liberals need to understand the global health argument for abortion is deeply offensive. It is like fi ghting disease by killing everyone who has a disease.” This contains: a. a euphemism b. a dysphemism c. a rhetorical defi nition d. none of the above

3. “Why does Senator Schmidt collect child pornography? Only the Senator can answer that.” This contains: a. a loaded question b. a euphemism c. a dysphemism d. none of the above

4. “Does Senator Schmidt collect child pornography? Only the Senator can answer that.” This contains: a. innuendo b. a downplayer c. a euphemism d. a stereotype

5. “Better lock up your whisky before Patrick gets here. Didn’t you know he is Irish?” This contains: a. a loaded question

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176 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

b. a rhetorical defi nition c. a stereotype d. a euphemism. e. none of the above

6. “Ecology? I will tell you what ecology is. Ecology is the Marxist ‘science’ that tries to shove bogus facts about global warming down everyone’s throat.” This contains: a. a rhetorical defi nition b. a rhetorical explanation c. a rhetorical analogy

7. “Ecology? I will tell you what ecology is. Ecology is the Marxist ‘science’ that tries to shove bogus facts about global warming down everyone’s throat.” The quotation marks around “science” are a. hyperbole b. a proof surrogate c. a downplayer d. a stereotype

8. “Ecology? I will tell you what ecology is. Ecology is the Marxist ‘science’ that tries to shove bogus facts about global warming down everyone’s throat.” “Marxist” and “bogus” are a. proof surrogates b. euphemisms c. hyperbole d. rhetorical comparisons e. none of these

9. “The reason Republicans oppose health care is they don’t care about anyone except their friends in the insurance industry.” “Don’t care about anyone except” is a. a rhetorical defi nition b. a rhetorical explanation c. a rhetorical analogy d. none of these

10. “Rush Limbaugh doesn’t make things up? C’mon, you know as well as I do he makes things up.” This contains: a. a stereotype b. hyperbole c. ridicule d. a proof surrogate

Exercise 5-16 Identify any rhetorical devices you fi nd in the following selections, and clas- sify those that fi t the categories described in the text. For each, explain its function in the passage.

1. I trust you have seen Janet’s fi le and have noticed the “university” she graduated from.

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EXERCISES 177

2. The original goal of the Milosevic government in Belgrade was ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

3. Obamacare: The compassion of the IRS and the efficiency of the post office, all at Pentagon prices.

4. Although it has always had a bad name in the United States, socialism is nothing more or less than democracy in the realm of economics.

5. We’ll have to work harder to get Representative Burger reelected because of his little run-in with the law.

6. It’s fair to say that, compared with most people his age, Mr. Beechler is pretty much bald.

7. During World War II, the U.S. government resettled many people of Japanese ancestry in internment camps.

8. “Overall, I think the gaming industry would be a good thing for our state.” —From a letter to the editor, Plains Weekly Record

9. Capitalism, after all, is nothing more or less than freedom in the realm of economics.

10. I’ll tell you what capitalism is: Capitalism is Charlie Manson sitting in Folsom Prison for all those murders and still making a bunch of bucks off T-shirts.

11. Clearly, Antonin Scalia is the most corrupt Supreme Court justice in the history of the country.

12. If MaxiMotors gave you a good price on that car, you can bet there’s only one reason they did it: It’s a piece of serious junk.

13. It may well be that many faculty members deserve some sort of pay increase. Nevertheless, it is clearly true that others are already amply compensated.

14. “The only people without [cable or satellite TV] are Luddites and people too old to appreciate it.”

—Todd Mitchell, industry analyst

15. I love some of the bulleting and indenting features of Microsoft Word. I think it would have been a nice feature, however, if they had made it easy to turn some of them off when you don’t need them.

Exercise 5-17 Identify any rhetorical devices you fi nd in the following passage, and classify any that fi t into the categories described in this chapter.

On March 11, the U.S. Senate passed the bankruptcy bill that will fi ll the coffers of the credit card companies while bleeding consumers dry.

The bill passed by a whopping 74 to 25 margin, with eighteen Demo- cratic Senators going over to the dark side.

Here are the spineless 18: [There follows a list of senators.] “This is not where we as Democrats ought to be, for crying out

loud,” as Senator Tom Harkin noted. “We are making a terrible mistake

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178 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

by thinking that we can have it both ways. We have to remember where our base is.”

This bill is a fantasy come true for credit card companies, which have been pushing it for years. But it’s not as though they’re suffering. The made $30 billion in profi ts last year.

The bill severely limits the ability of consumers to wipe away some of their debts and get a fresh start.

Half the people who fi le for bankruptcy do so because of sky-high medical bills, and another 40 percent do so because of disability, job loss, family death, or divorce, according to the National Consumer Law Center. If you make more than the median income in your state, no matter how high your bills are, you can’t wipe the debts clean.

As a result, debtors will be at much greater risk of losing their cars or their homes.

And even if your debts are the consequence of identity theft, of someone stealing your credit card and running up charges, you still are on the hook for them, as the Senate amazingly voted down an amend- ment to shelter victims of identity theft.

—Matthew Rothschild, “Democratic Senators Cave on Bankruptcy Bill,” The Progressive, March 12, 2005

Exercise 5-18 Identify any rhetorical devices you fi nd in the following passages, and explain their purposes. Note: Some items may contain no rhetorical devices.

1. “If the United States is to meet the technological challenge posed by Japan, Inc., we must rethink the way we do everything from design to manufacture to education to employee relations.”

— Harper’s

2. According to UNICEF reports, several thousand Iraqi children died each month because of the U.N. sanctions.

3. Maybe Professor Daguerre’s research hasn’t appeared in the fi rst-class journals as recently as that of some of the other professors in his depart- ment; that doesn’t necessarily mean his work is going downhill. He’s still a terrifi c teacher, if the students I’ve talked to are to be believed.

4. “Let’s put it this way: People who make contributions to my campaign fund get access. But there’s nothing wrong with constituents having access to their representatives, is there?”

— Loosely paraphrased from an interview with a California state senator

5. In the 2000 presidential debates, Al Gore consistently referred to his own tax proposal as a “tax plan” and to George W. Bush’s tax proposal as a “tax scheme.”

6. [ Note: Dr. Jack Kevorkian was instrumental in assisting a number of ter- minally ill people in committing suicide during the 1990s.] “We’re open- ing the door to Pandora’s Box if we claim that doctors can decide if it’s

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EXERCISES 179

proper for someone to die. We can’t have Kevorkians running wild, deal- ing death to people.”

—Larry Bunting, assistant prosecutor, Oakland County, Michigan

7. “LOS ANGELES—Marriott Corp. struck out with patriotic food work- ers at Dodger Stadium when the concession-holder ordered them to keep working instead of standing respectfully during the National Anthem. . . . Concession stand manager Nick Kavadas . . . immediately objected to a Marriott representative.

“Marriott subsequently issued a second memo on the policy. It read: ‘Stop all activities while the National Anthem is being played.’

“Mel Clemens, Marriott’s general manager at the stadium, said the second memo clarifi ed the fi rst memo.”

—Associated Press

8. These so-called forfeiture laws are a serious abridgment of a person’s constitutional rights. In some states, district attorneys’ offices have only to claim that a person has committed a drug-related crime to seize the person’s assets. So fat-cat DAs can get rich without ever getting around to proving that anybody is guilty of a crime.

9. “A few years ago, the defi cit got so horrendous that even Congress was embarrassed. Faced with this problem, the lawmakers did what they do best. They passed another law.”

—Abe Mellinkoff, in the San Francisco Chronicle

10. “[U]mpires are baseball’s designated grown-ups and, like air-traffic con- trollers, are paid to handle pressure.”

—George Will

11. “Last season should have made it clear to the moguls of baseball that something still isn’t right with the game—something that transcends residual fan anger from the players’ strike. Abundant evidence suggests that baseball still has a long way to go.”

—Stedman Graham, Inside Sports

12. “As you know, resolutions [in the California State Assembly] are about as meaningful as getting a Publishers’ Clearinghouse letter saying you’re a winner.”

—Greg Lucas, in the San Francisco Chronicle

13. The entire gain in the stock market in the fi rst four months of the year was due to a mere fi fty stocks.

14. Thinkers who entertain the possibility that there are lots of universes have invented a new term for the entire ensemble: “the multiverse.” Why believe in the multiverse? The “pro” camp has essentially two kinds of arguments.

—Jim Holt, Slate online magazine

15. “[Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia’s ideology is a bald and naked concept called ‘Majoritarianism.’ Only the rights of the majority are protected.”

—Letter to the editor of the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune

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180 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

16. “Mimi Rumpp stopped praying for a winning lottery ticket years ago. . . . But after a doctor told her sister Miki last year that she needed a kidney transplant, the family began praying for a donor. . . . Less than a year later, Miki has a new kidney, courtesy of a bank teller in Napa, Calif., to whom she had told her story. The teller was the donor; she was so moved by Miki’s plight she had herself tested and discovered she was a perfect match. Coincidence? Luck? Divine intervention? Rumpp is sure: ‘It was a miracle.’ ”

—Newsweek

17. “We are about to witness an orgy of self-congratulation as the self- appointed environmental experts come out of their yurts, teepees, and grant-maintained academic groves to lecture us over the impending doom of the planet and agree with each other about how it is evil humanity and greedy ‘big business’ that is responsible for it all.”

—Tim Worstall, in New Times

18. “In the 1980s, Central America was awash in violence. Tens of thousands of people fl ed El Salvador and Guatemala as authoritarian governments seeking to stamp out leftist rebels turned to widespread arrests and death squads.”

—USA Today

Exercise 5-19 Discuss the following stereotypes in class. Do they invoke the same kind of images for everyone? Which are negative and which are positive? How do you think they came to be stereotypes? Is there any “truth” behind them?

1. soccer mom 9. computer nerd 2. Religious Right 10. Tea Partier 3. dumb blonde 11. interior decorator 4. tax-and-spend liberal 12. Washington insider 5. homosexual agenda 13. Earth mother 6. redneck 14. frat rat 7. radical feminist 15. Deadhead 8. contented housewife 16. trailer trash

Exercise 5-20 Your instructor will give you three minutes to write down as many positive and negative stereotypes as you can. Are there more positive stereotypes on your list or more negative ones? Why do you suppose that is?

Exercise 5-21 Write two brief paragraphs describing the same person, event, or situation— that is, both paragraphs should have the same informative content. The fi rst paragraph should be written in a purely informative way, using language that

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EXERCISES 181

is as neutral as possible; the second paragraph should be slanted as much as possible either positively or negatively (your choice).

Exercise 5-22 Explain the difference between a weaseler and a downplayer. Find a clear example of each in a newspaper, magazine, or other source. Next fi nd an exam- ple of a phrase that is sometimes used as a weaseler or downplayer but that is used appropriately or neutrally in the context of your example.

Exercise 5-23 Critique these comparisons, using the questions discussed in the text as guides.

1. You’ve got to be kidding. Paltrow is much superior to Blanchett as an actor.

2. Blondes have more fun. 3. The average chimp is smarter than the average monkey. 4. The average grade given by Professor Smith is a C. So is the average grade

given by Professor Algers. 5. Crime is on the increase. It’s up by 160 percent over last year. 6. Classical musicians, on the average, are far more talented than rock

musicians. 7. Long-distance swimming requires much more endurance than long-

distance running. 8. “During the monitoring period, the amount of profanity on the networks

increased by 45–47 percent over a comparable period from the preceding year. A clear trend toward hard profanity is evident.”

—Don Wildmon, founder of the National Federation for Decency

9. “Organizations such as EMILY’s List and the Women’s Campaign Fund encourage thousands of small contributors to participate, helping to offset the economic power of the special interests. The political system works better when individuals are encouraged to give to campaigns.”

—Adapted from the Los Angeles Times

10. Which is more popular, the movie Gone With the Wind or Bing Crosby’s version of the song “White Christmas”?

Exercise 5-24 In groups, or individually if your instructor prefers, critique these compari- sons, using the questions discussed in the text as guides.

1. If you worry about the stock market, you have reason. The average stock now has a price-to-earnings ratio of around 25:1.

2. Students are much less motivated than they were when I fi rst began teaching at this university.

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182 CHAPTER 5: PERSUASION THROUGH RHETORIC

3. Offhand, I would say the country is considerably more religious than it was twenty years ago.

4. In addition, for the fi rst time since 1960, a majority of Americans now attend church regularly.

5. You really should switch to a high-fi ber diet. 6. Hire Ricardo. He’s more knowledgeable than Annette. 7. Why did I give you a lower grade than your roommate? Her paper con-

tained more insights than yours, that’s why. 8. Golf is a considerably more demanding sport than tennis. 9. Yes, our prices are higher than they were last year, but you get more

value for your dollar. 10. So, tell me, which do you like more, fried chicken or Volkswagens?

Exercise 5-25 Individually or in a group effort, fi nd a YouTube commentary that makes use of a selection of rhetorical devices. Identify as many as you can and compare your analysis with those of your classmates.

Exercise 5-26 Look through an issue of Time, Newsweek, or another newsmagazine, and fi nd a photograph that portrays its subject in an especially good or bad light— that is, one that does a nonverbal job of creating slant regarding the subject.

Exercise 5-27 In groups, write captions that seem to fi t the photo on page 155. Discussion should be about which caption fi ts best and why.

Exercise 5-28 After removing the slanting devices, diagram the argument in the box on page 169.

Writing Exercises 1. The illustration on the next page is for an article on banks and bankers

in Rolling Stone Magazine online. After seeing the illustration but before reading the article, how sympathetic to bankers would you expect it to be? Try to come up with a couple of sentences that you think the image illustrates—you’ll probably need some forceful language.

2. Your instructor will select an essay from those in Appendix 1 and ask you to identify as many rhetorical devices as you can fi nd. (Your instructor may narrow the scope of the assignment to just certain paragraphs.)

3. Over the past decade, reportedly more than 2,000 illegal immigrants have died trying to cross the border into the southwestern United States. Many deaths have resulted from dehydration in the desert heat and from freezing to death on cold winter nights. A San Diego–based nonprofi t

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EXERCISES 183

humanitarian organization now leaves blankets, clothes, and water at stations throughout the desert and mountain regions for the immigrants. Should the organization do this? Its members say they are providing sim- ple humanitarian aid, but critics accuse them of encouraging illegal activ- ity. Take a stand on the issue and defend your position in writing. Then identify each rhetorical device you used.

4. Until recently, tiny Stratton, Ohio, had an ordinance requiring all door- to-door “canvassers” to obtain a permit from the mayor. Presumably, the ordinance was intended to protect the many senior citizens of the town from harm by criminals who might try to gain entry by claiming to be conducting a survey. The ordinance was attacked by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who thought it violated their First Amendment right to free speech. The Supreme Court agreed and struck down the law in 2002. Should it have? Defend your position in a brief essay without using rheto- ric. Alternatively, defend your position and use rhetorical devices, but identify each device you use.

moo38286_ch05_146-183.indd 183 12/9/10 2:54 PM

 

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