In other words, whatever the statement is, the amateur critic believes it to be simply empty or evasive language. And perhaps it is. So is it rhetoric? Certainly. Every human utterance is rhetoric because, from my particular theoretical perspective, all human utterances are speech-acts meant to persuade. In an academic, non-pejorative sense, rhetoric is the effective use of language. Effective to what end? There are lots of answers to that question, and you now know mine: persuasion. The quality of a rhetorical performance can be anything from sublime to insipid, but what is most important is to decide if rhetoric is working to persuade and, if it is, how it is working to persuade.
The Rhetorica Network, including my Rhetorica: Press-Politics Journal web log, is my attempt to explain the persuasive tactics of politics and the press.
I am particularly interested in the office of the President of the United States. I say "office" because the presidency is more than one person; it is many voices that speak through one person in an attempt to create a unified political agent we call the president. President George W. Bush speaks as the president, but his words are crafted for him by speech writers and edited for style and political content by political aides. The voice we come to know as that of George W. Bush is actually a complex amalgam, although Bush is ultimately politically responsible for these words and this voice.
The press, however, is often thought of as a unified voice with a distinct bias (right or left depending on the critic). This simplistic thinking fits the needs of ideological struggle, but is hardly useful in coming to a better understanding of what is happening in the world. I believe journalism is an under-theorized practice. In other words, journalists often do what they do without reflecting upon the meaning of the premises and assumptions that support their practice. I say this as a former journalist. I think we may begin to reflect upon journalistic practice by noticing that the press applies a narrative structure to ambiguous events in order to create a coherent and causal sense of events. Rhetoric is the engine of this project.
As I learned early in my journalistic career before becoming an academic, there is no such thing as an objective point of view. And the ideal of fairness is almost as elusive. But I will always attempt to be fair according to standards that I will try to make plain. I will try to reveal my biases when I think they intrude on my critiques.
My credentials? I am, as I indicated above, a former journalist. I am an associate professor of journalism at Missouri State University. I earned my Ph.D. in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City; my fields are rhetoric and political science.
I hope you find the information on The Rhetorica Network useful.
Andrew R. Cline, Ph.D.