September 19, 2013

Stenography v. Journalism: Game Over

The game has been over for a very long time. The stadium lights are out. The crowd has gone home. Even the cleaning crew has finished mopping up the mess.

Stenography won.

Reporting lost.

I’ve written about this so many times before. I’m not even sure why I’m bothering to mention the latest in post-game commentary by one of the games greatest television stenographers: Chuck Todd.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

March 22, 2013

Rhetoric And The War Ten Years On

I had to go back and read what I had written ten years ago at the beginning of the war with Iraq.

If you had asked me just a day ago what my position on the war was at the time, I would have told you that I was against it, largely because I did not think a case had made on anything more than emotions. I was also wondering how the whole “keep spending while we cut taxes” thing was going to work.

Few of my concerns showed up on Rhetorica. I was too busy doing my rhetorical analysis thing. A post I wrote on 3 February 2003 — Making A Case For War — was typical. I was continuing to respond to the State of the Union address and various criticisms of it. At the time I wrote:

Should we be fired up for war? Should we fight Iraq? I do not know. I leave such questions to the war bloggers. My interest in this is the rhetoric of war as it appears in the Bush 2003 SOTU [broken link]. If his goal is to prepare us for war, if his goal is to persuade us that war is right, then he is doing the time-honored thing to make that case: appealing to our emotions.

But part of what I was doing in this post was wondering about what kind of appeal the American public really wanted — not that such a thing is easy to determine. Here’s how I concluded:

The thinking seems to be–and I agree–that Bush needed to use facts to outline his argument for war. If this sentiment is indeed pervasive, it may indicate an as yet unarticulated rejection of war. If no facts are forthcoming, then all that’s left are emotional appeals. And if we are crying for facts, then we may be crying for peace.

And that, Rhetorica readers, is about as close as I came to taking a stand on one of the most important issues of the 21st century.

While it has never been difficult to determine my politics — I have been transparent about it in various ways — it was a rare thing for me to make political stands in the course of examining and criticizing the rhetoric of the press-politics relationship. The name of this blog used to be Press-Politics Journal, not The Doom Files.

Much has changed in ten years.

Many people are revisiting their relationship to the start of war recently given the grim anniversary of our unprovoked attack on Iraq. I was alerted to Peggy Noonan’s retrospective by a tweet from Jay Rosen:

She laments the damage done to the Republican Party by our rush to war. I think she may be right.

What we’re reading here is simply more shallow punditry — one of the primary currencies of the  rhetoric of a failing culture. Compared to damage done to our state, our nation, and our economy, the damage done to any particular political party is nothing. She pays only the slightest of lip service to the damage done to all of us as she pretends to be offering cogent commentary about politics. I’m reminded of fiddles and burning cities.

Given the damage, I think all of us who spoke publicly — journalists, bloggers, pundits, politicians – about the run-up to war owe our society an apology to the extent that we did not deal in facts and reality as we allowed ourselves to be swept along by emotion. Many of us on the left and right allowed ourselves to be cowed by those who questioned the patriotism of anyone with the nerve to ask tough questions or point out inconvenient facts. We over-reacted to 9/11. We attacked a country without provocation. We tortured people. We killed so many that the count may never be known. We destroyed our reputation in the world. We ruined our economy.

I am sorry.

I wrote about rhetoric — certainly a worthy project. But I did not say enough about what I think the rhetoric really indicated.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

November 5, 2012

Re-elect Obama

This is a Rhetorica first — my endorsement of a presidential candidate.

With the new focus of this blog on the rhetoric of a failing culture, I no longer feel the need to avoid dealing openly (although I have always been transparent) with my political desires. I still intend to adhere to the promises I’ve made in my blogging policy. You’ll get the best analysis I am able to muster, but I no longer feel the need to act as if it doesn’t matter to me what the political outcomes are.

I am writing about doom, but I am also fighting it.

I am not necessarily happy about voting for President Obama. I am a liberal. He is not — clearly not. I wanted Guantanamo Bay closed. I wanted a credible, single-payer health care system. I wanted Wall Street held accountable for its behavior. I wanted the rich among us — including my family — to pay more taxes. I wanted out of these two disastrous wars. I wanted real movement on the environment, sustainability, and climate change.

Mitt Romney is not a choice. A credible Green Party candidate might be. But given the realities of this election cycle, I’ll cast a vote for President Obama and then hope that, given the freedom of a lame-duck term, he’ll wake up and do the hopey-changey thing.

Technorati Tags: , ,

October 24, 2012

Call His Bluff

The President could have some fun with this. So I think he ought to do it — not because Trump has any ground to stand on, but because it would be funny to watch Trump try to wiggle out of giving $5 million to charity :-)

Technorati Tags: , ,

October 8, 2012

How Things Work

Aristotle pointed it out oh so many years ago: Humans are moved by emotion more than logic or facts. So using pathos as your primary appeal is an entirely legitimate rhetorical strategy. But pathos does not give one ethical permission to take a Machiavellian route to one’s political ends. For example:

Leading the charge of what were quickly dubbed the “B.L.S. truthers” was none other than Jack Welch, the former chairman of General Electric, who posted an assertion on Twitter that the books had been cooked to help President Obama’s re-election campaign. His claim was quickly picked up by right-wing pundits and media personalities.

It was nonsense, of course. Job numbers are prepared by professional civil servants, at an agency that currently hasno political appointees. But then maybe Mr. Welch — under whose leadership G.E. reported remarkably smooth earnings growth, with none of the short-term fluctuations you might have expected (fluctuations that reappeared under his successor) — doesn’t know how hard it would be to cook the jobs data.

Pointing out that this is nonsense is, of course, a form of nonsense in itself given human nature cited above. But it’s a form of nonsense I’ve engaged in myself and will continue to engage in until the end of civilization — sometime around 2020 I think.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

September 14, 2012

Rhetoric of the Post-Fact World

This will be a short post because there’s really not much to analyze. In a post-fact world, argument can be as simple as crossing your arms and refusing to budge after making a post-fact claim. One can also stick one’s fingers in one’s ears and screech “I don’t hear you” a dozen times, but that doesn’t play well on TV.

So, yeah, there’s just not enough evidence of President Obama’s natural-born-citizeniness to suit three “top elected Republicans” in Kansas:

The State Objections Board comprised of Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer postponed until Monday action on a complaint filed by a Manhattan resident pending review of a copy of Obama’s birth certificate from Hawaii.

“I don’t think it’s a frivolous objection,” Kobach said. “I do think the factual record could be supplemented.”

Requests were to be sent to officials in Hawaii, Arizona and Mississippi in an attempt to secure copies of the president’s birth records. Obama released a copy of his birth certificate last year, but detractors persist in advancing “birther” arguments that the Democrat lacked standing.

In a culture in which facts have meaning as facts, because, well, they’re facts, this kind of nonsense would be hooted off the civic stage by the people and the press.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

September 6, 2012

When Nazi Rhetoric Is OK

So here’s what South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said about South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley:

Harpootlian made the comments in question in addressing Haley holding apress conference in a basement studio at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C. amid the Democratic National Convention.

“She was down in the bunker a la Eva Braun,” Harpootlian said, according to The State.

I think we’d all be better off if we let the conservatives own the Nazi invective (or their singular, and idiotic, combination of Nazi-socialist invective re: Obama). We’d be better off because such language would be easier to isolate and hoot off the civic stage if only one side were doing it. When everyone does it, well, it starts to sound normal.

Comparisons to Nazis — and any allusion to anything Nazi equals a comparison — is only appropriate if the person in question is 1) a fascist, and 2) engaged in an active program of ethic marginalization or cleansing. If those two things do not obtain, then using any kind of Nazi rhetoric ought to be out of bounds.

Haley may be a lot of things, but a Nazi is not one of them. Nothing she does is remotely Nazi like.

So shut up.

Technorati Tags: ,

August 22, 2012

The Whites Of Their Eyes

Apparently mental health funding has been cut in Texas.

Tom Head, a county judge in Lubbock, Texas, plunged far out into the periphery of anti-President Barack Obama conspiracy theories on Monday, pushing a particularly outrageous one as justification for a tax increase in the county.

Head told FOX34 that Lubbock’s law enforcement needed extra tax dollars in order to be prepared for a full-scale uprising, which he said could be a byproduct of Obama’s reelection. According to Head, the president is seeking to sign a variety of United Nations treaties that will effectively take precedent over domestic law.

“He’s going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N., and what is going to happen when that happens?” Head asked. “I’m thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we’re not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we’re talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.”

Technorati Tags: ,

August 20, 2012

The Whole Mainstream Thing

All it takes for dangerous nonsense to become normal is for people to spout dangerous nonsense as if it were normal.

monthly newsletter published by the Greene County Republican Committee in Virginia is raising eyebrows for including a column in its March edition that calls for an “armed revolution” if President Barack Obama is elected to a second term in November.

Among articles denouncing a University of Virginia initiative to implement a living wage for employees of the institution, questioning if Obama is “America’s Most Biblically-Hostile U. S. President?” and an op-ed slamming the GOP establishment with generous use of capital letters, RightWingWatch picks out a column from the newsletter’s editor, Ponch McPhee.

In it, McPhee urges readers to encourage other conservatives to vote in November. He goes on to warn that the consequences of not defeating Obama, a so-called “ideologue unlike anything world history has ever witnessed or recognized,” would be dire.

“[W]e shall not have any coarse [sic] but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November,” McPhee writes. “This Republic cannot survive for 4 more years underneath this political socialist ideologue.”

Technorati Tags:

August 8, 2012

Nothing Better To Do?

How to waste time and marginalize yourself as an opinion journalist:

I have news to report: Rush Limbaugh has finally had it with me. He has decided that I’m rooting for America’s decline and that I’m a part of President Barack Obama’s “crop of Democrats.”

None of that is true, but it’s worth recounting how Rush and I got to this point. It is a small but instructive tale about today’s ferociously accusatory political culture.

Once upon a time, we debated.

Now we tweet and rant in a world of sound bites and the sound-bitten.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

← Previous Posts