August 31, 2002

Reading from the past on 9/11…

Andrei Cherny suggests that, in addition to reading from revered historic documents on the 9/11 anniversary, politicians find their own words to mark the day and rally the nation. Why can’t New York Gov. George Pataki (who will recite Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address), or New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (who will read from the Declaration of Independence), or New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who will recount Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms) deliver a message for ages–one that will stand with the best of Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt? I think one answer to that question is this: We the people have low expectations of our leaders partially created by a media environment that treats leaders as schemers rather than public servants with honorable motives.

August 30, 2002

Slouching Towards 9/11…

Slouching Towards 9/11 Frank Rich’s sprawling article takes on the 9/11 anniversary, including this:

“But here is one way America has not changed. Our history still repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce, but most of all as entertainment, with a full line of merchandise and an undertow of nostalgia. Only the time frame has been compressed. In merely a year, “Let’s Roll!” has gone from being a hero’s brave cry to a Neil Young song to the Florida State football team’s official slogan to a T-shirt to No. 1 on next week’s Times best-seller list. This is all reassuring. If the terrorists’ aim was in part to wreck America’s premier export

August 30, 2002

Poll shows free speech support down…

This AP article reports that support for free speech and other First Amendment rights is down.

UPDATE: Here’s a report, funded by the Freedom Forum, on the state of the First Amendment. (via InstaPundit)

August 30, 2002

Simply outrageous…

I once accused Neil Postman of plagiarism after I showed the movie Network (1976) to my sophomore rhetoric class. I was kidding, but the point was to highlight that much of what Postman criticizes about television in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death (1986) may be found in the movie. One of my students wagged his finger at the screen and said: “All that stuff’s come true.” Or most of it, anyway.

Two of Postman’s points that I’ve employed to good effect are: Television is worst when it’s trying to be good; and, The trash on TV won’t hurt you because it’s not asking you to think.

CBS has now sunk so low that both of these points are now invalid. I refer to the proposed show The Real Beverly Hillbillies. Rod Dreher writes with moral outrage about it for The National Review. While I am uncomfortable with the parts of his argument that deal with race, I think he makes an effective case for saying to CBS: I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!

August 30, 2002

Elite versus homespun media…

About an editorial in the Indianapolis Star–“Get the Facts Before Attacking Iraq”–William Powers writes:

“The entire piece had an evenhandedness that’s rare in top media circles, where savvy players know to trim their arguments in one ideological direction or the other — otherwise you lack a certain edge.”

Powers argues that discussions of civic importance get a fairer and fuller consideration in the media hinterlands than in Washington D.C. or New York where “every national argument inevitably devolves into a game in which the players try to maximize their own visibility and perceived influence over events.” Interesting read. (via MediaMinded)

August 30, 2002

Paying for punditry in the blogosphere…

I do not have a “tip jar” on this blog. You’ve seen them elsewhere–buttons to PayPal or Amazon.com that allow you to donate to your favorite bloggers. I commend those of you who donate; it is a civilized gesture in an often uncivilized medium. I set up a tip jar through PayPal many weeks ago. I have not activated it. I will not activate it. I make no value judgment on accepting pay or tips. It

August 29, 2002

A look at the rhetoric of war…

The Wall Street Journal believes Bush should get Congressional approval before going to war with Iraq. George Will offers Bush some good rhetorical advice for making the argument. Part of the problem the administration faces is that this situation lacks, as Will suggests, a clear provocation of a kind previously encountered. Iraq presents a new situation. Will shows how to use the circumstances of the present situation to argue for a new kind of provocation.

UPDATE: It seems George Will is a little late with his advice. Cheney’s speech to the VFW on Monday shows that he hits all four of Will’s arguments for provocation. Cheney will deliver a similar, shorter address today to Korean War veterans in San Antonio, Texas.

UPDATE: William Saletan demonstrates why the Cheney/Will rhetoric is illogical. And, yes, in a strict academic sense, the four points Will makes for provocation are illogical, meaning they they fail the test of logical argument. Question: Who ever went to war–or destabalized a regime with war talk–using logic? Attacking pathos with logos, especially when the pathos is propaganda, can be an effective counter-measure.

August 29, 2002

Updates to The Rhetorica Network…

I have suspended updates, and removed the link, to the News Log on the Presidential Campaign Rhetoric 2004 site. That part of the site was to become a blog similar to the one I wrote for PCR2000. I just do not have the time to write two blogs. I want to focus my blogging efforts here on Rhetorica: Press-Politics Journal. With PCR2004, I will concentrate on speech analysis and leave the day-to-day political news and analysis to other sites, such as The Scrum and Political Wire.

August 28, 2002

Mourning the 9/11 anniversary…

“A shallow mourning is a hideous thing,” says Leon Wieseltier in a powerful and cogent essay in The New Republic about the 9/11 anniversary. I have no comment other than this: It is worth your time to read it.

August 28, 2002

Is Bush the issue in 2002?…

Howard Kurtz considers how the press looks at the “midterm election.” Hmmm…there’s a curious term that accentuates, perhaps artificially so, the importance of the executive branch over the legislative branch. Kurtz first considers the simplistic dichotomy created by asking if Bush will be “the issue” in the 2002 election: Bush the commander-in-chief or Bush the leader of a sagging economy? Note how these images follow party lines and party strategy. Then Kurtz says:

“Journalists, of course, love to reduce midterm elections to a simple, sound-bite theme. We love the idea of a presidential referendum, even though we don’t have a parliamentary system.”

Politics, more often than not, is profoundly local. Yes, one image of Bush or another could play an important role in some Senate and House races. It is far more likely, however, that local issues will decide most of the races. Humans are meaning-making animals; journalists will make meaning from the outcome. Because the president is the focal point of national politics, what meaning journalists make will create a referendum on the president’s performance where none exists in fact by institutional structure, i.e. a parliamentary system. This act of creation means that the 2002 election is indeed a referendum if citizens come to think of it that way.

UPDATE: Check out this AP article that says the 2002 election is a referendum on Bush. The writer claims that:

“Bush has been more active than most presidents in the midterm election cycle. He has personally recruited candidates, raised millions of dollars and traveled to dozens of states in an effort to help the GOP take control of the Senate and keep a narrow majority in the House.”

Too bad the writer does not quantify this claim using specific comparisions with Clinton, Bush Sr., and Reagan. Perhaps it’s true. But, as stated, this is an assertion of self-evident truth.

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