January 29, 2011

Beta Testing Google Chrome OS Laptop

What a surprise from UPS yesterday!

I filled out an application to receive and beta test a Google laptop with the New Chrome OS. It arrived on my doorstep without warning. I felt like I had won the lottery ūüôā

The appilcation included making a quick argument to persuade Google that you are worthy to become a tester. I said I was interested in the machine for remote, multimedia journalism so I could better teach my students to use the cloud.

I’ll be writing about my experiences with this machine and OS mostly on Facebook and Ozarks News Journal. I’ll mention it here when I think the topic is appropriate.

January 25, 2011

Live Blog: State of the Union Address

Note: Live blogging is not conducive to cogent analysis. Instead, it’s merely a social way to enjoy the speech. My thanks to my two participants. Getting back to Rhetorica’s roots, I’ll post a more formal analysis soon.

January 24, 2011

What Happens When It Gets Serious

Daniel Cavanagh writes a blog called GerritsenBeach.net,¬†and he is the topic of a story in The New York Times this morning. Cavanagh is practicing citizen journalism, and it’s pissing off his neighbors.

Here’s what I find fascinating: A part of the ire directed at him comes from a desire that Cavanagh do what members of the community think a (non-modified) journalist should do, e.g. (simplistically) get “both sides of the story.” He doesn’t seem¬†particularly¬†interested in such a craft. Nor does he need to be. If there can be said to an ethic of blogging that applies to all bloggers (and their readers), it is surely “my blog, my rules.” I have argued that bloggers (and blogging journalists) ought to make those rules clear because transparency is an ethical standard that arises from the medium itself, i.e. you don’t really have a choice if you want to be taken seriously.

Cavanagh has a comments policy. I could find no blogging policy. It’s time to write one.

And let me gently suggest that applying the craft as articulated in The Elements of Journalism is just another good idea if one’s goal is to be taken seriously. It’s certainly not a requirement. There are plenty of examples of successful, serious, and influential web projects that adhere to different standards. But it might be OK to listen to the complainers to the extent that they seek a journalistic standard of some sort.

Otherwise, good job. I’ll be mentioning this site to my students.

My advice for the complainers in Gerritsen Beach: Start your own blogs.

January 19, 2011

Idioms and Metaphors

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The Daily Show clip demonstrates just how silly language issues can get.

But I think it’s particularly important now to draw a distinction between legitimate American idioms and metaphors based on firearms versus violent rhetoric.

The -killing suffix is an entirely legitimate American idiom. We can certainly argue about the merits of “job-killing” in the context of healthcare legislation, i.e. whether or not that is as accurate description. To suggest that -killing in this context is doing the same kind of cultural damage as “second amendment remedies” is just nutty.

Before we can begin any real examination of violent rhetoric in American society (particularly our politics), I think we must bracket out legitimate idiomatic and metaphorical expressions based on firearms. American English is full of these expressions — many, I would argue, used everyday by people who don’t even realize the expression is based on firearms. Example: lock, stock, and barrel.

I would put “reload” in that same category of standard American expressions because it is an idiom meaning roughly to “re-energize.” Sarah Palin’s use of it in the context of “don’t retreat” still doesn’t rise to the level of violent rhetoric because we use “retreat” — a military idiom — to mean roughly “backing down,” “giving up” or “going to a safe place to reconsider.”

I am not suggesting that standard idioms and metaphors cannot be employed as violent rhetoric. What I am suggesting is that their use is so ingrained that we must be careful not to label as violence standard forms of speech used in appropriate ways.

I think before this entire conversation about civility and violent rhetoric can move forward, we must do a better job of defining what we actually mean by violent rhetoric.

Just as nutty as suggestions that standard expressions are evidence of ¬†violent rhetoric are suggestions that a “climate of discourse” had nothing to do with the Tucson shooting. To be sure: We do not know — and may never know — to what extent the (low) quality of our political discourse played in this catastrophe. It doesn’t actually matter because that climate — that context — always plays some role in suggesting the range of acceptable behavior. The climate helps make such things possible (as do many other things) to some extent (we should try to figure out to what extent).

This is also why we cannot and should not place specific blame on individuals for “causing” the Tucson shooting. What many people in politics and the media are guilty of is degrading the climate of discourse that then places violence somewhere at the edges of acceptable behavior.

Example: Sharron Angle’s “second¬†amendment¬†remedies.” This can mean only one thing: shooting people. The second amendment is about two things: 1) the right of citizens to keep and bear arms and 2) the right of the people/states to form militias. The purpose was to make sure that we the people had at our disposal the means to protect ourselves, including protecting ourselves from¬†actual¬†government¬†tyranny. Sharron Angle most certainly did engage in violent rhetoric outside the bounds of standard America idioms and metaphors. She most certainly is¬†guilty¬†of degrading our civic discourse, in my opinion.

It is possible, I suppose, to argue that she is reacting to actual tyranny and, therefore, is well within political bounds and, therefore, rhetorical bounds. I wonder, however, what that would look like if, say, the election results had gone a different way.

Who would be the first to “pull the trigger”? — and I do not mean,¬†idiomatically, “getting things started.”

January 11, 2011

Rhetorica Update

Welcome to 2011 — Rhetorica’s ninth year.

Here are some coming attractions:

  • A student of mine is doing an independent study project in online opinion journalism. I hope Rhetorica readers will check into her site often. I’ll be mentioning her work here as well. Link soon.
  • I’ll pick up the pace examining the work of various opinion journalists. My goal is one per month. I’ll be looking at Thomas Friedman next. Please let me know if you have suggestions — good, bad, mediocre, and any faction.
  • Jay Rosen’s criticism of the “view from nowhere” has been getting a lot of attention recently. This has prompted me to do some more thinking about the role of the rhetoric of journalism — its particular (peculiar) discourse forms — in encouraging this view. I’m especially interested in this now because I think I may be onto identifying and describing the psychology of the “view from nowhere,” which might give us further clues to its sources. This springs from from¬†collaborative¬†research I’ve been doing with Dr. Harry Hom, emeritus professor of psychology at MSU. More on this soon.
  • This should be the break-out semester for the Ozarks News Journal. Last semester’s class got the site up and running. My charge to the current class: make it better (i.e. good journalism) and get attention.
  • Last year I swore off doing any more analysis of ¬†political journalism. I’m sticking to that. And, really, that ought to also mean swearing off analysis of political rhetoric. The two are obviously not the same but just as obviously related. I intend to tread lightly in the realm of politics. My posting of the Olbermann video on 9¬†January¬†was not treading lightly. Posting it sprung directly from my own raw feelings about politics today. I stand by my statement about violent rhetoric. I could have made it without posting the video. I do not, however, apologize for posting the video. Something more productive may spring from this. I think we need to know what the¬†actual¬†extent of violent rhetoric is in our politics, who uses it, how they use it, and why they use it. Only after we know these things will it be possible to make intelligent¬†hypotheses¬†about the effects of violent rhetoric on our civic discourse. I’m thinking now about the possibilities of doing this work.
January 9, 2011

Second Amendment Remedies

Violence or the threat of violence or the implication of violence or the iconography of violence has no place in our politics.

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