I’m sure I’m not the only person who sighs at all the abuse hurled at dame Rhetorica lately in the media. It’s downright slander and abuse of a beneficent art.
I am not complaining that there’s a lot of bad rhetoric going on in the world. Of course there always is, and perhaps there’s been a lot more bad rhetoric around us lately than there has been since World War II, and it’s driving more people to remark on how bad the bad rhetoric is.
I’m complaining that while this bad rhetoric is occurring, it’s counterproductive and wrongheaded to blame rhetoric itself and drag the art and use and NAME of rhetoric through the mud in headline after headline.
I have subscribed to a Google Alert for “rhetorical.” Today, September 3, here are some of the phrases used in headlines:
- Nicolas Sarkozy’s absurd zero-sum rhetoric on Calais shows how quickly Europe is falling apart (Telegraph.co.uk)
- After The Olympics, Women Should Earn More Considering The Sexist Rhetoric And Ignored Talent (Forbes)
- The Clinton campaign’s slippery rhetoric on Trump’s ‘immigrant’ plans (Washington Post)
- G20 to go long on rhetoric, short on economic policy: experts (Yahoo news)
- EC spokesperson on “escalation of rhetoric” in Balkans (B92)
The negative contexts and adjectives surrounding the word “rhetoric” continually throw dirt on the reputation of this glorious art. Rhetoric can be zero-sum, sexist, slippery, and lack policy.
Can you find the word “rhetoric” used with positive adjectives? You could pile up dozens more negative adjectives than positive ones by googling rhetoric today.
However, it’s even more troubling to see the naked word “rhetoric” used without any qualifying negative adjective, as if rhetoric alone was something essentially bad and ugly. The final example in the list above is one instance of slandering rhetoric itself, as if merely “escalating rhetoric” means escalating tension and disagreement toward violence.
Let’s stop slandering Rhetorica. Let’s renew her reputation, beauty, strength and glory. I believe we need her more than ever today. Continue reading