Relevant Rhetoric

Relevant Rhetoric is a peer-reviewed online journal dedicated to revealing the relevance and significance of rhetoric in our lives.













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Spring 2017, Volume 8

Welcome to the Volume 8 of Relevant Rhetoric: A New Journal of
Rhetorical Studies

Volume 8 includes a Special Issue: Exploring Persuasive Attack Theory
additional essays

We had numerous submissions for our call for the special issue of Relevant Rhetoric dedicated to Exploring Persuasive Attack Theory. Here we highlight the three essays that were accepted for publication. The first essay, written by William L. Benoit reviews relevant literature and synthesizes the research on Persuasive Attack. The essay offers an “extended theory” and provides a comprehensive typology of Persuasive Attack based on this synthesis. The second essay emerges from Southern Utah University. The authors, Stein, Barton, and Paul apply this extended theory to the Persuasive Attacks leveled against Melissa Click after the campus protests at the University of Missouri. Finally, Martha Cheng provides an application of Persuasive Attack theory by examining attacks in two realms: Mixed Martial Arts and politics. She examines attacks of two reputable “trash talkers”: Conor McGregor and Donald Trump, and applies the theory of Persuasive Attack to their discourse.

In addition, we had numerous essays submitted for Relevant Rhetoric in the past year. Two essays that were accepted are included in this volume. They are on diverse and topical issues: portrayal of women in film and the role of Donald Trump’s discourse in helping him win the Presidential election.

Each submission is carefully peer reviewed by members of the Editorial Board. Thank you for your submissions and for your support. We are accepting submissions for consideration for Volume 9 (2018) of Relevant Rhetoric: A New Journal of Rhetorical Studies. To be considered for publication, submissions must be received by October 15, 2017. Please mail submissions and queries to:

Nancy J. Legge, Editor -Relevant Rhetoric.

For submission information, please visit the relevant tab from the menu. If you’re looking for previous volumes/articles, please visit the Archives tab. The other tabs provide information about the journal’s philosophy, submissions for future volumes, and the Editorial Board.

Essays in Volume 8, 2017: Special Topics Exporing the Theory of Persuasive Attack

William L. Benoit, Criticism of Actions and Character: Strategies for Persuasive Attack Extended
--Persuasive attacks pervade society. Such attacks are messages (or components of messages) that are intended to, or have the effect of, discrediting the target. Persuasive attack is another phrase for accusations, criticisms, complaints. Attacks can be primarily directed toward character and/or policy. At times these topics are intertwined; for example, an attack on character can be reinforced by identifying offensive acts committed by the target. An attack on policy can influence perceptions of the target’s character. This essay adduces reasons for studying persuasive attack, reviews the rhetorical and communicative literature on this kind of discourse, and proposes a typology to extend the Theory of Persuasive Attack to include criticism of character as well as behavior. The strategies advanced here are illustrated by excerpts from the 2016 Republican primary debates.

Kevin A. Stein, Matthew H. Barton, and Wm. Bryan Paul, 140 Characters to Say "I Hate You": Melissa Click, Racism, and the Media Circus at Mizzou
--University of Missouri communication professor, Melissa Click, dominated the news cycle in the fall of 2015 after she had attempted to expel a student journalist from a safe zone created by other students who were protesting the university administration’s indifference toward racism on campus. A video of the professor calling for “muscle” to remove the student journalist went viral, creating a firestorm of vitriolic attack on Click via her personal Twitter account as well as through the newly created feed #FireMelissaClick. For example, one tweet called her “a complete disgrace and embarrassment to her profession.” Click’s university email inbox was also flooded with even more hateful threats, such as “I plan to belly laugh when someone shanks you or sets you on fire” and “I hope you are gang-raped by some of the very animals with whom you’re so enamored.”

Martha S. Cheng, Bums and Bimbos: Persuasive Personal Attack in Sports and Political Discourse
-–--This paper explores persuasive attacks against character in the press conferences of sports figure Conor McGregor and 2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. These case studies highlight personal attack as counterpart to the affirmation and purification of the speakers’ images, as possessing epideictic qualities, and as deploying specific strategies. Strategies include pejorative labeling of the person, providing evidence for attacks, and belittling through mocking and patronizing. Differences between the two speakers’ attacks are also discussed, as are further considerations.

Additional Essays in Volume 8 (2017)

Erika M. Thomas, Crimson Horror: The Discourse and Visibility of Menstruation in Mainstream Horror Films and its Influence on Cultural Myths and Taboos
-–Menstruation taboos remain phenomena in most cultures, including American society. Despite progressive social relations and education in the United States, discourse depicts menstruation as an act threatening and socially harmful to women. This paper employs Freeland’s intrafilmic analysis to examine the discourse and visual imagery in rhetorical texts, particularly horror films, and the way they contribute to the cultural beliefs about menstruating women. I contend that horror and science fiction films that discuss a character’s menstruation or the onset of womanhood provide representations of women as evil, dangerous to others and dangerous to oneself or women specifically. Additionally, visual imagery portrays blood as the abject, visually enforcing the logic that feeds contemporary menstrual taboos. An analysis of popular American films illustrates that the American mass media continually constructs images of the menstruation as private and pathological, leading to the repression of the topic and social exclusion of menstruating women.

Eric Sentell, The Art of Polarizing Ethos: An Analysis of Donald Trump’s Campaign Rhetoric
-–After Donald Trump’s stunning upset victory, many observed that his campaign’s core messages about bringing change to Washington, the economy, immigration, and globalization resonated so powerfully with white working-class voters that they ignored or embraced the accompanying messages of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and misogyny. I contend that Clinton’s email controversy and Trump’s core messages could not have outweighed his own scandals, his offensiveness, and his erratic behavior without his use of Fox News-style rhetoric to propagate uncritical partisanship and establish an unassailable ethos. This paper analyzes the rhetorical strategies of Fox News and Donald Trump and advocates combating mindless partisanship by teaching open-mindedness, inquiry, and critical thinking.