Relevant Rhetoric


















































































































Volume 11
Spring 2020

Matthew H. Barton, Kevin A. Stein, and Scott H. Church, The Disruptive Power of Memes: The Carnivalesque and Kevin Spacey’s Place in the Weinstein Moment

--This study examines memes in response to the Kevin Spacey sexual assault scandal using Bakhtin’s concept of the carnivalesque as the lens for understanding why memes are a uniquely interesting response to cultural disruptions of the normal. A grounded theory analysis was used to explicate six inductive categories that explore the limits of the carnival: 1)Association with villains; 2)Kevin Spacey movie/TV references; 3)Non-Kevin Spacey movie/TV references; 4)'Im gay' deflections; 5)Emphasis on innocence of victims; and 6)Pointed cultural critique. Each category is discussed along with implications for the future study of the rhetorical influence of memes on public mediated culture. 

Danielle Lavendier, The More things Change, the More they Stay the Same: Tupac Shakur’s 'hologram,' Victorian Death Customs, and American Voyeurism

--Violence against black bodies in this country is, shamefully, commonplace. The way black bodies are treated after their deaths is telling of the ways in which the larger society handles issues of race. One emerging technological area that deserves a closer look in light of racial tensions is "holographic” technology and its use to “bring back” dead black musicians. For example, Tupac Shakur has “performed” since his death in 1996--the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival featured a performance by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and a pseudo-holographic Shakur. This paper explores the weaving of a Victorian-based technology with modern-day American voyeurism, especially as it connects to violence against black men’s bodies. A product of consumerism, devotion, spectacle, or the urge to recapture what has been lost (or perhaps all these things), Shakur’s “hologram” provides a case study on a modern-day memento mori.

Peter Kratzke, An Extremely Functional Genre System: The Life-or-Death Occasion of Alpine Backcountry Accident Accounts

--Official avalanche reports, community forums, journalistic essays, and biographies and autobiographies may be construed as the principal genres of the genre system of Alpine backcountry accident accounts. Regardless of the textual forms of these genres, paramount is their social function to supply backcountry skiers needed “beta” (a term for the who, what, where, when, why and how of weather, physical environment, and human activities). This rhetorical function is so important that it all but eclipses formal considerations, an effect showing how, in the fundamental relationship between the forms and functions to all genre systems, diversity in one direction requires focus in the other if the system is to maintain coherency as a system. Studying accident accounts accordingly makes them of interest to the study of all systems.

Mike Duncan, " Knives in the Air": Argumentative Arrangement in Demosthenes’s 330 BCE On The Crown and Donald Trump’s October 10, 2019 Minnesota Rally Speech

--While the style of Demosthenes's "On the Crown" speech of 330 BCE is distinctive, its argumentative arrangement has been underexplained. I demonstrate how Demosthenes employs a distinctive arrangement of claims that I call “knives in the air,” reflecting how its four central and interlocked claims are rapidly repeated through dozens of different variants to overwhelm the listener. "On the Crown" serves as a relevant parallel to the contemporary argumentative structure of a rally address in Minnesota by U.S. President Donald Trump on October 10, 2019. Despite Trump’s largely impromptu delivery, crude language, and comparatively random chronology when compared to Demosthenes’s precomposed judicial speech, Trump’s arrangement also showcases a similar four-claim revolving structure that is closely related to the parallel rhetorical situation of the two speeches, with both speakers mounting an aggressive defense against political opponents while closely identifying with the audience. Given the demonstrated positive reception of both speeches despite considerable differences in style and content, I argue their rhetorical effectiveness lies chiefly with their shared arrangement of claims. The juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern in these cases offers a pedagogical hook into examining how demagogic rhetorics of identification universally operate.

Volume 10
Spring 2019

Brent Kice, "There's a Soldier in All of Us": An Inclusive Fantasy in the Call of Duty Franchise

--This essay addresses the “There’s a Soldier in All of Us” marketing campaign for the 2010 and 2011 television commercials for video games in the Call of Duty franchise. Specifically, this essay addresses the rhetorical advertising tactic of a video game publisher. In particular, this essay focuses on the development of the devil term n00b in gamer culture and advertising for the video game Call of Duty that attempts to dispel the negative association of the devil term to create an inclusive strategy for appealing to a broad array of consumers. In turn, the dilution of the devil term may contribute to a dismantling of the traditional, hardcore gamer identity.

Terry Ownby, Melania's Pith Helmet: A Critical View of Her African Safari

--This rhetorical analysis critically examines Melania Trump's sartorial choices while in Africa and how they re-enforce past and present hegemonic racist attitudes of her husband, President Donald Trump. Fashion functions as a visual rhetorical device and in the case of Melania’s decision to wear an Imperialistic-style safari pith helmet during a drive-through tour at the urbanized Nairobi National Park, demonstrates her lack of respect for her hosting countries during her first solo-trip abroad as the First Lady. Often people view stereotyping as a process of portrayals through media images, however, objects can serve in that capacity as well. In this paper, I argue the safari pith helmet worn by the First Lady serves as an object of stereotypification of past and present colonialism and imperialism, which furthers the President’s hegemonic racist agenda.

Volume 9
Spring 2018

Rachel Edford, Revisiting A Handmaid's Tale in the Age of Post-Truth Politics

--Fictional narratives, like the recent Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1986 dystopia novel A Handmaid’s Tale and the original novel, offer a way to explore real anxieties people face in the age of post-truth politics and the Trump presidency. More specifically, these two texts are worth exploring in relation to Trump’s misogynistic comments and the current assault on women’s rights. Both the television series and book blur the lines between fiction and reality. The loss of women’s rights in the television series and novel mirrors real fears some women today face about losing their reproductive rights in the United States. Kenneth Burke’s theory of dramatism and his discussion of terministic screens provide a useful framework to analyze how language reflects and shapes attitudes towards truth and women’s rights in the new adaptation of A Handmaid’s Tale.

William L. Benoit, Roger Goodell's Image Repair on the Ray Rice Suspension

--In 2014 Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulted his fiancé (Janay Palmer) in an elevator in an Atlantic City casino. A video showed Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator, so the NFL suspended Rice for two games. Initially Goodell used minimization and bolstering to justify the 2-game suspension. Critics complained that this punishment was too light, indicating that the NFL did not take domestic violence seriously. About a month later, Goodell deployed two additional strategies: mortification (apology) and corrective action. Phase II of the defense emerged after a second video surfaced showing Rice punching Palmer inside the elevator, the NFL immediately suspended Rice indefinitely. After the initial mistake of suspending Rice for only two games, the defense was generally well-developed.

Valerie Lynn Schrader, “I Know You:” Burkean Identification, Invitational Rhetoric, and Fun Home’s “Ring of Keys”

-–This essay explores how Burkean identification and invitational rhetoric are illustrated in the song “Ring of Keys” in the 2015 Tony award-winning musical Fun Home, based on the life of graphic novelist Alison Bechdel. Through a rhetorical analysis of the song’s lyrics and sheet music, this essay discusses first how the character of Small Alison identifies with a woman she sees at a diner, and second, how the song creates Burkean identification between audience members and Small Alison. Finally, the essay contends that “Ring of Keys” is an example of invitational rhetoric, suggesting that, when used through an invitational rhetoric “offering perspective,” Burkean identification, rather than working in conjunction with persuasion, instead can serve to help audience members learn something about themselves.

Heather Crandall and Carol Cunningham, Playing For Change: Rhetorical Strategies in Human Rights Video Games

-–While video games are often seen as a form of entertainment, an emerging genre of video games are those that advocate for social change. Games for Change’s mission is to “empower game creators and social innovators to drive real-world change using games that help people to learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place.” Applying an ideological method of analysis to twenty-seven of these games to evaluate their effectiveness to “drive real world change” about human rights issues. Our findings reveal complications, but overall, promising strategies include games with footage of reality, games that encourage real-life engagement, such as the inclusion of Twitter feeds or encouraging players to send letters to Congress, and games which include a sense of cognitive dissonance where players take on the role of becoming complicit in human rights abuses. Many of these games were designed for educational purposes. When used in the classroom, there is a potential to appeal to younger audiences who may see video games as a preferred medium for social change.

Volume 8
Spring 2017: Special Issue - Exploring 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
Spring 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.

Volume 7
Spring 2016

Kevin A. Stein and Michael K. Ostrowsky, "Taco the puppy is super sick": Student Excuses as a Unique Form of Apologia

-–The paper, which utilizes Benoit’s image repair framework, analyzes the apologia strategies utilized by college students in their excuses to professors. This represents an important departure from the plethora of apologia studies that examine the face-work of politicians, organizations, and celebrities by shifting the research focus to a less public context. Using a sample of 324 student emails, the findings demonstrate that students employ a variety of strategies for maintaining an appropriate image with faculty. The strategies are generally consistent with Benoit's framework of image repair strategies, but students added linguistic flourishes that are unique to an interpersonal context. The paper discusses the key findings regarding the content of student emails and offers suggestions for future research.

Brett A. Barnett, Rush's Lyrical Rhetoric of Oppression and Liberation

-–Extending the literature on the rhetoric of song, this essay provides an analysis of a sample of hit songs produced by the Canadian progressive rock band Rush, 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees with a large fan base and a demonstrated influence on popular culture. Analysis reveals that Rush’s greatest hits consistently alternate between the opposing themes of oppression and liberation. Similar to “freedom songs” of the 1960’s civil rights movement, Rush’s lyrical narratives provide a potential source of catharsis and inspiration for listeners. The author concludes that Rush can be viewed as extending freedom songs beyond roots in gospel and folk music and into the progressive rock genre.

James R. DiSanza and Nancy J. Legge, The Rhetoric of Persuasive Attack: Continuing the Development of a Taxonomy of Attack Strategies and Tactics

--One of the characterizing traits of the current divisive presidential nomination process is the strong personal attacks candidates impose on each other. Although there is a significant amount of literature on the persuasive defense, sometimes referred to as image repair, there has been much less work on persuasive attack. Persuasive attacks focus on two things. First, an offensive act is believed by the accused to be perceived negatively by a salient audience. Only if the target of the attack believes his or her reputation will suffer does an attack constitute a threat to his or her image. Second, the accused must be perceived to be responsible, wholly or partially, for the wrongful act. The most extensive typology of attack rhetoric was produced by Benoit and Dorries (1996), who used elements of attribution theory and persuasive defense theory (image repair) to construct a typology of persuasive attack tactics. This paper extends that typology to include categories of ethos to give the theory more explanatory power. This paper tests and applies the extended typology to a persuasive attack that ESPN’s Keith Olbermann made on Ray Rice, Roger Goodell, and the NFL in their handling of the Rice domestic abuse case. The paper provides assessment of the persuasive attack and the extended typology.

Volume 6
Spring 2015

Jimmie Manning, The Rhetorical Function of Laugh Tracks: Examining Queer Shame in Will & Grace and Roseanne

––Popular comedic texts have powerful, if not always visible, political implications. This power extends to personal-political topics and issues such as queer identities and relationships. Recognizing humor’s ability to shape discourses, in this essay I examine coming out story arcs from the situation comedies Will & Grace and Roseanne. This analysis indicates that Will & Grace, a program traditionally cited as sophisticated and queer-affirmative, uses humor at the expense of queer stereotypes. Alternately, Roseanne, a show criticzed for using queer characters for shock value, offers a model for queer acceptance. The study also demonstrates how laugh tracks can be used in rhetorical analysis of sitcoms. It also questions what other elements of an enduring text might need to be questioned in order to consider its legacy.

Pearce Durst, The Word-less Rhetoric of Leviathan: Observational Ethos in the Digital Age

-–This essay analyzes one experimental documentary film that obscures or completely avoids the use of words. Leviathan (2012) relies predominantly on aural and visual rhetoric to convey a fragmented, polyphonic, and critically open-ended narrative. It uses numerous small and lightweight digital cameras to extend an “observational mode” of surveillance—where audiences witness the many operations of an industrial fishing boat as a “fly on the wall.” By abstaining from dialogue, the word-less landscape of the film creates persuasive openings for audiences to actively decode meaning and significance.

William Benoit, Image Repair Analysis of Barbie’s '#Unapologetic' OpEd

–In February of 2014, Sports Illustrated released its annual swimsuit issue. This one included something unusual: Pictures of Barbie dolls in swimsuits. Criticism arose immediately and Mattel responded with an OpEd attributed to Barbie, titled “#Unapologetic.” Persuasive messages can serve multiple purposes. Barbie’s appearance in SI and the OpEd were obviously part of a publicity stunt (Barbie sales had been falling) yet the OpEd also worked to repair the image of Barbie (and of Mattel). This essay applies Image Repair Theory to this unusual instance of corporate image repair. The defense relied mainly on denial and bolstering; criticism of Barbie’s accusers also was implied. This defense may have helped reinforce the attitudes of those who liked Barbie but it is unlikely to have changed many minds of those who thought the doll was a poor role model; Barbie sales continued to drop.

Valerie Lynn Schrader, "Infinite Thousands: The National Museum of the American Indian’s 'Invasion Wall' and the Burkean Pentad

–This article examines the Invasion Wall of the “Our Peoples: Giving Voice to Our Histories” Exhibit of the National Museum of the American Indian through the lens of the Burkean pentad. Through a rhetorical analysis of the wall, I argue that the National Museum of the American Indian employed a scene-act pentadic ratio in this section of the exhibit, placing emphasis on the act of spreading disease and on the locations to which disease spread. Furthermore, it is suggested that the application of a different ratio may have made a stronger, more accurate historical statement, but it would have done so at the risk of creating a public memory that may have alienated some visitors and jeopardized the exhibit’s and the museum’s purpose.

James C. Bunker, Deliberative Expediency and Public Scholarship: Addressing the Problem of Timeliness and Credibility in Political Deliberation

–This essay provides an entry point for scholars who see utility in contextualizing and establishing the credibility of public argument to facilitate citizen evaluation of controversies and to empower public deliberation. It does this by establishing the importance of deliberative expediency and how scholars can overcome issues associated with timeliness to achieve presence in deliberation. It also discusses how archival technological changes enable public scholars to expediently introduce historical argument into contemporary debates. Finally, it revisits the work of Robert P. Newman to discuss how his theory of source credibility is still relevant to public scholars seeking to facilitate deliberation for public audiences.

Volume 5
Spring 2014

Amber M. Chiang,Sartorial Scrutiny of First Lady Fashion: Evaluation of Media Coverage Inequities Involving Female Figures in Politics

–This study looks at disparate standards of media coverage of male and female political figures in an attempt to reveal gender bias in political media discourse. For the purposes of evaluation, media coverage inequities between two political cycles will be reviewed: the 2008 presidential campaign and the 2012 presidential campaign. The media coverage of current first lady Michelle Obama, former first lady and United States Secretary of State lady Hillary Clinton, Ann Romney, and Governor Sarah Palin will be evaluated for occurrences of fashion commentary as part of legitimate political discourse by mainstream news media outlets.

Mark Meister,The Corporate Rainmaker Persona 

-Corporate social responsibility literature focuses on economic benefits, stakeholder responses, and legitimacy.  This project departs from those traditions and offers a framework for analyzing corporate claims rather than analyzing the outcomes.  I present the Corporate Rainmaker Persona (CRP) in relation to Cicero’s republican rhetorical style and conclude that Cicero’s rhetoric is exemplified in corporate social responsibility claims.  I discuss the relevance of the CRP and profile its characteristics by referencing 2013 corporate social responsibility reports from Cargill, Ford Motor Company, and IKEA. The implications of CRP discourse as analyzed and discussed include a growing corporate dependency that contributes to both the “death” of environmentalism and citizenship.

Jeffrey Delbert and William L. Benoit,Persuasive Attack in Music: A Rhetorical Analysis of "Fighting Trousers" and "The Very Model of a Mad Attorney General"

–This essay analyzes two diss songs, Professor Elemental’s “Fighting Trousers” and A. Barton Hinkle’s “Mad Attorney General.” Utilizing similar form and substance, these persuasive attacks effectively utilize multiple strategies for enhancing the offensiveness of their opponents’ alleged acts and increasing responsibility for their action s. Representing two different musical genres, these songs illustrate how artists direct their appeals both at the targets of their attack, as well as for the public. Both Professor Elemental’s and Hinkle’s songs repeat key ideas, forming motifs that run throughout a majority of diss songs in the music industry. Such songs are well received by the listening public, as they provide an excellent outlet to produce effective attacks on wide range of adversaries.

Volume 4
Spring 2013

William L. Benoit, “The Wanderer” and “Runaround Sue”: Rock and Roll’s Double Standard for Romantic Relationships

–This essay analyzes two rhetorical artifacts from the early 1960′s: popular rock and roll songs by one artist that tell stories about romantic relationships. I argue that these songs reflected and promulgated an inappropriate double standard of appropriate norms of behavior in dating for men and women. Specifically, a woman who dates more than one man is condemned as a tramp, whereas a man who dates more than one woman is celebrated as a stud.

Eric Sentell, Changing the Channel: Analyzing the Rhetoric of the Fox News Effect

–According to multiple studies, people who obtain their news exclusively from Fox News possess less accurate knowledge of current events than people who do not consume any news sources. In this apolitical analysis, I identify multiple rhetorical strategies that may explain the cause of this peculiar “Fox News effect”: the rhetoric of polarization; presenting a unified point-of-view; rapid redirection; rapid delivery of information; frequent repetition; and decontextualizing claims.

Jill M. Weber, “Needy Families” and “Welfare Cheats”: The Rhetoric of Family Values in the 1961-1962 Welfare Reform Debates

–This essay explores how both conservative and liberal policymakers and advocates invoked family values rhetoric during debates over three key welfare reform policy proposals: the 1961 Aid to Dependent Children—Unemployed Parents (ADC-UP) program, the Kennedy administration’s initiative to temporarily expand federal public assistance benefits to children in two-parent homes where both parents were unemployed; the so-called “Newburgh Plan,” one small city’s plan to reduce welfare costs and minimize the number of families on the city’s welfare roll; and the Public Welfare Amendments of 1962, the Kennedy administration’s proposals to extend theADC-UP program, expand welfare coverage, and increase funding for rehabilitative services. Although the participants offered competing depictions of welfare families, both liberals and conservatives contributed to a negative image of impoverished single-parent families as morally deficient and socially undesirable. In the process, they laid the foundation for even more intrusive governmental intervention in family life in the future.

James Dimock, Daniel Cronn-Mills, and Kirsten Cronn-Mills, Climbing Brokeback Mountain: A Wilderness-Civilization Dialectic Reading

–Brokeback Mountain altered America’s cultural landscape. We approach the film from a critical rhetoric perspective, demonstrating how frame selection is a rhetorical act that furthers specific textual interpretations. Our approach illuminates distinctions between a natural-artificial dialectic and a wilderness-civilization dialectic. We argue the natural-artificial dialectic limits the narrative and constricts any understanding of the film. The wilderness-civilization dialectic provides, we contend, a more robust, compelling, and ambiguous space for reading the text.

Bruce Loebs, Charisma: The Key to Hitler’s Rhetoric

–This essay describes Hitler’s unquestioned skill as a public speaker by explaining how he projected himself as a charismatic leader. Hitler once declared, “everything I have accomplished resulted from persuasion.” Rhetoric was the key to Hitler’s success. Charisma was the key to Hitler’s rhetoric. I will describe several topics relevant to his ethos, illustrate Hitler’s acknowledged skill as an orator, and, using German sociologist/economist Max Weber’s definition and description of charisma, focus on four main characteristics of “the Hitler Myth.”

Volume 3
Spring 2012

Jonathan Hunt, From Cacemphaton to Cher: Foul Language and Evidence in the Rhetorical Tradition

–Although foul language has been a topic of lively discussion by authorities and scholars alike, it has received little attention from rhetoricians. When rhetoricians treat coarse, taboo, or obscene language, the approach is generally normative and pedagogical, foreclosing the possibility that we might, like other fields, see the rhetorical character and impact of foul language.

Jeffrey B. Kurtz, Civility, American Style

–Public anger may be the new zeitgeist of our age. If the incivility at the core of our public talk is familiar, it merits continued scrutiny. Of keen importance is to reflect on rhetorical acts that may challenge our received understandings of civility itself. This essay first situates civility in particular scholarly and historical contexts. I then undertake interpretive readings of incivility and civility as these have been given expression in three recent cases: Representative Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” outburst during President Barack Obama’s September 2009 healthcare address; the rhetorical soundings of Sarah Palin in her 28 August 2010 speech at the “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, D.C.; and the intersection of violence and civility in President Barack Obama’s memorial address for the victims of the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, in January 2011. By closely attending to the putative incivility and civility characterizing these cases, I will suggest ways by which authenticity, real pluralism, and rhetorical courage might become new hallmarks of our rhetorical landscape.

James Beitler, Making More of the Middle Ground: Desmond Tutu and the Ethos of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission

–This article explores Desmond Tutu’s role in shaping the institutional ethos of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Through analysis of Tutu’s introduction to the commission’s final report, it highlights three distinct middle ground arguments that Tutu uses to construct the commission’s institutional ethos and to appeal to multiple audiences in South Africa simultaneously. Such findings complicate popular conceptions of Tutu’s contributions to the TRC process and highlight strategies that rhetors may employ to persuade politically diverse audiences.

Jason A. Edwards and Liza Anne Cabrel, Managing an Economic Crisis: President Clinton and the Mexican Peso Crisis

–This essay examines President Bill Clinton’s 1995 Mexican Peso Crisis rhetoric. We argue that Clinton managed the crisis through three overarching themes: defining the nature of the crisis, magnifying its potential harms, and promoting solutions to limit its broader impact. The strategies used by Clinton differ from traditional characteristics of crisis rhetoric. These strategies serve as a theoretical basis for examining presidential economic crisis rhetoric. Moreover, this essay provides a deeper appreciation of Clinton’s political legacy in managing the first major crisis in an era of globalization.

Monica Brasted, MoveOn: The Rhetoric of Polarization

–The media environment has changed dramatically since King and Anderson (1971) first articulated their conceptualization of the rhetoric of polarization. With the advent of the user friendly World Wide Web in the 1990s came a new interactive form of media that is now used as a tool by politicians and activists. According to Chadwick, one group that has been successful in creating a network of citizens by using the internet has been This paper examines how has used the rhetoric of polarization within its member emails to create feelings of solidarity amongst themselves and opposition to a common foe.

Justin Eckstein, Client 9: Spitzer and Hypocrisy

–On March 10, 2008, the story broke that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was patronizing the Emperor’s Club V.I.P., a high cost prostitution service. New Yorkers were shocked, disappointed, and upset. Reacting to Spitzer’s affair, national and international newspapers called the Governor a hypocrite. But what exactly is a hypocrite? This paper explores this definitional question, by asking; what constitutes hypocrisy? And, are there different definitions of hypocrisy? A rhetorical analysis of the opinion editorials released in the days between the news of the scandal and Spitzer’s resignation, yielded two different accusations of hypocrisy: exemption, which emphasized his “do as I say, not as I do” attitude; and betrayal, which attempted to hide his contradiction between his words and deeds. I argue that the combination of these two accusations of hypocrisy created an insurmountable exigency, requiring Spitzer to resign.

Sarah Partlow-Lefevre, Bridging the First and Second Waves: Rhetorical Constructions of First Wave Feminism in Ms. Magazine, 1972-1980

–During the second wave of feminism in the United States, writers sought to reclaim feminist history to ground their beliefs. In this essay I argue that Ms. magazine, the first mass mediated feminist periodical in the United States, published articles that rhetorically reproduced the ideals of the first wave of feminism in the United States. I focus on the rhetorical function of these historical constructions for women in the second wave including: the crafting of relationships between first and second wave feminists; the reclaiming of ideas as foundational feminist history; the articulation of points of commonality which allowed second wave feminists to identify themselves with the first wave feminists; and, the construction of first wave activists as heroines who paved the way for the second wave.

Joseph Valenzano III, Conscience of a Conservative (Professor) –Essay featured on the Discussion Forum. Please read and post your comments.

Volume 2
Spring 2011

Kevin McClure, The Rhetoric of Disaster: The Presidential Natural Disaster Address As An Emergent Genre.

–This essay extends and complements prior analyses of the rhetorical presidency by identifying and describing the unique situational and rhetorical features that distinguish presidential natural disaster addresses as a genre, arguing that natural disasters present distinctive circumstances and rhetorical challenges that inspire distinct rhetorical responses. It begins with a critical discussion that examines the unique situational and rhetorical features in presidential natural disaster addresses. Next, a historical synopsis and critical analysis tracks the evolutionary progression of presidential discourse on natural disasters and discusses six emergent substantive elements. Finally, it calls for further rhetorical engagement with the broader phenomena of rhetoric engendered by natural disasters in fields such as the media, politics, and religion.

William F. Harlow, Silence As The U.S. Strategic Response to Nigeria’s Elections.

–The elections in Nigeria in April 2007 resulted in widespread violence and a result generally held to be fraudulent by impartial observers. Nigeria was a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy in Africa during the Bush presidency, and the U.S. administration was largely silent as failed Nigerian elections transferred power from one member of the ruling party to another. This paper examines the U.S. silence after Nigeria’s 2007 elections and argues that silence is an ineffective persuasive tool unless a foreign state is already inclined to support U.S. policy goals. In this case, silence also set a bad precedent for the 2011 elections.

Nancy Johnson, Christian Bale’s Account of a Profane Tirade: Salvation or “Bale-out?

–Actor Christian Bale was caught on audiotape in an extensive profane tirade toward the director of photography while filming on the set of Terminator Salvation. Seven months later the rant was posted on the Internet. Amidst a surge of multi-media parodies, Bale made a spontaneous call to the morning show of a local Los Angeles radio station to account for his behavior. This essay examines Bale’s account according to Benoit’s image restoration typologies. Bale expressed mortification, and also used a variety of strategies to reduce the offensiveness of the act, which also help serve as an explanation for his behavior. Feedback to his account is examined to help determine its probable success. The strategies in Bale’s account are also compared to accounts of other celebrities Benoit has studied.

Erika Junhui Yi, Globalizing the Locality: A Cultural Comparison of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

–The paper is a case study on Ang Lee’s award-winning film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, to illustrate that the process of globalization is not simply Westernization/Americanization, but rather a mutually influential process as suggested in glocalization/hybridization theories. I collected film reviews from both the United States and China from different time periods in order to compare the different reactions from American and Chinese audiences, as well as to observe the changes in attitudes toward the film over time. This paper explores the impact of globalization through two different angles. First, the globalization of a local culture, in this case, the Wuxia genre in China. Second, the acceptance of the globalized and altered version of the original local culture.

Steven D. Cohen, Thomas E. Wei, Daniel C. DeFraia, and Christopher J. Drury, The Music of Speech: Layering Musical Elements to Deliver Powerful Messages.

–Music and speech are both performance arts. While these two art forms may appear distinct, they share an important characteristic: the power to evoke visceral responses from listeners. Our paper examines the relationship between music and speech and identifies five key musical elements that composers and professional speakers can use to elicit specific emotional reactions from their listeners. Specifically, we explore tempo, dynamics, pitch, timbre, and rhythm in the context of selected musical compositions and public speeches and explain how speakers leverage these elements to deliver powerful, enduring messages.

Richard Leo Enos, The Professorial Art of Indirection: A Study of Relevant Rhetoric. –Essay featured on the Discussion Forum. Please read and post your comments.

Volume 1
Spring 2010

Kevin A. Stein, “Jewish Antapologia in Response to Mel Gibson’s Multiple Attempts at Absolution.”

—Many people find racist or discriminatory statements or acts to be more offensive than acts that do not denigrate the character of others, even when those behaviors may be illegal. Is it possible that hateful utterances are so reprehensible that any strategies utilized to counteract their effects are rendered meaningless? This essay discusses Mel Gibson’s attempts to explain or account for his racist comments directed at police officers in Malibu, California. It also examines the Jewish community’s response to Gibson’s comments.

Adria Y. Goldman and Jim A. Kuypers, Contrasts in News Coverage: A Qualitative Framing Analysis of ‘A’ List Bloggers and Newspaper Articles Reporting on the Jena 6.

—We compare news coverage of the Jena 6 found in “A” list blogs to traditional print news articles. We found that the print articles shared four themes and framed those themes in a similar fashion. Similar themes were found among blog entries, although the framing of those themes broke down along political lines. However, all blogs framed the media’s role in the Jena 6 as negative.

Nancy J. Legge, The Paradox of Commitment: Jakob Dylan’s Philosophy in "Will It Grow"

—A rhetorical analysis of the ideas and arguments in Jakob Dylan’s song, “Will It Grow.” In a fractured narrative about farming, Dylan addresses philosophical issues about the nature of commitment and the role of fate vs. free will. The engaged audience supplies warrants about perseverance and resolve, thereby providing ways to manage the paradoxes. Watch live performances of the song on youtube: Nissan Sets and at the Austin City Limits Festival.

William L. Benoit and Jeffrey Delbert, “Get A Mac": Mac vs. PC TV Spots

—This paper examines the texts of 47 ads advocating Mac computers over PCs: “Get a Mac.” We identified three themes addressing the computers and their operating systems and two focusing on the brands’ personified traits. We evaluate this campaign as effectively conceived and executed. Evidence suggests that it may have contributed to an increase in sales of Mac computers. Watch the Mac ads at

Bruce Loebs, Hitler’s Rhetorical Theory

—In 1939 Hitler claimed, “I am conscious that I have no equal in the art of swaying the masses.” By examining historical texts, including Hitler’s own writings, this paper articulates numerous components of Hitler’s rhetorical theory. One central element was his belief in the power of the spoken word. This was the starting point for Hitler’s belief that rhetoric would play an indispensable role in his quest for power.