(in which all the world's a text)


The Christian Case for Planned Parenthood

While the Christian right has been making a case against Planned Parenthood, a healthcare provider, on the basis of its “affront to ‘Christian values,” some see room to defend the organization on religious grounds. Mara Willard, “Can There Be a Religious Response to Planned Parenthood’s Critics,” looks at the way this defense is being made. Willard looks at the organization’s decision to defend itself on religious grounds using a “rhetoric of the sacred.” Read about it here.

Mark Wilson/Getty

Rhetoric at Work: the long history of Minnesota’s Marriage Amendment Defeat

A well-made, in-depth story on everything that went into defeating Minnesota’s Marriage Amendment. Although the word “rhetoric” never comes up, anyone doing rhetoric will quickly recognize the forces behind the successful campaign.

“Eighteen Months to History: How the Minnesota Marriage Amendment Was Defeated–money, passion, allies”

(via Minnesota Public Radio)


A Meme

Who Created the Voter-Fraud Myth?

Imagine this: “You are hereby notified that your right to vote has been challenged by a qualified elector…”

Writing for the New Yorker (10/29/12), Jane Meyer tells about the man behind the myth that American elections are threatened by fraudulent voters. Many election experts say that Hans von Spakovsky, a conservative Republican lawyer who served in the Bush Justice Department, and is now a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has played an “improbably large” part in fanning fear about voter fraud.

Never mind the evidence, sometimes it’s enough to say that something is happening for people who are already disposed to believe to be persuaded.

When words matter (always)

I have my students in ES101 do an assignment in which they follow coverage of national debate/popular issue for instance in which race, class, and/or ethnicity come up in overt or covert ways. The purpose of the assignment is to get them to think about how the  words we use shade the ideas we have about certain people, or how words hint at associations that we end up having about people around us. On 21 September Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, announced that he would be monitoring the use of the term “illegal” in reference to immigrants in popular journalism. Specifically, Vargas said that he would monitor the use of the term on specific mainstream and popular new sources, in this case the New York Times and the Associated Press. Vargas’s challenge to the New York Times and Associated Press does similar work to what I ask my students to do. I think this article–its subject matter, specifically–will be useful to students as they work on their assignment.

Vargas explains his motivation for this “monitoring” in this way: “The term dehumanizes and marginalizes the people it seeks to describe,” Vargas said. “Think of it this way, in what other context do we call someone illegal?”


“Nonthreatning novelty,” or, you know, people

Tom Jacobs over at takes note of the rise in roles for South East Asians on film and T.V. Why now? For the answer, Jacobs goes to Shilpa Davé, an assistant prof. of American Studies. She explains it this way:

…demography, technology, global politics, and, of course, commerce. She notes that producers and directors are perpetually in search of nonthreatening novelty, and contends Indians fill this role particularly well in the post-9/11 world. Many Americans might be wary of a character identified as Arab or Chinese…

Please, tell me more about “nonthreatning novelty.”

All of this makes it sounds like we are buying children’s toys for a very special child. Wait, when it comes to popular entertainment and the media in the U.S. that’s exactly what we’re doing–casting “novelties” that won’t be threatening to the viewer. Better if these make him/her feel special. 


I am working on a syllabus and lesson plans for the first-year writing course I’m teaching in the fall. I’m excited about asking students to create an audio photo essay as part of their last portfolio. Here is a cool one I’ve been looking at as model:

“After the Fall” by Matt Black (via Orion Magazine)



We might still be in Kansas

This from Guernica, which makes one think that, at the very least, someone is paying attention to audience:

via ProPublica

This is what Arizona’s non-racial profiling law looks like

Towards a better answer to the “what do you do” question

Thanks to professors Peter Dreier and Christopher Martin, I now have a good go-to example for the “what do you do” question. Should it come up in an elevator or on a flight, at least I could say, “well, policy, language, effects…for example”:

“Job killer.”

You don’t have to listen very long to what passes in American politics for debate about the economy before you hear that phrase. Usually it’s wielded by Republicans against their Democratic opponents although Democrats occasionally resortto it, too…


Peter Dreier, a political science professor at Occidental College and Christopher Martin, a communications studies professor at the University of Northern Iowa, don’t so much blame the politicians who toss around the term as much as the news media who use it with little to no examination.

Read more about their study here.


Page 1 of 6:1 2 3 4 »Last »