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.
Archives for Things Rhetorical
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.
(via Minnesota Public Radio)
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.
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?”
Tom Jacobs over at Salon.com 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.
This from Guernica, which makes one think that, at the very least, someone is paying attention to audience:
- via ProPublica
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”:
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.
Described by the jury that awarded Wang Shu the Pritzker Prize as “frank,” “collaborative,” “message-sending,” “unpredictable,” “careful,” “spontaneous,” “responsible,” De Monchaux wonders if, perhaps, Wang’s work doesn’t display “qualities that one would want in, say, the lively and free citizenry of a functional democratic republic,” so that, because they appear/are deployed in a society which is anything but, a statement is inevitably made (25 May 2012). To which I add: Isn’t this also an instance of architecture acting/being rhetorical? Read about it here: “Toward a Dissident Architecture?”
Deedee Garcia Blase (R-AZ) forms the National Tequila Party in the hopes of motivating would-be Latino voters to get out to the polls in 2012 in response to the anti-immigration rhetoric of the Tea Party. Note that Garcia Blase is Republican, and note that National Tequila Party doesn’t overtly identify with either the Left or the Right (increasingly, Latinos are demonstrating that they are not the monolithic group of people U.S. society has made it out to be–in race, ethnicity, culture, class, or politics).
The National Tequila Party comes in the wake of other parties which have appealed to minority groups on the grounds of “talking back” to national discourses: Corey Dade’s “Identity Politics: A Brief History”
A few weeks ago I wrote about the possible (read: likely) effects of employing certain rhetoric when advocating for same-sex marriage (namely that which aligns homosexuality with heteronormativity…homonormativity?). Historically, civil rights discourses have pitted minority groups against the dominant group in a sort of “tit-for-tat”; if you want this, then you have to give this up. If you want that, then you have to behave this way.*
NPR published a story on 28 June 2011 in which Corey Dade describes a recent rhetorical tactic being used by many undocumented youth i/o/t gain both visibility and support for legislation that would give these youth a path to citizenship:
This so-called DREAMers movement has gained wide attention for engaging a new generation of young immigrants who have grown up in America and would have been granted legal status under the legislation. Despite the bill’s failure, organizers say thousands of young people continue to “come out,” fueling an expansion of grass-roots efforts in multiple cities and making legislative pushes on the state level.
Dade gives one specific example, that of Viridiana Martinez, ” 24, who disclosed her illegal status at a rally last year, is one of thousands of young adults and teens who have organized nationwide based on a new strategy that places themselves on the front lines in the debate over immigration reform.”
Because both the gay rights movement and the immigrant rights movement (of which the undocumented youth movement is part of) are happening simultaneously in our cultural moment, we have a unique opportunity to observe and compare how the rhetoricians working within these two movements employ (or don’t) the common tropes of previous civil rights movements, and whether or not their respective rhetorical strategies take the opportunity to undermine homogeneity in the U.S., or if they too will reinforce it.
(Let me just say that I understand that people involved in civil rights movements aren’t particularly interested in how their means might be rhetorically analyzed; I understand that–first-and-foremos–civil rights activists want to ensure whatever rights they feel they are being denied. Nonetheless, some civil rights movements and the resulting legislation have been more effective than others. After all, there’s such a difference as de jure and de facto.)
Another important aspect worth mentioning of civil rights movements and their ability to be co-opted into bigger (read: national) discourses is how politicians describe, support, or denounce these movements, especially as an election season nears (and this shouldn’t be news to anyone). (But) take the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example. The way we remember the passage of the act includes JFK’s early drafting and support of it. Our collective memory also gives us Lyndon B. Johnson’s avowed efforts to pass the act immediately after he assumed the presidency. Writing for Slate.com about a recent release of recordings made of Johnson’s White House phone conversations between 1 June to 4 July 1964, Jason Sokol notes that
Five days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Johnson committed himself to a strong civil rights bill. Scholars have depicted this as a defining moment in his presidency. The native Texan wanted to show skeptical Northern liberals that he stood tall for racial equality.
The phone calls that transpired between Johnson and other law makers in the weeks leading up to the passing of the Act offer a counter-narrative to this popular story, however:
The tapes make it clear that the president who enacted the most important civil rights legislation of the last 140 years was deeply suspicious of the civil rights movement. Johnson phoned only two African-Americans during this five-week span: NAACP head Roy Wilkins and National Urban League director Whitney Young. Both were moderates. Johnson thought grass-roots leaders were pushing too fast and too hard. At one point, he referred to Martin Luther King Jr. and James Farmer as “outlaws.” In public, Johnson distanced himself from King. Scholars treat this as a pragmatic maneuver designed to hold the political center. But in these phone conversations, Johnson occasionally belittled and denounced King. His maneuvers appear rooted in personal distaste as much as political pragmatism.
It should come as no surprise that political pragmatism is also at work now that many Americans have been made aware of their proximity to undocumented youth by virtue of their “coming out.” Combine this with the widely-accepted reality that Latinos–the group which, because of media representation is often correlated with immigration, is being stereotyped and legislated against–will become a significant majority of voters in the next and subsequent election cycles, and it’s no wonder that we see politicians taking careful measure of how they react and/or respond to this public activism. For your consideration, the timing of this announcement (as reported by Dade):
ICE last week issued a memorandum granting its agents “prosecutorial discretion” to extend leniency to DREAM Act-eligible people and others while cracking down on those who pose “a clear risk to national security.” Leniency would take the form of deferred deportation…
A few days after the lauded reporter Jose Antonio Vargas disclosed his own immigration status in the New York Times Magazine, Dade asked whether or not the revelation that Vargas has been living in the U.S. illegally for decades would result in his deportation. He concluded that it wouldn’t. David Ramirez, an undocumented youth who was detained during a protest in Atlanta, GA, but who wasn’t deported, offers this simple, but accurate explanation: ”I think we got special treatment. Trying to deport us probably would have caused too much of an uproar.”
*Consider Reconstruction. The Fourteenth Amendment (1868) promised 1) citizenship to blacks; 2) due process to all persons; 3) equal protection for all people. And that’s it. The Amendment simply and only outlined what previous slaves (and future residents of the U.S.) would get. It in no way prescribed what they needed to do to “deserve” it. And yet, Amendment XVI has, for a long time, been interpreted as some sort of deal (which some, like Bill Cosby, feel blacks haven’t held up their end of) where if former slaves act and seem more like white Americans, they can be considered citizens, enjoy due process, and equal protection.
For another example, see the “If I Were a Negro” column, which ran in Negro Digest during the 1940s. The column, often penned by prominent white members of U.S. society, offered unsolicited advice to blacks hoping for something better in the years leading up to the civil rights era. Eleanor Roosevelt’s contributions offer some of the most salient examples of the “tit-for-tat” rhetoric.