Rhetoric and Research
Rhetoric and Research COMM 6120-01
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Mariah Tucker on Saturday September 10, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to COMM 6120-01 at Southern Utah University taught by Dr. Kevin Stein in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 4 views. For similar materials see Qualitative Communication Research in Communication at Southern Utah University.
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Date Created: 09/10/16
COMM 6020 Qualitative Research Dr. Kevin Stein Week One: Rhetoric and Research “If you think research is boring, then you are boring.” ~Kevin Stein. This class is focused on qualitative research, so it’s not necessarily dealing with hard data numbers like other forms of research this week focused on introducing rhetoric, so students understand how it is used, and the impact rhetoric can have on an audience. The first example of the way rhetorical messages can attract people discussed the reason why Donald Trump is still in the race, despite his many offensive comments. We have all heard something about his offensive wording, whether he is attacking Muslims, Mexicans, or any other race for that matter. The first time we heard him say something offensive, it hurt us essentially. It’s kind of like stepping on a nail and having it go through your foot. You aren’t fond of the nail, and you would rather it be gone, but there isn’t much you can do to make it go away. Now that Trump has been on his campaign trail for a while, there are multiple offensive comments he has made. Since they are so numerous, it doesn’t hurt as much as the first offensive comment. It is kind of like lying on a bed of nails instead of just stepping on one. It’s still not great, but you are okay. Eventually you get used to it, and it doesn’t bother you as much as it did at first. Dr. Stein said that’s how rhetoric works sometimes. It is meant to be a persuasive tool, and sometimes it is heavily used, like in the case of Donald Trump. He essentially says things that he knows will get a lot of attention, and hopefully persuade his constituents to follow him. He may say things that aren’t so politically correct, but he is using rhetoric to get his target audience that believes what he is saying, and it is working out in his favor for the most part. Aristotle defined rhetoric as “The faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” That essentially means that a person using rhetoric needs to be observant of what the audience is most likely to be persuaded by. Sometimes rhetoric gets a bad name, because it can be used to persuade people. It isn’t inherently negative, depending on how it is used. For instance President Abraham Lincoln used rhetoric frequently in his speeches, and he is considered by many to be one of the greatest presidents of the United States. He used it to persuade people in a positive way that was beneficial to the majority. Adolf Hitler also used rhetoric in many of his speeches throughout his political career. He had the majority following him, and agreeing with his plans, because they had seen the ways that Hitler could change Germany for the better. At first his actions were beneficial to Germany, because he started organizations to help people like Hitler’s youth (essentially the same as the boys and girls club or scouting programs), and made changes that improved the economy. He continued to use rhetoric when his initiatives were less beneficial, and eventually led to the mass genocide known as the Holocaust. He used rhetoric in a way that persuaded people to do things that they normally wouldn’t do. Rhetoric and persuasion can be used for both good and bad purposes; it just depends on how the user decides to use those tools. Rod Hart defines rhetoric as “The art of using language to help people narrow their choices among specifiable, if not specified, policy options. Hart has a few components he believes to be essential in the use of rhetoric. 1. Rhetoric is a cooperative art. You essentially need two or more people to make it work. If you aren’t talking to another person or an audience, the rhetoric has no actual use, because convincing yourself requires less than convincing another person. 2. Rhetoric is the people’s art. Rhetoric belongs to people as a whole, because anyone can use it. There aren’t rules saying that certain people are unable to use rhetoric, because they don’t have a particular degree, or intelligence level. Kevin compared it to people seeing movies or plays. Not everyone is interested in seeing a Shakespeare play or a thriller movie, because sometimes those require a certain level of understanding that not everyone possesses or even wishes to possess, but people can use rhetoric as long as they understand language to an extent. Basically if you know how to persuade, you should be fine. 3. Rhetoric is a temporary art. Rhetoric is used to persuade people based on what they know, and how they live, so something used in a rhetorical argument one day may not hold the same power in a different audience down the road. As great as Mark Antony’s “Friend’s Romans, countrymen,” speech in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is, it wouldn’t hold the same power over people living today as it did in the context it was used in. People today might not be convinced by that language, so it makes the rhetoric used less persuasive. Rhetoric changes with current events and what people are concerned with at the time. We discussed syllogisms and enthymemes, and manipulation in class to help understand different tools that can be used in speaking and writing. A syllogism is essentially an argument that draws a conclusion from a premise such as “All men are mortal, so all mortals are men.” Syllogisms essentially draw a simple conclusion in the argument built within the argument itself. Enthymemes are basically arguments with an implied premise. The premise is not explicitly stated, so it is up to the audience to fill in the blank so to speak. Manipulation is using an argument in a way that convinces your audience to do exactly what you want them to. Manipulation and rhetoric are highly connected, but not all rhetoric is persuasion per se, so there is a difference. People use rhetorical manipulation in a variety of ways to convince people to donate money to causes, try something, or subscribe to something. They try to word it in a way that people are convinced that they should do what the organization or speaker is trying to convince them to do. Dr. Stein illustrated this point with having the class read a letter from the Special Olympics office to a potential donor. The letter talked about a particular athlete, and all that she has been able to accomplish through the Special Olympics program. Essentially they made it look like they were responsible for the success of not only that athlete, but any success that a Special Olympian has after competing in the Special Olympics. After the organization makes themselves sound good, they essentially make the reader feel like they need to donate by saying that if they don’t get the donation, the athletes can’t compete, and their dreams are basically crushed. The letter put it more eloquently, but essentially the writers used rhetoric to get people to donate to their cause through a little bit of guilt. They basically gave you the option of donating so the athletes can continue competing, or crushing their dreams by deciding not to send the Special Olympics money. It’s essentially giving the recipient a very narrow range of options, so they will be persuaded to do what they asked.