when I first spotted an article on The Drudge Report page that said Rush Limbaugh an apparent supporter of President Trump, champion of free speech and of anti political correctness(circumspect disciplined speech) saying that the president should not have said that Mr.Mueller’s indicting 13 Russian citizens for undermining U.S. elections had proven that he himself was not guilty of using Russians to help him become president. To convince me that Limbaugh’s fears were well founded, a journalist saw the president’s exoneration comments as Mr. Limbaugh had. But I soon realized that the president being against politically correct speaking spoke as he has always been reported to have done “off the top of his head” or from the bottom of his gut, on impulse because his impolitic speech is not disciplined by fear of imagined consequences.
The word rhetoric once denoted ways of communicating one’s thoughts by devices called “rhetorical devices” “Appeal to authority” (used in terms like “expert/scientists say”) is a rhetorical device often used by journalists to convince readers of the validity of their opinions.
But today maybe 2500 years since the devices of rhetoric originated, the noun rhetoric acquired a secondary meaning as an adjective: rhetoric has come to mean rhetorical, an epithet for criticising a speech or a piece of writing full of words that say little or nothing to illuminate a subject. In this age of disintegrating dialogue writers often use most of their words to apologetically justify their right to speak on a subject as they prepare their audience for an explanation that is rarely given.
Today CP24 television, part of the Bell Network, has been highlighting president Obama’s call for unity after a rancorous election contest. The piece below was written during the 2008 Democrat primaries about when Hillary Clinton was expected to walk away with it and Mr. Obama first started calling for “unity”.
Today is the third day after the presidential candidates’ debates of September 26 2016. What’s different from the debates in 2012 is more people watched Monday’s debates than in 2012, and there are no neutral opinions about the results: everything I’ve read says Mr. Trump got trounced. Only Rush Limbaugh, a right-winger, believes he won by changing the style of political debates. I’ll assume that Mr. Limbaugh’s view is subjective as I assume most of those he calls the “drive bys” views are tainted by leftism. But today I read a Mr. Bai’s kind of grudging acceptance of the fact that Mr. Trump was hard for Mrs. Clinton to finish off even though Trump dared admitting having made money at the expense of others, which he justified by saying that making money at the expense of others was just doing business. Overall Mr. Bai, a respected writer on politics, felt that what kept Mr. Trump alive was the emotion with which he delivered his responses like the way he said taking advantage of others was just doing business; sounds like something I heard Judge Judy say to someone complaining he got ripped off; Well this is America, she said, as though he should have been on his toes and not made the deal.
My way of observing this recent debate is the same as my approach in 2012. I didn’t watch it directly. with Mr. Obama’s characterization of political debates ” as media-driven gamesmanship”. ringing in my ear I waited to see what media opinion makers had to say:
Me and Mr. Obama
October 8, 2012
Hey Mr. Obama is just like me; he thinks that political debates are just a media circus or in his October 7, New York Times media reported words ” media-driven gamesmanship” : “…Mr. Obama does not like debates to begin with, aides have long said, viewing them as media-driven gamesmanship…” at least that’s what they’re saying, whether you believe it or not. And if that’s what he thinks you might wonder why the President would have openly acted against his own beliefs by participating in an event the Times story calls
… a singular event in the life of the campaign, watched by more than 67 million people – a larger audience than for any of Mr. Obama’s 2008 debates, either of his nominating conventions or any of his State of the Union addresses…
Well, maybe his advisers wanted him to do it. I gather one of them is helping the Vice President prepare for his debate. Oh well I still think that what’s important about these political debates is how they are characterized in talk by professional opinion shapers:
Mr. Obama is said to believe political debates to be “media-driven gamesmanship” . But he apparently thought his October 4, 2012 debate was a good one,”This was a terrific debate”. But most commentators feel he wasn’t that effective, despite his continuing lead in the polls. But they say that’s what happened in 2008: thanks to Mr McCain’s grumpy debate style Mr. Obama came back to win the presidency in November. Maybe that’s what’s going to happen this time: one more win by the mythical “Come Back Kid”. Maybe that’s how they’re shaping it?
October 6, 2012
More than 2 days have passed since the debates on Wednesday, October 4, 2012, that as usual I refused to watch. For to me televised political debates are a kind of show business, presenting a small part of an election campaign puzzle, a kind of distraction from real problems that Presidential campaigns themselves distract from. These real concerns include who gets the money spent on these increasingly expensive contests. Is it the entertainment community, corporations, or investors like Mr. Romney, or the $250,000. a year middle classers? These real concerns also include the increasing cost of necessities while wages stagnate or diminish. And one of these necessities is fuel: for furnaces, shipping of food from far across the world, driving of autos for employment, and who the candidates for president and their parties represent, despite personal attacks. For what matters most about these debates is what is said about them on television and in newspapers later. On Thursday, October 4, 2012, New York Times articles suggested that Mr. Obama had been a surprisingly ineffective speaker, but by the next day, and by today, October 6, 2012, debate performance seems forgotten,(1) so too the reported largest audience in debate watching history( a much advertised event, paid for by ?) And time, time helps sift things to bring perspective so that today October 6, 2012 Mr. Obama’s apparent oratorical meekness seems unimportant and the time worn pronouncement about these debates is promulgated with emphasis on the moderators less than demanding questions and not how Mr. Romney or Mr. Obama might have been the winner, and that this has all been “Much Ado About Nothing”.
I published the following back in 2015 when linguists started trying to analyze Mr. Trump’s talk. My view printed below was inspired by my reading over the years of McLuhan’s little book “Understanding Media”.
I just came across an article about linguists analyzing Mr. Trump’s public speaking style; their analyses seemed to indicate that no other politicians have engaged in his kind of discourse. My view of his diction is based on my reaction to some of the seemingly unprovoked aggressively hurled adjectives that Mr. Trump’s reported to have said like “low energy” and other derogatory terms such as “terrible” and the “worst” to describe his opponents abilities contrasted with his own as though he were spontaneously responding to someone on the street or as if he were a D.J., not a politician delivering a carefully focused essay-like coherent speech from a professorial podium to a waiting faceless elite, but “cool” as McLuhan might have described him back in the “cool” Dave Mickey 60‘s or the Hound Dog 50‘s. His words spurt out with the uninhibited disjointed gusto of the electronic media age: words like comic book images sporadically pouring from all over the place, non-stop and without apprehension, made coherent by Trumps intense self congratulatory enthusiasm and his listeners’ putting things together the way they’re used to connecting video dots and comic book imagery.
The most difficult element of rhetorical style to characterize is tone.
I’ve seen funny movies that are satirical in that they mock social habits and conventions through irony; yet reviewers write about plot and comic effectiveness, scarcely noting the object of the humour.
Sarcasm another use of ironic tone says one thing but means another.
Mathematical and news media statements arrive toneless.
Even a question, an interogative statement may end in a period but those sensitive to tone know that what textually looks like an assertion may be a question.
Learning to apologize childishly through instinct and imitation, whenever I realized I’d stepped on someone’s toe inadvertently I’d say in all humility, I’m sorry: “from the bottom of my heart … I apologize”. Yesterday and in recent years “apology” has come to represent rhetorical just payment for past wrongs committed conventionally before the apologizer was born.