Commercial Thoughts and Lack of Progress.

The idea of this project is really cool; it’s always fun to mentally imagine how certain things would be different in a movie or a book or any form of fiction. However, thinking how a commercial can be different is a different situation.

The thing that’s interesting is the fact that about 95% of commercials on evening television are Pathos driven. Is it because of our culture? Is it because we don’t care? Is it because deep down we like the idea of flashing images of girls in bikinis while being serenaded by the smooth musical styling of Motley Crue is a great way to sell a car?

“Hello, let us show you how wonderfully innovative this car is” said nobody in Motley Crue.

Lets face it, commercials are getting increasingly mindless for the sake of cutting costs. What’s cheaper? A payed sponsor talking about Insurance or a bunch of pyrotechnics and a talking lizard? The former, of course, but in the end people are more likely to remember the latter. For example, take into account how popular the Geico Cavemen commercials were about ten years ago. It was to the point where Geico separated the image of the cavemen from their commercials and started a sitcom based off of the run-on gag that the phrase “It’s so easy, a caveman can do it” is actually a racially intolerant statement since, obviously, Cavemen own nice apartments, dress in suits, and drink fancy drinks.

“Waiter? What were we sponsoring again?”

This being said, it’s easier for one to take a Pathos driven commercial and make it into a Logos or Ethos based one. However, I want to try to do the opposite; I want to find a completely legitimate and informative commercial and make it into a Pathos driven commercial. I have two ideas in mind for this.


The first idea being the old Apple computer commercials with Jeff Goldblum bantering about how cool they are. The commercials are full of information and, to top it off, are narrated by Jeff Goldblum; one of the dorkiest actors in recent history.

The best authority for computers.

If this was pathos driven, I could see it interlaced with explosions (a’la Independence Day) and/or dinosaurs (a’la Jurassic Park) whilst Jeff Goldblum serves as a sort-of hero using the Apple computers to stop this absurdly cartoonish violence. Giving the consumer the impression that computers can (and will) defeat dinosaurs. A concept that, though sounding absurd, isn’t out of the realm of advertisement possibilities.

The other commercial I was thinking about was one of the age-old classic “Hoveround” commercials

The antithesis of a Pathos driven advertisement.

Everyone has seen them; old people shown rolling around in pure ecstasy because the idea (present by the commercial) of a electronic wheelchair has given them a second shot at living their lives (side-note: it’s not like electronic wheelchairs are a NEW thing or anything, so these commercials are ironically re-inventing the wheel in the first place). The commercials tastelessly exploit older people and show them off as being either completely hopeless in the mobility department, but also living in a world of weird ultimatums where the idea that “if you can’t walk that means you will lose your house AND your family” are actually common place and the only solution is a Hoveround.

They try to make this up by showing some older people doing synchronized hover-driving, making birdhouses, and visiting the Grand Canyon. Despite this, the commercial still hilariously presents these people as being terrifyingly aged in an almost caricature fashion; some of the old ladies scream at the camera while the old men sit around and watch baseball or something.


The commercials are laced deeply with factual information and statistics to the point where it seems like a miniature infomercial as opposed to an commercial. If this was a pathos driven commercial, I could see the soundtrack being replaced with a silly song about rolling around (Rollin’ by Limp Bizkit is a possibility) and just filled with images of people in Hoverounds doing awesome things.

Hoveround Wheelchairs: COOL PEOPLE ONLY.

Who needs facts anyway when you have loud music, crazy sequences, and star power?


Blog #6: “Ethos, Pathos, Logos”

Besides sounding like a goofy trio of villains in a historically inaccurate animated movie about Ancient Greece for children, Ethos Pathos and Logos are two very important things in the world of not only rhetoric, but basic discussion in any situation.  The terms themselves sound quite a bit more intimidating than they actually are, and the words are easy to define. Differentiating them, however, is a seemingly daunting task.


The idea of “Ethos” stems from the idea of credibility. In a nutshell, Ethos has to do with the authority of the person making the argument. For example, in a medical situation, if a claim is made about a particular substance by a man who has a PHD in the field itself has a stronger ethos than, say, a man on a soap-box in the middle of Boston Common making the same claim. However, the fact that they are both making sound claims, it could be argued that the ethos of the argument isn’t all that faltered, but the credibility of it is put into question with the soap-box man as opposed to the Doctor.

Snidely Whiplash wouldn’t be a good candidate to promote home security, for example.


Where Ethos has to do with the person making the claim, Logos reflects directly to the claim itself. The logic that is used to present an idea or argument as well as the facts in the claim or argument form the Logos. Like any situation, the more facts and testimony you use will help you pass off your ideas more fluidly. If, however, you’re lazy and don’t think that it’s important to back your claims up, this can lead to people not taking your idea seriously or you as a person seriously either.

Another part of Logos has to do with how the idea is conveyed. If you are good at detailing your thoughts or making your ideas more accessible to someone who might be a casual onlooker, you are more likely to get people behind your ideas. If you decide to half-ass it and decide to not talk clearly or fumble with your presentation, people might not take you seriously and might ignore your points.

Pictured Above: Impenetrable logic held tightly together by Logos.


Alright, you got your idea and you got your logic, now what? Well, you need to dress it up and sell it like nobody’s business. Pathos has to do with the more emotional, auditory, and visual means of conveying logic. For example, if you’re going to present an idea at a business meeting, it’s a good idea to look formal and look official as opposed to looking ratty and dirty when you walk in front of top executives. Logically, you’d wear a big suit and dress to impress so the people observing visually believe that you look like you should be presenting this information.

Yes, the biggest suit you can find. No if, and’s, or but’s. David would be a master at any business meeting.

Emotional appeals are always used in any argument, particularly in the news and on television. For example, one thing constantly argued is the severity of animal abuse. There are countless papers and articles about the subject, but the most powerful means of conveying the brutality of animal abuse is though visual means. Because of this, people universally agree that the Sarah Mclaughlin SPCA commercials are the most powerful and poignant when it comes to countering animal-abuse (also ruining “In The Arms of an Angel” for anyone with a heart).

An image that has lead to trillions of channel-flipping/television-muting instances around the globe.

Why is this the case? Well, visually, it appeals to our instincts that pets are cute and should be loved and that, when this is infringed, it’s really bad. It instinctively makes us all very upset and puts us in a situation where we visually see something dreadful on television but we cannot do anything about it, making us helpless and eager to do anything to fix the situation. It’s a winning argument using a very strong form of Pathos though, ironically, there are absolutely NO facts on the screen or any other form of logic to help balance out rational thought. Similar usages of this include the Montana Meth advertisements and any footage you see of the Vietnam war. All of these images, though not logically based, force us in a very off-balance flight-or-fight situation through Pathos that convince us instantly of a point (Abuse is bad/drugs are bad/war is bad).

Highly effective but, if misused, can be seen as a red herring.

Professor Plum’s “New Yorker” Essay

“As I’ve learned through past experiences, it’s better to recall and write down incidents that never happened at all as opposed to ones that are forever ingrained in your memory. People want (and prefer) a good story as opposed to something unrelentingly harsh and real. The life and abrupt demise of Colonel Mustard that I have chosen to write will be as true to me as it will be to him.

“A man like Mustard is a man who has been prone to awful luck since birth. Unfortunately for the Colonel, he was born in the wrong century. He would have been contempt living in the early 1900’s gallivanting through the Serengeti with a musket ball and a flask topped with brandy or even in the 1800’s triumphantly calling to his platoon as he single-handedly took down the Southern Resistance. This, of course, did not prevent him from trying to live out these historical possibilities.

“His love and lust for hunting is, posthumously, ironic when one is to look at the circumstances behind his death. Staring down the stock of his sidearm placing his future pair of boots in his cross-hairs was something Mustard lusted about. All the while blissfully oblivious that someone else would successfully give him a taste of his own blood lust.

“Maybe this is something that excited Mustard, maybe he felt that this form of earthly departure was fitting for a man in his situation. These are all things I would never know, nor would anyone else. This does not make the blow of his death any less poignant, no.   His death is something I would have never wished for, but it’s something that we all need to assure ourselves was constantly on the mind of the hunter.

“Any man worth his weight in alligator shoes knows of the risks of leading a hunt or stalking through alien territory. A man like Mustard has come to terms with this on many occasions not only by the places he goes, but also by the sport itself. I’m sure that each time he unlatched his gun-case (in the second cabinet below the whiskey on the third floor of his mansion next to the large panda pelt on the wall) and decided which tool will be fine enough to get the job done, he saw that the power that sat firmly in his hands only made sense because it rivaled what it was he was after in the first place.

“I was there when his life was taken from him and I wish that I hadn’t been. I and my colleagues were helpless when the lights faded and we were left in the shadow of our own mind and, potentially, irrational thoughts. The sound of his adversary and the resulting cascade of gore leaving but a crimson thought-bubble around his head left us all bewildered. His final thought was clear to all of us; he was not alone in this grim fandango and his dancing partner was still amongst us. I, as a man with two left feet, couldn’t possibly dance with death (especially with the lights off), but regardless of talent or will, we all agreed that his partner didn’t matter as much as the weight of his final pirouette. A man constantly dancing with death took his final curtain call on his own empty stage, and deserves the gratitude any performer has rightfully earned. His partner should not get the same glory.”

What was interesting about writing a non-fiction essay is the fact that it has a strong focus on reality (hence the title “non-fiction”). The writer of a non-fiction essay needs to have a strong sense of prowess in his writing abilities and strongly focus on not fictionalizing the events that you are mentioning. I made Plum go through this crisis at the beginning of this essay by making him rationalize with the reader the difficulty of writing a non-fiction essay (since he isn’t Gore Vidal or Noam Chomsky). At the same time, in saying this, I made Plum rationalize the fact that his stress on the facts in a non-fiction essay, in turn, rhetorically create a reality where what he says is true. Because of this, he can clear his mind by making it clear he isn’t the killer since the essay will be considered non-fiction by the people who read it, thus making the claims of his innocence true.

This is putting a lot of faith in the genre itself, but is something that Plum needs to remind himself of while writing. Due to his absent mindedness, he inadvertently points out oddly specific facts that would normally incriminate a man (the exact location of his gun case) but due to their factuality they can’t be disputed in the essay. A few times Plum stresses his innocence indirectly which can be taken as either an earnest attempt to clear his name or a blatant attempt to admit guilt.

Overall, the rationalization that Plum has is that since Mustard was a hunter, he was also a man who had to come to terms with death anyways so his death isn’t a shock so much as it is a bother. Since Mustard can’t really defend himself due to the fact that he is dead, Plum has the authority to write in whatever he pleases and claim that it’s something Mustard would agree with or believe in.

In the end, the idea of writing a non-fiction essay is a great way for one to clear their thoughts. However, it’s also a good way for someone to rhetorically alter reality and pass it off as something true when done correctly. Plum, in this case, exploited the genre due to him knowing that if his manufactured innocence is marketed as “non-fiction,” then in the eye of the public he will actually be an innocent man.

Blog #4.5: “The Rhetorical Situation”

To begin, it should be noted that I am doing this in the wrong order. I was a little too eager and did the blog that was due on September 17th before the one that was due on September 14th (hence the title).

Pictured Above: The Time Machine I would use to correct this horrendous blog error.

For the sake of my error, I will now write the rest of this blog in the past-tense to give the viewer the impression that this blog was actually submitted on the correct date:

I read the article “The Rhetorical Situation” by Lloyd Bitzer and it was clear that he knew what he was talking about. To clarify, Blitzer’s writing style was dense enough to give off the impression that he knew what he was talking about but, in the end, succeeded in bouncing around the point long enough to give off the idea that he knew what he was talking about.

The dense rhetorical fog caused by Lloyd’s writing made it hard to find my way home after reading it.

Fortunately, the questions proposed made it clear that I had to come up with a definition as opposed to finding Lloyd’s definition.

QUESTION #1: Define “Exigence”

To define “exigence,” I had to remember my days laboriously dragging my sorry self through philosophy courses back in the day. Though the word itself seemed intimidating, the definition was something a lot more simple to convey. Exigence is the catalyst to rhetorical conversation; the idea that causes one to discuss rhetorically.

QUESTION #2: Define “Audience”

Despite the name, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the people observing the discussion. The audience is the person (or persons) that the discussion is directed to.

How I picture my rhetorical audience (and potentially the people looking at this blog [I hope not])

QUESTION #3: Define “Constraints”

With discussion (or anything at that matter) there are certain things you cannot do depending on your situation. Constraints are things that you cannot do rhetorically because of your social position or your morals. For example, if you’re an employee at an office, you position restricts you from yelling at customers and those higher up than you because you’re in a position where defiance can have a negative impact not only on your career, but any rhetorical point you try and get across.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeven if your boss has you come in on Saturday.

QUESTION: #4: “Write what you understand and don’t understand about Bitzer’s concept of the rhetorical situation”

All the points made in Blitzer’s concepts made complete sense to me. However, one thing that did bother me was the style which he wrote it. It’s something that really can be said for most of the authors who specialize in rhetorical studies; Why on Earth do the heads of coherent rhetorical though deem it completely necessary to bounce around subject matter and use completely outlandish ways to compare A and B. For example, Blitzer made it clear that he was going to sketch an idea of rhetorical situation. However, instead of something that makes sense upon reading, Blitzer made a strange analogy with John F. Kennedy that really didn’t make any sense until the reading was over.

A depiction of how I took my anger out on Blitzer’s writing style/my computer.

On a side note, I am trying to look at these articles from an outsider perspective as opposed to someone that is already versed in the ways of rhetorical discussion. Out of the articles I read, it’s clear that the people who are major proponents of rhetoric know what they are saying. However, I found it ironic that they decide that the best way to rhetorically convey their point is to bloat it with an insane amount of analogies and comparisons that are not only irrelevant to most coherent conversation, but also unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. If they wanted to rhetorically prove a point about rhetoric, wouldn’t it make more sense to make it more accessible to someone on the outside looking in while still maintaining all the points you really want to make to those who are already well versed in rhetoric? I feel as though bloating your papers to the point of irrelevancy isn’t a good way to convey a point, especially to people who might not know what the hell you’re talking about in the first place.

Blog #4: “Navigating Genres”

The funny thing about this subject mater is that it’s been apart of my life for a long time. As a musician/writer/dude who worked at a record store for a long time, genres were a major portion of my life. I always viewed genres as a fun way to label things. Though not always the perfect way to lump items into a group, it was still a blast when people had to jump through absurd hoops to find the album they wanted. Since, of course, my store was sorted by genres.

Pictured Above: An album put under the “Trashy Sort-of Bubble Gum Pop With One Or Two Catchy Songs But Overall Annoying” genre section. Which was, not surprisingly, a GIGANTIC section.

QUESTION #1: How might we define “genre”? What are its characteristics?

Genre is something that initially seems easy to define… Until I read this article.

The article introduces the idea that, to fully define ‘genre’, that “it might be simpler to start with what they are not” (9)

My reaction to that sentence.

The article stresses that “genres are not only about literary texts anymore,” “genre are more than forms,”genres are not fixed,” and that “genres are not sortable into precise categories nor are they classification systems.”

“…So what am I reading again?”

Basically, this sentence itself completely destroyed any pretext that I had when it came to defining genre. However, though this a clear definition is given to us in the form that genres “are texts developed in and responding to recurring situations” (10). This suggests that the term is something that exists as long as it needs to exist to define a particular item. Basically, they are things that define something else so long as that definition is needed either socially or contextually. It seems rather abstract, but it does make sense since the idea of classification and genre sort-of melds into different contexts in day-to-day life.


QUESTION #2: “How does the concept of the rhetorical situation relate to the concept of genre?”

Both genres and rhetorical situations have things in common. The main thing that both of these idea share is that they both relate strongly to the idea of choice, they allow users to choose among options to effectively accomplish their purposes in each particular situation” (13). For both rhetoric and genre, you’re choosing a way to represent or understand an item or ideas amongst other like-items and ideas.

QUESTION #3: “What does it mean that a genre is rhetorical?”

“…from this perspective, writing isn’t only, or even primarily, about the text anymore; it’s also about the situation surrounding the writing, about understanding that situation, and about ensuring that the rhetorical choices made in using a genre are effective for the situation and the user” (23).

The text gives us the idea that rhetorical choices are decisions that we make that, though sometimes used for persuasion, exist to get an idea across in one form or another. However, to do this, we need not only to pick a particular way to convey this point, but also the most effective way to get this point across. We do this by selecting a way to stress our point properly in the context of the conversation or the situation. For example, if I want to get a point across to a child about a broken toy, I’m going to approach the situation in a way that makes sense within the context of the situation. However, if I wanted to get a point across to a co-worker, I wouldn’t use the same childlike context to convey it to him or her and would approach it in a different way.

“Well if YOU weren’t such a stinky DUMB-DUMB the report would have been filed by YESTERDAY!”

Overall, it’s pretty clear how they both related to each-other. They both seem to work really well together in the context of discussion and persuasion. In fact, it’s really hard to imagine them not coexisting together. Despite the confusing way the article was assembled, it’s obvious that you really can’t have one without the other.


Blog Post #3 “Everything Is An Argument”

The interesting thing about this article is the prospect that it presented to me. In a sense, the article was an argument that argued that everything is an argument and I have to argue which arguments are argued in this article.

In a sense, “Argue-ception.”

The article “Everything Is An Argument” really sticks to the idea presented in its title. It’s about as all encompassing as the question that was presented:


QUESTION #1: “On your blog, list and describe in your own words the kinds of arguments, various purposes of arguments, and occasions for arguments presented in this chapter.”

Where do I begin?


There are several types of arguments that are presented through this article. The types are argument are lumped into four categories; argument of facts, definition, evaluation, and proposal.

Factual arguments are just that; arguments that involve an idea that has validity that can be debated. A pretty good example of an argument of fact is as follows:

There is, in fact, an human impact on the environment that has caused “Global Warming”

Though that seems easy enough, to make a claim like that, one must ask questions such as “how does humanity impact the environment?” “how can we compare the environment as it is now to the past?” “is there any physical evidence this is actually occurring?” All of which are ways to debate the argument of fact. The same could be used if the argument was reversed and said “There is, in fact, no evidence of human impact on the environment and ‘Global Warming’ is not an actual issue.”

“Nah man, this is just normal and such. I love my personal ice sheet”

An argument of definition pertains to the idea that an object or an idea that is know is also apart of a group of other “like” objects. This situation is more common than one thinks. For example, in casual conversation, you’re bound to hear someone say “this is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard” or “this is the best song they’ve done” or “this is the best video of all time.”

Kanye West just read this article and wanted to make an Argument of Definition.

All of those statements are, in effect, arguments of definition since you’re lumping one object (Beyonce’s music video) into another category (the best music videos of all time). To prove this argument, questions need to be asked such as why it’s that great, how it stands up against other videos, etc.

Arguments of evaluation are basically arguments that further the quality of an item that is defined using an argument of definition. For example, if something is defined as a video game, the argument of quality asks if the video game is good or bad.

Arguments of action are probably the most prominent in the English language. A simple statement like “it’s really hot outside” is, in effect, a perfect example of an argument of action. The argument proposed causes one to look and try to figure out what form of action to take. Of course, this is slightly more simplistic than most major arguments of action, but it still embodies the idea perfectly.


The article provides an idea for purposes behind arguments that also serves as something pretty all-encompassing. The article stresses that there are about seven different purposes for arguments: To Inform, Convince, Persuade, Explore, Make Decisions, Pray, Academic arguments.

Arguments to inform serve as a way to tell someone something they may not know. This can be as simple as a stop-sign or an update on traffic via the news.

“Warning! Moose can destroy cars with their minds.”

Arguments to convince are generally arguments you would find in an essay or any form of media that is trying to make a point. The purpose of this argument is to make you agree with a particular point that will be outlined in the work.

Arguments to persuade are a slight offset off of arguments to convince in the sense that they are also trying to make you believe a point BUT are using a stronger bias or slant that arouse a need for action. This is commonly found with advertisements, debates, and the History Channel.

“I’m not saying it’s aliens… BUT IT’S ALIENS.”

Arguments to explore stress that there is an issue at hand and the only way it can be resolved is by either the audience or the author themselves. They are more open-ended because they intrinsically require a form of exploration to prove or solve.

Arguments to make decisions are very straight forward; they are arguments that tries to make a valid decision. As highlighted in the paper, the most significant argument to make a decision is picking a major while in college.

Arguments to pray are arguments that stress some form of meditation, prayer, or detachment from oneself to a divine place.

Academic arguments are arguments that have a focus with a particular study. For example, me writing this blog is an academic argument in the concentration of this class.*

*it’s also an argument of convincing/informing/persuasion/exploration but whatever… It can also be an argument to pray

“Oh Lord, let me pass this class.”


On the surface, this seems like a pretty straight forward statement. Hell, I’d argue that the best occasion for argument is after an episode of a television show or after a few rounds.

Pictured Above: Modern philosophers having deep arguments.

The article, however, stresses that the occasions for argument are the past, the present, and the future. This is because they all, in effect, relate to each other.

Arguments about the past (or “forensic arguments”) are arguments made about things that have already occurred. This is most commonly seen in court rooms and any form of interrogation. They are generally directed to one particular entity and different precedents that it may have caused. For example, if someone stole a cookie from a plate, the assertion that someone did it can be taken from the fact that there is, indeed, a cookie missing from the plate.

Cuff him, he’s as guilty as sin!

Arguments about the present are arguments that are contemporary and are openly debated amongst people on a day-to-day basis. These arguments are commonly heard in public areas and are also known as ceremonial arguments. Examples include religious sermons, public debates, or political addresses.

Arguments about the future (or deliberative arguments) are generally policies that are made with the future in mind. For example, when we vote for particular questions around election time, they serve as arguments for the future since they propose a lot of what-if’s. Arguments for the future are generally derived from forensic arguments since they, in a sense, are there to correct or further ideas that have already happened. For example, the argument “should X be legal” is a deliberative argument because, forensically, X was proven to be illegal in the past.

In the end, the article certainly did prove that everything is an argument. There really can’t be much added to what was stated… Or should I say… ARGUED?!



Blog Post #2 “An Overview of Rhetoric”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this course so far, it’s that everyone seems to have a form of gripe with the word “rhetoric.” I’ve also learned that the people most offended by this discord are the people that have some vague idea as to the actual textbook definition of it. A fine example of someone who is rather livid with this situation is Mr. James A. Herrick. A major authority on the subject of rhetoric, Herrick is a staunch advocate of the rhetorical revisionist movement that seems to be championing a new era of people actually understanding what the word actually means. Herrick is also good at grammatically incorrect sentences and starting a bunch of them with “but” or “and.”

An accurate depiction of how I felt reading some of the sentences.

QUESTION #1: How does Herrick define rhetoric, rhetoric, the “art” of rhetoric, and the functions of rhetoric?

It should come as no surprise at this point that defenders of rhetoric are inclined to label it as a form of art. After a very strange analogy using The Police song “Every Breath You Take” (which prompted a response similar to the picture posted earlier), Herrick gets to the point and begins to coherently defining rhetoric.

“Thus, I will define the art of rhetoric as the systematic study and intentional practice of effective symbolic expression. Effective here will mean achieving the purposes of the symbol-user, whether that purpose is persuasion, clarity, beauty, or mutual understanding… The systematic presentation of the art of rhetoric, descriptions of rhetoric’s various functions, and explanations of how rhetoric achieves its goals are collectively known as rhetorical theory.” (Herrick, 7)

Pictured Above: Sting playing with The Police/ The most rhetorical thing on the planet.

It’s clear that Herrick’s definition of rhetoric is a bit more all-encompassing than most other people’s definitions. He doesn’t view the act of speaking as the only way to convey rhetoric; he also sees symbols, and physical expression means to convey rhetoric in one way or another. He furthers this by stressing that language is a “symbol system” (Herrick, 7) that is commonly employed to get this point across. Out of all the people that have defined rhetoric as an art, Herrick is the only one that has actually clarified this definition by actually paralleling the idea of rhetoric with artistic expression. Art is a term that’s used to describe film, paintings, literature, video games, and music. Until this point, “art” and “rhetoric” seemed pretty alien to each-other since the only definitions given to us were textually based. Because of Herrick’s more wide-reaching definition, it’s clear that rhetoric can be used to describe any form of human expression that’s attempting to get a point across.

“And over here we are going to paint a happy little rhetoric”

Despite this, Herrick is still quick to denounce the idea that rhetoric is just a glorified way to say the word “persuasion” and furthers the idea that expresses that conveying an idea and a point is similar to persuasion in a passive way.


QUESTION #2: “How does Herrick’s explanation of rhetoric enhance, challenge or extend the definition of rhetoric presented in ‘In Defense of Rhetoric: No Longer Just for Liars.'”

The main flaw with the video and definition presented in the video was that it was relatively abrasive. As you may remember, the overall summary of rhetoric in ‘In Defense of Rhetoric’ was that it was a tool that was used aggressively to get points across by people with fictitious power  and the only way to combat it is, more or less, in by debating the hell out of them.

Never forget the stare of a man who lost rhetorical battles.

The other definition that was promptly used in the video was that rhetoric is used to create a form of reality. Of course, it doesn’t physically create this reality, but what it does is manufacture an understanding of the reality that we already experience and, in doing so, creates an alternate reality. For example, if you were over my house and I told you that you couldn’t go into a certain room because there was something terrible behind the door, rhetorically I’m creating this reality in your mind that there is indeed something bad behind the door without you even seeing it.

But behind the other door there could be a FABULOUS PRIZE!

This being said, the main discord between Herrick’s work and the video is that the video really stays with the idea of verbal and textual communication as opposed to any other form of expression. In this sense, it can be said that Herrick’s definition extends the definition that was presented in the video. However, due to the fact that Herrick repeatedly stresses that persuasion is not the most prominent thing that rhetoric is used for, it can also be said that Herrick is somewhat challenging the argument in the video. Besides the idea that rhetoric creates reality, there really isn’t any form of definition pertaining to the arts as explicitly as how Herrick defines it. In this sense, it can be said that Herrick’s more in-depth analysis of the word is a challenge to the rather watered-down limited definition provided by the video.


QUESTION #3: “What do you not understand, or what might be a little fuzzy, about the terms Herrick discusses in his chapter?”

Overall, there really wasn’t anything that threw me off about this article. Herrick is a pretty coherent author with a very strict mindset when it comes to rhetoric. He does a very good job explaining his point as well as rationalizing all other arguments that may be in direct contrast with what he actually things/says. If I had any sort-of comment to say about his writing, I’d say that he is a bit scatterbrained at points. He definitely has plenty of ideas but his means of conveying what he thinks is a bit odd. At points it’s clear that he thinks certain things in his paper makes complete sense but, once applied to paper, it makes little to no sense.

At the same time, I’m glad that he doesn’t have a video because I don’t think I could bring myself to watch it. Unless, of course, he litters it with clips of The Police preforming.

The Police providing the soundtrack to rhetoric.




Herrick, James A. The History and Theory of Rhetoric: An Introduction. Boston: Allyn and Beacon, 2005. Print.

Blog Post #1: “In Defense of Rhetoric: No Longer Just for Liars”

Prior to watching the video, I had really embraced the fact that rhetoric isn’t too attractive of a word to most people. Those I’ve spoken with agree (amongst themselves) that rhetoric is more in-tune with the idea of persuasion; using some form of logos (whether it be a price point or a political platform), pathos (stressing how much you or somebody you care for dearly would love it) and some form of ethos (dressing up all nice or not-so-nice in an attempt to appeal to your visual idea of comfort). It’s hard for me, personally, to defend this sometimes because I served my time in the retail world and I know all those things are things that I’ve done for the sake of my job. Did I like it? Well, it payed the bills but it didn’t make me feel like I was being a good person making someone buy the new Twilight movie knowing deep down that not only did they not need it, but it was also terrible.


“In Defense of Rhetoric” is an interesting video constructed by the Communications department at Clemson University. In the end, it has a very infomercial feel and is ironically trying to sell the idea of rhetoric to people who may have been dismayed by a salesman or ( quoth the plumber Dr. Tharon Howard encountered during a taxi ride) someone practicing the “art of bullshit.” Which goes to question one:

QUESTION #1: “How do people often define the word “rhetoric” and why is this definition inaccurate?”

The video stresses nearly every second in the opening five minutes that people universally agree that “rhetoric” is a negative word that refers to an art that is practiced by salesmen/con-men/or just jerks that want to get a point across. Dr. Tharon Howard (Director, MA, in professional communication at Clemson University) states right off the bat that “people inside rhetoric don’t often understand how outside the field the term is understood” and recounts an experience on how a man, after being told by Dr. Howard that he was on his way to a Rhetoric Conference, thought that it was the “art of bullshit.”

PICTURED ABOVE: A man deeply distraught after a plumber made fun of his conference.

It’s clear that the idea of rhetoric is misunderstood by people who are “outside the field” as a term that basically embodies dishonesty. This is, of course, negative because it doesn’t really mean that. Sure, rhetoric has it’s roots in persuasion but, as made clear by the video, the textbook definition of rhetoric is “The Study of the technique of using language effectively.” In the end, yes, salesmanship is a way of using language to effectively sell an item, but it in no-way stands as the only way one can use language effectively.

QUESTION #2: “How do the video creators and scholars interviewed in the film define rhetoric? In other words, what is rhetoric? “

Most of the definitions presented by the scholars are, ironically enough, very similar. However, it’s interesting to see how they differ slightly:

  • Aristotle (who wasn’t available for a direct interview): “Rhetoric is the art of finding the available means of persuasion in each case.”
  • Anonymous (also wasn’t available for a direct interview): “Rhetoric is the science which refreshes the hungry, renders the mute articulate, makes the blind see, and teaches one to avoid every lingual ineptitude.” Dr. Ann George  (Associate English Professor ): “It’s about how we persuade each-other or how we make arguments. Thinking about not just the words we use or the reasons that we give, but also the other things that go into the ways we persuade people.”
  • Dr. Jack Selzer (English Professor): “What rhetoric does is help you become more self conscious of your practices so you can tailor them to a wide variety of situations… So ‘One Size Fits All’ doesn’t fit all”
  • Dr. Randy Nichols (Chair, Department of Professional Communication): “For every day communication, we use rhetoric in that we choose what to say, and how to say it for the purpose of getting someone to either understand us, to believe us, or to agree with us. In some way, rhetoric happens in every communication aspect of our life”

With those examples above, it’s clear that the scholars (even the dead ones) agree that rhetoric is some form of “art” that pertains to persuasion. It doesn’t, however, tie directly to salesmanship. Dr. George’s definition clearly highlights arguments as a parallel to persuasion. Dr. Selzer broadens this to encompass the idea that rhetoric is a means of composing your rhetorical practices so you can sort-of mesh them to different situations you might face in life.

“Duuuude, this handshake is totally rhetorical, bro!”

The most coherent definition comes from Dr. Randy Nichols who clearly states that rhetoric is something that happens almost daily in a myriad of situations. It’s clear that the definition of rhetoric agreed on by these scholars is an idea of effective persuasion in common day-to-day life by an individual.

QUESTION #3: “What do the creators mean when they say that rhetoric is ‘epistemic’?”

Epistemology is the philosophical idea of knowledge and certainty. The idea that rhetoric is epistemic goes off of the idea that, when done properly, rhetoric can, as Dr. Martin Jacobi points out, “creates realities… When I say that it ‘creates realities’ what I mean it that it does not create some physical world, but it creates our understanding of the physical world and our place in the physical world.”

The wall behind him wasn’t rhetorically constructed, but we know (rhetorically) that it was poorly green-screened and he isn’t really in some ghetto where the gangs spray-paint their favorite philosopher on the walls… Or is he?

Besides his definition, we are also given the example of two college-bound best buddies. One of them (named Julie) selected the school after rigorously debating which school would be the best for her while her best friend (Kate)  just decided to go to that school since it seemed to be the cool thing to do at the time. Both of the students came to the same conclusion that this school was the best for them, but they both manufactured different reasons why it was best for them. Did Kate actually like the school that she went to? Well…

I know I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

Kate ended up hating the school (since she somehow overlooked the fact that it didn’t offer what she wanted to do with her life) and saw the error of her ways. Though they both made rhetorical choices, Julie clearly made a more direct and knowledgeable decision by using epistemical rhetoric; she knew what she needed class-wise and which place would best suit her needs.

The idea that persuasion can create knowledge (whether it be truth or fictitious) furthers the idea that rhetoric is epistemic; we create different realities with what we say and how we say it.

QUESTION #4: “Why might the study of rhetoric be helpful for college students and people outside the academy?”

The best answer to this question comes from a doctoral student by the name of William Schraufnagel.

A rhetoric major with a masters degree in creepily staring into everyone’s soul.

Mr. Schraufnagel states the following:

“The World is not what it seems… I learned that through studying rhetoric. People say ‘you have to get a job,’ or ‘oh, that’s just the way things are,’ or ‘shut up and don’t complain. Everyone else has to deal with it too.’ Those are actually arguments they are making, they are not facts that they’re stating, and those arguments are (first of all) based on their experiences which might not be ideal and it might not be what you want to imitate, and second of all it has to do with their attitude and their mental adjustment. In other words, they’ve accepted in a certain way that ‘I want to tell you’ you don’t necessarily have to accept.”

What he’s basically getting at is the idea that people tend to use rhetoric to get their way or boss other people around. In doing so, these people are more powerful than you only because they manufactured this idea by using rhetoric. As a person, rhetoric gives you the ability to not only hold coherent discussions, but also prove your worth and help you stand your ground in an argument. Granted, it’s not some sort-of all-encompassing superpower that allows you to get your way all the time, it serves as a platform to rational discussion and persuasion. For example, if you were looking to get a raise, rhetoric can help you explain persuasively how you deserve it. For students, it can help you during class discussion when you’re hypothetically trying to prove that your blog is actually pretty good and that your posts are actually worth reading… Hypothetically.

In conclusion, rhetoric is a tool that can be used by anyone who wants to get a point across. It can be useful not only to you, but also any point or group you’re trying to support rhetorically. The art is something that can also be used not only in debates, but (as made clear earlier) is used in day-to-day life; whether it’s someone trying to understand what we are saying, and believing what we are conveying.