There is a reason why the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body; just ask Bill Clinton: The Power of Rhetoric in Message and Medium

By: Kasey Lynn

Aristotle claims, “the law is reason free from passion.” However, passion is not as far removed from the law as Aristotle might have believed. In the instance of rhetoric, passion is closely tied to the concept, and rhetoric is of course a large factor of the law. When and if passion meets the law, one could say that a great deal can be done. Rhetoric can also greatly influence the appearance of reality. Everything is not always as it seems. The written rhetoric vs. the oral rhetoric is a concept that needs exploration, especially in our media-crazed society. By looking at Bill Clinton, President Obama, and Governor Romney one can learn the power and truth about rhetoric. Will what meets the eye match what’s written in black and white?

Rhetoric is defined as “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques” (Oxford Dictionaries). This standard definition fits both classical rhetoric and the rhetoric of today. Classical rhetoric still forms the base of rhetoric however, today’s society has caused rhetoric to morph into something quite different from what the original philosophers thought it should be. There is a need to understand rhetoric and its uses because rhetoric is not always used simply to communicate, it can be used to manipulate but without double checking one cannot know which fiction is and which is fact. People must care about what they do, what they hear, what they read, and what they are told.

There has been a much disputed debate about whether or not rhetoric is used by people who have “something to hide” or whether it’s used for “statesmanship” (Nichols). However, now in today’s society there is another dimension to rhetoric that needs to be explored now more than ever; written rhetoric and oral rhetoric, so that one can understand the difference in appearance and reality. The realm of rhetoric is large and very powerful to those who can tap into it. The discussion of rhetoric and how it can affect reality is not new, classical rhetoric discussed the same concept, and it is time for those discussions to surface once again in our society. By looking at Bill Clinton’s 2012 DNC Speech and the first presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Romney one can see how classical and present day rhetoric play roles in the society of today. The problem is that voters pay more attention to the oral rhetoric and appearance instead of hearing the message and content of the speech. By exploring this, one can begin to see that there is a need to have the message, the written rhetoric, the oral rhetoric, and the appearance in order to be an effective orator and a master of rhetoric. Politicians must do their best to incorporate all of the above in order to achieve their goals and present the truth to the public, and the viewers must pay attention to the message of speeches and debates and not be distracted by the performance that is in front of them.

In a society where appearance is of the utmost importance it is easy for politicians and any speech makers to blind the audience to what they are truly saying.  The idea of appearance vs. reality has been around for years but it is possible that now as a society we are enabling our appearances to differ from our realities. There is the freedom to make one’s own decision, the decision to question what he/she is told or shown, the decision to believe what he/she wants. But maybe people have become lazy with this freedom; no longer holding accountability for his/her own rationale as well as for others. People need to choose to find the truth in all the obstruction of appearance and believe in that truth instead of believing anything they are shown or told. When images lie, words can tell the truth.

 

Work Cited:

Nicols, Mary P. “Aristotle’s Defense of Rhetoric.” The Journal of Politics, 49.3 (1987): 657-677. web.

Oxford Dictionaries. 2013. web. 22 February 2013.

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