Exceptionalism: An articulation that the United States
is exceptionoal among all nations for various reasons that have
varied across American rhetorical history. American exceptionalism
is based in puritan rhetoric that proclaimed New England's god-given
specialness over other places on earth and charged New Englanders
with the responsibility to live up to god's charge to make it an
example for the world. But it has taken other forms since,
both religious and secular.
Arousal: See Cycle of Arousal and Quiescence.
the power to be listened to and followed. A leader has authority
when the community listens and follows the leader.
Bipolar Rhetoric. A rhetorical strategy that starkly divides.
The strategy depends on drawing very sharp distinctions and typically
associating them with good and evil. Thus it creates stark
evil that threatens the good. Also designated as "polemic
rhetoric" and "two valued" rhetoric.
Cold War. The period of total war between the United States
and the Soviet Union occurring between shortly after the end of
World War II and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. Violent
military action was spasmodic during the period, but true to total
war the two societies were diverted into the pursuit of military
arms and dedicated to martial opposition to the other. A strong
motivational rhetoric supported that diversion.
A political movement with intellectual development in the 1950s
and became politically powerful in the 1960s and 1970s, taking control
of American government in 1980. Also known as the "New Right"
A strategy through which the dominate social order responds to a
movement. The strategy grants some of the demands of the movement,
thus undercutting it by draining off its power through the Cycle
of Arousal and Quiescence.
A type of movement, the objective of which
is to bring about change(s) in the culture.
of Arousal and Quiescence. A fact of movements. Once
aroused to participate in movements, the movement may begin to succeed
as the broader society begins to respond to its demands. Such
successes, however, form the basis for diminished energetic engagement
with the movement. Thus, the seeds of the destruction of the
movement (entropy) are implied in the movements limited success.
Detente: The period
of diminished intesity in the Cold War during the 1970s. Ronald
Reagan reversed detente when assuming office, thus reigniting the
Cold War to its conclusion in the demise of the Soviet Union.
Dialectic: Two things that seem to be disparate or even in
tension that feed off each other or overlap in a way that strengthens
both. For example, the dialectic of permanence and change
takes two seemingly opposite things and gives to rhetoric the task
of merging them in a way that promotes both. Rhetoric merges
the familiar and the novel in defining the moment.
Dialectic of permanence
and change: To accept change a community must be able to relate
it to something with which they are familiar. To accept that
no change is needed a community must have the sense that they can
successfully adjust to an altered world without having to change.
One of the tasks of rhetoric is to negotiate this paradox.
Thus, one of the things that rhetoric typically does is express
both permanence and change in how it constructs an understanding
of a historical moment. It names both the novel and the familiar
as it constructs interpretation.
Dissociation: A strategy that works by taking a concept and dividing it so that it will not be applied generally but by specific characteristics. Typically, this strategy is used to take something that is considered good and separate it into what is good and about and what is bad; or conversely to take something that is bad and point out an aspect of it that is in fact good. Theodore Roosevelt uses this strategy in "Man with a Muckrake" to separate out the discourse of non-governmental progessives into the "true" and "honest" attacks, and those that are "exaggerations" and "false charges."
natural tendency of movements toward distintegration over time.
Entropy necessitates the use of rhetoric to maintain a movement.
A term originally borrowed from thermodynamics it came to be used
to understand movements through its centrality to general systems
theory's treatment of open social systems. See negative entropy.
pertaining to character. Ethical behavior is behavior that
indicates a person of high character.
Exigence: The characteristic of the moment
which demands response.
Fourteen Points: Woodrow Wilson's formula for peace after
World War I.
Give voice: When
a leader is able through his/her rhetoric to capture the thoughts
and emotions of the community.
That portion of the public sphere that operates within the governmental
structure. Those in government often attempt to augment their
power by portraying the governmental sphere as the place
in which public business is conducted. This is just a strategy
of those in the government sphere, not the necessary definition
of the public sphere. See public sphere.
To experience the facts and emotions of particular earlier time.
It is more than knowing what happened. It requires
the experiencing of the ways in which people at a different time/place
experienced the particularity of that time.
One of the dimensions of political will. It takes an isolated
fact and puts it into the stream of the community's experience.
Identity Movement: A
type of movement, the objective of which
is to provide social acknowledgement, psychological affirmation,
and a place for its members to exercise public voice.
- Ideographs: Words or phrases that are invoked in discourse
to capture commitments of a social community. Such notions as <democracy>,
<liberty>, <freedom>, or <rights> are created
in social contracts and social practices and exist because of the
commitment of the social community to them. Words like these are
employed in rhetoric to invoke those commitments motivationally.
Note that ideographs are denoted in rhetorical analysis by use of
A type of movement, the objective of which
is to bring its members and those they represent into the privileges
and responsibilities of the dominant public sphere.
A diplomatic doctrine that cooperation with other nations will better
achieve a peaceful and prosperous world, and/or better achieve national
goals. Internationalism has been a theme of American rhetoric
since the American Revolution when the revolution was motivated
by the idea that the nation was a model for the world. It
is often in rhetorical tension with isolationism.
A belief that the United States is safest and most prosperous when
it leaves others alone and insists that others leave it alone. Isolationism
has been characteristic of American rhetoric since Washington's
Farewell Address, and draws on puritan notions of the impurity of
the world beyond and the need to protect the society from the spread
of this impurity. It is often in rhetorical tension with internationalism.
Just War Doctrine:
An informal diplomatic code that sets forth the principles upon
which a nation can legitimately declare war on another.
Justification for War: The
requirement that the leader of a nation rhetorically ground war
in the Just War Doctrine. Rhetorically, the justification
is an argument applying the criteria specified in the Just War Doctrine
to the circumstances preceeding the Declaration of War. One
of two rhetorical obligations on a war time leader. See motivating
League of Nations Debate:
The debate between President Woodrow Wilson and the leaders of the
Senate, notably Henry Cabot Lodge, on ratification of the Versailles
Treaty ending World War I. Ultimately the debate came down
to whether the United States should participate in the League of
Legitimacy: The power
to attract followers from the sense that actions are the "right"
thing to do.
A technology for communicating marked by its one-directional quality
and its disempowerment of receivers. Typically a few persons communicate
with many people through the technology. Contrasts to public
The use of the voice to participate in the crafting of morality.
Morality: A set of judgments
about values and proper behavior based in the approval or disapproval
of our social group.
The obligation of the leader of a nation going to war to stir the
citizens to support or participate in the war. Along with
justification it is one of two rhetorical obligations of a successful
wartime leader. See also justification for war.
The strategy activating concern and action in the community. Achieving
the support and participation of the community in pursuit of some
action requires that speakers motivate the action in terms that
the community recognizes as legitimate. When a public situation
occurs in the community, discourse describes the situation in such
a way that we can deal with it. This understanding becomes the grounds
for the legitimacy of action in response to the situation. We can
study these motivations to understand the strategies that succeed
in the public life of the community and those that fail. See symboliic
A rhetorically created and maintained social form in which people
join together to alter the overall social order. A evolving rhetoric
is at the heart of movements, and thus a movement develops a characteristic
rhetorical character. Sometimes called "social movement"
or "rhetorical movement."
Myth: A fundamental
and popularly recognized narrative form in which people believe
and which shapes historical experience. The faith of the public
in the power of individual initiative to conquer problems was invoked
by Ronald Reagan through the mass media's fascination in his time
with the historically based cowboy myth. Reagan himself had been
a film cowboy. Reagan also called upon the myth of the market. Note
that myth does not necessarily mean it is false. The question is
not true of false but its power to structure understanding.
One of the communication dimensions of political will. To
apply a particular choice of vocabulary and rhetorical form to construct
an understanding of the referent. It places a fact into a
Narrative: A general rhetorical form that tells a story.
Narratives are generally described by noting the shaping of the
story into the character of those whose actions are laid
out in the setting of the plot.
Nationalist rhetoric is marked by three characteristics: (1) An
orientation to the nation state for one's identity; (2) A assertion
of the superiority of one's own nation over all others; and (3)
A diplomatic doctrine that nations should independently pursue their
own national interests. American nationalism is based in American
Rhetoric is necessary in movements to achieve negative entropy.
Negative entropy is the use of rhetoric to counteract the principle
of entropy to prolong the life of a movement. See entropy.
New Deal Motive:
The rhetorical framework that dominated motivation of governmental
action from Roosevelt until the power to motivate was destroyed
by Reagan. The rhetorical form of the motive featured the economically
and socially dispossesed as the central chararcters and attributed
their distress to the failures of the "money changers."
Thus, government needed to respond to their needs by exercising
power over the economic structure.
"New Right" movement: See conservative movement.
The Paranoid Style: A characteristic of rhetoric in the United
States in which rhetors portray themselves (or their community or
the United States) under attack by enemies seeking to destroy them. The
expert on this style is Richard
Hofstadter. The paranoid style becomes characteristic
at a time when politics is polarized in the United States or when
presidents seek to motivate war.
Permanence and change: See Dialectic of Permanence and Change
Polemic Rhetoric. See Bipolar rhetoric.
The complex of communication and influence that is involved in enacting
policy within the government.
The use of communication to influence the adoption of governmental
policy. Policy rhetoric is evaluated using six dimensions:
Perceptual Dimensions: descriptive and responsibility; Political
dimensions: activating and normalizing; and Psychological dimensions:
catharsis and legitimacy.
to motivate and organize pubic concern to guide the political system
to acting in relationship to the community's commitments.
A type of movement, the objective of which
is to provide those in the movement or those for whom they agitate
access to the power of the political institutions of a society.
a situation into a concern that the community can address through
the political system.
Private Matters: Things
a community judges to be the concern of each individual. Not
a public concern. Whether things are private matters or public
matters is, in fact, discursively contested. And the answer
differs in different situations and different times. And each
position -- private or public -- has a typical pattern of rationale.
So a full understanding tracks the texture of the dispute.
Compare to public matters.
A political movement that grew at the turn of the 20th century designed
to respond to the conditions of the time.
complex term lies at the root of our study. The key to understanding
it is to: (1) understand the contested line between public and private
concerns ; (2) understand the difference between public communication
and mass communication; and (3) understand how the term then serves
in concepts like public address, public life, public sphere, public
situation, public space, public place, etc. The term does not
mean "outing," the process of revealing some lewd or private matter
for mass consumption.
Speaking about public matters. The term is often defined merely
as a speech that many hear, a speech in public. Our meaning
is much more precise.
Communication marked by qualities of interchange and mutual power.
Typically, those engaged in public communication talk back and forth
and have the power to influence each other. Contrasts with
The values and standard behaviors with which our society organizes
its economic life. These are passed to new generations and
altered in a kind of public morality that guides
the strength of the economy.
That part of everyday activity which is conducted with other people
concerning matters that we believe are properly addressed in conjunction
with others. Contrasts with our private life and our family life.
The place where a community can conduct communication about matters
the community considers of common interest rather than private interest.
Not to be confused with the political sphere nor the governmental
sphere. Governments may justify their power by claiming to be
the public sphere, and in some cases the political or governmental
may be the place where such communication is conducted, but a public
sphere is generally much broader than either the political or the
Quiescence: See Cycle of Arousal and Quiescence.
broad enough term that we view it several different ways. What
all definitions have in common is they involve humans using symbols
instrumentally. But a full understanding of the concept should
involve understanding all three modes of definition: negotiating
community response, arriving at understanding, and exercising discursive
Rhetoric of American Anti-Communism:
A characteristic rhetorical form that motivated opposition to Communism
in the United States during the 20th Century.
Rhetoric of Crime:
A rhetorical form that gives shape to the rhetoric of the United
States' court system. As a form, it invokes a logic of investigation,
trial, and punishment focusing on individual violators of law.
Rhetoric of Materialism:
A characteristic rhetorical form of the culture of the United States
and the Western world in the 20th century that attributed happiness
in life to material well being. One of the underlying rhetorics
to which the movements of the 1960s responded.
Rhetoric of War:
A rhetorical form that gives shape to military action. As
a form it invokes a logic of defense from an enemy who would irreparably
harm the nation. Used to frame military response. The rhetoric
of war has also been evoked as a framework for motivating action
beyond war including the war on poverty and the war on drugs.
Rhetoric of Social Engineering.
A characteristic rhetorical form of the culture of the United States
and the Western world that stimulated response by movements during
Rhetoric of the Cold War:
A characteristic rhetorical form that motivated the participation
of the United States in the Cold War. See also Rhetoric
of American Anti-Communism.
A pattern through which rhetoric interprets events. The form
shapes the public understanding and through that the rhetorical
response. The New Deal motive is an example. See
Rhetorical Movement. See Movement.
Rhetorical Strategies: Choices of language (words or symbols plus
how they are arrayed) that shape the impact of discourse.
The choices might be in subjects to address, in vocabulary to use,
in organizing a discourse, in the cultural and linguisitic patterns
drawn upon, in figures of speech, in conceptualizing an audience,
in formulating a pattern of argument, or in modes of vocal delivery.
Such complex and multiple choices come together in the strategy
of the speech. Strategy pairs with a rhetorical goal or
impact to provide a sense that the choices make a difference in
how a community responds to the message.
Social Movement: See Movement.
- Strategies: Paired with goal or objective.
A choice of how to accomplish a rhetorical goal. A speech contains
many strategies. Any rhetorical characteristic of the speech may be
a result of the speaker thinking through what s/he wants to accomplish
in the speech and what the best way of accomplishing it is. The term
may also apply to a community who responds to its moment with a particular
choice of the appropriate thing to do.