On Bad Rhetoric

Polemics and slogans are woven into bad rhetoric. Group identity (ethnos) underpins ideology in bad rhetoric because someone, or some group, is struggling for worldly power.

Bad rhetoric pretends to be good rhetoric by pretending to use reason and logic (logos) when engaging in dialectics, in a conversational exchange, which outcome supposedly depends on the course of the conversation. But don’t be fooled by the pretence. Bad rhetoricians offer a statement, a proposition, that they pretend is open for debate, but really it isn’t. Such ‘statements’ or ‘propositions’ are simply gambits in order to enter into an exchange. Bad rhetoricians enter into an exchange with a whole set of ‘statements and propositions’ that they continually recycle, shifting ground, whenever you counter them with a logical reply. Such ‚Äústatements and propositions’ are effectively no more than slogans. These slogans are markers of their group identification. Your counter arguments to these slogans, no matter how reasonable your statements are, are taken by them to be markers of your supposed, alternative group identity. That’s all.

Bad rhetoric pretends to be good rhetoric by pretending to use ethics (ethos). Their slogans might sound like they are based in issues of justice, fairness, social values, etc. However, the riddle in this tactic lies in its frame, which is an absolutely worldly frame. Their specific vision of social organisation and order hides behind their ethical statements. They are trying to assert their own vision of social order and to privelege their own group in that social order. Don’t be fooled by this tactic.

Bad rhetoric pretends to be good rhetoric by resorting to emotion (pathos). Fear is a powerful emotion because it suspends one’s ability to use abstract reason and reflection. People may fear not just violence, or the loss of freedom, but also the loss of access to food, housing, etc. Fear becomes 1000 times more powerful in the imagination that it could ever be in reality. Empathy is another powerful, weaponised emotion (especially when used against women). If you can instigate fear or empathy in someone’s imagination, it will be extremely debilitating for their normal functioning.

I am surprised how many Christians with faith are immune to bad rhetoric. It seems that a life led in the Church teaches the soul to know instinctively what is true. Many such Christians spontaneously tell me in their own words how they are dealing with what they hear, what they see, and what they deal with in their lives right now. Each soul finds a slightly different way to describe it. But each Christian soul cleaves unto the Lord, each Christian soul knows what is right and what is wrong, and each Christian soul bypasses the traps of bad rhetoricians. Such Christian souls avoid dialectical exchanges based in logical arguments, they disengage from debates regarding socially fluid, moral values, and they are not easily scared nor manipulated by sentimental feelings. Life in the Church provides immunity to the poisons and evil of bad rhetoric.