Michael Hamende (HamendeM@CTS.DB.ERAU.EDU)
Mon, 5 Aug 1996 11:37:33 EST

After the first couple of paragraphs I do get back to the topic at
hand. I hope you will bear with me. Mike

Mr. Finley,

There is a tone to your writing, along with your explicit insistences
that I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground, that I find
offensive. While you have said you don't want to be criticized for ad
hominem attacks, that does not seem to stop you from using them.

I believe the purpose of this list is the discussion and sharing of
ideas related to rhetoric and the teaching of composition. I do not
believe it is a place for unprofessional assessments about the level
of anyone's intelligence or their knowledge or lack there of with
respect to rhetoric. I have had the opportunity to study with some
very well respected scholars in the field of rhetoric. I hold a
graduate degree in that subject. I also have 6 years of experience
teaching composition using rhetoric as the content. I have given
those two concepts, along with their related topics, significant
thought. I choose to share those thoughts on this list when related
questions are posted. I have some thoughts and opinions about
rhetoric, composition, and all they entail. You may disagree publicly
with my opinions or the way I choose to communicate them. That is
your right and the purpose of this list. I disagree with some of what
you say. And clearly I disagree with the way YOU choose to
communicate it.

Critique my ideas all day long. Don't call me names or make
references to the footwear of my mother. Thank you very much.

The Discussion:

"The point is simply that the use of the Bible or other texts that
certain populations consider authoritative because of religious
tradition, etc., IS persuasive. I didn't say that using it "proved"
anything, rather that its use as an authority was obviously persuasive
to specific people."

My point exactly. Only to a very specific people. A good man
speaking well has universal appeal.

"I'm not sure what your point was about what what classical
rhetoricians thought about "authorities." I think (but can't quite
tell) that you know I wasn't talking about "authorities" in the sense
of "officials,"..."

Jesse Helms and the preacher who interprets the Bible for people who
never read and interpret it for themselves are clearly "officials."
And they only have the limited appeal I mention above.

"... but rather in the sense of any source whose preestablished status
tended to be persuasive of its own accord--in other words, the appeal
from ethos, mostly. "NASA claims to have definitive proof of life on
Mars" rather than "Gus the Wonder Boy says he saw a saucer," that kind
of thing."

What you describe is not ethos. Preestablished status, capitals
(power), ideology, the false authority given to experts, are all issues
I want students to understand in the rhetoric I try to apply in the

"Or, more to the point, I'm probably going to listen a little more
carefully if my friend Bob, who's married and has two kids like me, has
advice on how to handle kids than if I hear Dan over there, who's never
taken care of a child in his life, tells me what I ought to do. So how
are proofs based in this kind of authority--not some kind of
sanctioned,official authority, but a substantial source whose
reliability has been established in some way--not "a component of a
complete rhetoric"? "

Direct experience or closely related ways of knowing, not proofs based
in some arbitrary official authority, are clearly more artistic and
preferable proofs. And are a central useful component of a complete
rhetoric. Knowing the basis of inartistic proofs is also part of a
complete rhetoric, but for the purpose of NOT using them and
understanding when they are being used "against" you.

"That's the first time I've heard that one."

I'm sorry.

"But, let's say you have to go do a publishable paper on this very
topic. You run through the subject list on the online catalog. How
do you pare down the list if you can't think of any more keywords and
you have 273 entries?..."

As per good rhetoricians everywhere one needs to go as close to the
source as one can. I'd avoid the library as a first step. I'd want
to try to contact a "source" directly. Or gain firsthand experience
with the phenomena if I could. That is the only "real" way to know.
Granted that is not possible in many cases. So then I'd go to
original thinkers on the topic. The ones who made it up in the first
place. Which is why Aristotle, Cicero, Plato, the Sophists,
Quintillion, and Sharon Crowley et al, are authorities that persuade

"Point is, IMO, the appeal from authority (I really think the name is
confusing us, and that we're talking about different things) tends to
get the speaker/writer a hearing, though most of the time across wide
populations it won't carry the day by itself."

Exactly. Jesse, and those who practice incomplete rhetoric will never
appeal to much beyond a very limited audience (usually those not
schooled or knowledgeable of rhetoric). A good man speaking well,

"And, in certain cases, it can win out by itself, as in the case of a
Mormon who believes very sincerely in the authority of his church and
the Book of Mormon."

Real faith is not subject to rhetoric.

"Of course this appeal doesn't work for me or for you, but to say it's
not real rhetoric if it doesn't persuade ME seems to be an extremely
egocentric position."

That's NOT RHETORIC its FAITH. An appeal to faith works quite well
with me. I respect people of strong faith a lot. I have very little
respect for hypocrites. I define a hypocrite as one whose practices
or actions are inconsistent with their rhetoric. Consistency is
important to a complete rhetoric. I believe there is an inconsistency
between the rhetoric of Jesse Helms and the good of people he has
sworn to serve.

"Despite your protest, I and any other intelligent person who read
your post are in a perfect "position to make judgments about your
intention" from your language--otherwise, why speak at all?"

Because language is imprecise and a very poor communicator of meaning.
It does nothing to communicate intention, unless I say, using
language, something like: "I'm going to kill you." Or "I'm going to
the store now." But even then you cannot know whether I intend to do
either of those things. Not until I either do them or not. The
inability of language to communicate intention has nothing to do with
human beings' speaking or trying to communicate. The only way you can
make judgments about my intention is to ask me what they are and even
then you cannot be sure I will carry through unless I do. Experience.
Not words are the key.

"I or anyone else may be inaccurate, but it's wrong to say that, as a
reader, I'm not supposed to make judgments like that."

You making judgments based on your interpretations of my language
without experiencing me directly or even asking me what my intention
was is the problem. Its your assumption from very incomplete evidence
that I found problematic.

"All I'm saying is, you start from certain assumptions (that Helm's
idiocy is preestablished) as if all comp/rhet people are right there
with you, which is not necessarily true."

Again, YOU are assuming. I KNOW that they would not "all be there
with me." I was simply communicating my opinion about Jesse Helms.
Rhetoric people in particular are in very good position to form their
own well informed opinions. Maybe I was also baiting some
conservative types to join the discussion?

""Hate" may indeed have been too strong a word, but you see the point;
it probably would've been more accurate to say "it's cool to think
Jesse is nothing but a vacuous reactionary idiot."

This may be the words you'd use. They are not the ones I chose. I
still believe there are flaws (related to incomplete rhetoric) in the
thought process that Jesse Helms uses and that that results in harm to
the people who elect him, the state he resides in, the United States
of America, and the world.

"And I really can't figure out your idea that Helms' influence
represents only a flaw in our democratic system and that he is a "poor
rhetor." By your standards, perhaps."

And those are the standards (your term) and opinions (mine) that I am

"But rhetors are as rhetors persuade, and most rhetoricians would say
the bottom line is whether you persuade your target audience, or
something like that."

NO! That is the dark side. Politics, advertising, etc., etc. The
rhetoric you describe is what has given rhetoric a bad name. Again, a
good man speaking well is universally persuasive. Paid liars are not.
And if you understand rhetoric the differences are obvious.

"The fact that Helms has been in office as long as he has means that
by definition he's doing a lot right as a persuader. It also
absolutely does not point out a flaw in the democratic system, because
apparently the system is responding quite well to the will of the
people. You could, of course, make the case that constitutencies get
what they deserve (over time, at least), and if they respond to
rhetoric like his, then they deserve what they get."

Yes, some would define American democracy as "a parliament of
whores." And the whores are the people.

"And, of course, his extreme positions tend to limit his influence
over a wider population base, so I'm not really that worried about him
where I live, nor has he affected your own life too much, I imagine
(and hope)."

This is the fundamental problem with society today. "They" can do
whatever they want as long as it doesn't bother/impact me personally.
The age of this kind of thinking is over. Good rhetors and good
citizens need to be concerned about systems, like the planet. The fact
the that harm done by Mr. Helms is limited does not justify it, nor
prove the effectiveness of his rhetoric. Just the opposite.

"Anyway, I assure you, I have a very clear understanding of the kind
of rhetoric you've been discussing, despite your implication to the
contrary, so I'm putting that pair of shoes back on the shelf because
they don't fit."

I have my own opinions, you have yours, and I'm sure the list is
capable of forming their own.

"In the grand tradition of bitching about everything and complimenting
nothing, I'm also not mentioning several very good points you made,
mostly in your reply to Suzanne, and mostly about the perils of blind
faith. So there."

Seems consistent.

"I'm disappointed that you're not a demon after all."

Sorry to disappoint. I do have some horns and a tail in my desk I use
on occasion. Should I get them out, now?

Mike Hamende