Re: Hamende's complaint

Steve Finley (Finley@TTDCE1.COED.TTU.EDU)
Mon, 5 Aug 1996 16:52:40 +0000

(From M. Hamende:

"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.")

Lighten up, for God's sake! It's pretty clear that I didn't come across with
any "explicit insistences" whatsoever that you "didn't know your ass from
a hole in the ground," since "explicit" would mean that I said
exactly that, which I did NOT. If you have some honor amid all
this sniffling, you'll acknowledge that you made a mistake here.
What I DID say was that I thought that anyone who said Jesse Helms
wasn't an effective rhetorician in regard to Helms' own crowd wouldn't
know good rhetoric "if it came up and bit him on the [hind parts]," which
was simply a rather joking way of making a point I felt strongly about
and was not directed personally at you. So let's take our "offended
caps" off, please.

As for ad hominem attacks, neither of these versions would qualify anyway.
Now, if I'd said something like, "Oh, that Hamende, I happen to know
he was convicted of beating his wife and three children, and therefore
his point about rhetoric isn't valid," that would be an ad hominem
fallacy. And as for all your lecturing about "unprofessional assessments
about the level of anyone's intelligence," geez, for Chrissake, can you
understand tongue-in-cheek when you hear it? I mean, thanks for all the
background info on credentials, etc., and the primer on what lists
are for, but I'll bet most of the people on the list, myself included,
are not exactly chimps, either. And nobody's trying to keep you from
"sharing your thoughts on this list," anyway. Also, I have not called
you a single name or referred to the footwear of your mother or any
other relative, so why do you imply that I did? Or do you care if
people getting in on the discussion at this point misapprehend what's
actually been said up to now?

I tried once again to be more or less lighthearted in my second
message to you via this list, even joking about how disappointed I
was that, based on some reasonable, intelligent, responses to other
people, you weren't the demon I'd been hoping for, but apparently
even that wasn't enough to shake you out of taking yourself so seriously.
Knock it off, will you? Nobody's getting personal with you. We're just
discussing and trying to save the world, that's all.

Now, on to your more specific points:

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

J. Helms (I'm already sick of talking about him, as you are, I
imagine) IS, to some people, a good man speaking well. Even if it's
just to a very, very few people, it's enough that he still has power
in his neck of the woods, which is his purpose.

"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."

I know what you mean, but they are "officials" (in the sense of those
who are to be obeyed even if they are not good people, don't make
sense, etc.) only to us; to their own audiences, they DO make sense.
Just because influence is limited to a small audience doesn't make it
any less powerful within the confines of that audience.

"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

I'm not sure exactly what you're saying here. We'd both agree that
false authority should be questioned and challenged, but surely you
don't mean that all authority is false, or that all experts are false
authorities? I'm not talking about false status; I'm saying that,
with any audience, some speakers and/or sources will be more
immediately believable than others. This does not mean that I think
every argument from character and personality makes sense ("Be like Mike--
drink Gatorade"). In my training, however inferior that might have
been, we used the term "ethos" to denote, among other related things,
the character of the speaker and how that affects the persuasiveness
of a message. It's true that this character can be falsely won
and/or unexamined and unchallenged by the audience, but it's equally
true that such character can be--pardon the romantic notion, you
jaded lurkers--a good and true thing that really does make this message
more likely to be true than that one. (I know you know all this--I'm
just laying it out because I'm trying to figure out where the
disagreement is.)

"Direct experience or closely related ways of knowing, not proofs based
in some arbitrary official authority, are clearly more artistic and
preferable proofs."

I agree totally with your preference here, but again, is all
authority arbitrary and official? That's not the kind of ethos, or
whatever, I'm talking about.

" 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,

Agreement again! If the question is one of comparison between a GMSW
and the good Senator, then there's no question I'd give the
heavyweight title to the one with the broadest, most sensible appeal.
After all, Anton LaVey appeals very well to Satanists, and
what's-his-name appeals to the Skinheads, neither of which are groups
I'd have anything to do with. But I'd make the same point about
their rhetoric as I do with Helms'--that it's quite effective in its own
limited way. I'm evaluating acc. to effectiveness, not goodness or truth or
rightness or any of that stuff which, in my own antiquated way, I
still believe ought to be the aim. I'm just saying that to claim Helms
isn't an effective rhetorician seems to me as nonsensical as claiming
that this .22 rifle isn't effective because that howitzer over there is.
When comparisons of scale (and rightness of use) are made, the whole
question changes.

"Real faith is not subject to rhetoric."

IMHO, the idea that faith is everything that intelligence and the
intellect are not is an assumption, not an established fact, so this
statement strikes me as an unprovable, un-disprovable aphorism--not
that many people, maybe even most, wouldn't agree with you. But you
said this in response to my example of a Latter-Day Saint who
believed whatever the Book of Mormon said (and therefore, when
the minister said to do something "because the Book said to do it,"
he was making an appeal from authority). How does this example make
faith "subject to" rhetoric? Why the distinction between the two,
except for the obvious point that not every matter of faith can be
arrived at or resolved by academic logic? I'm just not sure I buy
the idea that faith is the opposite of intelligent knowing.

" I believe there is an inconsistency between the rhetoric
of Jesse Helms and the good of people he has
sworn to serve."

I don't know whether this specific point is true, but I see your
point about hypocrisy. But again, we're talking about the
difference between what is effective and what is good.
Unfortunately, hypocrites can make terrifically effective rhetors.
Or are you drawing a distinction between "rhetor" and
"persuader"--that is, are you saying that a rhetor who doesn't move
toward the universally good and true is NOT effective just because
he is persuasive? I think you could make a good case for this idea.

"[Language] 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.". . .
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."

Huh? The fact that language is inexact does not mean that speakers
are under no obligation to make their intentions clear, unless by
"intentions" you're talking about deep, dark motivations that are
unrepresentable by language at all. To say that language "does nothing
to communicate intention" in anything but the most obviously explicit
cases ("I'm going to shoot you") is absurd, as far as I'm concerned.
I know I must be misreading you here, because I can't see how anyone
would make this assertion. Within the confines of a discussion, I
can figure out a pretty close approximation of your intent from what
you say, assuming that you're pretty intelligent and can say what you
mean, no? What am I missing?

"And if you understand rhetoric the differences are obvious."

Oh, hell, once again I and a whole bunch of others don't understand
rhetoric. Dang!

The differences really aren't so obvious unless you hold to the
aforementioned distinctions between persuaders and rhetors, which I
think is a fair position.