Re: ideology bashing

Beth W. Baldwin, Ph.D. (
Tue, 13 Aug 1996 07:13:37 -0400

On Mon, 12 Aug 1996, Michael Hamende wrote:

> I do
> not believe Jesse Helms thinks critically about his positions.

I am in close agreement with many of Mike's points. I do, however,
disagree about the above statement. For better or worse, Helms is a very
savvy politician and I believe that he thinks critically about each of his
positions. The problem is that he's doing it in the way that Dene'
Scoggins says "students need to understand what assumptions they make and,
to be effective rhetors, they need to understand their audience's
assumptions and *at least pretend* to respect an opposing point of view."

I think that Jesse pretends very well (in the sense the word was used in
Scoggins's post). In that way, he may be considered a good bad-rhetor.
In other words, he is carefully analyzing his audience, their ideology,
and is playing to their desires and fears, using the commonplaces he knows
will get him their votes.

> I also personally believe, HE IS AN
> IDIOT. It embarrasses me that the rest of the world see Mr. Helms as a
> representative of the United States of America. He should retire and

I respect Mike for being willing to take such a direct stand in regards to
Jesse. I don't think he's an idiot myself, but I don't respect his
politics or his rhetoric and I too am embarrassed by him, especially since
I'm a North Carolinian.

> "An argument from liberal ideology will succeed--will persuade an
> audience--when that audience shares the assumption that equality is a
> good thing."
> It will only persuade an audiance which doesn't understand the
> commonplace device or chooses to believe it without question. I have
> a tough time with your use of the word "assumption." I see this as
> the kind of "sound bite" mentality that has given rhetoric a bad name.

Liberal politics = equality is another commonplace
device too often accepted uncritically. Liberal politics does not always
equal equality and the worth of any position needs to be proven. "Liberal"
and "conservative" have both become rhetorical totems around which rally
too many people who seem to have turned off their critical thinking
abilities. Maybe it's simply too complex and too scary to think

Good rhetoricians may have a civic responsibility to nuture
critical thinking. One way we could dispatch this responsibility is to
act as a group outside of academica and inside the civic arena as
rhetorical "watchdogs" for both sides. Many people simply suffer from
ignorance (not meaning that they're dumb/stupid, but that they are not
aware of inconsistencies or what makes good vs poor rhetoric. We have
special talents and can work together to nurture critical thinking
in the public sphere.

Beth Baldwin, Ph.D. *
Office of Continuing Education *
University of North Carolina at Greensboro *
Greensboro, NC 27412-5001 *
910-334-5140 *