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It’s just the way things are: Images and impressions tend to sell more products than good arguments do. At least some of the images are fun.

Common Devices and Techniques

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hen the military uses the phrase “self-injurious behavior incidents” regarding detainees at Guantánamo Bay, it means what most of us call “attempted suicides.” In fact, when the word “detainees” is used, it means what most of us call “prisoners.” “Waterboarding” sounds at first like something you’d expect to see young people doing on a California beach, not a torture technique that involves forced simulated drowning. Less remarkable, perhaps, but possibly more relevant for most of us, we’ve heard the term “downsized” used when someone is fired or laid off. “Ethnic cleansing” covers everything from deportation to genocide. What we have to say may be important, but the words we choose to say it with can be equally important. The examples just given are cases of a certain type of linguistic coercion—an attempt to get us to adopt a particular attitude toward a subject that, if described differently, would seem less attractive to us. Words have tremendous persuasive power, or what we have called their rhetorical force or emotive meaning—their power to express and elicit images, feelings, and emotional associations. In the next few chapters, we examine some of the most common rhetorical techniques used to affect people’s attitudes, opinions, and behavior. Rhetoric refers to the study of persuasive writing. As we use the term, it denotes a broad category of linguistic techniques people use

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Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful . . . and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind. — GEORGE ORWELL

■ Advertising, like rhetoric, is a form of persuasion, although a ubiquitous one.

when their primary objective is to influence beliefs and attitudes and behavior. Is Hezbollah, the Shia paramilitary organization based in Lebanon, a resistance movement of freedom fighters or a dangerous terrorist organization? The different impressions these two descriptions create is largely due to their differing rhetorical meaning. Does Juanita “still owe over $1,000 on her credit card”? Or does Juanita “owe only a little over $1,000 on her credit card”? There’s no factual difference between the two questions—only a difference in their rhetorical force. The thing to remember through these next few chapters is that rhetorical force may be psychologically effective, but by itself it establishes nothing. If we allow our attitudes and beliefs to be affected by sheer rhetoric, we fall short as critical thinkers. Now, before we get in trouble with your English teacher, let’s make it clear that there is nothing wrong with trying to make your case as persuasive as possible by using well-chosen, rhetorically effective words and phrases. Good writers always do this. But we, as critical thinkers, must be able to distinguish the argument (if any) contained in what someone says or writes from the rhetoric; we must be able to distinguish the logical force of a set of remarks from their psychological force. One of the things you will become aware of—as you read these pages, do the exercises, apply what you have learned to what you read and write—is that rhetoric is often mixed right in with argument. The message isn’t that you should deduct points from an argument if it is presented in rhetorically charged language, and it isn’t that you should try to take all the rhetoric out of your own writing. The message is simply that you shouldn’t add points for rhetoric. You don’t make an argument stronger by screaming it at the top of your lungs. Likewise, you don’t make it stronger by adding rhetorical devices. Many of these rhetorical bells and whistles have names because they are so common and so well understood. Because they are used primarily to give a statement a positive or negative slant regarding a subject, they are sometimes called slanters. We’ll describe some of the more widely used specimens.

Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne. — QUENTIN CRISP, Manners from Heaven

EUPHEMISMS AND DYSPHEMISMS
Language usually offers us a choice of words when we want to say something. Until recently, the term “used car” referred to an automobile that wasn’t new, but the trend nowadays is to refer to such a car as “pre-owned.” The people who sell such cars, of course, hope that the different terminology will keep potential buyers from thinking about how “used” the car might be—maybe it’s used up! The car dealer’s replacement term, “pre-owned,” is a euphemism—a neutral or positive expression instead of one that carries negative associations. Euphemisms play an important role in affecting our attitudes. People may be less likely to disapprove of an assassination attempt on a foreign leader, for example, if it is referred to as “neutralization.” People fighting against the

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Real Life
The Death Tax
Here is Grover Norquist, who is the head of Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, D.C., in a press release from that organization: Over seventy percent of Americans oppose the Death Tax, and with good reason. It is the worst form of double-taxation, where, after taxing you all your life, the government decides to take even more when you die. “Death Tax” is a dysphemism, of course. The estate tax is a tax not on death but on inherited wealth, imposed on the occasion of a person’s death. And the person paying the tax is not the deceased, but the inheritors, who have never paid tax on the money.

government of a country can be referred to neutrally as “rebels” or “guerrillas,” but a person who wants to build support for them may refer to them by the euphemism “freedom fighters.” A government is likely to pay a price for initiating a “revenue enhancement,” but voters will be even quicker to respond negatively to a “tax hike.” The U.S. Department of Defense performs the same function it did when it was called the Department of War, but the current name makes for much better public relations. The opposite of a euphemism is a dysphemism. Dysphemisms are used to produce a negative effect on a listener’s or reader’s attitude toward something or to tone down the positive associations it may have. Whereas “freedom fighter” is a euphemism for “guerrilla” or “rebel,” “terrorist” is a dysphemism. Euphemisms and dysphemisms are often used in deceptive ways or ways that at least hint at deception. All of the examples in the preceding paragraphs are examples of such uses. But euphemisms can at times be helpful and constructive. By allowing us to approach a sensitive subject indirectly—or by skirting it entirely—euphemisms can sometimes prevent hostility from bringing rational discussion to a halt. They can also be a matter of good manners: “Passed on” may be much more appropriate than “dead” if the person to whom you’re speaking is recently widowed. Hence, our purpose for using euphemisms and dysphemisms determines whether or not those uses are legitimate. It bears mentioning that some facts just are repellent, and for that reason even neutral reports of them sound horrible. “Lizzie killed her father with an ax” reports a horrible fact about Lizzie, but it does so using neutral language. Neutral reports of unpleasant, evil, or repellent facts do not automatically count as dysphemistic rhetoric.

“Wardrobe malfunction” Justin Timberlake’s phrase for his tearing of Janet Jackson’s costume during the half-time performance at Super Bowl XXXVIII.

RHETORICAL DEFINITIONS AND RHETORICAL EXPLANATIONS
We encountered rhetorical (or persuasive) definitions in Chapter 3. “Real” definitions are primarily used to clarify meaning; rhetorical definitions use emotively charged language to express or elicit an attitude about something. Defining abortion as “the murder of an unborn child” does this—and stacks

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On Language
Legislative Misnomers
Several polls have reported that voters sometimes indicate approval of a measure when they hear its title but indicate disapproval once they’ve heard an explanation of what the measure actually proposes. This isn’t surprising, given the misleading proposal titles assigned by members of Congress and state legislatures, and by authors of ballot measures. Here are a few examples of recent laws, initiatives, and so on, the names of which don’t exactly tell the whole story: Healthy Forests Initiative (federal)—Reduces public involvement in decision making regarding logging, reduces environmental protection requirements, and provides timber companies greater access to national forests Clear Skies Act (federal)—Loosens regulation of mercury, nitrous oxide, and sulphur dioxide, and puts off required reductions of these substances for several years beyond the limits of the current Clean Air Act; allows companies to trade off “pollution credits” so that some communities would get cleaner air and others dirtier air Limitations on Enforcement of Unfair Business Competition Laws (California)—Makes it impossible for consumer groups of all types to sue corporations and businesses to prevent fraud, false advertising, and other deceptions before they take place Payroll Protection Plan (many states)—Prevents any part of a union member’s dues from being used for political purposes without his or her written consent Right to Work (many states)—Prevents unions from collecting fees from nonmembers of bargaining units Prohibition of Discrimination and Preferential Treatment (California)—Weakens or eliminates affirmative action programs

the deck against those who think abortion is morally defensible. Likewise, “human being” could be restricted in its meaning to an organism to which a human gives birth. Under this definition, abortion could not be classified as homicide. In Chapter 3, we explained three forms definitions typically take. It’s worth noting here that even definitions by example can slant a discussion if the examples are prejudicially chosen. Defining “conservative” by pointing to a white supremacist would be a case in point. Bill Maher once defined a conservative as one who thinks all problems can be solved by either more guns or more Jesus. If one wants to see all sides of an issue, one must avoid definitions and examples that slant a discussion. Rhetorical explanations are the same kind of slanting device, this time clothed as explanations. “He lost the fight because he’s lost his nerve.” Is this different from saying that he lost because he was too cautious? Maybe, but maybe not. What isn’t in doubt is that the explanation is certainly more unflattering when it’s put the former way.

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■ Stereotypes. DOONESBURY © G. B. Trudeau. Reprinted with permission of Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved.

We recently saw a good example of a rhetorical explanation in a letter to an editor:
I am a traditional liberal who keeps asking himself, why has there been such a seismic shift in affirmative action? It used to be affirmative action stood for equal opportunity; now it means preferences and quotas. Why the change? It’s because the people behind affirmative action aren’t for equal rights anymore; they’re for handouts.

This isn’t a dispassionate scholarly explanation but a way of expressing an opinion on, and trying to evoke anger at, affirmative action policies.

STEREOTYPES
When a writer or speaker lumps a group of individuals together under one name or description, especially one that begins with the word “the” (the liberals, the Communists, the right-wingers, the Jews, the Catholics, and so on), such labeling generally results in stereotyping. A stereotype is a thought or image about a group of people based on little or no evidence. Thinking that women are emotional, that men are insensitive, that lesbians are man-haters, that southerners are bigoted, that gay men are effeminate—all count as stereotypes. Language that reduces people or things to categories can induce an audience to accept a claim unthinkingly or to make snap judgments concerning groups of individuals about whom they know little. Some of the slanters we’ve already talked about can involve stereotypes. For example, if we use the dysphemism “right-wing extremist” to defame a political candidate, we are utilizing a negative stereotype. Commonly, if we link a candidate with a stereotype we like or venerate, we can create a favorable impression of the individual. “Senator McCain addressed his opponent with all the civility of a gentleman” employs a favorable stereotype, that of a gentleman, in a rhetorical comparison. Our stereotypes come from a great many sources, many from popular literature, and are often supported by a variety of prejudices and group interests. The Native American tribes of the Great Plains were considered noble people by most whites until just before the mid-nineteenth century. But as white people grew more interested in moving them off their lands and as conflicts between the two escalated, popular literature increasingly described Native Americans as subhuman creatures. This stereotype supported the group interests of
The ventilation fans will be taken care of in a more timely manner because we know that women love to clean. — GENERAL YURI GLAZKOV, expressing the hope that U.S. astronaut Shannon Lucid would clean the fans when she joined the Russians on their space station Houston? Are you hearing this, Houston?

Mention the strict regulations—not protocols or rules—governing nuclear power plants. — Republican pollster FRANK LUNTZ, in “An Energy Policy for the 21st Century,” advising Republicans how to sell nuclear energy

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In the Media
We Get Dumber in Company of Blondes
LONDON—From Marilyn Monroe to Paris Hilton, “blonde” has long been code for a woman who’s long on looks and light on brains. Now French researchers have found that the stereotype can actually affect mental performance. A recent study showed that otherwise intelligent men performed below par on general knowledge tests after viewing photos of blonde women. The real surprise? Women’s performance also dipped in the tests. The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, examined people’s ability to answer Trivial Pursuit game questions after viewing photos of women with different hair colors. Exposure to blondes resulted in the lowest scores. Thierry Meyer, joint author of the study and professor of social psychology at the University of Paris X-Nanterre, said that the study proves a general phenomenon. “There’s a decrease in performance after an unobtrusive exposure to a stereotype about people who have the reputation to be cognitively impaired,” he said. In plainer language, blondes might make people act in a less intelligent manner because the people believe—whether they want to admit it or not—that they are in the presence of someone who’s not very smart. Previous studies also have shown how information from a person’s social context can influence their behavior. For example, when people are exposed to elderly people, they tend to walk and talk more slowly.When people sit beside someone who is fidgeting, they tend to fidget as well. “The mere knowledge of a stereotype can influence our behavior,” said Clementine Bry, another author of the study.

It’s not clear how the stereotype of the dumb blonde came about, although some researchers point to the 1950s movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Marilyn Monroe. But through the years a wide range of blonde actresses—from Mae West to Suzanne Somers to Goldie Hawn—have perpetuated the stereotype. Bry was quick to point out that there is “absolutely no scientific evidence” to support the stereotype of the dumb blonde. “Stereotypes are cultural beliefs about social groups, and are not truthful pictures of who people are,” she said.
— Shelley Emling, Cox News Service

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whites. Conflicts between nations usually produce derogatory stereotypes of the opposition; it is easier to destroy enemies without pangs of conscience if we think of them as less “human” than ourselves. Stereotyping becomes even easier when there are racial differences to exploit. Nicholas Kristof notes that it isn’t just the ignorant and uneducated whose thinking runs to stereotypes:
In times of stress, even smart and sophisticated people tend to be swept up in prejudice. Teddy Roosevelt said in 1886: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t inquire too closely in the case of the tenth. The most vicious cowboy has more moral principle than the average Indian.”*

The fact that nothing could have been further from the truth seems to be irrelevant once the blood pressure gets up. (It’s also helpful to remember that the stereotypical cowboy of the movies was hardly realistic. After all, it was not the pillars of society who moved West and became cowboys during the nineteenth century.)

INNUENDO
The next batch of slanting devices doesn’t depend as much on emotional associations as on the manipulation of other features of language. When we communicate with one another, we automatically have certain expectations and make certain assumptions. (For example, when your instructor says, “Everybody passed the exam,” she doesn’t mean that everybody in the world passed the exam. We assume that the scope of the pronoun extends to include only those who took the exam.) These expectations and assumptions help fill in the gaps in our conversations so that we don’t have to explain everything we say in minute detail. Because providing such details would be a tedious and probably impossible chore, these underlying conversational factors are crucial to the success of communication. Consider this statement:
Ladies and gentlemen, I am proof that there is at least one candidate in this race who does not have a drinking problem.

The city voluntarily assumed the costs of cleaning up the landfill to make it safe for developers. — Opponents of a local housing development The opponents neglected to mention that the law required the city to assume the costs. This bit of innuendo on the part of the opponents suggested, of course, that the city was in bed with the developers.

Notice that this remark does not say that any opponent of the speaker does have a drinking problem. In fact, the speaker is even allowing for the fact that other candidates may have no such problem by using the words “at least one candidate.” But because we assume there would be no need to make this remark unless there were a candidate who had a drinking problem, the speaker casts suspicion on his opponent. This is sometimes referred to as significant mention or paralipsis. It is one form of innuendo, which includes many ways of getting a point across without explicitly committing oneself to it.
*Nicholas D. Kristof, “Bigotry in Islam—and Here,” New York Times, , op-ed section

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Another example, maybe our all-time favorite, is this remark:
I didn’t say the meat was tough. I said I didn’t see the horse that is usually outside.
— W. C. Fields

■ As discussed in the text,

As you can see, the use of innuendo enables us to insinuate something deprecatory about something or someone without actually saying it. For example, if someone asks you whether Ralph is telling the truth, you may reply, “Yes, this time,” which would suggest that maybe Ralph doesn’t usually tell the truth. Or you might say of someone, “She is competent—in many regards,” which would insinuate that in some ways she is not competent. Sometimes we condemn somebody with faint praise— that is, by praising a person a small amount when grander praise might be expected, we hint that praise may not really be due at all. This is a kind of innuendo. Imagine, for example, reading a letter of recommendation that says, “Ms. Flotsam has done good work for us, I suppose.” Such a letter does not inspire one to want to hire Ms. Flotsam on the spot. Likewise, “She’s proved to be useful so far” and “Surprisingly, she seems very astute” manage to speak more evil than good of Ms. Flotsam. Notice, though, that the literal information contained in these remarks is not negative in the least. Innuendo lies between the lines, so to speak.

the power of photographs and other images to convey emotions is somewhat analogous to the rhetorical force of language. For example, what emotion is elicited by this image?

LOADED QUESTIONS
Another form of innuendo, one distinctive enough to warrant its own heading, is the loaded question. If you overheard someone ask, “Have you always loved to gamble?” you would naturally assume that the person being questioned did in fact love to gamble. This assumption is independent of whether the person answered yes or no, for it underlies the question itself. Every question rests on assumptions. Even an innocent question like “What time is it?” depends on the assumptions that the hearer speaks English and has some means of finding out the time, for instance. A loaded question is less innocent, however. It rests on one or more unwarranted or unjustified assumptions. The world’s oldest example, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” rests on the assumption that the person asked has in the past beaten his wife. If there is no reason to think that this assumption is true, then the question is a loaded one.

Overall, Dodge trucks are the most powerful. — Ad for Dodge “Overall”? What does this weaseler mean?

WEASELERS
Weaselers are linguistic methods of hedging a bet. When inserted into a claim, they help protect it from criticism by watering it down somewhat, weakening it, and giving the claim’s author a way out in case the claim is challenged. There used to be an advertisement for a brand of sugarless gum that claimed, “Three out of four dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for

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In the Media
Innuendo with Statistics
Taxpayers with incomes over $200,000 could expect on average to pay about $99,000 in taxes under Mr. Bush’s plan.
— Wall Street Journal

Wow! Pity the poor taxpayer who makes over $200,000! Apparently, he or she will pay almost half of that amount in taxes. But think again: In the words of the New Republic (February 3, 2003), “The Journal’s statistic is about as meaningful as asserting that males over the age of six have had an average of three sexual partners.” Bill Gates and many others like him are among those who make over $200,000.

their patients who chew gum.” This claim contains two weaseling expressions. The first is the word “surveyed.” Notice that the ad does not tell us the criteria for choosing the dentists who were surveyed. Were they picked at random, or were only dentists who might not be unfavorably disposed toward gum chewing surveyed? Nothing indicates that the sample of dentists surveyed even remotely represents the general population of dentists. If 99 percent of the dentists in the country disagreed with the ad’s claim, its authors could still say truthfully that they spoke about only those dentists surveyed, not all dentists. The second weaseler in the advertisement appears in the last phrase of the claim: “for their patients who chew gum.” Notice the ad does not claim that any dentist believes sugarless-gum chewing is as good for a patient’s teeth as no gum chewing at all. Imagine that the actual question posed to the dentists was something like this: “If a patient of yours insisted on chewing gum, would you prefer that he or she chew sugarless gum, or gum with sugar in it?” If dentists had to answer that question, they would almost certainly be in favor of sugarless gum. But this is a far cry from recommending that any person chew any kind of gum at all. The weaselers allow the advertisement to get away with what sounds like an unqualified recommendation for sugarless gum, when in fact nothing in the ad supports such a recommendation. Let’s make up a statistic. Let’s say that 98 percent of American doctors believe that aspirin is a contributing cause of Reye’s syndrome in children, and that the other 2 percent are unconvinced. If we then claim that “some doctors are unconvinced that aspirin is related to Reye’s syndrome,” we cannot be held accountable for having said something false, even though our claim might be misleading to someone who did not know the complete story. The word “some” has allowed us to weasel the point. Words that sometimes weasel—such as “perhaps,” “possibly,” “maybe,” and “may be,” among others—can be used to produce innuendo, to plant a suggestion without actually making a claim that a person can be held to. We

Great Western pays up to 12 percent more interest on checking accounts. — Radio advertisement Even aside from the “up to” weaseler, this ad can be deceptive about what interest rate it’s promising. Unless you listen carefully, you might think Great Western is paying 12 percent on checking accounts. The presence of the word “more” changes all that, of course. If you’re getting 3 percent now, and Great Western gives you “up to 12 percent more” than that, they’ll be giving you about 1 3 /3 percent—hardly the fortune the ad seems to promise.

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can suggest that Berriault is a liar without actually saying so (and thus without making a claim that might be hard to defend) by saying that Berriault may be a liar. Or we can say it is possible that Berriault is a liar (which is true of all of us, after all). “Perhaps Berriault is a liar” works nicely, too. All of these are examples of weaselers used to create innuendo. Not every use of words and phrases like these is a weaseling one, of course. Words that can weasel can also bring very important qualifications to bear on a claim. The very same word that weasels in one context may not weasel at all in another. For example, a detective who is considering all the possible angles on a crime and who has just heard Smith’s account of events may say to an associate, “Of course, it is possible that Smith is lying.” This need not be a case of weaseling. The detective may simply be exercising due care. Other words and phrases that are sometimes used to weasel can also be used legitimately. Qualifying phrases such as “it is arguable that,” “it may well be that,” and so on have at least as many appropriate uses as weaseling ones. Others, such as “some would say that,” are likely to be weaseling more often than not, but even they can serve an honest purpose in the right context. Our warning, then, is to be watchful when qualifying phrases turn up. Is the speaker or writer adding a reasonable qualification, insinuating a bit of innuendo, or preparing a way out? We can only warn; you need to assess the speaker, the context, and the subject to establish the grounds for the right judgment.

DOWNPLAYERS
Downplaying is an attempt to make someone or something look less important or less significant. Stereotypes, rhetorical comparisons, rhetorical explanations, and innuendo can all be used to downplay something. Consider this statement, for example: “Don’t mind what Mr. Pierce says in class; he’s a liberal.” This attempt to downplay Mr. Pierce and whatever views he expresses in class makes use of a stereotype. We can also downplay by careful insertion of certain words or other devices. Let’s amend the preceding example like this: “Don’t mind what Mr. Pierce says in class; he’s just another liberal.” Notice how the phrase “just another” denigrates Mr. Pierce’s status still further. Words and other devices that serve this function are known as downplayers. Perhaps the words most often used as downplayers are “mere” and “merely.” If Kim tells you that she has a yellow belt in the Tibetan martial art of Pujo and that her sister has a mere green belt, you would quite naturally make the assumption that a yellow belt ranks higher than a green belt. We’d probably say that Kim’s use of the word “mere” gives you the right to make that assumption. Kim has used the word to downplay the significance of her sister’s accomplishment. But notice this: It could still be that Kim’s sister’s belt signifies the higher rank. If called on the matter, Kim might claim that she said “mere” simply because her sister has been practicing the art for much longer and is, after all, not that far ahead. Whether Kim has such an out or not, she has used a downplayer to try to diminish her sister’s accomplishment.

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The term “so-called” is another standard downplayer. We might say, for example, that the woman who made the diagnosis is a “so-called doctor,” which downplays her credentials as a physician. Quotation marks can be used to accomplish the same thing:
She got her “degree” from a correspondence school.

Use of quotation marks as a downplayer is somewhat different from their use to indicate irony, as in this remark:
John “borrowed” Hank’s umbrella, and Hank hasn’t seen it since.

The idea in the latter example isn’t to downplay John’s borrowing the umbrella; it’s to indicate that it wasn’t really a case of borrowing at all. But the use of quotation marks around the word “degree” and the use of “so-called” in the earlier examples are designed to play down the importance of their subjects. And, like “mere” and “merely,” they do it in a fairly unsubtle way. Many conjunctions—such as “nevertheless,” “however,” “still,” and “but”—can be used to downplay claims that precede them. Such uses are more subtle than the first group of downplayers. Compare the following two versions of what is essentially the same pair of claims:
(1) The leak at the plant was a terrible tragedy, all right; however, we must remember that such pesticide plants are an integral part of the “green revolution” that has helped to feed millions of people. (2) Although it’s true that pesticide plants are an integral part of the “green revolution” that has helped to feed millions of people, it was just such a plant that developed a leak and produced a terrible tragedy.

The differences may not be as obvious as those in the cases of “mere” and “so-called,” but the two versions give an indication of where their authors’ sympathies lie. The context of a claim can determine whether it downplays or not. Consider the remark “Chavez won by only six votes.” The word “only” may or may not downplay Chavez’s victory, depending on how thin a six-vote margin is. If ten thousand people voted and Chavez won by six, then the word “only” seems perfectly appropriate: Chavez just won by the skin of his teeth. But if the vote was in a committee of, say, twenty, then six is quite a substantial margin (it would be thirteen votes to seven, if everybody voted—almost two to one), and applying the word “only” to the result is clearly a slanting device designed to give Chavez’s margin of victory less importance than it deserves. As mentioned earlier, slanters really can’t—and shouldn’t—be avoided altogether. They can give our writing flair and interest. What can be avoided is being unduly swayed by slanters. Learn to appreciate the effects that subtle and not-so-subtle manipulations of language can have on you. By being aware, you decrease your chances of being taken in unwittingly by a clever writer or speaker.

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In the Media
Just Another Pretty Face?
John Edwards was the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential candidate and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. During the 2004 campaign, several Republican Web sites referred to Edwards as a Breck Girl because of his youthful good looks. This combines stereotyping, ridicule, and, to the extent it suggested he was lacking in substance, an ad hominem attack, which we’ll discuss in Chapter 7. As we go to press, the presidential primary season is under way. Unfortunately, not until the general election gets under way in the fall of 2008 will the really nasty campaign ads come out. There will be plenty of slanters then, verbal and visual.

HORSE LAUGH/RIDICULE/SARCASM
The kind of rhetorical device we call the horse laugh includes the use of ridicule of all kinds. Ridicule is a powerful rhetorical tool—most of us really hate being laughed at. So it’s important to remember that somebody who simply gets a laugh at the expense of another person’s position has not raised any objection to that position. One may simply laugh outright at a claim (“Send aid to Russia? Har, har, har!”), laugh at another claim that reminds us of the first (“Support the Equal Rights Amendment? Sure, when the ladies start buying the drinks! Ho, ho, ho!”), tell an unrelated joke, use sarcastic language, or simply laugh at the person who is trying to make the point. The next time you watch a debate, remember that the person who has the funniest lines and who gets the most laughs may be the person who seems

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to win the debate, but critical thinkers should be able to see the difference between argumentation on one hand and entertainment on the other. (Notice that we didn’t say there’s anything wrong with entertainment; just like most of you, we wouldn’t like to spend all of our time watching people be serious, even if they were making good arguments.)

HYPERBOLE
Hyperbole is extravagant overstatement. A claim that exaggerates for effect is on its way to becoming hyperbole, depending on the strength of its language and the point being made. To describe a hangnail as a serious injury is hyperbole; so is using the word “fascist” to describe parents who insist that their teenager be home by midnight. Not all strong or colorful language is hyperbole, of course. “Oscar Peterson is an unbelievably inventive pianist” is a strong claim, but it is not hyperbolic—it isn’t really extravagant. However, “Oscar Peterson is the most inventive musician who ever lived” goes beyond emphasis and crosses over the line into hyperbole. (How could one know that Oscar Peterson is more inventive than, say, Mozart?) Dysphemisms often involve hyperbole. So do rhetorical comparisons. When we use the dysphemisms “traitorous” or “extremist” to describe the views of a member of an opposing political party, we are indulging in hyperbole. If we say that the secretary of state is less well informed than a beet, that’s hyperbole in a rhetorical comparison. In similar ways, rhetorical explanations and definitions can utilize hyperbole. Hyperbole is also frequently used in ridicule. If it involves exaggeration, a piece of ridicule counts as hyperbole. The foregoing example, saying that the secretary of state is less well informed than a beet, is hyperbole in a rhetorical comparison used to ridicule that official. A claim can be hyperbolic without containing excessively emotive words or phrases. Neither the hangnail nor the Oscar Peterson example contains such language; in fact, the word “unbelievably” is probably the most emotive word in the two claims about Peterson, and it occurs in the nonhyperbolic claim. But a claim can also be hyperbole as a result of the use of such language. “Parents who are strict about a curfew are fascists” is an example. If the word “mean” were substituted for “fascists,” we might find the claim strong or somewhat exaggerated, but we would not call it hyperbole. It’s when the colorfulness of language becomes excessive—a matter of judgment—that the claim is likely to turn into hyperbole. Hyperbole is an obvious slanting device, but it can also have more subtle—perhaps unconscious—effects. Even if you reject the exaggeration, you may be moved in the direction of the basic claim. For example, you may reject the claim that Oscar Peterson is the most inventive musician who ever lived, but you may now believe that Oscar Peterson must certainly be an extraordinary musician—otherwise, why would someone make that exaggerated claim about him? Or suppose someone says, “Charlotte Church has the most fabulous voice of any singer around today.” Even if you reject the “fabulous” part of the claim, you may still end up thinking Charlotte Church must have a pretty good voice. But be careful: Without support, you have no more reason to accept the milder claims than the wilder ones.

A feminazi is a woman to whom the most important thing in life is seeing to it that as many abortions as possible are performed. — RUSH LIMBAUGH A rhetorical definition with hyperbole. (A straw man, too, but that’s for a later chapter.)

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Hyperbole can add a persuasive edge to a claim that it doesn’t deserve. A hyperbolic claim is pure persuasion.

PROOF SURROGATES
An expression used to suggest that there is evidence or authority for a claim without actually citing such evidence or authority is a proof surrogate. Sometimes we can’t prove the claim we’re asserting, but we can hint that there is proof available, or at least evidence or authority for the claim, without committing ourselves to what that proof, evidence, or authority is. Using “informed sources say” is a favorite way of making a claim seem more authoritative. Who are the sources? How do we know they’re informed? How does the person making the claim know they’re informed? “It’s obvious that” sometimes precedes a claim that isn’t obvious at all. But we may keep our objections to ourselves in the belief that it’s obvious to everybody but us, and we don’t want to appear denser than the next guy. “Studies show” crops up in advertising a lot. Note that this phrase tells us nothing about how many studies are involved, how good they are, who did them, or any other important information. Here’s a good example of a proof surrogate from the Wall Street Journal:
We hope politicians on this side of the border are paying close attention to Canada’s referendum on Quebec. . . . Canadians turned out en masse to reject the referendum. There’s every reason to believe that voters in the U.S. are just as fed up with the social engineering that lumps people together as groups rather than treating them as individuals.

There is no other country in the Middle East except Israel that can be considered to have a stable government. . . . Is Saudi Arabia more stable? Egypt? Jordan? Kuwait? Judge for yourself! — “Facts and Logic About the Middle East” Proof surrogates often take the form of questions. This strategy can also be analyzed as switching the burden of proof (see Chapter 7).

There may be “every reason to believe” that U.S. voters are fed up, but nobody has yet told us what any of those reasons are. Until we hear more evidence, our best bet is to figure that the quotation mainly reflects what the writer at the Journal thinks is the proper attitude for U.S. voters. Without a context, such assertions are meaningless. Remember: Proof surrogates are just that—surrogates. They are not real proof or evidence. Such proof or evidence may exist, but until it has been presented, the claim at issue remains unsupported. At best, proof surrogates suggest sloppy research; at worst, they suggest propaganda.

RHETORICAL ANALOGIES AND MISLEADING COMPARISONS
A while back, Robert Kittle, the editorial page editor of the San Diego UnionTribune, referred to the Social Security system as a Ponzi scheme. (Ponzi schemes are pyramid schemes designed to bilk money from people who fall for them; Carlo Ponzi was responsible for a couple of famous examples.) This is a rhetorical analogy—a comparison of two things or a likening of one thing to another in order to make one of them appear better or worse than it might be. Now, people use analogies for various explanatory purposes; if a friend knows nothing of rugby, for instance, you might help him understand

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something about it by comparing it to football. In the foregoing case, however, editor Kittle’s comparison was designed not to enlighten but to persuade. “Ponzi scheme” has a strong negative connotation, and calling something a Ponzi scheme portrays it in a bad light. Rhetorical analogies are often used as a substitute for arguments, and it is easy to see why. Facts are required to show that Social Security is financially unsustainable; it’s less work and possibly just as effective to call it a Ponzi scheme. This kind of persuasion often works very well, producing conviction in the listener without the necessity of proof. Rhetorical analogies include both metaphors and similes. “Hillary’s eyes bulge just a little, like a Chihuahua’s” is a simile; “Jenna is a loose cannon” is a metaphor. Rhetorical analogies also include comparisons. “You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than of winning the lottery.” Or Dave Barry’s description of parenthood: “Having kids is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain.” These are colorful ways of making a point, but of course they do not constitute reasons for accepting that point. Some comparisons can be problematic, leading us into error if we’re not careful. Advertising slogans often use comparisons that can mislead us because of their vagueness. “Now 25 percent larger,” “New and improved formula,” or “Quietest by far.” We learned what problems vagueness can cause in the previous chapter; it returns to haunt these comparative claims. Larger than what? Improved how? Unless the terms of the comparison are spelled out and the manner of comparing made clear, such claims are worth very little. As we also saw in the previous chapter, claims made in advertising are not our most reliable sources of information, and that includes comparative claims. Following are some questions that you would be wise to keep in mind when considering comparisons. They include reference to omissions and distortions, which can be among the more subtle forms of rhetorical devices. 1. Is important information missing? It is nice to hear that the unemployment rate has gone down, but not if you learn the reason is that a larger percent of the workforce has given up looking for work. Or, suppose someone says that 90 percent of heroin addicts once smoked marijuana. Without other information, the comparison is meaningless, since 90 percent of heroin addicts no doubt listened to the Beatles, too. Our local U.S. congressional representative Wally Herger recently warned his constituents that Social Security is in dire straits. At one time, he said, there were 42 workers to support a single retiree, and now there are only 3. This does indeed sound ominous, except Representative Herger didn’t mention that the 42-to-1 ratio was at the startup of Social Security before many had retired; he also failed to mention that the 3-to-1 ratio has been around for the past 25 years, during which period Social Security accumulated a surplus.* 2. Is the same standard of comparison used? Are the same reporting and recording practices being used? A change in the jobless rate doesn’t mean *Statistics from our colleague, Professor (of American history) Carl Peterson.

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In the Media
A Misleading Mathematical Visual
Sometimes a straightforward mathematical comparison can become misleading by the way it’s presented. The bar graph below, from a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, compares Democrats, Republicans, and Independents with respect to their agreement with a court’s judgment that the feeding tube should be removed from Terri Schiavo, a case discussed in the text, page 164. From a casual look at the bar graph, it might seem that Democrats are much more in favor of removing the tube than Republicans or Independents.
CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll
Results by party Question 2: Based on what you have heard or read about the case, do you agree with the court's decision to have the feeding tube removed?

Agree 63 62 61 60 59 58 57 56 55 54 53 62

54 Democrats
Sampling error:

54

Republicans Independents
/ 7%

But look at the numbers rather than the bars themselves, and we get a different story. The first graph only shows us the parts of the bars, from 53 percent to 63 percent. If we display the entire bars, from 0 to 100 percent, the graph looks like this:
RESULTS BY PARTY: CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll
Margin of error: / 7%

Question 2: Based on what you have heard or read about the case, do you agree with the court's decision to have the feeding tube removed?
100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 Percentage who agree

62

54

54

Democrats

Republicans Independents

In this case, the Democrats look (correctly) to be only somewhat more in favor of removing the tube. The lesson here is to avoid drawing conclusions unless you’ve had a close look at the data, including the manner in which it is displayed.
Comparison originally made by truthout.org.

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Real Life
Cause for Alarm?
According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, cocaine use among Americans twelve to seventeen years of age increased by a whopping 166 percent between 1992 and 1995. Wow, right? Except that the increase in absolute terms was a little less spectacular: In 1992, 0.3 percent of Americans aged twelve to seventeen had used cocaine; in 1995, the percentage was 0.8 percent of that population. Be wary of comparisons expressed as percentage changes.

much if the government changes the way it calculates joblessness, as sometimes happens. In 1993, the number of people in the United States with AIDS suddenly increased dramatically. Had a new form of the AIDS virus appeared? No; the federal government had expanded the definition of AIDS to include several new indicator conditions. As a result, overnight 50,000 people were considered to have AIDS who had not been so considered the day before. 3. Are the items comparable? It is hard to compare baseball sluggers Barry Bonds and Willie Mays if one but not the other used steroids, or if one had the benefit of improved equipment. It’s hard to derive a conclusion from the fact that this April’s retail business activity is way down as compared with last April’s, if Easter fell in March this year and the weather was especially cold. That more male than female drivers are involved in traffic fatalities doesn’t mean much by itself, since male drivers collectively drive more miles than do female drivers. Comparing share values of two mutual funds over the past ten years won’t be useful to an investor if the comparison doesn’t take into account a difference in fees. 4. Is the comparison expressed as an average? The average rainfall in Seattle is about the same as that in Kansas City. But you’ll spend more time in the rain in Seattle because it rains there twice as often as in Kansas City. If Central Valley Components, Inc. (CVC), reports that average salaries of a majority of its employees have more than doubled over the past ten years, it sounds good, but CVC still may not be a great place to work. Perhaps the increases were due to converting the majority of employees, who worked half-time, to full-time and firing the rest. Comparisons that involve averages omit details that can be important, simply because they involve averages. Averages are measures of central tendency, and there are different kinds of measures or averages. Consider, for instance, the average cost of a new house in your area, which may be $150,000. If that is the mean, it
Never try to wade a river just because it has an average depth of four feet. — MARTIN FRIEDMAN The wrong average can put you under.

In 2003, George W. Bush proposed a tax cut that he said would give the average taxpayer $1,083. The “average” here is the mean average. However, before you start dreaming about how to spend your $1,083, you might want to check on the modal average. Most taxpayers, according to the Urban Institute–Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, would receive less than $100 under the Bush proposal. Misleading averages

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In Depth
Visual Hyperbole?
Governor Schwarzenegger of California has been the point of all manner of jokes, both verbal and visual, since his election in 2003. Most good satire and parody contain more than a kernel of truth. Schwarzenegger’s fame as a bodybuilder and later as the star of such action movies as the Terminator series helped him get elected and also have been the source of most of the humor about him. Here, he is depicted as what appears to be a Native American during the nineteenth-century settling of California by white people. This is ironic, given that he is himself an immigrant from Austria; it was probably done merely to justify portraying him without a shirt.

is the total of the sales prices divided by the number of houses sold, and it may be quite different from the median, which is an average that is the halfway figure (half the houses cost more and half cost less). The mode, the most common sales price, may be different yet. If there are likely to be large or dramatic variations in what is measured, one must be cautious of figures that represent an unspecific “average.”

PERSUASION USING VISUAL IMAGES
Before the digital age, it was much easier to take photographic evidence at face value. Even then, however, there were all kinds of things that could be done to manipulate an image and a viewer’s perception of what was taking place. But some photos and videos do not need any manipulation at all to produce a mistaken impression in the viewer. You might recall that, in 2005, a Florida woman named Terri Schiavo became the center of a controversy regarding whether she was in a “persistent vegetative state” (PVS) and could ever be expected to regain consciousness, never mind recover. Videotape made by family members sometimes appeared to show her responding to the presence of her mother. Bill Frist, himself a heart surgeon and at that

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time majority leader of the U.S. Senate, saw the tape and claimed that Ms. Schiavo seemed to be responding to visual stimuli. Other doctors, including her own, said that the facial expressions some took as conscious response were often exhibited by those in a PVS and were not signs of awareness. After her death, an autopsy showed that Ms. Schiavo’s brain had shrunk to half its normal size, and what was left was severely damaged, including her visual cortex—she had been blind for some time before her death. The likelihood of her having anything like consciousness near the end was virtually a medical impossibility. We describe this story to illustrate how a piece of videotape can be ambiguous—that is, it can be open to more than one interpretation. What appeared to be the case to some viewers turned out to be a mistaken impression— leading them to make claims that turned out to be false. (Photos, videos, and other imagery technically cannot be true or false; but claims based on such imagery are true or false.) As we said earlier, though, some people are not willing to let well enough alone. They perform image manipulations of various sorts to try to create mistaken impressions. Following is a list of tricks from the Web site . FAKES AND MISLEADING IMAGES CAN BE THE RESULT OF . . . * Deliberately manipulating an image (e.g., adding, deleting, combining) * Using unaltered images but with misleading captions * Deliberately selected camera angles that distort information * Lack of authority (i.e., author name, credentials); inconsistency when compared to official images * Stills taken from movies: out of context, they are given false descriptions * Stills taken of models purported to be the real thing * Stills that are genuine and unadulterated but “staged” * 100% digital fabrications Compare the two photos in the “Shake What?” box. They were taken just moments apart at the beginning of President Bush’s 2007 State of the Union speech. The Sacramento Bee ran the one on the top on the front page the next day; many other papers ran the other one. Notice the difference in impression the two photos give. One makes Bush look awkward and not the least inclined to shake hands with Speaker Pelosi, who had just introduced him. The other photo puts him in an entirely different light: He and Pelosi might even be likeminded old friends from what one can tell from this photo. (That, too, would be a wildly mistaken interpretation, but it points up the difference in the two shots.) In this case, it was a different angle and a tiny bit of time that made the difference. Now, look at the “Together . . . or Not?” box and what appears to be a photo of a young John Kerry (senator from Massachusetts and 2004 presidential candidate) and movie actress Jane Fonda. The time was during the Vietnam

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In the Media
Shake What?

These two photos, taken just moments apart at the beginning of George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech in 2007, are discussed in the text. Do they convey different impressions of the president?

War, in which Kerry served but later came to question and against which Fonda was a well-known protester. The apparent photo is a carefully crafted piece of work—but for its malicious intention, it would be admirable—and was spread about by Kerry’s political enemies during his 2004 campaign. It was designed to discredit him with voters by insinuating a connection between him and Fonda, whose antiwar activities caused many to question her patriotism. In fact, Kerry and Fonda never appeared together. What appears to be one photo is actually two, spliced together to make it look as though they appeared together. In the preceding example, neither Kerry’s nor Fonda’s image was doctored; it was their sneaky juxtaposition that made the misleading case. In the next box, “The Daschle Salute,” we get outright manipulation. Here, it looks as though Tom Daschle (the majority leader in the Senate at the time) doesn’t know how to salute the flag or doesn’t know his right hand from his left. In reality, he did it correctly, but someone reversed his image, flipping it right-to-left so that he appeared to be saluting with his left hand rather than his right. There are two clues to the doctoring that went on in this photo. It

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In the Media
Together . . . or Not?

Did John Kerry and Jane Fonda appear together at an antiwar rally during the Vietnam War? The answer is in the text.

would take not just a critical thinker but a sharp eye to spot them. The first is that Daschle is married and wears a wedding ring. If this were really his left hand, one would see his ring. The second clue is more convincing. It’s that his coat is buttoned backwards: Men’s clothing always has buttons on the right side of the garment, so it’s the left side that closes over the right. In the photo, the right side of Daschle’s jacket closes over the left, indicating that it isn’t just his hand that is on the wrong side, his clothing would have to be reversed, too! We would not expect your typical newspaper reader or Web surfer to be able to identify manipulated photos wherever they appear. We certainly couldn’t do it, and some images are so carefully done nobody could spot the problem with them. So, what is a critically thinking person to do? It’s the same answer you’ve heard before in these pages: Be careful. Be aware that, even though most people mean to be helpful and tell you what they actually believe, a substantial number of them are out to fool you.

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In the Media
The Daschle Salute

This looks like a big-time “Oops!” moment for Tom Daschle, former majority leader in the U.S. Senate. In fact, as explained in the text, it is a clever attempt to influence opinion against Daschle through photo manipulation.

In Depth
Don’t Get Carried Away!
Once you’re familiar with the ways slanting devices are used to try to influence us, you may be tempted to dismiss a claim or argument just because it contains strongly slanted language. But true claims as well as false ones, good reasoning as well as bad, can be couched in such language. Remember that the slanting itself gives us no reason to accept a position on an issue; that doesn’t mean that there are no such reasons. Consider this example, written by someone opposed to using animals for laboratory research: It’s morally wrong for a person to inflict awful pain on another sensitive creature, one that has done the first no harm. Therefore, the so-called scientists who perform their hideous and sadistic experiments on innocent animals are moral criminals just as were Hitler and his Nazi torturers. Before we dismiss this passage as shrill or hysterical, it behooves us as critical thinkers to notice that it contains a piece of reasoning that may shed light on the issue.

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This list summarizes the topics covered in this chapter:
■ When we try to persuade, we try to win someone to our point of view. ■ Rhetoric seeks to persuade through use of the emotive power of language. ■ Though it can exert a profound psychological influence, rhetoric has no

Recap

logical force. Only an argument has logical force, i.e., can prove or support a claim. ■ Euphemisms seek to mute the disagreeable aspects of something. ■ Dysphemisms are used to emphasize the disagreeable aspects of something.
■ Rhetorical analogies, definitions, and explanations are used to create both ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■



favorable and unfavorable attitudes about something. Stereotypes are unwarranted and oversimplified generalizations about the members of a class. Innuendo uses words with neutral or positive associations to insinuate something deprecatory. Loaded questions rest on unwarranted assumptions. Weaselers protect a claim from criticism by weakening it. Downplayers tone down the importance of something. Ridicule and sarcasm are used widely. Hyperbole is exaggeration. Proof surrogates suggest there is evidence or authority for a claim without actually saying what the evidence or authority is. These devices can affect our thinking in subtle ways, even when we believe we are being objective. Some of these devices, especially euphemisms and weaselers, have valuable, nonprejudicial uses as well as a slanting one. Only if we are speaking, writing, listening, and reading carefully can we distinguish prejudicial uses of these devices. Although photographs and other images are not claims or arguments, they can enter into critical thinking by offering evidence of the truth or falsity of claims. They can also affect us psychologically in a manner analogous to that by which the emotive meaning of language affects us.

Exercise 5-1
You will want to recognize when someone is using rhetorical slanting devices to influence your attitudes and beliefs. Let’s see if you can identify some of the more common devices. Select the best answer. 1. “His nose, however, is his redeeming feature: It is pronounced straight and well-formed; though I myself should have liked it better if it did not

Exercises

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possess a somewhat spongy, porous appearance, as though it had been cleverly formed out of a red coloured cork.”
— Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers





a. rhetorical analogy b. rhetorical definition c. rhetorical explanation d. loaded question e. not a slanter 2. Larry Kudlow, of Kudlow and Cramer on CNBC (in an American Spectator interview): “[Former Treasury secretary] Bob Rubin’s a smart guy, a nice man, but he hates tax cuts. To listen to Rubin on domestic issues, you could just die. He’s a free-spending left-winger.” Which category applies best to the last phrase of the quotation? a. rhetorical analogy b. stereotype c. downplayer d. loaded question e. not a slanter 3. “Making a former corporate CEO the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission is like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.” This is best seen as an example of a. rhetorical analogy b. rhetorical explanation c. innuendo d. dysphemism e. not a slanter 4. “The key principle is ‘responsible energy exploration.’ And remember, it’s NOT drilling for oil. It’s responsible energy exploration.”
— Republican pollster Frank Luntz, “Eight Energy Communications Guidelines for 2005”

a. dysphemism b. euphemism c. innuendo d. hyperbole e. loaded question 5. “Right. George Bush ‘won’ the election in 2000, didn’t he?” The use of quotation marks around “won” has the effect of a a. weaseler b. dysphemism c. downplayer d. rhetorical explanation e. not a slanter 6. “‘Democrat’ equals ‘ideologically homeless ex-communist.’ ”
— Linda Bowles

a. hyperbole b. stereotype

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7.

8.

9.



10.

c. rhetorical explanation d. rhetorical definition e. not a slanter The obvious truth is that bilingual education has been a failure.” In this statement, “the obvious truth” might best be viewed as a. a proof surrogate b. a weaseler c. an innuendo d. a dysphemism e. not a slanter After George W. Bush announced he wanted to turn a substantial portion of the federal government operation over to private companies, Bobby L. Harnage Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said Bush had “declared all-out war on federal employees.” Would you say that the quoted passage is a. a rhetorical explanation b. a euphemism c. a weaseler d. hyperbole/a rhetorical analogy e. not a slanter “You say you are in love with Oscar, but are you sure he’s right for you? Isn’t he a little too . . . uh, ‘mature’ for you?” This statement contains a. a loaded question b. a euphemism c. both a and b d. neither a nor b “Before any more of my tax dollars go to the military, I’d like answers to some questions, such as why are we spending billions of dollars on weapons programs that don’t work?” This statement contains an example of a. a downplayer b. a dysphemism c. a proof surrogate d. a loaded question e. hyperbole and a loaded question

11. “Can Governor Evans be believed when he says he will fight for the death penalty? You be the judge.” This statement contains a. a dysphemism b. a proof surrogate c. an innuendo d. hyperbole e. no slanters



12. “Which is it George W. Bush lied about, whether he used cocaine, when he used cocaine, or how much cocaine he used?” This statement contains a. hyperbole b. a dysphemism c. a loaded question d. a proof surrogate e. no slanter

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13. “Studies confirm what everyone knows: smaller classes make kids better learners.”
— Bill Clinton

This statement contains: a. b. c. d. e. 14. a proof surrogate a weaseler hyperbole an innuendo no slanter

MAN SELLING HIS CAR:

“True, there’s a little wear and tear, but what are a few dents?” This statement contains what might best be called a. b. c. d. a loaded question an innuendo a dysphemism a euphemism



15.

MAN THINKING OF BUYING THE CAR IN EXERCISE 14, TO HIS WIFE: “Okay, okay, so it’s got a few miles on it. Still, it may be the only Mustang in the whole country for that price.” In this item, “few” and “still” could be said to belong to the same category of slanter. (T or F)

16. In Exercise 15, “it may be” is a. b. c. d. a. b. c. d. a weaseler a proof surrogate a downplayer not a slanter an innuendo hyperbole a euphemism none of these

17. Still in Exercise 15, “in the whole country” is an example of

Exercise 5-2

Determine which of the numbered, italicized words and phrases are used as rhetorical devices in the following passage. If the item fits one of the text’s categories of rhetorical devices, identify it as such.
The National Rifle Association’s campaign to arm every man, woman, and child in America(1) received a setback when the president signed the Brady Bill. But the gun-pushers(2) know that the bill was only a small skirmish in a big war(3) over guns in America. They can give up some of their more fanatical(4) positions on such things as assault weapons(5) and cop-killer bullets(6) and still win on the one that counts: regulation of manufacture and sale of handguns.

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Exercise 5-3

Follow the directions for Exercise 5-2.
The big money guys(1) who have smuggled(2) the Rancho Vecino development onto the November ballot will stop at nothing to have this town run just exactly as they want.(3) It is possible(4) that Rancho Vecino will cause traffic congestion on the east side of town, and it’s perfectly clear that(5) the number of houses that will be built will overload the sewer system. But(6) a small number of individuals have taken up the fight. Can the developers be stopped in their desire to wreck our town?(7)

Exercise 5-4
Follow the directions for Exercise 5-2.
The U.S. Congress has cut off funds for the superconducting supercollider that the scientific establishment(1) wanted to build in Texas. The alleged(2) virtues of the supercollider proved no match for the huge(3) cost overruns(4) that had piled up like a mountain alongside a sea of red ink.(5) Despite original estimates of five to six billion dollars, the latest figure was over eleven billion and growing faster than weeds.(6)

Exercise 5-5
Read the passage below and answer the questions that follow it. Your instructor may have further directions.
Another quality that makes [Texas Republican Tom] DeLay an un-Texas pol is that he’s mean. By and large, Texas pols are an agreeable set of lessthan-perfect humans and quite often well intentioned. As Carl Parker of Port Arthur used to observe, if you took all the fools out of the [legislature], it would not be a representative body any longer. The old sense of collegiality was strong, and vindictive behavior—punishing pols for partisan reasons—was simply not done. But those are Tom DeLay’s specialties, his trademarks. The Hammer is not only genuinely feared in Washington, he is, I’m sorry to say, hated.
— Excerpt from a column by Molly Ivins, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

1. What issue is the author addressing? 2. What position does the author take on that issue? 3. If the author supports this position with an argument, state that argument in your own words. 4. Does the author use rhetorical devices discussed in this chapter? If so, classify any that fall into the categories described in this chapter.

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Exercise 5-6
Follow the directions for Exercise 5-5, using the same list of questions.
Schools are not a microcosm of society, any more than an eye is a microcosm of the body. The eye is a specialized organ which does something that no other part of the body does. That is its whole significance. You don’t use your eyes to lift packages or steer automobiles. Specialized organs have important things to do in their own specialties. So schools, which need to stick to their special work as well, should not become social or political gadflies.
— Thomas Sowell

Exercise 5-7
Follow the directions for Exercise 5-5, using the same list of questions.
Here is what I believe: The country has just witnessed an interlude of religious hysteria, encouraged and exploited by political quackery. The political cynicism of Republicans shocked the nation. But even more alarming is the enthusiasm of self-described “pro-life” forces for using the power of the state to impose their obtuse moral distinctions on the rest of us. The Catholic Church and many Protestant evangelicals are acting as partisan political players in a very dangerous manner. Once they have mobilized zealots to their moral causes, they can expect others to fight back in the same blind, intolerant manner.
— William Greider, “Pro-Death Politics,” the Nation, April 2, 2005

Exercise 5-8
Follow the directions for Exercise 5-5, using the same list of questions.
Asked whether he would be resigning, [U.N. Secretary General Kofi] Annan replied, “Hell, no. I’ve got lots of work to do, and I’m going to go ahead and do it.” That’s doubtful. His term is up at the end of 2006, and few—after the mess he’s caused—take him seriously. He may have a lot of “work” he’d like to do, but he won’t be permitted to do it. All around Annan is the wreckage of the U.N.’s spirit of high-level cronyism.
— Editorial in the National Review Online, April 1, 2005

Exercise 5-9
Follow the directions for Exercise 5-5, using the same list of questions.
“It is not the job of the state, and it is certainly not the job of the school, to tell parents when to put their children to bed,” declared David Hart of the National Association of Head Teachers, responding to David

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Blunkett’s idea that parents and teachers should draw up “contracts” (which you could be fined for breaching) about their children’s behavior, time-keeping, homework and bedtime. Teachers are apparently concerned that their five-to-eight-year-old charges are staying up too late and becoming listless truants the next day. While I sympathize with Mr. Hart’s concern about this neo-Stalinist nannying, I wonder whether it goes far enough. Is it not high time that such concepts as Bathtime, Storytime and Drinks of Water were subject to regulation as well? I for one would value some governmental guidance as to the number of humorous swimming toys (especially Hungry Hippo) allowable per gallon of water. Adopting silly voices while reading Spot’s Birthday or Little Rabbit Foo-Foo aloud is something crying out for regulatory guidelines, while the right of children to demand and receive wholly unnecessary glasses of liquid after lights-out needs a Statutory Minimum Allowance.
— John Walsh, the Independent

Exercise 5-10
Identify any rhetorical devices you find in the following selections, and classify those that fit the categories described in the text. For each, explain its function in the passage.



1. I trust you have seen Janet’s file and have noticed the “university” she graduated from. 2. The original goal of the Milosevic government in Belgrade was ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. 3. “National Health Care: The compassion of the IRS and the efficiency of the post office, all at Pentagon prices.”
— From a letter to the editor, Sacramento Bee







4. Although it has always had a bad name in the United States, socialism is nothing more or less than democracy in the realm of economics. 5. We’ll have to work harder to get Representative Burger reelected because of his little run-in with the law. 6. It’s fair to say that, compared with most people his age, Mr. Beechler is pretty much bald. 7. During World War II, the U.S. government resettled many people of Japanese ancestry in internment camps. 8. “Overall, I think the gaming industry would be a good thing for our state.”
— From a letter to the editor, Plains Weekly Record

9. Morgan has decided to run for state senator. I’m sorry to hear that he’s decided to become a politician. 10. I’ll tell you what capitalism is: Capitalism is Charlie Manson sitting in Folsom Prison for all those murders and still making a bunch of bucks off T-shirts.

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11. Clearly, Antonin Scalia is the most corrupt Supreme Court justice in the history of the country. 12. In a February 1 article, writer Susan Beahay says Bush’s abortion decision will return abortions to secrecy, risking the mother’s life having a backalley abortion. That’s really juicy. The ultra-left pro-abortion crowd sure can add a little levity to a deadly serious subject. 13. It may well be that many faculty members deserve some sort of pay increase. Nevertheless, it is clearly true that others are already amply compensated.



14. “The only people without [cable or satellite TV] are Luddites and people too old to appreciate it.”
— Todd Mitchell, industry analyst

15. I love some of the bulleting and indenting features of Microsoft Word. I think it would have been a nice feature, however, if they had made it easy to turn some of them off when you don’t need them.

Exercise 5-11
Identify any rhetorical devices you find in the following passage, and classify any that fit into the categories described in this chapter.
On March 11, the U.S. Senate passed the bankruptcy bill that will fill the coffers of the credit card companies while bleeding consumers dry. The bill passed by a whopping 74 to 25 margin, with eighteen Democratic Senators going over to the dark side. Here are the spineless 18: [There follows a list of senators.] “This is not where we as Democrats ought to be, for crying out loud,” as Senator Tom Harkin noted. “We are making a terrible mistake by thinking that we can have it both ways. We have to remember where our base is.” This bill is a fantasy come true for credit card companies, which have been pushing it for years. But it’s not as though they’re suffering. The made $30 billion in profits last year. The bill severely limits the ability of consumers to wipe away some of their debts and get a fresh start. Half the people who file for bankruptcy do so because of sky-high medical bills, and another 40 percent do so because of disability, job loss, family death, or divorce, according to the National Consumer Law Center. If you make more than the median income in your state, no matter how high your bills are, you can’t wipe the debts clean. As a result, debtors will be at much greater risk of losing their cars or their homes. And even if your debts are the consequence of identity theft, of someone stealing your credit card and running up charges, you still are on the hook for them, as the Senate amazingly voted down an amendment to shelter victims of identity theft.
— Matthew Rothschild, “Democratic Senators Cave on Bankruptcy Bill,” The Progressive, March 12, 2005

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Exercise 5-12
Identify any rhetorical devices you find in the following passages, and explain their purposes. Note: Some items may contain no rhetorical devices.



1. “If the United States is to meet the technological challenge posed by Japan, Inc., we must rethink the way we do everything from design to manufacture to education to employee relations.”
— Harper’s



2. According to UNICEF reports, several thousand Iraqi children died each month because of the U.N. sanctions. 3. Maybe Professor Daguerre’s research hasn’t appeared in the first-class journals as recently as that of some of the other professors in his department; that doesn’t necessarily mean his work is going downhill. He’s still a terrific teacher, if the students I’ve talked to are to be believed. 4. “Let’s put it this way: People who make contributions to my campaign fund get access. But there’s nothing wrong with constituents having access to their representatives, is there?”
— Loosely paraphrased from an interview with a California state senator



5. In the 2000 presidential debates, Al Gore consistently referred to his own tax proposal as a “tax plan” and to George W. Bush’s tax proposal as a “tax scheme.” 6. [Note: Dr. Jack Kevorkian was instrumental in assisting a number of terminally ill people in committing suicide during the 1990s.] “We’re opening the door to Pandora’s Box if we claim that doctors can decide if it’s proper for someone to die. We can’t have Kevorkians running wild, dealing death to people.”
— Larry Bunting, assistant prosecutor, Oakland County, Michigan

7. “LOS ANGELES—Marriott Corp. struck out with patriotic food workers at Dodger Stadium when the concession-holder ordered them to keep working instead of standing respectfully during the National Anthem. . . . Concession stand manager Nick Kavadas . . . immediately objected to a Marriott representative. “Marriott subsequently issued a second memo on the policy. It read: ‘Stop all activities while the National Anthem is being played.’ “Mel Clemens, Marriott’s general manager at the stadium, said the second memo clarified the first memo.”
— Associated Press



8. These so-called forfeiture laws are a serious abridgment of a person’s constitutional rights. In some states, district attorneys’ offices have only to claim that a person has committed a drug-related crime to seize the person’s assets. So fat-cat DAs can get rich without ever getting around to proving that anybody is guilty of a crime. 9. “A few years ago, the deficit got so horrendous that even Congress was embarrassed. Faced with this problem, the lawmakers did what they do best. They passed another law.”
— Abe Mellinkoff, in the San Francisco Chronicle

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10. “[U]mpires are baseball’s designated grown-ups and, like air-traffic controllers, are paid to handle pressure.”
— George Will

11. “Last season should have made it clear to the moguls of baseball that something still isn’t right with the game—something that transcends residual fan anger from the players’ strike. Abundant evidence suggests that baseball still has a long way to go.”
— Stedman Graham, Inside Sports



12. “As you know, resolutions [in the California State Assembly] are about as meaningful as getting a Publishers’ Clearinghouse letter saying you’re a winner.”
— Greg Lucas, in the San Francisco Chronicle



13. The entire gain in the stock market in the first four months of the year was due to a mere fifty stocks. 14. Thinkers who entertain the possibility that there are lots of universes have invented a new term for the entire ensemble: “the multiverse.” Why believe in the multiverse? The “pro” camp has essentially two kinds of arguments.
— Jim Holt, Slate online magazine

15. “[Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia’s ideology is a bald and naked concept called ‘Majoritarianism.’ Only the rights of the majority are protected.”
— Letter to the editor of the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune

16. “Mimi Rumpp stopped praying for a winning lottery ticket years ago. . . . But after a doctor told her sister Miki last year that she needed a kidney transplant, the family began praying for a donor. . . . Less than a year later, Miki has a new kidney, courtesy of a bank teller in Napa, Calif., to whom she had told her story. The teller was the donor; she was so moved by Miki’s plight she had herself tested and discovered she was a perfect match. Coincidence? Luck? Divine intervention? Rumpp is sure: ‘It was a miracle.’ ”
— Newsweek



17. “We are about to witness an orgy of self-congratulation as the selfappointed environmental experts come out of their yurts, teepees, and grant-maintained academic groves to lecture us over the impending doom of the planet and agree with each other about how it is evil humanity and greedy ‘big business’ that is responsible for it all.”
— Tim Worstall, in New Times

18. “In the 1980s, Central America was awash in violence. Tens of thousands of people fled El Salvador and Guatemala as authoritarian governments seeking to stamp out leftist rebels turned to widespread arrests and death squads.”
— USA Today

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Exercise 5-13
Discuss the following stereotypes in class. Do they invoke the same kind of images for everyone? Which are negative and which are positive? How do you think they came to be stereotypes? Is there any “truth” behind them? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. soccer mom Religious Right dumb blonde tax-and-spend liberal homosexual agenda redneck radical feminist contented housewife 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. computer nerd tomboy interior decorator Washington insider Earth mother frat rat Deadhead trailer trash

Exercise 5-14
Your instructor will give you three minutes to write down as many positive and negative stereotypes as you can. Are there more positive stereotypes on your list or more negative ones? Why do you suppose that is?

Exercise 5-15
Write two brief paragraphs describing the same person, event, or situation— that is, both paragraphs should have the same informative content. The first paragraph should be written in a purely informative way, using language that is as neutral as possible; the second paragraph should be slanted as much as possible either positively or negatively (your choice).

Exercise 5-16
Explain the difference between a weaseler and a downplayer. Find a clear example of each in a newspaper, magazine, or other source. Next find an example of a phrase that is sometimes used as a weaseler or downplayer but that is used appropriately or neutrally in the context of your example.

Exercise 5-17
Explain how rhetorical definitions, rhetorical comparisons, and rhetorical explanations differ. Find an example of each in a newspaper, magazine, or other source.

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Exercise 5-18
Critique these comparisons, using the questions about comparisons discussed in the text as guides. Example You get much better service on Air Atlantic. Answer Better than on what? (One term of the comparison is not clear.) In what way better? (The claim is much too vague to be of much use.)









1. New improved Morning Muffins! Now with 20 percent more real dairy butter! 2. The average concert musician makes less than a plumber. 3. Major-league ballplayers are much better than they were thirty years ago. 4. What an arid place to live. Why, they had less rain here than in the desert. 5. On the whole, the mood of the country is more conservative than it was in the nineties. 6. Which is better for a person, coffee or tea? 7. The average GPA of graduating seniors at Georgia State is 3.25, as compared with 2.75 twenty years ago. 8. Women can tolerate more pain than men. 9. Try Duraglow with new sunscreening polymers. Reduces the harmful effect of sun on your car’s finish by up to 50 percent. 10. What a brilliant season! Attendance was up 25 percent over last year.

Exercise 5-19
Critique these comparisons, using the questions discussed in the text as guides.





1. You’ve got to be kidding. Paltrow is much superior to Blanchett as an actor. 2. Blondes have more fun. 3. The average chimp is smarter than the average monkey. 4. The average grade given by Professor Smith is a C. So is the average grade given by Professor Algers. 5. Crime is on the increase. It’s up by 160 percent over last year. 6. Classical musicians, on the average, are far more talented than rock musicians.

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7. Long-distance swimming requires much more endurance than longdistance running. 8. “During the monitoring period, the amount of profanity on the networks increased by 45–47 percent over a comparable period from the preceding year. A clear trend toward hard profanity is evident.”
— Don Wildmon, founder of the National Federation for Decency

9. “Organizations such as EMILY’s List and the Women’s Campaign Fund encourage thousands of small contributors to participate, helping to offset the economic power of the special interests. The political system works better when individuals are encouraged to give to campaigns.”
— Adapted from the Los Angeles Times



10. Which is more popular, the movie Gone With the Wind or Bing Crosby’s version of the song “White Christmas”?

Exercise 5-20
In groups, or individually if your instructor prefers, critique these comparisons, using the questions discussed in the text as guides.









1. If you worry about the stock market, you have reason. The average stock now has a price-to-earnings ratio of around 25:1. 2. Students are much less motivated than they were when I first began teaching at this university. 3. Offhand, I would say the country is considerably more religious than it was twenty years ago. 4. In addition, for the first time since 1960, a majority of Americans now attend church regularly. 5. You really should switch to a high-fiber diet. 6. Hire Ricardo. He’s more knowledgeable than Annette. 7. Why did I give you a lower grade than your roommate? Her paper contained more insights than yours, that’s why. 8. Golf is a considerably more demanding sport than tennis. 9. Yes, our prices are higher than they were last year, but you get more value for your dollar. 10. So, tell me, which do you like more, fried chicken or Volkswagens?

Exercise 5-21
Look at printed advertising, especially political advertising if it is an election season, for three photos that try to convey a particular impression of a person, event, or object. Describe as best you can how the photos accomplish their goals.

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Exercise 5-22
Look through an issue of Time, Newsweek, or another newsmagazine, and find a photograph that portrays its subject in an especially good or bad light—that is, one that does a nonverbal job of creating slant regarding the subject.

Exercise 5-23
In groups, write captions that seem to fit the photo on page 154. Discussion should be about which caption fits best and why.

Writing Exercises
1. Your instructor will select an essay from those in Appendix 1 and ask you to identify as many rhetorical devices as you can find. (Your instructor may narrow the scope of the assignment to just certain paragraphs.) 2. Over the past decade, reportedly more than 2,000 illegal immigrants have died trying to cross the border into the southwestern United States. Many deaths have resulted from dehydration in the desert heat and from freezing to death on cold winter nights. A San Diego–based nonprofit humanitarian organization now leaves blankets, clothes, and water at stations throughout the desert and mountain regions for the immigrants. Should the organization do this? Its members say they are providing simple humanitarian aid, but critics accuse them of encouraging illegal activity. Take a stand on the issue and defend your position in writing. Then identify each rhetorical device you used. 3. Until recently, tiny Stratton, Ohio, had an ordinance requiring all doorto-door “canvassers” to obtain a permit from the mayor. Presumably, the ordinance was intended to protect the many senior citizens of the town from harm by criminals who might try to gain entry by claiming to be conducting a survey. The ordinance was attacked by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who thought it violated their First Amendment right to free speech. The Supreme Court agreed and struck down the law in 2002. Should it have? Defend your position in a brief essay without using rhetoric. Alternatively, defend your position and use rhetorical devices, but identify each device you use.

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