Rhetoric 101

True or False? “Only a fool would say that religious freedom, gay rights, gun rights and civil rights all have something in common.”

Put down your pencils : There’s more going on in that one statement than meets the eye. First of all, it contains a factual error. All four concepts contain a common element: rights. Second, the speaker is no friend of yours. He (or she) is asserting that you shouldn’t want to inquire further into “rights”, the common term here, because you don’t want to be taken for a fool, do you?

Gosh, rights of all kinds are being debated at a fever pitch not seen in years. Passions are high. The freedoms with which the sample statement is concerned have been debated for 200, 20 , 50 and 50 years respectively.

Argument of Intimidation: Happily, the notion that you can be intimidated out of pursuing a discussion by the label “fool” was identified as a logical fallacy by the ancient Greeks over 2,000 years ago. That’s where today’s topic of “Rhetoric” comes in. The quality of debate is slipping this year.

People who need to stay on top of the issues, identify who’s telling the truth and who’s cheating, and persuade others to look at their point of view — these are most likely the people who understand that “it ain’t over” when the debate ends and everybody goes home.

Bambi Meets Godzilla: The person who wins the debate isn’t necessarily the one who gets all the polite applause and wins most of the good guy points. From your local sewing club, to the halls of the House and Senate, it all really happens – the “fat lady sings” – in the bars and back rooms. This is where the votes really count. Your best chance of “winning” is to curb the direction of “acceptable” debate by learning how to stop illogical, falsified, unjust debate cold in its tracks.

We discuss the “argument of intimidation”, arguments Ad Hominem, and a lot more. Recommended reading, with some neat hyperlinked references. We’ve prepared two versions for your reading pleasure:

  • Rhetoric 001 – in Commentary. We discuss four types of argumentative fallacy in about 10 examples. Links to Nizkor, a site which lists and discusses 42 types of argumentative fallacy, with examples and discussion.
  • Rhetoric 101 – in La Parola. All of the above, discussed in a context of the current hot button, “gay marriage”. If you are active in the boardroom, meetings, politics or community service, you need to understand how critical it can be to restrain illogical emotional argument before it gets to the jury. This version discusses how high the stakes can get.
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