Posts Tagged ‘rhetoric’

My recent column in The Hill, co-authored with conservative veteran Scot Faulkner, drew ire on the twitterverse from the Tea Party crowd, including a distant relative named Dan Riehl who is popular and followed among these folks. In reaction to my original column on Ronald Reagan I was called everything from a “half-breed” to someone who had been “dropped on his head” — a old Jersey saying….plug the terms into twitter and you will see what we are speaking about. In good favor I passed this on to my dad (a Reagan Democrat, who voted for RR twice); what I was originally writing about was the misconstruing of Reagan’s legacy. The twitter fury only serves as further evidence, with its lack of thoughtfulness. The Dan Riehl we write about below, in my dad’s comments, is my uncle Dan — not Dan Riehl of Tea Party fame.

Here is what my dad wrote:

“As Jonathan Riehl’s father, I can assure you that he was not dropped on his head as a child. He was raised on a diet of Walter Cronkite and Ronald Reagan.  Indeed when in kindergarten, the kids were talking about Star Wars he thought they were talking about President Reagan’s space program!

 While I do have a brother named Dan Riehl, it is not this Dan Riehl. I know Dan Riehl.  Dan Riehl is a friend of mine. You are not Dan Riehl. As for your followers, these folk who respond to your writings, such foul writers… Writings so foul….do you call this a conversation?”

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Pope Francis has been making waves even after his first few months as leader of the Catholic Church — as much for what he is saying as what he is doing; while some critics point out that there’s nothing “technically” revolutionary about his statements, the cardinal rule of rhetoric has never applied with more force: It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Indeed, a large percentage of the reaction to Francis has had to do with the nonverbal aspects of his rhetoric.

Item 1: Coming down off the pedestal. Francis has made a habit of mingling with the common people, to the chagrin of his security detail (and Brazilian traffic cops).

Item 2: The popemobile. First he rode the bus to work. Then got rid of the bulletproof glass on the Benz. Then he started driving a Ford Focus. Deciding even that was too snazzy, he recently accepted (as a gift) a 1984 Renault with 186,000 miles on it.

Item 3: The chair. Compare Benedict’s throne to Francis’s seat of choice.

Pope Thrones

To be sure, it’s also about what he’s said, including his first appearance before the faithful, where he pretty much said “Hi folks, here I am!” And then all of the comments about how the Church needs to stop “obsessing” over homosexuality, abortion, and birth control. He even seemed to say that he’s OK with atheists. His wide-ranging interview with the Jesuit magazine America triggered raised eyebrows as well.  (Needless to say, this caught Bill Maher’s attention…)

Some observers have suggested that Francis’s words (and actions) could even have implications for American politics — threatening to peel off typically conservative Catholics from the rest of the (increasingly extreme) religious right.

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A column here on POLITICO from my friend and frequent coauthor Scot Faulkner, who managed the books on Capitol Hill for a number of years, and knows of what he speaks. The language and rhetoric surrounding things such as “default” and “government shutdown” are incredibly politicized. If you want to dig a little deeper, take a few minutes and read Scot’s piece.

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BrodyFileJul19bAstounding news from the far right, that Sinclair Lewis could only dream of.

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united-states-dialect-map-languageA fascinating study by a scholar here in North Carolina, looking at how American English varies across the nation — both in terms of pronunciation (what is the difference in pronouncing “Mary,” “Merry,” and “Marry”) and colloquialisms, like saying “soda” versus “pop,” “highway” vs. “freeway.”



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Upside-down-GOPMy latest post on GOPinsantity, the news aggregator blog, a watchdog against nutty “conservatives” (quotes intentional) who are wrecking the once respectable conservative movement. Did you know that some actual conservatives see the hypocrisy in the the party’s current rhetoric about budget deficits?

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No_(2012_film)We saw a great film recently, with a plotline deeply concerned with politics and rhetoric. The film “No” is a Chilean production and is a artistically-liscensed treatment of the 1988 referendum on the Pinochet regime. The protagonist, a communications consultant, argues against using the opposition’s limited airtime to show images of the regime’s brutality — in favor of sunny images of democracy as “allegria” (happiness). In watching I was reminded of the scene from George Orwell’s 1984 in which Winston Smith is tortured not literally, but virtually — with interrogators telling him his worst fears were behind the door of room 101…but never opening the door. In this case, the Chilean people did not need the door opened, for they knew all too well what was behind it. Show them the opposite, the protagonist argues, and they will see behind the door. It’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking, not to mention an exposition of rhetorical theory.

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