KJ Hannah Greenberg

Rhetoric and Reason: Part One

Our values influence our words. That is, our moral systems undergird our cataloging of importance while our connotation’s referential properties shape our scruples. We can adduce that in Am Israel’s current, existential war, we not only have to defend against missiles and murderers but also against rhetoric intended to stir neutral parties to side with heinousness (regrettably, sometimes stirring, per se, isn’t required.)

In parleying discourse, we negotiate whose set of virtues brace up our ideas. 9/11 was an unambiguous terror attack. So, too, was 10/7. Yet, in the latter disaster, humankind appears stuck on moral relativism. See, most of our methods for and tallies pertaining to communication focus on strategies for gaining and improving social prowess, not on means for becoming more accountable citizens.

As ever, broadcast organs strive for popularity. At best, spreading accuracy is a low level agenda item for such “information” vehicles. After all, social variables steer our linguistic and metalinguistic incommensurability while widely held syntax and semantics impact our communicated pragmatics. Individuals who know how to twist words do so as readily as they twist knives. Both occurrences are proliferating, now.

More exactly, pundits are fine tuning their claims to suit their intended audiences’ demographics and psychographics, to suit the situation securing their arguments, and to suit the differences among their own and their audiences’ explicit and implicit orders of business1. Simply, these analysts are working on how best to bring others to their point of view.

It follows that latent antisemitism is being rewarded on convergent networks and that fearmongering is intimidating persons who fail to think critically or who have other mental weaknesses. As a result, Jewish university students have had to barricade themselves against attacks from mobs and unbalanced brethren have become broken; have gone “Stockholm Syndrome;” have begun to side with malevolence to the extent that they have posted their “reformed” opinions on many channels.

As well, there is the case of the “salient” New York Times, a media institute, which essentially apologized for relying on propaganda-based sources for its intel on a destroyed Gazan hospital. The difficulty in this state of affairs is that the press ought never to have published such claims. A further problem is that few of its readers will notice its printed retraction and will, instead, keep on parroting its initial report. No matter how “altruistic” a message is, political, economic, and other forces will incentivize it.

What’s more, worldwide leadership barely bothers to fashion functional models of the universe or to legitimize objectivistic inquiry. If an action culls votes/helps a despot retain power, then that action gets promoted.

All things considered, nonetheless, more debauched than the anticipated moral blindness of our tyrants is the unexpected moral blindness of our so-called educationalists of freedom. Deliberate that social scientists know how ruling agencies, along with their co-conspirators, amass power by censoring information about the potency of language.2 These academics grasp that because the morality of meaning is multifarious in nature, it is influenced by questions of authorization, authenticity, and exclusivity, which, subsequently, are evaluated by mutable and immutable rules.

Individuals privy to the existence of these constructs are the ones who are most able to manipulate them. Deplorably, such persons tend not to care about others’ well-being. Reports have circulated about how, for example, one professor is giving extra credit to any of their students who protests Israel’s right to defend herself.

Simply, no contemporary theory of language effectively connects talk’s syntagmatic and semantic elements to its down-to-earth ones and no authority cares enough about fidelity to mention this fault. Thus, society continues to be limited in our ability to discuss “language’s reality structuring characteristics,” to decry the workers of iniquity.

We’re limited per standard discourse, too. Ponder how we “hear crickets” when we campaign for Israel’s self-preservation. At the same time, we heard klaxons when the USA insisted that the attacks of 9/11 were atrocities that required retaliation. Rhetoric prestidigitation enables bad guys to seem, at worse, gray, and for good guys to be referred to as being otherwise.

Given our lack of academically-based discernment and our lack of common discernment between rhetoric used for good ends and rhetoric used for bad ends, it behooves us, professionals and laity, alike, to illuminate differences among communication levels as well as between validity-bound “truth” and reliability-bound “truth.” We have brains. We need to use them to deconstruct odious assemblages of words.

What’s more, if a bit of a contention gives the impression of being corrupt, no matter whether mediated, government-issued, or from a private source, it’s likely that the entire position from which it’s taken is disreputable. Realize that rape is never, ever, justified.

Decapitating infants is not okay in any circumstance. Torturing residents is always wrong. Hostage-taking will forever be immoral, also. Unfortunately, as long as people accept shame, i.e., as long as they rely on external authentication, rather than on guilt, on their personal metrics of decency, selective dominion will endure.

It’s time to stop caring what others think. It’s time to act honorably. If only we tried to comprehend the prudent dimensions of our locutions, we’d be less likely to lose our heads, literally and figuratively, because of hallucinations fueled by overriding oratory.

It’s time to fear G-d, not the world’s opinion. It’s time to check ourselves to determine if our words and deeds align with the certainties to which we assert that we ascribe. Then, when bombastic assemblages of statements momentarily sanction tyrants, light will anyway prevail over darkness.

  1. Karen Joy Greenberg. “The Issue of Teaching Ethics in the Introductory Speech Course.” Eastern Communication Association Convention. Atlantic City, May 1986.
  2. East Asian Pastoral Institute. “Structural Poverty: The Structure of S” Accessed 15 Apr. 2004.
About the Author
KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Thereafter, her writing has been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than forty books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.
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