If there was one thing I learned in college – it was the POWER OF LANGUAGE. I don’t think you can truly appreciate how effective strong, clever rhetoric is until you understand the three modes of persuasion:
Ethos – Ethos is an appeal to authority. It is how well the speaker convinces the audience that he or she is qualified to speak on the particular subject.
Pathos – Pathos is an appeal to the audience’s emotions. It can be in the form of metaphor, simile, a passionate delivery, or even a simple claim that a matter is unjust. Pathos can be particularly powerful if used well, but most speeches do not solely rely on pathos. Pathos is most effective when the author connects with an underlying value of the reader.
Logos – Logos is logical appeal, and indeed the term logic is derived from it. It is normally used to describe facts and figures that support the speaker’s topic. Since data is difficult to manipulate, especially if from a trusted source, logos may sway cynical listeners. Having a logos appeal also enhances ethos (see above) because information makes the speaker look knowledgeable and prepared to his or her audience. However, data can be confusing and thus confuse the audience. Logos can also be misleading or inaccurate.
Politicians are masters of rhetoric. It behooves us to remember that when listening to and/or reading something from the political arena. And just because something is on TV, or it’s passed around through email, doesn’t make it true. Remember the old adage, “Don’t believe everything you read or hear?” That can’t be truer than when it applies to politics.
Before you get yourself worked up into a frenzy over a news reel, or something in your email box, consider the facts – specifically from Factcheck.org.
Here are some recent claims made about McCain, Obama and Palin … and here are the facts:
- McCain claimed that Obama’s health care plan would “force small businesses to cut jobs” and would put “a bureaucrat … between you and your doctor.” In fact, the plan exempts small businesses, and those who have insurance now could keep the coverage they have.
- McCain attacked Obama for voting for “corporate welfare” for oil companies. In fact, the bill Obama voted for raised taxes on oil companies by $300 million over 11 years while providing $5.8 billion in subsidies for renewable energy, energy efficiency and alternative fuels.
- McCain said oil imports send “$700 billion a year to countries that don’t like us very much.” But the U.S. is on track to import a total of only $536 billion worth of oil at current prices, and close to a third of that comes from Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
- He promised to increase use of “wind, tide [and] solar” energy, though his actual energy plan contains no new money for renewable energy. He has said elsewhere that renewable sources won’t produce as much as people think.
- He called for “reducing government spending and getting rid of failed programs,” but as in the past failed to cite a single program that he would eliminate or reduce.
- He said Obama would “close” markets to trade. In fact, Obama, though he once said he wanted to “renegotiate” the North American Free Trade Agreement, now says he simply wants to try to strengthen environmental and labor provisions in it.
- Obama said he could “pay for every dime” of his spending and tax cut proposals “by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens.” That’s wrong – his proposed tax increases on upper-income individuals are key components of paying for his program, as well. And his plan, like McCain’s, would leave the U.S. facing big budget deficits, according to independent experts.
- He twisted McCain’s words about Afghanistan, saying, “When John McCain said we could just ‘muddle through’ in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources.” Actually, McCain said in 2003 we “may” muddle through, and he recently also called for more troops there.
- He said McCain would fail to lower taxes for 100 million Americans while his own plan would cut taxes for 95 percent of “working” families. But an independent analysis puts the number who would see no benefit from McCain’s plan at 66 million and finds that Obama’s plan would benefit 81 percent of all households when retirees and those without children are figured in.
- Obama asked why McCain would “define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year”? Actually, McCain meant that comment as a joke, getting a laugh and following up by saying, “But seriously …”
- Obama noted that McCain’s health care plan would “tax people’s benefits” but didn’t say that it also would provide up to a $5,000 tax credit for families.
- He said McCain, far from being a maverick who’s “broken with his party,” has voted to support Bush policies 90 percent of the time. True enough, but by the same measure Obama has voted with fellow Democrats in the Senate 97 percent of the time.
- Obama said “average family income” went down $2,000 under Bush, which isn’t correct. An aide said he was really talking only about “working” families and not retired couples. And – math teachers, please note – he meant median (or midpoint) and not really the mean or average. Median family income actually has inched up slightly under Bush.
- Palin did not cut funding for special needs education in Alaska by 62 percent. She didn’t cut it at all. In fact, she tripled per-pupil funding over just three years.
- She did not demand that books be banned from the Wasilla library. Some of the books on a widely circulated list were not even in print at the time. The librarian has said Palin asked a “What if?” question, but the librarian continued in her job through most of Palin’s first term.
- She was never a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a group that wants Alaskans to vote on whether they wish to secede from the United States. She’s been registered as a Republican since May 1982.
- Palin never endorsed or supported Pat Buchanan for president. She once wore a Buchanan button as a “courtesy” when he visited Wasilla, but shortly afterward she was appointed to co-chair of the campaign of Steve Forbes in the state.
- Palin has not pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska’s schools. She has said that students should be allowed to “debate both sides” of the evolution question, but she also said creationism “doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.”
Factcheck.org is in the process of verifying an email that has been passed around by a woman named Anne Kilkenny. Many readers/bloggers have taken this email to be gospel. I’m very curious to read Factcheck’s FACTS about this email … stay tuned.
You can also watch videos from the fact check people blowing holes (the size of craters) from both parties’ political TV ad claims. It’s QUITE revealing and interesting.
I have found a new favorite place. My advice? Get your facts straight before reacting, and please, don’t be sucked into the hype and rhetoric.
It’s okay to fact check. 🙂