Rhetoric Could Be Called the House of Logic; But Ye Have Made It a Den of Thieves

The very first line of Aristotle’s Rhetoric runs thus: “ ῥητορική ἐστιν ἀντίστροφος τῇ διαλεκτικῇ” (1). The quite wise ancient Greeks weened that every law-abiding democratic free citizen should be a dialectician and grasp the subtleties of that antistrophe, rhetoric, to shun being fooled by politicians, who are wont to stare at public opinion so as to learn from it which kind of enthymeme is the most persuasive in the agora (2). Public opinion has four faces, videlicet: orientation, degree, causality, and expectation. According to this, there must be four sorts of rhetoricians, and each one must’ve a specific class of audience. Such a couple gives rise to the question concerning the syllogisms, styles, moods, and proofs that an orator may handle to be a cajoling tongue. And, in our age, an age in which telecommunications are the main outlets of politicians, it’s unavoidable to deem the traits of the media they’ve at hand.

The first public personage is the maven, who perfectly knows the nature of the object he peruses everyday. His fittest audiences are the so-called highbrows, who always are waylaying in order to get fresh tidings to overwhelm the neighbor. Whatsoever be the topic, the maven persuades such highbrows by speaking in a scientific manner, that is, without literary epithets, lackadaisical antinomies or wanton reversible descriptions. His science may be smuggled through the squib of elite media, such as technical books, newspapers concocted by other mavens, certificated magazines, papers, and the like, which, by the way, are written with epistemological subtleties that are like hieroglyphics in front of the pince-nez of his hincty readers.

The aspect of public opinion which every maven, or rather each scientific mouth wipes away, is that of causality. This aspect gives an answer to this question: “What can we actually know?”. The statistical expediency to transform such a gloomy aspect into an pellucid axiom is the adjectival poll. For instance, through a poll of such a kind, Gallup (3) has blurbed the reasons that cause itching discomfort amongst American workers. Payment, advancement, leadership, relocation, interest, respect, and work-life balance, are concrete concerns, which to be convincing before the public eye must be conceptualized in an unequivocal way and vented by somebody considered, as Marx could say, beyond “the furies of private interest”, that is, by a neutral figure. Were these results presented, say, by the vice president of the said wailers, the information would be held as foreright biased. The scientific causality is the premise which, uttered shrouded in prosyllogisms, convinces the aforementioned audiences.

The second public personage is the opinion maker, who doesn’t totally know the essence of the affair he speaks about. He, due to his charm (Weber), his variegated experiences, intentions or virtues (Aristotle), is capable of handling the understanding of his hearers. By and large, his audiences are the hotchpotch masses, who wish to be blindly steered hither and yonder so as to avoid any kind of responsibility. G. Simmel affirms… “Wo wir nachahmen, schieben wir nicht nur die Forderung produktiver Energie von uns auf den andern, sondern zugleich auch die Verantwortung für dieses Tun” (4). This glib-tongued maker of hollow or cleft perceptions goads the “zeitgeist” by plunging into the public lists moral quandaries, and for this reason he speaks in a tragic manner, or rather in an apocalyptic style. Such a style might be well-grokked by grasping the import of this linguistic structure: “Thou shall do that, lest you fall on the wrong side”. “We’re”, say the innocent pro-Hamas Harvard students, “on the right side of History”.

The opinion maker allocates his message by means of the all-covering mass media, that is, thro television or radio programs, or thro some digital platforms, etc. The fold of public opinion he handles is that of orientation. The statistical weapon to draw the “yea” or the “nay” needed to legitimise this or that social path from the masses is the dichotomic poll. The latter-day political figures, for example, don’t ignore they cannot earn the votes of the complete body of the masses, and even though no leader in the developed world “has a rating above 50 per cent” of popularity, they still take advantage from “polarising”, “partisan rancour”, economic class struggles, and so on (5). These dichotomies, it’s clear, are transmogrified into Manicheanism by the said public figure, which the childish herd imagines as an endless skirmish between evil and good. But handy political thought isn’t a dichotomic one. Walter Lippmann says: “In fact, before you can begin to think about politics at all you have to abandon the notion that there is a war between good men and bad men” (6). But Bukele, Milei, Palestine, and Ukraine, everywhere are pictured as the good guys, whereas human rights, Communism, Israel, and Russia are depicted as remorseless bugaboos. I’m describing, not adjudging.

The third public personage is the spokesman, who owing to his pliable rationality, his knowledge of a foreign language, or because of his physical appearance, can stand for the ideology of his own social set before an, as it were, enemy group. Think, reader, of Edward Said, who justified the use of the word “genocide” by tirelessly wielding the hackneyed distinction betwixt “ξενοι” and “φιλοι”. Though he was an Arab, that is, somebody depicted in the Occident as a “violent irrational terrorist” (7), he did perform lectures at Harvard. Naturally, the audiences of a spokesman are the nowadays all-too-common minorities, or in ameliorated terms, those who deem themselves as minorities. In the main, qualitatively, they are majorities. But they are minorities only within certain qualitative spheres, such as politics, science, sports, and so forth. Our rhetorician offers them “eine Lehre der Wahrscheinlichkeit”, in Kantian jargon. Thereby, he utters his words in a prophetic mood, which can be fathomed with these three simple phrases: “It may be; it is; it must be”. Public harangues, or in political terminology, caucuses, are the outlets for his quite logical promises. A face-to-face meeting in which an envoy pukes news full of promises brings about vibrant dialogues and, above all, hope. The side of public opinion he copes with, obviously, is expectation.

The statistical sleight he wields to put under the guise of likelihood his divinations is the numerical survey, which he may semantically manipulate at his will. We easily can affirm with credibility, for instance, that Hamas is quite supported by the Gazan citizens by saying that they “extremely support” or “somewhat support” the deeds occurred on October 7 (8). I can tamper a numerical scale, say, which goes from 1 to 10, by gathering arbitrarily its ciphers in order to set expedient groups of meaning. And, to fetch a good deal of credibility, of faith, which is “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11: 1), he envelops his forecasts in episyllogisms, which always go ahead of our fancy and annul the imagination of the hearers by being abstract, or rather merely logical. In Aristotelian words, he knits deliberative discourses bereft of examples.

And the fourth public personage is the ever-diminishing in applauses influencer, whose chief task is to impose whimsical fashions on the young middle class. He isn’t an outstanding mummer because of his scientific ken, but sometimes rules public opinion. Indeed, easily one can call him a charlatan. His fittest recipients are those of the current world-stricken middle-class youngsters, who’ve myriads of idle hours. As this social class hasn’t reached the bodily decrepitude, which brings intellectual freedom in so many cases, it’s made out of “dingledodies” and ruled by sprightly passions. Therefore, its swayer, the influencer, drops his hirdie-girdie gibberish on them in a comic wise. He turns little things into meikle ones (woke ideology), and transforms issues of note into trifles (political unconsciousness).

Social media, generally YouTube and TikTok, are the changing rivers by which this clown distributes his yoking yokel-like jokes. He wishes to fill every nook of public opinion not by orienting, explaining or promising, but by intensifying or diminishing the degree in which the social issues are felt. The statistical spells to skyrocket emotions on social media are ikon polls because they are like ideograms. How could an influencer publicly justify transhumanism, extropianism, singularitarianism (9), and all the rooking rattling decrees foisted by hi-tech companies, but by means of striking cartoonish quasi-scientific optical drafts? Such dehumanized ikons, being teary shiny or dwarfed or giant misrepresentations of things, become a sort of qualia that alchemize them into seemingly axiomatic principles.---


(1) Aristotle, Rhetoric, edited by William David Ross.

(2) Clark, Donald, Rhetoric and Poetry in the Renaissance.

(3) “Employee Retention & Attraction”, Gallup, 2021-2023.

(4) Philosophie der Mode.

(5) Sharma, Ruchir (2024), “Why political leaders are so unpopular now”, Financial Times, 28 January.

(6) A Preface to Politics, Chapter 1, “Routineer and Inventor”.

(7) Said, Edward (1997), “Apocalypse Now”, Al-Hayat, November.

(8) Feis, Aaron (2023), “Palestinian Poll Finds Strong Support For Hamas, October 7 Attacks, ‘River to the Sea’ State”, The Messenger, November 17.

(9) Duran, Gil, “The Tech Plutocrats Dreaming of a Right-Wing San Francisco”, The New Republic, February 12.

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