Aristotle, rhetoric and modern media culture

Squeeze a spoonful of today’s society into a Petri dish, look at it for a while, and you’ll inevitably realize that most of those brightly colored little clusters that flutter in the slime are driven by a powerful, barely visible urge to dominate. . Raise the lens one or two more folds and you’ll notice that these same multi-motivated and now larger-looking groups spend virtually all of their time trying to penetrate, twist, and manipulate the minds of each of the millions of fools. free floating cells contained in the same great gray gelatinous slime that clouds the plate.

(Disregarding the metaphor for the sake of clarity: interest groups, political parties and corporations, in order to influence legislation / obtain funds / achieve power / generate income, need to package their positions and messages in a persuasive to attract public support / keep customers loyalty).

Tick ​​the time machine 2,500 years ago and you will see that while technology is not quite what it is today, most of the best penetrating and twisted stratagems have remained the same for millennia.

That is why Aristotle’s Rhetoric should be a must-read for all modern and well-rounded professional communicators.

The introduction of a new way of running society – democracy – in the 5th century BC. C. placed the political power within the reach of all who could influence and kill the juries and assemblies. Ergo, the demand for media training, the art of speaking and presenting persuasively, exploded (as, I imagine, it did for sales training when humanity originally realized the bartering / trading business). Throughout the next century, textbooks on argumentation, methods of arousing emotions, and chosen figures of speech flew off the shelves as fast as papyrus stalks could be ripped from the ground.

According to the former professor of classics at the University of Toronto, GMAGrube, many of these works, in particular Rhetorica Ad Alexandrum, displayed completely cynical and amoral attitudes, and were only concerned with how to use arguments and rhetorical devices to obtain the best effect. regardless of intention. It is like an attack against this amoral backdrop that Aristotle’s Rhetoric must be appreciated.

Plato, before Aristotle, said that if rhetoric was to be an art, then its practitioners required knowledge both of the human soul and its different parts and functions, as well as of the different types of argument and its appeal to different types of men. Aristotle offers this in the first two books of Rhetoric. In the third, he deals with style, a very important topic, on which the rest of this article will stop, citing with some liberties, a series of examples of choosing the advice offered:

These three things should be aimed at: the metaphor (that is, the loss of the youth of the cities during the war was as if the spring had been eliminated from the year); antithesis (that is, crossing the Hellesport and digging through Mount Athos, they sailed on land and marched on sea); and liveliness.

The style and delivery, while really superfluous, must be displayed due to the depravity of the audience. The power of the written word depends on style rather than content.

The first principle of the style is to use good Greek (English, French), also, to use specific terms rather than general terms, and to avoid ambiguity, unless one deliberately seeks it (that is, has nothing to say). What we write should be easy to read and speak.

Speech does not do its job unless it is clear. Current nouns, adjectives, and verbs add clarity.

One must appear to be speaking in a natural way and without studying, because what is natural is convincing, what is studied is not. People distrust rhetorical tricks just as they distrust adulterated wine.

The epithets add something. They can emphasize the worst or shameful side of things, or how they look their best. Orestes, for example, can be called his father’s matricide or avenger.

An audience always shares the feelings of a passionate speaker, even when there is nothing in what he is saying.

Metaphors, antithesis, humor, parody, clarity (or lack thereof), style, epithets (‘Branding’), passion, action, movement, music, rhythm, repetition, name recognition, shape your message for your audience All play an important role in the business of persuasion, they were all originally identified by Aristotle. And while he may not have anticipated how technology now allows us to create worlds of competing Boorstinean pseudo-realities, much of his wisdom on rhetoric is at stake in the media culture we live in today.

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