Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Rhetoricians: Don your armour...

A new page made by students of rhetoric from the University of Copenhagen is going to monitor the pending Danish election, sniffing out examples of spin and manipulation. (The rumour goes that the company is going to launch their own version, but this is yet unconfirmed). looks like an interesting and very timely project set in Danish terms but inspired by pages like Spinsanity. It will probably help somewhat in redeeming the term "rhetoric" in the media-using public, as they are bound to get some editorial covering if they unearth some hitherto unseen things.

The big problem with projects like this is that rhetoricians generally (myself included) think that they can save the public debate from manipulation by their superior skills of argumentation analysis. But sometimes that is just not enough, as the real spin is not to be found in the words but in the underlying facts that are skewed, biased or downright false. A good example from the Danish debate is the government's generous "additions" to the Tsunami victims - that turned out just to be rearrangements of funds already allocated. It looked good but was no change of policy in the real world.

That kind of spincontrol takes more than righteous indignation and a copy of Toulmin's "The Uses of Argument", namely research and good contacts in the bureaucracy.


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