Rhetorical analysis – The fight for women’s rights


Topic: Rhetorical analysis – The fight for women’s rights.  Writing and rhetoric – academic essays Short Writing Task 3: Outline Semester 2, 2020 WORD COUNT: 850 words, including Quotes/References (340 words) ESSAY OUTLINE: JUST FALLACIES: THE ETHICAL USE OF MOCKERY IN HARVEY MILK’S DALLAS ADDRESS INTRODUCTION: The phrase ‘just fallacy’ acknowledges how philosophers might dismiss a fallacy and that a fallacy can be used in support of social justice Exordium: Can an argument in support of social justice be undermined by an unforgiveable fallacy? Narratio: One sentence description of Harvey Milk’s Dallas Address (1978). Partitio (method): This essay applies rhetorical concepts in an analysis of Milk’s ad hominem argument against Anita Bryant. Partitio (thesis statement, CLAIM because REASON): Social justice rhetoric might support the use of fallacies because, as even a brief analysis of Milk’s use of mockery shows, there are fair and ethical ways fallacies can be used. PARAGRAPH 1: Theory of rhetorical ecology helps to explain the emotional context of the Dallas Address Narratio: Background on how Bryant’s comments were part of a fear campaign leading up to Milk’s keynote address. Refer to Frank (2013) who outlines Bryant’s rhetoric, and Robinson’s “Foreword”, that the “strength of his [Milk’s] speeches lay in his visceral connection with his audience” (p. xxi). Confirmatio: Define “rhetorical ecology” to show that Bryant, Milk, and his scared audience were part of the “same social field”. Milk’s goal was to change the “shared structures of feeling” to promote social justice. See Jenny Edbauer’s rhetorical ecology: “Rhetorical ecologies are co-ordinating processes moving across the same social field and within shared structures of feeling” (2005, p. 20). But what if his attempts used a fallacy? PARAGRAPH 2: Definitions to support the claim that Milk’s rhetoric was ethical Refutatio: define rhetorical fallacies as a mistake in logic or an unfair attack that causes harm. Refer to Minot (1981) and Booth’s rhetrickery (2004, p. 11). Confirmatio: if “rhetorical ethics” includes speech working “toward a more decent, compassionate, and just society” (Duffy, 2020, p. 224), a fallacy could be ethical. PARAGRAPH 3: Milk’s mockery of Bryant as an ethical/just appeal Refutatio: Attacking Bryant is an ad hominem fallacy—and because avoiding fallacies is an “ideal category” of argument, philosophers would dismiss Milk’s rhetoric. See Barbara Tomlinson: “philosophy reduces practical injustice to a lower level of thought and elevates discussion of ideal categories to a higher level” (2013, p. 995). Given the rhetorical ecology of the moment, Milk used a fallacy to fight “practical injustice” and improved the emotional setting of the debate about gay rights. CONCLUSION (peroratio): The benefit of using fallacies for social justice (Just Fallacies) Brief summary: Even though it committed a fallacy, Milk’s mockery of Bryant did not undermine the ethical quality of his argument. Call to action: The goal of rhetorical instruction could be to serve vulnerable students (see Donahue, 2014) by providing effective methods for just rhetoric, including just fallacies. References Booth, W. (2004). The rhetoric of rhetoric: the quest for effective communication. Blackwell. Capaldi, N. (1971). The Art of Deception: An Introduction to Critical Thinking. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. Donahue, D.M. (2014). Learning from Harvey Milk: The Limits and Opportunities of One Hero to Teach About LGBTQ People and Issues. Social Studies 105(1), pp. 36–44. Duffy, J. (2020). Toward a Common Tongue: Rhetorical Virtues in the Writing Classroom. In J. Duffy, and L. Agnew, After Plato: rhetoric, ethics, and the teaching of writing (pp. 213-226). Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press. Edbauer, J. (2005). Unframing models of public distribution: From rhetorical situation to rhetorical ecologies. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 35(4), 5–24. Frank, G. (2013). ‘The Civil Rights of Parents’: Race and Conservative Politics in Anita Bryant’s Campaign Against Gay Rights in 1970s Florida. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 22(1), pp. 126–160. Kearney, J. (2016). Rogerian Principles and the Writing Classroom: A History of Intention and (Mis)Interpretation. Rhetoric Review, 35(4), 167–184. Milk, H. (2013). An archive of hope: Harvey Milk’s speeches and writings, Jason Edward Black and Charles E. Morris (Eds.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Minot, W.S. (1981). A Rhetorical View of Fallacies: Ad Hominem and Ad Populum. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 11(4), 222-235. Robinson, F.M. (2013). Foreword. In J.E. Black and C.E. Morris (Eds.), An archive of hope: Harvey Milk’s speeches and writings (pp. xvii – xxiii). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Tomlinson, B. (2013). To Tell the Truth and Not Get Trapped: Desire, Distance, and Intersectionality at the Scene of Argument. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 38(4), 993–1017.

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