Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric
A Peer Reviewed Journal of Current Event Analysis

Current Issue: Volume 6, Issue 3/4

Updated October 24, 2016


Civility and Academic Freedom: Extending the Conversation
Leland G. Spencer, Pamela M. Tyahur, & Jennifer A. Jackson

Recent rhetorical scholarship has focused on the definition of civility and the relationships among civility, freedom of speech, and academic freedom, with some scholars claiming that calls for civility always squelch academic freedom. Taking up the case of a student organization at a university campus as an exemplar, this article argues that in some contexts at least, we might fruitfully understand civility as a condition for academic freedom and freedom of speech rather than an obstacle to such freedom. Key Words: academic freedom, campus climate, civility, freedom of speech, student organizations.

Digital Demagogue: The Critical Candidacy of Donald J. Trump
Amy E. Mendes

Over the last several months, businessperson Donald Trump has taken the lead in the Republican primary race. His flamboyant personality and unusually aggressive speech has drawn much attention and criticism. Journalists and academics have posited that Trump’s rhetoric is that of a demagogue. This essay catalogues the existing definitions of demagoguery, examines how Trump’s rhetoric may qualify, and outlines some ways in which demagogues may function differently in a digital world. Key Words: digital demagogue, election, rhetoric, scapegoat, xenophobia.

Your Personal Economy: Rhetorics of Citizenship in Financial Planning Commercials
Blake Abbott

This essay analyzes advertisements for financial planning firms who offer their services to guide citizens to financial security. It examines the relationship between the compulsion to invest and our understanding of citizenship in the 21st century. It argues that financial planning ads emphasize a mode of citizenship best characterized by the ideograph . To understand citizenship, this essay analyzes three ad campaigns: E*TRADE’s famous commercials starring a baby recommending the company, Fidelity’s “Turn Here” ads, and Prudential Financial’s “Bring Your Challenges” ads starring Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert. It argues that the advertisements construct a representative picture of citizenship by casting financial planning as a mark of good citizenship. In doing so, the ads interpellate the citizen as both an independent “entrepreneur of himself or herself” and a financial infant — a novice helplessly dependent on the advisor for the right kind of help to construct a financial plan that will offer the greatest reward. Key Words: Advertisements, Citizenship, Financial Planning, Ideographs, Investment, Rhetoric.

Kaepernick’s Stand: Patriotism, Protest, and Professional Sports
Steve Martin and George F. McHendry, Jr.

This essay examines the public controversy that has followed Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit or kneel during the national anthem, which is played before National Football League games. We examine public statements made by Kaepernick, and various rhetors who have defended him, arguing that two compelling defense strategies are present. Drawing from the genre of apologia, or speeches of defense, we argue that Kaepernick seeks to transcend his protest and focus on systemic racism and violence against people of color. Meanwhile, external defenders of Kaepernick seek to differentiate his protest from charges that he is unpatriotic. These efforts argue that Kaepernick has the right to protest, but avoid engagement with the content of the protest. Finally, we consider implications for rhetorical entanglements with Kaepernick’s protest to argue that most responses, ultimately, serve to reinforce the status quo. Key Words: Apologia, #blacklivesmatter, Colin Kaepernick, Image Restoration, National Anthem, NFL, Patriotism, Protest.