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

Current Issue: Volume 6, Issue 3/4

Updated December 30, 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.

Reexamining the “Obama Effect”: How Barack Obama’s Rhetoric Spread Optimistic Colorblindness in an Age of Inequality
Lessie Branch

This article takes as its point of departure the paradox between increased optimism among Black Americans and continued socioeconomic stagnation among the same group. A 2010 poll conducted by Pew Research Center revealed that Blacks were more optimistic about their opportunities and progress as a group than socioeconomic data warrant. Black optimism has been attributed to the “Obama effect,” the view that the election of President Barack Obama in 2008 provided Black Americans with a sense that success is possible for Blacks in America. As recent as 2015 this optimism was as reported by The Atlantic and Brookings Institute as still in effect. In this article, I argue that the Obama effect is insufficient to explain paradoxical Black optimism. To explore the effect of Obama’s rhetoric on public opinion and Black optimism, especially among young Americans, I use critical discourse analysis to explore rhetorical messages of colorblindness and individualism in three of Obama’s speeches from 2008, 2012, and 2013. I conclude that the phenomenon of paradoxical Black optimism is correlated with elite Black discourse, as exemplified in Obama’s rhetoric during the three addresses. Key Words: African Americans, Barack Obama, Black Americans, Black Optimism, Critical Discourse Analysis, Elite Discourse, Socioeconomic Inequality.

The Rhetoric of Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory: Conflicting Visions of Innovation in the Smart Phone Patent Wars
Joshua Welsh

In this article, I investigate the rhetoric of Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (RAND) licensing agreements, which are used to share patented technologies. RAND agreements are an essential part of the so-called “Patent War” that took place between Microsoft, Google, and Motorola Mobility from 2010 to 2015. I view the rhetoric surrounding the RAND-related aspects of this conflict through two theoretical lenses: Charles Taylor’s concept of the social imaginary and Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca’s notion of rhetorical communion. Ultimately, I argue that the sides in this conflict use radically different rhetorical concepts to shape their discourse surrounding RAND agreements. These differences suggest different approaches to technological innovation. Microsoft’s use of social imaginaries suggests a view of innovation as collaboration among firms, while Google’s creation of rhetorical communion (especially through the device of allusion) depicts a view of innovation that is much more rooted in the notion of the inspired author. Key Words: Charles Taylor, Google, Intellectual Property, Licensing Agreements, Microsoft, Motorola, Patent Wars, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca.

Swan Song
Brett Lunceford

In this article, the author reflects on founding the Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric, its origins as part of the Alabama Communication Association, and his role as editor of the journal for six years. After considering some of the defining moments of the journal, the author considers how this past may shape the future of the journal as it moves on to the new editor. Key Words: association history, autoethnography, journal publishing, open access.