61 minutes | Apr 14, 2023
E79: Legitimizing Situated Knowledge in East Palestine, Ohio (w/ Sophie Wodzak & Dr. Erin Brock Carlson)
On February 3, a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying vinyl chloride and other hazardous chemicals derailed in the town of East Palestine, Ohio. Fearing an explosion, emergency crews conducted a controlled burn of several of the cars, releasing toxic chemicals into the air and forcing the evacuation of local residents. In the ensuing weeks, pictures and videos were shared across social media of dead fish in local waterways and other sick animals throughout the region, followed by official reports of soil, air, and water contamination posing health risks to wildlife and human beings. In spite of conflicting safety information coming from the EPA, Norfolk Southern, and other government officials, residents have continued to express concerns over the long-term environmental and health consequences for Eastern Ohio. On today’s show, we explore the perspectives of East Palestine residents with our co-host, co-producer (and reporter!) Sophie Wodzak, who traveled to the area and interviewed local residents in the aftermath of the derailment. Her co-authored article in the New York Times explores conflicts between East Palestine residents and the local, state, and federal officials who shaped its mainstream media narrative in the wake of the disaster. Joining us in this conversation is Dr. Erin Brock Carlson, Assistant Professor in the Department of English at West Virginia University, whose research focuses on the ways that rural communities organize to self-advocate on issues of environmental justice. Together, we explore the importance of legitimizing the local residents’ situated knowledge - a type of knowledge grounded in a person’s direct experience of an issue’s consequences - in environmental policy conversations and media framing. Sophie’s co-authored article in the New York Times: “Federal Officials Send Help After Ohio Derailment, but Residents’ Frustrations Persist” Dr. Erin Brock Carlson’s relevant research on situated knowledge and environmental organizing: Carlson, E. B., & Caretta, M. A. (2021). Legitimizing situated knowledge in rural communities through storytelling around gas pipelines and environmental risk. Technical Communication, 68(4), 40-55. Caretta, M. A., & Carlson, E. B. (2023). Coercion via eminent domain and legal fees: The acceptance of gas extraction in West Virginia. Environmental Justice, 16(1), 36-42. Carlson, E. B., & Gouge, C. (2021). Rural health and contextualizing data. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(1), 41-49. An accessible transcript of this episode can be found here
73 minutes | Mar 17, 2023
E78: Campus Misinformation and Academic Freedom (w/ Dr. Brad Vivian)
Trigger warning: if you are offended by evidence-based arguments against moral panics surrounding higher education, listen with discretion! Light kidding aside, this episode addresses a very serious issue: restrictions on free speech in higher education. And no, we’re not talking about the exaggerated culture war invocations: “angry mobs” of “coddled students” yelling about “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” to shut down speakers they don’t like. Rather, we’re talking about real, top-down legislative attempts to restrict free speech on college campuses, such as Florida’s HB 999 bill – and the long-running rhetorical strategies and tropes that have reappeared in the language of anti-speech laws like Florida’s. On today’s show, Alex speaks with Dr. Brad Vivian, Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences, and Director of the Center for Democratic Deliberation at Penn State University, about his new book Campus Misinformation: The Real Threat to Free Speech in American Higher Education. We work to rhetorically dissect some of the most common campus culture war tropes that developed over the 2010s, such as the rallying cries for increased “viewpoint diversity” (read: more speakers with bigoted, discredited, or easily discreditable viewpoints), the pseudoscientific myth of the “coddled” student popularized by writers such as Greg Lukianoff and Jonathon Haidt, and the incessant fear-mongering over the so-called “indoctrination campaign” of Critical Race Theory. In examining the rhetorical history of these tropes, we chart their strange evolution from somewhat disingenuous calls for “more speech” in higher education spaces to our current moment: in which 44 states (so far) have introduced legislation to ban the teaching of a number of subjects ranging from Gender Studies to “Critical Theory.” Why have these ostensibly pro-free speech arguments redounded to authoritarian attempts to crack down on academic freedom, and how might speech restrictions in US higher education serve as a kind of “trial balloon” for further governmental restrictions in the broader public sphere? As we grapple with these questions, we consider how colleges and universities might recommit to a more just and genuine vision of intellectual freedom. Dr. Brad Vivian’s book, Campus Misinformation: The Real Threat to Free Speech in American Higher Education is available now from Oxford University Press Draft text of Florida’s HB 999
52 minutes | Feb 10, 2023
E77: Theaters of War (w/ Dr. Roger Stahl)
Was your favorite film approved by Uncle Sam? And just how much of your streaming watchlist did the CIA curate? On today’s episode, Calvin and Alex are joined by Dr. Roger Stahl, Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Georgia, to discuss the widespread problem of US information operations in the motion picture industry–including, most recently, the 2022 box office smash Top Gun: Maverick. Thanks to Roger’s research team on his recent documentary Theaters of War (2022), we now know much more about the curious scripting and production relationships between entertainment studios and the US security state than we did until very recently. Their work has uncovered thousands of screen properties whose content was directly altered to serve US propaganda goals – as well as many hundreds of shows and movies that never saw the light of day due to lack of official support. So, with Roger’s help, we analyze the recent history of major military- and intelligence-approved cinema and TV hits, working our way backwards from Maverick to the original Top Gun (1986), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Rules of Engagement (2000), and even – huh??? – the comedy Meet the Parents (2000), among others. We also discuss the recent Amazon streaming success Jack Ryan (2018-present) and how its second season manufactured consent in real time for US coup-mongering in Venezuela. As we work through these examples, we also consider the overarching rhetorical ideologies in the military documents Roger’s research team has been studying: from the military’s curious appeals to the value of “accuracy” to patterns in types of content they deem to be “showstoppers” (leading to withdrawal of official support). We also ask whether this gigantic domestic influence operation can be properly termed “information warfare,” and what kinds of policy changes are needed to address it. For example, should there be a disclaimer included with trailers and posters for movies co-produced by the US military? Or, more radically, should these aspects of military policy be simply abolished? We hope you enjoy our deep-dive into an extremely fascinating and timely topic with a rhetorical studies expert doing valuable investigative journalism and documentary filmmaking. If you have a Kanopy subscription, check out Roger Stahl’s 2022 documentary Theaters of War to learn much, much more. Works and Concepts Referenced in this Episode Jenkins, T. (2016). The CIA in Hollywood: How the agency shapes film and television. University of Texas Press. Tom Secker’s investigative journalism website Spy Culture. Stahl, R. (2022, May 30). Why does the Pentagon give a helping hand to films like ‘Top Gun’?. LA Times. Stahl, R. (2009). Militainment, Inc.: War, Media, and Popular Culture. Routledge. Stahl, R. (2022). Theaters of War. Media Education Foundation. Available on Kanopy. Stahl, R. (2018). Through the crosshairs: War, visual culture, and the weaponized gaze. Rutgers University Press. Stahl, R. (2016). Weaponizing speech. Quarterly journal of speech, 102(4), 376-395.
70 minutes | Dec 15, 2022
E76: re:joinder - Lose Bigly: Scott Adams Explains Business, Politics, and Persuasion
Are you winning bigly? No? Neither is Scott Adams, the infamous cartoonist, blogger, and self-proclaimed “expert predictor”, whose formerly ubiquitous comic strip Dilbert was recently pulled from national syndication. In September, Dilbert featured “anti-woke” content caricaturing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the corporate world, and it was promptly “cancelled” by Lee Enterprises, owner of about 100 newspapers that had formerly carried the strip. Nevertheless, back in 2017, Adams claimed to be an expert on the subject of winning–as well as communication and “political reality”–in his book / political manifesto Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter. Adams famously predicted that Trump would win the 2016 election, and he grounds most of the book’s arguments in the ostensible ethos he has garnered from this single successful prediction. Win Bigly is the subject of our latest re:joinder episode, in which Alex reads some of its most head-scratching passages for Sophie and Calvin, and all three co-hosts learn far less than they expected to about what makes Donald Trump a “master persuader.” We do our best to make sense of Adams’ arguments before picking apart their most spurious assumptions: Adams’ questionable narrative of the 2016 election, his bizarre heuristic / coding scheme for “persuaders” (from “weapons-grade”, to “cognitive scientist”, down to “commercial grade”... ?), as well as his overall epistemology and ethics, featuring the claims that Trump’s victory “blew a hole in the fabric of reality,” and that this is a good thing -- not politically, but because it proved Scott Adams right. All told, Adams draws on his questionable credentials as a business person, communication expert, and philosopher to provide one of the most bizarre analyses of Donald Trump’s rhetoric ever written. This is (probably) part one in a series, since we were only able to get through the introduction. Please join us for future installments! As cognitive scientists – rather than weapons-grade persuaders – we need all the support we can get. Works and Concepts Referenced Beasley, V. B. (2010). The rhetorical presidency meets the unitary executive: Implications for presidential rhetoric on public policy. Rhetoric and Public Affairs, 13(1), 7-35. Bitzer, L. F. (1968). The rhetorical situation. Philosophy & rhetoric, 1-14. Our re:blurb ep on rhetorical situation. Hume, D. (2003). A treatise of human nature. Courier Corporation. Hume, D. (2016). An enquiry concerning human understanding. In Seven masterpieces of philosophy (pp. 191-284). Routledge. Tulis, J. K. (1987). The Rhetorical Presidency. Princeton University Press. Our re:blurb episode on Dialogicality (featuring Clint Eastwood’s “Empty Chair Obama” speech)
32 minutes | Nov 11, 2022
E75: A.I. Writing and Academic Integrity
“A.I. Is Making It Easier Than Ever for Students to Cheat,” proclaims Slate. The Chronicle of Higher Education asks, rhetorically: “Will Artificial Intelligence Kill College Writing?” And the New York Times warns: “A.I. is Mastering Language. Should We Trust What It Says?” Judging by media coverage of A.I. writing algorithms, you would think they’re on the verge of becoming the easiest and most effective cheating option for writing students. But is the situation really that simple? To help us answer this question, we’re joined on the show this week by Dr. S. Scott Graham, associate professor in the Department of Rhetoric & Writing at the University of Texas at Austin. Scott uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to study communication in bioscience and health policy, with special attention to bioethics, conflicts of interest, and health AI. Most recently, he published an Inside Higher Ed piece about A.I. and college student writing entitled “AI-Generated Essays Are Nothing to Worry About.” In our wide-ranging conversation, Scott explains why he describes himself as a “A.I. cautiously optimistic” despite the many well-documented problems with A.I. in areas such as policing and healthcare. He also helps us understand the limits of A.I. as a cheating tool as well as its affordances for teaching genre in college writing. We go on to discuss some potentially concerning non-academic applications of algorithmic writing, before concluding that (as with A.I. policing and healthcare), the problems we might attribute to A.I. tend to be better understood as problems endemic to our structurally unequal society. Scott also points out that writing algorithms are certain to create conflicts between different people’s (and disciplines’) ideas about language and “authentic” subjectivity, and that rhetorical scholars have an important role to play in helping people outside our discipline understand why we tend to express skepticism at notions of “authenticity” in writing. Works and Concepts Referenced in this Episode: Scott’s great article in Inside Higher Ed: “AI-Generated Essays Are Nothing to Worry About” Graham, S. S. (2015). The politics of pain medicine. In The Politics of Pain Medicine. University of Chicago Press. Graham, S. S. (2020). Where's the Rhetoric? Imagining a Unified Field. The Ohio State University Press. Graham, S. S. (2022). The Doctor and the Algorithm: Promise, Peril, and the Future of Health AI.
72 minutes | Oct 28, 2022
E74: Jordan Peele and the Speculative Fiction of Blackness (w/ Dr. andré carrington)
For this year’s Halloween special, we wanted to take a journey through the filmography of one of our favorite film directors, Jordan Peele. From the breakout success of his 2017 thriller Get Out, to 2019’s creepy and horrifying tour-de-force Us, to this year’s action-packed monster movie Nope, Jordan Peele is becoming arguably one of the most important American directors working today. His films not only bend and play with the ostensible genre conventions he works within, they also deliver substantial, semiotically rich critiques of racial politics, class struggle, and media in American society and culture. Not to mention, his films are just immensely entertaining - equal parts deeply cerebral, outrageously funny, and heart-stoppingly terrifying. To help us discuss this topic, we’re very excited to be joined by Dr. andré m. carrington, Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. Dr. carrington is a scholar of race, gender, and genre in Black and American cultural production. His first book, Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction (Minnesota, 2016) interrogates the cultural politics of race in the fantastic genres through studies of science fiction fanzines, comics, film and television, and other speculative fiction texts. We use concepts from Dr. carrington’s (and other scholars’) work to discuss all three of Peele’s films, charting the salience of “paraspaces” and “Otherhoods” in each as spaces where speculative imaginaries of trauma and alterity can become bone-chillingly real (such as “the sunken place” in Get Out, or the subterranean tunnel dwellings of the tethered in Us). In addition, we cover the various ways Peele incorporates “fanservice” into his films, tipping a cap to fans of horror and sci-fi and providing moments of cathartic release amidst the deluge of dread, and playing with the various conventions of speculative fiction genres to create unique and cerebral insights against a tableau of terror. Follow Dr. andré m. carrington on Twitter, find links to more of his work on his UC-Riverside faculty profile, and check out his book, Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction. Be sure to follow UC-Riverside’s Mellon Sawyer Seminar (which Dr. carrington is participating in this year), entitled “Unarchiving Blackness: Why the Primacy of African and African Diaspora Studies Necessitates a Creative Reconsideration of Archives.” Works and Concepts Cited in this Episode: Dash, J., & Baker, H. A. (1992). Not without my daughters. Transition, (57), 150-166. Delany, S. R. (2012). Shorter views: Queer thoughts & the politics of the paraliterary. Wesleyan University Press. Tananarive Due’s course on The Sunken Place: Racism, Survival and Black Horror Gordon, A. F. (2008). Ghostly matters: Haunting and the sociological imagination. U of Minnesota Press. Lavender, I. (2011). Race in American science fiction. Indiana University Press.
70 minutes | Sep 30, 2022
E73: re:joinder - The CIA's Podcast
We at re:verb can neither confirm nor deny whether the truth will set you free - but it certainly provides good fodder for rhetorical criticism! On today’s show, Alex and Calvin present a re:joinder episode with a unique rhetorical artifact: an “unclassified” podcast recently released by one of the most secretive intelligence agencies in the world, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The first episode of The Langley Files: A CIA Podcast features hosts “Dee” and “Walter” interviewing current CIA Director Bill Burns about the history and current state of the agency, in their own words. But, of course, there’s more to it than that! We examine this podcast as a rhetorical genre with a specific social action in mind: gaining the assent and trust of the center-left-aligned American public, and recruiting educated liberals to work for the agency. From their straight-out-of-true-crime theme music to the hosts’ vocal performances echoing the likes of Sarah Koenig and Roman Mars, we note the eerie formal parallels between The Langley Files and some of the most popular informative/investigative podcasts currently running. In addition, we talk about some of the new (and some old) propaganda tropes that the CIA uses to describe its work, from its essentially “apolitical” function, “working in secrecy to protect the American people”, “organizing assets to do hard work in hard places,” all the way to the now-vaunted “competition” amongst “great powers” (a.k.a. the U.S. and China). We also critique and contexualize the strange virtue-signaling at play in how the CIA describes two of its recent “successes”: their prediction that Russia was going to invade Ukraine earlier this year, and their targeted assassination of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. What emerges from our analysis is a clearer picture of why the CIA might produce a podcast like this. For one, they outline a need to recuperate the agency’s image in the face of what they call “a short supply” of “trust in institutions” from the American public. But more troublingly, we theorize that this podcast is designed as an avenue for humanizing the labor of the people who work in the agency, and as a way of recruiting educated liberals who face slim job prospects and harbor revulsion for the reactionary, anti-“deep state” American right-wing. Works and Concepts Cited in this Episode CIA's own journal on what the Intelligence Community means by "customers" "Humans of CIA" Recruiting Video Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi's thread on the US role in propping up recently elected far-right Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni Lee, M. A. (2001, 1 May). The CIA’s worst-kept secret: Newly declassified files confirm United States collaboration with nazis. Foreign Policy in Focus. Mitchell, G. R. (2006). Team B intelligence coups. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 92(2), 144-173. New Yorker report on CIA's targeting of military-age males in Pakistan for drone strikes. Rosenberg, C. (2019). What the CIA’s torture program looked like to the tortured. The New York Times. Weiner, T. (2008). Legacy of ashes: The history of the CIA. Anchor. Wikipedia article for “Limited Hangout” An accessible transcript of this episode can be found here
39 minutes | Sep 13, 2022
E72: Tenant Organizing and the Cult of Property Values (w/ Luke Melonakos-Harrison)
What’s a tenant union, and why does it matter? On today’s show, Alex and Calvin get some fascinating answers to this question from Luke Melonakos-Harrison, a Masters student in Yale University’s Divinity School, tenant union organizer with the Connecticut Tenants Union and the Connecticut Democratic Socialists of America, and aspiring Methodist pastor. In the course of our conversation, we learn about the kinds of unresolved housing issues, often exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, that led Luke and other tenants to begin organizing. We discuss these issues’ intersectional dimensions: how they most severely affect individuals marginalized by class, race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability status, as well as how housing issues intersect with other political problems such as the prison-industrial complex and gender-based violence and discrimination. A crucial concept Luke introduces to us is “the cult of property values,” which captures how landlords, real estate developers, and dominant media and political classes attach almost religious significance to the value of property, while neglecting other, competing sets of values like human rights and economic justice. Along with these stinging critiques, Luke shares some amazing gains that he and his fellow organizers have been able to make at a local policy level in Connecticut, and explains some of their inside-outside strategies in response to the quirks of state law. We close by seeking Luke’s tips for anyone listening who may be interested in forming a tenant union of their own. Luke’s main suggestion is rather simple, but inspiring: get to know your neighbors! It’s a welcome reminder – and the whole conversation is a bit of a salve – in a time when it’s quite easy to surrender to alienation and despair. We hope you enjoy it! Follow Luke, the CT Tenants Union, and Connecticut DSA on Twitter: https://twitter.com/l_melo_h https://twitter.com/cttenantsunion https://twitter.com/centralctdsa News coverage of recent tenant organizing efforts in Connecticut: https://www.newhavenindependent.org/article/tenants_union_bill_heads_to_full_board_of_alders https://www.ctinsider.com/hartford/article/Mayor-No-excuse-for-conditions-at-17361141.php https://www.ctinsider.com/hartford/article/A-week-after-hearing-cries-for-help-from-17370301.php https://www.newhavenindependent.org/article/quinnipiac_gardens_tenant_union_ https://www.ctpublic.org/news/2022-06-30/new-haven-could-be-among-the-first-in-ct-to-recognize-tenant-unions-under-local-law
62 minutes | Aug 22, 2022
At the recent 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), right-wing movement leaders couldn’t stop whining about “pronouns.” For example, Texas Senator Ted Cruz said that his preferred pronouns are “kiss my ass,” and former Trump official Matt Schlapp complained that instead of carrying out his “duties” like dealing with the “open border,” President Biden is “talking about pronouns.” However, 2022 was not the first CPAC in which this particular part of speech caught heat; back in 2019, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin began her remarks, “my pronouns are ‘U-S-A’!” Why do some conservatives attack and mock “pronouns”, and what exactly do they mean when they use the term? As our entry in the Big Rhetorical 2022 Podcast Carnival on “Spaces and Place In and Beyond the Academy”, this episode unpacks the history and politics of gendered personal pronouns such as “he” and “she,” genderless and non-binary pronouns (e.g. “they”), and various discourse practices in academic and activist circles that relate to personal pronoun usage. After analyzing some recent and relevant policy documents, Alex and Calvin explain the epistemic and ideological bases for “pronouns” as a negative ideograph–a one-word slogan encapsulating everything scary and “un-American” about the increasing tolerance of LGBTQ+ people in public life. “Pronouns,” we find, doesn’t only index a debate over present-day gender expression; it also draws from the legacies of settler-colonialism and hyper-nationalism, which have always co-constituted hierarchies of race, class, gender, and sexuality in US society. However, we also note the ironic fact that strict use of gendered pronouns such as “he” and “she,” especially to refer to a generic person or non-human objects and entities, is historically recent and linguistically arbitrary. We conclude by shifting from history and theory to a question of action: what is the pragmatic case for putting your preferred pronouns in your social media bios and email signature lines, and giving students the opportunity to “share your name and pronouns” in classroom introductions? How do these practices make everyday learning and social action more feasible and manageable? We break down some practical benefits for teaching, political organizing, and ordinary personal interaction. Overall, we hope this episode helps demystify and defang the issue of “pronouns”, which are really not as confusing or threatening as some make them out to be. From Connecticut to Utah, in academia and beyond, we all use them, and they haven’t caused the sky to fall (so far!). Works and Concepts Referenced Allen, J. M., & Faigley, L. (1995). Discursive strategies for social change: An alternative rhetoric of argument. Rhetoric Review, 14(1), 142-172. Baron, D. (2018). A brief history of singular ‘they.’ Oxford English Dictionary blog. Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. Routledge. Conrod, K. (2018). Pronouns and gender in language. In K. Hall & R. Barrett (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Language and Sexuality. Oxford UP. Hinchy, J. (2019). Governing gender and sexuality in colonial India: the Hijra, c. 1850–1900. Cambridge University Press. McGee, M. C. (1980). The “ideograph”: A link between rhetoric and ideology. Quarterly journal of speech, 66(1), 1-16. Miranda, D. A. (2010). Extermination of the joyas: Gendercide in Spanish California. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 16(1-2), 253-284. Swyers, H., & Thomas, E. (2018). Murderbot pronouns: A snapshot of changing gender conventions in the United States. Queer Studies in Media & Popular Culture, 3(3), 271-298. “Wisconsin District Bans Pride Flags From Classrooms, Pronouns in Emails” - Education Week Tennessee bill on pronouns Biden-Harris Executive Order that mentions pronouns twice Transcript of this episode’s audio from Otter.ai
69 minutes | Jul 28, 2022
E70: We hold these Truths & Replies to be self-evident: What is Truth Social?
On June 28, 2022, explosive public testimony was delivered by a former Trump Administration aide named Cassidy Hutchinson in front of the United States House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attacks. Hutchinson’s testimony corroborated and deepened the Committee’s case that President Trump had led the attacks. In addition, Hutchinson divulged an extraordinary anecdote in which, after learning that his attorney general, William Barr, had refused to back Trump’s claims of election fraud, Trump purportedly slammed a plate against a wall; according to Hutchinson, the wall was dripping with ketchup. The 45th president himself seems to have been watching Hutchinson’s testimony in real-time, because immediately after it aired, he dashed off a flurry of enraged posts on an obscure social media site, Truth Social, which he founded in late 2021 after Twitter and Facebook banned his accounts following January 6th. Trump’s comments about Hutchinson quickly circulated on the more popular and mainstream social media platforms, but their users could not directly interact with Trump’s incendiary content unless they also had accounts on the strangely named (and uncannily designed) Truth Social. On this episode, Calvin and Alex dig into Truth Social in real-time–so you don’t have to. What is it? How does it work? Which accounts (other than Trump’s) are most popular there? How does its glossary define “Truth”? Is all of the content shared on TS overtly right-wing propaganda, or is there more benign stuff as well? (And if there is, what does it look like?) We answer all of these questions and more, in addition to providing context about Trump’s recent legal maneuvering in relation to the site, as well as complaints from some of its users that censorship and “shadow banning” are just as much problems there as on Facebook and Twitter. We close by breaking down the strange philosophical notions of “truth” promulgated both within the conservative movement and in more liberal approaches to “fact-checking”, and we argue that for all of its flaws, at least in its terminology Twitter doesn’t claim to be offering anything other than what it is: a collection of random bird sounds that may or may not mean anything. Works and Concepts Referenced Brown, J. (2015). Ethical programs: Hospitality and the rhetorics of software. University of Michigan Press. Burke, K. (1966). Chapter Three—Terministic Screens. Language as symbolic action. University of California Press. Ellul, J., Merton, R. K., Kellen, K., & Lerner, J. (1973). Propaganda: The formation of men's attitudes. New York: Vintage books. [Introduces concept of horizontal propaganda.] Gruwell, L. (2018). Constructing research, constructing the platform: Algorithms and the rhetoricity of social media research. Present Tense, 6(3), 1-9. Trump left social media company board before federal subpoenas, filing shows–CNBC Trump Throws New Tantrum After Former Aide Exposes Jan. 6 Tantrum–Rolling Stone Truth Social Users Are Fuming Over “Censorship” on Trump’s Platform–The Daily Beast
74 minutes | Jun 3, 2022
E69: "We're all trying to find the guy who can do something about this"
In the wake of shooting massacres in Uvalde, TX and Buffalo, NY, public outcry has been sustained and vociferous, recalling similarly intense reactions to previous mass shootings over the past 10 years. But in the US, public policy responses to such events are rarely as swift or sweeping as most of us would prefer. Just two days after the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, in which 19 children between the ages of 9 and 11 were shot and killed in their classroom, the US Senate recessed for its annual Memorial Day holiday, delaying any possibility of legislative action to address mass shootings by nearly two weeks. Yet, while the Senate's flaws as a democratic institution have received lots of attention from scholars, journalists, and activists, less often critiqued in terms of public accountability for resolving ongoing crises is the office of the presidency. On today's show, we attempt to fill this gap by examining President Biden's public statements about the massacres in Uvalde and Buffalo, the impending Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Across these issues, we've noticed a common discursive trope that demands closer scrutiny, which we've dubbed, "we're all trying to find the guy who can do something about this!" In President Biden's rhetorical style, this strategy connects to his cultivated identity as “Eulogizer-in-Chief.” Under our Eulogizer-in-Chief, we are constantly reminded of how sad and unjust ongoing events are, and we are often told how much these events "are not who we are as Americans", but we are rarely if ever informed about what our MOTUS (Mourner of the United States) plans to do about them. In terms of classical speech genres, epideictic (ceremonial) rhetoric has crowded out deliberative (policy) and forensic (legal) rhetoric. The result is a public discourse of despair, in which the only actions that leaders frame as feasible are individual citizen actions -- "vote harder!" or "organize harder!" -- rather than concrete government plans and policies. Politics becomes increasingly marketized and commodified, with engagement by grassroots activists compared in terms of pure numerical value to that of astroturfed corporate lobbying efforts, and the "winner" of such contests (invariably the side with more money) granted the executive or legislative action of their choice. Leaders, for their parts, dispassionately analyze these market dynamics in their public messaging, creating a feedback loop of demobilization that comes to affect even their own perceptions of their power to act. However, we hasten to point out, many significant executive actions have been taken over the past 20+ years to combat terrorism and other security threats, often without formal approval of the other branches of government. This suggests that Biden has the capacity to do much more than he is currently doing. Overall, we argue that it is crucial to demand something other than hollow words of grief and virtue-signaling tweets from the most powerful people in the world. Works and Concepts Referenced in this Episode Beasley, V. B. (2010). The rhetorical presidency meets the unitary executive: Implications for presidential rhetoric on public policy. Rhetoric and Public Affairs, 13(1), 7-35. Blanchfield, P. (2018). The market can’t solve a massacre. Splinter News. NBC News - Alex Seitz-Wald & Mike Memoli: “‘Grief must be witnessed’: Joe Biden’s first 100 days as consoler-in-chief” (28 April, 2021) NYT - Katie Glueck & Matt Flegenheimer: “Joe Biden, Emissary of Grief” (11 June 2020) Ore, E. J. (2019). Lynching: Violence, rhetoric, and American identity. Univ. Press of Mississippi. Rood, C. (2018). “Our tears are not enough”: The warrant of the dead in the rhetoric of gun control. Quarterly journal of speech, 104(1), 47-70. Too, Y. L. (2001). Epideictic genre. Encyclopedia of rhetoric, 251-57. See also the Wikipedia entry for epideictic. WaPo - Jennifer Rubin: “With Joe Biden, we finally have a mourner in chief again” (23 Feb 2021) Zarefsky, D. (2004). Presidential rhetoric and the power of definition. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 34(3), 607-619. Speech w/ Biden defining Buffalo shooting as “domestic terrorism” https://twitter.com/POTUS/status/1527064065314627584?s=20&t=ehy5LY4DwBd_zfF_sfHYXQ Speech w/ Biden calling Buffalo shooting a “racially motivated act of white supremacy”: https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/1525946642519793666
78 minutes | May 2, 2022
E68: How can podcasting help us re:engage with social justice (inside and outside the academy)? // 2022 Computers & Writing Conference Special Episode
This episode was produced as a virtual panel presentation for the 2022 Computers and Writing Conference. It has been 2 years in the making, and we’re so pleased to finally present it to you! Academics have been increasingly using podcasts as rhetorically rich tools for achieving pedagogical goals and re-theorizing the power and potential of sonic rhetorics. While academic podcasts can serve as a useful medium for scholarly conversations among insiders, less explored has been the potential for such podcasts to accommodate critical knowledge practices and disciplinary concepts for broader audiences. Our podcast, re:verb, attempts to bridge the divide between intellectual knowledge and activist practice, showcase movements and causes, and discuss activist practice through rhetorical lenses. Through these discussions, we attempt to synthesize knowledges inside and outside the academy, and demystify activism by rhetorically analyzing the thought processes that go into planning and executing it. For this panel presentation and special episode of re:verb, three of our co-producers - Calvin Pollak, Alex Helberg, and Sophie Wodzak - reached out to individuals working on social justice projects in our own local communities. Alex presents his conversation with Dani Singerman, a food justice advocate in Hartford, CT, who has been working on a project to mobilize resources for constructing a grocery store in the North End neighborhood of the city. Sophie Wodzak reconnects with previous guest and friend of the show Crystal Grabowski, who has been advocating for reproductive justice and abortion access in Western Pennsylvania for years. And finally, Calvin Pollak shares a conversation with his colleague Avery Edenfield, a faculty member in the English Department at Utah State University, about his work advocating for LGBTQ+ issues in a variety of different contexts. For the “Q&A” portion of our panel, the three co-producers reconvene to discuss our major take-aways from our conversations, and reflect on the rhetorical dimensions of contemporary activist practice, including: how to break down a “big” issue into smaller, more actionable “chunks”; the need to account for the “slow” work of activism, and how seemingly small actions it can still have a massive impact on others’ well-being; and finally, the importance of ethical collaborations between scholars and activists, celebrating the different situated expertise(s) that everyone can bring to the table.
70 minutes | Mar 28, 2022
E67: re:read - Bartleby, the Scrivener
We would prefer not to write a description for this episode… but here’s one anyway! Today’s episode is a re:vival of our re:read series, where we create dramatic interpretive readings of short fiction with contemporary political and cultural relevance. In this installment, inspired by our recent conversation with Dr. Kendall Phillips on “rhetorics of refusal,” Calvin, Ben, and Alex bring to life the classic Herman Melville story “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street,” originally published in Putnam’s Monthly magazine in 1853. This story documents the tribulations of a Wall Street lawyer who hires a morose figure named Bartleby to work for him as a scrivener. Bartleby quickly turns from an industrious copy-writer to a passively resisting automaton, whose only response to any request is simply: “I would prefer not to.” As the fallout from Bartleby’s absurdly principled behavior continues to unfold, the narrator finds himself questioning everything he thought he knew about social life, language, and labor. Join our crew of voice actors - Calvin as the narrator, Ben taking the role of the eponymous Bartleby, and Alex playing various minor characters - as we traverse this darkly comic tale of 19th-century alienation and absurdism, scored with period-specific music to accentuate the drama. Our dramatic reading is followed by a reflection on some of the story’s themes and implications: the literary works and political actors that “Bartleby” presaged, its critique of alienated (and alienating) labor, the co-optation of refusal rhetorics under neoliberal capitalism, and the affordances of individual vs. collective resistance in social and political movements. Accessible transcript of “Bartleby, the Scrivener” from Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/11231/11231-h/11231-h.htm Music featured in this episode
58 minutes | Mar 11, 2022
E66: Food, Culture, and Intimacy (w/ Dr. Anita Mannur)
On today’s show, Ben and Alex have the privilege to dish with Dr. Anita Mannur, Professor of English and Asian American Studies at Miami University, about her research on the intersections that food has with culture, race, and gender. We begin the conversation by reflecting on how discourses around food and consumption practices, especially in postcolonial contexts, reflect our ideas of national identity and “authenticity” - for instance, the debate over whether Chicken Tikka Masala is an “authentic” Indian dish, despite its origins as an accommodation of traditional Indian cuisine to Anglo-European sensibilities. As Anita notes in her work, cultural conversations around food, and reactions to those foods’ smells, tastes, and appearance are often tied to various social identities that we carry in other aspects of our lives, and can tell us a great deal about what happens as we negotiate those identities through various sensory experiences. Throughout our discussion, we trace the transformative (often homosocial and even queer) practices that emerge in intimate spaces of food production like the kitchen - exchanging knowledge, gossip, and other affective sensations. We also examine some sites that constitute of what Anita calls “intimate eating publics,” such as the now-defunct Conflict Kitchen in Pittsburgh, PA (RIP). Between talking about Anita’s analyses of some of these eating publics from her new book Intimate Eating (such as The Great British Baking Show), we share intimate stories from our own culinary lives, and make a few delicious food puns along the way. It’s a delightful conversation that we hope you’ll find comestible and digestible! Works and Concepts Referenced in this Episode Ku, R.J-S., Manalansan, M.F., Mannur, A. (Eds.). (2013). Eating Asian America: A food studies reader. New York University Press. Mannur, A. (2009). Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture. Temple University Press. Mannur, A. (2017). Un-homing Asian American studies: Refusals and the politics of commitment. In Schlund-Vials, C. (Ed.), Flashpoints for Asian American studies (pp. 82-98). Fordham University Press. Mannur, A. (2022). Intimate Eating: Racialized Spaces and Radical Futures. Duke University Press. Trinh, L., Wong, K.S., Schlund-Vials, C.J. (Eds.). (2015). Keywords for Asian American Studies. NYU Press.
77 minutes | Feb 14, 2022
E65: I The People: Conservative Populist Rhetorics (w/ Dr. Paul Elliott Johnson)
Although “populism” is a term that has been rigorously discussed and theorized in political science and communication studies, the term has received special attention ever since the political rise and presidency of Donald Trump. But what does populism actually mean, and how can we trace the lineage of populist conservative discourses that prefigured the Trump presidency? To guide us through the rhetorical history of this fraught concept, we are joined on the show today by Dr. Paul Elliott Johnson, Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. His recently published book, I the People: The Rhetoric of Conservative Populism in the United States, tells a captivating story of how conservative politicians and rhetors from the mid-20th-century to the present have appealed to the values of “the people.” Johnson elucidates how the conservative variant of populism has reduced the category of “the American people” through its focus on a possessive individualism constantly under threat by new ways of being and modes of organization. This sense of “the people under siege” has been undergirded by a reactionary response to blackness, which is ultimately traceable to the US’s foundation in settler-colonialism and chattel slavery. In our discussion, we talk through several of the rhetorical case studies in Johnson’s book, including the political ascendency and presidency of Ronald Reagan, the 1994 midterm elections and the year of the “angry white male,” the astroturfed revanchist “Tea Party” surge during the Obama presidency, and the rise of Donald Trump and the contemporary right-wing. Finally, we discuss some alternative methods of articulating “the people” that might help to expand, rather than reduce, the meaning of US popular democracy. References: Beasley, V. B. (2011). You, the people: American national identity in presidential rhetoric (Vol. 10). Texas A&M University Press. Cooper, M. (2017). Family values: Between neoliberalism and the new social conservatism. MIT Press. Corrigan, L. M. (2020). Black feelings: Race and affect in the long sixties. Univ. Press of Mississippi. DiPiero, T. (2002). White men aren't. Duke University Press. Goldberg, J. (2009). Liberal fascism: The secret history of the American left, from Mussolini to the politics of change. Crown Forum. Harris, C. I. (1993). Whiteness as property. Harvard law review, 1707-1791. Hartman, S. V. (1997). Scenes of subjection: Terror, slavery, and self-making in nineteenth-century America. Oxford University Press on Demand. Honig, B. (2017). Public things: Democracy in disrepair. Fordham Univ Press. Kelsie, A. E. (2019). Blackened Debate at the End of the World. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 52(1), 63-70. King Watts, E. (2017). Postracial fantasies, blackness, and zombies. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 14(4), 317-333. Laclau, E. (2005). On populist reason. Verso. Lee, M. J. (2006). The populist chameleon: The people's party, Huey Long, George Wallace, and the populist argumentative frame. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 92(4), 355-378. Lee, M. J. (2014). Creating conservatism: Postwar words that made an American movement. MSU Press. Matheson, C. (2016). “What does Obama want of me?” Anxiety and Jade Helm 15. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 102(2), 133-149. Mbembe, A. (2019). Necropolitics. Duke University Press. Moffitt, B. (2020). Populism. John Wiley & Sons. Moten, F. (2013). Blackness and nothingness (mysticism in the flesh). South Atlantic Quarterly, 112(4), 737-780. Mudde, C. (2004). The populist zeitgeist. Government and opposition, 39(4), 541-563. Nash, G. H. (2014). The conservative intellectual movement in America since 1945. Open Road Media. Ore, E. J. (2019). Lynching: Violence, rhetoric, and American identity. Univ. Press of Mississippi. Spillers, H. J. (1987). Mama's baby, papa's maybe: An American grammar book. diacritics, 17(2), 65-81. Vats, A. (2014). Racechange is the new Black: Racial accessorizing and racial tourism in high fashion as constraints on rhetorical agency. Communication, Culture & Critique, 7(1), 112-135. White, K. C. (2018). The branding of right-wing activism: The news media and the Tea Party. Oxford University Press. Wright, M. M. (2015). Physics of blackness: Beyond the middle passage epistemology. U of Minnesota Press.
40 minutes | Jan 20, 2022
E64: "Rationality" Bites - Steven Pinker's Disciplinary Drift (w/ Dr. Nathan Pensky)
In his most recent book, Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters, Harvard University cognitive psychologist and noted Jeffrey Epstein associate Steven Pinker argues that “rationality” is what distinguishes good thinkers from bad, that societies which encourage rationality are superior to those that do not, and that making the world a better place requires that we all think more rationally about our past, present, and future. Sounds plausible, right? In making these sweeping claims, though, Pinker wholly ignores relevant research and writing in disciplines such as history, philosophy, and literary and cultural studies, which have already provided crucial insights into the very questions he claims to be answering for the first time. Pinker’s “disciplinary drift” is the focus of today’s show, in which Calvin and Alex are joined by Dr. Nathan Pensky, a literary scholar and critic who reviewed Pinker’s latest for the Chronicle of Higher Education. In the review, Nathan explains why Pinker’s wanton disregard for existing humanities scholarship is so galling, and he contrasts this with the approaches of more generative and thoughtful interdisciplinary scholars such as Anil Seth, a cognitive and computational neuroscientist and author of Being You: A new science of consciousness. Unlike Pinker, Seth engages deeply with existing scholarly debates in the humanities–in particular, the field of philosophy of mind–before introducing a STEM innovation that bears directly on philosophers’ existing questions. Nathan goes on to argue that Pinker’s work is simply more rude than Seth’s, reminding us of the value of basic respect and dignity in scholarly writing. To conclude this episode, Alex introduces Nathan and Calvin to a fun new game: “Pinker or Stinker?” He introduces three quotations: two of them are real excerpts from Pinker’s latest work of discipline-drifting drivel, and one is a stinker–a fake quote written by Alex in his best imitation of Pinker’s trademark style. Will Nathan & Calvin be able to tell the difference? Can you? Play along while you listen, and if you get them all correct, shoot us an email or a Twitter DM to receive your complimentary re:verb t-shirt! References Dwyer, P., & Micale, M. (Eds.). (2021). The Darker Angels of Our Nature: Refuting the Pinker Theory of History & Violence. Bloomsbury Publishing. Pensky, N. (2021, Oct. 29). Steven Pinker’s Disciplinary Drift. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Pensky, N. (2021, Dec. 2) Finding the poet of ‘Paradise Lost’. The Boston Globe. Pinker, S. (2021). Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters. Viking. Pinker, S. (2019). Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. Penguin. Pinker, S. (2012). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. Penguin. Seth, A. (2021). Being you: A new science of consciousness. Penguin.
87 minutes | Jan 6, 2022
E63: Rhetoric and Violence at the Capitol (re:visited)
One year ago this week, a large crowd of Trump supporters disrupted what ought to have been boring and bureaucratic work: Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory over then-President Trump. Instead, a massive melee ensued, resulting in five people dead and over a hundred wounded–mostly Capitol and Metropolitan Police Officers. Loyal re:verb listeners will recall our episode from shortly thereafter, in which we provided our initial spit-takes on the events themselves as well as Twitter’s related banning of Trump’s official account. On today’s show, Calvin, Alex, and Sophie return with our most up-to-date thoughts on the meaning and significance of the Jan. 6 attack. We consider questions like: How much emotional energy did and does this incident warrant? Aren’t there more systemic issues that dwarf this by comparison? Or, is it actually misguided to dissociate Jan. 6 from larger problems plaguing the U.S. political system and the world? Meanwhile, one year into Joe Biden’s neoliberal presidency, how can we draw clear lines between the governance offered by the two parties? If we can’t, is it rational to be concerned about one party attempting (and failing) to subvert a victory by the other? And if they are distinguishable, what areas of policy reveal the sharpest distinctions? We air our nuanced disagreements on these topics, as well as our much clearer agreement on the horror of far-right violence and bipartisan failures to address climate change. One twist on last year’s discussion, though, is that we offer a close reading this time – specifically, we analyze Tucker Carlson’s recent Patriot Purge documentary for FOX Nation, which provided the definitive far-right revisionist narrative of what happened on Jan 6. We unpack the documentary’s many bizarre arguments by analogy, such as Carlson’s comparison of the post-Jan 6 plight of Trump supporters to the post-9/11 plights of Muslim and Arab Americans. Carlson also equates one faulty media story about the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick with the many, many examples of world-historically harmful propaganda disseminated by the mainstream media in the run-up to the Iraq War, and he later analogizes the “movement” that protested on Jan. 6 to the Black Lives Matter movement. The documentary culminates in a direct assertion that Jan. 6 was an inside job by the FBI, which we debunk from multiple angles before elaborating on the broader significance of Carlson’s rhetorical strategies: the coalitions that they may or may not promise between right and left, and the tactical and theoretical value of analyzing propaganda in terms of political imaginaries and aesthetics.
110 minutes | Dec 10, 2021
E62: re:joinder - The University of the Cancelled
Last month, former New York Times columnist and current Substacker Bari Weiss took to Twitter to announce “a new university dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth”: the University of Austin (UATX). Not to be confused with the University of Texas at Austin, UATX is thus far only a university concept–a pitch for a “new” kind of higher education institution–but the details are murky, it is not accredited, and by its own website’s admission, there are no concrete plans for undergraduate degrees until 2024 at the earliest. More than anything, this “University” appears to be an ideological project of social media and op-ed columns, in which its conservative culture warrior backers rail vaguely and haphazardly at existing universities for various tangled, often contradictory sins. Even more oddly, they are proposing a fairly standard liberal arts education, with few obvious “fixes” to traditional models beyond a vague insinuation that their discourses will be “freer” and their students will not be “coddled.” On today’s show, Alex and Calvin are joined for the first time by co-producer Mike Laudenbach. Together we unpack two key texts from the University of Austin’s public announcement: “We Can't Wait for Universities to Fix Themselves. So We're Starting a New One.” by Pano Kanelos (a UATX founding trustee) and “I'm Helping to Start a New College Because Higher Ed Is Broken” by Niall Ferguson (another trustee and a legendary cheerleader for the British and American empires). As is typical of our re:joinder episodes, we have lots of laughs taking apart these articles’ unsupported, illogical, and downright bizarre claims about the industry we all know so well: academia. But we also do our best to earnestly and fairly engage with key questions that these writers raise (but don’t really address), such as: To what extent is higher ed broken, how is it broken, and–perhaps most importantly–who or what broke it? Are there social and intellectual taboos within universities, and if so, which ones bear most significantly on academics’ lives and livelihoods? What is the current state of free speech on campuses, and how does it fit into a historical context dating back to the red scares of the Cold War, student protest movements that began in the 1960s and ‘70s, and political correctness debates of the ‘80s-90’s? Along the way, we draw on our experiences and knowledge as students, researchers, and faculty, and we propose an innovative institution of our own: re:verb University (RVU). GO VERBIES! Stay tuned, as applications for our august academy will open soon–once we succeed in getting cancelled for truth. Texts Analyzed in this Episode Ferguson, N. (2021, Nov. 8). I'm Helping to Start a New College Because Higher Ed Is Broken. Bloomberg. Kanelos, P. (2021, Nov. 8). We Can't Wait for Universities to Fix Themselves. So We're Starting a New One. Common Sense (Bari Weiss’s Substack). Works and Concepts Cited Mishra, P. (2011, Nov. 3). Watch this man. London Review of Books. [Article critiquing Niall Ferguson’s apologetic writing about imperialism. Below the article, its author Pankaj Mishra and its subject Niall Ferguson exchange a series of letters debating Ferguson’s scholarship.] Nichols, A. (2018, Apr. 2). So-called ‘intellectuals’ can’t let go of “The Bell Curve.” The Outline. [Article explaining how Andrew Sullivan and other conservative intellectuals continue to circulate modern race science ideas originally espoused in Charles Murray’s 1994 The Bell Curve.] Sohege, D. (2021, Apr. 25). In fairness @epkaufm's resistance to academic institutions maintaining their right of academic freedom to call out poor work, and his views on "political minorities", are understandable when placed In the context of his own apparent lack of academic rigor. Twitter. [Tweet highlighting shoddy scholarship in the CSPI study “Academic Freedom in Crisis: Punishment, Political Discrimination, and Self-Censorship.”]
62 minutes | Nov 23, 2021
E61: A Cinema of Hopelessness (w/ Dr. Kendall R. Phillips)
Look upon these films, ye mighty, and despair! In this episode, we’re thrilled to welcome back Dr. Kendall R. Phillips, Professor of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University - this time, to discuss his hot-off-the-presses book, A Cinema of Hopelessness: The Rhetoric of Rage in 21st Century Popular Culture. In it, Kendall examines how some of the most emotionally-charged moments of 21st century U.S. public memory - from 9/11 to Occupy Wall Street to the presidential election of Donald Trump - have resonated in the biggest box office hits of popular cinema. Within each of these conjunctures of hit movies and widely-felt cultural sentiments, Kendall incisively traces a common theme: “the rhetoric of refusal,” in which characters shout “no!” in the face of the powerful and seek societal destruction rather than reform. We discuss some of the topics and films covered in the book, from the influence of the Occupy movement on films like Snowpiercer, Cabin in the Woods, and The Purge, to Kendall’s unique reading of 2017’s Joker as a musical, to the themes of betrayal, loss, and nostalgic longing that have permeated both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and post-2016 U.S. national politics. We conclude with some thoughts on the collective, affective power of “movie magic,” as well as how nostalgia might be productively re:imagined to move our political culture forward. Works and Concepts Referenced in this Episode Ahmed, S. (2013). The cultural politics of emotion. Routledge. Berlant, L. (2011). Cruel optimism. Duke University Press. Biesecker, B. A. (2002). Remembering World War II: The rhetoric and politics of national commemoration at the turn of the 21st century. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 88(4), 393-409. Biesecker, B.A. (2004). Renovating the national imaginary: A prolegomenon on contemporary paregoric rhetoric. In K. R. Phillips (ed.), Framing Public Memory (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press): pp. 212–247. Deleuze, G. (1997). Bartleby; or, the Formula. Essays critical and clinical, 86. Gunn, J. (2008). Father trouble: Staging sovereignty in Spielberg's War of the Worlds. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 25(1), 1-27. Keeling, K. (2019). Queer times, Black futures. New York University Press. LeMesurier, J. L. (2020). Winking at Excess: Racist Kinesiologies in Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 50(2), 139-151. Massumi, B. (1995). The autonomy of affect. Cultural critique, (31), 83-109. Massumi, B. (2015). Politics of affect. John Wiley & Sons. Mitchell, W. T. (2013). Iconology: image, text, ideology. University of Chicago Press. Muensterberg, W. (1985). De gustibus: Notes on the genetics of taste. In Visible religion: Annals of religious iconography (Leiden, NL: E. J. Brill). Sedgwick, E. K. (2003). Touching feeling. Duke University Press. Spinoza, B. (2009). The Ethics (R.H.M. Elwes, Trans.). Project Gutenberg. Retrieved from: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3800/3800-h/3800-h.htm (Original work published 1677). Villadsen, L. (2017). “Bartleby the Scrivener”: Affect, agency, and the rhetorical trickster.” Presented at Rhetoric Society of Europe conference, Norwich, UK. Williams, C. (2007). Thinking the political in the wake of Spinoza: Power, affect and imagination in the ethics. Contemporary Political Theory, 6(3), 349-369.
44 minutes | Nov 11, 2021
E60: re:blurb - Publicity and Counterpublicity
Have you ever wondered why some issues are treated as private and personal, while others are self-evidently public concerns? Meanwhile, certain topics are discussed freely and openly, but only among niche subcultures: local interest groups, expert practitioners, hardcore enthusiasts, and even marginalized communities. How can we better understand these kinds of diverse audience groupings, which are so critical to the circulation of political text and talk? On today's re:blurb episode, we address these questions through a deep-dive into the rhetoric of publicity and counterpublicity. In so doing, we overview the landmark public sphere theories of Jurgen Habermas and Hannah Arendt, as well as later feminist, anti-racist, and queer theory contributions from scholars such as Nancy Fraser, Catherine Squires, Michael Warner, and Daniel Brouwer. Finally, we highlight the importance of Antonio Gramsci’s notion of hegemony for unpacking our inherited ideas about “civil society.” To illustrate this point, we offer an analysis of a recent controversy involving Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema, in which activists pursued her into a public restroom to protest her obstruction of immigration reform. Considering the incident and its broader reverberations in media discourses about privacy and civility, we argue that these ideas are contested because hegemony itself is contested. In a deeply unequal society like ours, publicity and counterpublicity are contingent upon groups' positions within hierarchies of power. An early draft of this episode was prepared as a submission for the 2021 Rhetoric Society of America Summer Institute workshop on “The Trouble with Publics and Counterpublics.” That workshop unfortunately did not take place, due to the unexpected passing of workshop co-leader Dr. Daniel Brouwer. Dan Brouwer was a critical force in rhetorical studies, public sphere theory, and queer studies - a strong mentor, friend, and crucial voice across academic fields. It is in this spirit that we humbly dedicate this episode to the memory of Dr. Daniel Brouwer. Works and Concepts Cited in this Episode Arendt, H. (1958). The human condition. University of Chicago Press. Aronoff, K. (2021, 21 Sept.). Joe Manchin’s vote isn’t that mysterious. Look to the fossil fuel money. The New Republic. Retrieved from: https://newrepublic.com/article/163723/joe-manchin-vote-fossil-fuel Asen, R. (2000). Seeking the “counter” in counterpublics. Communication theory, 10(4), 424-446. Boguslaw, D. (2021, 26 Sept.). Kyrsten Sinema used the winery where she interned to fundraise with private equity. The Intercept. Retrieved from: https://theintercept.com/2021/09/26/kyrsten-sinema-private-equity-tax-loophole/ Brouwer, D.C. (2001). ACT-ing UP in congressional hearings. In R. Asen and D.C. Brouwer (Eds.) Counterpublics and the State (pp. 87-110). SUNY Press. Cloud, D. L. (2018). Reality bites: Rhetoric and the circulation of truth claims in US political culture. The Ohio State University Press. Cloud, D.L. (2015). “Civility” as a threat to academic freedom. First Amendment Studies, 49(1), 13-17. Davenport, C. (2021, 19 Sept.). Joe Manchin will craft the U.S. climate plan. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/19/climate/manchin-climate-biden.html Fraser, N. (1990). Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy. Social text, (25/26), 56-80. Gramsci, A. (2011). Prison Notebooks (Vol. 2) (J.A. Buttigieg, Trans.). Columbia University Press. Habermas, J. (1991). The structural transformation of the public sphere: An inquiry into a category of bourgeois society. MIT press. (Originally published in 1962). Hauser, G. A. (1999). Vernacular voices: The rhetoric of publics and public spheres. Univ of South Carolina Press. Klippenstein, K. (2021, 8 Oct.). Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is literally teaching a course on fundraising. The Intercept. Retrieved from: https://theintercept.com/2021/10/08/kyrsten-sinema-fundraising-course-asu/ Luchetta, J. (2021, Oct. 4). Activists ambush Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in public bathroom over immigration, infrastructure. USA Today. Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/10/04/sen-kyrsten-sinema-bathroom-arizona-immigration-infrastructure/5990516001/ Squires, C. R. (2002). Rethinking the black public sphere: An alternative vocabulary for multiple public spheres. Communication theory, 12(4), 446-468. Treene, A. (2021, 7 Oct.). Scoop: Sanders’ Sinema spat. Axios. Retrieved from: https://www.axios.com/sanders-sinema-spat-harrassment-a8c9f7a2-6579-4800-aa28-43a71fe2639b.html Walsh, K. N. (2021, 5 Oct.). Protesters following Kyrsten Sinema into the bathroom undermined their efforts. The Independent. Retrieved from: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/kyrsten-sinema-bathroom-protest-privacy-b1932844.html Warner, M. (2002). Publics and counterpublics. Zone Books.