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What is “violent rhetoric”? Redux


The conservatives currently hounding Erik clearly never read this post. If they had, they’d realize that there’s a difference between a gun control advocate saying someone needs to be shot and a gun rights advocate doing the same. Rhetoric is only “violent” when its intent is encourage violent acts to a receptive audience. Putting the head of a President on a pike in a television show that appeals to violent barbarians is one thing — being a labor historian who “demands” the head of a paramilitary organization “on a stick” is another entirely. Not a single member of Erik’s Twitter audience took his tweet as an incitement to violence. The same couldn’t be said, for example, if Wayne LaPierre had tweeted the very same thing about someone trying to take away his right to bear fully automatic weapons with extended magazines. Why?

Because LaPierre’s audience includes heavily armed people prone to violence, whereas Erik’s consists of pacifistic homosexual tree-huggers.*

The long and short of it is simple: if you come upon a discussion of rhetoric in which people completely ignore the issue of audience, don’t take them seriously because they’re not making a rhetorical argument.

*I must add that I’m impressed: Erik got someone to read his dissertation. That kind of suckering is Internet Tradition-worthy if ever anything was.

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