90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Rhetoric’s Political Punch

Language and politics.  We’ll look at the power of rhetoric from Aristotle to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. (AP)

President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. (AP)

Say the word “rhetoric” to most Americans today – post-modern, 21st century, pickled in political cynicism – and you’ll likely get a sneer.  Rhetoric has come to firmly mean empty speech.  BS.  “Mere rhetoric,” we say.  And we’ve had enough. 

But the speaking goes on.  Today, more than ever.  A flood of talk and ads and posts and tweets.  And it’s all using, one way or another, forms of rhetoric that humans have studied and wielded for ages.  From Aristotle to Obama.  

This hour, On Point:  in a campaign year, the power of rhetoric, from the ancients to Obama v Romney.

-Tom Ashbrook

 

Guests

Sam Leith, author of the new book Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama.

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

Salon “Rhetoric is also, to be blunt, the art of talking people into things, and it flourishes in courtrooms and on campaign trails, in singles bars and television commercials, over dinner tables and in Internet forums.”

Financial Times “Obama made his first political speech as a very young man. At university in Los Angeles, he had become involved in student politics and he was called on to introduce a small anti-apartheid rally.”

Excerpt: Words Like Loaded Pistols

Use the navigation bar at the bottom of this frame to reformat the excerpt to best suit your reading experience.

Photos: Rhetoric In Action

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 23, 2014
Specialist Ronnie Howard, center, calls out prices as he works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Beyond the turmoil shaking financial markets, the U.S. economy remains sturdier than many seem to fear. (AP)

The global economic wobble. Europe weakness. China fears. Wild markets. We’ll lay out the global economy now.

Oct 23, 2014
A screenshot from the interactive game, "Depression Quest," the game at the root of the ongoing #GamerGate controversy. (Courtesy  "Depression Quest")

#GamerGate. Sexism, misogyny and rough stuff in a video game world culture clash.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 22, 2014
Authors Nicholas Kristof and wife Sheryl WuDunn attend the premiere of "Meena" at the AMC Loews Theater on Thursday, June 26, 2014 in New York.

Author and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof says regular folks like us can change the world. He explains how. Plus: we remember the late, great Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee.

 
Oct 22, 2014
Health workers carry the body of a woman suspected of contracting the Ebola virus in Bomi county situated on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. (AP)

We’ll go to Liberia, and hear from a pastor and a physician at the epicenter of the Ebola crisis.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Introducing The Explicast: A New Podcast From On Point Radio
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Confused about the news? Don’t worry: so are we sometimes! Introducing a new On Point Radio podcast: The Explicast. You can find Episode One right here.

More »
1 Comment
 
Two LIVE Tracks From Jazz Violinist Regina Carter
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Regina Carter shares two live tracks — one arrangement, and one original composition — with Tom Ashbrook in the On Point studio.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: October 17, 2014
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

We talk Facebook mishaps, whether Katy Perry was actually right and the glory of architectural giants and their iconic windows.

More »
Comment