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 24, 2014
Ottawa police officers, with Parliament Hill in the background, guard the area around the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa on Thursday. (Reuters/Landov)

Gunfire in Canada’s capital. Billionaire millions hit the midterms. Huge airbag recall. Ben Bradlee is dead. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Oct 24, 2014
Andrew (Miles Teller) and his often demanding conductor, Terrence (J.K. Simmons) in a scene from the new film, "Whiplash." (Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

The new movie “Whiplash”. The thin line between obsession and abuse on the road to greatness. In music, the arts…sports.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 24, 2014
Andrew (Miles Teller) and his often demanding conductor, Terrence (J.K. Simmons) in a scene from the new film, "Whiplash." (Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

The new movie “Whiplash”. The thin line between obsession and abuse on the road to greatness. In music, the arts…sports.

 
Oct 24, 2014
Ottawa police officers, with Parliament Hill in the background, guard the area around the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa on Thursday. (Reuters/Landov)

Gunfire in Canada’s capital. Billionaire millions hit the midterms. Huge airbag recall. Ben Bradlee is dead. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
The Explicast, Episode Two: Why Is Election Day On A Tuesday?
Friday, Oct 24, 2014

The Explicast is back for another round. This time, we’re looking at Election Day, and why we all keep voting on a random Tuesday in early November.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: October 24, 2014
Friday, Oct 24, 2014

On comments, comment sections, and ROY G BIV.

More »
Comment
 
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 »
3 Comments