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Watch Your Rhetoric This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Not so fast. Do not make up your mind about this essay yet. Read it patiently, evaluate its merits as well as its demerits. When that is done, make up your mind.

How many times have you been told to make up your mind about something immediately and take action breathlessly or else catastrophe will ensue? How often must you make up your mind without carefully weighing both sides? More pertinently, how often are you told that one side is the only right one, a particular view the only correct view, and any other idea heresy?

The practice of modern politics is the art and game of rhetoric, of persuasion. It is not in the interest of persuaders to present both sides of an issue, and any who represent both sides are only presenting that which is convenient, or that which will appeal to your trust of that source.

The target of modern politics is you. If the practice of politics these days is a game and you are its target, then they are trying to play you. Politicians have forsaken the painstaking practice of dialectic for the simpler and more to-the-point rhetoric. This is not limited to politics, however. It has permeated classrooms, churches, and the clumsily named “blogosphere,” and threatens to present you with nothing but a continual flow of propaganda, in essence, to make your decisions for you. And all you have to do is sign on the dotted line.

Al Gore wants you to believe that the snows of Kilimanjaro are melting, but according to recent reports, ice loss is more likely due to solar radiation and water vaporization. You would not know that if you only listened to him. Scientist Richard Dawkins would have you believe that the fossil record presents a smooth transition to higher-level organisms, but Dawkins cannot respond to the discovery of the Cambrian fossil bed - a giant reservoir of fossils that have no apparent predecessors and about which even Dawkins himself remarked, “It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history.” He chooses not to mention those fossils because they undermine his argument. Michael Moore promotes the British National Health Service in his newest propaganda documentary, “Sicko,” but fails to inform viewers of the almost one-year wait for some basic procedures, the low quality of treatment, staffing shortages, and the conversion of many Britons to private insurance and private healthcare.

Al Gore, Richard Dawkins, and Michael Moore are all asking the same thing of you, just in different ways. Al Gore wants you to lay down your modern lifestyle for a return to Gaia worship. Richard Dawkins wants you to convert to his world view. Michael Moore wants you to trust your health to the state. They are different in words only. They, and all modern masters of rhetoric, are assaulting your autonomy with their propaganda, asking you to sign yourself over in the name of calamity, hopelessness, and unfairness. Their target is not the older population. They are targeting the future, the youth, trusting in their naivete and idealism to advance their agendas with no questions asked.

The point of this essay is not to incite cynicism about politics. It is not even to inform you that politicians intentionally misrepresent their cases. The point is to caution you that rhetoric is how information is presented in today’s world, and if the whole truth is what you seek, then you need to do your own research, dig deeper, and once you have heard both sides and weighed them, carefully make your decision. Question alarm and drastic calls for action. Dispel uncertainty with curiosity. Do what the modern masters of rhetoric absolutely do not want you to do - think for yourself.

Now you may feel free to make up your mind about this essay.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Sunshineyday said...
Aug. 20, 2009 at 7:45 pm
Actually, you're article was a LITTLE rhetorical itself, and that is the opinion I have made by myself
 
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