Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hitting Below the Belt

You wake up, put on your bunny slippers and walk out to the end of the driveway to get your morning paper. After getting back to the kitchen, you pour yourself a cup of coffee, take a bite out of a blueberry danish, and open the paper. You're hoping for a good read as the following headline catches your attention: "Sen. Johnson Tied to Think Tank."

You continue to read because, you think, if it made the front-page, it must be important. However, you soon realize that the most interesting thing about the story is the glob of blueberry filling that dripped on the page. It's just another baseless attack below the belt from those who oppose the belabored Senator.

Of course, I've made up this scenario. There is no Sen. Johnson, and you never would have retrieved your newspaper in those old bunny slippers. You also wouldn't have let blueberry goop drip onto your paper, especially when the comics were on the next page. That would be sacrilegious! However, the point is well-taken. Every day, we are bombarded with "news," and it turns out to be nothing more than another personal shot aimed at someone who is in the limelight.

This is a time-honored tradition. In fact, in 18th Century America, it was much worse. Nothing was sacred, and no one, including President Washington, was immune to some pretty scathing attacks from the opposing party. At that time, editors of newspapers did not pretend to be non-partisan. They made it abundantly clear what they stood for and were very proud of it. One might wish our current newspapers would follow that lead instead of pretending to be different. We do kind of live with this open secret today, don't we?

Perhaps the most notorious exchange of attacks came between Alexander Hamilton and Gov. George Clinton of New York. Hamilton and Clinton had been at each other's throats for a long time, mostly due to differences of opinion regarding the Constitution. Their dispute was carried out mostly through New York newspapers with Hamilton's brilliance as a writer usually making Clinton look like a fool. Clinton, unable to match wits with Hamilton on an intellectual level, did what any good politician would do under the same circumstances -- hit Hamilton below the belt by personally attacking him.

Prior to Hamilton's writing The Federalist Papers, Clinton wrote a series of articles calling him a "Tom Shit," a then popular caricature of someone who is uppity without "proper breeding." He assailed Hamilton for being a bastard by birth and accused him of being a "mustee" which was someone of mixed racial ancestry. Clinton went on to accuse Hamilton of being a supporter of the Crown who worked for the King. According to Clinton, Hamilton was in progress of returning America to England.

Hmmm... attacking your opponent by questioning his allegiance to country, his birth, and his race. Aside from bringing up his religion, this all sounds pretty familiar. One need not look any further than the last presidential election to see all of this playing out in front of us. We had the Republicans questioning Obama's birth, nationality, allegiance to country, and religion. We had the Democrats knocking McCain by making fun of his age, and they pounced on Palin with ferocity. We even had poor "Joe the Plumber" get raked over the coals by the Democratic machine.

Even though people on both sides of the aisle were screaming protests, this was nothing new to our political and editorial heritage. People have and always will hit below the waist.

Why? Well, this is a practice that goes back to the beginning of history. If you are in a debate, and you fail to win over the audience with your intelligence, discourse, and research, you do the only thing you can do to win -- punch your opponent in the groin and walk away the victor. They don't teach this in school, but we learned how to do it as children on the playground. Somehow, though, we never did quite learn how to stick to the issues. Although cheap shots are not official rhetorical devices, we innately know that they are equally effective at winning over the audience.

This bring me to my point. The problem isn't with the politicians who engage in such behavior. The problem is with the audience. You see, if Clinton weren't able to get positive feedback from New Yorkers from his lambasting of Hamilton's race and allegiance, he wouldn't have stooped to that level. But, he knew he would win over supporters, so he did it. And, hey, call it what it is -- if the Democrats knew that making fun of Palin's wardrobe shopping spree wouldn't work, they wouldn't have gone there either.

To be good at hitting below the belt, you have to know the political landscape and the way your audience thinks. If you guess wrong and hit hard, it can come back to bite you. Case in point, the Republican's focus on Obama's associations with some not-so-patriotic folks back in the '70s. Perhaps that shot would have done well eight years ago, but it actually backfired on them this go-round.

So, the lesson to our children will once again be, if you want to be powerful, you've got to walk tall and carry a big stick (that you use to knock your opponent to the ground by hitting him hard in the kneecaps).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving and a Joyous Black Friday!

Well, it's the official start to the holiday season today as millions of people are on their way to see family and engage in a month-long tradition of gluttonous behavior. I am going to break that tradition this year, however, by reinvigorating my passion for losing weight beginning on Friday. Those of you who know me know that I lost an enormous amount of weight earlier this year, only to see some of it return. Well, I want to stop the madness by returning to common sense eating practices. Hopefully, my surgeon will allow me to do some exercise again too, like riding on a stationary bicycle to get my heart rate up. I'll find out on December 3rd. But enough of that...

Does it seem like the holidays started a month ago? The day after Halloween, Christmas was in full bloom at every department store here in Maryland. I'm sure it was the same where you are too. I'm not sure if this is a sign of the times, or if it's always been this way. I don't remember it being so early in the past. It almost seems that merchants started early in order to make their Christmas numbers look so good. I guess if you have to post holiday numbers, the best way to make them look better is to increase the length of the holiday season. Don't you think the shareholders will figure that out?

Merchants are dropping prices faster than Madonna drops a husband, and that's going to cut into their profits. But I see they've countered that by doing the one thing that never fails to increase profits -- cut labor costs. Every store I go into seems way under-staffed. No wonder jobless claims are up.

OK, so this isn't an economic blog, but those are my thoughts on this day before Thanksgiving. I plan to take it easy this weekend and will use this time to read The Federalist Papers. I'm very serious about my plans to write a collection of essays about our government, along with my opinion as to how to best solve our problems. A lot of people believe you have to be an attorney or politician to engage in this kind of thought, but I disagree. That is not the principle this country was founded upon, and one need not have argued in court to be able to dissect governmental philosophy. Our forefathers were not all lawyers, and even if they were, they could have become a lawyer at 19 years of age with six months of training. Elitism proposes this mentality, and it does so in order to prevent anyone from having a say in government. In that way, I am attacking the status quo.

Fortunately, I have found some gentlemen on the west coast who are of like mind. We are engaging in a very stimulating conversation about this very issue, and it has continued to peak my interest in this project. Hamilton, too, was a prolific writer, and his words shaped the Constitution. I look forward to reading his essays and discovering how we have moved from the core principles this country was founded upon. I believe it will be a significant departure.

Anyway, enough of that. Have a happy Thanksgiving, a joyous Black Friday, and a safe trip home. I'll return on Monday with more literary musings!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We Need a Revival of the Literary Sort!

It's time for a revival, folks. No, not a revival that you'd go to in a church, although we could all probably use a little of that, but a literary revival. I know what you're thinking: "Literary revival?! Why, America is at its pinnacle of literary achievement. You must have heard about the greats like Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, Harlequin, and even that Brit who writes about sorcerers. We don't need a revival!" Well, if that's what you're thinking, then you just made my point!

We've fallen into a rut. It's been a long time since we've had a great writer who's a star at the same time. I mean, take an American Literature course and see what decade the last writer on the list comes from. It's probably going to be the 1960s, and I personally don't think there was much great literature then. I'm looking for the likes of Hemingway, Faulkner, and Frost. These men were not only great writers, but they were stars! That's what I'm craving.

I suppose it happens from time to time. It seems that the greats come and go every fifty years or so, and they all seem to get lumped together. But, boy, when they come, they are a splash! We need them right now, that's for sure. I believe that our writers are the catalysts of culture and stimulation of thought. And at this point and time, we desperately need a return of literature so that we can recover from an imposing intellectual famine.

Don't get me wrong. There is nothing bad about pop-fiction. We need stories that are easy and fun to read too. They all have their place. I've heard some teachers say that they don't care what you read as long as you read. That's all and good up to a point, but there needs to be some occasional thought in there as well. I'd also like to add that there needs to be some beauty too. Great writers write with a richness and descriptiveness that takes us to other places, makes us feel other emotions, and forces us to react to other causes. That kind of literature promotes change and stimulates art. That's the revival I'm talking about.

I try to find the lemonade stand when there seems to be a bumper crop of lemons, and boy do we have a cash crop this year! Well, the lemonade of financial downswings seems to be great literature. We'll see if this is the case this time. I know the Great Depression brought out the creative juices in our last batch of great writers, so I'm hoping that this crisis we're facing now will do the same. I don't know why it's like that. Perhaps fear brings some to places they've never been, or perhaps they see the extremes that really move them to find beauty in the bleak.

Poetry, in particular, is suffering great damage, and has been suffering for many years. Not that we don't have some outstanding poets right now, but none of them are known except for those who are in academia. Most Americans only know poetry through that great poet, Hallmark, and that's just not acceptable. It is time for our own version of Robert Frost to capture the general population -- a poet who opens the hearts of the people; a poet who opens the eyes of readers.

I'm praying for revival, and I challenge you to look for that next great writer or poet. When that person breaks through, we need to support his/her work and make sure that we spread the word so that others may benefit as well.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Emotion v. Logic v. Both

I received a very nice email this week from a gentleman who stopped by The Speechwriter. He said that he appreciated my commentary about persuasion and emotion. He went on to say that he typically rejects his emotional responses to most things, and he tends to be more logical in his decision-making process.

The email brought up a point that is important to those who engage in persuasive activities (salesmen, marketing personnel, politicians, etc.). There are two types of people in this world: those who react to emotion-based arguments and those who have to think things through while looking for a logical conclusion. To be effective at speech and writing, you have to take both personalities into consideration.

Gorgias taught that most people respond to emotions. His use of poetics and his penchant for drama was based upon that premise. However, he also included logic-based argumentation for those who needed that approach. His speeches were organized in logical form, and he used a Socratic-method of reasoning to present his case. Both, he thought, were necessary.

Today's audiences are no different. The key, however, is to know your audience. For example, if you are a salesperson, you should take time to talk to your customer before you start making a pitch. This conversation is more than just casual talk. During this time, you are assessing that person and figuring out how to present your product to him. Seven out of ten times, you'll discover that the customer is emotion-based, and you will get more opportunity to sell by being creative, using descriptive language, telling stories, and visualizing the product more. However, you will find that about three out of ten people will require a technical, logical approach. They want to hear the statistics, test the product, and talk about numbers. The emotional methods will not work on them.

So, if you are making a presentation to anyone, your first objective should be to find out who your audience is so that you can make your presentation fit their needs. If you don't do this, you will rarely be successful at persuading people to follow your lead. As a speechwriter, the very first question I ask a client is, "who is the audience?" In fact, I need to know more about the audience, many times, than I do about the person delivering the speech.

The same is true for the writer. In fact, the first lecture I give my composition students specifically regards audience. You cannot put pen to paper before knowing your reader. I am surprised, however, at how many "professional" writers do not take audience into consideration. Many have the opinion that they are going to write however they want to write no matter who the readers are. I think this is ludicrous. Certainly, there are elements of your style that will remain constant -- those things that define you as a writer. However, there are many more elements that you can change to meet your audience's needs. Many times, that is the difference between being a good writer and a great writer.

Test this principle out for yourself. If you are in a position where you have to persuade someone to a course of action, think about that person's personality before you start to make your case. Fitting your argument to their personality gives you an advantage and greatly increases your chance to succeed.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tonight, an Invite, and Opening Discussion

Tonight, I will be posting my final commentary about the Constitution in The Speechwriter. I understand that the topics of government, the Constitution, and our future has little to do with Speech, Rhetoric, and Persuasion, and I will be shifting the focus of this blog back to those topics next week.

This evening, though, I hope to lend credence to my concerns by discussing "change." Yesterday, I made a point that our country was no longer recognizable as the country that Hamilton wrote about in The Federalist Papers. Obviously, I was speaking more to the philosophy of government than actual progress we've made as a society. But, in that essay, there remains a vagueness which I must address. It will conclude a "trilogy of thought" and will bring the discussion to a logical ending by looking deeper at the problem.

For me, however, the thought-process is never-ending regarding this issue. I've spent three sleepless nights mulling over the issues that our country faces. And, like Hamilton, I find no greater satisfaction than thinking and writing about my cause.

As a result, I am going to be creating a new blog that will tackle a project that I believe is worthwhile. I will elaborate more upon my intentions in the new blog itself. It will be a private blog, and the only people who will be able to read and participate are those who have been invited. Everyone who is a follower of The Speechwriter at this time has an open invitation to join my new blog if you are interested in being a part of it.

Please email me at if you wish to be invited. I have to send an invitation request to you in order to make this happen.

In that blog, I will open up discussion so that you can give me feedback on what I write. Your feedback is important to me because the essays I will be writing are hopefully going to be published as a collection. What greater way to approach a publisher than with the statement that the essays have been peer-reviewed. This is why I do not wish to make it a public document.

There is never any guarantee that a publisher will accept a project. However, what motivates me is the relevancy of the issues I will be discussing. Listening to the radio and news, you will see that the topic is at the heart of debate among many people. As a citizen of the United States, I believe it is well within my right to make my case. And as an educated person who understands the issues we face, I believe it is my responsibility.

I hope to hear back from some of you regarding your desire to participate.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

For the Few, By the People

On Thursday, I wrote what I consider to be the most important essay of my life. I was listening to the news while driving to my health club, and the three stories I discussed made the headlines. It took a while for it all to sink in, but as I was soaking in the jacuzzi, I felt my blood pressure go up, and I became slightly nauseous. Those stories haunted me, and I could not shake them loose from my head. I had to do something -- anything. Instead of keeping it inside, I got out of the hot tub, dried off, and marched to my car where I wrote on my laptop. I know it was not an award-winning essay. I wrote in stream-of-consciousness, and I hacked it out in less than twenty minutes before posting it to The Speechwriter.

Its importance lay not in the writing itself, but of its ideas. For me, it was therapeutic. For Sherry, it was a surprise. Like her, most people who know me never knew that I cared about Government. The truth is, for years, I have bottled up so many concerns and emotions about the state of our country. And being in a writing slump for over ten years, I have not put forth any effort to communicate those feelings to any audience. Neither, I might add, have I talked about them beyond vague conversations around an election. On Thursday, though, I found myself willing to let it go. Some of the pressure that has welled inside over the years was released, and for a few hours, I felt great.

I am deeply troubled by the direction our leaders have taken us over the past fifty years. In particular, the past twenty years seem to show that the United States of America is in a tail spin. And over the past eight years, it even feels like we may have even crashed. To me, the future looks bleak unless something changes, and I do not feel comfortable with Obama's direction. This is not simply a political-reaction. I do not feel secure that either party is prepared to lead us toward a better future.

My fears are also not a result of a troubled economy, a two-front war, or a change of leadership. Those recurrences are part of the ebb and flow of all nations. While times are tough, they do not lend themselves to my bleak outlook. The problem as I see it is much more difficult to define, but it speaks to the heart of the identity of our country. In many ways, I believe we are facing some of the very issues that Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, and Jay faced in the 1780's. But this time, instead of seeking to unify a nation of states under one government and people, we are moving in the opposite direction towards separatism for the benefit of a few.

In doing so, our Constitution, the central group of ideas that shape our country, is under attack. Our form of government, a Republican Government, is under attack. And our economic philosophy, Capitalism, is under attack. The difficulty of seeing these assaults is due to the fact that they have been carried out over a fifty-year time span. And the enemy is us, not an outside threat. What were once small changes to our government have now evolved into a shift of identity. We have moved, slowly but surely, so far away from the original intentions of our founding fathers that I would dare say they would not recognize that which they created.

We are not a true Democracy. We are a Republic, and the Republic is bound to the Constitution and Bill of Rights, giving us a workable democratic system. The intentions of the founding fathers were written in those documents as a reaction to an overbearing monarchical rule. But they were also reacting to corruption, special interest groups, and to overwhelming foreign interference in the affairs of the young government. Instead of a continual improvement within this framework, though, we find ourselves, 200 years later, moving towards an acceptance of that which they fought against. We have an elite who rule with the bullying attitudes of monarchs, we have a Congress that is corrupt to the core, taking money from special-interest groups without remorse, and we have joined to the hip, if not mortgaged ourselves to, foreign nations. The result is a leadership who make decisions, not for the betterment of the people as a whole, but for the benefit of the few.

It would be impossible to dive into the details of our backward spin in one essay. It took eighty plus essays for Hamilton and others to outline their new philosophy of government in The Federalist Papers. It will take many more essays and discussions to make an impact today. The problem is, however, that no one wants to take up the fight. Or, if they do, they know the ramifications of fighting the status quo. This corruption goes far beyond the walls of Congress. It carries over to the media who give Congress this power and who protect its members by silencing dissension and propagating its ideas. The only people who can force a change are The People, and I find it sad to say that The People have become so lazy, so complacent, and so ignorant that they have lost the power that they once held at the founding of this country.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Propaganda Against the Constitution

I am going to do something different today than I had planned to do. I need to get something off of my chest. It is something that I think is important, and it does relate to propaganda. In fact, it is my fight against an effective propaganda campaign that has been on-going for the past twenty years. I've noticed a trend that has magnified itself over the past few weeks, and frankly, it angers me.

We all know that Californians voted against gay marriage earlier this month when they struck down Proposition 8. Now, and I want to be abundantly clear here, I am not making a statement of whether or not I'm for or against this right. That is not the point of my rant, so I want to make sure that you understand this. However, what bothers me is that the people voted, and at least for another year or two, this law should stand. Over the past few weeks, though, politicians and gay rights advocates have fought back and are taking this into the court system. The mayor of San Francisco has basically said the public should not be making these decisions -- that laws should be decided by those who are more capable of making them. And they are going to get the law overturned. Since when did this become a country of the elite? Since when was the law of the land not the law of the people? Californians, as citizens of their state, spoke up and declared that they did not see this as a right California should grant. And whether or not you or I agree with this vote, it should stand because it was a statement of that citizenry. But that doesn't matter anymore, does it? We live in a time when the minority of the land wields more power than the majority. We live in a time where the public has to bow down to the whims of some social elite who oversees the "best interest" of the "ignorant" public. We live in a time when minority opinions trump the majority.

Perhaps this violation of our system wouldn't have bothered me as much if it had not been coupled with the E-Harmony lawsuit that was just settled. E-Harmony, a private company, has just been forced to include match-making services for gay couples. The owners of E-Harmony, who are Christian couple, had to face closure of their business or violate their belief-system and settle on a losing case. How is it that a private company can be forced by the court system to offer any service? I do not, for the life of me, understand how this can be legal. At no point did E-Harmony discriminate against gay people. They just did not offer a dedicated service for them. No equal rights laws were violated. I would understand it so much more if this was a service offered by the government. But a private company? Come on! What's next? Are we going to force WalMart to have a Big and Tall department in every store just because bigger people want to buy their clothes there? No! You need Big and Tall, you go to another store! That is what capitalism is all about. Do you believe that gay match-making companies will now be forced to offer straight-people match-making? Government has no right dictating this, and I want everyone to think of the ramifications. If you own a business, beware.

Add to this the fact that the Fairness Doctrine is about to be reinstated, and you have a mini-coup. The Fairness Doctrine is the government's way of denying free speech, and it is targeted at dissenting opinion. There is not an expert of free speech in this country who doesn't admit that it is targeting conservative radio. And the fact of the matter is, they are going to shut down conservative talk shows without doing a single thing to equalize opinions on the major networks and print media. That's not my opinion; it is the opinion of most authorities on this subject. So, what we are going to end up with is a press that has no checks and balances. We will hear one side of the story, and only one side of the story. There will be no dissenting opinion.

If I am neither conservative nor liberal, why do these things make me angry? Because, no matter what you believe, you should all stand up for the Constitution. We should be given the right to say whatever we want to say and in any venue. No one has to agree with us, but it is our right to voice our opinions. If we have an ignorant opinion, then let the people judge us and not listen anymore. The people of the land should be given the right to decide which laws they want to abide by without having an elite intelligentsia tell them how to live. That is the philosophy that this country was founded upon. Private companies should be able to offer the services that they want to offer without being forced to meet every demand they are confronted with. That is their right as a merchant.

Disregarding political views, because both Republican and Democratic parties are part of this problem, and disregarding lean, because both conservatives and liberals are part of this problem, it is evident that we are seeing a change in this country for the worst. I am not here to make a moral statement about gay rights or conservative radio. I am not here to give opinion as to whether or not companies should do one thing or another. It doesn't matter if I believed gays should have the right to marry. And it doesn't matter if I think E-Harmony really should offer services it doesn't offer. And it doesn't matter if I do not like Rush Limbaugh. What matters, though, is the Constitution, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and freedom to run your business your own way. If Californians made a mistake, let it be overturned during the next election. If E-Harmony made a mistake, let their business fail. If conservative talk shows say extreme things, let their ratings shut them down, but don't ever let government violate the most sacred institution we have, our constitution.

We are at a delicate point in this country. We have turned full-circle from the basic elements that drove our ancestors to rebel against monarchy. These rights, these freedoms, the Constitution, were created because our founding fathers could no longer tolerate suppression and elite rule. The very things that they defined as important to a Republic are now being overturned. Call it what you may, but there is no doubt in my mind that we are, right now, nothing more than a puppet democracy -- a democracy on paper, but not in practice. And as a student of propaganda for a long time, I will tell you that I see the wave of Socialism approaching, and it is coming in the form of a Tsunami.

Do you want direct comparisons? Educate yourself by looking at how the Nazis took power in Germany. They were not the conservative party, mind you. They were the liberal party. Take a look at the French and Spanish Socialist parties. Take a look at Marxism. We are much closer to any of these in practice than we are with the principles this country was founded upon.

Again, this is not a commentary about specific issues, but it is a warning about implementation of these issues and bullying. I would be saying the same thing if these issues revolved around gun-rights and liquor laws. The fact is, we cannot allow decisions to be made that violate the very thing that makes America great!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Effective Propaganda: Rallies, Speeches, Fireworks

Today, I would like to talk about the Obama campaign and how it used effective propaganda to effectively win the hearts of millions of Americans. Note that I did not include "minds" in that sentence. Certainly, a few documentaries have proven that his spell on the American public was not about issues but about perceptions, and Obama supporters were woefully behind McCain supporters in terms of knowledge of the issues. The fact, however, is that effective propaganda isn't about educating the masses. It is about exciting the emotions. And that is exactly what his campaign did.

Before I dive into my take on the "Obama Nation," let me state that what I say has nothing to do with politics or political lean. Whether you are so far to the left that you are about to fall into the pit of Hell, or that you are so far to the right that you, too, are about to fall into the pit of Hell, makes no difference. This is simply a look at the campaign, the speaker, and the propaganda. Please keep that in mind as you read.

Obama ran the perfect campaign. True to the ideals of effective propaganda, his campaign did everything correctly. We have not seen this kind of campaign in a long time. In fact, I'm not sure that we have ever seen this kind of politicking in the United States. The fact that he used every rhetorical tool in the bag, and his campaign was managed like an infantry corps, has brought both applause and criticism. His supporters claim that he was brilliant, and detractors hearkened back to similarities with the Nazi revolution. Either way, no matter what you think about him or his policies, it must be recognized that he mastered the art of propaganda.

I want to take a look at the elements of his campaign that created the reaction that it did. None of this happened by accident, and he led a well-planned effort that was choreographed like a Broadway musical. It was a marvelous site to see from those who are interested in such things.

To begin with, the Obama camp controlled the media. I know that this sounds like the whining of the Republican party, but let's face it, the media is liberal, and it was obvious that they wanted Obama to win. On the surface, it doesn't matter who the Democratic candidate is. If someone is running against a Republican, the media is going to support that person; however, with the Obama campaign, there was a different energy than just blind support. He had the media eating out of his hand. Stories that he wanted told were told. Issues that he wanted covered were covered. Pictures that he wanted taken were taken. There was no question that he managed the press like a CEO of ABC. He owned them, and they loved every minute of it. On any given day, it was difficult to find the least amount of criticism of Obama, but it was easy to find dirt on McCain or Palin. Again, I'm not griping about this at all. It's a testament to the fact that he was able to control his message which is what great propagandists do.

Secondly, he was a master of setting the stage. Take a look at famous political rallies, and they all have common attributes: large crowds, unified chanting, colorful backdrops, image worship, music, and theatrics. Obama's first decision when he won the Democratic nomination was perhaps his most important. Instead of electing to hold town hall meetings throughout the United States, he chose to hold mass rallies in stadiums. McCain did the opposite. Who stood out as being fresher and more interesting? Certainly, Obama did. His rallies were a mixture of rock star concert and Nuremberg. I'm sorry to make that allusion, but I cannot help it. Again, I am not talking about the man or the message. I'm talking about the show. It is a fair comparison, and there is nothing wrong with what he did in this regard. In fact, I view it as good because it was effective.

How did his rallies go? To begin with, one or two speakers introduced him. Their speeches were short and very emotional. Their job was to warm the crowd up and get the emotional energy moving upward. They used key words that were followed by shouts and chants. He had key supporters mixed in with the crowd whose job it was to encourage those mass shouts as well. That made for good television, and it brought the crowd to a frenzy. Just before he was brought on stage, the lighting would be dimmed, and music with rhythmic drum beats would proceed. And when he walked on stage, fireworks would go off behind him. By the time he got to the podium, everyone in that stadium was a fever-pitch. This is, my friends, effective propaganda.

His speeches were another part of the whole puzzle. He delivered speeches that were full of rhetorical devices. He spoke like a minister in a pulpit. His voice carried high and low, and his words were full of imagery. He repeated himself over and over, trying to get key slogans to resonate in the minds of the audience. His words were more than words. They were word pictures, and people could visualize what he was saying which is very important in an emotionally excited environment. At any point in his speech, the adrenaline was so high in the auditorium that it mattered not what he said. And those who were a part of the experience likened it to an orgy of ideas and emotions that will leave a mark on them forever.

On the campaign trail, his message was simplified into simple slogans that were repeated over and over. He propagated them, and the media and his organization continued to force-feed it to America. His name was synonymous with change. His rallying cry was "Yes, we can." His enemy was all things Bush. These three things drove the arrow through McCain's heart. He could not overcome the onslaught. Americans, over time, began to believe one thing: the Republicans have led us badly, we need change, and Obama can turn us around if we support him.

This support system, too, was "propagandistic." He had two types of people following him. Those recruited as supporters, and those who were followers. The followers were a subset of people whose job it was to recruit supporters. Indoctrination, therefore, was grassroots, and a system of indoctrination spread from town to town, person to person. The emotion of the rally fueled the tenacity of the followers who worked the communities for him spreading his message.

There is no doubt as to the effectiveness of his propaganda. He had youth choirs singing his praises, movie makers were filming documentaries about him, musicians were writing songs about him, and teachers were lecturing about him.

With all of this said, the most important aspect that proves the effect of his propaganda is not what was preached in his name, but what was left out. His efficiency at hiding his past, his clever dodging of questionable associations, his turning the tables against those who opposed him -- these are all the hallmarks of effective propaganda. It is true that he had the largest number of supporters who did not even know the issues. A study was conducted which stated that over 40% of those who voted for him did not even know which party controlled the House or Senate. 95% of them, however, did know which party had an official who spent $150,000 on clothing.

I want to end this by, once again, reaffirming my neutrality. I am neither for nor against him. I really enjoy, though, breaking down his very effective propaganda. I think it was a two-year work of art on his part, and it will be admired for years to come.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Of Mouse and Men and Governments

Yesterday, I took a look at the importance of propaganda as it relates, not only to government, but also to business. Like I said, propaganda is not a bad thing. It has received a lot of negative attention because of associations with people or organizations that have had immoral policies, but overall, it is essential to society's maintaining some sense of order. And for companies, it is essential to developing and maintaining a customer base.

Since I told everyone that I was going to reveal who I think is the best propagandist today, I've received several emails from readers letting me know who they think the greatest propagandists are. I want to take a minute to go over those nominees before I let you know who I think deserves kudos. Here are your nominees:

1. Ronald Reagan: While President Reagan did make his mark with his efforts towards bringing down the Iron Curtain, and he certainly had his fair share of notable speeches, I don't think he's the greatest propagandist. He was certainly part of an agenda that the United States had developed since the 1950s, and he had the honor of being the President who was in charge when the Soviet regime began to lose its power. However, the United States' propaganda was a collective effort among several presidents and officials, so he cannot be given all of the credit. He was a good speaker, but not a great speaker. As we progress over the next few weeks, I'll certainly go about defining what a great speaker really does to make him/her great.

2. Joseph Goebbels: Certainly, I've mentioned Goebbels in past blogs as being the main culprit behind the negative impression of the word "propaganda." Goebbels, despite himself, was a brilliant propagandist. I really hate mentioning his name because of the terrible things that he and Hitler did, but to ignore it is to be doomed to repeat history. I believe studying Goebbels' methods helps us prevent it from ever happening again. Even though he was so successful, he does not get my vote. He did not create something out of nothing. You see, Germany was primed for someone to lead them. They were suffering a great depression, and they were being punished by the world for World War I. Struggling to find an identity, they were able to find one through the Nazis, and Goebbels took that opportunity and expounded upon it.

3. John F. Kennedy: President Kennedy was a good speaker, no doubt. My biggest problem is that he did not have time to really do anything substantial. He did awake and excite America, and he had a vision that could have turned into something spectacular, but I do not see him as being a great propagandist. Vision is one thing -- making it happen is what propaganda really is.

4. Martin Luther King, Jr.: A great orator. In fact, he goes down as being one of the finest public speakers of the 20th century from a rhetorical point of view. His message was potent, and he led his people exceedingly well. However, I cannot cast my vote for Dr. King. Why? Because he was fighting for a cause, and his cause was to unite and make America a land of equal opportunity. In doing this, his focus was on his followers, and he gave them a voice. This is different than propaganda.

These four people were, in their own right, leaders and shakers. But as you see, propaganda is much more than being that. Technically, propaganda is defined as welding the opinions of people. Moreover, it is creating a large "T" Truth out of a small "t" truth. In other words, propaganda is making a perception into reality for people. From a business perspective, propaganda is the art of creating a following and growing that following while maintaining all of the followers. Brand then becomes part of a person's or country's identity.

That being said, I nominate Walt Disney as the greatest propagandist of all time. Now, this isn't scientific, and it is my educated opinion. However, Disney did some things that no one listed above could do: He built something out of nothing, he created a following, he created an identity, and he maintained that following and identity well after his death. In his pursuit of building an empire, he used every rhetorical device in the book getting his message out there, and he converted the minds of millions of people world-wide into accepting Mickey Mouse as the purveyor of all things good and fun. If you get a chance, read his biography. What he did was amazing, and the Disney Company still stays true to its message to this day. Name one other company, government, or organization that has become synonymous with its own message. Name something that has been as effective at luring new followers. Name something that has ingrained itself into the psyche of people all over the world more effectively. You won't be able to find anything equal to Disney. The Disney model is one to aspire to from a rhetorical perspective, and that is why Walt Disney gets my vote.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Propaganda" is not a Naughty Word

All of this talk recently about propaganda and persuasion made me think back to my days in graduate school. During my second year of studies, I was offered a job analyzing the Mississippi State University catalog. This is the catalog sent out to potential students in an attempt to get them to apply to college there. My job was to look at the catalog and determine what message the university was sending to potential students and then make suggestions to refine that message to better meet the university's goals.

The first thing I did was contact the Media Director of MSU to find out some important information. For example, I wanted to know the demographics of potential students (gender, age, race, income, etc.). All of this data is important in determining "message" as it relates to "audience." I also wanted to know a little about the current student body, history of the university, and what image the university wanted to project.

What I expected to be a twenty minute phone call turned into an hour-and-a-half. Apparently, MSU was going through a transition of sorts. Let's call it an image identity crisis. Studies they had conducted the prior year showed that their image declined outside the state of Mississippi, and that many students from out of state were not considering it as a possible alternative.

I was given many reasons why the school had such a poor reputation, and I was told that they wanted to confront those issues in all literature and media. They were starting with their student catalog, and they wanted to ensure that everything in the catalog supported their new image.

I'm not going to take time to go through that project. It was an interesting experience, and for the first time, I was able to put my rhetorical training to work. Not only was I looking at the writing to determine the actual message, but I was looking at photographs and graphics as well. It didn't take long before I realized that rhetoric and propaganda are one in the same. In reality, what I was doing was verifying that the message conformed to the propaganda of the institution.

After writing about propaganda last week, and after thinking about this particular project, I began to think about the relationship of the speechwriter and propagandist. We don't use the word propagandist anymore since it has become a naughty word, but it dawned on me that speech writing and propaganda are joined at the hip. Furthermore, propagandists still exist, but we have replaced that job title with many different words depending upon what industry you work in. For corporate entities, propagandist is Marketing Director. For political campaigns, propagandist is Campaign Manager. In the government, Propagandist is many things, but I associate it mostly with Press Secretary than anything else.

Speech writing has become such a specialized field. Insofar as it applies to politics and government, this is a new phenomenon. Writers of speeches in the past used to be the people who ran propaganda for a party. Speeches were a component of the total propaganda message, albeit a very important component. Propagandists were the most powerful people of their given institution as they controlled and created information, developed the image, and ensured acceptance of the message by their audience.

The idea of such a powerful person eroded during the Cold War (in the United States) because there was fear that one person had so much power. The role was sliced into segments and given to multiple people to carry out. The result was that the "power" of propaganda was lost. Too many people with too many ideas could never synchronize correctly. As a result, it has become a lost art.

Motivating me, however, was the Obama campaign. This was the first time in quite a while where the United States has seen successful, coordinated propaganda in effect. Everything out of the propaganda playbook was used and used effectively. It was fresh and exciting.

But politics isn't the only place where old-school propaganda can be useful. Businesses struggle every day to achieve an identity, or at least the perceived identity of its customers. With so much competition, a stable, coordinated campaign is effective. Note, however, that I say "stable." The problem with businesses today is their constant re-defining of themselves and multiple image adjustments. GM and Ford, for example, prove this. Over the past thirty years, how many changes have they made to their image and message? Please understand, however, that I am not stating that businesses should not respond to the times and their environment. But change of that nature does not need to affect the message and direction. Alterations to how that message is conveyed can be changed, but not the message. That is, if the business wants a dedicated following. GM and Ford have changed their message multiple times, and as a result, have lost their direction and their following.

To me, the problem with business is simple to define. What I find disappointing is the fact that the people running the "propaganda" campaigns for businesses are MBAs who do not know one thing about message, persuasion, and rhetoric. They know numbers and advertising, but they don't understand how it works. Therefore, they're open to change anything and everything when the numbers don't work out like they want. This is a mistake.

I think that it is important to reintroduce "propaganda" as good and necessary. Of course, I'm speaking not to the public here, but to the people who benefit from organized persuasion. If I were on the public's side, of course, I would probably argue the opposite. No one wishes to be led down any path without their willing consent. But, in reality, what I am proposing adheres to "willing consent." The only way to succeed in propaganda is to do it unknowingly. Trying to force the issue won't work. It's a subtle art when done well, and doing it well is a rarity these days. In my opinion, though, if we don't start doing it well, we are going to lose those things we hold so dear -- our unity, our economic strength, and our national identity. Every day we fail to lead is another day that another country or company will lead. A fickle public is too susceptible to think for themselves, and we don't want the other "somebodies" doing it for them.

Over the next week, I will be looking at this in more depth. Tomorrow, I will look at history's greatest propagandist. On Wednesday, I want to look at the Obama campaign. Thursday, I will take a look at both the Democratic and Republican parties to see their general direction. Friday, I'll take a look at business practices. Of course, on Saturday, it will be mailbag day.

I know the tone of today's article is more mellow than some of last week's posts. However, I believe a serious look at propaganda is necessary to fully understand how to recognize it and use it for our own benefit.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Well, it's Saturday morning, and here in Maryland, it is cloudy, humid, and misty with a sticky breeze blowing wet leaves all over my yard. Our neighbors were going to come over and have a leaf-blowing party, but the weather did not cooperate. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day for that! I love living in the woods except for the few weeks prior to Thanksgiving when nothing seems to stay free from fallen foliage! Leaves are everywhere, from the far corners of the garage to our Golden Retriever's belly, and it makes quite the mess.

I am really happy with the response so far for The Speechwriter. I was expecting this inaugural week to be fairly low-key with the exception of the meanderings from friends and family. Much to my surprise, I was wrong! I appreciate all of the emails with your questions, suggestions, and comments. Keep them coming!

Because of the response, I have decided to dedicate the last posting of every week to your questions and comments. I'll call this "The Mailbag." Here's what you had to say this week:

I ran across your blog at XING and thought it was good. I've always been a fan of speech writing. I had never heard of Gorgias until I read your posts so I did some research. Is it true he always wore purple? If so, why? -- Carl, Chicago

Thanks for taking the time to email me, Carl. I hope you do enjoy the blog, and I will try to keep it interesting. Yes, Gorgias did wear purple. In fact, it was -- oh, how do I put it -- his thing. He spent a lot of money importing his tunics and robes from Phoenicia to get the purple dye, and he always wore purple when he spoke. There has been a lot of speculation as to why he did this. Some scholars think that it was because he wanted to appear "royal." After all, purple was the color of royalty then. I think that might be part of the reason, but I believe it had more to do with his views on oratory. You see, flamboyant colors are the best way to keep the audience's attention on you as a speaker. Purple clothing set him apart from everyone else, and I believe it was just another component of his philosophy. It was purposeful, and it worked. As well, it fits right into his belief that an orator should be "poetic," and purple robing was his poetic fashion statement.

Good work so far! I'd like you to add some of your personality into your writing. Be great to know a little about your life. -- Susan, Cottage Grove

Thanks, Susan, for your feedback. I had been wondering if I should do that, and it looks like I erred on the wrong side! I will try to start every posting with some personalization. I agree that it is important. The goal of the speechwriter is to keep his/her personality out of the speech for the speaker's sake. But this isn't a speech, is it?

I'm writing a report for my Social Studies class on propaganda. I saw your blog when I was doing some research. Can you help me out? -- Allie, Ft. Lauderdale

Allie, I appreciate your asking me for help. It's such a broad topic, and I don't know any of the requirements for your paper. The biggest advice I could give you is to make sure you use primary sources -- books and scholarly journals -- for your paper, and make sure that you cite those sources. From a general point of view, I would offer you the suggestion to keep it general and really define propaganda and how its been used in, say, the 20th Century. There's some very good examples of use and abuse of it, especially around WWII. In fact, you could look at propaganda in WWII as used by Goebbels, Churchill, and Roosevelt. Or, you could look at the U.S.'s role in propaganda during the Cold War. Those are just a few examples. Good luck!

How do you become a speechwriter? -- Tara, Wisconsin

Wow, a lot of emails from the Mid-West! Thanks, Tara, for your question. This is not an easy one to answer because anyone with the desire to write speeches for a living can do it if they are interested in writing, write somewhat well, and like to do research. I am a big proponent of education, and most speechwriters have at least a post-graduate degree. That doesn't mean you can't do it with just a bachelor's degree, but those folks are few and far between these days. You actually hit a nerve with me because I was having this very discussion with a colleague the other day. It seems that a lot of the newer speechwriters are coming into the profession with a MFA in Creative Writing. That bothers me. Speech writing is so much more than writing creatively, and it requires much more insight and understanding of communication than does the ability to write a haiku. Personally, I think people with a background in Rhetoric write the most effective speeches. And if you can find someone who has that background and couple it with the ability to write creatively, then you have the makings of a wonderful speechwriter!

Great job and great website, by the way. Just one question. Why don't you have any examples of speeches posted? -- Harvey, Washington, D.C.

Thank you for your question, Harvey. Unlike speechwriters who work full-time for the White House, I write speeches for those people who do not need a staff speechwriter. In most cases, these individuals prefer that no one knows they did not write the speech. But, whether it's because they do not have time to write speeches for themselves, or they do not feel comfortable doing it, they hire me. To reassure them of their privacy, I include anonymity clauses for all contracts. This prohibits me from being able to publish the speech.

That's it for this week. Again, I appreciate all the feedback. Please keep it coming. If you have questions or comments, just email me at I'll be sure to address them in "The Mailbag."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Power of Persuasion Through Repetition

If you're a politician, a business person, or even a parent, pay attention -- I'm going to pass along a very important tidbit that could change your life. No, The Speechwriter isn't going "Oprah" on you, but there is a potent propaganda principle which I want to share with you, and if you read on, you'll see how it can bring change -- "Yes we can!" (I'll come back to this statement later).

And, yes, you read it correctly. I used the word, "propaganda." But let me tell you, my friends, it's not a bad thing -- all things in life are propaganda! Politicians use propaganda to sucker us into supporting their programs. Businesses use propaganda to sucker us into purchasing products. And parents use propaganda to sucker their kids into picking up after themselves. It's everywhere, and we should learn to respect, rather than fear, the word.

Let's begin with a little background. It became a dirty little word in the 1930s when a weird little man in Germany named Joseph Goebbels became the master of propaganda. What the masses attribute to the twisted genius of Hitler, speechwriters and rhetoricians give due-credit to Goebbels. It was Goebbels who took the propaganda banner and ran full-force with it . Unfortunately, he ran the wrong way and turned what was once a noble art into a despised concept. However, under Goebbels, Hitler was able to stir Germany into a frothing, fevered, frenzy, hypnotically forcing its citizens to be willing participants in his evil plans.

Prior to the Nazi's, however, before the club-footed Goebbels wrote his very first speech, propaganda wasn't such a bad word.

Propaganda is essentially the method of moving masses to a particular point of view. Perhaps it's just another word for rhetoric (although I take umbrage with that simplification), and the overriding goal is to persuade people using multiple manipulative methods. For instance, a good propaganda campaign would saturate the senses through television, radio, and print, all with one simple purpose: get you to believe what you hear.

It really isn't very complicated, and it's a lot of fun to do if you are so inclined. You see, true power rests not with the leaders of a country, but with those who manipulate the country for the leaders. Ask Putin. He'll tell you. Hitler too, if he weren't busy burning in hell. And, believe it or not, President Bush also benefited from savvy staff who set the stage for him post-9/11. I would also make the same case for President-Elect Obama's campaign.

There are so many elements to effective propaganda and persuasion. None of it happens by chance, mind you, and everything you hear out of any capital these days is crafted by those propaganda artists. We are no exception here in the United States either. I know there are those who would like to believe our democracy is free from psychological manipulation, and there are even more people who believe they are immune to it due to their vast intelligence. The facts, however, prove the opposite, and the only way to combat influence over our minds is to understand it and its historical role in shaping the world for good or bad.

The key issue, at least for the purposes of what I'm talking about, are the words "good" or "bad." You see, propaganda is a neutral concept. Leaders can use it to do very bad things. Nazi Germany, for example, was fueled by Goebbels' mastery of it. On the other hand, switch sides to the "good" guys, and you'll still see that propaganda drives the best intentions of honorable people. For example, Hillary Clinton used propaganda in her attempt to seek support for health-care reform. Al Gore used propaganda to push for ecological responsibility. George Bush used propaganda to strengthen our nation's defense after 9/11. And recently, Barrack Obama used propaganda to promote change.

At its core, effective propaganda, no matter what its purpose, shares one thing, and I have to return to Goebbels for the best definition of it:

The truth is that which most people believe. And they believe that which is repeated most often.

Aha! Now you know the secret! Rhetoricians always return to this one core principle whenever they have something they really need you to believe in. Repetition is the most powerful tool in their toolbox. It comes before anything else in a well-crafted speech, and it is the overriding component in all things persuasive. The person who has the ability to focus upon the one important issue and the patience to deliver that same message over and over will succeed in their objective!

Once again, if you've read my posts before, you'll know that I have stated that all rhetoric and all speech writing goes back to Gorgias and his Trillema. And here we are again with Goebbels essentially quoting Gorgias. Truth, as a whole, just does not exists. Perception of truth does, and that perception is molded by propaganda through repetition!

We only have to look back a few weeks ago to see repetitive propaganda in action. Obama's campaign ran on the platform of change. How many times did we hear the word "change" come from Obama's mouth? How many of his posters, emails, text messages, and advertisements promoted change? Before it was said and done, he had convinced a large majority of the world that HE WAS CHANGE, and he won the election based upon that promise. Again, there's nothing wrong with his use of propaganda in this matter. Nonetheless, it was crafted to produce the results that he wanted -- deep, emotional belief in him as an agent of change.

Bush did the same thing after 2001. In order to engage the population to support his war in Iraq, his administration went on a media blitz promoting the "weapons of mass destruction" concept. WMD became the buzzword of 2001 and 2002, and through his campaign, he was granted authority to go to war with the support of the American people.

Let's look at the private sector now. Business leaders, do you want to sell more product? Then discover the concept that drives your product and repeat it until you're blue in the face! Advertisers know about repetition. Toyota, for example, has launched a massive repetitive campaign that has kept their sales up during a slow economic time. How? With their "Saved by Zero" ad program. Those three words are combined with a tune, and they preach to the hearts of those worried about the credit crunch. Toyota is basically saying, "We're here to save you. We are not stopping our credit. We are going to give you credit for free." And people are remembering, and people are buying. That's the power of repetition in propaganda!

Now, let's take it into our homes. Parents, do you want to teach you children core values and habits? We've all heard that it's about consistency. Break "consistency" down, and what you really have is repetition. If you want to teach children to keep their room clean, for example, consistent repetition of the concept will do the trick over time. Your unfailing guidance will become habit to them which will become belief. Before long, you will no longer have to remind them to do it. They will want to do it because it has been ingrained in their mentality and their very nature to be just what you've told them to be their entire lives.

There is so much to be learned from repetition and propaganda. From a socially-responsible perspective, I believe the only way to avoid tyranny is to understand the forces that lead to it. All tyranny begins with propaganda. And all propaganda uses repetition. If you understand how to recognize it, you can extract the message before being lured into being a soldier of the messenger.

The other side of understanding propaganda and repetition is when you are the messenger. Understand how to use it effectively, and it can make positive things happen for you. Simply put, it is your ticket to getting what you want from anyone who will listen to you.

As for me, the speechwriter, it's all about the message, the messenger, and the audience. What do I have to do to get my messenger's truth accepted as Truth by the masses? That is my only concern, and you, the masses, have to be on-guard that my messenger has your best interest in heart because I will be effective with my art.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Little on Gorgias...And My Philosophy as a Speechwriter

Yes, I know this is a speechwriting blog, and you have got to be wondering why in the world I would be writing about some guy named Gorgias. I just cannot help myself, though, because I am actually one of those writers who think that writing is more than typing words on my laptop. For me, it is an extension of who I am which directly affects the way I write and how I approach the art. So, to share with you my art, I feel the urge to get into my pulpit and preach the ways of Gorgias.

You cannot talk about Rhetoric without starting with Gorgias. 2,400 years ago, Gorgias was considered a rock star in Greece because he was the greatest speechwriter and orator anyone had ever heard. Stadiums were filled just to hear him speak, and people lined up to have him teach their children this very new art called Rhetoric. He was the man, and everyone knew his name. Even all the politicians begged him to write their speeches for them because they knew his speeches shaped public opinion. His words, it was said, changed the course of Greek history!

What made him so popular? Well, prior to his arrival in Athens, most speeches were dull, drab, and dignified. And long; like eight hours long. Gorgias had fresh ideas. He was not Greek, and he brought with him a tradition of storytelling that translated well to the stump. Instead of vomiting word after word of aristocratic garbage, he chose his words for the people, and he filled his speeches with poetic devices such as alliteration, rhyming, descriptive terminology, antithesis, metaphor, and cadence. People listened to what he said, and he used that to take them down a path of persuasive reasoning that wowed them. His audiences became enchanted, and they believed what he said and were moved to follow him.

There is no question why Gorgias likened speech to the virtues of medicine and love. To him, speech was as important as those two things, and maybe even more so since one speech can heal thousands of people of their ills at one time while medicine and love had to work one person at a time.

But confine Gorgias to only being a popular orator, and he would just be another flash in the pan that our history books would soon leave out. It was not his speeches that made him famous. It was his philosophy of speech and language that defined him through the ages. And it is this philosophy that I hang my hat on today, and is what drives my approach to writing, especially when I write a speech.

In his On Being, Gorgias described what we now call his Trillema. Basically, it states:

Nothing Exists;
If Existence Existed, We Could Not Know It;
If Existence Existed, and We Knew It, We Could Not Communicate It To Others.

Do not think about it too much, or it will blow your mind away. He was not getting wacky with this because you have to look at it from a speechmaker’s perspective. He was not saying that we do not physically exist. I mean, that would be bizarre, and I would not be a disciple of the man if that were the case! What he was driving home, though, is that the public is a fickle bunch of folks. We are. You have to admit that. And fickle as we are, we can be persuaded to change our minds about anything.

Say it ain’t so, Joe!

But it is true. The idea, Nothing exists, means that there is nothing that we hold dear to ourselves that is a tall T Truth. The fact that you may believe the Republicans speak the truth does not mean they do. Your neighbor may think the Democrats speak the truth. Therefore, there is no tall T truth to be had. It is all perception. Your perception and my perception! Perception (and all things) is defined by our minds, and being that we all have different minds, we all have different truths. They should be called small t truths.

Different truths mean that we are not set firmly in our belief system: meaning that we can be persuaded to see things differently, meaning that we can be encouraged to throw away one belief to accept another belief, meaning that we may believe one thing today and, if new information emerges, believe something different tomorrow.

This thought-process was AND is radical, and it fostered a host of philosophical theories such as Post-Modernism, Humanism, and even the belief system of Nietzsche. In fact, Gorgias’ philosophy is the basis for the acceptance of regional dialects and colloquialism in the United States’ English curriculum. What a guy, this Gorgias! In explaining why his speeches worked so well, he hit on something very big about our psyche. He defined his audience, and it gave him freedom and flexibility to experiment with new ways of preaching his message.

To him, the best way to bring someone from one opinion to another was to capture their heart and wow them with beautiful words and well-focused arguments. Engage them to listen to what he said, and to say things powerfully without having to spend four hours making the point. Images and poetics, in his opinion, made people see his argument much better than logical discourse. Hmm…. do we not have a politician today who bears the Gorgianic banner? I think so.

Eloquence was more important than grounded authority. An eloquent speaker could move the masses, while the authority could barely get a few experts to gather around. An eloquent speaker could punish the opponent with kindness while brutally beating him down without his knowing. And an eloquent speaker could speak on all things with authority without being the authority. Delivery and crafted poetics were the forces behind mass appeal, and the masses, he found, thirsted for his words and gulped them down while accepting his small t truths as their own.

So, as a speechwriter and speech enthusiast, I tip my hat to Gorgias. His teachings have been embraced by the greatest orators in history, and it is my goal to emulate his style in every speech that I write because I know his way is the best way to move the masses!

Sunday, November 9, 2008


I can't think of a more fitting way to start this blog off than by explaining how it all came about and what I plan to write about in the future. For anyone who is interested in Rhetoric and Speech, I think this will be an interesting journey!

Speechwriting has always been one of my passions. In fact, nothing motivates me like a good speech, and since good orators are few and far between in this multi-media society that we live in, I want to spend time really looking at oratory, speechwriting, and why it's becoming a lost art. And it is a shame that it's becoming a lost art because the importance of public speaking still exists especially within the political spectrum. But we'll get to those points later...

I have a MA in Rhetoric, and for the past twelve years, I have taught writing, directed writing centers at the collegiate level, and have published hundreds of articles and a couple of books. I am a Sophist at heart, not in the negative sense, but within the context that a good speech should be poetic and entrancing. A great orator should capture the hearts and minds of his/her audience, and said orator should persuade the audience towards a definitive opinion. Aside from our new President-Elect, this person just hasn't existed in the United States for a long time. That's why I'm so excited!

In addition, I have decided to break away from the struggles of full-time employment and seek my own way in this world as a full-time writer. My website is, and if I am lucky, I will be able to host this blog there. Although my focus is going to be on speechwriting, I also want to write in many other genres. I have posted many pre-final-edit samples of my work there as well.

Again, I look forward to this blog, and I hope that we can have fun exploring, not only speechwriting, but my life as a speechwriter!