Here is a brief history of rhetoric:
Since Homer in the 8th century BC, wisdom (‘sophos’) and skill were prized. The Sophists were originally itinerant poets and teachers who spread learning and culture wherever they found those ready to pay.
Being (or at least appearing) wise, the sophists were the effective lawyers and advised on governance and the new Athenian democracy. A rhetorical question is one which requires no answer, implying the wisdom contained within it.
Over time, the Sophists focused more on eloquent speech and rhetoric, making grand claims about their ability to answer all questions. This brought them up against ‘modern’ thinkers such as Socrates, who did not charge fees and Plato, who portrayed them as greedy instructors who used fallacious reasoning concealed in decorated language to deceive and to gain power. Aristotle also helped separate out philosophy as a separate school, leaving sophism as being largely about the techniques of rhetoric.
Popular opinion thus turned against the sophists and today ‘sophism’ means the use of deceptive argument, pulling on emotional strings rather than using rational logic, appearing smart rather than being smart…
The liberal art
Eloquent persuasion became a mainstay of the civilized intellectual as well as the courtier’s preferred mode of speech. From the Romans to the Middle Ages, rhetoric was taught as a liberal art alongside logic and grammar.
In the post-Roman period, rhetoric was limited to the writing of letters and sermons, though the verbal form picked up again through proselytizing. It only regained its former popularity in the Renaissance period.
Rhetoric thus became a mainstay of priests, lawyers, politicians, writers and all who would persuade, in particular those who addressed a wide audience. Today, there is hardly a persuasive field which is untouched by its methods.
From the Greek ‘rhetor’ who addressed juries to modern leaders who address global audiences, rhetoric is a indeed a powerful tool.
In our own time, few are as notorious for using flowery language (often devoid of coherent meaning) as leftists. Compensating for a dearth of substance or honesty in their arguments, leftists employ their superior mastery of the English language in order to impress the uneducated masses. They are not above hijacking words and phrases and giving them new, perverse, meanings. I am speaking, here, of leftist leaders, teachers and writers. Among the followers, the general rule is “if it sounds catchy, it must be true”. It must be annoying to them when conservatives, slow learners as they are, copy this tactic and come up with catchy sound-bites of their own.
Unfortunately, this diseased leftist jargon has become the default language of government and many large corporations. The blight is evident especially in the field of education. Blogger KDeRosa says it well:
The more “edu-jargon” a profession uses the less it has to say and the less usful it is to society. Compare the writings in a serious field like computer engineering which continues to pump out useful ideas and inventions and generally has made life better for all of us to the writings in any of the liberal arts which has failed to generate anything useful to society in the past 50 years at least.
While leftists use fancy language in order to fool us into thinking they have special insights, Muslims have used it to dazzle prospective converts:
Therefore, it was at that time, when eloquence and style of language were well developed that the Qur’an was revealed. As the prophet recited the Qur’an to the unbelievers of Makkah even these literary individuals could not fail to be impressed by it. Some people converted to Islam simply on hearing the beautiful verses – most famously Umar ibn al Khattab, who was one of the fiercest opponents of Islam converted to Islam upon reading the first verses of Surah Ta-Ha.
Leftist jargon is graceless and grotesque while Arabic poetry, at its finest, is harmonious and pleasing. Yet both can serve the same function.
It is odd that a warlike, misogynist people like the pre-Islamic Arabs could be heirs to a magnificent language like Arabic. But it was Arabic that served as a vehicle for a new religion that was destined to unify (at least for a while) that entire region. Of course all religions are spread through the clever use of language – but I’m curious if any other religions claim to have won converts merely through the beauty of its language, without even considering the content. Also it seems to me that some of those who convert to Islam do so partly because of its exotic allure – to which the Arabic language no doubt contributes.
Many have asked how it is that the left could be so fond of a religion which, on the surface, seems to embody the antithesis of everything it stands for. Perhaps, if we dig deeper, we would discover that they are not so different after all but two sides of the same coin. After all, they both demand subjugation and a one world government.