E15: How can we empower the truth of ordinary people? (w/ Dana Cloud)

What is reality? Or rather, whose version of reality is empowered in society? This week, Alex and Calvin discuss these and other questions with Dr. Dana L. Cloud, Professor of Rhetoric & Communication and Director of Graduate Studies at Syracuse University, and author of Reality Bites: Rhetoric and the Circulation of Truth Claims in U.S. Political Culture. In her book, Cloud argues that fact-checking and rational argumentation are not effective persuasion strategies, and she suggests other ways of responding to the rise of white nationalism in the Trump era. As a critic, Cloud adopts an approach called rhetorical realism: examining discourse from marginalized groups’ perspectives and experiences in order to introduce new realities and truths, legitimize them, and position them strategically in the public sphere.

The episode opens with a discussion of academic freedom, as we analyze a timely address given by conservative activist Ben Shapiro at the University of Pittsburgh the night prior to our recording. Shapiro’s speech exemplifies how the ideograph of <free speech> is opportunistically used against university administrators by the far-right. Our conversation then moves to what Cloud calls “the Big 5” rhetorical strategies — affect/emotion, embodiment, narrative, myth, and spectacle. In using these aspects of discourse, the Left can exhibit fidelity to the experiences of ordinary people and, potentially, build a mass movement for social justice. Finally, Cloud reminds us that while we have all of these ways and more to call audiences to action, we must be aware of the unavoidable ideological and material constraints of contemporary U.S. rhetorical situations.

Works and Concepts Cited in this Episode:

Brennan, T. (2014). The Transmission of Affect. Cornell University Press.

Butler, J. (2002). Gender Trouble. Routledge.

Cloud, D. L. (1996). Hegemony or concordance? The rhetoric of tokenism in “Oprah” Oprah rags‐to‐riches biography. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 13(2), 115-137.

Cloud, D. L., Macek, S., & Aune, J. A. (2006). "The Limbo of Ethical Simulacra": A Reply to Ron Greene. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 39(1), 72-84.

Cloud, D. L., & Thomas, R. K. (2011). We Are the Union: Democratic Unionism and Dissent at Boeing. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Cloud, D. L., & Feyh, K. E. (2015). Reason in Revolt: Emotional Fidelity and Working Class Standpoint in the “Internationale”. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 45(4), 300-323.

Cloud, D. L. (2018). Reality bites: Rhetoric and the Circulation of Truth Claims in U.S. Political Culture. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press.

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1988). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Edelman, M. (1988). Constructing the Political Spectacle. University of Chicago Press.

Fisher, W. R. (1985). The narrative paradigm: In the beginning. Journal of communication, 35(4), 74-89.

Fisher, W. R. (1986). Judging the Quality of Audiences and Narrative Rationality. Practical Reasoning in Human Affairs, 85-103.

Foucault, M. (2013). Archaeology of Knowledge. Routledge.

Fricker, M. (2007). Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford University Press.

Gramsci, A., & Hoare, Q. (1971). Selections from the prison notebooks (Vol. 294). London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Greene, R. W. (1998). Another materialist rhetoric. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 15(1), 21-40.

Hardt, M., & Negri, A. (2001). Empire. Harvard University Press.

Hedges, C. (2009). Empire of illusion: The end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle. Knopf Canada.

Kelly, C. R., & Hoerl, K. E. (2012). Genesis in Hyperreality: Legitimizing Disingenuous Controversy at the Creation Museum. Argumentation and Advocacy,48(3), 123-141.

McNally, M., & Schwarzmantel, J. J. (2009). Gramsci and Global Politics: Hegemony and Resistance. London: Routledge.

Paine, T. (1792). Common Sense: Addressed to the Inhabitants of America. Philadelphia: W. & T. Bradford. [Full text available online at: https://www.bartleby.com/133/]

From left to right: Calvin Pollak, Dana Cloud, &amp; Alex Helberg

From left to right: Calvin Pollak, Dana Cloud, & Alex Helberg

Alex Helberg