The Elements of Rhetorical Discipline
- Part One
Part one follows directly.
Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. And since persuasion is a matter of prime importance, rhetoric must on no account be neglected, but rather, subjected to the requirements of a discipline. We are engaged in a contest for hearts and minds, and that is a critically important business which oughtn't be left to the random hazards of a mindless crapshoot. The way we go about saying, or not saying, what we choose say, or not say, will either float us or sink us.
Very well. The accomplished outcome of rhetorical discipline, if properly done, is to deprive your enemy of purchase in the zone of rhetorical operations -- and by that I mean any form of moral or intellectual traction that will allow him to make propaganda headway against you.The sum and substance of rhetorical discipline may be condensed into three simple words: minimize grappling points. Everything that follows in the present talk, will be a gloss upon this precept.
So, what is a grappling point? Let us come to grips with this. A grappling point is something that permits your enemy to get a handhold and swing you around, or get a foothold and climb over you. Either way, it negates you as an obstacle, and your enemy advances.
When we speak of grappling points in the art of rhetorical discipline we are, of course, talking about rhetorical grappling points. Let that be understood. So in rhetorical terms, a grappling point is anything in the form or content of your communication that gives your enemy an edge, an angle, an opening of any kind. Briefly, whatever permits your enemy to gain the offensive against you in either a tactical or strategic way.
Grappling points may be graded according to how much access they afford. A grappling point may be either strong or weak. A strong grappling point will give your enemy something to wrap his entire hand around. A weak grappling point will permit a fingerhold at best. If you present NO grappling points, or nearly none, this will make you an insurmountable object that can only be engaged upon its own terms.
People in desperate straits are known to clutch at straws. However, saving that one has no purpose but to grapple with straw, a straw is not a grappling point. So when you observe your enemy snatching at straws as if to gain a hold upon you, then you know you have done your work correctly.
The ideal of rhetorical discipline equates to a smooth, slick surface. Nothing in your words -- or very little -- should afford your enemy traction or purchase of any sort. This means that your enemy should find it nearly impossible to either turn the talk against you by appropriating the moral high ground, or to reframe the talk in a way that negates the force of your argument. In the war of words and ideas, be this in the social microcosm or the societal macrocosm, your enemy should feel trapped in a sunken lane with high, slippery, unscalable walls on both sides. That is what it means, to offer no grappling points to your enemy.
The practical application of this doctrine will be the subject of upcoming installments.