Austin Bay has a thoughtful essay posted over at Strategypage.com. The subject is the role of rhetoric in the political process.
Ancient Greek rhetoricians admired — and feared — powerful speakers who had the gift of emotional appeal and exhortation. My worn copy of “A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms” lists over 50 types of emotional appeals. From “amphidiorthosis” (“to hedge or qualify” a dangerous or bold position ) to “threnos” (a lament), thoughtful minds in the fourth century B.C. had analyzed every plea, supplication, ploy and gambit.
Yet there’s strong evidence a healthy democracy requires rhetorical showmanship and convincing verbal drama. (Hesoid argued that effective justice also requires it, since a ruling judge must persuade aggrieved parties justice has been served and not partisan interest.)
So Bay starts out by pointing out that artistic use of language is necessary for grand political debate, and that debate is necessary for democracy. He then uses recent remarks by Pat Robertson and Ted Kennedy as examples of how this process can go wrong.
Bayís essay is insightful and to the point, and I urge everyone to click the link and give it a read. But what struck me was the way that these incidents have been handled in the media. Both Robertsonís and Kennedyís remarks were hateful and should never have been uttered. I notice, however, that the press condemned Robertson while giving Kennedy a pass even though Kennedy was uttering actual lies while Robertson was merely expressing an opinion.
Why is this so?
The most obvious answer is that our mostly Left-leaning press is more distrustful and critical of religion than lies. It would appear that the most obvious answer is probably also the truth.
This sort of prejudice against religion isnít something confined to the 4th Estate. For the past 35 years Iíve been noticing that those with religious convictions and the organizations they devote their lives to have been treated with increasing contempt and scorn in popular culture. One example is a show that recently aired on television entitles The Book of Daniel.
The Book of Daniel is a new hour long drama on NBC that concerns the life of an Episcopal priest and his family. Four network affiliates have refused to air the program, causing reporters to claim that the reason for the refusal is that the priest has a gay son. So far as journalists are concerned, this must be the reason because everyone knows that anyone with religious convictions must hate homosexuals.
It would seem that a gay character is the least of the showís problems, as Bryan points out in his short review of the first episode. The very first hour portrayed illegal drug trafficking, statutory rape, embezzlement, a possible murder, and a Catholic priest with ties to the Mafia. Except for the Catholic priest, all of these disparate plot elements concern the title character’s immediate family.
Consider the last paragraph for a moment. This drama concerns a man who would never be able to gain the position of priest unless he had an exemplary personal life. If this is how the priest lives Iím sure that his flock is made up of serial killers and members of international drug cartels.
Iím hardly a religious man myself. In fact Iím about as far from it as you can get since I’m an affirmed agnostic. I suppose you could say that people like me are the target audience for this show but I can recognize prejudice, bigotry and contempt when I see it. Iíve been seeing it a great deal every time the professional media deals with organized religion.
PS Ginny mentioned in this post that she attends church, and I know sheís more qualified to discuss Austin Bayís essay. Maybe we can get her to leave a comment.
(HT to Scott for the link to Bryan’s review.)