Put political rhetoric under the magnifying glass

17 June 2010

Politicians and interest groups vie for the attention and support of the audience and the media. Everyone wants to be seen and have their message heard. But for those listening, it is important to put on their rhetorical eyeglasses and critically examine what is being said.

“You always have to bear in mind just who is saying something, to whom, and why,” says Otto Fischer, a rhetoric researcher at the Department of Literature, Uppsala University.

We live in a society where the spoken word is becoming more and more important. Politics and rhetoric are closely related, as it is only when ideas and ideologies begin to be communicated that politics actually exists.

“There is a common misconception that rhetoric is the superficial part and politics the core. I would rather say that rhetoric and politics are basically about the same thing, but from different perspectives.”

And Swedish politicians are skilled rhetoricians who know how to present their message. That’s why it’s important for those listening to their messages to do so knowledgeably.

“With a basic knowledge of rhetoric, we have a better chance to participate in the democratic conversation,” says Otto Fisher.

But it is not worthwhile to devote your time to analyzing rhetorical details such as body language, metaphors, or tone of voice.

“What characterizes a good rhetorician is that the rhetorical expression, down to the smallest wagging of a finger, matches the message,” he maintains.