Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Invective: the Eric Alterman Example

To illustrate "Invective," a member of the family of rhetorical concepts to which Irony belongs, I offered the trailer to the upcoming film about Ralph Nader, An Unreasonable Man.

In the trailer, one Eric Alterman is portrayed, first, throwing invective -- sheer vituperaive abuse -- toward Mr. Nader: "Why don't you go and ruin another country? You've ruined this one [i.e. the U.S.A]" A characteristic of invective (as the trailer shows clearly) is that it reveals the person giving it to be bitter, petty-minded, sour, mean-spirited and perfectly disagreeable. Except where one is preaching to the choir, invective should be avoided by cultured and intelligent rhetors.

Mr. Alterman appears a second time in the trailer, and there he is exemplifying antiphrasis: "Thank-you Mr. Nader for the Iraq War; Thank-you Mr. Nader for destroying the environment; Thank-you Mr. Nader .... etc. etc."

The film's title, by the bye, is also antiphrastic: "A Unreasonable Man" invokes an ironic epigram by one of history's greatest ironists, Bernard Shaw:
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
In reality, that is, the reasonable are called unreasonable by the unreasoning: perhaps an Irony of Fate, or Cosmic Irony.


Adam Nowek said...

There's also the fact that Eric Alterman tends to make me ashamed to be left-wing. He's liberalism's equivalent of Ann Coulter.

Oops. Sometimes I forget not every class is about politics.

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

But every class can have some helpful political comment .... such as yours ;--)