On the front page of Yahoo!, I found a very interesting story. During an episode of The View, political commentator Bill O’Reilly provided a controversial statement concerning the mosque and the events surrounding the 9/11 attacks. Whoopi Goldberg and her colleague, Joy Behar, stormed off the stage claiming that his comments were so offensive that they “couldn’t sit here” on stage with O’Reilly (the video is posted in the link above). Afterward, Barbara Walters called the session back to order and discouraged the actions of her colleagues.
Some members of the audience applauded the two co-hosts for leaving the stage. Others would side with Barbara Walters’ attitude concerning her coworkers. Either way, the whole episode makes for good television and good discussion.
Those that would be offended by O’Reilly’s statements were right there with Goldberg and Behar, cheering them on as they walked backstage. Others would stare at the whole situation in disbelief. It begs the question; what in the world happened? For a casual or especially an uniformed observer, the entire scene seems rather chaotic.
This particular instance of The View represents an epic failure in rhetoric. In their discussion, the two parties refused to understand one another; it is more than a mere failure in communication. O’Reilly shares a completely different mindset than that of Goldberg and Behar. Rather than understand the viewpoint of the other party, both sides remained adamant that their perspective was ostensibly faultless. Now, Goldberg and Behar’s incredulity revealed itself much more flagrantly than O’Reilly’s, but they did both refuse to figure out the real issue surrounding their disagreement.
This scene provides the segue into the topic of rhetoric. For far too many, the word rhetoric tastes extremely bitter. It is a term that comes up during an election season, and is typically defined as the art of persuasion. Oftentimes, rhetoric equals a nice way of saying deception. It is a tool used by politicians to confuse, coerce, and cover up.
A better definition of rhetoric would be “the art of language” or “the art of meaning within language.” Rhetoric encompasses how a speaker or a writer creates and delivers an idea. The rules of rhetoric are not rules used to hide meaning. Instead, rhetoric provides the guidelines for stating a case in the most effective way possible.
Rather than explain their meaning, the members of this talk show kept repeating the same words over and over as if the repetition would expose the signification of their language. The failure in rhetoric halted the discussion right then and there. Not to mention, bad blood arose between the two parties that will never totally absolve. Learn a lesson from this chaotic scene. A failure to communicate using effective rhetoric often leads to a success to launch into a useless fervor.