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2. RHETORIC and DIALOG : RHETORIC IN POLITICS
A powerful idea communicates some of its strength to him who challenges it. (Marcel Proust)
The need for rhetoric dialog arose in democracies, where supposedly anyone can become the head of government through the sheer "ability to convince" the majority that only he was the right choice to lead them and the rest of the other hopefuls would lead them to their doom. The monologue of Kings and blatant tyrants was over. Tyrants in order to thrive now needed sophistication in speech. In the enlightenment movement the tyranny of priest and king was exposed, and the political space was then up for grabs by the daring amongst the masses. Now some real rhetorical skills were necessary, because now rhetoric was being matched with rhetoric blow for blow between "political parties" of the republics in a sham process of representative democracy of "parties", rather than a choice between genuine leaders. In the new republics, rhetoric at last occasionally flowered, and sometimes threw up a leader or two that had both the talent for rhetoric as well as the moral integrity required of a leader. Moral integrity in leadership is distinct from mere skill in oratory. As Socrates had pointed out long ago we just cannot equate the skill or art of rhetoric with "virtue" or moral integrity, and more often than not it was the virulent rhetoric of manipulative people that overrode the mild rhetoric of sincere people. Morality was clearly more than just the ability to convince or just excellence in speech. And one fine and prime example of this art of "excellent speaking" was Adolf Hitler who went as far as to ensure that only his brand of rhetoric would prevail. He discovered that rhetoric was the supreme tool for manipulating and controlling the masses. Only rhetoric could tap the emotions on a mass scale to generate a frenzy :
The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. (Adolf Hitler)
Plato has a constant and reiterated animus towards democracy, particularly that seen in Athens - the rule of the mob and the rule of the theatre goers, those who applaud the loudest are the ones taken most seriously in politics. Plato sees that their leadership has been disastrous in the general sense as well as in a personal sense for Plato. ...TTC. M.Sugrue
And things have now progressed to the extent that in democracies, this "ability to convince", has transformed itself from rhetoric, to the material resourcefulness of businessmen, thugs, brokers and middlemen. Mainly money and muscle power rules, or just simply : ability to manipulate and be manipulated by influential or resourceful people i.e., businessmen. If at all rhetoric is now needed it is as a cosmetic to cover up half truths or when outright lies have to be told in the sweetest manner possible that justifies any and every action of a tyrant, or when tyrants have to be made to look like victims and the victims have to be made to look like criminals ( or terrorists if they resist).
Socrates opposed democracy particularly because it places power in the hands of people who know nothing about justice and injustice. ( On the other hand) Oligarchy is based upon the assumption that only property makes you suitable to participate in politics, but then this also does not guarantee a knowledge of just and unjust either. Rather he finds through his questioning that the wealthy are as likely as anyone else to be self deceived about the most important moral matters. We may conclude that Socrates endorses neither democracy nor oligarchy - he prefers rule by moral experts, but of the two options he favors democracy because one of the features of Athenian democracy was its commitment to freedom of speech - and that all citizens were political equals. As long as democratic Athens remained true to her values, Socrates could engage in philosophy. But as the trial and his execution shows even democratic Athens had her limits. (and so the Athenians collectively did not remain true to the core principle of democracy by convicting Socrates of the "crime" of criticizing them- which is a glaring example of how "freedom of speech" in democracy can itself be perverted to silence critical or opposing points of view or even silence, sincere and honest people) ....From Knowledge Products
Far from being dead, rhetoric is flourishing in all democratic nations, especially the powerful ones to drown out anyone who dares to question the actions of the leaders of these nations. Rhetoric, with physical force behind it, or the sheer numbers of a majority of a democracy, has become the ultimate tool to justify exploitation, manipulation and suppression of other nations and people so that the majority in powerful nations is made to believe in the righteousness of any action of their leaders.
Such dangerous uses of rhetoric were never seen by the developers of the art of rhetoric and its teachers, the Sophists, but such dangers were sensed by Socrates, and so to investigate further, we take a step back in time to the Greek civilization.
A look at the background of philosophical inquiry follows ..