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Educational Video Group, Inc.
291 Southwind Way, Greenwood, IN 46142
ph# 317.889.8253 fax# 317.888.5857 e-mail email@example.com
To: Reviewing Professor
From: Marketing Department
Subject: Review Package for Power Persuasion: Moving an Ancient Art into the Media
Age—third edition by Mary Rose Williams and Martha D. Cooper
If you select this book as the primary required text for your class please complete the ADOPTION CONFIRMATION FORM located at the back of this packet and return it to us by fax or mail. We will send your DESK COPY immediately upon receipt of an order from your bookstore of five or more books. Make sure your bookstore orders new books from us. If they purchase all used books from another company please obtain your desk copy from them.
About the Product Note that the third edition has new video examples. These examples are included on the accompanying DVD. Some of the past video examples are available on the “Instructor’s Video” that is sold separately.
This unique textbook is now available on CD-ROM and is sleekly packaged with the “Student DVD” that contains all the video examples referred to in the textbook. We believe this modern entertaining approach to teaching the student will emphasize the importance and relevance to today’s world. We have included a sample chapter for your consideration.
We think you will find this new approach apropos to the title by bringing this ancient art into the media age.
Special Features The DVD contains fourteen examples of media persuasion selected to highlight the theories being discussed in the various chapters. We think you will find that they can best engage your students to carefully evaluate how these theories impact the visual construction of these powerful persuasive messages.
Now your students can conveniently view the videos and read the text on computer and alternate between the two to enhance their understanding of theory. They can come to class ready to discuss both the video and the concepts discussed in the chapters.
For classroom and/or testing purposes we recommend the “Instructor’s Video” that includes examples not specifically discussed in the textbook. For example, the instructor could show a video in class and have the students relate theory to what they have seen.
Power Persuasion 3rd Edition Instuctor’s DVD Contents 3 Harold & Louise Health Care Ads (1994) (Anti-Clinton Health Care Program) Australian AIDS PSA George Bush Willie Horton Campaign Spot (1988) 2 Michael Dukakis Campaign Spots (1988) (Bush Strategists & Anti-Quayle) Don’s Guns Commercial QVC Promotional Video Bill Clinton Convention Film (1992) 2 Lyndon Johnson Campaign Spots (1964) (Sawing off East Coast & Girl with Ice Cream) Real Food Commercials December 7th (1942) (W
F or many years concerned citizens in the United States have argued about the appropriate interpretation of the Second Amendment to the constitution that guarantees a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. For some, the part of the amendment referring to the necessity of a “well regulated Militia” leads them to conclude that this right is significantly restricted and not a blank check for just anyone to own and use any sort of weapon. Others have interpreted the amendment broadly to protect nearly anyone’s right to own and use practically any weapon. The pervasiveness of gun related crimes in our society, reflected by the fact that we lead the world in violent crime statistics, has led to numerous debates concerning gun control.
An incident which fueled this debate occurred in 1989. On January 17 of that year, Patrick Purdy opened fire on a schoolyard of children in Stockton, California.
He was armed with an AK-47 rifle. Beyond the children that he killed and wounded, Purdy psychologically wounded many terrified witnesses to this crime as the tragic event was relayed through the media to a general public shocked by the senseless and brutal violence of his act.
Purdy’s assault provided impetus for those who had long advocated stricter regulations concerning the sale and ownership of guns. Shortly after the incident, more than 30 state legislatures considered resolutions or bills to prohibit the manufacture, sale or possession of semiautomatic weapons like the one used by Purdy in his deadly attack on the school playground. On March 13, 1989, the California legislature became the first to pass such a bill. Similar measures were introduced at the national level; the most prominent of these was Senator Metzenbaum’s proposal to prohibit the manufacture and importation of assault firearms and to strengthen gun registration laws. President George Bush, who less than a month before had stated his support for a less restricted right to bear arms, including semiautomatic weapons, reversed his decision and banned all imports of semiautomatic assault rifles.1 The Classical Perspective In the midst of the movement to prohibit or severely restrict the availability of weapons like those used by Purdy, the National Rifle Association reacted by producing a multiplicity of persuasive messages designed to halt quick passage of more restrictive gun control laws. With approximately 2.8 million members and a $70 million annual budget, the National Rifle Association has been a vocal and often effective opponent of any attempt to strengthen gun control in the United States.2 The Association’s $12 million annual budget for lobbying has allowed it to influence national and state policies concerning gun control for many years.3 During the controversy in 1989, the association placed full-page advertisements in numerous magazines and newspapers, deluged their membership with pamphlets and materials to aid them in contacting their political representatives about the issue, contracted and ran several television spots concerning the issue, arranged for lobbyists to speak directly to legislative and Congressional committees who were attempting to fashion restrictive legislative proposals, and produced a short documentary entitled “The Truth About Semi-Automatic Weapons.” The documentary was sent to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives as well as to various state legislative representatives and was made available to numerous members of the National Rifle Association and the general public. We examine this documentary later in this chapter to illustrate how the Classical Perspective toward persuasion can be used to understand explicit attempts to persuade an audience. However, before we move to an analysis of this instance of persuasion, a review of the Classical Perspective is in order.
THEORETICAL FOCUS: Persuasive Strategies Adapted To The Audience For most people, persuasion is a method of influence. In Chapter 1, we define persuasion as a process by which people influence the choice-making of others. The earliest treatments of persuasion as a field of study began with a similar assumption.
These early treatments emerged during the ancient world of the Greek and Roman democracies. Consequently, some features of the theory of persuasion developed by classical thinkers were influenced by ideas common to public citizenship of that time and the instances of persuasion they commonly observed in their culture. In this chapter, we introduce the theoretical perspective toward persuasion initiated by the classical theorists and preview contemporary investigations of persuasion that follow the Classical Perspective.
During the classical period, most persuasion involved a single speaker who presented his case to an audience of fellow citizens. Such persuasion tended to be explicit—the audience was aware that they were being asked by the speaker to make a choice. The classical theories of persuasion provided advice to persuasive speakers about what to say and how to say it such that these ancient orators could influence their audience by taking into account their predispositions. In addition, these early theorists of persuasion were concerned that their advice be used for good rather than evil objectives and, as a consequence, considered the ethical boundaries that should govern a speaker’s use of persuasive strategies.
The contemporary developments that we preview in this chapter exhibit similar concerns. While the types of messages concerned have shifted from just public addresses to include contemporary commercial advertisements or other modern forms 28 POWER PERSUASION of persuasive action, many theorists continue to study the strategies available to persuaders and the ethical implications of those strategies. Thus, even though some of the theoretical concepts to be discussed in this and the following three chapters do not draw on classical theory explicitly, they can be characterized as “classical” because they approach persuasion from the same general perspective as initiated by classical thinkers. Fundamental to this perspective is the notion that persuasion involves strategies that take into account audience predispositions. The Classical Perspective orients us toward an instrumental view of persuasion in which persuaders are seen as strategists who choose among the persuasive tactics available in order to most effectively persuade their audiences. This perspective orients us toward intentional persuasion, toward instances in which both audience and source are aware that persuasion is the goal, and it directs our attention to the tactics that either assist or inhibit the realization of that goal.
Classical Theory In the oldest systematic textbook on persuasion, Rhetoric, Aristotle began by saying that persuasion is an art because it has principles that make it work. Three of the most important principles are the modes of proof: the means by which a message can influence its audience in intended ways. Aristotle sharply criticized earlier teachers of rhetoric for only teaching how to incite an audience’s emotions. He said that is artistically wrong because there is more to the art of rhetoric than pandering to the audience’s emotions. He also said that it is ethically wrong because to ignore our capacity to reason is to treat us as if we were animals unworthy of human respect.
People are better than that, thought Aristotle, and as persuaders we owe it to them and to ourselves to appeal to what is best (reason and rationality) rather than what is less than the best (emotional responses).
The proper way to influence one another (this was the central value of Athenian culture, a value we still share today in Western culture) was by formulating and delivering arguments. For the Athenians, the public forum provided a place where those arguments could be presented. Today a variety of public forums serve a similar function. According to the Athenians, the best decisions are those in which we reason together to arrive at our conclusions.
Following his mentor Plato, Aristotle called the art of reasoning together to reach conclusions dialectic. Dialectic is a kind of scientific or philosophical way of communicating. Within a dialectical conversation people assume an attitude of inquiry, formulate precise definitions through a process of examining like instances and reason carefully and rigorously. Dialectic demands that the people taking part remain open-minded in their search for the truth. Today we don’t use the term “dialectic” much, but the idea that people can reason together to arrive at conclusions has remained. Trial by jury, in which a just decision is expected to emerge from a clash between prosecution and defense, illustrates this kind of communication in modern culture. Scientists talking to other scientists about hypotheses is another, perhaps the best, example from our culture.
Aristotle said the goal of rhetoric wasn’t so much finding the truth of a matter as convincing an audience to make the best decision about that matter. Rhetoric assumes a process of inquiry—you need to have engaged in inquiry about a subject The Classical Perspective to be an effective and ethical persuader—but it can’t help you find the truth if you don’t already know it. What rhetoric does, according to Aristotle, is to make the truth or the results of your inquiry effective in the everyday world, the world outside of professional or scientific communication. Rhetoric deals with opinions, with our best educated guesses about what is true, not with absolute certainty. In other words, in the realm of persuasion lies everything in our world where we make decisions about what to feel, think or do without the kind of absolute certainty that many suppose science can give us. While dialectic may approach the true and the necessary, rhetoric deals with the probable and the contingent. After all, asked Aristotle, who bothers to argue about things that are already scientifically true? We only argue about those things that might go one way or the other.
Because rhetoric, or persuasion, operates in the realm of the probable and the contingent, ethical questions moved to the forefront of concern for classical rhetoricians. For Aristotle, the problem centered around whether the same persuasive techniques could be used for either good or ill. Simply put, how could one avoid the use of persuasion in the service of falsity? It is unsettling to wonder if all the communicators around us “have an angle,” “are conning us” or are to be distrusted. It’s disturbing to think that “truth” and “necessity” get to play only small roles in the choices we make while “opinion,” or “good reasons” play a very large part. Various answers to the ethical question were offered by ancient thinkers. While Aristotle claimed that “good” positions were easier to defend than “bad” ones, other thinkers such as Cicero and Quintilian maintained that a complete theory of rhetoric or persuasion must include the concept of the “good man.”4 In other words, the ethical question could be settled if orators were trained to be virtuous so that they would strive to argue for morally right positions rather than morally bankrupt ones.