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Reality as a Rhetorical Problem

Workshop Leader: Dana L. Cloud, University of Texas, Austin

Workshop Leader:

Dana L. Cloud, University of Texas, Austin

Infamously, in 2004, President George W. Bush aide Karol Rove called a journalist who questioned administration statements about the Afghan and Iraq Wars part of the “reality-based community,” adding:

That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

More recently, presidential candidate Mitt Romney dismissed empirical challenges to his ads: “Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.

Rhetoric is integral to all processes of human knowing, but can and ought we distinguish between truth and fiction (and what resources do we possess for doing so) or condemn such a move as naïve and ethically suspect?   What is the place of demystification in our critical practice?  This workshop invites scholars to read, present, and discuss contending works (loosely, modernist and postmodernist) on the status of information and truth claims in political culture. The exigency for the session is the widespread skepticism among both politicians and communication theorists regarding the utility, ethics, and viability of an empirical standard for political truths.

This workshop is open to veterans of these debates and those newly interested in these questions. The workshop involves reading and discussion of major theorists who have thought through the rhetoricity of truths, and, workshopping of participants’ papers. Participants will be asked to do readings in advance of the workshop and circulate a description of their own project.

Questions should be directed to Dana L. Cloud,

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