In the article, “A New Dream: Barack Obama and the Rhetoric of “A More Perfect Union,” Vanderslice describes the tactics that Barack Obama used to win the hearts of Americans in his 2008 speech, A More Perfect Union. In his speech, the soon-to-be president described his childhood as a young mixed-race boy growing up Chicago. Raised by an African father and a caucasian mother from Kansas, Obama spoke about the American Dream and the individual rights promised to the people of our nation. Despite the drawbacks in his campaign (i.e. his lack of experience, Pastor Wright’s controversial sermons, etc.), Obama used the fact that “his election would fit in with an American history defined by progress and improvement” to propel himself to the head of the election. Vanderslice carefully explained that Obama’s ability to reshape the context in which in the eyes of not only minorities, but in those of ”mainstream” Americans as well.
The article’s style and tone contributed well to the overall voice of the writing. The author used a variety of different political writing sources, which added credibility to the already professionally-toned paper. Vanderslice also organized the paper in a unique, yet effective way. The beginning gives a brief background of Barack Obama at the present, then tells how the rhetoric he used in the speech came from his own ethnic background. Most of the writing consists of the author backing up his thesis that Obama’s use of rhetoric was a key factor to his success in the election, and it ends with a description of Obama’s dream of America. Throughout, he cites directly from four books written by the president himself. Using the president’s own words was a brilliant way to show the rhetoric used by the politician, not just in his speech but also in his own writing.
One major similarity I noticed between all the academic writing was the accessibility of the information that was being presented. Even when describing complex topics, such as rhetoric in Vanderslice’s work, the authors condensed extensive ideas and made them clear to a wide variety of audiences. My writing review consisted of detailed experiments involving microorganisms, chemical biocides, and difficult procedures that may have only been understood by someone experienced in the field of science. The literature review I completed in class was on a completely different topic, but the same rules for writing and level of detail applied. The same could be said for Vanderslice’s article and the other articles found in Deliberations; extensive subjects like politics, persuasion, religion, race, and commercialism were made compatible with many different readers without taking away from the underlying meaning in each and every authors work.
In his article “The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology,” Larson explains how human use of militaristic metaphors has misconstrued the ways humans view aquatic invasive species (2005). Larson suggests that scientists have adopted a militaristic style and tone when describing invasive species, and calls for reform for conservationists to adjust the way they speak about the species. He argues that the idea of war cannot be rightly applied to invasive species because a war entails two opposing sides, where good is supposed to triumph over evil. However, Larson points out that the spread of invasive species is largely due to human interactions; consumption, trade, and release of these species across continents has caused geographical boundaries to be blurred. This dependence of invasive species on humans shows that it is wrong to suggest that humans and invasive species are separate, opposing entities in this so-called “war.” Secondly, Larson demonstrates that the idea of the good side, in this case humans, being triumphant is inaccurate. Unfortunately, past case studies involving the eradication of invasive species shows that it will be a nearly impossible feat to reestablish pre-invasive conditions in most environments. As Larson points out, “it will be practically and economically infeasible to prevent of contain many of [the invasive species]” (Larson 2005).
Looking back at our own writings, it is easy to see that Larson’s argument is very accurate. In Stefan Cafaro’s post in September, a militaristic attitude is adopted right off the back: his post is titled “Great Lakes Under Seige” (Cafaro 2010). He presents the spiny water flea as this militaristic powerhouse that “can cause colossal damage to its habitat” and “will slowly begin to unravel the fragile food web of the lakes” (Cafaro 2010). He presents the ecosystem of the Great Lakes as this fragile, innocent entity that is under attack by this relentless spiny water flea. These militaristic metaphors affect the readers subconscious by depicting the invasive species in an negative, almost evil, light.
Larson’s suggestion that militaristic imagery pervades scholarly writing on invasive species is completely correct. They are problematic in that this rhetoric causes scientific writing to lose its objectivity, and therefore lose part of its reliability. When scientists adopt a style that affects readers interpretations subliminally, the research itself loses its focus and its credibility. Writing that uses these militaristic metaphors adopts a political undertone, and makes conservationists seem as if they have their own agenda. Science is about presenting factual information that can be used to support a plan of action or a solution in the future. When science loses its objectivity, the benefits of studies and findings of the research are affected negatively, because credibility is lost. As Larson implores, scientists should use language that is “more consistent with conservation values” to maintain credibility (Larson 2005).
Cafaro, Stefan. 2010. Great Lakes Under Seige. http://sites.duke.edu/writing20_12_f2010/2010/09/23/great-lakes-under-seige/
Larson, B.M.H. 2005. The war of the roses:demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.
Larson (2005) brings up the common use of militaristic rhetoric in invasive species literature by establishing the argument that these metaphors can be problematic in the long run despite attracting the attention of the general public. The author first notes that metaphor as a device relates two subjects, but is never a perfect comparison. Larson (2005) then continues to explain how comparing invasive species problems with war battles leaves too much room open for misconceptions about the problem at hand. A war deals with clear opposing sides fighting each other, but the problem at hand is not a pure black and white battle of humans versus invasive species. The roots of the dilemma are so intertwined on both sides that war is a misleading comparison. There is not even a clear enemy since some species can be helpful or detrimental depending on the environment. Larson (2005) also mentions how militaristic language in invasive species literature could carry a “xenophobic resonance.” People could develop the assumption that all foreign species have a negative impact on the environment, all due to the rhetoric used in describing the actual invasive species.
The 2002 Washington Post article, “Spawn of Snakehead?” uses militaristic rhetoric when explaining the history of a similar invader.
“California has spent millions in its war against the pike, a nonnative fish that was smuggled into Lake Davis in the 1990s and that threatens to wipe out a $1 billion trout industry. Five years ago, state game officials drained most of the lake and dumped in several tons of poison in an effort to kill the fish. The pike returned within a year, and the state ended up paying nearly $10 million in damages to a nearby town whose water supply was contaminated.”
I agree with Larson (2005) that militaristic metaphors are “problematic” and “ineffective” when writing about invasive species because only one side of the war described is to blame. These foreign species could barely be described as “invaders” because they did not transfer habitats on their own; we moved them there in some way. By establishing a battle against invasive species, many people gain the misconception that the solution is just killing off the existing population. California used this approach of taking out the pike through brute force, but was met by the “boomerang effect” of unintended consequences just like the language used in the article. Preventing transportation of the species in the first place could yield much better result, but the military metaphor does not suggest this approach. I also agree with Larson (2005) that unlike in war, there will be no “victory” over the invasive species, but merely an eventual coexistence between native and foreign species.
Huslin, Anita and Ruane, Michael. 2002. Spawn of Snakehead? Suspicious Baby Fish Heighten Fears Among Md. Officials, Scientists. http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/snakehead/news0710.php. Viewed 12 Oct 2010.
Larson, B. M. H. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.
In summary of Larson’s article, prevalent use of militaristic language to describe invasive species may serve as an easily understandable metaphor to help draw attention from the public, but is mostly short term, misleading, and comes with numerous other side effects. Larson argues that militaristic language implies that there are two opposing sides, and one (the good) with will triumph over the other (the evil). This view is evades reality where we are very much tied to invasive species through our actions and can not “triumph” over them. Additionally, with this language we stop looking at each individual species as separate cases and treat them all as “equally bad enemies,” perhaps compromising efficacy in control. On the social facet, using loaded words alienates foreigners, polarizes those who oppose and those who support the “war,” and erodes public trust in scientific objectivity. Larson suggests that conceptualizing invasive species as a disease can serve as an alternative to help the public stay conscious of the our ecosystem’s health (Larson, 2005).
While doing further research on hydrilla, I came across a press release that reports the additional funds added to “fight the ongoing battle against hydrilla” in Lake Conroe. It consistently describes the situation as a desperate fight ongoing for several years where fish donors are “suffering from donor fatigue” (Kuhles, 2010). While this is not a piece of scientific writing at Larson mainly discuses in his article, it still should still mirror the same amount of objectivity. In this specific case where the press release is targeting the residents of a small community, I believe that militaristic language is mostly beneficial because it helps incite citizens to take care of what’s in their own backyard. People like linear solutions, a good and a bad, especially if they don’t already have a strong understanding of the subject. However, Larson’s argument applies heavily to scientific writing. Objectivity is standard and militaristic writing is simply inappropriate.
KUHLES, BK. (2010). Montgomery county adds funds to fight hydrilla. The Houston Chronicle, Retrieved from http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nb/conroe/news/5609828.html
Larson, B. M. H. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology/ Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.
Brendon MH Larson argues that biologists utilizing militaristic and combative rhetoric to emphasize their arguments are actually hindering their ability to coherently get across the true effects of a particular invasive species. Larson believes that this type of attacking and berating writing style contributes to the development of an inaccurate interpretation of the effects of foreign species on a particular ecosystem. He also believes that this militaristic language undermines the validity of the scientific data presented can potentially lead to a social dilemma. One of Larson’s main points is that while combative rhetoric may spark the attention of a large audience at first, this sporadic drama will soon subside and in long term the issue of foreign invasion is forgotten without the passing of any remedial methods.
In my own literature review I was a “victim” of using militaristic rhetoric however, I disagree with Larson’s main argument. “This creature has proven that it has the potential to unravel the very fibers of the food web established in its habitat and thus poses as a severe threat to indigenous species of the lakes.” (Cafaro 2010) This quote was taken from my literature review and is in reference to the invasion of the spiny water flea into the Great Lakes. In my paper, I believe that utilizing diction that further stresses the negative effects of a particular invasive species will help to drive the message home. By using words that strike out to the audience, the message being portrayed will be left resonating in their minds and hopefully inspire further action to be taken. I agree with Larson in that people should not simply throw out combative terms merely for the sake of attracting attention, however I do believe that if used properly, militaristic diction can indeed draw a more substantial amount of focus to the issues being presented.