Sunday, January 12, 2014

Your simple rhetorical guide to complexity

One can read the guide to rhetorical self defence as a negative guide to how to write. One would end up with a group of very generic (and somewhat unhelpful) tips on how to write. As in "don't write unclearly", "avoid being self-contradictory" and so on. Which is all well and good - follow these advices whenever you can. But.

There's always a but. And that's the whole point of this post.

You can write the most straightforward, least misunderstandable, straight from the mouth of God text the world has ever seen, and people will still be able to "but" it. This is not a fault on your part - it's how discourse works in relation to humans.

Humans like it simple. Humans do not like it unsimple. They especially don't like it when they have to put effort into something to determine whether something is simple or unsimple. They are much more likely to not put in that effort then to do it, and this is rhetorically important.

Most importantly in cases where you'd think the case is so obvious that there'd be no need for additional wordage. Especially when there's more additional wordage added to that case than any sane person would ever want to look at.

The sheer wordage is a rhetorical strategy.

People like it simple. If you can point to the volume of things said and written about something, that's a rather compelling argument that something is unsimple. And so, people retreat from the issue at hand.

Simple as that.

Fortunately, this is easily turned into a useful analytical and rhetorical tool. Whenever someone starts to be more obfuscating than they should be, simply restate whatever your initial point was in a simpler manner. Do not fall in to the temptation of making things harder than they are - that's what they want. In order to then turn around and say "well, look at how complicated this turned out to be, we'd better leave it open until we can get some clear answers".

Defenders of status quo loves this strategy. Postponing things is the best defence of status quo there is.

But is it really that simple?

Yes it is.

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