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Politics and Protest

One of the reasons why dissidents against the establishment so often resort to gregarious rhetoric is simply the realization that there is safety and strength in numbers. And in densely populated, highly complex societies, like ours, the individual is such a cipher that he thinks it presumptuous of him to demand the sustained attention of an audience, but he realizes that his anonymity acquires a powerful voice when it merges with the group. Vox populi can be heard in the back benches of the executive and legislative assemblies. A third characteristic of the new rhetoric of the closed fist is that it relies more on coercive than on persuasive tactics. There was a moral dimension to the traditional persuasive process. As Yves Simon has said, “To persuade a man is to awaken in him a voluntary inclination toward a certain course of action …. persuasion implies the operation of free choice.”9 Leland M. Griffin sees rhetorical activity become coercive rather than persuasive when it resorts to the nonrational, when it is dependent, as he puts it, on “seat of the pants” rather than on “seat of the intellect.”10 James R. Andrews refines this definition a bit when he says, “Rhetoric becomes less persuasive and more coercive to the extent that it limits the viable alternatives open to the receivers of the communication.”