ERIC Number: ED345310
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1992-Mar-19
Reference Count: N/A
Enhancing Ethos: The Role of Epideictic at the Iran-Contra Hearings.
A critique predicated primarily on aesthetic considerations can show the potential a speech has to move an audience, but gauging a speech's actual effects on the audience is more difficult. A case in point is the United States Congressional investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal. Government officials and businessmen sold arms to Iran in exchange for the release of U.S. hostages held in Lebanon and then used the sale proceeds to illegally finance rebel resistance in Nicaragua. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, a central figure in the affair, was able to shift the focus away from the issues of the case through skillful manipulation of television, through his speech and his appearance. Senator George Mitchell of Maine, North's key Senate interrogator, reacted to North's media manipulation with his own televised statement. He sought to return public attention to the issues of the case by highlighting inconsistencies in North's position without directly attacking him. Mitchell underscored the oddity of promoting Nicaraguan democracy through undemocratic means. The senator was then able to refocus attention on basic U.S. values through personal anecdotes. Mitchell reported that the reaction to his statement was immediate, overwhelming, and mostly favorable. In the end, North was exonerated and no national debate on the morality of the Iran-Contra affair ensued. Both men gained notoriety as a result: North became a popular conservative speaker, and Mitchell became Senate majority leader. (SG)
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative; Historical Materials; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Epideictic Rhetoric; Iran Contra Affair; Mitchell (George); North (Oliver); Rhetorical Strategies
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (43rd, Cincinnati, OH, March 19-21, 1992).