Creative Writing Examples: The Rhetorical Theory Behind the Daily Show

Rhetoric is a discourse art aimed at improving the capability of speakers or writers that attempt to persuade, motivate or inform a particular audience, in a specific situation. In its vigorous and long history, rhetoric has enjoyed many definitions. It has accommodated conflicting purposes, and varied extensively in what it incorporated. However, it still maintains its primary character as a subject for educating students. It helps students to recognize how language, whether in writing or orally, is at work. Second, it helps students to become skillful and apply the skills learnt in their own writing and speaking. The basis of the rhetorical theory is on available persuasion means. This is to say that speakers who want to persuade their audience have to keep in mind three rhetorical proofs namely logical, ethical and emotional proofs. Effective persuasion also requires rhetorical syllogism and an audience to supply the missing speech pieces. The theory has developed over time with the classical theorists and the contemporary theorists contributing immensely (Bitzer, 1968).

The Daily Show is an American satirical show that airs late at night on Mondays through Thursday. It airs on Comedy Central for half an hour. The show premiered in 1996 with Craig Kilborn as the host, but John Stewart took over in 1999. Stewart focused the show more strongly on politics and national media. Initially, it focused on pop culture. It is a program with fake news drawing its satire and comedy from political figures, recent news stories, media organizations and even some show’s aspects. It usually starts with a monologue from the host relating to the recent headlines. It also features exchanges with correspondents frequently. They then adopt humorously exaggerated or absurd takes on these current events contrasting Stewart’s persona of a straight man. The Daily Show exhibits the rhetorical theory in many ways. This paper gives the analysis of the show by rhetorical theorists, each having their own view.

Classical Rhetorical Theorists (Plato and Aristotle)

Aristotle originally developed this theory as a communication theory, as a way to challenge existing assumptions on what makes an effective presentation. He based his work on that of Plato. He defined rhetoric as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion” (Cooper, 1932). It was thought of as a way to add dimensions to processes of communication for clarity and understanding. The five canons used to design a persuasive speech include inventing, arranging, styling, memory and delivering. According to Aristotle, the process of communication is dynamic. In addition, it is not a linear or single process.
The rhetorical theory covers different areas in the field of communication, hence it is almost impossible to get every belief associated with this theory. It is, however, guided by two assumptions.
The second assumption is that different proofs are utilized in presentations by effective speakers. This is about speech making and preparation. Proof is the persuasion means, and Aristotle gives three. One is ethos, the perceived intelligence, character and goodwill of speakers as
revealed through their speeches. Both the speakers and the audience can influence each other. A trustworthy individual’s speech is more persuasive than an untrustworthy individual’s speech. The second is logos, the logical proof employed by speakers, their arguments, discourse and rationalizations. Practices like use of clear
language and logical claims enhance clarity and naturalness, unlike poetic phrases. The third is pathos, the emotions drawn from listeners. Emotion stirring in listeners makes them proof instruments. They judge differently under the influence of joy, hatred, pain or fear (Foss, Foss & Trapp, 2002).
Finally, the show exhibits the use of pathos. The extended clips with humor and satire create emotions in the audience. These emotions make the audience to make different judgments on those situations or events, which might be different from the perceptions they initially had on the same. Moreover, the show invents what satire to bring out. Then, it arranges how to incorporate it into the real life event. The style of delivery is debated upon on the best way to bring out or show the satire or humor. There is usually reference to previous events to remind the audience of where the satire or humor appears. Finally, the final product is delivered. These are the
five canons of creating persuasive speeches, and the show follows them all to the latter.

The theory says that communication and information presentation is a dynamic process, rather than just sending static messages and hoping that the audience will listen or read. Rhetoric is relying on different emotions, facts and figures, questions, moving language, as well as hard hitting information, so as to ease the understanding of a message, and hence its persuasion. Rhetoric is a crucial tool for advertisers, speechwriters, attorneys, legislators, teachers, clergy, and media writers (Cooper, 1932).
The first is that an effective public speaker ought to consider his/her audience. This is an underscore of the communication definition as a transactional process. The speaker should gather enough information about the audience so as to know what information will be useful to them. He/she also ought to build a rapport with the audience that is strong enough to make them accept the information that they were inclined to disregard initially. Finding the best method to reach the audience involves audience analysis. This can be regarded as the evaluation of an audience. In addition, one should evaluate the audience’s background like sex, age and education level. Most importantly, speech tailoring for listeners to give to expected response. Each listener is also unique, hence the information presentation adjustments on the fly (Cooper, 1932).
Based on the definition and interpretation of rhetoric on the views of Plato and Aristotle, the Daily Show exhibits the rhetorical theory in its presentation. Different surveys have indicated that John Stewart is the most trusted American Journalist. This is to imply that the show has.
As a classical rhetorical theorist, Plato, therefore, concluded that the show did
the ethos aspect of proof of persuasion. The character and good will of the host influences the audience to trust him, hence his speech is persuasive to the audience. The show also uses logos as another proof of persuasion. There are discussions with other correspondents to rationalize situations or events. The correspondents are diverse to imply that the show usually has a survey of the audience. As such, they use the different correspondents to reach the different audience to the show. They use clear language and pictures or video clips to pass on their message, which enhances clarity (Foss, Foss & Trapp, 2002).


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