October 8, 2012

How Hitler exploited rhetoric

It can easily be assumed that an individual who posesses an avid skill in the field of public speaking also posesses an avid ability to shape his or her rhetorical dialogue to agree with and suit the perceived needs and ambitions of the  public to which he or she delivers a speech. In Burke's "The Rhetoric of Hitler's Battle," the ability of one who posesses both an articulate rhetorical prowess and the force of conviction to aid in the communication of the individual's view or belief can have a disasterous effect upon a world which fails to recognize the danger of an experienced rhetorician motivated by malicious intentions.

Burke illustrates the construction of Adolph Hitler's ideology through an analysis of "Mein Kampf", the book which contained an overview of Hitler's radical anti-semantic ideology as it origninated in the mind of an individual who gradually becaome disenchanted with the ideals of capitalism and democracy. As Burke illustrates in an almost step-by-step breakdown, the methods which hitler utilized to popularize his views and polarize the german populace around his constructed view of "Aryan supremacy", are those of an experienced rhetorician, and therefore the figure of hitler and the atrocities he is held accountable for shouldn't be regarded as an isolated historical incident. Hitler used many tools and techniques which aided in his unquestioned dominance over virtually every aspect of German society, but none may be regarded as having more influence on the degeneration of German society during this period than the demonization of the jew. As Burke so eloquently states "men who can unite on nothing else can unite on a foe shared by all"(burke193), a statement which places emphasis on hitler's construction of a common enemy for the dejected, poverty stricken, war ravaged german population to rally against in the attempt to realize their supremacy as an "aryan race."

Other  elements of Hitler's rhetoric which Burke chose to emphasize were his use of associative practices to construct a flawed sense of "reason" to justify the monstrocities he wished to commit,  his construction of the "aryan" race to suit his desire for a "perfect" society, and his distaste and disregard for democratic forms of government. Hitler argued  the case of the "aryan" supremacy by constructing an ideological model of the german citizen through such associative practices as "inborn dignity"(Burke202), which promoted the inherent dignity of mankind and was translated by hitler into an ideology of "inborn supremacy"(Burke202) to justify the struggle of the "pure" aryan race over the constructed international "villain" of the jew. Hitler's use of the "aryan" character futhur allowed him to united and nationalize the German populace based upon his constrution of a perceived resistance to a universal enemy, the Jew, which was characterized to be the principle threat to German prosperity. Burke also emphasizes how Hitler's use of associative methods, such as the appeal to the common contemporary christian belief structures of the period, allowed him to circumvent democratic practices in the name of the christian god. This irrational correlation of religious scripture with secular statehood is demonstrated most clearly through hitler's framing of democratic councils, such as the troubled sessions of the Hasburg parliment as a "Babel of voices"(Burke200). The reference to a "babel of voices" is one of which Hitler took out of religous context, in an attempt to appeal to traditional christian values, in order to portray the sessions of a democratic parliment as being detrimental to a moralistic and wholesome "aryan" society.
There are numerous ways in which we may attribute the rhetoric in Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and the monsterous atrocities that followed in the wake of nazi germany, but Burke wishes to emphasize in his article how the motivation for these monsterous practices was derived from the use of rhetorical skill

1 comment:

Clint Chandler said...

Great post on an interesting read. Burke hit a lot of points on what made Hitler so convincing as a speaker and I liked that he focused on the rhetoric he used in doing so. Hitler, sadly, came at a time when the German people were so desperate to listen to anyone and to do anything - they needed a "savior." He gave his flawed sense of reason and no one noticed because of the skill he had in getting a desperate nation to follow him.

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