Like most college kids, I benefit from the magical invention that is Netflix. My hallmate Paul’s newest addition to his queue is one of my personal favorites Thank you For Smoking. If you haven’t seen this movie I highly recommend it. The reason this movie is the topic of my rhetoric and civic life blog is because of the main character: a lobbyist.
In this movie, Erin Eckhart plays tobacco lobbyist, Nick Naylor, who smiles talks and argues his way into the hearts and minds of each and every person he meets.
Who is going to side with a sleazy grease ball who works for an industry that kills thousands of people daily? Exactly. But what is amazing is that with the power of rhetoric and argument Nick can convince anyone of anything. As the movie depicts the day in and day out of a lobbyist for big tobacco it also paints the portrait of a father compelled to teach his son every thing he knows and to show him first hand the intricate aspects of his job. Essentially everything he knows about rhetoric and argument. Nick tells his son to question statistics and always encourage discussion. As his son travels with him on trips to California and witnesses the not so nice aspects of “big tobacco” he also learns the power of convincing rhetoric and the art of relentless debate. Nick gets excited as he informs his son, “that’s the beauty of argument. If you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.”
Let’s take a look at that statement. “If you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.”
Is that the goal of rhetoric? To never be wrong? As a stubborn person myself, I know that my parents and friends think I take that statement to heart.
Aristotle defined rhetoric as “the available means of persuasion,” but can rhetoric be used as a means to justify stubbornness? Is rhetoric used to force your opinions on others?
Can you be wrong if you argue correctly? Can you ‘win’ and argument but still be wrong?
PS: I highly recommend the movie.