On inference, understanding and interpretation in visual argumentation: Challenges and problems

Rhetoric, Visual Rhetoric and Visual Argumentation

Paola Giorgis

Foreign Language Teacher, Independent Scholar

E-mail: paola.giorgis@womaned.org

“The best propaganda is that which, as it were, works invisibly,

penetrates the whole of life without the public having

any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative”

(Joseph Goebbels, March 1933)

Abstract: In this contribution, I will discuss how words contribute to the (re)production of the Other – and of the Other as the Enemy – relying on studies in Critical Rhetoric and Manipulation. Starting from some historical and literary examples which show how far words can be used, manipulated and mobilized to create different forms of ‘Otherness’, I will then particularly analyse some of the words and expressions used by the Italian new populisms and right-wing movements against the immigrants. I will also examine how, though being a specific target, immigrants are not the sole target of scapegoating, as discriminating and intimidating words and expressions are mobilized against several other individuals, groups, and communities such as the Jews, the Roma people, women, LGBT individuals, people living at the margins, often releasing impulses and forces which turn into acts of violence. The purpose of this contribution is to foreground the cogent necessity for educators, scholars, and activists to contribute to the development of a counter-discourse able to problematize such divisive and strategic rhetoric constructions by raising a critical awareness of how words are used in everyday speech as well as in political propaganda.

Keywords: the (re)production of Otherness; rhetorical strategies; manipulation; populisms; right-wing movements.

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