Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 35

have accepted that in real-world persuasion, emotions, prior beliefs, tribalism, and prejudice also contribute to how audiences evaluate and understand statements and positions. A twentieth- century American rhetorician, Richard Weaver, provides key insights into the rhetorical understanding of belief systems and the ensuing extra-rational ways in which people think about leadership. Weaver argues that in each particular culture there are “charismatic” terms, to which the culture responds viscerally rather than analytically. These can function as ultimate “god” or “devil” terms, embodying beliefs and inclinations of a society so fundamental that they are “uncontested” (1953, 211-232). Writing in the 1950s, he saw “progress” as among one of the uncontested positive or “god” terms and “un-American” as one of the uncontested devil terms. Trump’s “America first” doctrine and the unbridled techno-optimism expressed by many Silicon Valley thought leaders are the twenty-first century equivalents of these positions. Weaver grounds the existence of devil terms in “the tribal need for a scapegoat ... to take care of those expressions of scorn and hatred to which peoples must give vent” (1953, 222) and argues that: When another political state is not available to receive the discharge of such emotions, then a class will be chosen, or a race, or a type, or a political faction (1953, 222). In the World of Warcraft, the undead Scourge, to which Sylvanas and the Forsaken were subjugated before they recovered their free will, held that scapegoat position, and we see an echo of that attitude remaining in attitudes of the other races towards the Forsaken. When two cultures have different uncontested terms, the problem is that they cannot rationally debate with each other because uncontested terms are not by nature rational conclusions arrived at through a chain of logic but rather the fundamental starting points from which arguments are developed. Weaver describes such “charismatic terms” as “terms of considerable potency whose referents it is virtually impossible to discover” (1953, 227). In the case of Sylvanas and Garrosh, many of their differences ensue from holding different terms as uncontested. For Garrosh, two uncontested god terms are “strength” and “honor”, the latter conceived in the narrow sense of saving face and not backing down in cases of conflict or adversity. For Sylvanas, on the other hand, the uncontested positive term is “survival”, both individual and racial. 35