1887

Chapter 5. “You want me to be wrong”

Expert ethos , (de-)legitimation, and ethotic straw men as discursive resources for conspiracy theories

image of Chapter 5. “You want me to be wrong”

This chapter discusses features of conspiratorial discourse related to the representation of social actors through the lens of rhetorical and argumentative analysis. Specifically, it identifies a previously undocumented variant of the straw man fallacy (a misrepresentation of an opponent’s position meant to refute it more easily), namely the ethotic straw man, which unscrupulous arguers can use to legitimate their own credibility and undermine their opponents’, thereby evading scientific discussion of relevant issues. A TV-interview with French virologist Didier Raoult, who championed hydroxychloroquine-based treatments in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, is taken as a case in point to explain why such quasi-populistic discourse, prominently centred on questions of ethos, fits conspiratorial narratives so well.

  • Affiliations: 1: Universities of Lausanne and Neuchâtel; 2: University of Fribourg

References

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References

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    2011 “Straw Men, Weak Men, and Hollow Men.” Argumentation25 (1): 87–105. 10.1007/s10503‑010‑9199‑y
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    (ed.) 1999Images de Soi Dans Le Discours: La Construction de l’ethos. Sciences Des Discours. Lausanne and Paris: Delachaux et Niestlé.
    [Google Scholar]
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  5. Berger, Peter L. , and Thomas Luckmann
    1990The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. New York: Anchor Books.
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    2002 “La Question de l’ethos et Du Genre En Communication Politique’. InActes Du Premier Colloque Franco-Mexicain Des Sciences de La Communication, 35–41.
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  9. Cornilliat, François , and Richard Lockwood
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  10. Doury, Marianne , and Pierre Lefébure
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    2016 “Mining Ethos in Political Debate’. InFrontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications. Proceedings of 6th International Conference on Computational Models of Argument (COMMA 2016), ed. by Pietro Baroni , Thomas F. Gordon , Tatjana Scheffler , and Manfred Stede , 299–310. Netherlands: IOS Press.
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  13. Eemeren, Frans H. van , and Robert Grootendorst
    1992Argumentation, Communication, and Fallacies: A Pragma-Dialectical Perspective. Routledge.
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  14. Errecart, Amaia
    2019 “De La Sociabilité Associative : Formes et Enjeux de La Construction d’un Ethos Collectif.” Mots, no.121 (November): 89–105. 10.4000/mots.25748
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  16. Fuhrer, Joffrey , and Florian Cova
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  19. 1982Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior. 1st Pantheon Books ed.New York: Pantheon Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Govier, Trudy
    2010A Practical Study of Argument. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Herman, Thierry
    2005 “L’analyse de l’ethos Oratoire’. InDes Discours Aux Textes: Modèles et Analyses, ed. by Philippe Lane , 157–182. Rouen: Publication des Universités de Rouen et du Havre.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Herman, Thierry
    2010 “L’irrésistible Rhétorique de La Conspiration: Le Cas de l’imposture de La Lune.” InLes Rhétoriques de La Conspiration, 217–236. Paris: CNRS Editions. 10.4000/books.editionscnrs.16298
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    1964The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays. 1st edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Jacquin, Jérôme
    2018 “Ethos and Inference: Insights from a Multimodal Perspective.” InArgumentation and Inference: Proceedings of the 2nd European Conference on Argumentation, Fribourg 2017, ed. by Steve Oswald and Didier Maillat , 2:413–423. London: College Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Keeley, Brian L.
    1999 “Of Conspiracy Theories.” The Journal of Philosophy96 (3): 109–126. 10.2307/2564659
    https://doi.org/10.2307/2564659 [Google Scholar]
  26. Krieg-Planque, Alice
    2019 “L’ethos de Rupture En Politique: « Un Ouvrier, c’est Là Pour Fermer Sa Gueule ! », Philippe Poutou.” Argumentation et Analyse Du Discours, no.23 (October). 10.4000/aad.3773
    https://doi.org/10.4000/aad.3773 [Google Scholar]
  27. Lehti, Lotta
    2013 “Genre et Ethos: Des Voies Discursives de La Construction d’une Image de l’auteur Dans Les Blogs de Politiciens’. PhD Thesis, Finland: University of Turku.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Lewiński, Marcin , and Steve Oswald
    2013 “When and How Do We Deal with Straw Men? A Normative and Cognitive Pragmatic Account.” Journal of Pragmatics, Biases and constraints in communication: Argumentation, persuasion and manipulation, 59, Part B: 164–77. 10.1016/j.pragma.2013.05.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2013.05.001 [Google Scholar]
  29. Macagno, Fabrizio , and Douglas Walton
    2017Interpreting Straw Man Argumentation: The Pragmatics of Quotation and Reporting. Dordrecht: Springer. 10.1007/978‑3‑319‑62545‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-62545-4 [Google Scholar]
  30. Mudde, Cas , and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser
    2017Populism: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/actrade/9780190234874.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/actrade/9780190234874.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  31. Oswald, Steve
    2016 “Conspiracy and Bias: Argumentative Features and Persuasiveness of Conspiracy Theories.” InArgumentation, Objectivity, and Bias: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference of the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation (OSSA), 18–21 May 2016, edited by Pat Bondy and Laura Benacquista , 1–16. Windsor, ON: OSSA. https://scholar.uwindsor.ca/ossaarchive/OSSA11/papersandcommentaries/168
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Oswald, Steve , and Thierry Herman
    2016 “Argumentation, Conspiracy and the Moon: A Rhetorical-Pragmatic Analysis.” InCase Studies in Discourse Analysis, edited by Marcel Danesi and Sara Greco , 295–330. Münich: Lincom Europa.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Saussure, Louis de
    2018 “The Straw Man Fallacy as a Prestige-Gaining Device.” InArgumentation and Language – Linguistic, Cognitive and Discursive Explorations, edited by Steve Oswald , Jérôme Jacquin , and Thierry Herman , 171–190. Cham: Springer. 10.1007/978‑3‑319‑73972‑4_8
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-73972-4_8 [Google Scholar]
  34. Schumann, Jennifer , Sandrine Zufferey , and Steve Oswald
    2019 “What Makes a Straw Man Acceptable? Three Experiments Assessing Linguistic Factors.” Journal of Pragmatics141: 1–15. 10.1016/j.pragma.2018.12.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2018.12.009 [Google Scholar]
  35. Sunstein, Cass R. , and Adrian Vermeule
    2009 “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures.” Journal of Political Philosophy17 (2): 202–227. 10.1111/j.1467‑9760.2008.00325.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9760.2008.00325.x [Google Scholar]
  36. Talisse, Robert , and Scott Aikin
    2006 “Two Forms of the Straw Man.” Argumentation20 (3): 345–352. 10.1007/s10503‑006‑9017‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10503-006-9017-8 [Google Scholar]
  37. Van Leeuwen, Theo
    1996 “The Representation of Social Actors’. InTexts and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis, ed by Carmen Rosa Caldas-Coulthard and Malcolm Coulthard , 1:32–70. London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. 2007 “Legitimation in Discourse and Communication.” Discourse & Communication1 (1): 91–112. 10.1177/1750481307071986
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1750481307071986 [Google Scholar]
  39. Walton, Douglas , Christopher Reed , and Fabrizio Macagno
    2008Argumentation Schemes. 1st edition. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511802034
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511802034 [Google Scholar]
  40. Wilson, Deirdre , and Robyn Carston
    2019 “Pragmatics and the Challenge of “Non-Propositional” Effects.” Journal of Pragmatics, Quo Vadis, Pragmatics?, 145 (May): 31–38. 10.1016/j.pragma.2019.01.005
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2019.01.005 [Google Scholar]
  41. Wilson, Deirdre , and Dan Sperber
    2012 “Explaining Irony.” InMeaning and Relevance, edited by Deirdre Wilson and Dan Sperber , 123–145. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9781139028370.008
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139028370.008 [Google Scholar]
  42. Wodak, Ruth , and Michael Meyer
    2015Methods of Critical Discourse Studies. Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Zarefsky, David
    2014Rhetorical Perspectives on Argumentation: Selected Essays by David Zarefsky. New York: Springer International Publishing AG. 10.1007/978‑3‑319‑05485‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05485-8 [Google Scholar]
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