1) The Threat

Look Out!


  • use of emotions --> predictable fears: death and destruction, domination, invasion, restriction, inequality, chaos

  1. conservative pep-talk directed to an audience of haves: stirring fear of loss

  2. progressive pep-talks directed to an audience of have-nots: stirring fear of existing evil, nothing will improve

    • difference between "what is" and "what should be" can lead to a cognitive dissonance which then is considered to be a problem

    • "Persuaders are often "problem-makers". Often, their first task is an attempt to make their audience aware of a situation, then to perceive it as a problem, fear it as a threat to self or to the group, feel responsibility for the situation, the ability to do it, and the desire, will, or commitment to change it." (Rank,Hugh. The pep talk: Cause rhetoric, 2008)

Ways to give a warning

1. "Name-Calling"

Generic Name-Calling:

  • derogatory words to insult other groups; ethnic, national, religious

  • words relating to sexuality and bodily functions: "dirty words"

  • words suggesting that a person is non-human or less-than-human (monster, savage, rat; dumb, jerk)

Political Name-Calling:

  • efforts to make the opponent look incompetent, untrustworthy and self-seeking

  • ad hominem attack: criticism of the physical appearance or anything else irrelevant to the issue

    • such criticism might be logically invalid but rhetorically effective

2. Telling of "Horror Stories"

  • refers to the detailed narrative which describes the evil deeds of the opponents and the sufferings of the vicitms

  • they vary in truthfulness and accuracy

  • from gossip and rumour ("Did you hear what happened to XYZ?") to well-planned movies and novels

  • famous "Horror Stories" in American Literature about social injustice: Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom's Cabin

  • war propaganda: uniting the own people by emphasizing the savagery and barbarity of the enemies

3. Use of "Atrocity Pictures"

  • visual counterpart of horror stories: include drawings, paintings, photographs, movies

  • depiction of dead bodies: the victims

  • Juxtaposition: contrasting "the good and the bad guys"

  • use of stereotypes
to intensify the "bad" in the enemy: graphical equivalent of attack words --> enemy presented as inhuman monster (werewolf) or a fearsome animal (snake, shark, spider)

to intensify the "good": idealizing, romanticizing, glamorizing --> heroic figures: strong, handsome, muscular men; beautiful, determined-looking women

4. Scenarios

 (mental dramas in the imagination)

  • Threat Metaphors used to intensify fear

    • Hidden Danger: Tip of the Iceberg, Snake in the Grass, Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, Pandora's Box

    • Beginning Sequence: Domino Theory, Foot in the door, Ticking Timebomb, Fall of Roman Empire

    • Contamination: Drop of Poison, Poisoned Well