Paper 3 Outline: Rhetorical Analysis of a Satiric Work

Outline for “Sarah Palin Uses a Hand-O-Prompter” from The Colbert Report

  1. Introduction
    1. Overview of the piece
    2. Rhetorical strategies
    3. Commonplaces
    4. Overall message
  2. Logical Fallacies and Rhetorical Figures
    1. Twisting a cliché
    2. Reductio ad absurdum
    3. Inventing new words
    4. Taking a phrase literally
  3. Explaining Satire Through Satire
    1. Details of the story
    2. Colbert’s use of wordplay
    3. Key rhetorical victory
  4. Commonplaces and Aims
    1. Mainly Democratic audience
    2. Sarah Palin’s image against her
    3. Defends President Obama
  5. Conclusion
    1. Restatement of thesis
    2. Viewer takeaway
    3. Colbert’s style and delivery
    4. Success of the piece

March 7 Satire Assignment

“Cold War Update – Obama’s Ukraine Response”

For this assignment, I found three satirical articles by comedian Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report to analyze.  The first article, titled “Cold War Update – Obama’s Ukraine Response” discusses the view that President Barack Obama is seen as “weak” when compared to Russian leader Vladimir Putin after the recent events in Ukraine.  The story begins with Colbert’s use of the logical fallacy reductio ad absurdum when he shows the audience his “shoe phone” and “shoe answering machine” after announcing his apparent beliefs that the Cold War never ended.  Then, after playing news clips of analysts and political figures ridiculing President Obama for his “weak” image, Colbert uses a red herring to talk about the President’s wardrobe in relation to his power viewed by the public.  He notes Obama’s lack of tie and his choice of jeans and uses the wordplay “casual doomsday,” thus twisting the popular phrase “casual Friday” to gain audience appeal.  Finally, Colbert uses what Jay Heinrichs calls a “speak-round” (page 203 of Thank You for Arguing), jokingly calling President Obama “Big Chief Leads-from-Behind” before discussing the President’s choice of action.  Paired with Colbert’s usual use of sarcasm and wit, the piece offers a great rhetorical lesson as well as a laugh for viewers.—obama-s-ukraine-response

 “Arizona’s Religious Freedom Bill & Self-Professed Gays”

The second article I found on The Colbert Report’s website is titled “Arizona’s Religious Freedom Bill & Self-Professed Gays.”  This news story is about a new bill in Arizona that would allow store owners to refuse service to openly homosexual customers on the basis of religious freedom.  During the story, Stephen Colbert uses multiple rhetorical strategies and figures.  For example, Colbert plays on the logical fallacy of ignorance as proof by ridiculing Representative Steve King’s own words that homosexuality is strictly a “self-professed behavior.”  To do this, Colbert uses another logical fallacy, reductio ad absurdum, to relate American figure skater Johnny Weir to a wood nymph.  Finally, at the end of Colbert’s report, he uses the rhetorical figure of repeating first words.  The genius of this specific delivery is that Colbert uses a figure often used within religious texts to show the absurdity of the bill claiming to protect religious freedoms.  For example, Colbert delivers a minute-long hypothetical scenario constantly repeating the word “pretend” to make fun of King’s belief that homosexual couples are plotting against store owners by faking their relationships.  Overall, Stephen Colbert perfectly displays his opinion that the new Arizona Bill is an unfair and unjust use of the law through the simple rhetorical tool of satire.—self-professed-gays

 “Sarah Palin Uses a Hand-O-Prompter”

The final article by Stephen Colbert I found is titled “Sarah Palin Uses a Hand-O-Prompter” and offers perhaps the most abundant source of rhetorical satire of the three.  The story discusses Sarah Palin’s recent speech at a Tea Party Convention as well as her defense of Rush Limbaugh for calling liberals “f-ing retards.”  At the beginning of the report, Colbert uses the figure of speech of twisting a cliché when he adapts the well-known phrase “No taxation without representation” to ridicule the Tea Party’s profit gain.  Also in the story, Colbert again uses the logical fallacy of reductio ad absurdum when he makes fun of Palin’s use of what he calls a “hand-o-prompter” (using the figure of inventing new words) by labeling his thumb in marker.  Finally, at the end of the newscast, Colbert brings it home by explaining satire through satire.  When Palin explains that Rush Limbaugh’s use of the words “f-ing retards” was used in satire, Colbert uses Palin’s own words against her by taking it literally, and thus reducing it to absurdity.  Colbert says that, like Limbaugh, people should come to Palin’s defense and call her a “f-ing retard” to show support for the apparent genius of the satire used.  This piece is filled to the brim with rhetorical strategy, and it is definitely worth the watch.