Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

Towards a Rhetorical Understanding of Incitement: Unfinished Conversations with James Arnt Aune

Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

Towards a Rhetorical Understanding of Incitement: Unfinished Conversations with James Arnt Aune

Article excerpt

We begin with quotes, notes, fragmented memories of conversations, blog postings, and text messages. Jim found himself, as all of us do, critiquing the world while living in it, trying to work through a system whose free speech laws have yet to find proper footing amongst technological advancements, where incitement is always already constituted in the liberal tradition of free speech--where the cure for bad speech is simply more speech, where there is still not any meaningful legal recognition of cyber bullying or inciting suicide. In this piece, in this space, we pick up our quotes, notes, fragmented memories of conversations, blog postings, and text messages. We begin to talk with Jim, and with each other, again: "It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it" (Rabbi Tarfon, Pirkei Avot 2:16).

During his academic career, Aune's thoughts on the meaning of the First Amendment occurred through many venues: his editorship of Freedom of Expression Yearbook, his thoughts scattered throughout his generously shared notes from his undergraduate and graduate courses like Rhetoric of Social Movements, Freedom of Expression, and the Rhetoric of Religion; and, most importantly, his public engagement through his writings on the Blogora. Because his First Amendment thinking developed through traditional and nontraditional forms of public discourse, this article begins to work through the violence of silence. We embrace Aune's (2012b) method, asking "What is the implicit theory of language and rhetoric here?" in an effort to weave together Aune's evolving theory of incitement.

In this paper we offer an assessment of Aune's writings germane to the First Amendment, focusing explicitly on Aune's discussion of incitement. According to Aune's work, incitement not only exists as a legal concept but also as political and social arguments that citizens employ to maintain and resist forms of social order. In particular, we argue that when examining cases that concern the communicative aspects of incitement, it is best to examine the power relationships that occur between and surround the speaker's attempt to incite the audience. By examining Aune's work on the communicative nature of incitement, we argue that rather than examine the degree to which the speech may lead to conduct, it is best to examine the relations of power inherent in the message itself; in the context of the communicative act and in the contact between the speaker and audience; and in the opportunity that the discourse allows for resistance. In order to complete our analysis, we will, first, contextualize Aune's thoughts on the First Amendment and incitement within the larger discussion of incitement as a communicative concept. Next, we will review Aune's discussion of incitement, especially his discussion of Judith Butler's Excitable Speech and Roman Jakobson's model of communication. Finally, we will offer four concluding thoughts on how Aune's work expands our understanding of the power relationships inherent in the study of incitement.

AUNE AS RHETORICAL AND LEGAL SCHOLAR

Throughout his academic career, Aune focused his ceaseless professional and personal attention on the importance of legal rhetoric to the field's historical and contemporary theory and research. Like legal theorist James Boyd White, Aune believed that legal theorizing is a distinct kind of rhetorical activity, "that art by which culture and community and character are constituted and transformed" (White 1985, pp. x-xi). Aune spent the majority of his academic career studying and inspiring his students to study the ways in which communicative practices constitute the law, and vice versa. Further, Aune was also fascinated by the possibility for transformation--of law, of discipline, of community, of self-through rhetoric. Richard Weaver's "Phaedrus and the Nature of Rhetoric" (1985), serve as one of Aune's favorite quotations on the nature of rhetoric. …

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