The Politics of Confrontation: From John Lennon to Wendell Phillips
One of my greatest pleasures in writing has come from the thought that perhaps my works might annoy someone of comfortably pretentious position.1
John Kenneth Galbraith
Among the many varied forms of human communication, one of the most important but least studied is public persuasion directed to a hostile audience. Persuaders usually take what theorist Herbert Simons calls the "co-active" approach, using appeals that minimize conflict and maximize shared themes.2 Unlike John Kenneth Galbraith, whose observation opens this chapter, most communicators do not set out to upset or "annoy" anyone. But Galbraith has described an important and valid rhetorical motive: It is intrinsically interesting and often socially useful to confront an audience with ideas its members do not uphold.
A persuasive encounter occurs when an individual attempts to confront and challenge a hostile audience within a public setting. An audience is considered "hostile" if many of its members disagree with the general conclusions advocated by the communicator they have gathered together to hear. Persuasion is "public" when arguments offered to a group are widely reported in the mass media. Representative examples examined in this book include a widely admired 1958 speech given to the Radio and Television News Directors Association by Edward R. Murrow and a more recent "Donahue" program taped in the Soviet Union. In both instances, these broadcasters became advocates for viewpoints signifi-