Recently, I completed one of the most challenging tasks I’d been assigned since entering OCCC. It was a speech; a group debate in which the teammates were chosen at random, and the topics of debate and the teams’ stances were chosen blindly out of a hat.
Some students found themselves arguing for things they’d never heard of before. I found myself arguing in favor of something that I have studied well and have stood passionately against for a long time. I took to the task with great gusto and gave the best speech I could, or really a performance rather, and I nailed it.
Like a proper scumbag, with a smile on my face, some manipulated data and charismatic slogans, I convinced impressionable, young classmates that some heinous thing was great for them all.
The real challenge of this all though was the research. To find a single source offering some real benefit proved difficult but I toiled at it and uncovered sources from their murky depths. Citing multiple, credible sources was a mandatory part of this project. To be caught relying on a fallacy of any sort would render your argument dismissed and the final grade penalized.
Beyond these walls though, there is no such punitive policy towards persuasive speech. When we are told how to feel about things by some silver- tongued fellow, speakers are under no obligation to cite the source of their information and if they were, it would likely only bore us. We demand only charisma and the appearance of genuine conviction to whip us into a frenzy.
Outside of the classroom, when the impassioned speeches are made, the burden of proof is solely on the listener. There is no fact checker scouring some endless almanac. It’s just us and them and we want so badly to be moved, to be stirred, to be passionate about anything; real or imaginary.
I affirmed something today that I’d always known. We can be moved with utter lies and misinformation, and people can be stirred into perpetrating horrible acts upon their earth or upon one another without a single, tiny shred of any real evidence of the benefit of doing so. And it can all be sparked by the charismatic words of some enthusiastic man with absolutely no allegiance to the words he’s saying.