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On 5 September 1995, Hillary Clinton, former first Lady of the United States, was invited by the Women & Health Security Colloquium, which was sponsored by the World Health Organization, to attend the Fourth U.N. World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. As the Honorary Chairperson of the United States delegation to the conference, she gave the speech, “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” in the first few days during a special Plenary Session. In the speech, she utilized several persuasive techniques, also known as propaganda, grasping people’s attention in order to achieve support for the claim of the women’s rights she was devoted to. Propaganda is usually a speech device that people intently use to induce or intensify others’ actions and attitudes with some deluded languages. Since propaganda is deliberate, it is often looked down as an evil and offensive tool. However, sometimes it can just be used for an act of persuasion or a personal perspective. According to Cross, propaganda is an important tool and seen in everywhere surrounding our lives. It needs to be correctly analyzed and respected and it can actually work toward good causes as well as bad (p.526). -For example, by intentionally incorporating propaganda into her speech, such as appealing to people’s emotions, distracting people’s attention, and somewhat misleading people, Hillary Clinton strengthened her persuasive power for women’s rights and successfully beamed her message all over the world.
Some propaganda techniques employ pathos, the act of appealing to people’s emotions. For example, plain-folks appeal, a device where a speaker tries to win our confidence and support by appearing to be a person like ourselves, is a type of propaganda. Clinton’s speech displays this technique when she says, “We come together in fields and in factories. In village markets and supermarkets. In living rooms and board rooms.” Her words suggest that she is one of those everyday people in fields, factories, markets, living rooms, and board rooms. Clinton further expands this idea by saying, “We share a common future.” This statement suggests that because we share the same future, we are on the same level. She is telling her audience that we should listen to her points because she is one of us, and thus has similar goals and interests to us. We are effectively led to believe that we should trust her so that we can overcome our shared struggles to achieve those shared goals and that shared future. Through plain-folks appeal, she turns her audience into trusting comrades-in-arms.
She then employs the bandwagon technique in a similar manner. When she says, “That is why every woman, every man, every child, every family, and every nation on our planet has a stake in the discussion that takes place here,” she is again promoting that idea of oneness, which is the sharing of both struggles and goals. In the bandwagon technique, however, the goal is to pressure people to believe what everyone else believes and to conform, thus being faithful to the conference. There is a call to action. Clinton is telling the audience to “jump on the bandwagon,” because if one of them does not, that is the equivalent of turning away from your fellows.
In the speech, she further strengthens the credibility of her argument by appealing to other emotions, such as pity and fear. Appealing to pity is achieved by attempting to win the audience’s sympathy by giving examples of rightfully pitiable situations, in order to convince us of the conclusion or solution she will propose. One sees this technique in the statement: “As an American, I want to speak up for women in my own country – women who are raising children on the minimum wage, women who can’t afford health care or child care, women whose lives are threatened by violence, including violence in their own homes.” In that sentence, she in effect not only manages to tug on the audience’s heartstrings, but also to subtly declare herself as the honorary representative of these poor souls; then she becomes the voice of the voiceless and oppressed.
At the same time, it is also hard not to notice how Clinton makes the use of “appeal to fear,” a persuasion technique that implicitly threatens the audience and like the previous examples of pathos-based argument, uses emotions rather than reasons to persuade. Clinton displays this technique in her speech by saying, “As long as discrimination and inequities remain so commonplace around the world – as long as girls and women are valued less, fed less, fed last, overworked, underpaid, not schooled and subjected to violence in and out of their homes – the potential of the human family to create a peaceful, prosperous world will not be realized.” Here, she is basically saying that people feel pity for those disenfranchised individuals she gives as an example, but if we continue to do nothing, their situations will deteriorate further and worst of all, such situations may affect them as well, in their own family and in their own home.
Of course, the point of stirring her audience to such extents is to pursue a specific ideal, sometimes even a certain agenda. In the speech, however, she does not specify what exact action she wants her audience to take, and yet the call to action is almost palpable. Clinton achieves this by distracting her audience’s attention. In particular, she uses transfer-glory by association in this case-a propaganda technique wherein the speaker attempts to transfer our good feelings about one thing, towards their viewpoints. She makes her audience aware that her goal is the improvement of women’s lives, “What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish.” However, as we can see, she is careful not to exclude anyone from appreciating her viewpoints. In fact, she suggests that by joining her cause, people would actually be helping themselves. Clinton even broadens the scope of these purported benefits when she says, “And when families flourish, communities and nations will flourish.” Thus, by helping women, we are actually helping the entire world.
It is an altruistic enough message in all respects. To cement such a message, however, we will notice that the speech is also littered with attempts to mislead the audience as well. For example, when she states, “Women are the primary caretakers for most of the world’s children and elderly,” she is making a hasty generalization in fact. As Cooper shown, “A hasty generalization is a conclusion based on a sample that is too small or in some other way unrepresentative of the larger population.” (p.152) Such a statement supports her overall argument and it might also be true in certain cases; however, she misleads her audience by stating it as a fact without stating a basis that men can also be the primary caretakers for children and seniors.
Clinton’s use of another technique in her speech, stroking (Argumentum ad populum), gains my admiration. First, she presents an opposing view to her points when she states, “There are some who wonder whether the lives of women and girls matter to economic and political progress around the globe.” By suggesting that some people think it is not necessary to care about women’s rights simply just because they think women are less useful in the field of economy and politics, she raises indignation. However, it is misleading in that it creates an opponent, an unspecified “they,” that may or may not exist. Thus, the argument becomes whether what “they” said is true or not, and not the possibility that no one truly said those instigating statements. Clinton then assures the indignant audience that there are many women who are just as successful as men in professions with high emolument in fact, stating: “Let them look at the women gathered here and at Huairou – the homemakers, nurses, teachers, lawyers, policymakers, and women who run their own businesses.” She manages to present both argument and counterargument without specifying who the enemy is supposed to be and uses stroking that makes us feel we as women are very important to the society.
Another technique that Clinton uses to mislead her audience to cement her message is card-stacking. Card-stacking is the technique which tells us the fact that is true but still not the entirely true in order to prevent us from being aware of some other important facts. For example, Clinton employs this technique when she states, “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights – and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” While it is true that women’s rights are a part of human rights, human rights are not specific to just “all women,” they encompass the rights of both genders. Here, Clinton uses the card-stacking to mislead us, in order to perk up the importance of women’s rights. Near the end, she uses card-stacking again when she says, “Families rely on mothers and wives for emotional support and care; families rely on women for labor in the home; and increasingly, families rely on women for income needed to raise healthy children and care for other relatives.” Considering the very diverse memberships, values, and situations of any set of real families, this generalization is not necessarily true; thus, she subtly misleads her audience again.
Throughout the history, propaganda is often used by government or politics or advertiser to affect people’s attitude and consequently alter people’s decisions to become the follower of the point of the political party or become the consumer of the company involuntarily. However, the intention of Clinton’s speech is completely different. It does not have to damage an opposition’s credit as in some candidates’ speech, and neither induces people to purchase something actually unnecessary in their lives as in some ads. It is about delivering a great message for her audience regarding the significance of public women welfare. Propaganda can be used in good manners as well as bad manners. By promoting the propaganda in the positive way, Clinton successfully increased my perception of the importance of women’s rights and made me want to follow her idea as long as she dedicates for this claim.
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