Rhetoric and Glenn Beck’s Speech to CPAC: Floyd R. Turbo

I recently read a transcript of Glenn Beck’s speech to–perhaps performance for is a more accurate phrase–CPAC, on February 20. Here is a link to the full transcript:

Beck CPAC

From my perspective, as a teacher of writing and rhetoric, the most remarkable feature of the speech is that (as far as I can tell) it never turns an assertion or claim into an argument that Beck can build by defining terms, providing evidence, establishing warrants, qualifying claims within the argument, and so on. He seems to state something, then restate it differently, and then move on to another statement. He does read from one book (published in 1938) at one point, and his purpose in doing so appears to be to equate all types of political progressivism (which he doesn’t define) with Communism.

He also tells a couple of anecdotes to illustrate a kind of Utopian vision of America-past he pictures in his mind. Otherwise, there’s an odd spiraling quality to the speech, as it seems to loop from broad assertion to broad assertion. I found myself wanting the speech to settle down and follow at least one argumentative thread.

Consequently, the speech/performance reads as a greatly extended imitation of Johnny Carson’s old sketches featuring “Floyd R. Turbo, American” giving an editorial. Nonetheless, as a piece of rhetoric, Beck’s speech is a fascinating artifact.  For a sample of Johnny Carson as Floyd R. Turbo, please see . . .

Carson as Turbo

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