Saturday, July 13, 2013

Nibley on Rhetoric XVIII

Nibley on modern rhetoricians:
In its vagueness and all-pervasiveness the term rhetoric came very close to our own "business," or better, "public relations." No one could say exactly what it was, yet no one had the slightest doubt about its real nature or its absolutely predominant place in the world. The rhetorician was a general promoter, ingratiating himself with powerful individuals or groups to run off with a handsome cut of the profits from clever deals engineered by himself, handling other people's affairs in the law courts, guiding public opinion, generally flattering and running errands for the great---the god Mercury, the winged messenger and factotum with the money bags. Hermes the thief, with the ready tongue and winning manners shows how established the type really is. The rhetor is "a pushing, driving, money-chasing operator," says Lucian, "who leaves any sense of decency, propriety, moderation, and shame at home when he goes to work." "I do not make money," Dio protests, "I am not interested in crooked deals. . . . I do not promote things in the market place---for I am not a rhetor!" . . .  On the lower level, the cities swarmed with fast-talking operators who could always get it for you wholesale and whose skill at making something super-colossal out of nothing was excelled only by their know-how in the art of smearing. (Hugh Nibley, "Vicotriosa Loquacitas," CWHN 10:255-56.)