Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery
dr_pretentious

Why the Use of Rhetorical Questions Is an Iffier Tactic Than You Think

It's not that I wish I were still teaching freshman comp. I just wish I could send this stunning example of Rhetoric Gone Wrong back in time to myself, so that I could use it with my undergrads. The kids I teach now are young enough, I can't use an example like this in any way, for any purpose, without stepping on their parents' toes. It's amazing how early the astute kids start using rhetorical questions in their writing.

From this article, I excerpt the following:

Rep. D.J. Bettencourt, a Salem Republican, tried unsuccessfully to bar women under 18 from obtaining the drug without a prescription.

"Would you want your 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-old daughters getting emergency contraception as easily as they can get Advil?" he said.


To which the very obvious answer is, yes. Duh. If I had a 12-year-old daughter, and she had occasion to use emergency contraception, I would fervently hope she would be able to get what she needed without delay or hassle. What kind of sadistic, fanatical, idiotic parent would prefer that his 12-year-old daughter carry to term a pregnancy she didn't want?

Open Memorandum to the Hon. Rep. Bettencourt:
When using rhetorical questions, it's advisable to load them with inflammatory modifiers, lest the reader think for herself.
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