Date of Award

Summer 8-22-2018

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Nathan Stormer

Second Committee Member

Holly Schreiber

Third Committee Member

Naomi Jacobs

Additional Committee Members

Kirsten Jacobson

Abstract

Prompted by the ascendance of the far right, this thesis reinterprets pertinent aspects of Kant's aesthetic philosophy to confront far-right political rhetoric. This aesthetic frame provides insights into the shortcomings of a predominant rational-deliberative rhetoric, new understanding of the resilience of far-right rhetoric, and imagines a cultivation of more open taste via reflective judgment to more effectively challenge this rhetoric and cultivates democratic practices. Examining key contemporary discursive examples, philosophy, and rhetorical theory, I first argue that (neo)fascism cannot be "fact-checked" out of existence; indifference to traditional evidence means those who adhere to far-right politics are antagonistic to anything that contradicts what they feel to be true. Leaning on Jenny Rice to locate sentimental aesthetics and hardened desire underwriting what some designate as the far-right's bullshit, I locate the power of these politics in cultivated resentment based in American historical, cultural, and temporal dissatisfactions. From this genealogy, I suggest that these dissatisfactions, which atrophy the democratic imagination and manifest authoritarian longings, produce dogmatic tastes and feelings that maintain and reinforce themselves. These self-reinforcing dogmatic tastes and feelings help make far-right rhetoric resilient. To contest this, I propose rhetoric that would cultivate a prejudice for reflective judgment in matters of aesthetic and political taste. If brought to engage with rich particulars that are difficult to subsume under preconceived convictions, people can become more accustomed to consider the specificity of situations. If this becomes habitual, then this habit can provide an indirect means of weakening far-right sentiments through greater openness to alterity. To locate this possibility within existing far-right sentiments, the author revisits Hannah Arendt's examination of Adolf Eichmann. Through this, I locate a fascistic style of reflective judgment and empathy. Therefore, I argue this existent way of judging still offers a difficult yet necessary ground within far-right sentiments to build upon to foster democratic tastes, ethics, and practices.

Included in

Communication Commons

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