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Rhetoric and reality

June 05, 2007

Re "Words in a time of war," Opinion, June 1

Mark Danner attributes to presidential advisor Karl Rove a quote of what defines reality. It's fascinating that the White House thinks it can define reality by "acting." The problem for the White House is that reality must be uncontradicted. The actions of nature and the laws that humans name to describe those behaviors must be a real thorn in the side of the White House. Laws such as gravity (water flows downhill) or our genetic predispositions that help explain so much of human behavior -- such as the desire to express oneself or the desire to resist attempts at domination -- contradict Rove's glib description of reality. So after the White House runs its destructive course, Mother Nature and those who understand her ways will prevail, as surely as the tide comes in.

GARY MILLIKEN

Santa Barbara

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How does Danner's theme of rhetoric and reality figure into his climactic account of the young Iraqi woman searching for the remains of her nephew? It sounded as though the young man blew himself apart, which is often the case with suicide bombers who wear explosive-laden belts. Was he a victim or was he the perpetrator? Danner's use of this ambiguous reality is an attempt to score rhetorical points in the service of truth.

MARK AARON

Santa Monica

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Basing one's entire commencement address on an unconfirmed quote by a "believed" source was an act of pure genius by Danner, professor of journalism at UC Berkeley. I have no doubt that the ovation he surely received was for his demonstrated power to persuade with supposition, half-truth and unknown -- which is, in the final analysis, the power of rhetoric.

JAVIER MARROQUIN

Los Angeles

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