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Indignatio: Louis C.K. – “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy”

December 7, 2011 1 comment

Comedian Louis C.K. begins this bit by remembering what technology was like when he was growing up and observes the leaps in progress and how people act entitled to a fault. C.K. targets “the crappiest generation”, people who demand more and more from the “miracles” of modern society and technology. He uses narratives of “non-contributing zero[es]” complaining about technology (cell phones) and societal institutions (Air travel) to evoke a sense of anger at them, as well as to foster commiseration with the audience at the annoyance of hearing someone complain so frivolously. He addresses anyone who benefits from modern innovation in an attempt raise the audience’s awareness of how easy and miraculous modern life actually is. He uses strong language and straight-forward terms to express how displeased with the entitlement of modern people, thereby evoking the indignation of the audience and attempting to turn them against the selfishness he perceives in the current generation.


C.K., Louis. Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy Conan O’Brien. 18 August 2011. Television.
N.B. this interview is adapted from a segment of Louis’s stand-up routine, Hilarious, which is pretty vulgar. You can watch it here

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Categories: humor, indignatio, narrative, speech

Indignatio: Romney and Gingrich – Republican Debate 12 Nov 2011

December 7, 2011 1 comment

In this Republican national debate, candidates naturally addressed potential voters, targeting the current Presidential administration in order to make themselves more viable options in the upcoming election. One of Mr. Romney’s more impassioned uses of indignatio against the current administration comes when he accuses President Obama of not holding America in high enough esteem and relying too much on his own charisma for foreign relations, rather than strengthening the nation.

“We have a president right now who thinks America’s just another nation. America is an exceptional nation. We have a president who thinks that the way to conduct foreign policy is through his personal affects on other people. I’m– I believe the way to conduct foreign policy is with American strength. Everything I do will make America stronger.” – Gov. Romney

This claim strikes to the heart of his audience, the voters he is courting. Typically, these southern, moderate to conservative citizens are highly patriotic, sometimes to a point of jingoism, and to claim that the President doesn’t love the country he is in charge of and to imply that he does not trust its strength or does not want to strengthen it offends them. Creating offended feelings in the rhetor’s audience is a key factor of stoking indignation and turning them away from the rhetor’s target. Throughout the debate, the candidates all agree on uses of indignatio toward President Obama, with the main goal of the rhetoric explicitly enumerated by Mr. Gingrich.

“We’re here tonight talking to the American people about why every single one of us is better than Barack Obama. And that’s the topic.” – Congressman Gingrich

They want their audience to be incensed to the point that they just don’t vote for President Obama. It doesn’t matter to them who gets elected, just as long as it is not Barack Obama. This use of indignatio is exemplary of the negative potential of this rhetorical device, as it seeks to prevent something and only promotes a vague alternative.

The rights of this debate belong to CBS News the official transcript is available here and a full, one-page transcript is available here.

Indignatio: System Of A Down – “Boom!”

December 7, 2011 1 comment

“Boom!” is an anti-war song with a music video focused on international protests to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The song targets the allegedly pro-war governments of the world, trying to instill hostility toward supposed murderous regimes that care about corporations and profit over the lives of people.

“Manufacturing consent is the name of the game. The bottom line is money; nobody gives a f***.”

The video more specifically targets, through the use of caricatures, President Bush, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Saddam Hussein, and Osama Bin Laden. It points out that children die in droves of starvation while these governments spend money on weapons. The interesting way the band overlays statements of protestors with their own singing serves to amplify their message and cultivates commiseration with the audience by implying that these opinions are the views of the oppressed masses.  The song culminates in a chorus of “why must we kill our own kind?” in an effort to imply that the target of the song is uninterested in preserving human life. The intended audience for this indignatio is shown in the video to be people of every nation and creed, with the desired effect of enforcing anti-war sentiments while converting war supporters.

System Of A Down. “Boom!” Steal This Album! 2002. Video.

Indignatio: Bill O’Reilly – “Talking Points 26 October 2011”

December 7, 2011 Leave a comment

In this particular segment of Mr. O’Reilly’s show, he reports allegations of Occupy Wall Street protestors displaying violence toward police and anti-Semitism, and he labels the protestors socialists. His intended audience is mainly people who may be unsure of the issues surrounding Occupy Wall Street or who have only heard “other media” depictions.

“A good number of these people are radicals, no doubt about it, yet they receive gentle treatment from the press.”

His aim is to erode support for the protest movement, through use of indignatio toward the protestors. He reports on violence and a case of one man’s anti-Semitic views to colour the audience’s perception of the protestors. He goes on to use the buzzword “socialistic” to describe the movement. The people he addresses typically have distaste or fear toward socialism, and equate capitalism to patriotism. By knowing his audience, Mr. O’Reilly is able to touch societal nerves that motivate his audience to action. Through use of indignatio, he steers his audience away from the opposing view point. He plays on the fear and anger of the viewer to sway him to his opinion.

O’Reilly, Bill. “Talking Points 10-26-11.” The O’Reilly Factor. 26 October 2011. Video.

Indignatio: Rotti and Shilo – Repo! The Genetic Opera

December 7, 2011 Leave a comment

This use of indignatio by the villain Rotti consists of two songs addressed to Shilo, a supposedly sick girl, vilifying the Repo-man (secretly Shilo’s father, Nathan, who has been trying to protect her). In these songs, “Rotti’s Chapel Sermon” and “Interrogation Room Challenge,” he mentions her oppressively sheltered childhood to make her indignant toward whoever had “kept [her] in the dark” and creates a feeling of fraternity with his “belief” that she has been wronged by that. He then proceeds to focus the indignatio toward the Repo-man by implying an earlier encounter she’d had with him was actually an attack on Shilo that Rotti heroically stopped, while at the same time, commiserating that the Repo-man has wronged him as well. The titles of these songs also hint to their rhetorical nature, as they are a “sermon” and a “challenge” to Shilo. The effect Rotti strives for—and almost achieves—is to turn Shilo against her father, but like a true classical villain, his rhetoric is not able to overcome true love for her father. The indignatio in this instance may not have succeeded in the end, but it is a brilliant example of how one can use another’s experiences and with a few carefully turned phrases can ignite anger in his audience, anger that will (sometimes) drive them to tragic actions.


Sorvino, Paul. “Rotti’s Chapel Sermon.” Repo! The Genetic Opera: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Deluxe Edition). By Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich. 2009. Mp3.

Sorvino, Paul. “Interrogation Room Challenge.” Repo! The Genetic Opera: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Deluxe Edition). By Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich. 2009. Mp3.

Indignatio: Cake – “Rock & Roll Lifestyle”

December 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Cake’s music video for “Rock & Roll Lifestyle” juxtaposes a musical narrative of an ingenuous music fan who does all the right things to fit in with images of the band dressed in poorly put-together Roman garb and acting out a scene of imperial decadence. The narrative of the song is directly addressed to its target, the stereotypical “poser” fan who “drink[s] at clubs/ to music [he] hasn’t even heard of.” The chorus questions the authenticity of this fan with its pondering of how he affords his lifestyle. It calls into question his grounding in reality where people who are on their own have to pay for everything themselves.

There is an implied audience to which the indignatio is directed, which consists of such regular people who have to worry about money and surviving. This is intended to make the genuine fans and regular folks angry at the target in a “proletariat v. bourgeois” sense. The ingenuous fan spends money he didn’t earn on music and things he doesn’t know or appreciate, while regular people never have the freedom to be so flippant. This underlying narrative of conflict is only enforced by the “emperor” addressing the “gladiators” during different descriptions—the younger one at the line, “is it you or your parents in this income tax bracket?” and the older, presumably more proletariat one, at “how long will the workers keep building him new [guitars]?”—and pitting them against one another in a mock gladiator battle. This is one of the more positive uses of indignatio, as its intended effect is to encourage all audiences to be true to themselves. It accomplishes this through it use of humour to arouse the audience’s emotional response.

Cake. “Rock & Roll Lifestyle.” Motorcade of Generosity. 1993. Video.

Indignatio: Overview

December 6, 2011 1 comment

One of a rhetor’s most powerful tools is pathopoeia, the appeal to the audience’s emotions and passions. Pathopoeia, the “general term for arousing passion or emotion” (Lanham 111), comes in as many forms as there are emotions to which the rhetor can appeal, but one of the most effective moves is to evoke the audience’s indignation toward a certain position. Indignatio is the term for evoking anger or indignation in an audience, with the goal of influencing their opinions and future actions, as if to say “Look at my opponent, isn’t he such a bastard!” (Lanham 90) Often combined with commiseratio (“Look at my opponent isn’t he such a bastard to US!”), the evocation of pity for the rhetor’s own position and shared suffering with the audience (Lanham 37), indignatio provides an effective pathetic means of influencing the audience. Indignatio, like most rhetorical moves, addresses an audience to achieve a desired reaction.

A special feature of indignatio, however is that it doesn’t function without a target to cause indignation toward. These three elements—a clear target, an audience the rhetor understands and commiserates with, and a specific desired reaction to the attack—make up any effective employment of the technique. Classically, indignatio was a part of a rhetor’s conclusion wherein he seeks to amplify his previous arguments. Today, however, indignatio is present in many parts of a rhetor’s argument, and often times the whole argument consists of and hinges on a rhetor’s use of indignatio. The following examples will show how modern rhetors use indignatio and will hopefully help the reader to recognize when a rhetor uses it in the future.

Lanham, Richard A. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. Print.

Categories: indignatio, overview