#Watergate: Political rhetoric undermined by social media

Rhetoric (the art/science of discourse) is to politicians what the hammer is to Thor: They need it to be able to do their job succesfully.

Reading the recent avalanche of social media comments around Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican senator protagonist of the recent social media phenomenon , I am reminded of the three musketeers of rhetoric (all needed to persuade, motivate or inspire).

  • Ethos is the foundation everything else is built on and the component that should be maintained throughout any discourse. It encapsulates who you are and what you do and it precedes what you say. Ethos embodies status, character, trust and confidence. Ethos is what motivates celebrity collaborations. Its the “either you have it or you don´t”.
  • Logos is the “brainy” part of a discourse. In it you find the most reasoning, the most logic. Here is where you pull the facts, the numbers, the dates and the names.
  • Pathos is the emotion. Where you connect at a gut level. This is where politicians would make reference to patriotism, love and even fear. Pathos is very important as in the end it is feelings (not thoughts) the drivers of everything we do.

Watch the clip below where Marco Rubio awkwardly grabs a drink of water (and consequently erodes his ethos appeal substantially).

It is here where his Ethos is weakened. Up to this point (minute 11 of the whole speech) Mr. Rubio had maintained a reasonable level of credibility and trustworthiness in his persona.

But with this strange out-of-shot-reach-out whilst still staring at the camera he shows weakness and lack of confidence. No matter how articulate his Logos appeal or how touching his Pathos resonance, everything in the speech crumbles as his Ethos shakes.

This effect is amplified in social media channels by the one true premise of social media: it shows no mercy. When you place politicians and awkwardness in the same bag it is bound to gather enough social inertia and momentum to outshine important issues surrounding the event (#waterbreak and “Rubio water” were in fact trending higher on social media than President Obama’s address).

At mashable you can see some examples of the mentions on twitter.

Ethos can be re-built of course. And Marco Rubio started pretty swiftly as he tweeted an image of the water bottle soon afterwards. Not taking the mentions seriously is a good start towards showing confidence.

So if there are two winners in all of this:

  1. Poland Spring
  2. All the bloggers/media who like me, take advantage of an event of this nature to write a post!

Take care amigos,

Hector