Advocating Weapons, War, and Terrorism: Technological and Rhetorical Paradox

Advocating Weapons, War, and Terrorism: Technological and Rhetorical Paradox

by Ian E. J. Hill


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Technē’s Paradox—a frequent theme in science fiction—is the commonplace belief that technology has both the potential to annihilate humanity and to preserve it. Advocating Weapons, War, and Terrorism looks at how this paradox applies to some of the most dangerous of technologies: population bombs, dynamite bombs, chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, and improvised explosive devices.

Hill’s study analyzes the rhetoric used to promote such weapons in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By examining Thomas R. Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population, the courtroom address of accused Haymarket bomber August Spies, the army textbook Chemical Warfare by Major General Amos A. Fries and Clarence J. West, the life and letters of Manhattan Project physicist Leo Szilard, and the writings of Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski, Hill shows how contemporary societies are equipped with abundant rhetorical means to describe and debate the extreme capacities of weapons to both destroy and protect. The book takes a middle-way approach between language and materialism that combines traditional rhetorical criticism of texts with analyses of the persuasive force of weapons themselves, as objects, irrespective of human intervention.

Advocating Weapons, War, and Terrorism is the first study of its kind, revealing how the combination of weapons and rhetoric facilitated the magnitude of killing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and illuminating how humanity understands and acts upon its propensity for violence. This book will be invaluable for scholars of rhetoric, scholars of science and technology, and the study of warfare.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780271081243
Publisher: Penn State University Press
Publication date: 11/05/2019
Series: RSA Series in Transdisciplinary Rhetoric , #9
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.67(d)

About the Author

Ian E. J. Hill is Assistant Professor in the History and Theory of Rhetoric at the University of British Columbia and an affiliate faculty member of the Graduate Program in Science and Technology Studies.

Table of Contents



Introduction: Technē’s Paradox and Weapons Rhetoric

1. Thomas Malthus’s Population Bomb as a Pre-Text for Technē’s Paradox

2. Preaching Dynamite: August Spies at the Haymarket Trial

3. Humane, All Too Humane: The Chemical-Weapons Advocacy

of Major General Amos A. Fries

4. Toward a Peaceful Bomb: Leo Szilard’s Paradoxical Life

5. Industrial Antipathy: Irreparability and Ted Kaczynski’s IEDs

Conclusion: In the Presence of Weapons and Rhetoric




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