"Persuasion affects all people and all interests, and can be local, national, and/or international."

This insightful study of persuasion begins by addressing two schools of thought on the subject. Published in 1968, “The Rhetorical Situation” by Lloyd Bitzer “argued that reality presents us with an agenda with inherent meaning and significance.” In other words, the language and symbols of the situation drive the “actions the situation demands.” The author labels this approach to persuasion the “situational perspective.” Vatz states, “I read through the article, absolutely captivated by what I regarded as its irresponsible theoretical take on persuasion.” Vatz countered Bitzer’s argument in “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation,” written shortly after Bitzer’s article was published. This article set the groundwork for Vatz’s nearly four decades in the field of rhetoric and persuasion. Rather than defining rhetoric as situational, Vatz defines it as follows: “Persuasion is the struggle for chosen agenda and the subsequent effort to infuse spin strategically into the established topic for chosen audiences.” In other words, this rhetorical perspective concludes that persuasion is primarily about the persuader and his or her choice of topics for a particular audience and how these topics are used to establish an agenda or spin.

In six chapters, Vatz defines his “Agenda/Spin model of Persuasion,” addresses perceived problems in Bitzer’s “situational rhetoric,” presents his "Article Re-write Assignment" in which students rewrite articles by taking the opposition’s stance, evaluates the intersection of persuasion and psychiatry, offers examples of the Agenda/Spin model. and provides a discussion of the persuasive efforts of Presidents Donald J. Trump and Joe Biden. Each chapter presents an engaging look at persuasion in a variety of situations.

The author provides a substantive, though potentially controversial, look at the study of persuasion and rhetoric—terms he uses interchangeably in the book. He does a wonderful job of defining his persuasion theory in accessible language, though readers not accustomed to the terms and concepts of the discipline may need to reread some paragraphs. One of the most memorable sections of the book is the “Article Re-write Assignment” used in Vatz’s university classes to explore how persuasion works. He offers examples of student work that enlighten the reader on the nuances of persuasion. As is evidenced by student evaluations of the class, this assignment has proven a successful tool in understanding the way persuasion works and how to use it. Helpful additions to the work are articles written by the author and other experts in the field of persuasion and other disciplines. For example, Vatz’s chapter on persuasion and psychiatry is an eye-opening look at the way mental illness is defined. The intersection of psychiatry and rhetoric offers a fascinating look at both disciplines. Vatz also explores the political arena’s use of rhetoric and persuasion to successfully illustrate how persuasion and spin are utilized during debates and campaigns.

This comprehensive study gives the reader plenty to consider. Each section is well-written and offers a plethora of examples and articles to fuel the imagination and instill curiosity about the subject. After reading this book, no one will look at a debate, read an article, or watch a news show without looking for the spin. It is a memorable and informative look at an intriguing subject. Anyone wishing to learn more about how persuasion works will find Vatz’s book to be a most extraordinary read.

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