The Employment of Rhetorical Triangle in the Speeches of Hezbollah's Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrullah



Received: 11/11/2015

Accepted: 07/10/2016

Extended Abstract

Introduction and statement of the problem: Sayyed Hassan Nasrullah is the third Secretary-General of Hezbollah and the leader of its military arm “The Islamic Resistance” as well. He held this position after the assassination by the Israeli army of his predecessor, Sayyed Abbas Al-Mosawi, in February 1992 (Alagha, 2006). Nasrullah is considered the official mouthpiece of his organisation and his speeches constitute a part of Hezbollah's discourse and the discourse of its military arm (El Zein, 2015).

There are studies investigating the speeches of Nasrullah (e.g. Bazzi, 2009; Lahlali, 2012; Matar, 2010). However, these studies do not consider the extemporaneity in the majority of Nasrullah’s speeches and their rhetoric. Although Matar (2010) attempted to study Nasrullah's rhetoric in a sample of speeches, she did not shed light on their rhetorical triangle - ethos, logos and pathos. Thus, the problem is represented by the dearth of research into the rhetorical triangle and signs in his speeches. In this vein, this paper aims to bridge the gap in this field and answers the question: what is the rhetorical triangle in Nasrullah's speeches and its implication?

Theoretical background: In analyzing a sample of Nasrullah's speeches, this paper considers Framing, which emerged in political communication, "as an extension of agenda-setting theory" (Scheufele and Tewksbury, 2007 p. 11). It refers "to the selection and salience of particular aspects of an issue rather than to the issue itself" (Entman, cited in Scheufele, 1999, p. 107). In this regard, this theory allows us to understand how Nasrullah addresses his audience because the core assumption of this theory shows how the addresser shapes its discourse about an issue in a certain way. It considers and describes the external and internal factors that have an impact on creating this discourse (Scheufele & Tewksbury, 2007). In this vein, David Snow (cited in McAdam et al., 1996) defines Framing as, “the conscious strategic efforts by groups of people to fashion shared understandings of the world and of themselves that legitimate and motivate collective action” (p. 6). Thus, the analysis of Nasrullah's speeches pays attention to the internal factors, which shape his discourse and present it in a language that reflects the ideology of Hezbollah and its worldview.

Methodology: This paper considers Van Dijk (cited in Fairclough, 1995) who found that the analysis of discourse is concerned with its macro- and microstructure, or in other words the analysis of its schematic and thematic structures. "The macrostructure of a text is its overall organization in terms of themes or topics. It is a hierarchical organization, in the sense that we can identify the theme of a whole text" (Fairclough, 1995, p. 29). However, the microstructure of a text is its overall content, and the analysis focuses on units, such as its syntactic structure, lexical choices, semantic relations and rhetorical features (Fairclough, 1995).

In analysing the macrostructure of Nasrullah's speeches, this paper points to their contexts and general structure and provides background information about Nasrullah. To analyse the microstructure of Nasrullah's speeches, this paper employs rhetoric to illuminate the mode of persuasion. As it is “often associated with the art of persuasion, rhetoric is typically defined as an integral moment of policy making, and the idea of rhetoric points to the necessity to convince, persuade, and communicate efficiently in the context of shaping and implementing public policies” (Gottweis, 2007, p. 240).

In studying rhetoric, researchers can study the notions of ethos, logos and pathos to illuminate the efficiency of the speech (Demirdöğen, 2010). Ethos means the ability of the speaker to persuade and it is generally linked to charisma, pathos means the embedded passions in the speech towards the addressees and logos means the speaker’s use of arguments in the speech (Demirdöğen, 2010; Gottweis, 2007).

Findings: This paper has pointed to the macrostructure of Nasrullah's speeches, this paper delved in the microstructure of the archival speeches chosen for analysis to identify the rhetorical triangle - ethos, logos and pathos and to interpret the denotations of a number of meaningful triadic visual signs in these speeches.

This paper has found that the components of rhetorical triangle are correlated altogether to achieve the ultimate goal of Nasrullah and his organisation by calling for struggle against Israel because the speeches hinge around the significance of resistance to face the Israeli army and liberate the occupied territories. Within this rhetorical strategy, Nasrullah uses his charisma and his argumentative ability to mobilise the Lebanese and the Arabs for this struggle and to demoralise the spirits of the Israelis in the context of psychological warfare. In this regard, the paper found that the structure of power in Nasrullah's speeches links between the power of faith and the power of science, focusing further on achieving the victory by grabbing the raison d'être of military capabilities to subjugate Israel. Thus, these speeches that express the core discourse of Hezbollah intertwine knowledge and power and this aligns with Foucauldian understanding of discourse.