On November 9, 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. No aspect of the campaign was more remarkable than Trump’s rhetoric, which ranged from the candid and unexpected to the crude and incendiary. Now, two years later, his rhetoric—and the reasons for its widespread appeal—remain largely opaque, even under examination from proto-fascist or populist lenses. I seek for a partial account of Trump’s rhetoric using the concept of antinomic rhetoric coupled with the widespread popular perception of him as similar to an internet troll. In short, I believe it is his violation of the conventional standards (nomoi) of rhetoric—his “trolling”— that best explains his remarkable rhetoric. Antinomic rhetoric, as I characterize it here, aims at disruption instead of persuasion and employs deception and aggression instead of shared values and rational proofs. By examining a series of rhetorical exchanges between Trump and Senator Elizabeth Warren, I find evidence that his use of antinomic rhetoric derails conversations, dissolves the standards of rational civic discourse, and draws his opponents into unforced strategic errors. These effects contribute to a chaotic environment where more “ordinary” persuasion can take place on territory more favorable to Trump. I also draw broader inferences about Trump’s use of antinomic rhetoric in rhetorical exchanges other than the ones analyzed here and inquire into what further questions could be asked to deepen our understanding of Trump’s trollery and of antinomic rhetoric in general.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Fisher, Joseph Wayne, "Troll-in-Chief: Donald Trump, Antinomic Rhetoric, and the Short-Circuiting of Civic Discourse" (2019). Theses and Dissertations. 8255.
Trump, rhetoric, antinomic, nomos, troll