What You’ve Always Wanted to Know about the Authorizing Figure

Remember when you were a kid and in a sticky situation you insisted that your dad could beat up the other kid’s dad? Well, you were using what is known in rhetorical circles (those fascinating people) as the authorizing figure. And that’s the subject of Chapter Two of my dissertation.

I’m claiming specifically that Hugo Chavez uses Simon Bolivar as an authorizing figure to enhance his credibility and legitimize his government. In Venezuela, that’s about as earth shattering as the news that 1 + 1= 2.

When Republicans argue about who is carrying former President Ronald Reagan’s “mantle,” they are essentially trying to establish who has the right to use Reagan legitimately as an authorizing figure.

The next burning question is: why does it take so long to write a dissertation?

Answer: Because the process of writing is as, or more important, than the finished product.

Alternate answer: My adviser is a sadistic torturer. His role model is the king who punished Sisyphus with the boulder he had to push up the mountain.

There is some truth to that, but he is trying to make me socially acceptable to other academic types, which is certainly not an easy task, especially long distance.

As you listen and read comments by and about the political candidates from both U.S. parties, see if you notice their trying to borrow credibility from past leaders, people who are no longer around to clarify their positions on any given topic.

Authorizing figures: an important source of credibility for key messages.


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