- Katz, “Ethics of Expediency”
The Katz article looks at the issues of ethics and rhetoric during the Holocaust. Beginning with a memo from the published “Shoah”, the article delves into the ethical conundrum by noting that the memo is perfect in terms of technical communication, almost to a fault. The writer sees everything as a means to an end, that end being the final solution, and sets up Katz’s argument for the moral role of expediency. The article then looks at the issue of objectivity from an ethical standpoint, noting its fallacies. Unfortunately, Nazis and others like them used arguments of morality to support their actions during the Holocaust. The writer notes that the use of rhetoric to persuade even towards the unjust is reminiscent of Aristotle, who seemed less interested in the outcome. Notes on Hitler’s beliefs being ethical, from a mere technical standpoint, was also examined in detail. The fact that there is not a universal definition of what can be considered good or true is a focal point of the article. Katz then looked at the ethos behind the holocaust and technology, helping reader to better understand how something like this could happen. Noting its effectiveness, the author finishes by noting that we as technical communicators could learn something about composition and rhetoric.
I thought Katz’s piece was fascinating, and did a great job discussing a sensitive issue. Rhetoric, while historically used to do great things, has also helped in pursuing agendas of unspeakable evil. Seeing an example of writing that is on a technical level I aspire to achieve, that is in fact pressing the issue of a final solution is chilling to say the least. I can also appreciate the ode to previous rhetoricians such as Aristotle. Tying in to philosophy, I did appreciate the reminder that nothing will ever be considered universally good or right, and that just about everybody uses a supposed “moral” reasoning to justify their actions. Noting that helped me to look at the issue from a clinical perspective, and understand that it is important to our study of rhetoric because of its effectiveness. Propaganda is, unfortunately, crucial in the study of rhetoric and technical communication.