Representations of reliability: The rhetoric of political flip-flopping

I just encountered a communications academic who’s consistently clear and fun to read — Joshua M. Bentley.

His latest paper: “This study used a qualitative analysis of political flip-flops (N = 141) to create a typology of rhetorical strategies for politicians who are perceived to have changed positions on political issues. The core purpose of such rhetoric is to achieve a representation of reliability. Politicians who appear to change positions must do so in a way that does not make them seem unreliable to their
key stakeholders. Strategies for achieving this goal fall into four primary categories: ignore, deny, justify, and repent. Within each category are more specific tactics, such as evading questions, claiming one was misquoted, arguing one is adapting to new circumstances, or explaining that one has acquired new information about an issue. Using Bitzer’s theory of the rhetorical situation, we argue that certain strategies are more appropriate than others in certain situations. We discuss the practical and ethical implications of these strategies.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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