RhetoricLee Speaking

Face the Counter-Facts—Trump, COVID, Denial, Brooklyn Nine Nine

April 7, 2020

For all my baby ears out there who can’t use their imagination; this episode contains spoiler alerts for Season 6, Episode 18 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

When Sgt. Terry Jeffords announces to his beloved Brooklyn Nine-Nine that he’s “not in denial, he’s in deNIAL,” everyone looks at him as if he’s crazy. “Is Jeffords broken?” Captain Holt asks Detective Diaz.

Except Jeffords isn’t crazy. He’s using the rhetorical figure of antanaclasis--breaking against reflection--in which a single word or phrase is repeated, but in two different senses. Jeffords is living in two simultaneous states--the current reality in which he is being transferred to another precinct and a counterfactual hypothetical in which he is remaining at the Nine-Nine--and is using antanaclasis to give expression to that condition. It’s a condition we all experience all the time. Jeffords is the rational one. Diaz is the one peddling the useless cliche: “face the facts” to try and break Jeffords out of his supposed lapse in reality.

Rosa telling Terry to face the facts is about as useful as urging the President on Twitter to “face facts” about the growing body count, not to mention hard hit to collective morale, of Coronavirus. Because denial denial isn’t a factual contradiction--it’s a very powerful rhetorical strategy.

The problem with Trump is not that he doesn’t face facts. The problem is that he faces facts. And these are the decisions that he makes.

Read the blog: http://rhetoriclee.com/?p=339

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