Alex Koppelman, "The Unheralded", The New Yorker 9/12/2012:
For the past three years, Brendon Ayanbadejo, a backup linebacker and standout special-teams player for the [Baltimore] Ravens, has been advocating for same-sex marriage—writing about it, talking about it, appearing as one of the stars of a video campaign launched by backers of a measure to legalize it in Maryland. It’s not his day job, but he’s gotten enough attention for it that an anti-gay-marriage Maryland state legislator wrote to the owner of the Ravens and demanded that he shut Ayanbadejo up.
The legislator was Emmert C. Burns Jr., and his 8/29/2012 letter, on the letterhead of the Maryland House of Delegates, stated that
As a Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly and a Baltimore Ravens Football fan, I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo, would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage […] Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement. […]
I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayambadejo is doing.
Enter Chris Kluwe, the Minnesota Vikings' punter, who wrote an open letter to Mr. Burns. After an insulting but stylistically unexceptional opening, he lays out three counterarguments in language that's an interesting combination of elevated style and locker-room trash talk. His first point:
As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should "inhibit such expressions from your employees," more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person's right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.
I don't think that the Greek rhetoricians had a word for the juxtaposition of disparate styles represented by passages like "not only are you violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain". It's reminiscent of Mikhail Bakhtin's notion of heteroglossia, as explained in his essay "Discourse in the Novel":
The internal stratification of any single national language into social dialects, characteristic group behavior, professional jargons, generic languages, languages of generations and age groups, tendentious languages, languages of the authorities, of various circles and of passing fashions, languages that serve the specific sociopolitical purposes of the day, […] — this internal stratification present in every language at any given moment of its historical existence is the indispensable prerequisite for the novel as a genre.
But Bakhtin saw this "internal stratification" of language as a way for the novelist to present or suggest different points of view, not as a rhetorical device used to draw attention to the arguments of a single voice:
The novel orchestrates all its themes, the totality of the world of objects and ideas depicted and expressed in it, by means of the social diversity of speech types and by the differing individual voices that flourish under such conditions. Authorial speech, the speeches of narrators, inserted genres, the speech of characters are merely those fundamental compositional unities with whose help heteroglossia can enter the novel; each of them permits a multiplicity of social voices and a wide variety of their links and interrelationships (always more or less dialogized).
Mr. Kluwe's second argument starts with an even more striking example of the rhetorical power of univocal heteroglossia:
"Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement." Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that, as someone who's "deeply involved in government task forces on the legacy of slavery in Maryland"? Have you not heard of Kenny Washington? Jackie Robinson?
This technique — for which readers will no doubt be able to find precedents going back to Twain, Rabelais, and before — has always (I think) been common in letter-writing, and often appears in blogging, where there's no editor to impose a uniform house style. Even if Aristotle had no term for the technique that Kluwe used, he would have understood why Kluwe's letter immediately went viral: Kluwe's status as an athlete provides the ethos, the high style carries the logos, and the trash-talking establishes the pathos.
It'll be interesting to follow this episode's impact on the upcoming referendum on Maryland's Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act.