Exaggeration and Euphemization

1. Exaggeration as amplification

Aristotle defines exaggeration as the use of “indignant language […] painting a highly colored picture of the situation” (Rhet, II, 24, 1401b1-10, RR, p. 383), and notes its spectacular and curious effect in a judicial situation: “if the defendant does so, he produces an impression of his innocence; and if the prosecutor goes into a passion, he produces an impression of the defendant’s guilt” (ibid).

2. Exaggeration to absurdity

Exaggeration to absurdity is a technique of refutation known under the name of adynaton: “the arguer uses both hyperbole and apodioxis to establish a position by the exaggeration of the absurd of the opposite position” (Molinié 1992, Adynaton; for apodioxis, S. Dismissal)

This is a variant on refutation from the absurd, taken to the ridiculous:

To prevent accidents, leave your car at home!
To avoid recidivism, let us execute all offenders!

The mechanisms of argumentation are the same as those of the slippery slope argument, an invitation: “don’t stop now, the path is so good”, S. Slippery Slope; Laughter.

You want to be vegetarian, no problem, eat salad, go and graze on the lawn.

In the following passage the position “criminally insane people must be judged as everyone else” is rejected by showing that if intentionality is not taken into account, the very idea of criminal behavior becomes meaningless:

Let us judge all criminal acts. Whatever the level of consciousness of their perpetrators. And why not a dog? The news provides a tragic opportunity to further advance justice. […] And why does the cyclone that recently ravaged the West Indies, causing several victims and immense material damage, escape the wrath of justice?
M. Horeau, [Obvious Delirium]. Le Canard Enchaîné, 2007[1]

3. Minimization, or euphemization

Minimization strategies are used to deflect an accusation, when bad behavior is acknowledged as such, and its material significance is reduced to nothing. If I’m accused of having stolen a bicycle, for example, I might defend my actions thus: “Oh yes, but it’s just an old broken worthless bike.”

The associated feeling is indifference, and the accuser is encouraged to cool down, S. Calm. Anything can be euphemized, even torture:

30-7-84 Christian Von Wernich (chaplain [capellán] of the Police of Buenos Aires, currently priest in Bragado) (statement to the magazine Siete Días):
Tell me that Camps has tortured a poor guy whom nobody knows, good, okay then. But how could he have tortured Jacobo Timermann, a journalist about whom there was constant and decisive global pressure, if only for that!

Carlos Santibáñez & Mónica Acosta, [The Two Churches], [1996].[2]

[1] L. M. Horeau, “Flagrants délires”. Le Canard Enchaîné, (a satirical newspaper) August 29, 2007. P. 1
[2] Carlos Santibáñez & Mónica Acosta, Las dos Iglesias. Report commemorating the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Bishop Angelelli.
www.desaparecidos.org/nuncamas/web/investig/dosigles/02.htm (11-08-2017).