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Visual and Verbal Rhetoric in Political Poster: Persuasive Essay on Possibility to Use the American Flag

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Examining the persuasive approach of Visual and Verbal Rhetoric in Political Poster

We the People art campaign came into existence around the time of Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States. The street artist Shepard Fairey who is known for his famous Obama Hope poster is the one who is behind the series of We the People art. The poster art campaign started due to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign provoked disturbing emotions in the entire nation, especially among Native Americans, Muslims, Latinas, and African Americans that felt their needs and identities under Trump’s administration would be ignored and questioned. As highlighted the importance of political posters is “ephemeral, and their very existence speaks to the urgency of the present moment.” (Benson, 29), these art posters purposely portray different cultural identities as visual icons with impressive slogans/taglines as linguistic means of conveying a persuasive message of unity and freedom to audiences about the growing situation of fear among certain communities. The use of words and image works as a symbolic tool to induce persuasion in a receptive audience. The action called for these posters to act as a collective speech shows that posters comprise visual pieces of rhetoric (striking pieces of image with intriguing slogans) evoking the audience to take action as a unified nation despite of partisan gridlock, different religious norms, and cultural differences: “Where collective speech is evoked, it is not that of a conspiracy or a mob but the action of peaceful citizens exercising democratic responsibility” (Benson, 71) This case study aims to explain that how combined power of visual and verbal in rhetorical situation conveys a persuasive message in political poster.

These posters are loosely based on Obama Hope poster while not adapting it directly but just an imitation of the actual picture. The specific target for this assignment is one of the art posters of a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf of American flag. The image was taken by a photographer whose initial purpose was to promote a sense of patriotism at a time when women were abused and publicly called terrorists for their Muslim identity. As “Image comes to life in material support.” (Greis, 10), Fairey reincarnated this image for his poster with agenda to spread the collective sense of freedom, and unity despite of different cultural appearances under one American Identity. The ethos and designer target the entire nation and mediums like newspapers, and street walls to remind them to pay attention to save the coming youth from the feeling of abandonment in this country: “posters pasted up on walls of the street has potential to become makeshift forums to distribute ideas”(Wilson, 165) Images and Typography have an impact on how we see the words and read the images.

The image of a woman with a headscarf covered in all the colors of American flag in the poster can be interpreted as a general photograph whose main purpose is to highlight Muslims as an integral part of this country. But with the addition of words, broader the vision and gave meaning to the image: “When combining words and images together, they interpret each other” (Benson). The top phrase “We the people” encourages ‘everyone’ in this country and persuades the viewer to see entire nation in that image covered with flag colors. With the bottom phrase “are greater than fear” the whole picture acts as a rhetorical objective of how to clearly visualize the phrase. The slogans/phrases act as a description of picture and a guideline of how to read the poster. The poster’s textual and pictorial effect might encourage reader to think of it as an “appeal to inclusion”.

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This poster’s hybridstic approach in visual and verbal helps to captivate a collective audience in a national dialogue. The salient visual of Muslim woman is given identity through a head scarf of American flag to fight the rising power of nationalism and intolerance. The verbal are unifying phrases that confirm the uniqueness of visuals by targeting entire American nation, especially assuring Muslims that we all are one nation though we may not look alike by symbolizing American flag as a head scarf. The verbal concludes the true meaning of what the audience can gain from the poster. If the words are taken out from the visuals, it still depicts unified community but with the words, it opens a persuasive dialogue for the audience to look for freedom. The poster’s persuasive approach to public through combining words and images is to help build the ideology of patriotism, and oneness back on which America was founded once.

The visuals and verbal are inherently intertextual, referring to the expected future and call for action.

The primary stylistic features used for this poster is central figure of woman and the usage of predominant colors of blue which shows peace, red which shows passion, and white which reflects purity depicting American values all over the poster, evokes a positive attitude in the viewer just like hope poster. The center-aligned capitalized font and typeface with heavy marginal space is used to highlight the importance of text. The use of a verbal phrase at the top defines the receptive audience and then makes the audience comfortable by a persuasive message in the bottom phrase with big fonts to have faith in their American identity. All the big fonts used indicate that every word instilled in this poster is important and has its own significance.

Political Posters being analyzed upon three approaches: “comparative, inventional, and audience” (Benson, 32), the comparative approach to rhetorical analysis of this poster calls for a direct action of ‘We are America, We don’t fear’ and persuades the nation as a collective group to develop feelings of freedom. The receptive audience are the diverse cultural Americans that the artist seeks to inspire through dialogue and interactive posters. The inventional rhetoric approach is used by artists to get intertextual inspiration from the iconic Obama Hope poster because of its relevance with patriotism and applaud among receiving ends.

Works Cited

  1. Wilson, Tom. Paper Walls: Political Posters in an Age of Mass Media. General Collection, 2012
  2. Benson, Thomas. W. Posters for Peace: Visual Rhetoric and Civic Action, The Pennsylvania State University, 2015

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Visual and Verbal Rhetoric in Political Poster: Persuasive Essay on Possibility to Use the American Flag. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
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