Through the use of mock-didacticism, South Park rhetorically emphasizes Burke’s theory of identification and consubstantiation in an attempt to problematize ideology. Such rhetorical moves result in perceived cynicism of the creator on the part of the audience. This perceived cynical stance in affect forces self-reflection through the unintentional application of rhetorical theory. In the Episode “Osama bin Laden Has Farty Pants” Stan and the boys go to Afghanistan and encounter their Muslim doppelgangers. In the quintessential mock-didactic “today I learned something speech,” Stan attempts to establish a cultural bridge between his friends and the boys from Afghanistan. He proposes, “Most people in America are good people, just trying to live day by day like you do. Maybe if you took the time to see all the great things about our country, you'd see we're not so different after all." His Afghanistan doppelganger replies, "That's fine, but we'll still hate you." Stan then concludes, "Well, I guess maybe someday we can learn to hate you too." The attempt to shock and disturb the audience is discerning in terms of the moral and political stances of the creators. However, this ambiguity in ideology enables an ideal moment to apply Burke’s theory of Identification. Such an application makes this 9/11 themed episode prophetic of the political, ideological, and xenophobic climate we currently find ourselves experiencing in the media. In this sense, the perceived cynicism of South Park is a commentary on not only human identification and factionalism, but a bold assertion that such problematic discourses will only perpetuate struggle and conflict.
Applying Burke to this scene, we see that the boys “good” deed is subverted to expose the power of wartime discourse. This discourse is then scrutinized and deconstructed to expose how identification and consubstantiation make peace and stability among these two cultures impossible from a rhetorical point of view. In A Rhetoric of Motives, Burke uses the term “Identification” as an instrument to “mark off the areas of rhetoric by showing how a rhetorical motive is often present where it is not usually recognized, or thought to belong” (1324). In the case of this particular episode of South Park, the rhetorical motives of the establishment to further the post- 9/11 capitalist war machine was in the infant stages of pushing pro-war rhetoric to the American public. This episode aired on November 7, 2001. This was just shy of two months after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 and marked the shows return to the air since the tragedy. However, the cynical means of critiquing war time discourse used by South Park enables the audience to confront and reflect on what exactly they identify with in this episode in ways that subvert and challenge the rhetoric of mainstream media. Furthermore, this mock-didacticism both reveals and critiques “the ways in which the members of a group promote social cohesion by acting rhetorically upon themselves and one another” (Burke 1325).
Through the rhetorical moves of cynicism, the audience finds that “in identification lies the source of dedications and enslavements, in fact of cooperation” (Burke 1325). It is through a rhetorical application of a cynical view of Identification that the observant audience member is given rhetorical insight into human relations which promote and make the discourses of wartime rhetoric recursive and inhibitive of peace. Such rhetorical uses of cynicism provoke questions in the audience such as: Do I identify with such cynical views of the future of the early 21st century? Do I identify with the redneck conservatives or the hippy liberals that are satirically distorted in the episode? Do I identify with the worldview perpetuated by the media and universities?
The cynicism of South Park generates such discussions in both the public and private spheres. Such discussions aroused through cynicism may reveal that our “ideal culminations are more often beset by strife as a result of the condition of their organized expression, or material embodiment” (Burke 1327). It is this “organized expression and material embodiment” that creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker cynically critique best.