Writing & Research

Research Interests

Dr. Skinnell is an expert in political rhetoric and public discourse, especially as they relate to authoritarianism, demagoguery, and extremism. He is also an SJSU faculty media expert in political speech, politics, and rhetoric and an OpEd Project Public Voices Fellow.

Dr. Skinnell has published six books, including Faking the News: What Rhetoric Can Teach Us About Donald J. Trump (2018) and Rhetoric and Guns (forthcoming 2022). He has also published more than 80 articles, book chapters, and op-eds for academic and non-academic audiences on topics ranging from demagoguery, fascist rhetoric, and contemporary political discourse to American education, bureaucracy, and faculty development. In 2019, he guest edited a special issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Rhetoric’s Demagogue | Demagoguery’s Rhetoric, which considers the effects of demagogic rhetoric on contemporary world politics. He also regularly presents and runs workshops about rhetoric and writing for academic and non-academic audiences.

Books & Edited Special Issues

Current Projects

Hitler’s Rhetoric examines Adolf Hitler’s use of recognizable rhetorical practices to persuade Germans to support, or at least acquiesce to, Nazism. This book considers the historical conditions and contemporary relevance of Hitler’s rhetoric for non-specialist audiences.

Rhetorical Monsters is a podcast series that discusses people in history who have used good rhetoric to terrible, damaging, sometimes deadly ends. Planned episodes include Adolf Hitler; patron saint of yellow journalism, William Randolph Hearst; arms-dealer, “The Angel of Death,” Basil Zaharoff; and propaganda virtuoso Edward Bernays.

Recent Publications


Rhetoric and Guns. Ed. Lydia Wilkes, Nate Kreuter, and Ryan Skinnell. (Utah State University Press) [accepted, forthcoming 2022]

“Deceiving Sincerely: The Embrace of Sincerity-as-Truth in Fascist Rhetoric.” In The Rhetoric of Fascism. Ed. Nathan Crick. (University of Alabama Press) [accepted, forthcoming 2022]

Octalog IV: Bad People Speaking Effectively in the History of Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review 40.4 (2021): 337-40.

Rewriting Demagogic Discourses.” In Teaching Demagoguery & Democracy, ed. Michael Steudeman, Intermezzo, 2021.

“Teaching Writing in the (New) Era of Fake News.” College Composition and Communication 72.4 (2021): 546-69.

Coalition-Building in the Creeping Shadow of Fascism.Spark: A 4C4Equality Journal 3 (2021).

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History Tells Us Forged Pro-Trump ‘Election Documents’ Should Sound Alarm Bells.” Made by History, Washington Post, 18 Jan. 2022.

How Praise and Blame Rhetoric are Poisoning American Democracy.” The Globe Post, 2 Nov. 2021.

Trump Praised Hitler’s “Economic Miracle” — And That’s Even Worse Than It Sounds.” Salon, 7 Aug. 2021. Reprinted in RawStory, 7 Aug. 2021.

A Sweaty Hitler Is a Sincere Hitler, and Sincerity Is Profoundly Persuasive.” Medium, A History of Yesterday, 6 Aug. 2021.

Only the Strong Will Survive? American Echoes of a Dark Past.” Newsweek, 16 Mar. 2021.

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Recent MEdia

“Teaching Writing in the (New) Era of Fake News.” Teaching Democracy, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Buzzards Bay, MA, via Zoom, 1/6/22 (event description)

University Scholar Series lecture, “Two Truths and a Big Lie: The ‘Honest’ Mendacity of Fascist Rhetoric,” San José State University, 9/22/21 (event description)

Television interview (live) for “Analysis: What the Ruling on Trump’s Facebook Suspension Means,” Darya Folsom and James Fletcher, KRON 4 News, 5/5/2021

Television interview (pre-recorded) for “Prof. Ryan Skinnell Discusses Facebook Oversight Board Upholding Ban on Donald Trump,” Anser Hassan, Black News Channel (BNC), 5/5/2021

Television interview (pre-recorded) for “Facebook’s Oversight Board Upholds Decision to Ban Trump,” Mark Niu, China Global Television Network (CGTN), 5/5/2021

Featured interview for “The Future of Politics on Twitter,” by Jessica Zimmer, The Rally, 3/12/2021

“Ask an Expert” radio interview (live) for “Political Rhetoric Comes Under Scrutiny,” Rebecca Corral, KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM, 1/11/2021

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