Blog Sample

Prompt: 

Watch the Mary Fisher speech (Fisher, Whisper of AIDS, 1992).  What do you like about her speech? How did it effect you? What made it effective or ineffective?  In particular, reflect on her rhetorical situation: what is her exigence?  Did she respond effectively?  What about kairos?  Here are a few short articles with additional information: Heiress, Hush, Journal.

 

 

aids victim.jpgAIDS? What AIDS??

 

Mary Fisher's 1992 Republican National Convention Address about AIDS is an excellent example of a rhetorical situation speech.  It was very powerful throughout, and her call to action and for awareness utilized strong metaphors and imagery.  Fisher made a historic challenge to her Republican Party to "lift the shroud of silence...draped over the issue of HIV and AIDS," a challenge that succeeded in grabbing the attention of the listeners and of myself.

I thought that her speech is very effective--she had a sound argument strengthened by her repeated use of ethos, pathos, and logos.  With a very courageous decision, Fisher publicly asked her political party to stop hiding or quieting the issue of HIV and AIDS and to help spread awareness of its danger, stating that this course of action was important for her, for her family, and for well-being of the citizens of the United States and of the world.  Her ethos was centered on the facts that she was an American political activist, and an average, heterosexual woman who had, herself, contracted AIDS.  To help the people become more comfortable with talking about AIDS and finding help if they have it, Fisher used the logical argument that AIDS should not have such a negative, shameful, dirty connotation; she declared, using herself as an example, that AIDS is not prejudiced--it attacks humans regardless of their gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, or drug use.  Fisher also used effective pathos throughout her speech.  She used fear, calling the sickness "a present danger...a killer stalking your children" in a "nation at risk" where the "rate of infection is increasing."  By mentioning her family, specifically her two little boys, Fisher appealed to the compassion of the audience.  And she used ethos, pathos, and logos when she restated her message towards the end of her speech: "It is not you who should feel shame. It is we--we who tolerate ignorance and practice prejudice, we who have taught you to fear. We must lift our shroud of silence, making it safe for you to reach out for compassion. It is our task to seek safety for our children, not in quiet denial, but in effective action."

With her speech, Fisher responded to the exigence of the obscured AIDS pandemic.  I think that she responded effectively and admirably, rallying both her courage and rhetorical skill to address the problem.  As for kairos, I believe that Fisher chose an ideal time to give her speech--AIDS was rapidly spreading and she herself, a perfect example of an "normal," "innocent" victim of AIDS, had contracted the sickness.  I believe that in choosing the opportune moment to present her speech, responding perfectly to the problem at hand, and using her courage and skills as a speaker, Fisher gave the best persuasive call to action and awareness that she could with the issue at hand.

 

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Prompt:  

Watch Monty Python's "Burn the Witch" clip.  What are your thoughts about the clip? Discuss the misuse of logos and the prevalence of pathos by Bedevir, King Arthur, and the townspeople.  Does the nature of this "argument" have any larger implications for how argumentation, logos, and pathos are used in our lives, in politics, etc.?

 

 

bonfire frenzy.jpgBurn the Witch!!!

 

Monty Pythons "Burn the Witch" scene is perhaps one of the most loved and well-known comedic scenes.  What makes it so funny is its blatant misuse of logos in such a dire situation--a woman's life is literally at the "stake" of medieval reasoning, and though it is so obviously faulty to us, the townspeople believe the reasoning of Bedevir, the "professional" judge/philosopher/"wise man."  Bedevir's misuse of logos and appeals to pathos supposedly results in the burning of the suspected and condemned "witch." 

Bedevir argument was that witches burn just as wood burns, so witches must burn because they are made of wood.  But how to tell if she's made of wood?  Wood floats in water, and ducks also float in water, so ducks must be made of wood as well.  So if the "witch" weighs the same as a duck, then she is made of wood and is therefore a witch.

Now, there are a number of things wrong with this argument (many things burn that are not made of wood, and many things can weigh the same as a duck without being made of wood), but the townspeople were in a frenzy and just wanted to burn the girl, so they didn't really think or care about the validity of the logic.  To them, she is a witch because "she looks like one."

They also took the issue to Bedevir because he played the part of the philosopher "professional."  Bedevir's character and appearance appealed to the trust of the townspeople--while they were dirty and poor and dressed in rags, Bedevir was cleaner and wore armor and blue and white clothes.  Bedevir also included the audience during the trial; as they were already in a fury of emotion, their input did much to help their case, and Bedevir did not need to do much to appeal to their passions.  Another example of pathos in the scene is Bedevir's treatment of Arthur.  Arthur wore fancy clothes and a crown (and helpfully knew that ducks float in water), and when Bedevir found out that Arthur was king, he instantly kneeled and began using honorific language.

This hilarious scene makes fun of how pathos, and especially logos, are manipulated and misused in our lives (especially in politics).  Some of the more serious misuses of pathos and logos result in international warfare and violence.  For example, the US's invasion of Iraq was mainly based on claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and was capable of using them.  This claim appealed to the fear of our nation's people and the people of the world, and this fear helped gain our support for the invasion.  However, after the invasion and multiple investigations, no such weapons were found.  And because of our invasion, a war (previously called "conflict") broke out that has already lasted for more than seven years.  In a 2007 poll conducted by the BBC World Service, which recorded information from 26,000 people across 25 countries, 73% "disapprove of how the U.S. government has dealt with Iraq."  And according to a 2004 USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll of 3,500 Iraqis of "every religious and ethnic group," only about one third believed that American occupation of Iraq is doing more good than harm.

Another example of harmful misuse of pathos and logos in politics was the Nazi propaganda of Nazi politician Joseph Geobbels.  Goebbels used his own lie technique, in which he (rightly) claimed that a lie, told enough times, becomes truth.  He used this technique to spread propaganda claiming that ethnic or non-Aryan minorities in Germany polluted the perfect "Master Race" of Aryan Germans or that these minorities tried to destroy the "Master Race" with their evil or impurities, and that Germany must retaliate against them in self-defense. A 1944 poster from the German Propaganda Archives displays an anti-Semitic drawing of a Jewish face and the words (in German) "The Jew: the inciter of war, the prolonger of war."  Not only are appeals to pathos and logos misused in politics, but these arguments are completely faulty and still work on ignorant, scared, or unsuspecting audiences.

 

 

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Prompt:

Read the article Texts Without Contexts (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times, 3/17/10).  This is a book review that evolves into cultural critique with a multi-faceted buffeting of contemporary dialogue, writing, and entertainment.  It blasphemes much of what we currently consume for our media and literary diets.  It also documents radical shifts in the nature of rhetoric.

In a cohesive, logical, and well-considered way, describe your thoughts about the article. Do you agree or disagree with all or part of the author's claims?  Why or why not?   Select a paragraph from the article that illustrates your perspective, explaining its relevance to your response.

 

 

stuck in cell phones.jpgOur Technological Text Pandemic

 

The last ten years saw a huge global leap in technology, including such inventions as the modern, all-encompassing internet and cell phones; these technological intentions help us to communicate instantly across vast distances, spread knowledge, and learn a wealth of information.  While I think that the world has greatly benefited from the technology boom of the last few decades, I do agree with Michiko Kakutani--that our many uses of the internet and recent technology have, in many ways, created a Western society characterized by ADD and deconstruction of original writings.

The Kakutani and the various informed experts mentioned in the review had the overall opinion that this new technology "impairs our ability to think deeply and creatively even as it improves our ability to multitask."  An extensive result of this which I see every day is students "doing homework" while listening to ipods, texting, instant messaging, and with the tv flashing in the background.  I believe that all of this multitasking, all of these superficial distractions, greatly take away from the quality of work and thought put into learning.  Today, there is so much technology available for our use and so much information accessible to us on the "World Wide Web" that data, novels, discoveries, histories, and works of art are taken out of their contexts and are dredged up, out of the whirling, mixed stew of human creation, up to the searcher in portions severed from their frameworks, rather like parts of a human body without its head.  So much stripped and instant information at our fingertips has resulted in a fast-paced society typified by this hard-core multi-tasking and, as a result, pandemic ADD.  Consequently, individuals in our society don't like to spend much time immersed in one thing, and we despise feeling like we are wasting time--hate waiting more than 15 seconds for an elevator?  And yes, I too am guilty of complaining--"oh my god, this is taking so looooonnnggg"--when my web page takes more than the few acceptable nanoseconds to load.  And the media caters to this pervasiveness of ADD ingrained in our society--things that quickly attract our attention are usually brief and entertaining: funny, idiotic or ridiculous, scandalous, sexy, violent, loud, colorful, constantly moving and changing (unsurprisingly, the new "foot-long" Subway commercial and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel come to mind).  Our way of using new technology has turned many individuals in our society into impatient multi-taskers.

Another negative result of modern technology covered in the book review is that new technology has detracted from original or true meanings of texts.  I agree with the idea that this technology has led to the deconstruction of texts (as discussed above) and of individual interpretations of texts instead of their valuable contexts.  These individual interpretations result in the "end of authorship" discussed in the review--meaning that it "enshrined individual readers' subjective responses to a text over the text itself, thereby suggesting that the original idea of the author (and any sense of the original intent) was dead."  I also agree that nowadays, sadly, many readers read to adhere to "groupiness," or read because they have to, rather than reading for personal enlightenment, and they don't uncover or comprehend all that the book has to offer.  I read the books that I am assigned to read in class.  I also read books for my own enjoyment, ones that involve adventure, fantasy, action, mystery, travel, or personal transformation.  I enjoy some and detest others, and occasionally, I come across a book that truly becomes important to me and stays with me, whether because it made me think about something in a new way, reveals a hint about the true nature of ourselves as humans, enlightens me about the world outside my own, or makes me focus on myself to make myself a better, more intelligent, virtuous, and caring individual.  I believe that this part of reading is so important, and unfortunately, many individuals don't get to experience this as much because they are reading solely for "groupiness," or because they have to, or they just try to get the reading over with because part of our cultural ADD, implemented because of our new technology, is too much ingrained in them.

 

 

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Blog Reflection

 

I chose these three blogs because they were ones that I was most interested in, and I think that they illustrate some of my best blog writing.  I aimed at answering the prompts effectively and including a lot of supporting detail, and I think that my personality shows through in my writing.  Also, even though they are about specific issues in response to the prompts (an AIDS speech, a Monty Python clip, and a technology article), they include my views on important national and global issues, and these views are supported with details and examples.

When revising the blogs, I added much to them and altered them a lot.  For all three, but especially in the "Texts Without Contexts" article, I repositioned a lot of my points and paragraphs so that my compositions would flow better and make more logical sense.  In this way, they are easier to read and easier to discover my main ideas.  I think that this really helped to strengthen my blogs and to explain my ideas about current issues and controversies.

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