Going Beyond the Surface

There are many critical aspects that are important for establishing our decision to read a published piece of work, and more so decide if it is intriguing and worth noting and commenting, even sharing and reposting, on. Such characteristics include the source itself, meaning the website’s or blog’s popularity and recognition, if viewers—yourself included—like visiting these sites, the content and your personal interest in them, personal opinion, and validity of professionalism.

 While these aspects are important, this analysis focuses on an aspect that to most is not really noticed, let alone investigated. That is the writing. What makes any written piece interesting and worth our time? It’s a common fact that any published form of writing from blog entries to novels, are not as good, boring or a waste of time if they fall under these characteristics: too lengthy, too short, too opinionated, too factual—aka boring—lacking in contrast and diversity (i.e. no pictures, a boring tone) as well as the presentation.

 For some who are just getting started in a professional outlook to the craft, they have some familiarity of an in depth idea. For instance, writing style, tools used, and other key aspects that form the article. This analysis goes a bit deeper. Whether you are just learning how to analyze a written piece, or you already are familiar with the terms, the point of this analysis is to see how certain writing styles and tools effect an author’s writing performance and results.

 Summary of the Article-“New York Lawmakers, Advocates Push To Ban Condoms As Evidence Of Prostitution”

 The main point of the article is basic; pushing a ban to eliminate the possession of condoms as relevant evidence to convict people who are suspect to engaging in illegal sex acts, or prostitution. While this issue does tend to focus on the scope of LGBT issues, particularly that with transgender identified persons, the main focus can apply to anyone. Buzzeed blog writer Tony Merevick addresses this issue.

Currently, NY Police officers use condoms as evidence to assist in the trial of people tried for crimes of sexual misconduct, particularly prostitution. However, what is being speculated is not the actual crime, but that those who are suspected to engage or are engaging in these crimes are approached, and when police find condoms (as well other incriminating evidence), the courts currently admit condoms as evidence. Merevick also addresses the concern that sex worker advocated and sexual health volunteers are expressing. That this situation may, perhaps is, leading those who are involved in sexual activity to not carry and use protection, for fear that they may be questioned and arrested.

The common target group is transgender and gender-non comforming people of color. While many readers may take this article to be an article about LGBT issues and/or Racial issues, the main focus the author makes is that it is the act itself that needs to come to light. The article contains various statements from members of legislation, particularly attorneys, who offer both sides to the issue, the current practicality and fault in this practice, as well as more insight as to the issue itself. The case is, condom evidence could be useful and pertinent to the case, however, every case is different, and may prove to be otherwise not useful.

Right now, a bill that will eliminate this issue is being pushed into legislation, and advocates of the target groups are doing their best to not only create a bill that will promote safety for these groups, but also to push it and make it into law as soon as possible.

While this issue is based in New York—the author even suggests that should the bill pass, New York would be the first state to enact it—this issue is currently occurring in all states, perhaps any location that follows this practice.

 Here is a link to the article: http://www.buzzfeed.com/tonymerevick/new-york-lawmakers-advocates-push-to-ban-condoms-as-evidence

Part 1: Rhetorical Analysis

 Purpose of the Article

 The purpose of the article is to inform readers, particularly those who are advocates, allies or interested persons of LGBT, as well as those who identify as LGBT (and perhaps People of Color) issues. The article does not offer any opinion by the author, so this piece is not meant to state any political, religious/moral, personal, or logical views of anyone. It does, however, offer an insight into an issue that is not only interesting to learn about, but offers a chance for readers to debate, either with themselves or others, on whether we should use condoms as evidence for these cases or not.

 The piece offers different insights, parallel perspectives, reasoning, as well as informing readers of current Human Rights issues. It is also possible that the article is meant to demonstrate how important legislation and any government process is when creating laws, and the potential effects it has on particular groups.

 It can also be suggested that his piece serves as an opportunity for people who decide to ignore this issue to notice. If it’s not in print, it’s not worth knowing, right? The piece is not meant to play a blame game, nor is it suggesting that we get angry, passionate, or heated about debating an ethical issue. It is solely to educate any open reader of a potential solution and current issue.

 Intended Audience

 If you click on the link, for those unfamiliar with Buzzfeed, or are aware of the site already, the article is under the LGBT section in the LIFE tab of the site. It is then obvious that this article is for anyone who is LGBT. Wrong. That is only the section. The intended audience is for anyone who believes in Human Rights, is interested in legislation and politics, and any reader who is looking to cite a source that deals with human rights and legislation.

 There are different parts, besides the obvious that suggest this. The author uses quotes from members of legislation—attorneys. The article talks plenty about creating a bill to better a target group’s situation. It also mentions a legal issue, while offering professional argumentation and logic. Therefore, it can be for those, whether heterosexual or not, who are interested in politics.

 There is a brief mention of “transgender or gender non-conforming people of color.” This article allows for people of color to gain another perspective of an issue that is relevant to racial and ethnic oppression, particularly when it comes to the rights of the human body and sexual activity (which is not only morally controversial, but very uncomfortable)

 This article’s intended audience, in my opinion, can be for anyone, but it is meant for LGBT, People of Color, and Political/Human Rights advocates.

 The Three Aristotelian Appeals: Ethos, Logos & Pathos

 Ethos

The Ethical appeal (but not really). While the Greek word is related to the English word “ethic” and “ethical”, the more accurate meaning has to correlate to “image” or “credibility” Aristotle uses Ethos to refer to the author’s/speaker’s character, and how it appears to the audience, regardless of bias. He says that if we believe that a speaker has good common sense, good moral character, and goodwill, as well as valid, and recognizable credentials/backgrounds, audiences are inclined to believe what that speaker says, regardless of (the quality of) the content. Ethos is often the first appeal we notice and rely on, so it creates the first impression that influences how we view any piece (or speaker), while also creating a credibility for the information we use.

 Unfortunately for Merevick, there is little accessible information about himself. All that is provided that was found is this:

 “Tony Merevick reports on national LGBT news for BuzzFeed. He has covered LGBT community news and politics since 2010 and joined BuzzFeed in 2013.”

 Even though this can suggest that he has the experience, and if you read the article, and any of his works, it does not bode well to prove he has a good ethos. At least not enough to catch reader’s attention.

 Though we can’t truly rely on the validity of the author based on this information, readers can rely on two key things that help build his ethos: the credibility (and popularity) of the site, Buzzfeed, as well as the sources Merevick uses in his article. Buzzfeed is not only a popular site, but is professionally run, formatted in a way that is impressive, but also is claimed to employ reliable, dedicated and credible employees (including writers). The site has enough credibility to fuel Merevick’s Ethos as a writer, while also providing an opportunity to give him the credit as a noteworthy writer. His sources also help fuel his Ethos. When any writer composes an essay, or written (maybe spoken) argument, what do they do to make it strong, difficult to argue against? Credible, reliable sources, from those who have a strong Ethos. Merevick does just that. He impressively uses sources from people who have an Ethos that is credible, persuasive, impressive and imperative to fuel the importance of his piece. Without these sources, and the credibility of Buzzfeed’s reputation, Merevick’s ethos as a writer is weak.

 Though he has great stylistic choices, uses wording that connects to the reader, while also writing in a professional manner—he doesn’t sound juvenile or too mature for the target audience—most readers would primarily rely on this other information. It is probable that without the sources, regardless of Buzzfeed’s reputation, his piece would still lack ethos.

 Pathos

The emotional appeal (more like triggering appeal, or emotional rollercoaster)

 Writers and speakers use Pathos to invoke sympathy, maybe empathy, from an audience. They can also invoke other emotions (hence the roller coaster reference), and usually is the appeal responsible for sparking debates, both from the mouth and the fists. To make the audience feel what the author/speaker wants them to feel, they will use this appeal, which can be quite effective for getting any point across.

 Common uses of Pathos include the following: to invoke pity, sympathy, or empathy from an audience, and to create, perhaps flame, anger from an audience, usually to prompt action.

 It is important to note that many of us think we make our decisions and find intrigues based on our rational thought and personal beliefs. However, Aristotle points out that powerful, triggered emotions such as anger, pity, fear, and their opposites, are key to influencing any audience. In other words, we are dictated by our emotions.

For this piece, it is debatable whether Merevick uses Pathos for his piece. It is certain that his goal is not to cause (heated) argumentation, nor to prompt readers to rush and push the bill that is mentioned. It is also not his goal to manipulate the reader’s emotions to gain attention for his, and the target group’s, personal gain. Never the less, Pathos can be invoked, regardless of the author’s intention or not.

 Usually, this is personal in cases found in this piece. Again, the article is structured to be informative, educational, and analytical. A reader can gain a sense of the use of Pathos, because the topic covers LGBT issues. Already, this topic gains a lot of Pathos from anyone who chooses to write about concepts that relate to it. It is very likely that Merevick is not intending to use Pathos. He is not making an argument, so there is no need to use it. Still, Pathos is invoked. This does help him, because this appeal captures the readers’ delicate attention, and possibly encourages those who are allies and advocates for human rights to act on their emotions to promote chance, and vice versa. Even though it is not explicitly written in the context of the article, Pathos is there, whether intended or not.

 Logos

The appeal to logic, it is the appeal that is used to convince an audience/readers by using logic or reason.Using logos would be to cite facts and statistics, historical and literal analogies, and citing certain credible authorities.

In our society, logic and rationality are highly valued and this type of persuasive strategy is usually privileged over appeals to the character of the speaker or to the emotions of the audience. However, as mentioned earlier, we are dictated by our emotions, and we usually ignore logic, because we tend to focus on the credibility or a reaction. This does not mean Logos is any less or more important (in analytical reality that is). We need logic and reasoning to form concrete conclusions, as well as to develop ideas critical to the formation of argumentation.

Here is an example Aristotle uses:

All men are mortal

Socrates is a man

Therefore, Socrates is mortal

Aristotle notes that in ordinary speaking and writing we often use what he calls a rhetorical syllogism or an enthymeme. This is an argument in which some of the premises or assertions remain unstated or are simply assumed. In this piece, Merevick is logical, but not in the way that logos suggests. It is not suggesting that he needs it to make his paper more credible, or a more interesting read. His paper is not intended to argue for a point or to invoke logic to develop critical ideas, at least not intentionally, nor is it structured as any form of an argument. As an informative piece, it is best that he doesn’t use logos.

Part 2: Stylistic Analysis

 Tone

The author does an excellent job setting the tone. From the very beginning, before reading the content itself, he creates a title that not only catches reader’s attention, but wording gives a tone of importance. Titles serve not just as a hook, but also as a source of validity and importance. Merevick immediately sets the tone. It is serious, a need-to-know, and informative, yet intriguing piece. He also chooses particular words and structure to set the tone.

 “Sex workers advocates and other proponents of New York legislation that would ban the use of condoms as evidence in prostitution cases plan to meet with lawmakers at the state’s capitol next week — a small sign of progress in an effort to pass the bill that has lasted for more than a decade.

 Another indicator that suggests that he uses tone is the use of his sources—quotes. When writers, any writer, uses quotes from experts or sources with a good to high amount of credibility, a serious tone is invoked. While there it is difficult to find specific, key words that Merevick uses in his article, the tone is still clear. Maybe that is why it is a good piece. The tone is clear, set and properly established.

 Schemes

Merevick uses schemes in this article to enhance the performance of the piece in terms of style. The two that he chose to utilize are Antithesis and Parenthesis.

 Antithesis is a set of contrasting items set side by side. While the antithesis are not quite obvious in the article, Merevick manages to provide them, and they make the piece an interesting read. They are located through the quotes from the credible sources, particularly in the beginning on the first section, and near the end on the second section. These examples at first do not appear to be Antithesis. However, the contrasting items that are present, set side by side, and are true contrasts to the views of the sources, demonstrate the presence of an antithesis.

1) “That said, my office doesn’t prosecute people merely for using or possessing condoms,” Donovan said in a statement, and explained that his office does prosecute cases involving prostitution, trafficking, and rape, which often involve condom evidence. “[M]y office will continue to exercise careful discretion over the use of condoms recovered at crime scenes, along with other corroborating evidence, to build strong cases and secure convictions against those who commit crimes.”Erin Duggan Kramer, deputy chief of staff for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., said prosecutors there do not use condoms as evidence in prostitution cases and would not comment on the pending legislation. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes did not respond to a request for comment, but previously said condoms should not be used for that purpose and police in Brooklyn should stop seizing them from suspects as evidence.

 2) “We commonly see transgender and gender non-conforming people are profiled for loitering with the intent to prostitute, and condoms are used as evidence to prosecute them for it,” Chestnut told BuzzFeed. “If you look at the ways transgender people of color are profiled, this is a key example of how they are targeted by the people who should be protecting them. It doesn’t make sense.”

In other words, advocates contend authorities are using the possession of condoms, or multiple condoms, as evidence against people who aren’t doing sex work and at the same time are discouraging sex workers from carrying the condoms they might need to be safe for fear of arrest and prosecution, which ultimately goes against the city’s public health efforts.

 They understand the irony and injustice of such a practice, yet they claim that it is still pertinent and useful. Even in the beginning, Merevick uses the quote by the social workers that transgender and gender non-conforming persons need to use protection for their sexual health, yet they cannot, for fear of consequence.The use of Antithesis is very well used, and makes gives the paper the qualities that make it a good read, and a good source to use.

 Parenthesis is an item that interrupts the normal flow of a sentence. Sounds simple enough. The question is, where is it? While parenthesis is usually used for sentence interruption, Merevick uses this scheme after the introduction. Let’s pretend for a second that we didn’t know this article was about LGBT issues. When you begin to read the article, you think that this article is just about prostitution, and the question of the fairness or practicality of using condoms as evidence. Then, Merevick interrupts by including specific victims of such practices, and interrupts again by including a paragraph about legislation. The flow of the article is interrupted, yet not in a way that is confusing. Rather, the interruptions build, and lead to a bigger picture. And not only that, they can invoke certain thoughts and emotion—like surprise, which makes you want to read more, or confusion, which challenges you to see if you can understand it, and seem like you get it (which you can). The use of Parenthesis is not quite exact, but successful nonetheless.

 Images

When writers use imagery, there are different purposes they want to achieve, regardless of the subject or genre the piece is. The goal is to invoke any and all senses and emotions of the readers, so that the writers’ intents are clearly expressed. An example of imagery can be:

 The aroma of freshly brewed coffee permeated the air

Her skin was soft, like a porcelain doll

His eyes were cold, and the longer I stared, the more I felt the stabs of pain in my chest

Imagery can also set the scene, or express any situation. While readers are used to seeing imagery in their favorite novels (generally fiction), imagery can be used in articles such as these. Merevick does use very little imagery, nothing crafty. He sets the scene—New York City. While the writing does not seem like imagery, when you read the article more than once, maybe even on that one time, it is possible to get mental images of what the article is about. Perhaps you see prostitutes and clients arrested. You see the despair, stress and anger on their faces. You can see and hear the police sirens echoing in the city. Unfortunately, this is all hypothetical and difficult to do without obvious written imagery. In an informative piece such as this, the goal is not to use literary imagery to invoke the senses. It is a plus, but not centrally integral to the piece. 

Rituals of Language

Merevick decides to not use any of the tools from rituals of language. It is possible that if the paper had used any of them, like a proverb, epigram, or The Ritual of Three, it would make his paper weak, opinionated, and unprofessional. It is possible that if he used short sentences, particularly at the conclusion, it would be a powerful message effective to readers. (Short sentence example—War is Hell) Unless the short sentence is a form of universal truth, it could offer some form of an opinion, which would hurt his paper. This particular tool is a good one to use for any issue involving controversy, politics, or anything that affects human behavior. It is powerful, intriguing, and is just pleasant to hear. So, should Merevick have used it? Probably, but it wasn’t necessary.

Conclusion

The article does a good job articulating itself, particularly when utilizing different writing styles effectively. It does not support any favorable stance, while managing to provide insight. The author does a good job writing an informative piece in terms of personal style, while also using persuasive sources and factual evidence to better support his piece. Excluding other controls, particularly any that are not relevant to writing style (i.e. interest of the reader on the subject, popularity of the blog) his writing performance and style is favorable.

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One thought on “Going Beyond the Surface

  1. This was a really informative read. I was engaged throughout the entire thing. I usually lose interest fast, as I’m sure most readers do, but you did a really good job with little things like structure and language. These things go a long way to keep the readers engaged with the material. Dr. Mesle covered this concept at the talk a few weeks ago, when we went as a class.

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