For this post, yet another extra credit piece, the class was offered to do an analysis of Maureen Dowd’s article, “Is Barry Whiffing” from April 29, 2014
We did a method where we first analyzed the context as a whole, then a section, a paragraph, ending with a sentence.
Because the paper, in my opinion, was poorly written, and confusing, I know that she is criticizing the way “Mr. President” (Obama) is running things currently. What I fail to understand is the comparison Dowd makes to Obama and famous figures such as J.F.K and Babe Ruth, while using famous quotes to prove a point. It confused me as a read as to why she is criticizing the president. She offers little, if any, factual and current evidence, is solely stating an opinion, that, while clear, is easily dismissed, as frankly, could have developed better.
The section I analyzed is here:
“ I also appreciate the fact that it’s harder for you than it was for J.F.K., W. and all those other pols who had their rich daddies and their rich daddies’ rich friends to buy anything they needed and connect them up and smooth the way for them. That gives them a certain nonchalance in the face of opprobrium and difficulty, a luxury that those who propel themselves to the top on their own don’t have.
We understand that it’s frustrating. You’re dealing with some really evil guys and some really nutty pols, and the problems roiling the world now are brutally hard. As the Republican strategist Mike Murphy says, it’s not like the campaign because you have “bigger problems than a will.i.am song can fix.”
But that being said, you are the American president. And the American president should not perpetually use the word “eventually.” And he should not set a tone of resignation with references to this being a relay race and say he’s willing to take “a quarter of a loaf or half a loaf,” and muse that things may not come “to full fruition on your timetable.”
As you can see, she uses references in a way that doesn’t really argue her case. Note she uses particular words and proper nouns that hold great power and triggers, such, “J.F.K”, “rich daddies”, “evil” “Republican”, “bigger problems” and so on. She uses these words well, but put her more so at a disadvantage. Rather than focus on the content of argumentation, and using more elaborate examples to support her opinion, she uses these words to get a reaction. This leads to ill intended support for her opinion. You can also see the tone in her structure—accusing, ill-directed sympathy, and critical. Normally, this would actually help writers to get their point across, but Dowd does not, in my opinion, use it in a way that could help her. It seems, as a whole, her paper appeals to a crowd that has little to no insight into the political states occurring in America. As a writer, she has a power to influence opinion, and persuade others to agree, but for those who know what’s going on, and argue otherwise, she fails to convince.
The paragraph I analyzed next was this:
“I also appreciate the fact that it’s harder for you than it was for J.F.K., W. and all those other pols who had their rich daddies and their rich daddies’ rich friends to buy anything they needed and connect them up and smooth the way for them. That gives them a certain nonchalance in the face of opprobrium and difficulty, a luxury that those who propel themselves to the top on their own don’t have.”
We go a bit deeper here. This paragraph hold her intended message and central tone of her piece, while also serving as a transition from the previous statement in the whole context of the piece. I do think it was well placed, because it is so versatile in it’s structure, that it serves to better any section. She puts it in the middle-to-beginning section to catch reader’s interests, and address her point early. This is a smart tactic. I do, however, believe that she can also put this later in her piece, near the end, and it would work just the same, maybe even better. Here, this is a very telling paragraph. Intent is key to any piece, and while I disagree with Dowd’s presentation in this paragraph, her architectural planning of this paragraph wasn’t all that bad.
Finally, the sentence I chose to analyze to further prove how Dowd’s writing could improve is here:
“I also appreciate the fact that it’s harder for you than it was for J.F.K., W. and all those other pols who had their rich daddies and their rich daddies’ rich friends to buy anything they needed and connect them up and smooth the way for them”
With the wording and structure in this sentence, you can automatically see her intent for her piece. It’s sarcastic and critical, and uses such literary tools, particularly examples and imagery to attempt to prove her criticism correct, maybe even true. Here is where you can see how she manipulates her readers into a state of triggered emotion and thought. She uses choice words and syntax to invoke argumentation and connotation that society has taught us. For instance, she uses a misconception of the rich to fuel her opinion, because she knows how society views this category. I admit it is clever, but not used properly, or morally for that matter. If her intent is to ignite the debate in a person, to engage in argumentation, she did get that right. But other than that, if she is trying to convince her audience, not many might buy it.
What I am not saying is that Dowd is a bad writer. What I am saying is that, through my analysis, I don’t agree with her style and method to address such an opinion. She could have argued better using less triggers, and more evidence. Because, to me, while she is a professional writer, I fail to believe her. I’d rather watch CNN or 60 Minutes to get this insight, and form my own opinion. While I do think her opinion is clearly demonstrated, something that every writer should strive for, I disagree with her writing style
You can read the full piece here: