Essay Prompt #2

Rhetoric is formed by Aristotle’s three principles, ethos, logos, and pathos to create an argument that persuades our audience through an argument to align with a cause or belief. Through Aristotle’s three principles rhetors make unique choices based on oral and written rhetoric. Rhetors are able to shape an argument based on the mode of communication drawing on social cues from their environment in the physical and digital landscape. For the digital landscape, the social cues of the environment are different and the choices rhetors make to fit an online audience should be adapted from the physical landscape. Therefore, when using rhetorical strategies rhetors must make a conscious decision as to what strategies are best used in an online platform. The digital landscape has brought attention to a shift in rhetoric that is different from the way we typically think of rhetoric in the physical environment such as a stage or classroom. The purpose of this essay is to determine a change or lack of change of rhetoric from the print to the digital landscape, particularly through news outlets.

The change in rhetoric is more apparent in places like social media such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. These online platforms are less formal and consist of short quips of content. This online content consists of the 3 principles of rhetoric, ethos, logos, and pathos, to gather attention (Bennett, 2018). In places such as online news outlets and magazines, Aristotle’s three principles are easier to implement with the use of hyperlinks, algorithms, and content polarization. They all play a part in making the processes of writing easier but it does not necessarily constitute a change to the rhetoric layout.

Hyperlinks in digital platforms change how writing through persuasion rhetoric is typically used. What they do not change is digital rhetoric because it cannot be used in print or oral rhetoric. They are used in digital platforms where sites are accessed through hyperlinks that increase foot traffic to related articles that cover specific topics from previously written articles(Mitchell, 2011). This use of hyperlinks strengthens an argument’s credibility acting as a footnote replacement in traditional print newsletters. The internet has a tendency of making processes easier and hyperlinks are just one tool that encapsulates a piece of the rhetoric of persuasion called pathos through the digital landscape.

Another tool rhetors use in the digital landscape is algorithms. The algorithms are the same as those used in the internet attention markets such as YouTube. The site is programmed to get as many clicks as possible and it does this by providing news we as readers would most likely be interested in. The site collects our cookies and stores them providing us with polarized content. Polarized content is one-way reasoning is thrown off and affects the way our logic is formed. We get skewed data and information because we are getting misinformation from biased news outlets and sources.

We saw a lot of polarization in the news and media outlets during the election. This led to groups of people unable to see the truth when they are introduced to statements from a trusted but unreliable source. The most common polarization that occurs is in the media. There are news sources that claim to be far-right and far-left. It is hard to find many media outlets that are unbiased in their reporting. Out of all the news outlets, Fox News is one that republicans trust the most. In a survey conducted in October of 2019 out of 12,043, 65% of the Republicans said that they trust Fox News as a credible source (Jurkowitz, Mitchell, Shearer, & Walker, 2020). On the other side of that 67% of Democrats were more willing to trust a wider variety of News outlets such as CNN, NBC, ABC, and CBS. When it came to news about the election the majority of Democrats only trusted news that came from CNN while the majority of republicans only trusted news that came from Fox News. The 2020 election has shown how rhetoric is still the same online and distrust in media information is more common when ethos is the main persuasion strategy used by rhetors rather than the use of logos.

The rhetoric for the digital landscape of news outlets has changed from print. The logos of Aristotle’s principles is weakened through rhetoric when rhetoricians draw from one-sided perspectives. The logic is no longer based on sound reasoning and the arguments form that of mob behavior or groupthink. The algorithms news articles use has changed the way rhetoric is used by providing false arguments to conversations.

A final point of evidence that I believe points to a lack of change in the digital rhetoric is News blogs. News blogs are weblogs dedicated to the dissemination of news (MacDougal, 2005). They play off of emotion through politically motivated innuendos and personal opinions of how they view certain topics in the political spotlight. The emotional bias of these news blogs is concerning because it leads to as I talked about earlier a misinformation of fact vs opinion and disrupts conversations by adding false information to conversations. The news blogs do provide new insight on topics but the fact that the host authors are most often not credible or speaking straight from opinion it poses problems for online rhetoric where arguments draw more from ethos rather than logos. It makes the reader believe what the author is saying to be factual because they have knowledge of a certain area because they are outspoken. This form of writing speaks on the credibility of the author and has been around long before the rise of the digital environment.

In conclusion, the older models of rhetoric do encompass all of the digital theory for online rhetoric in spaces such as news articles. Based on the three principles of Aristotle’s rhetoric all of the elements of pathos, logos, and ethos are all present in the digital landscape. There have always been sources of unreliability and the internet is a perfect commonplace for forms of writing like this. The only difference is how they appear in the landscape. With the implementation of algorithms and content polarization, readers will continue to find content that aligns with their beliefs because it is what is logical to them. As we saw earlier in this essay hyperlinks and algorithms are not something that can be used as a persuasion technique in the print environment. They are tools to make the rhetoric of writing easier and faster. The internet is a tool and it is made to make tasks easier and less complex and this is what I think it does for rhetoric in the digital landscape. So therefore I believe there is a lack of change to the online rhetoric in news outlets and sources that are justified and does encapsulate all elements of Aristotle’s three principles.


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