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Rhetorical and Fallacies in the Article “The Media Violence Myth” by Richard Rhodes

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In 2000, Pulitzer-winning journalist Richard Rhodes published an article titled “The Media Violence Myth,” through the “American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression,” a liberal establishment dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment right to free speech. Despite coming from a background plagued with violence and abuse, Rhodes has studied nuclear history and weapons use for over 20 years and has developed a unique opinion about the media’s effect on public violence. In “The Media Violence Myth,” Rhodes aims to convince his readers that the media does not contribute to violence through its portrayal. He attempts this in discrediting his key opponent, Dave Grossman, through ad hominem, red herrings, and violent diction. These strategies are likely effective for his left-leaning, first amendment-protecting primary audience, which would get caught up in the emotion of the arguments. However, for the more skeptical, moderate audience, these rhetorical devices are likely inefficient.
Rhodes uses the ethical fallacy “ad hominem” in attempt to quickly discredit Grossman, his key antagonist, and therefore boost his own credibility. For example, he describes Grossman in the very first sentence of his article as looking “a little goofy in a bad suit,” while later praising his supporter, David Sohn, as “a bold, savvy psychologist.” It is clear that in employing this tactic Rhodes is attempting to decrease Grossman’s credibility; in placing this judgment in the first sentence of the essay he is trying to make a vivid first impression, one that will stay with his readers through the last page. The image of an ill-dressed man causes the audience to cast negative judgments that will taint anything the subject has to say. On the o...


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...g, war-fearing primary audience.
Rhodes’ use of ad hominem, red herrings, and violent diction in attempt to convince his readers that the media does not contribute to violence is likely effective to the primary audience through evoking compelling emotions and detracting from Grossman’s authority; however, the secondary audience, which values logic over emotion, can likely see through the loaded arguments, making them ineffective. An implication with this result is that politics largely requires an appeal to logos more than to pathos or ethos. Winning over moderates, a key aspect of securing an election or passing a ballot measure, necessitates a primarily sophistic approach. If one were looking to be persuaded either way regarding an issue, it would be in his or her best interest to not waste time with Rhodes, but rather move on to more experienced rhetoricists.


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