Rhetorical Analysis of A New York Times’ Article and Commentary

The New York Times article “Why Our Memory Fails Us,” by Christopher F. Chabris and Daniel J. Simmons shows how presenting a specific point of view is sometimes best received when taking on a rational and logical approach towards its readers. [Cite ethos, logos and pathos here and elaborate below.]

In “Why Our Memory Fails Us,” Chabris and Simons use the example of astrophysicist, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and his overly-presumptuous recollection of quotes given by President George W. Bush—which were later found to be inaccurate. By using this example, the authors demonstrate how faulty our memories can be regardless of how accurate we deem them to be—executing the logos approach—however the reasoning behind this type of overconfidence coming from an emotional/personal place—which would fall under a pathos approach when referring to the rhetorical triangle.

In presenting this case, Chabris and Simons appeal to our logic by presenting us with this case study; however, they don’t only stop presenting readers with facts and logical reasoning there. They resume their argument by explaining to us that when our memories are challenged we tend to react emotionally rather than objectively—rejecting the idea that people can “remember the same event differently.” In doing so, the authors make a subtle switch over from a “logos” approach to “pathos” since this argument is based off the emotions portrayed in a person’s recollection of their memory [pathos is an appeal to the reader’s emotions]. However, the authors resume with their “logos” approach by logically explaining multiple reasons on why Mr. Tyson would misconstrue Mr. Bush’s words and inform us that Mr. Tyson—fully aware of the evidence outweighing his experience—made a public apology for his mistake and provide additional examples of politicians and times they have inaccurately remembered the past.

From where I stand, the authors took on an informative [use of logos] and forgiving tone [use of pathos]. They informed readers by backing up information with relevant past events and expressed that as human beings we should be more “understanding of mistakes by others and credit them when they admit they were wrong.”

Now, when looking at the top comments voted by the readers in the top comments section of The New York Times, you’ll see Mr. Tyson’s comment reigning the number one spot. In Tyson’s comment, he links two posts on Facebook where he goes in depth about two types of failures of memory–one that consists of remembering moments/events that never happened and one that misconstrues a real event. Mr. Tyson uses this to analyze his own reasoning as to when he had his faulty recollection of Mr. Bush’s words–a “logos” approach [good point] . Meanwhile, the second top comment written by Keith Dow, simply cites quotes to [missing words]

In the third top comment of this same section, however, Jacob Sommer appeals to our emotional side by using a “pathos” appeal. Sommer does this by emphasizing that we are all human and as humans we all make mistakes; therefore, sympathizing with the fact that not everyones’ false recollections come from bad intentions. [good point] 

I believe The New York Times has a well-suited approach in how they rank their comments. By sorting their top three comments by different perspectives, it allows readers access to all viewpoints in which an article can be looked at and doesn’t limit them to one narrow-minded point of view–showing respect to all different opinions.

 

 

 

 

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