Rhetorical Analysis of a New York Times’ Article and Commentary

“Our lack of appreciation for the fallibility of our own memories can lead to much bigger problems than a attributed quote.”

[State thesis in first sentence.] Chabris and Simons build their case of relying on one’s memory by giving facts on the confusion of Dr. Tyson quoting former president George W. Bush’s speech to Congress after the 9/11 terrorists attacks. “Dr. Tyson was fooled by his own faith in the accuracy of his own memory.” [Analyze rather than summarize. How do the authors use the rhetorical triangle to convince the reader and how do they support their arguments?] When Dr. Tyson was asked for the source of Mr. Bush’s quotation it was nowhere to be found. Tyson claimed that he had explicit memory of what former president Bush said and that he made note of it for future reference. [Separate topic sentences with paragraphs.] Chabris and Simon state scientific facts and share studies about memory to help us as the readers better understand their argument.They state that we recall events easily and often but “rarely find our memories contradicted by evidence much less take the time to see if they are right. We rely on confidence as a signal of accuracy, in ourselves and in others” They use Dr. Tyson’s mistake to make an argument that our lack of appreciation for the mistakes we make about our own memories can lead to much bigger problems than a attributed quote. Their argument relies more heavily on facts and studies [use of logos] than emotions [use of pathos]. As the authors their tone is very deliberate but sincere.

The first comment under the reader’s pick is from Dr. Tyson himself. He links two Facebook notes that he wrote to further discuss the issue. The sites are linked to a partial anatomy of his public talks. His comment was convincing to the audience because for one, he was the main focus in the article [use of ethos] and because he explains in detail why he gives public talks and how he tries to connect to his audience. [Separate topic sentences with paragraphs.] The second comment states that Dr. Tyson’s “memory of former president Bush being an intelligent person is faulty.” He shares a link that has quotes of the ‘unintelligent’ things Bush has said in the past. For example, “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country ad our people, and neither do we.” [How do the commenters use the rhetorical triangle to make their points?] [Separate topic sentences with paragraphs.] The final comment has logical reasoning about one’s memory and might give you a sense of reliable sources. He relates to the audience by saying he has seen and has made mistaken memories enough to know that people make honest mistakes.

I think that the New York Times approach to ranking comments is effective because those comments encourage other readers to comment whether they agree or disagree with one another. I think it is needed because the reader can look at the comments and make sense of the topic if they don’t get what is being said. Sometimes the comments get across to the reader better than the original article. The top ranked comments may also provide additional information that the article may not have had such as statistics or links to other websites.


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