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Analysis of Rhetorical Velocity in Social Media

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 3520 words Published: 12th Nov 2020

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The issue I’m choosing to write about in this paper is the issue of sexual assault allegations in our country and what could possibly be done to solve this very difficult to handle yet serious issue. The problem with sexual assault allegations as well as other similar allegations such as sexual harassment is that if they are stated publicly , they for some reason a majority of the time have a very harmful affect on the accused without any of the allegation being proven or disproven.  So therefore, accusations of rape should be made privately to police so that they can investigate the matter thoroughly, and if they find the allegation to be true, I think only then should the accused who at that point would be guilty should not be protected from possibly false allegations that could have sever long term affects on them in many ways whether or not even a single allegation turned out to be true. I mainly choose to talk about this issue because it is a very current topic as rape allegations have been made against many prominent men in the past months.  I will however only be talking about a handful of these men specifically as well as the allegations against them. To examine this issue and its rhetorical velocity in social media, I made use of the popular social media platform Twitter and looked at an original tweet made by CNN News official Twitter account and two remixes of that tweet in the form of two comments that are remixes of the original tweet created by other people to suit their beliefs. Before I examine my issues of rhetorical velocity in social media, I need to identify the rhetorical appeals or ethos logos and pathos of my original text along with the main aspects of its rhetorical situation such as the rhetors and audience involved with my text. My original text is a tweet from the official CNN News Twitter handle about Senator Roy Moore, who was recently accused of sexual assault/harassment by a plethora of women. The tweet is a poll asking if Mr. Moore should or should not drop out of the Alabama senate race as the allegations have caused everyday citizens and even other politicians to publicly state they believe Mr. Moore should drop even though these allegations are still very recent and have not yet been proven. I feel this situation is a great example of how my issue is current, serious and how rape/ sexual assault allegations can affect any male severely no matter whom they may be.

Rhetorical appeals

An appeal in rhetoric terms could be described as using language to persuade someone else to agree with you or as Doug Downs in his article puts it, “Things I can say to try to get you to see things my way”. (469) Doug Downs also says in his article that “People usually make three overall kinds of appeals”. (469) These three types of appeals are appeals to logic or logos, appeals to emotion or pathos and appeals to a rhetors credibility or ethos. One of the reasons I picked this particular tweet as my original text is because I felt like its easy to identify its pathos, ethos and logos. The appeal to emotion(pathos) in this tweet is the appeal to strong feelings that people have about allegations that are sexual such as rape/assault/harassment. I feel like its quite easy to see that people have strong feelings about this issue as like I said there are now many people from regular citizens to other politicians that are calling for Mr. Moores withdrawal from the Alabama senator race. I feel is quite a strong statement for someone to make publicly even when there is no decisive proof that even a single one of these allegations is true. The appeal to ethics or ethos in this tweet was clear to me the moment I read the tweet. The appeal to ethics in my original text is the appeal to Mr. Moore’s credibility in the sense that if a man such as Mr. Moore is even just accused of sexual misconduct or more sever crimes such as rape, how is he fit to be able to hold an important office in our government such as that of a Senator. Public allegations of basically any form of sexual misconduct false or true almost instantly undermine the credibility of the person (almost always a man.) They are made against and I believe this is very clear when looking at the allegations against Mr. Moore, who faced calls to drop out of the Senate race as soon as the same day the first of these allegations was made public by the media. The appeal to logic or logos in my original text is the appeal to the fact that many people think it’s logical to believe that someone accused of a crime especially one of a sexual nature are unfit to be hold an important office like that of a Senator or Judge, Mr. Moore’s former occupation. All three of these appeals were used for the same reason, to show that Mr. Moore is unfit to be a U.S. Senator. Thus, it was also important for me to identify and talk about these three types of rhetorical appeals used in my text so I can attempt to explain the rhetorical velocity of my issue in social media, but something equally important for me to talk about in order to do that is to talk about my original text rhetorical situation.

Rhetorical Situation

In his article “Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents” Mr. Keith Grant-Davie says we might define rhetorical situation as a set of related factors whose interaction creates and controls a discourse”. The four important parts of rhetorical situation are audience, rhetors, exigence’s and constraints. In his article Mr. Grant-Davie says Bitzer defines audience as “Those persons capable of beings influenced by discourse and of being mediators of change.” Then later in his article Mr. Grant- Davie goes on to say that “Douglas Park broadened this perspective by offering four specific meanings of audience: (1) any people who happen to hear or read a discourse, (2) a set of readers or listeners who form part of an external rhetorical situation, (3) the audience that the writer seems to have in mind, and (4) the audience roles suggested by the text itself”. Shortly after reading the audience section of Mr. Grant Davies article, I came to the realization that most text have more than one audience and that audience of text falls into normally one of two categories. First, is the audience that matters in the sense that if they are persuaded by the text, they will act on that persuasion, so the audience that doesn’t matter would be anybody who views the product and isn’t persuaded by any of its appeals. I feel like a great example of this is an advertisement for a product such as a cellphone because the audience that matters to the people that made it or rhetors, which I will discuss shortly, would be anybody who sees the add and actually goes and buys the cellphone or gets somebody else to buy it. The audience who doesn’t matter would be anybody who sees the ad and doesn’t buy a cellphone or convince somebody else to buy one. Keepings all of this info in mind, I would think that the audience that matters in my text would be anybody who sees the tweet and is convinced to change their stance on the specific issue that my tweet is about, specifically anybody in Alabama who plans on voting for Mr. Moore on election day that sees the tweet and is convinced either partially (which is more common I would think) or completely by my original text to not vote for Mr. Moore.

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Mr. Grant-Davie defines rhetors as “Those people real or imagined, responsible for the discourse and its authorial voice.” Given this definition I would like to think that the rhetors of my original text is anybody who took part in its creation and/or can be credited for the “voice” or message that the text sends it audience. This could also be anybody at CNN who assisted with creating the tweet in some way. The most important rhetors of my original text would be whoever actually runs CNN’s official twitter handle. This is true because they were the ones who actually posted the tweet and the people who were necessary for the interview, thus my tweet links are linked to this.  The tweet involved a Ms. Johnson and a woman by the name of Ms. Erin Burnett who is an anchor at CNN. While all of the people who helped make the interview and tweet possible did so with varying levels of contribution, all of them could also be considered rhetors or part of the “Rhetorical Team” Mr. Grant-Davie talks about in his article.

Rhetorical exigencies are also talked about in Mr. Grant-Davie article where he says that “Blitzer defines rhetorical exigence as the rhetors sense that a situation both calls for discourse and might be resolved by discourse.”  So, when talking about the three types of exigencies: personal, societal, and ethical, I need to identify what personal, societal and ethical motivations that the rhetors of my original text had and how the rhetors of my original text think that the tweet can personally, societally or ethically resolve this issue. The personal exigencies in my original text are I believe the personal motivations that the rhetors had for creating this tweet and the interview that it links to which could range from them genuinely believing the accusations against Mr. Moore and thus thinking he is unfit to be a Senator. It is just being their job due to the fact they happen to work at CNN or it could simply be because CNN is biased towards Democrats (I believe media bias goes both ways) so many people that work there and probably most of the higher up just don’t want any Republicans to win elections. This is especially true of congressional ones so they are therefore personally motivated to make this Tweet and the interview it links to. It is similar to the way the rhetoric of my original text sees the tweet resolving my issue in a personal way, thus creating text and text like it on social media. In this manner,  the word gets out that Mr. Moore has been accused of sexual harassment/assault and possibly gets him to think that he cannot win the race as the allegations will cause him to lose(which they may).The societal exigence In my original text  would be the societal motivations that the rhetors of my original text had for creating it and how they think my text might solve this issue societally, these societal motivations could be to show to as many people as possible this text and thus the allegations against Mr. Moore and get them to believe that electing Mr. Moore to the U.S would be a detriment to the U.S as a society. The way my original text could solve this issue societally is that I could get members of the society which is American voters to believe that Mr. Moore is unfit to be a U.S senator. The ethical exigence in my original text would be its rhetors ethical motivations for creating the tweet and the interview that is attached to it as well as how the rhetors believe my original text can ethically solve this issue. The ethical motivations of my Rhetors would most likely be if any of them believe the allegations against Mr. Moore and therefore think that it is unethical for him to be elected a U.S senator or just believe that the allegations themselves are sufficient enough to damage his ethics to the point where he should hold the office. These ethics are based off of the fact that most people believe that individuals in government and especially important government positions need to be of good character and high morale standing. The way my issue could be solved by my original text ethically is that by posting the tweet and the interview its linked to online on social media many people will see it and have their ethics appealed to, possibly causing any of those people who saw the tweet and interview to not vote for Mr. Moore on election day due to their ethics. Constraints are another important part of rhetorical situation and they are also talked about in Mr. Grant-Davies article in which he says that defines them as “Factors in the situations context that may affect the achievement of the rhetorical objectives.”. Mr. Grant-Davie then goes on to say shortly after that there are two types of constraints, positive and negative constraints which he says either support or hinder rhetors. I don’t think my original text has any obvious positive constraints other than the fact that its back by CNN which is an organization made up of professionals with access to lots of money which gives my text credibility to some people and allowed for my original text to be something more by creating the interview with one of Mr. Moores accusers which they then linked to tweet they posted about which in turned linked my original text to a major news organization. I learned that every single text has one negative constraint, which is time in the case of my original text I feel like this could be broadly interpreted for example maybe they want to see how much rhetorical velocity this particular tweet would gain over a period of several months to see how people feel about the issue it relates to, the hard part of doing that would actually be waiting several months and observing the tweet how often deemed necessary, so the constraint of time makes task like the one I just described where one is observing something over a long period of time tedious. The other negative constraint that I can think of and also think is important is the fact that CNN is viewed as fake news or just disliked by many republicans and I think this is important because republicans are much more likely than democrats to vote for Mr. Roy Moore as he a republican, so these republicans would be the main audience of my original text which comes from CNN which to some extent definitely hurts the persuasiveness of the appeals of my original text which in turn lessens its ability to complete its rhetorical objective, this I think shows that having a major news organization being a major rhetor of my original text can be both a very positive and/or a very negative constraint, it just depends on what the text is and who the targeted audiences are.

Rhetorical Velocity

The term rhetorical velocity is defined in “Composing for Recomposition” an article by Jim Ridolfo and Danielle Devoos as “a strategic approach to composing for rhetorical delivery. It is both a way of considering delivery as a rhetorical mode, aligned with an understanding of how texts work as a component of strategy.” My claim is that my original text has rhetorical velocity as its strategically rhetorically delivered by its rhetors to specifically persuade people not to vote for Mr. Roy Moore in the current Alabama senate. Not only does my original text have rhetorical velocity but so do the two remixes of it that a choose.

The first remix I choose is a tweet captioned so not in front… like this and has a currently infamous picture posted below it of Democratic Senator Al Franken touching the breast of a seemingly unconscious woman through an army combat vest. I think is worth noting that this picture has caused Mr. Franken to receive similar criticism that Mr. Moore is receiving for his allegations, however Mr. Franken seat in the senate is not currently up for election meaning he is in a somewhat different situation than Mr. Moore is. The caption of my text is relating to the fact that the accuser in the interview of my original text claimed that Mr. Moore grabbed her but from behind, the caption then leads into the picture which creates the remix because by posting that tweet with the picture attached the rhetor is trying to show that despite allegations against Mr. Moore there is actual hard evidence of a current democratic senator actually committing sexual harassment/assault, so regardless of whether the rhetor knows it or not he’s is remixing my original tweet. The Remix has the effect of making the tweet appeal to multiple things that still all relate to my issue such as if Mr. Franken is still a senator why should Mr. Moore have to resign? or maybe it’s not republicans who sexually harass women but democrats (hence the picture) so the allegations against Mr. Moore are probably false.

The second remix of my original text remixes it in a similar way to my first remix, but It has also the completely opposite effect on my original text. While my first remix decreased the persuasiveness of my original text my second remix reinforces or increases it. My second remix is a tweet that doesn’t have a caption, just a link to a news article about president Trump, the headline of the article says another woman has accused the president of sexual misconduct so this remix could have created multiple effect but I know one of them is that it increases that persuasiveness of my original text by showing another occurrence where a republican politician was accused of some degree of sexual misconduct by multiple women. 

My original text was a tweet by the official CNN Twitter handle about Mr. Roy Moore with a link to a interview about him in which a CNN Anchor talks to one of the woman who has alleged Mr. Moore of sexual misconduct. The main purpose of my original text was to show people that Mr. Moore is not fit to be a U.S senator and therefore should not be voted for. My first remix was a Tweet about Senator Al Franken which contained a picture of him groping a woman who claimed to be unconscious at the time, the effect that this remix created was that it decreased the persuasiveness of my original text thus decreasing the like hood that It could help to successfully convince people not to vote for Mr. Moore which is my original text main rhetorical objective. My second remix is a text that is just an image that also serves as a link to news article about another woman who has accused the president of sexual misconduct, the effect this remix creates is that it increased the persuasiveness of my original text therefore increasing the likelihood it could help convince someone not to vote for Mr. Moore. Both of my remixes related to my original text in the same way, but they effected it in opposite way.


While writing my paper I noticed that all of these recent allegations of varying level of sexual misconduct against politicians has increased the hostility of the already quite hostile political atmosphere in America. when a politician of either party is publicly accused of sexual misconduct the supporters of that party immediately try to debunk those claims by trying to come up with similar allegations made towards politicians of the other party, while the supporters of the other party just a quickly start to spread the idea the accused politician has lost credibility and they should either not have the office they currently hold as is the case with Mr. Franken, Drop out of a current election as is the case with Mr. Moore or even be impeached if that individual happens to be the  president, as is the case with Trump. I think this matters because I believe first step to getting our country out of the divided government situation that it is currently in it to less the political hostility between the two parties as much as possible to increase the chances they can reach compromises on important government issues. My take on this whole issue of sexual allegations is that any incidents of a sexual crime should be reported as soon it occurs to the police so they can be easily and privately investigated, therefore helping ensure that these allegations don’t have harmful effects on the accused if they turn out to be false. This issue is related to rhetoric as it shows that allegations such of those as sexual allegations can have powerful rhetorical effects, this is shown by the fact that Mr. Moore is most likely going to lose the senate race in Alabama according to current poles, this effect is powerful as Alabama is a traditionally red state which means its senator is normally republican and these sexual allegations against Mr. Moore have possibly changed the outcome of the current Alabama senator election

Works cited

  • Doug, Downs. “Rhetoric: Making sense of Human Interaction and Meaning Making.” Writing about Writing: A College Reader. edited by Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. 3rd ed., Bedford/St. Martins, 2017,(469)
  • Keith, Grant-Davie. “Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents.” Writing about Writing: A College Reader. edited by Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. 3rd ed., Bedford/St. Martins, 2017,
  • Jim, Ridolfo. Danielle, Devoos. “Composing for Recomposition.” Writing about Writing: A College Reader. edited by Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. 3rd ed., Bedford/St. Martins, 2017,


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