Rhetorical Analysis


The Rhetorical Analysis paper was a perfect transition in learning and practicing active citizenship writing from the Course Journals and the Common Good Project.  The Rhetorical Analysis helped with analyzation of active citizenship writing and helped sharpened my skills when writing my own works in The Common Good Project.  Looking at the Ethos, Pathos, Logos, and Terministic Screens was very beneficial in learning about rhetoric we come across in all subjects in college.  This analysis of rhetoric helps one read much more in depth, looking for bias, for emotion, and audience.

“Could You Have English Class With a School Shooter?”

In “Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings?” Frank J. Robertz uses ethos, pathos, and logos to convey his research and argument to the audience.  Robertz does a great job in his sense of audience awareness and word selection.  Robertz uses ethos to build credibility by listing his level of expertise on this very specific topic, uses logos by using consequences of actions using reason, and pathos by evoking emotion through imagery and terministic screen. With such a topic like school shootings can come with a lot of raw emotion and fear within the topic, Robertz uses rhetoric to keep his argument centralized on a clean path and pull in his audience.

Early on into, “Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings?” the author of the article uses ethos to build credibility.  Frank J. Robertz uses ethos here, “About two years ago my colleagues and I co-founded the Institute for Violence Prevention and Applied Criminology in Berlin in part to design guidelines for preventing violence in schools.” Robertz does this to prove his expertise in this area.  The use of ethos here is so important because this is such a difficult topic.  Anything regarding terrorism itself is one of the most difficult fields to understand because there is no true definition of definition of terrorism by any individual or nation.  This is also a very specific topic and one that strikes fear into many citizens.  It is also so important to prove credibility for this article because school shootings and mass-shootings for that matter have become so much more prevalent in recent years.  There is also a link on the web page explaining what the Institute for Violence Prevention and Applied Criminology does.  This is an important step in using ethos well.  Not only does the audience recognize the area of expertise by the author, but also gives detail on why the founding of this institution is important in the authors studies.

Frank J. Robertz also uses ethos by explaining where a lot of their information and analyzations come from.   Robertz says here, “Many of our insights have come from analyzing the violent fantasies of adolescent shooters. These imaginings take root in a desperate mind that yearns for recognition.”  An author using ethos by explaining where information comes from further build credibility seen by the audience.  Giving the audience some insight on methodology here is significant for two reasons.  One, it shows that the author is open about where their information is coming from.  Two, this also proves that the author is not just basing their arguments on what others have researched and written.  This proves to the audience that they have directly done research on those who have committed these school shootings and what has driven them to do it.  This added level of credibility gives the author a better level of understanding for all the key points made throughout the article.

Frank J. Robertz also uses ethos to establish credibility by using the research of those who are also well-versed in the topic discussed.  This is an element seen in any good research paper or article.  The addition of research by another credible source can always strengthen the way the audience views your argument or research.  This widens the ability for credibility.  But, it is notably important to add in the field of work, current job, or past published works when introducing another voice into their article.  Robertz does a good job of this here, “According to research by psychologist David Buss of the University of Texas at Austin.  Such fantasies can defuse tension and thus might be considered a type of psychological hygiene. “This was a very clean and direct way to use ethos to build upon Robertz’ argument.

Pathos is used by Frank J. Robertz in the most part to give the audience insight on the lives of these school shooters before they commit the crime.  Pathos can be a highly effective tool to humanize people and bring a situation closer to the reader’s life.  One difficult aspect of defining terrorism and portraying it within the media is that at times, these terrorist committing these horrendous crimes at one point were not very radical individuals.  Much of the time through isolation are these peoples driven to commit such terrible atrocities.

This use of pathos can be seen when describing the necessity to recognize signs of this violent daydreaming and having the appropriate response.  This use of pathos can put the audience in both the shoes of those responsible for this response and the isolated youth that are showing signs of violent intent.  This can be seen here by Robertz, “For kids in need of help, however, a thoughtful response to the problem is essential. School psychologists and social workers need to help disillusioned youths find a place for themselves in society, something many of them feel they lack.”  This also, brings us in to think about when they have seen someone else isolated and proved to have at least minor hints of violence during our time at school.  It can create a sense of questioning for both teachers and students of whether or not they should have intervened or reported these observations.

Frank J. Robertz starts the article out with a subtle but effective use of Pathos.  Robertz starts the article with, “On August 30, 2006, a 19-year-old youth, clad in a trench coat, drove into the parking lot of his former high school in Hillsborough, N.C.–and began firing. Eight random shots wounded two students.”  To break down the levels of the pathos in this introduction it is important to note the mention of, “clad in a trench coat.”  This use of pathos is seen intertwined with symbolism that evokes both recognition and fear of school shooters.  The trench coat has become a stereotypical symbol of a susceptive school shooter.  This symbol strikes fear into those who recognize it, this is especially recognized by those who have attended the public school system in the last ten or so years.  The trench coat has been used in a copycat way since the shooting at Columbine and was actually intentionally copied by this Alvaro Castillo in this shooting to honor those shooters.  This small mention of the trench coat can evoke emotion and fear into its audience.  This symbolism and imagery at the beginning of the article can draw in the audience in with its rhetoric.

To further analyze the rhetoric in that opening quote by Frank J. Robertz, the brutality set at the very start of this article evokes emotion and exemplifies how horrific of an issue this is in the United States.  This idea that it can happen anytime and anywhere.  The abrupt introduction truly mirrors how abrupt and surprising these attacks can be, which is important.  This is an example of this how important rhetoric can be and having a good sense of audience awareness.

There is also a nice example of pathos in the conclusion by Robertz.  Robertz effectively concludes with a call to action for the media’s portrayal and investigation of school shooters.  Robertz concludes here, “The news media must take a stand as well. To make identifying with other school shooters more difficult, journalists and producers should focus less on the perpetrator, his deviant motives and the moment-by-moment unfolding of the deed–and more on the consequences of the crime.”  This call to action can evoke emotion and emotion in the large population that play a hand in social media, newspapers, journalism, and radio.  This call to action in hopes to change the way the portrayal of these shooters have been and for future efforts.  Using a word like “deviant” is also an example of pathos.  It is also true, these acts committed are at the end completely horrific.  Though this article brings the audience closer to the role society around the shooter lead them to their horrible actions, it still needs to be stated that these actions still resulted in pure evil, even if there was a prior level of misunderstanding by the audience.

This conclusion also uses a bit of logos while using pathos at the same time.  Though it does not directly state the logical cause and effect seen when using logos, it relates back to earlier points made in the article.  Robertz is basically using logos to state that, if the media focuses more on the consequences of the crime rather than the motives than there will be less room for future copy cats.  It is an amazing point and way to conclude this article.  The combination of the emotion seen using pathos and the logical reasoning seen used by logos can make for a great call for action.  Robertz brings up a great point with this conclusion.  The role social media plays in portraying these terrorist acts plays a huge role in inspiring future attacks.  In most of these acts of “Lone Wolf Terrorism” the individual that commits the crime is traditionally inspired by a former act of terrorism.

Robertz does use language using this idea of terministic screen most associated with the work of Kenneth Burke to grab attention to the reader and get them to believe things in a more metaphorical way, through their own reality.  An example of this can be seen here, “With time, the mental images become more detailed, and they often become buttressed by a distorted sense of what is just or moral, such as the need to avenge a perceived offense or the belief in a divine right to decide the fate of others.”  Using the words “divine right” is the best example of terministic screen.  Bringing religion and the belief in a higher power is used to evoke emotion and create the reader’s opportunity to look through a different lens while analyzing the reading.  Though Robertz has no proof that these violent adolescent shooters look at their actions as “Godly” he mentions it and makes it an even more severe situation or reality.

The use of terministic screen is a part of writing and media that every reader should be very analytical in when taking in information and formulating opinions.  Another example of how Robertz uses terministic screens can be seen here, “On the other hand, teachers should not panic if a student sports a rebellious hairstyle or outfit, and they should exercise judgment if someone is carrying a potentially dangerous object.”  Using this kind of language is Robertz attempt for the reader to bring a combination of Robertz reality and their own to create a reality in which best supports Robertz argument.  Creating this imagery calls a reader to envision what kind of person this is or even bring in someone from their own reality into the writing and their formulated opinion on the subject being discussed.

One side of rhetoric that Robertz lacked in was not enough use of logos.  Nowhere in the article does it have any statistics, graphs, or analysis in clear numerical evidence.  This is a crucial part to evoke reasoning in the audience while at the same time using ethos to build a credible argument.  Having facts and figures to strengthen an argument can sway a reader into the author’s side in an argument style essay, especially if the reader is a number-oriented individual.  There is also no real clear logical fallacies included within Robertz article.   Other than that, Robertz does a good job in using pathos and ethos to rhetorically keep his argument and research on a centralized path for his audience.

Though Robertz did use a credible amount of ethos, he could have used much more this rhetoric that ethos drives.  This is such a severe topic and it definitely hits home for so many people in The United States.  Possibly, getting a testimony or recollection of events by someone who witnessed one of these acts of terrorism could be highly beneficial to this research.  If Robertz wants a solid call to action, arguing that adolescence that are showing signs of violence need more monitoring, then he should be doing more to evoke the emotions of the audience.

In “Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings?” Frank J. Robertz uses ethos in the introduction and early parts of his argument to build credibility for the audience, pathos to evoke emotion and motivation for his “call to action,” and logos to create an idea of reason for the audience to take a stance.  Robertz also uses terministic screens to create a reality for the reader to support his views.  This artifact’s rhetoric conveys a much stronger argument and analysis in such a difficult topic to discuss.