One might define journalism as the act of putting into writing the happenings in the world at large. Events occur in the world and are relayed back to the world by reporters. Reporters are named such due to their effort to objectively report the facts, and objectivity is the key. To remain completely impassive, to transmit occurrences in the world back to the world unaltered and exactly as they were, is the main goal of journalism. In fact, this goal is so central to journalism that one might call it the journalistic ideal.
As with all ideals, however, this ideal is difficult to attain. Take the example of the sentence, “The Berlin Wall fell in 1989.” This sentence appears to be fairly objective; the fact as stated cannot easily be argued and can be verified by a great many sources. However, the sentence may be stated in a different way: “The Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989.” What these two sentences say is basically the same, but the feelings portrayed by each are different. Because there is no way to decide which feeling is the correct and accurate representation of the world, neither sentence can be viewed as completely objective; the writing of either one required subjective decision. In reporting, the very act of choosing out of infinite possibilities what words to utilize when describing a situation is very subjective.
And this is before the numerous subtleties of reporting are included. How much attention in an article should be given to one aspect of an issue and how much should be given to another? What involved persons are to be quoted? What quotes from these persons are to be used? What happens when we try to relate how or why the Berlin Wall was taken down? Clearly, subjectivity cannot be escaped. The journalist’s opinions, no matter what precautions are taken, will unavoidably seep into the article. And, because they are there, inevitably, those opinions will affect the reader. The reader will be persuaded or dissuaded in one direction or another. Thus, journalism and persuasion collide because journalism must inherently contain persuasion. Because journalism must be subjective, objective journalism as the journalistic ideal prescribes is nonexistent. All that is left of journalism is a semblance: journalistic persuasion.
Andrew Solomon gives an example of journalistic persuasion in his essay “Defiantly Deaf.” On first examination, his essay appears to be an objective report, but on closer analysis it is found to be riddled with opinion and subjectiveness. He objectively states, “There is a race going on. Running on one team are the doctors who will make the deaf hear . . . On the other team are the exponents of Deaf culture (44). He, however, has definite subjective opinions about that race. Solomon himself is rooting for the team of the Deaf. He is sentimentally on the side of the Deaf and wants them to win. And, through instilling subjective judgement in his writing, Solomon slowly but surely leads the reader toward the same opinion.
How then does Solomon persuade the reader to side with the team of the Deaf? Solomon does an excellent job of stirring emotion in his reader. Once a reader is emotionally involved, persuasion becomes much easier. Emotion in writing means power. In his article, Solomon utilizes this fact and creates emotion in his reader by setting up the Deaf as “underdogs.” Humans are passionately, though often secretly, partial to the underdog. The fighting underdog (whether it be in sports, or in life, or in anything else) inspires and touches a special chord deep in the heart. Thus, when Solomon portrays the outside world as being against and unfair to the Deaf, he sets up the Deaf as the underdogs and the reader to be partial to the Deaf. Solomon states that, in 1880, the “dread Congress of Milan” issued “an edict to ban the use of sign” (35). The word “dread” denotes the Congress as having a sinister quality; it did not have the well-being of the Deaf in mind.
The word “ban” conjures ideas of totalitarianism; a powerful governing body took away the rights of the individual. Such ideas of a powerful and unfair government making it harder for the Deaf unquestionably put the reader’s emotions on the side of the Deaf. Solomon portrays the outside world as still wreaking troubles upon the Deaf in more modern times. He depicts the modern government as against the Deaf: “Public law 94-142 maintains that everyone who can use ordinary schools should do so [which is] the worst disaster since the Congress of Milan” (37). To the government, the social welfare of Deaf children is “not a concern” (37). Besides the legislative powers of Congress, though, other public institutions are also against the Deaf. New York City courts refused “to get a new interpreter for a plaintiff who couldn’t understand the trial as it was interpreted to her” (39).
A Deaf man died in a hospital which did not provide him with an interpreter and thus caused him to be unable “to communicate with his doctors” (39). The outside world is also prejudiced against the Deaf, often leading the Deaf themselves to lack the sense of being “empowered” (34). Outside prejudice could lead the Deaf to being forced to “settle” for jobs such as working “in a factory, printing,” especially during times such as the “40’s, about as low a time as there was for being deaf in America” (34). The outside world is what made it such a “low” time for the Deaf. The Deaf are the underdogs. Through movements such as Lexington (34-37), Deaf President Now (36-37) and the fight to have A.S.L. recognized as a language (36), they are gloriously struggling for their rights. Both Solomon and his captive reader cheer them on.
Solomon also uses another method to put the reader on the side of the Deaf. He portrays the Deaf world as magnificent and wonderful: a dream world. On numerous pages (34,36,43), Solomon refers to a “hearing world,” so, by implication, there must also be a “Deaf world.” And what a marvelous place this Deaf world is. In this world, fingers leave “trails of light” that hold the “pictures” one is drawing while signing (36). A sign can become an “explosion” (36) or the facsimile of a “smile” (40), and many signs together can become a “strange human sea . . . breaking into waves and glinting in the light” (38).
There are Miss America Pageants just for the members of this world (38-40), and the members of this world have formed “inviolable bonds of love” (39) and “close, closed, and affectionate” (38) relationships with one another. This world feels incredible pressure from the outside world (they are the underdogs) but the members of this world prevail. The populace of this world does not want to leave: “A steadily increasing number of deaf people have said that they would not choose to be hearing” (34). In fact, the thought of leaving is an “anathema” (34). The visitors to this world also do not want to leave: “. . . it is impossible, here, not to wish you were Deaf” (39).
The same applies for the reader. Solomon allows the reader to visit this dream world, and the reader, once there, does not want to leave. Solomon includes himself in the article for a reason. Solomon describes the world of the Deaf through his own eyes. When the reader then reads the article, he/she too looks through Solomon’s eyes and can see the wonderful world beyond. And what person, once catching a glimpse of this world, would want it to end?
Thus, when considering the great race, both Solomon and the reader (through Solomon’s persuasion) are sentimentally on the side of the Deaf. In the end, however, both Solomon and the reader realize that they are rooting for a losing cause. Solomon steps out of the dream world to look at the big picture in the first paragraph of page forty-one:
If being deaf is not a disability, then deaf people should not be protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act. It should not be legally required (as it is) that interpreters be provided in hospitals and other public service venues, that a relay operator be available on all telephone exchanges, that all televisions include the chip for caption access . . . Those who say being deaf is not a disability open themselves to a lot of trouble (41).
This is one of the first noticeable times since the opening paragraph that Solomon spells “deaf” without a capital “D”, and, from this point on, Solomon no longer includes his seeing “eyes” in the article. Solomon extracts the reader from the world of the Deaf, and when he has done so, both Solomon and the reader realize that, no matter how wonderful a world it is, it cannot last. Just like the “intense, exuberant conversation” at the “Deaf party”, the world of the Deaf must eventually, like the conversation, “draw to a close” (40).
Solomon knows which team he wants to win (the Deaf). He also knows which team will win (the doctors). He quotes Jackie Roth as saying “But if I could have full hearing, without complications, I would like to have it” (44). Other deaf people, in fact “plenty” of other deaf people, say that “being deaf is of course a disability, and that anything you could do about it would be welcome” (42). The desire is the deciding factor. Solomon speculates that Dear culture might be likened to gay culture, only further behind on the time line (43-44).
Thus, because gay culture won the race against the doctors, we might conclude that Deaf culture will do so also. However, a deciding and significant difference exists between the two cultures. With gay culture, there was really no one to push for a cure. The gay adults do not push for a cure for that would be changing who they are. The parents of children who will become gay also do not push for a cure because gayness is not apparent upon birth. With the Deaf, however, a push for a cure exists in real force.
Most who are Deaf are most likely in favor of a cure. Only ten percent of the Deaf in the U.S. are members of the National Association of the Deaf (39) and not even all members agree that there should be no search for a cure (i.e. one of the leaders: Jackie Roth). The parents of Deaf children likely even push harder than would an afflicted Deaf adult. Parents want their children to be cured, and, even if the culture of the Deaf reaches an extremely high level, the parents of the newly-born Deaf will always be there. The demand will always exist. The cure will come.
In the end, however, it does not really matter if the cure comes or not. When talking of cochlear implants, Solomon notes that “it makes people un-deaf without making them hearing” (41). Such is the great fear of cultures: to be caught with no culture. It does not matter what group you are part of, so long as you are part of some group. If the Deaf are not cured, then they will remain in their present group, defined by their present culture. If the Deaf are cured, then they will join the hearing and the cultures of the hearing. If cured, the girl in the first paragraph would no longer be “too busy being Deaf” (34). She might have enough time to be African-American.
Courtney from Study Moose
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