Everyone has their own opinion. The person sitting next to you can have an entirely different outlook on something you do. Having different opinions is what makes for interesting arguments. Especially an author and a critic… like Steven Johnson and Dana Stevens. In the article “Watching TV Makes You Smarter”, Steven Johnson believes that TV does make you smarter, while in her article “Thinking Outside the Idiot Box” Dana Stevens completely disagrees and critiques his article. The two have opposing views on the topic. Both these writers use different examples of ethos, pathos, and logos in their articles to back up their opinion and make for an interesting argument.
In my opinion, Dana Stevens overall did a better job at using ethos, pathos, and logos to back up her argument. “From the vantage point of someone who watches a hell of a lot of TV (but still far less than the average American), the medium seems neither like a brain-liquefying poison nor a salutary tonic” (Stevens, 2012, p. 298). This quote is what Steven really tries to prove the whole article and back up with her arguments.
Ethos has to do with credibility and trustworthiness. It is usually conveyed through the tone, and the writer’s reputation. This technique is used to make people seem credible and someone whom we respect.
Dana Stevens uses ethos very well when trying to make her argument in “Thinking outside the idiot box.” Stevens starts off with informing the audience that she has a Ph.D in comparative literature from the University of California at Berkeley. If the author has earned her a Ph.D in comparative literature that gives her credibility because she has had to go through a lot of years of schooling and she has a lot of writing experience by now after getting a job in the field. “Dana Stevens is Slate’s movie critic and has also written for the New York Times, Bookforum, and the Atlantic” (Stevens, 2012, p. 295) is just another example of how experienced Dana Stevens has a lot of experience with her work and knows what she is talking about.
Steven Johnson used ethos the best in his argument. In the beginning he is introduced as: “Steven Johnson is the author of seven books, among them Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter (2005) and Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (2010). Johnson is also a contributing editor for Wired, writers a monthly column for Discover, and teachers journalism at New York University.” (Johnson, 2012, p. 277)
He is the author of seven other books and list them all. It then goes on to say Johnson is a contributing editor for Wired, he writers a monthly column for Discover, and teachers journalism at New York University. All of these things about Johnson give him a lot of credibility to begin with. Pathos has to do with appealing to your audiences emotion. Using imaginative impact, and stories can convince your audience of your argument by creating an emotional response. Tone is also a huge part of pathos, the way you state your argument can have a impact on their opinion.
Dana Stevens wants to expose Steven Johnsons article and she does so by using pathos to get to the audiences emotions. At some points Stevens even makes fun of Johnson when she says “ Johnson’s claim for television as a tool for brain enhancement seems deeply, hilariously bogus.” (Stevens, 2012, p. 297) This statement impacts the audiences emotions by making the reader feel kind of dumb if they actually agreed with Johnson that television makes you smarter, dumb enough that it would be hilarious if they were to actually believe that. She also makes a point when she says “he breezily dismisses recent controversies about the program’s representation of Muslim terrorists or it implicit endorsement of torture, preferring to concentrate on how the show’s formal structure teaches us to “pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships.” (296)
The mention of endorsement of torture usually makes people feel very disgusted and upset because of their morals. In the beginning Stevens (2012) basically says to the audience that anyone who agrees with Johnsons argument that TV makes you smarter are like “rats in a behaviorists maze.” (Stevens, 2012, 295) This creates a negative emotion towards Johnsons argument, no one wants to be thought of as rat in an experiment being fooled.
Steven Johnson uses pathos to get in touch with the audiences feelings by using TV shows that go against any normal persons morals. He used shows that brought up a lot of public controversies. “Over the preceding weeks, a number of public controversies had erupted around 24, mostly focused on its portrait of Muslim terrorists and its penchant for torture scenes. The episode that was shown on the twenty-fourth only fanned the flames higher: in one scene, a terrorist enlists a hit man to kill his child for not fully supporting the jihadist cause; in another scene, the secretary of defense authorizes the torture of his son to uncover evidence of a terrorist plot.” (Stevens, 2012, p. 278) Of course a statement like this will get peoples attention firstly. It will also really get people into their emotions too.
The one sentence about the scene when a terrorist enlists a hit man to kill his child for no fully supporting jihadist cause will catch anyone’s attention even if you don’t really pay any mind to the subject. Something that is out of the norm like that will also get into peoples emotions. The other scene brought up about the secretary of defense authorizing the torture of his son to uncover evidence of a terrorist plot would take anyone by surprise and most likely feel disgusted. As a parent you should always want to protect your child… not torture them, so imagine how an audience would feel especially parents after reading about this. It would most definitely catch their attention and get in touch with their feelings.
Logos has to do with logic, reasoning, argumentation. Using facts, figures, and case studies to prove the point. If people know someone is using facts to prove their argument they assume it has to be true, facts don’t lie.
Dana Stevens doesn’t exactly use facts and information the whole time, but she just wants the audience to understand that they are able to control their own choices about how much television they should watch. She bases a lot of her article off of this idea. Stevens also says at a point “just turn the set off… and see if you get any dumber.”(Stevens, 2012, p. 298) Turning off the TV for a few days will not make you become dumber. If you turn off the TV and pick up a book instead you’re more likely to gain more knowledge from that.
The point Stevens is really trying to make is Johnson’s argument just doesn’t make any sense. How can TV make you smarter if you’re perfectly fine not watching it for a couple days and can actually gain more knowledge from doing something more educational like taking a trip to the library. This is just proving the point that watching TV does not make you any smarter, and not watching TV does not make you any dumber.
Steven Johnson uses logos when he starts stating facts about TV shows and lets the audience know full details about it. Johnson goes on to talk about Television shows, when doing so he gives the audience a lot of facts about them to show they are legitimate. “ During its 44-minutes- a real-time hour, minus 16 minutes for commercials- the episode connects the lives of 21 distinct characters, each with a clearly defined “story arc,”…. (Johnson, 2012, p. 278) He states the exact commercial times, the network, the date, exactly how long it was, what the show was about, etc. Johnson always states the exact full detail about every show he uses to prove his argument correct.
When Johnson does so he gives the audience a sense that he knows what he is talking about. He always backs up his argument with facts… this can let the audience know he has done his research, he has gone through the trouble to figure out everything there is know about the show including small things like the airing time, etc., and basically he just has all the facts there to prove his point if anyone disagrees with him.
In conclusion, both writers use a lot of ethos, pathos, and logos to prove their argument. At some points one author may have used them better to prove their argument. Steven Johnson had a very strong ethos, pretty good pathos and also an average logos. Dana Stevens just used an overall strong use of all three ethos, pathos, and logos to prove her argument that TV does not make you smarter. The whole point of her article “Thinking Outside the Idiot Box” was to show the invalidity in Johnsons article. She gave facts, appealed to the audiences emotions, gave the audience a sense of credibility and trustworthiness. Both writers are very talented and experienced but Dana Stevens won the audience over with all these techniques backing up her argument.
Courtney from Study Moose
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