Analysis of McNamee

These days the internet is a part of the majority of our lives and it is scary to think how easily such an amazing thing, like the internet, could be manipulated to be used for bad. Roger McNamee is an American businessman and investor who wrote an article for USA Today called “I Invested Early in Google and Facebook. Now They Terrify me”. McNamee’s overall argument is that social media companies jeopardize public health and democracy and his intended audience is middle age, middle class individuals with at least some college experience. In this paper, I will identify and examine some of the rhetorical strategies used by McNamee and present an explanation of these strategies, as well as, discuss a source, an assumption McNamee makes, and a weakness of McNamee’s argument.

McNamee’s uses word choice to activate the audience sense of emotions. He uses compelling words to make people afraid of social media. When McNamee is discussing Google and Facebook, he claims that they use techniques to maintain attention to websites that creates addictive behavior. McNamee uses word choice and sentence structure in this argument to persuade the audience that Google and Facebook is addictive. He compares Google and Facebook to, “ gambling, nicotine, alcohol or heroin,” and as a result they, “produce short-term happiness with serious negative consequences in the long term.” This metaphor is perceived as pathos because he uses highly addictive substances and compares it to the internet which we don’t consider in the same category to create fear and anxiety about social media. He uses these substances with negative connotation to shock the audience in having an emotional response when comparing them to the internet. Mcnamee strategically places the comparisons of the addictive substances from least to most heinous, to lull the audience into the idea that the internet is being compared to life threatening substances. McNamee starts by comparing to a lesser of the addictions, gambling, to make the audience possibly agree that the internet is addictive. Then he uses the same mindset saying that if the internet is addictive then it could be as addictive as deadly substances. By choosing to use the word heroin in the list of comparisons he is correlating something life threatening to something we see as safe. The effectiveness in his overall argument is strong and he uses this argument as a base to form his outer claims on top of. Another way McNamee used pathos in his word choice of his title. The author uses “Now they terrify me” in his title to draw people in because it is a strong word and it intrigues the audience. The word “terrify” in the title sets the tone for the article being completely against the internet and social media. The audience also wants to know why Google and Facebook terrify McNamee which makes them read more. McNamee uses pathos in his essay to persuade readers emotions to convince them that social media is addictive and terrifying.

Roger McNamee uses reputable newspapers as ethos to develop his argument. McNamee uses how he is an investor in Facebook and was an early adviser to Facebook’s team to establish that he is knowledgeable about internet and Facebook. He is an investor then its not beneficial to speak his mind about how Facebook terrifies him. This gets the audience to put trust in the author right away because the audience knows he shouldn’t be stating harmful details about the companies he has investments in. By stating he worked at Facebook he is giving the readers a sense that this article could be a tell all about the company, which gives the audience a feeling that this is honest and truthful. McNamee uses ethos to allow the audience to trust him on what he is saying by being an unbiased, reputable source. McNamee also uses countless sources throughout his paper to support his claims. The majority were well-known newspapers and magazines like the Washington Post, New York Times, Forbes Magazine, and USA Today. Using a wide variety of sources that are prestigious in the audience’s mind. The author uses them because the majority of his argument doesn’t rely on scientific studies or reports so he must use well-respected and established newspapers to strengthen his claims. The lack of scientific research makes his claims weaker even with the large amount of respected resources that backup his claims and it is a major weakness. McNamee uses his background in technology and well known sources to convince the audience that his claims are true.

An assumption McNamee makes is that his audience is proactive. McNamee doesn’t mention a call to action in this article which weakens his article. He assumes the audience will figure out a solution to the problems he talks about in his article instead of him telling the audience what to do. The author makes his audience care about the topic and understand what’s wrong with technology companies to not give a solution. Since his audience tend to be older that means they are more inclined to vote so there may be some validity in his assumption. Also McNamee’s audience is education so they are likely to be able to come up with solutions on their own. McNamee may have a valid points to his assumptions, but by not giving the readers a call to action the article lacks a purpose and creates a weak ending to the article.

In McNamee’s essay he uses an article from USA Today, the same place McNamee’s piece was published, as evidence for the authors claim that teens are targeted by advertisers because of their depression. McNamee is using another opinion essay from the same newspaper he works at to strengthen his claim. This could be a bias because of the possibility of the authors working together and claiming a false threat.  If this threat of ad targeting is as large as McNamee claims then there should be better articles from different newspapers. With the possibility of being bias, Mcnamee claims that this topic, of advertisers targeting people, is been proved and is a defiant, but the article he uses as a source has contradictions. In his essay, he claims that, “Facebook told advertisers that they had the ability to target teens who were sad or depressed,” and cited Jessica Guynn and her article called Facebook can tell when teens feel insecure. In the article she blatantly says, “Advertisers cannot target individuals based on how they are feeling,” but can target specific age groups. They are targeting all teens by showing certain ads at certain times, but all teens are being targeted. The depressed teens may be more interested in the ad, but all teens are being targeted because they are seen as easily manipulated into buying products not because they are depressed. Not only is there no scientific evidence for this claim, the source McNamee uses doesn’t provide enough evidence itself to say that Facebook is targeting depressed teens.

A weakness in McNamee’s work is when he compared technology, like Facebook and Youtube, with religion. This analogy is misleading the audience. There are some similarities like the mass amount of people involved and his audience may consider that by going on the website is a sort of ritual, which people associate with religion, but technology is missing an important part that a religion needs. A religion needs a belief that connects people, whether that be a creation story or the purpose of the universe. Technology allows a mixture of beliefs and connects them all together, it also doesn’t push religion of beliefs onto people. Youtube and Facebook allow people to speak their minds, which makes it hard to have one overarching belief to follow which is why technology is not the same thing is having faith. Another part of religion that Facebook and Youtube have that is different is that: Facebook and Youtube are part of the physical world and religion is part of the spiritual or metaphysical world. A big part of religion is having faith in something bigger than yourself but with technology you may be apart of something bigger than yourself,  but you don’t need to have any faith because the technology is everywhere. Technology is something you see so it’s unfair to say you have faith in something you can see. Facebook is used by people to do many different things, things that have nothing to do with any aspects of belief, and religion has a lot to do with this you can’t see and need to believe. There are too many strong differences to uses the analogy comparing technology to religion which makes this a weakness in McNamee’s essay.

The significance of McNamee’s article is that most people use social media and its important understand how social media could be influencing you. He stresses that vast amounts of data compiled by social media companies use to influence you. I think this article was very strong on concepts and pathos, but overall it didn’t show me any actual evidence that democracy or public health was truly at stake. This paper demonstrates the value of rhetorical strategies, and by paying close attention to the way authors use word choice we can see that pathos can be a strong tool to persuade the audience.

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