ANALYSIS OF A BLOG POST: AN EXERCISE IN POLITICAL AND DIGITAL RHETORIC

Module 2 Summative activity by John Vincent A. Garcia

 

               In a blog entry by Edgar Lores entitled “A Decision Matrix for the 2019 Senatorial Elections”[1], he devised an organized “scheme” for the voters on how to choose which senatorial candidates are the most appropriate (or deserving) to be elected on the May 2019 Midterm elections. Given that this matter is a timely and relevant topic for Philippine politics, I decided to analyze this particular online post on the grounds of a political and digital rhetorical situation. According to Lloyd Bitzer (1968)[2], there are three main constituents of a rhetorical situation namely the exigence, the audience and the constraints. And even if this rhetorical theory was formulated way before the advent of modern mass communication, the three fundamental parts that Bitzer identified can still be applied to online rhetorical discourse. For this particular blog post, I have decided to deconstruct the main article into the three parts starting with the exigence.

                The main exigence, or the matter of great urgency of which the blog post was articulating about, was the upcoming 2019 Midterm Senatorial Elections, and specifically, the importance of being able to discern the right candidates to vote for in the Senate. Identifying this subject as the exigence of the rhetorical discourse is easy given that Lores was quite insistent that voters must assume a systematic and logical disposition in choosing the candidates (as opposed to falling for the same old popularity-contest-like scheme of which many previous, and even current, politicians have resorted to), going so far as to provide a tool (the decision matrix) to aid us in doing so. There is a clear cut objective that requires action in this particular discourse and one can argue that if many voters do adhere to the decision matrix that Lores proposed (wherein he categorized the senatorial candidates based on their perceived intelligence and moral character), there is a chance that the candidates which are most suited for a senatorial position will get the job, thus leading to a positive outcome.

                The second fundamental part of this article is its (intended) audience. Simply put, anyone who have had access or have read this blog post, and is of voting age, may be considered a rhetorical audience for this particular situation because the proposed action of the post is something that can be directly adapted or performed by the readers on or before the May 2019 elections (again, as long as they are eligible to vote). Because of its nature as an online post, the reach of this article is considerably wide meaning that the size of its rhetorical audience is quite large as well. However, that would only hold true provided that everyone who have read the article were made to ponder or were influenced enough in adapting the decision-making paradigm, as opposed to those who mindlessly scrolled through the post and upon seeing something in it on which they do not agree with (a probable example of which maybe Liberal Party candidates being singled out as the most desirable ones, therefore inciting the ire of opposing parties), and thus dismiss them outright. Such an interaction (of the intended audience not responding to the rhetorical discourse as expected), brings us to the last fundamental part of the situation, constraints.

                There are several constraints in this blog post and some of the more obvious ones are language used, nature of the article as an online post, (percieved) personal bias of the author, and political stance of the readers. Let’s discuss these constraints one-by-one starting with the language used. It is easy to understand why language is a constraint in this post, and really it is considered as a constraint in almost all rhetorical situation. Because the blog post was written in English, Filipino voters who cannot read or understand the English language are not privy to the persuasive agenda of the blog post thereby excluding these people from the rhetorical audience. The article being an online post (more specifically, being a single blog post in a website containing multiple entries) is also a constraint because those who do not have access to the internet or are not savvy enough with navigating through the World Wide Web to find this post cannot be part of the rhetorical situation and in fact, they may be unaware that such a situation even exists. The last two constraints that I listed are not as simple as the previous two but just as substantial. It is quite challenging to appear to be completely neutral when it comes to the issue in Philippine politics because there will always be someone who can decide to invalidate your opinion on the grounds that your comments are leaning to one side over the other (alas, such is the burden of modern political discourse especially if the platform used is social media). As mentioned before, given that there seems to be greater favor on the side of the LP “OtsoDiretso” candidates, opposing parties and those who support them might see this post as a form of endorsement, even propaganda, and therefore shun the proposed decision matrix of Edgar Lores. This is one example of how the political beliefs, backgrounds and ideologies of the audience can be a constraint to a rhetorical discourse that the rhetor or author can do nothing about (considered as an inartistic constraint by Aristotle).

                Of course, there is no real indication that Edgar Lores is actually taking a definitive stance regarding one political party. All this speculation can only be discerned through the manner of which he wrote his article. But there is the possibility that as this post is shared more and more frequently, and the comments regarding it piles up, this distinction of neutrality may dissipate through the influence of those who share it, thus making the constraint regarding political stance more substantial. Such a scenario exhibits how the digital rhetoric differs with that of print. The ability to leave a comment does not only affect the author of the post but also those who read the blog post, further influencing their opinion regarding the published article. This a new dynamic that does not exist with offline printed media (at least not in the speed and extent that online media allows). If the intention of the author of an online post is to persuade his/her readers into doing something (as Lores is trying to do in some extent), the degree of his/her persuasive ability between online media and offline media is very different. Offline media would publish the article at its purest form and the only influencing factors regarding it is the author’s way of writing and the perception of the reader itself. In online media however, the reader can also be influenced by comments left by other readers, thereby strengthening or weakening the persuasive quality of the article.

                In conclusion, we can definitely say that the blog written by Edgar Lores is indeed a rhetorical situation given that it exhibits all fundamental aspects of one. In analyzing it, I have not only identified its parts, but also how these parts are affected by the digital nature of the article. Such an interaction is quite commonplace in today’s age of communication and being able to identify these situations can make as more capable of understanding an article and determining its validity and effectivity as a form of discourse.

 

 

[1] https://joeam.com/2019/02/11/a-decision-matrix-for-the-2019-senatorial-election/

[2] Bitzer, L. (1968). The Rhetorical Situation. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 1, 1-14.

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