The Influence of Rhetorical Analysis
Working together as investigative journalists at Vanity Fair, Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, use their persuasive rhetorical analysis, to secretly manipulate an audience's view. There are many examples of this found in their article Monsanto's Harvest of Fear such as; using farmer's and environmentalist's tones to form a relationship between the writing and audience, creating mode within their writing to make a bigger, more detailed impact with the audience, and they use vivid imagery to make you visualize the disasters Monsanto has produced.
Barlett and Steele relate on an emotional level to their audience, because they use wronged farmers, and hesitant environmentalist communities to set the tone. For example, Gary Rhinehart owned an “old-time country store,” that was accustomed to being filled with long-standing customers looking for everyday essentials and nick nacks. In the summer of 2002, he was threatened by Monsanto, making him “... angry that somebody could just barge into the store and embarrass him in front of everyone”(Steele & Barlett 818). Barlett and Steele use Rhinehart, to be act as a ‘buddy' that farmers could relate to. This creates an emotional relation between the audience and writing. Many environmentalist are hesitant to accept Monsanto's agriculture endeavors, because of it's shady and vile past. “The future of the company may lie in seeds, but the seeds of the company lie in chemicals”(Steele & Barlett 825). The authors, identify the negative connotation of Monsanto because of it's past through the views of many environmentalist who the public trust. Barlett and Steele grab the audience's support by using the tone of trusted sources.
Informational and descriptive mode are used to introduce and convey emphasis on the context found in Monsanto's Harvest of Fear. Monsanto is the creator of Roundup weed killer and many cancer causing chemicals such as dioxin, a by-product of Agent Orange that was being produced during the Vietnam War. Most recently they have started marketing seeds and other agriculture products. Many people describe Monsanto as “... a chemical giant, producing some of the most toxic substances ever created, residues from which have left us with some of the most polluted sites on earth”(Steele & Barlett 820). The descriptive words Steele and Barlett use such as; “chemical giant,” “toxic,” and “most polluted,” are used to show the virulence of Monsanto. In early March of 1949, 226 Monsanto workers became ill due to an explosion at a Nitro factory, covering them in herbicide which was a catalyst for severe organ damage and skin eruptions. Instead of owning up to the explosions severity,“... Monsanto downplayed the impact, stating that the contaminant affecting workers was ‘fairly slow acting' and caused ‘only an irritation of the skin'”(Steele & Barlett 828). The authors compare the severity of the Nitro factory explosion, and Monsanto's point of view, so the audience can question Monsanto's character. Through description and comparison, Barlett and Steele use strategic mode in writing to make a bigger impact on the audience's view of Monsanto
The authors use the vivid power of imagery as a tool for the audience to understand their purpose. Monsanto has been found to have personal private detectives surveillance, and wait for a farmer to mess up and break contract . Many “farmers call them the ‘seed police' and use words such as ‘Gestapo' and ‘Mafia' to describe their tactics” (Steele & Barlett 818). Steel and Barlett include the comparison of the “seed police,” to the “Mafia,” because they share many similar qualities such as extortion and corruption of public officials. These secret “seed police,” are much like the secret police of Nazi-Germany, known as “Gestapo”s. For 42 years Monsanto produced PCB's, now known as “probable carcinogens,” in Anniston, Alabama. Research shows that PCBs cause liver damage, brain, nerve, and other system failures. Unknowing that Monsanto was dumping its chemical waste into the town's creek, “for decades the people of Anniston breathed air, planted gardens, drank from wells, fished in rivers, and swam in creeks contaminated with PCBs”(Steele & Barlett 830). The authors make the audience vividly visualize the people of Anniston slowly being poisoned in their daily lives, to emphasize the damage Monsanto caused to just one town. Barlett and Steele have the audience use their senses to more dramatically understand the destruction Monsanto has created.
James B. Steele, and Donald L. Barlett control the audience's views on Monsanto, by the strategies they used when writing Monsanto's Harvest of Fear. They created an emotional bond between their audience and their writing, by using trusted sources, scientist and environmentalist, and by incorporating the stories of many farmers who have been the subjects of threats from Monsanto. When Bartlett and Steele used mode to describe Monsanto as a “chemical giant,” and used comparison to question Monsanto's character, it created the audiences distrust with Monsanto, and further strengthen the bond Barlett and Steele created. When the authors used imagery and captured the audience's senses, it was the final nail in the coffin, that forced the audience to make Monsanto it's enemy. Bartlett and Steele used the strategic rhetorical strategies, mode, tone, and imagery, on the article's audience, context, and purpose to direct and control the audience's views through their article.
Barlett, Donald and Steele, James. “Monsanto's Harvest of Fear.” Everyone's an Author, edited
by Andrea Lunsford, W.W. Norton, 2017, pp.817-839.
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