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No Apologies: The Decline in Rhetoric Standards on American Internet Forums
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  • Rants
    0

    This may be a rant, but I don't think it is. My Rhetorical Studies professor commented that it's a bit harsh, but she still gave it an "A".

    Anyhoo, here's an essay I punched out last week in about five hours after taking two finals. I actually posted a thread on the Dragonball Evolution apology here as I was writing it in the hopes of getting some comments, but alas, nothing worth putting in the essay was posted.

    I genuinely look forward to your comments, especially from admin/mod types. But remember, if you post like a jerk, you're only proving me right...

    Enjoy!

    No Apologies: The Decline in Rhetoric Standards on American Internet Forums

    Since its entry in the public sphere in the mid-1990’s, the internet has been lauded for its ability to store and present information in a hierarchical fashion (the early internet search engine YAHOO is an acronym that stands for “Yet Another Hierarchical Online Organizer”) and to allow users to create, access, and sort specific types of data. As the internet continues to develop and encompasses more aspects of human existence, the number of users who interact with it on a daily basis rises exponentially. This is a direct result of a latter-day increased ease of access which, made manifest in affordable technological breakthroughs such as smartphones, video game consoles with online capabilities, smaller personal computers, and affordable tablets, has consequently allowed a greater diversity of users to add their voices to the discourse that takes place on the internet. As these users at various levels of socioeconomic prosperity, ethnicities, ages, and (most importantly) rhetorical sophistication have entered into online conversations, a degradation of the standards of argumentative discourse has transpired. In America, online forums and internet message boards have been particularly affected by this unstoppable influx of new, faceless users who, for a variety of reasons, create noise instead of content. In doing so, these aggressive, unmanageable hordes use their unearned authority as rhetors to complicate the free exchange of relevant ideas that the internet was created to foster and consequently undermine the authority of all rhetors attempting to communicate online.

    In their 2010 article “Comparing Digital Divides: Internet Access and Social Inequality in Canada and the United States,” Professor Phillip N. Howard and his team of researchers at the University of Washington provide an overview of the evolution of internet access in their preface to a study of North American internet access disparities.

    In the mid-1990s, most of the Internet’s computer nodes were physically based in the United States and a handful of other wealthy nations, and most Internet users were at universities, in government and military agencies, or living in urban areas and paying for dial-up services. By the late 1990s, new information and communication technologies were diffusing rapidly, but unevenly, around the world. New users in most countries belonged to specific categories of race and class and were more often male, well educated, and younger, and this had implications for the kinds of civic engagement and social interaction found online. The benefits of fast, multimedia networks in today’s communication-intensive world economy are accruing disproportionately to those who can afford access or who work in institutions that provide access. (110)

    Accurate or not, the stereotype of the average user as young, male, and well educated persists in popular culture: books and films about influential computer pioneers like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who attained their money, fame, and international prestige precisely when they fit the characteristics of that stereotype.

    However, neither the digital divide that Professor Howard and his team focused their research on defining nor the stereotypical internet user they described has endured. A January 2014 study of internet user demographics conducted by the Pew Research Center found that “87% of American adults use the internet” (Pew Internet, latest stats) and “Fully 95% of teens are online, a percentage that has been consistent since 2006. Three in four teens access the internet on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices.” (Pew Internet, teens)

    Message boards, BBS, comments sections and other forums that showcase user feedback fulfill their assigned functions as media of information exchange in strictly academic settings. Of the traditional role of message boards in academia (from whence they originated), Patricia Boyd, who conducted a survey of one-hundred-seventy online Arizona State University students in 2008, concluded that, “the online environment provided unique opportunities for [students] to interact with their instructors” (231) and that technologies such as Blackboard “'can be well suited to achieving learning outcomes of writing courses.” (238)

    In response to these potential benefits of online forums, as well as a means to attract the attention of newer and more diverse users, various websites have afforded their visitors greater opportunities to act as rhetors. A noted example of one such forum is the product reviews section provided for user feedback and commentary on every product page of online retail giant amazon.com. “Amazon's modern-day agora has become the hub both for reviewers offering their advice and consumers looking for guidance,” write Love, Helmbrecht, and Bahl in Harlot. “The number of reviews, their popularity, adaptability, and staying power make them a legitimate site of inquiry for marketing and advertising experts, and, of course, for rhetoricians.” (1) But they include an addendum to that conclusion in a footnote that reads, “We have to acknowledge the growing skepticism surrounding the legitimacy of some Amazon product reviews. For instance, top reviewers on Amazon are invited to join "Amazon Vine," a program that sends members free products to review (http://www.amazon.com/gp/vine/help). In short, not every review is impartial.” (ibid)

    Both of these statements afford penetrating insights into the forces that warp online rhetoric. In the former, the authors assert the value of the content posted in open internet forums. In the latter, they clarify the simplicity of such liminal appraisals and clarify the unreliable nature inherent in online rhetoric.
    Regardless of intent, agenda, or any other manifestations of personal agency that online rhetors actuate when they post online, the legitimacy, accuracy, and impartiality of all content contributed to online forums is fundamentally dubious. This is especially the case in forums that, for the sake of privacy, maintain user anonymity. Anyone can create a Yelp account and opine about all manner of real world establishments ranging from gastropubs to sports venues to transportation hubs to art museums. As consumers of this discourse, we have no mechanism to determine either the validity of such statements or, more importantly, the actual identity of the specific users who made them. This lack of oversight in online discourse subverts whatever value the rhetoric might have attained, renders it unreliable, and trivializes it. Whereas anonymity derives from the understandable and deliberately American desire to protect individual users from potentially hazardous real-world repercussions of their online activities, it also negates the worth of all of the content generated under its aegis.

    Because most American users are rendered faceless in deference to public safety concerns, they are also made legion. Every user can create as many profiles through which she or he may post in any given forum as he or she desires. Hence, not only are users free to post whatever content they want, regardless of its relevance or its rhetorical value, they are also wholly unaccountable for the content they generate. But most damningly, any efforts undertaken by webmasters, administrators, or moderators to enforce behavioral or editorial standards upon the online discourse that occurs on the sites that are ostensibly under their control are rendered supremely ineffectual because they are powerless to censor their own forums for inappropriate content. Banned users simply create a new username or work around an IP ban (which prevents logins from a specific internet provider address) and return to post whatever they want to once more.

    This effectively empowers those dastardly types of users called trolls in online parlance. Trolls, through their blatant disregard for all standards of logical discourse, create an absolutely toxic rhetorical environment with their posts. They shout down other users, employ verbal abuse, make lewd comments, and argue in favor of their unsupported opinions with logical fallacies that frequently include ad hominem, appeals to improper authorities, and non sequiturs in an effort to assert rhetorical authority.

    What is left of internet forums, then, is a rhetorical environment with a low content to noise ratio in which leaderless groups of people babble incoherently. Innovative and immature as it is, online discourse has reached the developmental stage where it is akin to Karlyn Kohrs Campbell’s closing description of the then-burgeoning women’s liberation movement in her essay “The Rhetoric of Women’s Liberation: An Oxymoron”:

    It is a genre without a rhetor, a rhetoric in search of an audience, that transforms traditional argumentation into confrontation, that “persuades” by “violating the reality structure” but that presumes a consubstantiality so radical that it permits the most intimate of identifications. It is a “movement” that eschews leadership, organizational cohesion, and the transactions typical of mass persuasion. (Campbell 406)

    A practical example of such rhetoric can be perceived in the execution and subsequent reception of screenwriter Ben Ramsey’s most recent attempt to extricate himself from his reputation as a bad writer. Ramsey has been vilified in online forums for years as a result of his negatively received work on the motion picture Dragonball Evolution. The film, based on a beloved Japanese animated series, was created by Walt Disney Studios and released nationwide in February 2009 to almost universal derision. Ramsey recently provided this rhetorically interesting apology for the film to researcher Derek Padula which he then posted on the fan-based web site thedaoofdragonball.com:

    I knew that it would eventually come down to this one day. Dragonball Evolution marked a very painful creative point in my life. To have something with my name on it as the writer be so globally reviled is gut wrenching. To receive hate mail from all over the world is heartbreaking. I spent so many years trying to deflect the blame, but at the end of the day it all comes down to the written word on page and I take full responsibility for what was such a disappointment to so many fans. I did the best I could, but at the end of the day, I ‘dropped the dragon ball.’

    I went into the project chasing after a big payday, not as a fan of the franchise but as a businessman taking on an assignment. I have learned that when you go into a creative endeavor without passion you come out with sub-optimal results, and sometimes flat out garbage. So I’m not blaming anyone for Dragonball but myself. As a fanboy of other series, I know what it’s like to have something you love and anticipate be so disappointing.

    To all the Dragon Ball fans out there, I sincerely apologize.

    I hope I can make it up to you by creating something really cool and entertaining that you will like and that is also something I am passionate about. That’s the only work I do now.

    Best,
    Ben. (Padula 1)

    From a rhetorical perspective, Ramsey opens with an appeal to pathos in which he recounts the negative critical responses the film received and its subsequent emotional impact upon him. He concludes this first section with an awful pun that simultaneously appeals to the reader’s sympathy and serves as an exemplary reminder of just how little he still knows about the broad mythology of Dragonball.

    A confession follows in the next paragraph: one that reemphasizes his lack of subject matter expertise and frames his admission of failure. To counter his proffered excuse, Ramsey then assumes personal responsibility for the film’s low quality. However, this thesis/antithesis sequence has the rhetorical effect of suggesting a synthesis that is never actually stated and does not exist.

    Without providing supporting evidence, Ramsey then asserts his own authority as a fanboy and as a rhetor by casually claiming to be empathetic to the disappointment his audience felt. He then closes with a promise to do better in the future in the context of reminding his reader of the responsibilities incumbent on him as a screenwriter to entertain.
    In the comments section that follows, Ramsey receives heartfelt acceptances of his apology from several users. He also sees fit to respond to several comments directly, but uses the context of his apology to cleverly promote a new screenplay he has in development. Overall, these comments are open-minded, positive, fair, on topic, and tame in execution.

    However, on several other websites where the apology was published, and which did not benefit from the rhetorically authoritative presence of either the screenwriter or the interviewer, anonymous user generated posts were made that were as vicious and unforgiving of Ramsey as ever. These include avclub.com, uproxx.com, and the most relevant boards.adultswim.com: the message boards supported by the Cartoon Network programming block in which the many series comprising Dragonball originally aired in the United States. For the sake of decorum, mentioning these sites and the vile content that was posted in response to Ramsey’s apology is sufficient.

    In conclusion, the discourse in the public sphere that occurs online is predominantly and unapologetically valueless. The dubious legitimacy of unsupported claims, the malicious actions of faceless users, the impotence of webpage overseers to enforce behavioral standards, and the sheer volumes of noise that dominates all spheres of written intercourse that are not in an academic setting combine to strip away the standards for argumentative rhetoric and undermine the ease of communication that the medium of the internet was designed to facilitate. This problem is especially persistent on American websites where public safety laws dictate website terms of service. Still in its infancy, the internet provides users a public forum in which leaderless groups can arise: a forum in which there is no decorum, logic, message, or rhetorical merit.

    Works Cited
    Boyd, Patricia Webb. “Analyzing Students’ Perceptions of their Learning in Online and Hybrid First-Year Composition Courses.” Computers and Composition 25.2 (2008). (224-243). Print.

    Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs. “The Rhetoric of Women’s Liberation: An Oxymoron.” Quarterly Journal of Speech Vol 59, Issue 1 (1973). 74-86. Print. Rpt. in Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader. Ed. John Louis Lucaites, Celeste Michelle Condit, and Sally Caudill. New York: The Guilford Press, 1999. Print.

    Howard, Phillip N., Busch, Laura, and Sheets, Penelope. “Comparing Digital Divides: Internet Access and Social Inequality in Canada and the United States.” Canadian Journal of Communication Vol 35 (2010): 109-128. Print.
    Love, Meredith A., Helmbrecht, Brenda M., Bahl, and Erin Kathleen. “From Product Reviews to Political Commentary:

    Performances in Amazon.com Reviews.” Harlot No. 15 (2016). Web. 1 May, 2016.
    Padula, Derek. “Dragonball Evolution Writer Apologizes To Fans.” Thedaoofdragonball.com. (2016). Web. 3 May, 2016 < http://thedaoofdragonball.com/blog/news/dragonball-evolution-writer-apologizes-to-fans/>

    “Internet User Demographics.” PewInternet.org. (2014). Web. January, 2014. http://www.pewinternet.org/data-trend/internet-use/latest-stats/

    “Internet User Demographics.” PewInternet.org. (2014). Web. January, 2014. <http://www.pewinternet.org/data-trend/teens/internet-user-demographics/

    ASMB Member since March 23, 2004.
    If brevity is the soul of wit, then abbreviation is the death of the soul.


  • Assy McGee Banned
    1

    No one here will ever be this interested in what you have to say.


  • SwimHero
    1

    yeah tldr

    Janeway Rules!


  • Rants
    -2

    But remember, if you post like a jerk, you're only proving me right...

    ASMB Member since March 23, 2004.
    If brevity is the soul of wit, then abbreviation is the death of the soul.


  • Banned
    0

    Mods don't even read the shit they moderate....No way in hell they are gonna read this.

    It's an essay on rhetoric standards on American Internet forums. I want you to actually think about what you're attempting to hold at a greater standard.......Especially consider which forum you decided to grace with this assertion.

    The minimal age here is 13.......I think you would be better entertained not wasting your time here.


  • Assy McGee Banned
    -1

    Arrem_Lowlander said:

    But remember, if you post like a jerk, you're only proving me right...

    But remember, if you post an essay on a cartoon message board most people won't care.


  • SwimHero
    1

    Arrem_Lowlander said:

    But remember, if you post like a jerk, you're only proving me right...

    youre the jerk for posting this shit.

    Janeway Rules!


  • Banned
    0

    To be fair, I usually take the time out to comb through his long winded exercises in fallacy laden pretension because it's always.....and I repeat ALWAYS hilarious, but it's just not worth my time tonight.

    That is one of the perks of a cartoon message board......I'm not expected to take anything seriously.


  • Assy McGee Banned
    1

    I will normally read anything here but this is like two pages of what I'm sure is garbage. "The decline of rhetoric on the internet."

    Does he understand everyone is on the internet now? That's the cause for decline. It isn't a hovel of nerds covered in cheeto dust, it's a metropolis now. He wrote an essay in obvious with a background of redundancy.


  • Helper
    0


  • Rants
    -2

    An interesting idea, but it sounds a little too much like puddle thinking to me.

    Thanks for posting actual content, even if it wasn't your own.

    ASMB Member since March 23, 2004.
    If brevity is the soul of wit, then abbreviation is the death of the soul.


  • Assy McGee Banned
    -1

    I posted actual content on why reading your essay is not worth it, sir.


  • Banned
    0

    Ah, this was what I was looking for: the "conclusion".
    Arrem_Lowlander said:

    In conclusion, the discourse in the public sphere that occurs online is predominantly and unapologetically valueless.

    I was going to say, "you only feel this way because people typically disagree with you" but then I saw this monstrosity of a paragraph:

    Arrem_Lowlander said:

    However, on several other websites where the apology was published, and which did not benefit from the rhetorically authoritative presence of either the screenwriter or the interviewer, anonymous user generated posts were made that were as vicious and unforgiving of Ramsey as ever. These include avclub.com, uproxx.com, and the most relevant boards.adultswim.com: the message boards supported by the Cartoon Network programming block in which the many series comprising Dragonball originally aired in the United States. For the sake of decorum, mentioning these sites and the vile content that was posted in response to Ramsey’s apology is sufficient.

    How in the f**king hell is a pitifully small, rapidly dying shithole like the ASMB more "relevant" to anything than AV Club or Uproxx? I'm not even saying those sites are good, nor bad perse. But.... they actually have people on them. They actually have followers. Those are actually organized sites a large population pays attention to.

    The only reason you could possibly have to use the ASMB as "more relevant" than those is personal anecdote, which isn't a very sound piece of evidence when pairing up to the relevance of far bigger websites. Nobody, not even the heads of CN, care about these boards. They're the definition of irrelevant.


  • Assy McGee Banned
    -1

    Thank you for proving my point with your tireless efforts.

    You are a god amongst men in dresses.


  • Banned
    0

    To be fair, I only read the first half of the opening paragraph, got bored and scrolled to the conclusion, then noticed his mention of the boards in the previous paragraph and knew it would be an amazing trainwreck, so I read that instead.


  • Helper
    0

    also, i read everything, and i disagree,

    though part of me fears that if i said why, then i'd prove some sort of point O.o


  • Special Snowflake
    -1

    I didn't read this, but I'm certain you are wrong about whatever that is you were just saying about that stuff. And furthermore, butts.


  • -1

    Treacherous scum!


  • SwimNinja
    0

    naraku361 said:

    Ah, this was what I was looking for: the "conclusion".
    Arrem_Lowlander said:

    In conclusion, the discourse in the public sphere that occurs online is predominantly and unapologetically valueless.

    I was going to say, "you only feel this way because people typically disagree with you" but then I saw this monstrosity of a paragraph:

    Arrem_Lowlander said:

    However, on several other websites where the apology was published, and which did not benefit from the rhetorically authoritative presence of either the screenwriter or the interviewer, anonymous user generated posts were made that were as vicious and unforgiving of Ramsey as ever. These include avclub.com, uproxx.com, and the most relevant boards.adultswim.com: the message boards supported by the Cartoon Network programming block in which the many series comprising Dragonball originally aired in the United States. For the sake of decorum, mentioning these sites and the vile content that was posted in response to Ramsey’s apology is sufficient.

    How in the f**king hell is a pitifully small, rapidly dying shithole like the ASMB more "relevant" to anything than AV Club or Uproxx? I'm not even saying those sites are good, nor bad perse. But.... they actually have people on them. They actually have followers. Those are actually organized sites a large population pays attention to.

    The only reason you could possibly have to use the ASMB as "more relevant" than those is personal anecdote, which isn't a very sound piece of evidence when pairing up to the relevance of far bigger websites. Nobody, not even the heads of CN, care about these boards. They're the definition of irrelevant.

    And Dragon Ball Z originally aired on UPN, not Cartoon Network.

    "The enemy of my enemy is just another man standing in my way." -Nikita


  • Banned
    0

    The internet was created for physicists to easily communicate with one another, not for people with useless humanities degrees to mentally masturb4te over other people's pretentious spiels.

    That's all I've to say after skimming that, what word shall drag out of my SAT vocabulary, vitriol.

    [REMOVED TO CONFORM WITH LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL CENSORSHIP LAWS]


  • Banned
    -1

    Sorce said:

    naraku361 said:

    Ah, this was what I was looking for: the "conclusion".
    Arrem_Lowlander said:

    In conclusion, the discourse in the public sphere that occurs online is predominantly and unapologetically valueless.

    I was going to say, "you only feel this way because people typically disagree with you" but then I saw this monstrosity of a paragraph:

    Arrem_Lowlander said:

    However, on several other websites where the apology was published, and which did not benefit from the rhetorically authoritative presence of either the screenwriter or the interviewer, anonymous user generated posts were made that were as vicious and unforgiving of Ramsey as ever. These include avclub.com, uproxx.com, and the most relevant boards.adultswim.com: the message boards supported by the Cartoon Network programming block in which the many series comprising Dragonball originally aired in the United States. For the sake of decorum, mentioning these sites and the vile content that was posted in response to Ramsey’s apology is sufficient.

    How in the f**king hell is a pitifully small, rapidly dying shithole like the ASMB more "relevant" to anything than AV Club or Uproxx? I'm not even saying those sites are good, nor bad perse. But.... they actually have people on them. They actually have followers. Those are actually organized sites a large population pays attention to.

    The only reason you could possibly have to use the ASMB as "more relevant" than those is personal anecdote, which isn't a very sound piece of evidence when pairing up to the relevance of far bigger websites. Nobody, not even the heads of CN, care about these boards. They're the definition of irrelevant.

    And Dragon Ball Z originally aired on UPN, not Cartoon Network.

    Was that the original dub everyone hates?

    I'm not too familiar with the history of Dragonball's US runs, but something did feel off about referring to CN as the premiere network.


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