How to Argue with Friends and Family on Social Media

Illustration of black cat screaming

This post is part of a series on rhetoric. You can find a directory post here, or check out the links at the end of this post for more reading about rhetoric!

How many Facebook fights have you gotten into lately?

Be honest, now.

Frankly, there’s a lot to be angry about in the world right now. Black people are being murdered by the police, governments are failing to protect their citizens in a global pandemic, and the ultra-rich are only getting richer while US unemployment rates soar to the highest they’ve been since the Great Depression.

So, yeah, a lot of us are angry and feeling feisty enough to tackle the beliefs on friends and family members with whom we don’t quite see eye to eye.

But again, be honest. How many of those fights did you win?

Do you want to win more? Read on.

The Argument Clinic

There’s this old Monty Python sketch that I used to show students in my writing classes to introduce the idea of argument.

Michael Palin walks into John Cleese’s office to have an “argument clinic,” but all that happens in his session is a long series of contradictions—not arguments.

So, then, what is an argument, if it isn’t just saying “yuh-huh” and “nuh-uh” at each other over and over again? Well, one way to define it is just as Michael Palin says in the Monty Python sketch, “A collective series of statements to establish a proposition.” Technically, it doesn’t even require any kind of contradiction or negation. In an argument thusly defined, you make a claim and support that claim with evidence.

But you didn’t come here to learn how to make a claim and support it with evidence, did you? You came to learn how to pwn n00bs online.

Pwning the n00bs Online

Actually, I’m sure most, if not all, of your arguments with friends and family have been in good faith. Maybe in some cases, especially if you’re really riled up, you just want to pwn the n00bs, and that’s understandable, but I know a lot of people spend their time arguing with people on the internet because they genuinely want to spark some belief change. You hope that if you present enough evidence, your audience will come around to the claim you’re making, whether it’s that yes, black lives do matter, yes, wearing a mask does help stop the spread of coronavirus, or yes, the climate is changing and that’s bad.

But if your experiences are anything like mine, you may have been met with quite a bit of resistance, despite how much evidence you provide your audience. And now for the million dollar question:

Why?!

Why, when presented with what feels like mountains of evidence, do some people not change their beliefs?

Spoiler alert: it’s not because of ignorance, even though that’s often easy to blame. We like to think that if we just educate people enough, they’ll come around to our position. And sometimes that happens. But often, it does not. Why is that the case?

How Stasis Can Help Us Understand the Opposition

There’s this concept in rhetoric called stasis. No, I’m not talking about the stasistool in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In that game, you can use stasis to freeze an object in time. You can use it to stop enemies in their tracks or hack away at them while their frozen in place. 10/10 pretty useful tool.

But in rhetoric, stasis is something different. Rhetoricians in ancient Greece and Rome used it as a strategy for coming up with persuasive arguments. But we can also use it to help figure out why our arguments may not be as persuasive as we’d like.

So what is it, exactly? The theory of stasis basically says that there are four categories of argument: conjecture, definition, quality, and policy.

  • Conjecture: Does something exist? What happened?
  • Definition: How do we define the phenomenon in question?
  • Quality: Is the thing good or bad? How important is it?
  • Policy: What should we do about the thing?

These four categories are ordered, meaning that in order to be persuasive about policy, your audience must already agree with you about the conjecture, definition, and quality of your particular issue. Otherwise, there’s no way your audience will find your arguments about policy persuasive.

Let’s walk through an example. What’s a good, relevant topic? Ooh, I know! Climate change. I’ll list out some questions for each category of stasis, and talk through possible disagreements we might encounter in each category.

Conjecture: Does climate change exist? There’s lots of scientific evidence that suggests that it does, but many people still question that evidence. They disagree that climate change exists.

Definition: Is climate change man-made? Here is a crucial point in climate change debates. Some people agree that the climate is changing, but disagree that it was caused by human impacts on the environment.

Quality: Is climate change good or bad? Is it important? It’s possible to think that climate change is both real and caused by humans, but think it’s not an important issue to address. Someone with this position may think that humans will adapt, like Ben Shapiro’s misguided belief that people in low-lying coastal areas affected by climate change will “just sell their homes and move.” (The implication being, NBD.)

Policy: What should we do about climate change? Some people think we should do things like ban plastic straws, despite how important they are to some disabled people. Others think we should focus our efforts more corporate regulation.

So, then, stasis can help us think through each of these categories so that we can identify where, precisely, we disagree with each other. If we understand where exactly we are disagreeing, then we can hopefully better figure out how to come to a consensus.

Hopefully.

Stasis Shows the Sticking Points

The biggest way stasis theory is helpful in diagnosing online arguments, I think, is its progressive nature. Not progressive like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but progressive in terms of movement. Again, according to stasis, before you can even talk about questions of policy, you and your audience first have to agree on questions of conjecture, definition, and policy. In other words, if your audience doesn’t believe climate change exists, there’s no sense in trying to convince them to put solar panels on their roof.

So, what have been the sticking points of your arguments recently? Were you and your audience disagreeing about the same thing, or were you actually stuck in different levels of stasis? Do you have a better idea of how to meet your audience “where they’re at” in terms of being persuasive? Let me know in the comments!

Like this post? Want to learn more about rhetoric? Check out the other posts in this series:

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A Couple Really Good Cries

I love stories.

As an aspiring author, I’m certainly not alone. Many of us use stories to get away from things that are troubling us, whether it’s struggling to find a job, the death of a loved one, or, you know, a global pandemic. Stories lift us up, they make us feel hopeful, like there might be a better tomorrow. They help us escape into worlds where the impossible becomes possible.

This post is not about those stories.

This post is about stories that make us feel sad. Stories that deal with complex emotions. Because sometimes, that’s what we need to deal with the world around us, not fanciful escapism.

A Story for What Ails You

Actually, the two stories I’m going to talk about are, in fact, pretty fanciful. They’re both a strange mix of sci-fi and fantasy, and actually both stories directed at kids ages eight to twelve. But they both also helped me out during some tough times, if only by giving me great fuel for “a good cry” … or several.

Adventure Time: Varmints

Adventure Time is about a post-apocalyptic world named Ooo, the last surviving human, named Finn, and his talking dog, Jake. But this episode isn’t about them. They’re not even in it, actually.

“Varmints” is about the recently-deposed princess of the Candy Kingdom, Princess Bonnibel Bubblegum and her friend, Marceline, the Vampire Queen. Marceline goes to visit Bubblegum in her castle in the Candy Kingdom only to find the new ruler has been living there in Bubblegum’s stead… for the last two months.

Marceline seeks out P-Bubs in a humble cottage on the shores of Lake Butterscotch. There, the pink princess has taken to staying up all night keeping guard over her the pumpkins in her garden, what she calls her new, “100% loyal garden citizens.” She sits on her porch in leather boots and a trucker hat, holding a rifle to ward off the biggest threat to her new garden kingdom, varmints.

While Marceline visits, some of these “ding-dang varmints” attack, and Marcy and Bubblegum head off in full pursuit. They chase these little varmints, large pill-bug like monsters with mouths full of very human-looking teeth, down into the old Rock Candy mines, where they come face to face with the “freaking Mother Varmint.”

At one point down in the caves, Bubblegum loses her hat and begins to cry. When pressed, she confesses a feeling of utter loss and desperation. She tells Marcy, “I lost my hat. I lost my home. I lost my people…. I can’t even keep darn varmints out of my pumpkin patch.”

Image of author cosplaying as Princess Bubblegum from this episode of Adventure time. I'm holding a fake pumpkin and text on the image reads, "100% loyal garden citizen."
My “Varmints” Bubblegum cosplay for Pensacon 2017.

When this episode first aired, I was in year five of a five-year PhD program. I was knee-deep in both writing my dissertation and applying for jobs in what was (and still is) a pretty bleak academic job market. I had been battling insomnia and generalized anxiety to boot. Princess Bubblegum’s feelings of helplessness and loss of control just hit me right in the gut, and I had myself a big, loud, snot-filled sob-fest.

It was great.

Steven Universe: Mindful Education

Steven Universe is another kid’s fantasy series, though we could probably debate whether it’s technically fantasy or sci-fi. It’s about a race of space aliens whose humanoid bodies are made of light and whose consciousnesses are housed inside their gems. Thousands of years ago, these aliens attempted to colonize earth, destroying its natural resources. A small band of gems allied with the humans and fought off the colonizers, with a high cost. Only a small number of gems survived to live as the human race grew and expanded. Now, three Crystal Gems (as the rebels dubbed themselves) and a half-human, half-gem hybrid named Steven live in a sleepy beach town along the East Coast and fight off gem-based monsters that were created as a result of the Gem War.

So, it’s very sci-fi-y. But also, it’s about a boy (Steven) learning he has magical powers and trying to find his place in the world. It leans hard into several fantasy tropes from popular anime series, both in terms of Steven’s powers and in terms of aesthetics. Steven’s friend Connie learns to swordfight. So, you know, fantasy.

Anyway, I digress.

The episode in question features Steven, Connie, and Stevonnie. Stevonnie is a fusion. In the Steven Unvierse… universe… and in many anime series as well, fusion is the process of two separate beings fusing into a single being with a somewhat shared consciousness. In this show and others, it’s often used as a metaphor for relationships of many kinds.

In “Mindful Education,” Steven and Connie are learning to swordfight together as the fusion Stevonnie. In the beginning, Stevonnie does quite well, learning about new powers they have in this form and adapting to them with ease. But in the middle of training, Stevonnie experiences a strange, sudden flashback, they fall, and Steven and Connie unfuse. Connie runs away, clearly upset, and Steven follows, trying to find out what happened.

Steven learns that Connie accidentally hurt someone at school, and is trying to push away the confused and difficult feelings she’s having about the incident. Together, they learn that not facing difficult emotions can cause problems when fusing. Another fusion, Garnet, who is also one of the kids’ mentors, teaches Stevonnie a technique for managing those difficult emotions.

And then the episode breaks into song. Steven Universe (like Adventure Time) is well-known for its extremely good music, but this song is one of my all-time favorites. The song essentially describes basic principles of mindfulness and what happens when we aren’t mindful. I can’t really do it justice by just describing it. You’ve got to watch it for yourself.

One remarkable thing about this song is its chorus. The chorus consists of several repeated lines whose melodies use repeated, descending notes. The effect this creates is kind of like an exhale. Long exhales and other breathing exercises are frequently used in mindfulness training to decrease panic and increase calm. They are one of the things I’ve learned in therapy to help me get through panic attacks.

When I first watched this episode, I was in my first semester living over two thousand miles from the person who would become my spouse. I was in a new town with a new job, both of which were great, but I was missing the friends I’d made in my PhD program and I hadn’t quite yet made strong new friendships. I was feeling lonely. Moreover, I was living in a beach town—and high bridges over water and roads near the bluffs consistently triggered my panic attacks. I was, shall we say, struggling.

To say that this episode’s song touched me deeply is a bit of an understatement. I bawled like a newborn baby. And it was barely halfway through the episode.

After Stevonnie learns some mindfulness, Connie applies the lessons of the song to her situation and is able to resolve her difficult feelings about what happened at school. Steven, on the other hand, who has recently been through a series of semi-traumatic events, is not. The next time they fuse, Stevonnie has flashbacks of Steven’s recent encounters with gems seeking to hurt him, and his questions about who his (long-dead) mom was and whether or not she was a good person literally loom large over Stevonnie.

It’s a completely heartbreaking moment.

And in that moment in my life, it was exactly what I needed. I needed to have that ugly cry that began, like, three minutes into the episode and came back with a vengeance by minute eight. It was great, it was terrible, it was cathartic. It was wonderful.

Stories to Come Back to Over and Over

Since these two episodes aired, they have become a regular part of my rotation of “comfort TV.” Episodes I watch when I feel so bad that all I want to do is cry. Overall, these episodes make me happy. Incredibly happy, as a matter of fact. I love that kids’ shows are dealing with complicated emotions like anger, loss, and guilt. But in the moments of watching them, I’m often feeling bad.

And, as these shows teach, that’s okay.

What about you?

What stories do you turn to when you’re feeling low? Let me know in the comments!

On Rhetoric

Decorative banner for post. Text reads, "Rhetoric: A Directory Post." Includes illustration of a pencil.

I write about a lot of different things on here. Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about concepts in rhetoric. I’ve been trying to make them meaningful to a broad audience, not just folks interested in writing. A greater knowledge of rhetoric can help you become more media literate, which I think is a good cause.

This post collects all my past pieces on rhetoric, and as I add more (spoiler alert, I’m writing about stasis right now), I’ll post them here, too. I’ll still include links at the beginning of each post, but I thought a directory post might be a useful way point for those wanting to find and read about specific topics.

Posts on The Rhetorical Situation

Posts on Rhetorical Appeals

Happy reading! Let me know what you think of the series in the comments! Is there a concept from rhetoric you’d like to see me tackle? Let me know and I’ll get a-writing!

All the Facts about All the “Facts”

This post is one of a series of posts about rhetoric. Other posts in this series give an overview of rhetoric, describe the rhetorical situation, and discuss ethos and pathos.

In 2016, the Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” as their International Word of the Year. They write, “Post-truth has gone from being a peripheral term to being a mainstay in political commentary, now often being used by major publications without the need for clarification or definition in their headlines,” and illustrate this with a (admittedly, sort of vague) graph showing the sharp rise of its use over the previous year (though there are no numbers on the Y-axis, so whether we’re talking dozens of uses or thousands, I guess we’ll never know).

Over the past decade, and with a rise in the prevalence of online news reporting, there has been more and more hand-wringing over the presentation of “facts” and “truth” by politicians and media outlets—with good cause, of course. The current sitting president of the United States has a particularly egregious reputation for spouting statements that are, shall we say, less-than-true. The fact-checking website Politifact has rated over 800 statements made by the President, finding only 14% of them “true” or “mostly true.”

Graph of Politifact scores on statements made by Donald Trump. True: 4%, 34 checks made. Mostly true: 10%, 83 checks made. Half true: 14%, 115 checks made. Mostly false: 20%, 167 checks made. False: 34%, 283 checks made. Pants on fire: 16%, 131 checks made.
I love that “Pants on Fire” is a category here.

So, what does it mean to live in a “post-truth world”? Oxford Dictionaries proposes this definition of “post-truth”:

Post-truth is an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

This definition, though, begs the question: what even is a fact?

Just the Facts, Ma’am

There are many definitions of fact, and I’m not just talking about alternative facts, either. There are subtle differences in the definitions of the word fact across the Oxford English Dictionary, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and the Cambridge Dictionary. The definition most useful for our purposes here is the second entry in the Merriam-Webster definition:

a piece of information presented as having objective reality

Notice that this definition does not say, “a piece of information grounded in objective reality,” or “information based on objective reality”; it says, “a piece of information presented as having objective reality.

I like this definition because it reflects actual contemporary usage of the term fact. Claiming to have “the facts” is something both Democrats and Republicans (and other political parties) do. Calling on a fact is a powerful tool in persuasive communication, and not just in politics. Any argument based on something the author claims is a fact has a certain persuasive appeal to it.

A rhetorical appeal, that is.

Logos, The Housing Market, and Aquaman

Back in ye olde ancient Greece, appeals to facts, logic, or rationality were called appeals to logos. When people say things like, “It just makes sense,” or “It’s common sense,” or “It’s the rational thing to do,” those are all appeals to logos. If something is the rational thing to do, it’s obviously the best thing to do, right?

Well….

Two things. First of all, just because a person claims something is the “rational” thing to do, or claims something is a “fact,” doesn’t mean that thing is, in fact (haha), rational or a fact. One of my favorite examples of this comes from Youtuber Hbomberguy in his video about climate change. He critiques a claim from Ben Shapiro; Shapiro argues that even if water levels do rise enough to make living in low-lying coastal areas impossible, that the people who live in those places would just sell their home and move. Put that way, it seems rational, doesn’t it? You’re worried that your home might one day be underwater, so you should probably put it on the market and get the heck out of town, right?

But as Hbomberguy so eloquently says, “Sell their houses to who, Ben?! Fucking Aquaman?!” People will have to move, yes, but it’s the selling part that’s not as rational as Ben seems to think it is. Underwater real estate is not exactly a seller’s market.

The fact is (lol), anyone can call anything a fact. That doesn’t make it actually grounded in reality.

Second, what is rational to do in any given moment is actually highly debatable.

Marshmallows and Avocado Toast

One example of this contested nature of so-called rationality comes from psychology. In 1972, a psychologist at Stanford University named Walter Mischel began a study on patience in children. In this experiment, he sat a kid down at a table, put a marshmallow in front of them, and told them not to eat it until he returned. He said that if the kid waited, he would come back with another marshmallow. Then, he conducted follow up studies that linked the child’s ability to wait for the second marshmallow (their patience, or what he called “delayed self-gratification”) with measures of success in life—higher grades, higher SAT scores, etc.

This kind of talk around “delayed self-gratification” is often deployed against people who, for whatever reason, don’t do things like save for retirement, supposedly because of all those lattes and avocado toasts. According to this logic, it’s rational to save for retirement, or to buy a house, and if you millennials would just delay your self-gratification (i.e., stop buying lattes and avocado toast), your finances would be in a better position. It’s only logical. It’s common sense.

But is it?

In 2012, researchers Celeste Kidd, Holly Palmeri, and Richard N. Aslin published a variation on the traditional marshmallow experiment. In their version of the study, they created two conditions: a reliable condition and an unreliable condition. In both conditions, kids were initially given some well-worn art supplies, but told if they waited a bit, the researchers would bring back some better, newer art supplies. In the reliable condition, researchers left the room for two and half minutes and then actually came back with better supplies. In the unreliable condition, when the researchers returned, they told the kid they were sorry, but they couldn’t find the better art supplies, and asked if the kid could just use the ones they already had.

And then they did the original marshmallow task.

Which group of kids do you think were better able to wait for their second marshmallow?

If you guessed the kids in the reliable condition, you’re right. The researchers had already proven themselves to be reliable to the kids, so they were better able to wait than the kids to whom the researchers had proven their lack of reliability.

Given these two scenarios, which decision is a more rational decision, the decision to eat the marshmallow, or the decision to wait? Essentially, the researchers argue that both of those decisions are rational given their respective circumstances. If you don’t trust the researchers to come back with more marshmallows (a reasonable assumption given their previous behavior), it’s actually a more rational decision to go ahead and eat the marshmallow.

The Power of Logos

Appeals to logos are powerful. In a cultural climate that prizes rationality and common sense in the way that we do in the United States, it’s natural to want to appear rational, to do the rational thing. But appeals to logos are just like appeals to ethos and appeals to pathos in that they are tools of rhetoric that can operate both for us and against us. Hopefully being able to deconstruct them and find the underlying messages in the communication you encounter will help you in your own decision-making process.

But what if you want to use appeals to logos to construct your own persuasive communication? That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, one I’ll hopefully get to next time.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed the post, please don’t hesitate to share on social and follow the blog! You can also support my work by “buying me a coffee” at ko-fi.com/claysad. My initial goal for money raised there will be to upgrade my WordPress subscription, a big step toward legitimacy and professionalism in the blogging world!

Pianos, Shoes, and Rhetoric, Oh, My!

Diverse people, with faces covered with emoticons

This post is part of a series on rhetoric. Check out the first, second, and third posts too, if you’re interested!

Did you know I am a classically trained pianist? Or, at least, I used to be. I don’t know how much I’m entitled to that… title, I guess… now, but I took twelve years of lessons and minored in piano performance in college.

Anyway. In high school, I began learning the first movement to Sonata “Pathetique” by Beethoven. I was really excited to learn it because the major theme was used in a Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego theme I used to play on the computer back in the dark ages when computer games required Compact Discs. But I digress.

When I first began to learn the piece, my piano teacher taught me that the name “Pathetique” is what’s called a false cognate in language learning. To native English speakers, pathetique sounds a lot like the English word pathetic. But a more accurate translation would be “emotional.”

And so it is in rhetoric, too.

One of the three rhetorical appeals discussed by Aristotle and frequently taught today in writing classrooms is the appeal to pathos, or the appeal to emotion.

The Case Against Emotion in Persuasive Communication

Appeals to emotion in persuasive communication often get a bad rap. Cries of “you’re not being rational” or “stop being so emotional” are often used to shut down or dismiss people on social media. There’s this idea that’s really prevalent in many online (and offline, tbh) spaces that if everyone can just “calm down” and “have a rational debate” about difficult topics, then we could come to some kind of agreement or compromise, even about controversial subjects.

On its face, this may seem like a nice thought: if we can just all speak rationally, then we can come to the best conclusions for everyone involved. Underneath that idea, though, are several underlying assumptions:

  1. “Rationality” has more value than emotion.
  2. People’s systems of reasoning are more or less the same.
  3. People generally have the same values.

Here’s the thing: these assumptions are not necessarily true. In fact, I’d argue that they’re all false.

I probably don’t have to convince you that the last one is false, but the first and second statements, maybe I do. Let’s start with number two, because I have more to say about number one.

For those of you who don’t know, I was born and raised in America, but I currently live in Luxembourg, a small European country nestled comfortable between France, Germany, and Belgium. Something I have struggled with here is going to sit-down restaurants. In the States, if you’re not in a fast food or fast casual restaurant, you’re going to step inside the restaurant and wait by the host stand to be seated. A host will come and take you to a table, possibly after asking after your preferences. Here in Luxembourg and the other places we’ve visited so far, that’s not the case. There are no host stands, and so what sometimes happens is this: I walk into a restaurant, panic about whether I’m supposed to wait to be seated, and then a server will indicate that I can basically sit anywhere I want to.

Why do I get nervous about these encounters? Because this is an (admittedly slight) cultural difference between the US and Europe. The cultural assumptions about behaviors in restaurants vary just enough to make me uncertain how to behave.

This idea, that assumptions about beliefs and behaviors differ, and that those assumptions lead to cultural differences in how people interpret each other’s behavior, is called cultural logic.

People in different cultures operate under different cultural logics, and that affects how they communicate. I don’t just mean national cultures, either. Cultures within the States have different cultural logics, too.

Take, for example, the recent rise in support for defunding and/or abolishing police. One way to consider the disagreements about this topic is to think through two very different assumptions about policing held by different groups in the United States.

Some groups assume that police, and the institution of policing in general, is a net good and overall produces a safer society than a society without policing.

Other groups assume that police, and the institution of policing in general, is a net negative and overall produces a less safe society than a society without policing, usually for particular minority groups (Black and Indigenous people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, homeless people, etc.).

These different groups are operating off of not just different but opposite cultural logics, and unless those logics can be broken down and examined, one group is not going to make any persuasive headway with the other group.

The Case For Emotion in Persuasive Communication

Now, about that first assumption above: “rationality” has more value than emotion.

I’m not about to say that emotions are more valuable than rationality. But I will say they are at least as important as logic because they let us know what our values are.

Remember that example of an appeal to pathos I wrote about in my first post in this series? The Sarah MacLaughlin ad for the ASPCA? I always use this as an example because it’s such an obvious appeal to emotion. People watch it and get sad about puppies and kitties and then go give money to the ASPCA. But why does it make people sad?

I’ll tell you why it makes me sad. Because I care about the well being of puppies and kitties! It’s important to me that those little babbies get well-taken care of and are not abused! My emotional response to the commercial shows me (and others) what I care about.

Emotion can also be a powerful motivator to action, sometimes more so than logic or credibility. If something makes you very emotional, be it angry or sad or joyful, you might be more inclined to act on those feelings than if you just encounter appeals to logic or credibility.

The Corporate Case for Pathos

Take for example a few major commercial campaigns from recent films. In 2018, Nike released an ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, a (former?) football player and activist who had been protesting police brutality against people of color by kneeling during the national anthem.

People who had been critical of Kaepernick for these protests were spurred to action by these protests. They tossed out or burned their Nike shoes in protest of Nike’s support of Kaepernick.

But after the ad and the associated social media storm? Nike stocks went up.

While one group saw the ads and protested Nike in a storm of emotion, others were spurred to support Nike through feelings of pride, righteousness, and hope.

Another Case Against Pathos

Here’s another thing about appeals to pathos, though. They can cue us in to our emotions, which is great, but just like any rhetorical appeal or device, appeals to pathos can be deployed for both good and ill. And, of course, a bit of both.

Take the Nike ads, for example. While supporters of Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement more generally may laud Nike for this ad, they may be frustrated to find that Nike has long been and continues to be scrutinized for their treatment of their workers. Specifically, Nike has historically used sweatshop labor in their factories, something they claimed to have addressed in the early 2000s. However, more recent investigations seem to indicate they may have returned to this practice. Some BLM supporters did know of these allegations, and called on Nike to end these harmful practices. Whether or not Nike listened to these critiques amide the social media storm that arose from these ads, however, remains to be seen.

The long and the short of it is best summarized by Youtuber Hbomberguy in his video on Woke Brands. In it, he reminds us that “brands aren’t [our] friends.” Brands want one thing: your money. And support. Okay, maybe two things. But really, that second thing is actually about that first thing. So yeah. They want your money.

TL;DR: Emotions are Great. Pathos just is.

So what’s the big takeaway here? Basically, I’m trying to persuade you that the use of pathos isn’t inherently good or bad. Appeals to pathos are just something that exist in the world, and, like all rhetorical tools, can be used in service of many kinds of causes. They’re not more or less important than appeals to logos or ethos, but they can give us a different kind of information–information about ourselves.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, help a blogger out and share it on your social platforms, please and thank you. And then go check out the other posts in this series:

More Big Words!

Hey, everybody! New episode of That’s a Big Word is up on Youtube! Check it out if you’re interested in English language learning, know any one who is, or just enjoy general silliness.

If you enjoy the video, please like, subscribe, share, and all that jazz. It really helps freelance creators like myself out!