“Race/Off Rhetorical Analysis,” Shawntel Hardy (2015) — Inquiry 2


The Daily Show is one of Comedy Central’s most popular shows. This is in great part due to its host, Jon Stewart. When he was added to the show years ago, he changed the theme to become more political and national news oriented instead of the pop culture it was focused on before. With this change, the show is one of the station’s longest running shows.

On this particular episode of the show, Stewart addresses the horrible events that took place in St. Louis, Missouri. In Ferguson, an unarmed, eighteen year old black male was shot and killed. And to make things worse, the teen had his hands raised above his head in the air begging the officer not to shoot. But of course the officer didn’t listen. He shot the boy, Mike Brown, multiple times ultimately executing him. Unfortunately, that’s not the worst part. The officer that shot him, Darren Wilson, has not been arrested and is currently on paid leave while the investigation is still ongoing.

Throughout the video Race/Off, Stewart uses all three rhetorical appeals combined to get his message across and inform viewers about the events that are taking place in Ferguson and also to take the time and attack Fox News on their horrible job of covering the events. He starts off by gaining viewers attention through ethos. While being the host of The Daily Show over these past years, he has established a reputation of being an extremely honest person. People look to him to gain information on political issues without all the extra lies and bias that other media stations can exhibit. He’s known for being a very sarcastic person as well and it is this characteristic that keeps him employed at Comedy Central and also what gives him the most power to appeal to his viewers. Being employed at Comedy Central is apart of what gives Stewart his credibility. Many people believe that Comedy Central wouldn’t put just anyone on TV to talk about important political issues. That fact that he has been working for the network for such a long time proves that he is obviously doing something right and people want to continue to see that something.

Many people who follow Jon Stewart are also sarcastic. He uses this common characteristic to appeal with pathos. Having this trait in common with him makes it easier for the viewers to understand and gain knowledge from his show. During the video, Stewart played clips from many Fox News reporting’s and other sources. One of these clips included a report Bill O’Reily had made on the Ferguson events. Stewart makes many sarcastic remarks about O’Reily’s report and the audience laughs. They laughed because they recognized Stewart’s sarcasm and because they also know that what he is saying is true. In another clip used in the video, this one being from a Fox News report as well, one of the correspondent’s mentions something along the lines of only racist recognize racism. Stewart responded in a humorous way by questioning whether or not the correspondent is saying that “he who smelt it dealt it” but in the context of racism. This simple translation helped the viewers and my self actually understand what the Fox News reporter was trying to say and realize how ridiculous it was.

After catching his viewers attention through ethos and pathos, Stewart uses logos to back up his work and make his argument stronger. He used multiple Fox News clips to prove his argument. And within those clips he used even more facts to strengthen his argument. For example, in one of the video sources Fox News anchor Andrea Tantaros talks about how she doesn’t understand why people aren’t upset that more black activist such as Al Sharpton hadn’t stepped up and made statements about all the controversial things that had been happening in the black community. Stewart argues how ridiculous this statement is by providing facts on how activist had had at least three rallies within the last ten months to protest those such things in the black community. Towards the end of the video, Stewart shows multiple news clips of many reporters claiming that the Ferguson incident isn’t all about race. Stewart responds by firing off many facts on how blacks are the number one targets by police in Ferguson. Even while providing all these facts in response to the Fox News reports, Stewart is still able to maintain the attention of the audience. He continues to make jokes and be sarcastic while providing facts that strengthen his argument.

It was through these appeals that Stewart was able to create a show that reached his target audience and win his argument. I believe that this video was targeted at those that are his loyal viewers and also those who love political humor. His intention for this video, in my opinion, was to bring awareness not only to the situation happening in Ferguson but also to make viewers aware of how outrageous Fox News’ views were of the situation. He focused more on the picking apart of Fox News than the actual horrific events that took place in Ferguson and the similar things that continue to effect not just black men but the black community as a whole. Stewart used all the rhetorical appeals to discredit Fox News and win his argument that most of the statements they make are appalling and unacceptable. The incident in Ferguson was mostly only relevant because they were what the original Fox News reports were about in the first place. If he wanted the video to be more about the events in Ferguson he could’ve included more clips about the events that were happening in Ferguson instead of clips of the Fox News anchors discussing them. The video didn’t make someone want to go research the crimes that were happening in Ferguson or other acts against innocent black men but rather more Fox News videos to see how they reported other important issues in the world.