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On April 12th, 2016, young adult novelist John Green uploaded a YouTube video titled On the Banning of Looking for Alaska, in which he discussed the circumstances surrounding his first novel being named the number-one most challenged book in the United States in 2015 (American Library Association). The video was posted to the Vlogbrothers channel—a decade-long video blog collaboration with his younger brother Hank who, together with John, are the leaders of an internet community known as Nerdfighters—a group of self-proclaimed “nerds” formed around the brothers’ videos who share similar interests and goals, such as making the world a better place through charity organizations like Project for Awesome and sharing enjoyable experiences such as the annual VidCon.
The duo regularly uploads videos twice a week that range in content from comedic to serious material and even educational information. To exemplify such a range, one of their videos is titled Understanding Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration and goes into depth explaining the President’s controversial immigration act through John’s best unbiased, educational manner of speaking; another is titled 54 JOKES! In Four Minutes! in which Hank rapidly recites an absurd number of puns in a limited amount of time. In an effort to be brief and concise in their videos, the Green brothers have a self-implemented four-minute rule—which states that their videos must be no longer than four minutes or else they must suffer a punishment chosen by the other brother and often the community as a whole (this explains Hank’s challenge to list as many jokes as possible within that time frame). Because of this rule, their vlogs are kept brief and the brothers usually cannot say the entirety of what they’d like on the subject at hand. Therefore, what usually results is a four-minute video in which each brother speaks very rapidly in order to get his point across in four minutes—which explains why John in his Looking for Alaska vlog utters 700 words in 3 minutes, 18 seconds. Due to this rule, the brothers are forced to only include the most important points and, therefore, achieve an effective sense of exigence and urgency in their discussions.
In this particular video, John begins by assuming a comedic persona to introduce his topic, making some light jokes at his own expense and using humor to ease into the serious subject. This is likely done to maintain his audience and avoid turning them off by being serious right away. At about the fifty-second mark, however, he relinquishes his blithe tone in exchange for a more serious and thoughtful one. It is in this tone that he defends the merit of his novel’s content and criticizes the motivations of the many schools and libraries who chose to challenge or ban it in 2015. His argument is rife with effective rhetoric, including mostly logic-based lines of reasoning.
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