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How Intellectuals Create a Public, Corey Robin’s lengthy article, discusses how public intellectuals need to create their own audience rhetorical audience, rather than speaking to the one that is already available. This means rather than telling the audience what they want to hear, the rhetor should your their own words to shape the beliefs of the audience. Robin does his best to do this however, he does it at the cost of his ethos.
A major issue in Robin’s article is that he drops a lot of names to support his point, but does not give any background as to why the names are relevant. This means that anyone who does not already know these names must look them up in order to understand what Robin is trying to convey in his article. This damages his ethos greatly because it makes the reader wonder if Robin really knows what he is trying to say, or if he must rely on the work of people like Max Weber and Noam Chomsky to explain himself. It’s as if he is using all of these names as symbols for his thoughts, but does not define these symbols.
Another major issue is that Robin does not take his own advice to heart. His article is based on the idea of writing to an audience that doesn’t exist yet; Robin writes to a very specific audience of the intellectually adept. He names famous public intellectuals, authors, and philosophers but not everyone knows all of the people he had mentioned, meaning that he’s missed a huge portion of people for his potential audience. This hurts his ethos because you can’t give credible advice if you are doing the exact opposite of what you’re advising.
Another look at Robin’s article shows that he has not established any form of identity. He has been too busy identifying other people to give us any information on why he has any authority to talk about his subject. Upon doing some research, I have found that Robin is a political theorist, journalist, and professor of Political Science at City University of New York. Despite his Ph. D. from Yale, he has not established any of his credibility in his article which practically erases any trace of ethos he had left. This also means that despite Robin’s attempt at strategic essentialism, he has no social power to write this article.
Robin also seems to rely not only on credible people he can name, but also on logos and enactment. In terms of enactment, he is a-okay. Except that he failed to establish any background in his subject which means he doesn’t have the credibility to talk about it. As for logos, Robin relies heavily on the background of others rather than his own which does
Overall Robin’s article is eloquently written, he just sacrificed his ethos along the way. Rather than using his Yale education to explain his thought process, he names other people with similar thoughts and let’s their work explain it. It is also not good for his ethos that he never established that he went to Yale, which would be part of his identity. Without establishing this identity, he gives no reason to find him credible in any way.
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