Rhetorical Analysis of Malcolm Gladwell’s Small Change

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Malcolm Gladwell's post discusses that social media is counterproductive for coordinating social activism. Gladwell's post, published in The New Yorker on October 4, 2010, attempts to convince people that social media is not as harmful as they previously thought. Gladwell had a comparatively large following when social media's influence was skyrocketing. He uses an argumentative style to reassure readers that without social media, some marches are bigger and more coordinated. The following is a systematic review of Malcolm Gladwell's Minor Shift. Gladwell begins with a detailed account of four freshmen students from North Carolina who met at a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro. They had a discussion about a protest that ended up as a revolution. The article continues to tell us that the evidence for social media tools being direct agents of change is lacking. Gladwell appeals to ethos by craftily incorporating a relevant and timely event, the Moldova Twitter Revolution. He decimates its credibility by arguing that people tweeting about demonstrations were mostly in the West. Based on facts, the Moldovan Twitter Revolution never existed since there were very few Twitter accounts in Moldova at that time. Gladwell wants the reader to take his opinion that social media has not reinvented social activism. Gladwell goes on to mirror Jone’s criticism of the internet as merely an organizational tool that does not aim at creating an understanding that leads to effective action.

Gladwell appeals to logos by incorporating the story of Ezell Blair. Blair gained the courage to ask for a cup of coffee in the Woolworth’s store just because he accompanied his roommate and two other allies from high school. However, Gladwell argues that the platforms of media are built on weak ties. In his article, Gladwell defines Twitter as a tool for following people whom you have never met while Facebook as a tool for efficiently managing your friends. He successfully convinces the readers that this is why people have thousands of friends on Facebook. Our acquaintances are excellent sources of new ideas and information. Gladwell adds on that the internet is good at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, matching up sellers and buyers, and the logistical functions of the dating world.

Gladwell’s article also touches on emotions as he puts emphasis on the story of Bhatia. He cites Bhatia’s case, an entrepreneur with leukemia who needed a bone marrow transplant. Bhatia’s business partners sent out emails explaining his condition to more than 400 of his acquaintances who forwarded the email to Facebook pages and devoted YouTube videos asking for help. Through this, Bhatia found a match (Malcolm 175). Therefore, Gladwell states that when the action required is easy and has small risks, social media deliver effective action. He argues that the transplant worked because the only way you can get someone you do not know is by not asking too much from them. He, therefore, convinces his audience by creating this emotional response.

Nevertheless, Gladwell touches on logos again when he opposes what Aaker and Smith wrote in the “Dragonfly Effect” that social networks are effective in increasing motivation. Gladwell explains that networks increase participation by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires. He notes that online social platforms are efficient in increasing participation. Gladwell supports his reasoning by telling a story of Darfur. He cites that ‘Save Darfur Coalition,’ a Facebook page has 1,282,339 members who have donated an average of nine cents apiece. Furthermore, Darfur Charity has 22073 members who have given an average of 75 cents. The members are not gauged by what they have given. Therefore, Facebook activism is a success by motivating members to do things that people are not pushed enough to participate. Gladwell implicates that this is different from the lunch counters at Woolworth store.

Gladwell concludes with a sharp criticism of Clay Shirky’s bible of social media improvement. Shirky demonstrates the organizing power of the internet through the story of a Wall Street worker, Evan, and his friend called Ivanna. In this story, Shirky illustrates the ease and speed at which a group of people can be mobilized for the right kind of course at this internet era. As much as Shirky considers this model of activism an upgrade, it is simply a form of favoring the weak ties that help people persevere in times of danger. Gladwell ends his article with a sarcastic ‘viva la revolucion.’ That solidifies his effort and forces readers to disagree to feel juvenile. Malcolm Gladwell’s use of pathos almost condemns the people who contradict him to a loss of pride and validity. Based on the evidence and examples cited in his paper, Gladwell builds a sound and cogent argument that social media is not an adequate tool for large-scale activism.

October 25, 2022


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