In the article “America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead” by Kevin Drum, he describes crime rates and how they relate to use of lead in gasoline and many other things. The audience Drum seems to focus on primarily is parents and potential parents. Since they usually have full-time careers, parents may not have enough spare time to pore over the raw data themselves. Even if they did have time, the average parent of children might not have the scientific knowledge necessary to turn the raw data into meaningful information, therefore, parents are more likely to trust Kevin Drum’s conclusions.
Drum appeals to his audience how credible he is by arguing using ethos, but does he use ethos appeal effectively on parents? Although his sources seem to be good, the way he portrays the information is convoluted through his language. The author mentions scientific jargon again and again such as “Pb(CH? CH? )? ” and “5 ? g/dL” (Drum 18, 34). Since people like parents are not seasoned chemists, they probably think these unfamiliar words and symbols are worthy of credibility and thus believe what he has to say.
If Drum were to aim this information at scientists or college students, it most likely does not work as well because they already are very familiar with the meaning of the word or have time to research about it later to learn the meaning. He consistently asserts the information as factual in the article; however, he seems to give the audience his biased opinions implying that they are common sense. In this way, he persuade them to believe his opinions and implying way of thinking are concrete. For instance, he says “Only gasoline lead, with its dramatic rise…” (Drum 33).
The word “only” assumes that no other options exist further lending support to his opinions. Also, where he says, “…it all becomes blindingly obvious” (Drum 42), the words “blindingly obvious” can be received as a negative meaning in the context of disagreement. This sounds as if he were saying you might be stupid or unintelligent to take any other view or attempt to challenge his information. Effective uses of ethos appeal are overshadowed by name-dropping, or the overuse of high profile citations in order to make the article more believable.
As we know, when quoting someone else’s research or information, the author is required to cite its original source and possibly the background information about originating author. When Drum lays out much of this information, he does so seemingly out of context or in a ways lacking sufficient explanation. It is very important for authors to clearly show the audience why they should believe the author. I found that Drum tends to overuse famous authors as a tool to convince his audience instead of as a way to add credibility to his findings.
For example, in paragraph 16, Drum says “Karl Smith, a professor of public economics and government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. ” He could have easily convinced his audience to believe what he had to say by simply using the word “professor” or “government at the university. ” As another example, he mentions “in Cecil’s words” (Drum 37). This effectively works because he describes Cecil as a “member of the Cincinnati team” (Drum 38). Ethos is made by using writing style, word selection, and credibility.
Authors use ethos in order to show their audience that their point of view is worthy of taking a look at and to earn credibility. Before starting to write, writers should know which particular audience they want to inform, so they can use proper words to use for their audience and effectively persuade them. In Kevin Drum’s article, he uses a lot of ethos appeal as well. He refers to a lot of famous people or publications as argument to show his audience why they should believe him. In doing so, it is easier for the audience to believe in his opinions.
Although his word choice is too specific in places, the audience Drum seems to focus on is mainly parents based on his argument. Parents may not know professional words and may think that the scientific words he uses makes him look credible. Throughout the whole paper, Drum’s ethos appeal seems to work well in particular for parents and potential parents. In the case of specific words, however, it may not work for anyone who is scientifically literate or weary of scientific jargon. Therefore, it is better to consider who the audience is and how they are affected or take into account Drum’s writing style to better understand the article.