Student Sample 1
16 November 2022
The Future of Straws in America:
Rhetorical Analysis of “Don’t Ban Straws”
John Stossel’s article “Don’t Ban Straws,” published in July of 2018 on Reason, a website for free minds and free markets primarily visited by middle-aged men who possess graduate degrees or higher, directs his attention towards those who believe in banning plastic straws. Stossel claims that people need to see the real facts behind the largely widespread topic, the fact that plastic straws are not causing as much of an epidemic as people truly believe. Stossel pulls out multiple rhetorical moves to grab the reader’s attention and really listen to what the plastic straws have to offer. He makes multiple effective appeals to pathos and logos while maintaining an aggressive tone throughout to fully grab the reader’s attention and convince the audience that banning plastic straws will actually bring a massive negative impact rather than a positive one.
Stossel opens up with an immediate appeal to pathos. Pathos in the form of rhetoric is the means of persuasion that appeals to the emotions of an audience, and Stossel does just that. He begins the article by saying, “Want to sip a refreshing beverage this summer? If environmental zealots and sycophants get their way, you won’t be allowed to sip it through a plastic straw” (Stossel par. 2). Although it is not Stossel’s most powerful move, it is an effective one for the beginning of the article. He doesn’t strike the readers with a large amount of emotion, but he provokes a sense of irritation and frustration for the audience. He says his opening line with a very snappy and judgemental tone by calling those who believe in banning straws environmental “zealots and sycophants” (Stossel par. 2). Doing this allowed Stossel to gain the audience’s attention right away, he makes the audience feel a sense of discomfort with this particular group Stossel is claiming to be “zealots and sycophants” (par. 2). Ultimately this move made the audience gain a thirst for what’s to come in the article, and an immediate curiosity as to why plastic straws shouldn’t be banned.
Following a strong opening, Stossel then diverts the article away from pathos to a very strong logos move, more specifically stating the fact of where the large majority of plastic pollution comes from. Knowing that the audience is primarily wealthier and educated middle aged men from the United States, Stossel opens up about how the vast majority of plastic pollution comes from Asia, while only a small amount of the pollution actually comes from America. He then follows this statement up by saying, “but only a fraction of that is plastic straws” (Stossel par. 9). Doing this now allowed Stossel to set the tone for the rest of the article. By stating the fact that plastic straws only cause the smallest fraction of the world’s plastic pollution, the audience is now siding with Stossel, or at the very least leaning towards his argument rather than opposing. He gets these wealthier men to direct their blame towards Asia, thinking that they are the reason the plastic straw epidemic is spreading. He also allows the rest of the audience that may not already be blaming Asia to at least be blaming the larger plastic pollution problems in America, rather than these small plastic straws that make drinking beverages easier.
As the reader continues the article, they begin to associate Stossel’s opening aggressive and slightly angered tone with the rest of the information he shares. Stossel takes on an aggressive approach, constantly looking down and bashing the opposing party who does believe banning plastic straws is a good thing. To keep the audience on his side, he only focuses on the negatives of banning plastic straws by stating things like, “That’s the beauty of plastic. It’s enduring” and “The activists and politicians don’t worry that their ban will raise costs for businesses and their customers” (Stossel par. 17 & 20). With Stossel’s persistent stance on the negatives of banning straws, the audience now shares that same anger and irritation Stossel is portraying his message with. This is Stossel’s most effective move because this wealthy audience is now furious that their lives are going to be made much more difficult due to these little plastic straws – they will have to pay more for their drinks, or even worse, be forced to use soggy paper straws.
Although Stossel does an excellent job addressing the wealthy and educated middle aged audience that is primarily visiting the Reason website with his aggressive tone. He had struggled to connect with, and persuade, the smaller fraction of the audience that is strong in unity with banning plastic straws. By only focusing on the negatives of banning plastic straws, he is able to persuade the majority of the readers by showing them exactly what they want to hear. Rather than throwing a few positives into the mix, and comparing and contrasting the pros and cons of both banning and not banning plastic straws, Stossel failed to persuade and grab the attention of the readers who strongly believed in banning plastic straws. Doing this would have allowed Stossel to maintain the attention of his primary audience while simultaneously persuading the opposing readers to see why banning plastic straws will lead to more negative impacts rather than positives ones.
In conclusion, Stossel’s mix of logos and pathos results in a very effective argument for his primary audience of middle-aged wealthy men, but fails to connect with the smaller and more opposing audience he may have attracted. His appeals to pathos grabs at the reader’s anger, while his appeals to logos allow the reader to ultimately join his side of the argument. Along with his aggressive tone, Stossel is fully able to convince and persuade his target audience that the banning of plastic straws will cause a negative impact instead of the more well known positive impact.
Stossel, John. “Don’t Ban Straws.” Reason.com, 18 July 2018, reason.com/archives/2018/07/18/dont-ban-straws.