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Essay on Culture of Critique

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Americans have embraced debate since before we were a country. The idea that we would provide reasoned support for any position that we took is what made us different from the English king. Our love of debate came from the old country, and embedded itself in our culture as a defining value. Thus, it should not come as a surprise that the affinity for debate is still strong, and finds itself as a regular feature of the mainstream media. However, if Deborah Tannen of the New York Times is correct, our understanding of what it means to argue may be very different from what it once was; a “culture of critique” has developed within our media, and it relies on the exclusive opposition of two conflicting positions (Tannen). In her 1994 editorial, titled “The Triumph of the Yell”, Tannen claims that journalists, politicians and academics treat public discourse as an argument. Furthermore, she attempts to persuade her readers that this posturing of argument as a conflict leads to a battle, not a debate, and that we would be able to communicate the truth if this culture were not interfering. This paper will discuss the rhetorical strategies that Tannen utilizes, outline the support given in her editorial, and why her argument is less convincing than it should be.
Firstly , Tannen introduces the term “culture of critique” by beginning three successive paragraphs with the term so that the reader will not forget it. Tannen then identifies the problem presented by the “culture of critique”, that is, a tendency to attack the person making an argument, or misrepresenting the issue, rather than arguing against their position itself. She points out that instead of listening to reason, people who are caught up in the culture of critique debate as i...


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...dibility by mentioning that journalists and television producers defer to her as an authority, but she does not make a case for being an expert. Moreover, she maintains a detached tone for a majority of the editorial, as an appeal to her authority on the matter, but switches to and involved perspective when giving illustration. This would otherwise be acceptable, except that the illustration is given in place of supporting theory or fully supported argument. To that end, Tannen’s argument would be much more persuasive if she had articulated her position with an even tone, and avoided sensationalism when giving examples.


Works Cited
Robinson, David. “Web Page of Deborah Tannen.” Georgetown College - Georgetown University. 28 Feb 1998. 15 Jun 2008
Tannen, Deborah. “The Triumph of the Yell.” New York Times 14 Jan 1994.


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