Analysis Of The Article ' Dear Privileged At Princeton ' Essay

Analysis Of The Article ' Dear Privileged At Princeton ' Essay

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In May 2014, Time.com published an article that would soon become the source of no small amount of social contention (1). In the article, “Dear Privileged-at-Princeton: You. Are. Privileged. And Meritocracy Is a Myth,” author Briana Payton lashes out at classmate Tal Fortgang for an article he wrote a month prior (1). Payton, a freshman studying sociology at Princeton University and the political antithesis of Fortgang, takes issue with her classmates’ definition of the word “privilege” (1). She argues that, because Fortgang is white, society inherently affords him “privilege” (Payton 1). Payton’s main flaw is her tone — her condescending, demeaning, and arrogant rhetoric distracts from her content and diminishes her credibility. Conversely, her ad hominem remarks do little harm to Tal Fortgang and the merit of his arguments.
Throughout her article, Payton sounds like a mix between an angry parent reprimanding an unruly child and a moody teenager admonishing a friend via social media. When Payton says, “Is that clear? You. Are. Privileged. It is OK to admit that,” her use of rhetorical questions, punctuation, and capitalization make her intentions abundantly clear (3). Payton’s statement exudes anger and resentment towards Fortgang. In the question, it is clear that Payton does not want an answer but rather, is attempting to scold Fortgang. Moreover, her use of punctuation speaks volumes; periods after each word are the equivalent of Payton raising her voice, out of frustration, to drive home a point. Even her emphasis of the word, “OK” is a sarcastic way of suggesting that Fortgang knows, and is afraid to admit, that he is privileged (3).
Payton’s unprofessional use of rhetoric is not exclusive to a single example — a plethora of...


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...ional use of rhetoric undermines the merits of her arguments. The anger that spills from every rhetorical question, sarcastic comment, and personal attack serve only to discredit Payton’s own contentions. While some may argue that Payton’s tone is justified given her personal connection with privilege or the lack thereof, nothing is an excuse for personal attacks and unprofessional language. Regardless of whether or not readers were persuaded by Payton’s arguments, her tone is enough to, at the very least, make readers question her intentions. As a result, if she would reform her language to be more polite, her readers would receive the content of her arguments better. Conversely, those who identify with Payton racially, politically, or socially may be able to identify with her emotions towards Fortgang. If this were the case, Payton’s arguments would be far stronger.

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