Nine-hundred seventy-four million people (CBS News): a country, a continent, the contemporary rhetorical medium Twitter. McLuhan would agree that the inception of this new medium far outweighs any single message sent through it; however, to truly understand the gargantuan affect of Twitter in postmodern rhetoric a closer look can be taken of the New York Times Twitter account, more specifically their coverage of the 2016 political election.
Beginning in the year 1851 (Google Facts), The New York Times has continued to be a source of news, rhetoric, and home to opinion editorials which foster thought in hopes of influencing ideology in America and nations abroad. Cited by scholars for centuries, the Times has continued to be seen as a source of unbiased, credible, factual information. Fast forward two or so centuries to the year 2006 (Google Facts), the world is introduced to a cutting-edge discovery, its name: Twitter. The entirety of Twitter is too large to discuss in a book, let alone a five-page paper, but the invention of a new medium can be evaluated as it is used among a single group of rhetorical artifacts: Tweets. McLuhan conceived the concept that the medium is the message. He preached that the inception of a new medium is greater than the choice to use a specific medium in a given situation (McLuhan 53). Is has been shown that using Twitter as a medium has a unique affect when the New York Times uses it in contrast to when they use only print material. In addition, when the Times tweets information its readers continue to see it as a source of unbiased, credible, factual information.
Moving further, an evaluation of the subjects who follow The New York Times account can be implemented based on facts from the Pew Research Center. In 2014 it can be seen that 37% of adult internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 use Twitter compared to only 10% of those 65 and older (PewInternet.org). Based on these facts, it can be said when The New York Times decides to tweet on Twitter they are targeting a group in the younger generation. By catering to youth subjects, the New York Times’ rhetoric shapes ideology for future generations. The reason Twitter is such an impactful form of a medium for the New York Times to use is because it has elements that mix together a plethora of mediums. Looking into the 2016 political election, the New York Times tweeted a video of highlights from a debate in Iowa. Within in this single tweet, mediums are mixed with a combination of words followed with further content in a visual element connected to the tweet. The New York Times not only picked a specific tweet but they edited video of different political candidates to spin their subjects’ views based on a snippet of a video instead of a holistic picture of what was said. Constitutive rhetoric emerges here as Charland lectures that “rhetoric is an ubiquitous force that shapes the identity of its addressees” (Charland 107).
Even further than the choice of medium, The New York Times’ word choice of Ideographs, God words, and Devil words, in their tweets of 140 characters or less, is specifically catered to their audience. In a tweet about Donald Trump, the New York Times account mixed in two mediums by connecting a tweet to an outside Times article while also enticing readers by quoting these demeaning Devil words about Trump: “pathetic” and “self-delusion”. By using these words, the Times is making their readers view Trump in a certain way following the ideas of Marx (McGee 3) in that they believe they are freeing their audience from a false ideology that Trump is a great candidate. Slowly, through multiple tweets, the Times is able to begin molding ideology in its readers through a new post modern medium with the ultimate goal of persuading their subjects to vote a certain way in the upcoming election.
Under more in-depth review, the New York Times followers, and those who retweet tweets from their account, build up a group of persons with collective beliefs and ultimately like ideologies. This same practice of showing acceptance for an ideology by retweeting a tweet can be seen when the New York Times itself retweets tweets from others. Jason Horowitz’s tweet of Bernie Sanders, a candidate in the 2016 election, combined some text with an edited video of Sanders on a flatbed truck rallying potential votes. The Times retweeted this tweet to its followers meaning everyone who gets updates from the Times feed saw the tweet in addition to those who follow Jason Horowitz. Retweeting can foster a three dimensional element to Twitter as a medium, it allows someone i.e. the Times to agree with an ideology of another person and then in turn take the same rhetoric produced by that individual and relay it to the subjects who follow them (the Times) in their ideology cross mingling mediums and thought together in a single platform with the click of button.
Looking even deeper into the New York Times use of Twitter in the 2016 political election, one must evaluate who uses Twitter as a whole or in other words the medium the Times uses to convey its rhetoric. Based on a study from Tech World, the following groups use Twitter the most: Young Adults, Minorities, Women, and Urbanities. In parallel, it is also relevant to compare these demographic groups with those who associate most closely with a specific political party. According to People Press, a Pew Research Center entity, those who relate to the groups who use Twitter additionally vote or affiliate with the democratic party. This information relays that when the New York Times posts content on Twitter they are attempting to influence the ideology of those who are typically democrats. This brings to light to why most tweets regarding the 2016 election, that the Times has posted, include information skewed towards coverage of the democratic party in contrast to that of the republican party.
Moreover, when the Times embeds other mediums in their tweets a clearer focus of the ideology they wish to push is revealed. An example of this is seen when the Times tweeted, “Donald Trump will now be known by a title to which he is unaccustomed: loser” followed by a link to an article by Times writer Maggie Haberman. Constitutive rhetoric emerges here as the Times attempts to create a collective identity for its audience rallying against Trump, a republican candidate in the election. They do this by associating the Devil word of “loser” with Trump in conjunction with his recent caucus result in Iowa. Overall, the Times continues to form future ideology of political involvement by influencing youth subjects who in turn influence future generations.
At the end of the day, Ideology and Rhetoric have a single core purpose to persuade others to believe what one believes. The most impactful tool to change someone’s belief is emotion which is more often than not influenced by experience. If a subject witnesses an experience different than one they have before it can be monumental in how they perceive a certain ideology. Twitter is a multilateral, postmodern medium that combines visual, auditory, and written rhetorical artifacts to foster an experience unlike any before. It allows an interpersonal interaction to occur between rhetor and subject within a simplistic form of an element known as a Tweet delivered into the palm of the subject’s hand. Through their Twitter account, the Times has attempted to produce and manipulate the ideology of their readers and followers during its coverage of the 2016 presidential election. Ultimately, due to the reputation the Times has matured through a century of existence, a Twitter user who follows the Times account is inclined to believe that the information Tweeted is unbiased, factual, and credible. Encoded within each Times Tweet, is a rhetoric artifact influencing emotion through an unparalleled experience to persuade their subjects to believe what they believe and if that objective is realized than the subjects ideology, reality, and truth is shaped by the Times and such is their life. Hence, the power of postmodern rhetoric and the technological medium of Twitter.
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