The Rhetoric of Coronavirus

The podcast I chose to analyze is titled “COVID-19 Chapter 1: Virology” from “This Podcast Will Kill You.” This podcast was created by Erin Welsh and Erin Allmann Updyke, two graduate students who are studying Disease Ecology. In this episode, Erin and Erin discuss many important questions surrounding the coronavirus. Some topics that they discuss are the origins of the virus, risk factors, the existence of multiple strains, and how effective hand washing really is. 

The podcast begins with a first-hand account from Tiziano, a schoolteacher living in Italy who has been living under the restrictions the government put in place to slow the spread of the virus. Tiziano describes how difficult life has been for working families, and how parents are struggling to cope with their children being out of school. He explains that parents, “need to take care of the children” (5:35), and they don’t know how to do that while they go to work during the lockdown. This account of the lockdown in Italy establishes pathos by aiming to evoke feelings of apprehension, sadness, and sympathy. While Tiziano’s descriptions of life in lockdown are upsetting, he wraps up his story with describing acts of kindness he has witnessed throughout his community. People are playing music, showing their support for medical professionals, and using social media to spread messages of hope. Tiziano ends his story by saying, “this [virus] is bringing out a lot of good things” (6:50).  This portion of the story aims to evoke feelings of hope and jubilation. 

Tiziano’s account was placed at the very beginning of the podcast for a reason. His story grabs the listener’s attention, and makes the listener want to keep listening. Including a personal narrative allows “This Podcast Will Kill You” to make the argument that COVID-19 is a very serious and widespread virus. It also persuades the listener to listen on, so they can learn any information that will help protect themselves. 

The ethos established in this podcast perhaps the most persuasive strategy that “This Podcast Will Kill You” utilizes. Since the Erins are graduate students earning a degree in Disease Ecology, they establish their own level of credibility by already being knowledgeable on infectious diseases. Further, they enlist the expertise of a virologist, Dr. Angela Rasmussen (Columbia Univ.) to provide information about COVID-19. Both the Erins and Dr. Rasmussen explain COVID-19 through extremely technical language. This type of language indicates that these women know what they are talking about, which aims to persuade the listener to believe them. 

Logos is also a major component to this podcast. The structure of the podcast is a question-and-answer process. The graduate students logically answer listener submitted questions and provide accurate information. The argument the podcast is trying to make also utilizes inductive logic. The logic moves from a specific example—the example here being Tiziano’s story—to a generalized view of how coronavirus is spearing throughout the globe. (Heinrichs, 148). Inductive logic uses the circumstances to form a belief about COVID-19. 

*Side Note: The picture is my dog, Fiona. She is really loving quarantine because she gets to sleep in my bed with me and wake me up at 6am every morning. 


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