Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tricks of Persuasion: Asking Questions

So let's ask the question in a different way: Are we needlessly wasting animal parts in order to protect our sensibilities? In other words, is it narcissistic of us to waste meat merely because a particular process for not wasting it appears gross to us? They say if you like sausage you should never set foot inside a sausage factory. Are we making the same shallow argument with pink slime? These are incredibly difficult questions.

....So readers, what do you think? Is there another side to the pink slime controversy? Or is it a black and white story with no gray areas?

--Casual Kitchen, Thinking Through Pink Slime

This is from a post I wrote earlier this year on one of the most disgusting aspects of the entire food industry. "Pink slime" is a deeply sensitive subject. It's gross. And the mere mention of it makes people emotional, irrational and angry.

I wanted my readers to consider the devil's advocate side of this issue, but I didn't want them to direct their anger at me for addressing it. That's why I used a series of questions as a mechanism to raise aspects of the other side of the argument.

By asking questions, you can take a side without appearing to take a side. You can magnify the appearance of balance and fairness in your writing--even if there's no balance to begin with. After all, if you're the one choosing both the questions and the way they are asked, you have the opportunity to frame the entire debate.

PS: Writers can do this ethically... and they can do it unethically. Always keep in mind that debates are often framed for us without our knowledge.