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Running head: Visual Analysis oligarchy

Oligarchy in the United States

Luis A. Arnal Ortiz
The University of Texas at El Paso

Visual Analysis oligarchy

Oligarchy in the United States

The visual analyzed in this occasion is the one of a presidential campaign poster for the
2016 Presidential Election. In this analysis one will be able to find and understand the rhetorical
elements of ethos, pathos, and logos. Alongside these characteristics, the intended audience,
purpose of the image, the message it conveys and strategies used by the author in order to
achieve its purpose will also be analyzed. In order for the reader to understand more out of this
visual, some information will be included into the report pertaining to the characteristics of an
oligarchy and the reason why the visual portrays this form of government.
Purpose of the Image and its Message
This image can definitely suggest that the author is looking to send a message to the
audience by portraying very important political figures in it. Some of these characters include:
President Barack Obama, Former President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, U.S.
Representative Paul Ryan and Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney. These people
play a crucial role in our government as they are part of sectors which guide the direction of our
country. The author is confident most people will be able to recognize the characters presented in
the poster and therefore will understand and get the message a lot faster. Another feature in this
visual is that of several big companies and brands behind the characters as if they were
representing the stars in the American flag. This can easily suggest and indicate how the
lobbyists have influenced Congress to pass legislations that would benefit their interests.
(Ganji The Transformation of American Democracy to Oligarchy 2015). This visual represents a
commentary on the U.S. Government and the social hierarchy that exists in todays society. An
oligarchy is a form of government in which only a small group of people are in control of the
decisions in a country, organization or institution. (Merriam-Webster). The author believes there

Visual Analysis oligarchy

is no democracy in the country and in reality our form of government is more of an oligarchy
type as only the rich well-connected individuals in the political scene steer the direction in which
the country is going, rather than the common citizens or middle class, which is how many
believe things work in our country. Some might even say that this is a plutocracy, were only the
wealthiest are in charge. The reason for these statements is that ever since the creation and rise of
private banking, money has been used as a means of power by the government and those who
have more will usually be in control, take for example presidential campaigns which cost
millions of dollars to run as they need to be spread out to the entire country which is nearly
impossible for non-wealthy people who might be trying to run for president, also known as third
party candidates. The message conveyed in this visual is very strong as it is directed at the
government and the people who are in charge of this country.

Audience Characteristics
This image is making a political and social commentary, therefore its intended audience
is more likely to be those who, one: are very interested in government, two: are of voting age,
three: are progressives seeking change, four: fit into the middle class of the country and five: are
those who have a similar point of view of the situation. More likely than not if the audience is
such that was intended, they will be able to agree with the message conveyed.
The ethos in this visual could be considered to be subjective if looked at by the feelings
of the author of the visual, as he suggests that the type of government in the United States is an
oligarchy. This is something that is based on his/her feelings and opinions and not everyone
might agree with it. Therefore, it might be more credible with progressives, or liberals who share

Visual Analysis oligarchy

the same point of view rather than with an objective audience. However, recent studies have been
made which indicate and suggest that the U.S. is no longer a democracy and has now turned into
an oligarchy were only the wealthy are in charge. In this case then it would be an objective ethos,
but the author is not a very credible source for everyone and that is where it turns into a
subjective audience.
The pathos of this visual is dependable on the audience that is looking at this visual, if
looked at by conservatives or the wealthy of the nation, they might find this offensive or maybe
even hysterical to believe. As they do believe everyone votes matter and everyone in the nation
votes towards the decisions of this country. Some feelings and opinions might be hurt as this
implies that in reality the vote of the middle class does not count, does who serve in government
doing the right thing and actually making progress and creating change in this nation will find
this offensive. However, in the other side of the picture, those who share the same opinion will
find this to be very meaningful and will share the same emotion as the author, who is suspicious
of the form of government that we have today and the integrity of the government itself.
The logic in this visual is merely based on what can be seen on the visual and not
everyone might be able to understand the problem. However, if some research is done one could
easily find out that recent studies suggest and indicate that the United States is no longer a
democracy as it was established. Since this is not the case with most of the audience the logic in
this visual is subjective. The quality of this logic could be used as a starting point to create
conversations in regards to the government and its credibility.

Visual Analysis oligarchy


The reason for this visual is to raise awareness of the type of government we currently
have in our country and how it really is the opposite of what it was first established. This visual
does the job by addressing the issue and pointing out individuals who are responsible for such
thing as they take part of this problem. As mentioned in the Huffington Post, the American
People no longer believe in Congress as much as they used to back in 1973, the percentage has
dropped from a forty-two percent all the way to seven percent in 2014. This clearly indicates that
many people are aware of the ongoing problem. Another issue that can be relatable to this poster
is the presidential elections and the cost it takes to run one. It was estimated that the 2016
Presidential Elections would cost around $10 billion, aside from the wealthiest of the nation, who
else can really participate in this process and how is the middle class supposed to have their
voice heard if only the rich have the money to speak and be heard. This visual points out facts
which can easily be seen and the author wanted to make that noticeable.
This image is somewhat appealing to the eyes as it portrays the American flag. The
audience might not be able to catch that at the very beginning, but afterwards one will certainly
wonder what the meaning is and the reason behind it. As seen on figure 1, the stars in the flag are
represented as companies or networks established all over the nation and some even around the
world. This can clearly indicate how it is a suggestion or inference that these are in control of the
countrys economy and even the government. Then in front of these stars one can see big
political figures such as presidents and governors, most of them are either smiling or laughing as
if they were doing it towards the audience which goes along with the title, it is a very exclusive
club and you are not a member of. Since the intended audience is educated people or those of

Visual Analysis oligarchy

voting age or voters, the possibility of the audience not understanding the visual and getting the
message is only limited to those unfamiliar with this subject. Therefore, the author has done a
good job in persuading and attracting the audience by appealing to ethos and even some logos if
the audience is aware of the situation. The weakness of this visual is the pathos of it, as it does
not portray something that could easily make the audience mad, happy or sad. It is not very
appealing to the emotions as it is to logic and credibility.

Visual Analysis oligarchy


Brown, E. (2015). How America Became an Oligarchy - NationofChange | Progressive Change

Through Positive Action. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from
http://www.nationofchange. org/2015/04/08/how-america-became-an-oligarchy
Ganji, A. (2016, August 06). The Transformation of American Democracy to Oligarchy.
Retrieved September 23, 2016, from

Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.

World, W. I. (2014, April 14). Study: US is an oligarchy, not a democracy. Retrieved September
23, 2016, from


Visual Analysis oligarchy

Figure 1