1:24 PM; August 1, 1966. The University of Texas campus is littered with fourteen dead and thirty-one injured bodies. After over an hour of attacks, the killer, Charles Whitman, a former Marine and student at UT, lies dead at the top of the campus tower, shot down by a local police officer. Rosa A. Eberly’s article, “’Everywhere You Go, It’s There’” uses the University of Texas Tower Shooting incident to analyze the media’s influence on how society remembers and forgets tragic events. Eberly takes a further look at the event and how it is remembered by analyzing how different modern mediums such as newspapers, interviews, radio shows, movies, and organizations remember the incident twenty-nine years later. She determines that memories are not fixed, but rather vary from person to person and this influences to how they are remembered and formed. The article makes the claim that the rhetoric behind remembering is central to the statements the media makes about the event and how it is perceived in the public sphere. We can connect Eberly’s idea of public memory to the movie, “Argo” (2012), which tells the story of six Americans attempting to escape a 1979 Iranian hostage crisis by masking their identities and posing as movie actors. The representation and depiction the movie gives of the event effects how we remember it over thirty years later. Eberly’s analysis helps us better understand how, as individuals who make up society, the media constructs how we remember certain events and highlights the importance of a public space for our memories to go.
Eberly uses her Rhetoric 330E: “The UT Tower Shooting and Public Memory” course as a way to analyze and study the rhetoric behind the way the public memory is formed around the UT incident. The class itself actually served as a “proto-public” sphere in which memories could be discussed and talked about. A huge part of memory is developed and encouraged by the media and without a separate public sphere to go to, our memories solely get shaped by the media. The media forces the survival of the UT shooting memory by bringing up the event over and over again in several forms. The school, on the other hand, was going out of its way to try to erase this memory from the public’s mind. A woman interviewed said, “I mean, I want to forget it, but every time I turn around- it’s showing on the television right now. Everywhere you go, it’s there” (71). The memories, at first, had no where to go besides this local talk show. Unlike the radio, Eberly’s class served as a healthy and proactive place to reflect. Others, typically those who are not victims of the event, take a different approach and emphasize the importance of preserving history. Eberly says in this case, “that we and our students can choose to play a greater role in making individual and public judgments about artifacts of cultural memory, about institutional repression, and about the process of history-in-the-making” (pg. 81-82). One way we can change how these forms of media influence us is to take on this “greater role” and become a part of how the incident is portrayed, by constructing how it is remembered or forgotten.
“Argo” (2012) Trailer
By looking at the movie “Argo,” we can see the formation and representation of the hostage event from the media source of a modern movie. We cannot really be sure the film is an accurate representation, but we come away with an idea of how an American, moviemaker viewed and interpreted the events and how he thought they should be remembered. It is important to not only mention the American standpoint, but also the moviemaker standpoint as well because “Argo” depicts an effort to create a fake movie in order to escape. The depiction represented in the movie was one given and created by an American moviemaker. It is important to recognize how interpretations are given because these can determine the credibility and reliability of the source. Argo plays into the rhetoric behind how the audience remembers it. Seeing as a good amount of the audience may not have been alive during the incident, this could have been the only factor influencing their memory. While Eberly’s class served as a sort of “memorialization” and remembrance place, “Argo” too serves as a memorial for reflection and understanding of the event.
Looking at interpretations of past events in this mindset can help us to better understand the important aspects writers want us to remember and how they suggest we should remember them. Much of the time, if we can analyze the strategies writers use to explain information, we can focus in on what they believe to be important while questioning what information is left out. It is up to readers to interpret the events however they’d like to. This interpretation usually shapes the public opinion on whether or not it is appropriate for an event to be remembered or forgotten. Eberly concludes that we have to be aware of how the media shapes our public memory and look for healthier directions for our memories to go.