Short Paper 3: Rhetorical Analysis

This 2 page statement should clearly answer the research questions below regarding rhetorical communication (see below). The following bullets provide the prompt for the essay. Students may choose to treat their answers to each bulleted prompt as separate paragraphs in the final essay.

Please note that this assignment is asking you to answer all of the questions below. You do not have to format the answers as separate paragraphs, although I recommend that organizational strategy to feature your answers to the questions.

  • Introduction: After your Attention-Getting Device (AGD), provide the thesis and purpose of your rhetorical analysis. What new observations does your analysis reveal? What is the benefit, profit, or take-away of having completed this analysis? Then, provide a preview statement that outlines how the rest of the essay will proceed.
  • What is rhetoric? Cite a key definition drawn from the course and/or academic sources, and explain what this definition means.
  • Explain a core rhetorical concept. Connect this definition to a concept (or concepts) drawn from the course. Why and how do they offer a helpful lens through which to understand contemporary rhetoric?
  • Show how the concept illuminates a case. Provide an example of current or contemporary rhetoric that illustrates this rhetorical concept ‘in action’.  Tell us enough about the case to understand the relevance of the rhetorical concept, and then show how the concept illuminates our understanding of this example.
  • Conclusion: Gesture beyond the case at hand to explain why your rhetorical analysis might be useful more generally or in application to a wider set of topics. What else about public communication might an analysis like this one reveal?

It is important that you make use of clear organization and topic sentences in your writing. Please indicate which question you are answering in the header of your document (in addition to identifying information like student name, class, date), offer a prospective answer as a thesis statement, and briefly discuss researched support for the thesis. For additional writing and organizational advice for this assignment, please consult the following document: Additional Guidance for Critical Writing.


Short papers should contain (1) in text citations (guidelines for in-text citations can be found here: Citations for Critical Writing) and (2) a works cited section at the end of the document containing 3-5 properly formatted citations (more information about MLA, APA, and Chicago can be found at the corresponding links).

How to Organize a Short-Form Rhetorical Analysis, Paragraph by Paragraph

The optimal organization for this paper is a logically dependent structure, meaning that each paragraph built toward a larger argument. This approach is modeled below. However you decide to organize the paper, it must coordinate a thesis that advances how rhetoric and rhetorical concepts help to explain a given topic/object/artifact/event/text/image with topic sentences that flow through the entire document.

Paragraph 1: Thesis. Articulate a clear thesis statement, purpose statement and preview for your short essay.

  • The thesis statement should connect an idea of rhetoric to a concrete instance of rhetoric as it has been discussed in this class.
    • (e.g.) [this idea of rhetoric and/or a specific rhetorical concept] helps to explain the [impacts, effects, strategies, motives, or power hierarchies] at work [in this specific instance, case study, image, artifact, etc.]. However it is phrased, this statement should unfold over the course of the next several paragraphs.
      • (e.g.) Kenneth Burke’s dramatistic ratios, such as between scene and agent, can help us to understand the rhetorical choices made by courtroom speakers in US v. Texas (2021) and the motives of the plaintiff and defendant in the case.
      • (e.g.) The concept of anamorphosis, drawn from theories of visual rhetoric, can help us to explain the dynamic scenes and narrative structure of the film The Green Knight.
    • How have we understood the idea of “rhetoric” in this class? As speech, persuasion, ideological signs, symbols, and representations, narratives, arguments, visual rhetorics, public address, settler representations and disavowals, instances of public secrecy, or digital rhetoric.
  • The purpose statement should explain what is gained or better understood by describing this artifact using rhetorical concepts. This is a statement about why this analysis is important, urgent, or deserving of our attention. It may speak to the ethical stakes of the analysis or the reasons why people would benefit from a rhetorical perspective.
  • The preview statement should give us a sense of how the rest of the essay will unfold. Given the progression below, it might read: first, I will offer a nuanced definition of rhetoric and explain the features of [a specific rhetorical concept]. Then I will describe how [the rhetorical concept] helps us to understand [your case study, speech, text, image, etc.]

Paragraph 2-3: What is rhetoric? Cite a key definition drawn from the course and/or academic sources, and explain what this definition means. At the most general level, we have discussed rhetoric as persuasion, representation, and hierarchies of power. These are themes that stretch across multiple chapters.

In addition to the unit-specific definitions below, I have also uploaded a separate document that contains some more Definitions of Rhetoric. For reference, you might consider the following pairings, which have been recurrent throughout the class. Feel free to return to the lecture outline document and/or agenda document, which is also where these definitions are drawn from. We have also more specifically defined rhetoric in the following ways:

  • Classical (Greek) Rhetoric
    • Plato: “Rhetoric moves the soul by means of speech”
    • Aristotle: “Rhetoric is the counterpart of dialectic (or philosophy) / the available means of persuasion in any given situation.”
  • Sign and Symbol. As-persuasion/public address: “something that happens in or as a speech, and it relies upon the speaker’s conscious choices, their historical circumstances, and the timeliness of the moment at which speeches delivered.”
    • Burke: Rhetoric as identification is “the way that speech unifies and divides a collective public audience.” Rhetoric as symbolic action “occurs around symbols and relies upon the idea of consubstantiality or the creation of a sameness or likeness, between different members of a group based upon a shared and symbolic point of reference, rather than just persuading with the right words.”
  • Ideology and Myth: Rhetoric describes the way that any given sign can acquire an additional meaning or signification, contributing to a shared system of belief that supports an ideology.
  • Agency: Rhetoric describes any subject’s relative “capacity to act.” In the case of a speech, for instance, “agency” may reside with the audience (who acts on the speech), the speaker (who compels the action), and/or the text (the speech itself which has a specific and repeatable kind of force).
  • Persona: Rhetoric is public address or speech addressed with an audience in mind or that is implied by the act of address.
  • Speech Act: Rhetoric is a performative utterance that has specific consequences either at the moment of the utterance or at some distance from it.
  • Narrative: Rhetoric is the arrangement of forms in language, image, and speech to create recognizable genres. Forms provide a recognizable logical order, are repeatable (such as a sequence or a figure of speech), and are ambivalent to the ethical or political goals that they serve.
  • Argument: Rhetoric, when organized as an argument, is both a thing (such as a logical form) and a relationship (for example, as between an affirmative and a negative position, or between a defendant and a plaintiff).
  • Visual Rhetoric: Rhetoric consists of the persuasive and presentational symbolism of the circulating image that acts as a source of shared culture and identification for a given public. Visual rhetoric may also be an iconic image, an image event, monumental rhetoric, or body rhetoric.
  • The Rhetorical Situation: Rhetoric is a “fitting response” to an exigency that is addressed to an audience (or audiences) while navigating specific constraints. It is a “complex of persons, events, objects, and relations presenting an actual or potential exigence which can be completely or partially removed if discourse, introduced in the situation, can so constrain human decision or action as to bring about the significant modification of the exigence
  • The Settler Situation: Rhetoric consists of the colonizer’s patterns of disavowal that project that threat of colonization onto a foreign other who allegedly threatens the colonizer with their colonization, and which provides the colonizer with a justification to perpetuate colonial governance.
  • Secrecy Rhetoric: Rhetoric consists of the ways that “we know that we do not know” or the cues, patterns, and behaviors that alert a person or public, after the fact, to the existence of some secret.
  • Digital Rhetoric: The language we use and the practices that have become invisible/normal concerning technology, in which the words and techniques we use to monitor and model human behavior have destructive public consequences.


Paragraph 2-3: Connect this definition to a concept (or concepts) drawn from the course. Why and how do they offer a helpful lens through which to understand contemporary rhetoric? These concepts are considerably more plentiful across the chapters of the book. What is the specific concept related to the larger idea of rhetoric you have selected for this final essay? What is particularly interesting, illuminating, or important about what this concept explains at a general level? If there are ‘tenets’ or components of this concept what are those tenets and how are they defined? (e.g. the four criteria for assessing visual rhetoric in Finnegan’s “Visual Modes of Public Address.”

Paragraph 3-5: Provide an example of current or contemporary rhetoric that illustrates this rhetorical concept ‘in action’. Provide a detailed context about the case to understand the relevance of the rhetorical concept, and then show how the concept illuminates our understanding of this example. You may want to devote one paragraph to the context of your selected topic/object/artifact/text/image and another to the application of the rhetorical concept from the previous paragraphs to this topic. Here are some framing questions for the “context” you might consider. You can answer one or all of these:

  • What was the emergency or problem or situation to which this artifact/object responds?
  • For whom was the object/artifact/text staged? Who was it meant for? Who consumed it? Did it get a lot of attention?
  • What were the limitations of communicating this message? What limitations did the creators of the message face? What kinds of choices were made in the creation of this message?

Here is a more condensed version of this assignment organized by prompts for each section.


  • Thesis: What are you arguing? What is the novel connection between rhetorical concept(s) and the example that you are advancing in this essay?
  • Purpose: What’s the significance of the example? What new thing do we learn by applying a rhetorical lens to it?
  • Preview: How will the paper unfold in first, second, third order?

Body 1: Rhetorical Concept

  • What is the general conception of rhetoric that you are advancing (persuasion, representation, hierarchies of power) and is there a definition of rhetoric offered in the textbook or by one of the sources in the “definition” document that might support this understanding?
  • What is the specific concept of rhetoric that fits under the heading of the general definition you just offered? What keyword(s) are you drawing upon from our class that you intend to apply or examine in the light of the case study at hand?

Body 2: Rhetorical Context

  • What do we need to know about this case and how it unfolded in order to understand the application/analysis to follow? What was the public significance of the event? Who created/delivered the rhetorical address/text? Who was its audience? What was it responding to? What happened immediately before and after the event/text/speech under consideration? What was going on more generally in public or political culture at the time?

Body 3: Rhetorical Example

  • Systematically apply the concept from the second bullet of Body 1 to the example you have selected, citing directly from the example (in this case, the words of the speech). What is/are the concept(s), and how would you know it when you saw it? What kinds of evidence are appropriate to consider when claiming that the rhetorical concept(s) are operative? What evidence is there of the concept(s) being used? Restated in your own words, how does the concept relate to the evidence you have just provided?


  • What does the application of the rhetorical concept(s) to the example teach us more generally? How might it apply to other examples other than the one that you have just considered?
  • Where have we been in this essay? (Review)
  • What was the point of the analysis for your reader? (Purpose)
  • What was your core argument, in the most condensed phrasing possible? (Thesis)

Finally, I’ll draw on some examples as illustrations, although you should pick your own pairing of a concept with a case study. The idea is for you to show us that you have gained an understanding of at least one of the rhetorical concepts we have discussed and are able to think about how it explains an instance of persuasion, representation, or hierarchical power relations.

  • Rhetoric is a mode of strategic representation, which uses written and visual symbols in order to convey a message to an audience. Visual rhetoric, for example, can be understood as the use of representations to convey a message to a public audience using a strategic arrangement of element.
  • One concept that falls under this heading is the “image event.” The image event describes the crafting of a public performance for purposes of media circulation, such as a protest, demonstration, or movement that makes for “good pictures” and therefore represents the importance of a social issue to a wider community or audience. An image event also provokes thinking about the authenticity of the performance/demonstration/movement in question precisely because they are designed to be ‘pictured’.
  • One example of this concept in action is the “extinction rebellion” demonstration on the Thames, where activists staged a house floating down a river to illustrate the effects of climate change. You would then show how it is designed for ‘good pictures’ and provokes questions about authenticity.

Another example, focused on a speech:

  • Rhetoric is a strategy of persuasion, where a speaker crafts a message for an audience with some idea of how they would like this audience to think, feel, and act in response. One broad framework that is useful for understanding rhetoric as persuasion is “the rhetorical situation,” which helps us to puzzle out the different elements that collaborate to give a speech its force and meaning.
  • A rhetorical situation is composed minimally of an “exigence,” an “audience” and “constraints.” The exigence is the “imperfection marked by urgency” which is the problem to which the speaker responds and seeks to resolve. The audience is those people to whom the speech is addressed who have the capacity to act in order to resolve or reduce the urgency of the exigence. Constraints describe the limitations upon the speaker and the speech which must be navigated in order for persuasion to have its intended effect.
  • A speech by Barack Obama such as the 2008 “Yes We Can” address can be explained as an intentionally crafted persuasive address by attending to the “problem” to which he responded (i.e., the exigence: a recession in the wake of the Bush presidency, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc), the audiences to whom his speech was addressed (moderate Americans and the specific constituencies named in the speech itself), and constraints (such as the fact that “yes we can” was used in previous campaigns that were not successful, or that it was adapted from other movement leaders like Dolores Huerta [Si se puede]).

Selecting a Topic: Like the encomium assignment, you pick your topic. You may want to think about your topic first based on its importance or exemplarity, and then work your way through rhetorical concepts that might help us to understand it. If you are struggling to find a topic for your rhetorical analysis, you might consider looking on, which offers MANY examples from famous public figures and from films.

Sample Short Paper 3 Assignments: Below you will find three examples of this essay fully written out. They are meant to provide some models beyond the step-by-step paragraph layout provided above.

Additional Resources for Short Paper 3

Class Sample 1

On January 29, 2021 in Brussels, Belgium hundreds of Members of European Parliament rose to their feet, joined hands, and broke into song for what was perhaps the most consequential rendition of Auld Layne Syne in European history. Moments before, the European Parliament had ratified the terms of the United Kingdom’s withdraw from the European Union, ending 47-years of British membership in the organization (Payne, 2020). This paper examines the moment from a rhetorical lens, arguing that the rhetorical concepts of the second persona and eavesdropping audience can be used to better understand the political motivations for the European Parliaments singing of the Scottish folk song. To this end, the paper is divided into a definition for rhetoric, explanation of how this definition relates to the concepts of the second persona and eavesdropping audiences, and exploration of how the singing of Auld Layne Syne can be better understood by viewing it as an example of these concepts in action.

First, for the purposes of this paper the definition of rhetoric developed by Kenneth Burke shall be utilized. According to Burke, rhetoric “is the manipulation of men’s beliefs for political ends….the basic function of rhetoric [is] the use of words by human agents to form attitudes or to induce actions in other human agents” (Burke, 1969). Thus, rhetoric can be understood as the use of language by human actors to advance ideological objectives by inculcating attitudes within others or effectuating the action of others. So long as the message remains intelligible, rhetoric can occur through any medium, and can be certainly communicated and analyzed through the medium of a song such as Auld Layne Syne.

This definition connects directly to the concept of second persona and the eavesdropping audience. Simply put, to understand rhetoric as the utilization of language to mold attitudes and incite action is necessarily to presume that rhetoric cannot occur without an audience capable. While their multiple audiences to which rhetoric may be addressed,  the first penitent to this case is the second persona, or the implied audience who a rhetor is targeting his address towards directly. The other is the eavesdropping audience. This audience is one that the rhetor wants to hear their message while explicitly targeting the message at another group. This is typically done to limit the either limit the agency of the eavesdropping audience, or to acknowledge and empower them. Pundits, elected officials, and other political actors regularly address the second persona and the eavesdropping actors in the rhetoric, as evidenced by examining the signing of Auld Layne Sayne.

These concepts of audience concepts provide a lens to better understand the European Parliaments purpose for singing Auld Layne Sang after voting to approve the terms of the United Kingdoms withdrawal from the European Union. To be certain, the rendition of Auld Layne Syne is an act of rhetoric. Despite what reporting on the seemed to imply, the signing was not spontaneous, as evinced by MEP’s circulating to one another lyric sheets, but instead can best be understood by being viewed as pre-planned act of political messaging targeted towards the British public, the second persona in this scenario, and Scotland, the eaves-dropping audience. For those Britons watching the proceeding, both who did and did not vote from Brexit, the somber singing of Auld Layne Sing was meant to cast the moment as one of celebration and instead frame moment as the tragic end of a period of cooperation and camaraderie. In doing so, the rhetorical action accomplished a political objective by subverting the attempt of Nigel Farage and his Eurosceptic UKIP delegation, who had moments before stormed out of the building in a flurry of boorishly gleeful flag waving, to cast the moment as one of celebration and instead framed the vote as the tragic end of a period of cooperation and camaraderie. Perhaps more interestingly, the selection of a quintessentially Scottish song written partially in 18th-century Scots can also be understood as disguised overture to the Scotland, the eaves-dropping audience, who’s public and ruling pro-EU, anti-UK[1] Scottish National Party continues to openly muse about attempting a second independence referendum in the aftermath of the Brexit vote (Sturgeon, 2021).

In conclusion, Burke’s definition of rhetoric and the rhetorical concepts of the second persona and eavesdropping audience allows a lens by which to better understand the singing of Auld Layne Syne. Applying this lens reveals the singing as a complex political calculation designed to simultaneously undermine UKIP and encourage the SNP, rather than as, the cursory observer may assume, a spontaneous, and perhaps slightly frivolous, symbolic bidding of farewell to the United Kingdom.

Class Sample 2

While many understand rhetoric as simply the art of persuading an individual or group of people, it can be better understood as “the art of ruling the minds of men” (Plato, 2018). In this short paper, I will argue that rhetoric may be understood as that rhetoric is the language of colonizers and how media coverage on events such as those in Jerusalem may perpetuate coloniality and provide the colonizer with a justification to perpetuate their colonial governance. By the end of this paper, my reader should understand what rhetoric is, and how colonial communication animates western media coverage on the recent attacks in Jerusalem. To do this, I’ll first explain how I define rhetoric, following with a connection to colonial communication and Dr. Lechuga’s “incomunicable”, and finally closing with an outline of how this plays out in my given example.

To begin, I will define rhetoric through the lens of colonialism, in that rhetoric is a collection of renounced patterns that project the threat of colonization onto the colonized other, while providing the colonizer justification to perpetuate their colonial governance (Hallsby, 2021). This means that for the colonizer, rhetoric is another weapon they use to perpetuate their colonial power in a way that is often hidden, objective and subtle because of their continued rejection of responsibility. Rhetoric is used here to bring power to the colonizer, while bringing fear and oppression to the colonized.

The previous definition of rhetoric is connected to Dr. Michael Lechuga’s concept of colonial communication and “incomunicable”. Colonial communication is defined as a “colonizing group [that] distributes and maintains control over the political, social, and economic hierarchies” (Lechuga, 2021). Furthermore, “incomunicable” is a concept that is used to refer to the product of colonial communication (Lechuga, 2021). When rhetoric is used to maintain control over a group of people and structures of power, rhetoric is being used to dictate what is acceptable or not acceptable, what is allowed or not allowed, in order to keep the colonial power in place. These concepts are helpful in understanding the aforementioned definition of rhetoric because they provide a tangible way of how colonial rhetoric has a clear purpose, which is to
maintain the systems of power of the colonial government, while maintaining the colonized position below.

Over the weekend, Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank of Palestine has been the target of massive raids and attacks by Israeli officers due to the protesting of the planned eviction of several Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. These past few days have left hundreds injured, multiple dead, and the entire world heartbroken and ashamed of Israeli response to the peaceful protesters. While these events have been an example of many things, including irresponsible US foreign aid, continued violations of human rights, and the exacerbation of the Israeli apartheid, it has also been an example of colonial communication. Many western news media outlets have been reporting day in and day out about the details of what is going on on the ground. Through these media coverage, I will highlight how rhetoric as colonial communication is prevalent due to it rendering the Palestinian people and their struggle “incomunicable”.

In an article published today in the New York Times, the subtitle of Kingsley and Kershner (2021) report indicate the prevalence of colonial rhetoric. They say “clashes between the Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem” (Kingsley and Kershner, 2021). In this subtitle, the word “clashes” is a clear indication of the objectivity of colonial communication in that the word suggests that the events are strictly two sided, and that both sides are responsible for the attacks. However, the fact of the matter is that Israeli forces attacked the Palestinians, and when using the word attacked, it is clear who is responsible for the event. Another example of this is also from the New York Times where they titled their article “Hundreds of Palestinians Hurt After Israeli Police Enter Aqsa Mosque” (The New York Times, 2021). Again, the word “enter” is used objectively, but dismisses the violence and power that Israeli forces held during that incident. Here, it is clear that rhetoric is being used to dismiss the true nature of the events happening in Jerusalemn against the Palestinian people and their land, and it is being used to maintain the position of the Israeli colonial government, who continues to attack, raid and destroy Palestinian land, but remains unnaffected and disavowed.


Hallsby, A. (2021). Lecture Outlines for COMM 3601: Definitions of Rhetoric for Short Paper 3.

Kingsley, P., & Kershner, I. (2021, May 10). After Raid on Aqsa Mosque, Rockets From Gaza and Israeli Airstrikes. The New York Times. ans.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&fbclid=IwAR2-XjTKxhvDnjTzCwZaroCVfoI-E fwU13qjPMr048vZQcdMJoDG_AzD0zM.

Lechuga, M. (2021). Incommunicable: How the University Participates in Settler Colonialism [Lecture recording]. Canvas MP3 File.

Plato (2018). Phaedrus (B. Jowett, Trans.). Scribe Publishing Company. (Original work published 370 BC)

The New York Times. (2021, May 10). Hundreds of Palestinians Hurt After Israeli Police Enter Aqsa Mosque. The New York Times. lem-clash.html.

Class Sample 3

‘Snitches get stitches’, a phrase that most people know means say what you know to someone and suffer the consequences. Secrets play a large part in secrecy rhetoric, whether it be keeping them or exposing them. Secrecy rhetoric is a type of rhetoric that many people encounter on a daily basis whether it be in their interaction or the media they consume. In this paper, I will define secrecy rhetoric, discuss the concept of surveillance in regards to secrecy rhetoric, and close by relating surveillance and secrecy rhetoric to the 2016 film Snowden.

To begin, secrecy rhetoric is defined as “rhetoric that consists of the ways that ‘we know that we don’t know’ or the cues, patterns, and behaviors that alert a person or public, after the fact, to the existence of some secrets (Hallsby, 2021). What this definition means is that rhetoric is the actions taken to reveal secrets to those who are un aware of the secret. One key concept of secrecy rhetoric is the concept of surveillance which is the act of observing an interaction or behavior by a nonparticipant in the action (Hallsby, 2021).

Surveillance is one of the key concepts to understand in secrecy rhetoric. It also is helpful in understanding contemporary rhetoric in a few ways. As stated before, surveillance is the act of observing an interaction or behavior by a nonparticipant in the action. This is definition makes it easier to understand the concept of persona in contemporary rhetoric for example, an audience that has seen something the speaker has done that revealed something about them but the audience remained silent it would be the fourth persona. Another way that surveillance helps to understand contemporary rhetoric is that rhetoric involves knowing the audience and persuading them which can be done with the help of secrets. This means that the speaker can keep secrets from the audience or they an let them in on a secret. To illustrate the concept of surveillance in action, let’s look at the example of the 2016 film Snowden.

The 2016 film Snowden is about Edward Snowden, a former employee of the NSA who revealed classified information about the American government to the public. In the film Snowden surveils people through their devices without their knowledge and is disturbed by the extent of the capabilities of the NSA to watch almost everyone. In one scene in particular, Snowden is looking into his camera on his laptop and appears scared of who could be watching him. So, he decides to cover the lens with some tape, to not be surveilled (Stone, 2016, 0:55:26). The film depicts surveillance as the collection of secrets and private information by the NSA, this leads to Snowden becoming a whistleblower and revealing the secrets to the public by leaking the classified information to the Guardian (Greenwald, 2013). Throughout the whole film, Snowden is observing interactions as a nonparticipant, in other words surveilling them and obtaining their secrets.

To conclude, secrets in rhetoric play a large role in contemporary rhetoric by helping us to understand the how secrets are formed and how secrets are revealed. If there is one thing to take away from this paper it should be that surveillance is a key concept in helping us to understand rhetoric because it pertains to the relationship between the audience and the speaker. ‘To know that we don’t know’ is the principle of secrets and whether they be secrets of the individual or the government, they are both relevant to secrecy rhetoric.

Work cited

Greenwald, G. (2013, June 11). Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations. The Guardian.

Hallsby, Atilla. (2021). Lecture Outline for COMM 3601: Defeniions of Rhetoric for Short Paper 3., last accessed May 7, 2021.

Stone, O. (Director). (2016). Snowden [Film]. Endgame Entertainment.

  1. While this is admittedly an oversimplification of the SNP’s relationship with the United Kingdom, a detailed discussion of the SNP’s politics and positions towards secessionism is beyond the scope of this paper.


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Reading Rhetorical Theory by Atilla Hallsby is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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