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the text of using beliefs as facts, and of adding irrelevant material which seems designed more to discredit or poke fun of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) more than provide the reader with news. For example, the reporter includes the sentence, “’I do not stand alone,’” Dennis Kucinich said as he stood, alone, in front of a cluster of microphones yesterday evening.” The writer here erroneously implies that Rep. Kucinich has no support from anyone for his goal of impeaching Vice President Cheney, by including the phrase “he stood, alone,” and not also adding that congressional representatives typically stand alone at the podium to address the House even when discussing a popular bill or resolution. Ms. Milbank further reports her beliefs as facts – as well as encourages the reader to question her credibility – when she writes that “a reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer encouraged USS Kucinich to contact planet Earth,” without providing the name of the reporter making the statement, and by allowing the anonymously attributed statement to stand alone in her article without also reporting any reaction to the comment (if any) by Rep. Kucinich or anyone from his staff. Ms. Milbank completes her biased attempt at news reporting in the sentence, “Standing perhaps 5 feet 6 inches tall in shoes, he wore a solemn face as he approached the microphones, which nearly reached his eye level.” Rep. Kucinich’s height and that fact that his face only “nearly reached eye level” are irrelevant and add nothing to the article, but do interject the writer’s bias into the article. Because of the addition of biased filler rather than relevant facts by the writer, it causes one to doubt the credibility of the writer as a source in further (source credibility being an evaluative trap mentioned in class and by the text) news reporting.
Critical Analysis 2 Although the author of the article is an author and a professor of sociology at a respected university, the institution for which he is writing, “Globalresearch.ca,” is generally unknown. When one also takes into account that the writer neither attributes his facts to any sources nor directly quotes anyone, it is immediately apparent that this second article lacks source credibility also. Additionally, Prof. Phillips falls into the evaluative trap we learned from the text and in class of failing to understand the role of emotions when he makes extensive use of emotionallycharged terms. For example, the headline itself asserts that the U.S. federal government wants to establish a “Homeland Security Police State,” but never qualifies the explosive allegation by citing a source. The writer continues this trend in the sentence, “threats of terrorism and twelve million ‘illegal’ immigrants are being used to justify new police-state measures in the United States,” when he places the word “illegal” in quotation marks, implying that there is something questionable about the use of the term – but without qualifying the implication with information. Prof. Phillips, in fact, begins his article with such problematic use of emotionally-loaded words and phrases. He describes American immigration policy as intending to use “coordinated mass arrests, big brother spy blimps, expanded detention centers, repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act, and suspension of habeas corpus.” But once again, he never qualifies the use of such charged phrasing. Even taking into consideration that the readers of the article and of the Global Research Web site generally are probably ideologically in line with Prof. Phillips, and therefore would not be prone to question his credibility, the article could benefit greatly by toning down the use of emotionally-loaded terminology, and by citing sources.
Critical Analysis 3 In general, the following article is fair and balanced in its reporting. It makes effective use of source citation, attribution of assertions to sources, and direct quotation of sources. The article is also from credible sources, CNN.com and the Associated Press. However, the article reports that, “the VA sought the settlement in the interest of the families involved and to save taxpayers the expense of further litigation.” However, the Veteran’s Administration comment indicates they have fallen into the deductive trap of the faulty major premise by neglecting to consider that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution makes clear that the federal government is not authorized to make religious decisions. If a family wishes to make a statement of their loved one’s religious affiliation on a grave marker – even at government-supported cemeteries – they should be allowed to do so without interference by the federal government. The fact that the Veterans Administration is adding the Wiccan pentacle to “38 symbols the VA already permits on gravestones,” as reported in the article, including the “commonly recognized symbols for Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, as well as those for smaller religions such as Sufism Reoriented, Eckankar and the Japanese faith Seicho-No-Ie,” further illustrates that they seem to see themselves as having approval authority for religious expression. This gives credence to the quote from Rev. Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State that, “this settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America, including among our nation’s veterans.” Although in fairness, Rev. Lynn’s comment is also problematic. Rev. Lynn characterizes the Bush Administration of believing that there are “second class religions in America,” but offers nothing to justify his broadly general statement.
Critical Analysis 4 Another example of a news article from credible sources – the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times – the next article includes fallacious quotes from its sources. Both the proponents and the opponents of the New Hampshire civil union legislation fall into the deductive trap of using beliefs as facts. For example, Gov. John Lynch’s spokesperson Colin Manning says, “this legislation is a matter of conscience, fairness and of preventing discrimination.” But this sentiment fails to consider that other people of conscience, who do not consider themselves to be unfair, do not support or believe in same-gender marriage or civil unions. Republican opponent to the civil union law Sen. Robert Letourneau also asserts his beliefs as facts when he says, “let’s just call it what it really is, no sugarcoating … this creates same-sex marriage.” In fact, under the law, marriage and civil unions remain two different things. Additionally, the governor’s spokesman states that the civil union law is “in keeping with New Hampshire’s proud tradition of preventing discrimination.” But this belief offered as fact is contradicted by history. The Associated Press report in the story that “the success of civil unions was an about-face from two years earlier, when a study panel recommended New Hampshire giving no meaningful consideration to extending legal recognition to gay couples,” because the panel had determined that “homosexuality was a choice” and endorsed a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to unions between a man and a woman. Finally, Sen. Letourneau offers an illogical conclusion when he states that his opposition to same-gender civil unions because, “we don’t let blind people drive or felons vote, all for good and obvious reasons.” The senator offers no evidence to support the comparison of same-gender couples to blind drivers of voting felons.
Critical Analysis 5 The next article, from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is well-written and free of bias and logical fallacy in its reporting. Additionally, the reporting is very credible, coming from the British Broadcasting Corporation, a highly respected source of news and information. However the report on the behavior of the Estonian government shows they have fallen into the evaluative traps of failing to understand the role of emotions, and of using to limited a standard n regards to the Soviet memorial. The Estonian government, according to the story, says the monument and the graves of 14 Soviet soldiers are a security risk because they have been a scene of clashes between Estonians and Russian nationalists in the past. But this represents a case of applying a solely cognitive standard to a highly emotionally-charged issue. The news article reports that the Russian government and Russians living in Estonia see moving the memorial as an insult to the memories of their soldiers who died during World War II. They are especially incensed at the timing. A spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry says, “we are outraged by the fact that the practical steps concerning the monument began shortly before Victory Day,” which plainly shows the strong emotional ties Russians have to the site. The reaction of the Estonian Prime Minister, Andrus Ansip, further illustrates the Estonians’ callous lack of concern for, or understanding of, the role emotion plays in the issue for the Russians when he is quoted in the article saying, “we don’t consider it necessary to hold deep discussions with the Russian authorities over the internal affairs of Estonia,” he said. In light of the intensity of emotion coming from the Russian protesters and the statements of the Russian government, the Prime Minister Ansip’s reported statement that “this is a tombstone that will go with any remains we might find, which will be given a decent and dignified reburial,” seems disingenuous.
Critical Analysis 6 The next news report is from the credible and respected ABC News and Associated Press, so there is no problem with source credibility. Additionally, the reporting is objective and neutral, if brief. However, the circumstances reported indicate a faulty major premise – a deductive trap we learned from the text and in class – on behalf of the courts and law enforcement authorities. While it is logical to assume that most people would find the feeding of a 3-week-old puppy to an 8-foot boa constrictor to be morally repugnant and horrifying, this sentiment represents a belief and not a fact. The event was newsworthy so the news media made no mistakes in reporting the story, and certainly the act was illegal so the police and courts we correct to arrest and sentence Mr. Beadle, but the law fails to explain why the act should be construed as the illegal act of cruelty to animals – moral outrage aside. It is not uncommon for owners of large snakes such as 8-foot boa constrictors to feed their pets such live animals as mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters or gerbils. Some pet stores even routinely sell these animals to snake owners, with the knowledge that they will be used as food. But by what evaluative standards, other than aesthetic and possibly emotional, are the snake’s natural need to eat live food considered acceptable for one type of animal, yet not another? Why is using a puppy immoral and an act of animal cruelty, but using a rodent considered acceptable? Furthermore, the article fails to report why the courts required the man to undergo psychological and drug testing. Again, the standards seem to be unfairly applied. The judge seems to assume that anyone who would feed a puppy to a snake must be mentally unstable, but this is a belief, rather than a fact. Even though the majority of people would tend to agree with the assessment, it reflects opinions unfairly applied, rather than as simple facts.
Critical Analysis 7 The following article dealing with an abortion clinic bomb scare illustrates what is potentially another example of the evaluative trap of mistaking beliefs for facts. Although the article doesn’t say so specifically, the fact that the bomb was found at a clinic where abortions are performed, and other abortion clinics were warned to be on guard against suspicious people or activity themselves, implies that the person or persons responsible for placing the bomb at the clinic did say in opposition to the performing of abortions. If this is the case, then the person or group responsible for the bomb seem to be guilty of assuming that abortion is immoral, and that it is so immoral that it justifies the illegal and general accepted immoral acts of killing or injuring those who participate in the procedure. The typical rationale for this moral opinion by anti-abortion groups and individuals is that abortion involves the murder of a human baby because life begins at conception. But this assumption that an unborn fetus is a human being is a debatable matter of belief, and not an established fact. Therefore configuring a bomb is such a way as to cause “serious bodily injury or death,” as the police reportedly said, is an irrational act. Additionally, the person or group responsible for placing the bomb behaved irrationally by apparently not considering that the clinic might have surveillance cameras, which could have captured enough information to lead investigators back to the perpetrator. In fact, the story reports that the clinic did have such cameras, and that police are planning to view the surveillances tapes as part of their investigation. Finally, authorities seem to be behaving irrationally in response to the incident also. Although the discovery of a bomb is certainly serious, nothing as yet would seem to indicate a need to call in Austin Police, the ATF, the FBI, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Until a suspect and motive is more clearly known, it seems like an overreaction.
Critical Analysis 8 In this next article, we have an opinion piece co-authored by two scholars, both of whom are personally known by me, and known to be credible sources of information. Dr. Bennis I met when she participated in a panel discussion on American Middle East policy in Dallas, Texas in 1998 that I facilitated on behalf of the Dallas United Nations Association. I also interviewed Dr. Bennis for an article I wrote in 2003 for Synthesis/Regeneration magazine; “Blood, Oil, and Sand: The Hidden History of America’s War on Iraq.” Dr. Jensen has been a personal friend for nearly 12 years. I met him in my capacity as human rights journalist. I’ve received from him advance copies of his many books and articles, and I’ve attended several of his public lectures. Therefore, there is no source credibility issue for me with the article in general. However, there remain some cases evaluative traps. For example, the authors write, “demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is only the first of our obligations to help create the conditions for real justice and peace in the Middle East and around the world.” But “real justice and peace” are subjective terms. The authors’ definitions of justice and peace might differ substantially with even other opponents of the occupation of Iraq. This is the evaluative trap of using beliefs being used as fact, or assuming statements being offered as logical conclusions are obviously true, but without offering any substantiating evidence to support the assertion. The authors fell into the evaluative trap of misrepresenting percentages when they wrote that “78 percent of the Iraqi people oppose the presence of U.S. troops and 61 percent support attacks on those troops,” and then concluded that “it’s clear that our presence in the country is causing – not preventing – much of the violence.” In fact it’s not “clear” at all. The authors’ statement reflects simplistic thinking. There could be many reasons for attacks on Americans besides our mere presence there.