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Critical Analysis 1

The following news article is rife with the deductive trap we learned in class and from 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 emotionally-

charged 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.