Victims of a Meaningless Show of Force Term Paper

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Victims of a Meaningless Show of Force

Language Analysis:

In the article "Victims of a Meaningless Show of Force" the author uses language to express her point that police firing on two polar bears was unacceptable behavior and as the author says "it was illogical, unfair, and a meaningless show of force." While this statement makes her opinion clear, the author also uses language to create the same opinion in the reader.

The title of the article is a clear example of loaded language. The word 'victims' implies that the polar bears were helpless, while the words 'meaningless show of force' imply that the police officers were only acting to prove something, with no real purpose to their actions.

Before offering an opinion on the shooting, the author describes the shooting. This includes the statement "the four police officers emptied twenty blasts from a 12-gauge shotgun and a.38 caliber revolver into the animals, killing them." This is a statement that offers more then information on the events, it also attributes meaning to the events. The words 'emptied twenty blasts' creates a clear image, with the words 'emptying' and 'blasts' suggesting the action was taken in anger. A factual and less loaded account would state something like "four police officers fired twenty times, killing the polar bears." This statement does not suggest anything about why the officers took action.

The author also uses connotative language to create sympathy for the animals. The article uses the phrase "in the aftermath of the tragedy." The word aftermath is generally reserved for major tragedies and so suggests that this event is significant. The article then describes how the New York Times "saw fit to refer dismissively" to people complaining about the killings. The terms 'saw fit'and 'dismissively' imply that the New York Times was wrong to act as it did. This same statement made without connotations would read something like "The New York Times dismissed individuals complaining about the killings." Phrased in this way, it is a statement of fact rather than opinion.

It is at this point that the author changes from a description of the events to offering her opinion on the events. Firstly, the children are described as "taunting" the bears and "invading" the bear's territory. It is stated that the boy was "plainly dead, clearly beyond saving" when the police arrived. These words 'plainly' and 'beyond saving' de-emphasize the tragedy of what happened to the boy, while repeating the same thing twice implies that the police must have known there was nothing they could do. The police are then described "shooting them over and over." This repeating of over is another loaded term that suggests the police were acting out of anger. The author than summarizes their opinion calling it "merely a symbolic act." The term 'symbolic act' is a statement of the author's opinion. Adding the 'merely' further suggests that the actions were pointless. Finally, the author states that "all that was achieved was the killing of two of God's creatures." This is a sentence with loaded terms. Referring to the polar bears as 'God's creatures' creates sympathy for the polar bears. Placing the term 'killing' prior to this emphasizes that what happened to the polar bears was wrong and unnatural.

This also shows the asymmetry present in the article. Presumably, the boy killed was also one of 'God's creatures' but this point is not made in the article. The tragedy of the boy who was killed is overlooked, with the tragedy of the polar bears focused on. The actions of the policemen are also described in a biased manner, with it implied that their actions were cruel and thoughtless. In summary, the author has a clear point, which she states. But as well as stating this point, she describes the events in a way that reinforces her own opinions of the events.

Assignment 2: Strengths and Weaknesses of the Article

1. Identify and explain some strengths and weaknesses in the thinking of author Geraldine Ruthchild in the article "Victims of a Meaningless Show of Force."

The author argues that the polar bears are the victims in the situation, arguing primarily that it was the policeman's fault in taking unnecessary actions. The author also suggests that it was the boy's fault for entering the cage. One flaw in the author's thinking is in accepting the polar bears as the only victims. The boy killed in the incident is not accepted as a victim. At one point the author argues that the polar bears were simply acting on instinct. However, it could also be suggested that the young boys who entered the cage were also acting on their own instincts, in the form of their own curiosity.

The article also argues that the action's of the policemen were pointless since they saw the two boys leaving and the one boy in the cage was obviously dead. However, it is not likely that the policeman would have known at the time that there were only three boys in the cage. In hindsight, shooting the polar bears does appear pointless. But at the time of the shooting, the policeman may have been acting to preserve human life, not knowing if other boys were in the cage. It is also not clear whether the policeman were aware that the first boy was dead. While the author describes the boy as 'clearly dead' he may not have been clearly visible at the time.

The real victims in this may be the policemen, whose first priority would have been to prevent further problems. However, the author's language suggests that the policeman were acting out of anger. The policeman may have acted instinctively in shooting the creatures 20 times but this may have not have been because of any anger towards the polar bears, but instead due to their concern that other boys may be harmed. Either way, the author is not able to know the state of mind of the policemen at the time and implying reasons for their actions shows a clear bias.

These problems show a lack of accuracy, with the accuracy of the account biased towards the author's own views. There is also a problem with breadth, as the article is a one-sided account of the event.

2. How do we, as critical thinkers, keep the barriers/obstacles that may impede our reasoning under control? Post your ideas.

Firstly, an understanding of the barriers can help ensure effective reasoning. This involves questioning your own opinions and assessing whether any of the barriers may apply. Another means of reducing barriers in logical thinking is to take part in discussions on critical thinking. Seeing the errors in other people's logic is a good way to notice flaws in your own, while discussing and having your own opinions criticized helps to evaluate and rethink your own opinions.

3. Cite a recent news article that you have read/listened to that is a relevant example of language and how it influences. Post your ideas/observations.

A recent news article titled "Slaves of Celebrity" suggests that the stars of American Idol are not so much winners, but have been taken advantage of, with the article saying the "winner and her fellow finalists had to sign virtually their entire careers away to the show's producers for one shot at stardom." The article uses language to make this point. The winner is described not as an artist but as the "product of an impersonal manufacturing process." The contracts are described as "onerous" and having "the most restrictive terms imaginable."

At the same time, the article suggests that the stars are helpless against this. They are referred to as "young performers" implying that they are helpless. Loaded words such as 'exploited' are also used, with their futures being described as 'careers of servitude.' In combination this language suggests that the contestants are young victims that have been taken advantage of by the shows producers.

Article: Olson, Eric. "Slaves of Celebrity." Salon, September 18, 2002. http://www.salon.com/ent/feature/2002/09/18/idol_contract/index.html

Assignment 3: Inspiring Language in "Proclamation of the Delano Grape Workers"

Firstly, positive language is used to stress that the grape workers have persevered against diversity and made a difference. They are described as "taming the natural wilderness" and "blazing a trail out of the wilderness of hunger and deprivation that we have suffered." Describing themselves taking positive actions, while describing their circumstances as negative, emphasizes that they have been strong, encouraging a sense of pride in themselves.

There actions are then described as worthwhile by using words like 'quest.' The denotation of the word quest is a pursuit of something, but the connotations imply that the pursuit is important, while also suggesting a pursuit where sacrifices are worth making. The same is implied by phrases such as "this road we chart."

These phrases also imply that the actions taken are historically significant and will make a difference to society. This is further referred to by the statement, "in our wake will follow thousands of American farm workers."…

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