POLITICAL TORTURE

Stefanie Blanch, Helena Ladomatos, Caitlin Hely, Grace Parsons, Brianna Kerr

Pollies Need Wake-Up on Torture – Ian McPhedran

What is the nature of the text’s central argumentative point? Is it a claim of fact, causality, evaluation, interpretation or recommendation, or some combination of two or more of these – or something entirely different?

The texts central argumentative point is both evaluative and recommendatory. It evaluates the use of sleep deprivation and whether it constitutes as torture as well as evaluating the role politicians play in making decisions about integration tactics. Furthermore, it is recommendatory in the sense that it uses first-hand accounts of sleep deprivation and facts to entice or endorse a change of behaviour from the government. There is also an employment of fact with the use of medical information and UN statistics.

How much simple opinion is there in the text? Would you classify the text as being more opinion or more argumentation?

There is minimal simple opinion in the text as it is more argument focused, however elements of subjectivity are still present. McPhedran makes comment on Ruddock’s behaviour (“he has presumably enjoyed a comfortable night’s sleep, many of them at taxpayer expense”… “the Government’s self-appointed hard man in the war against terrorism.”) which indicates a lack of objectivity and thus opinion. However, the majority of his assessment is well founded and supported by justification which makes the majority of the article classifiably argumentative.

Does the author offer an explicitly asserted statement of the text’s principal argumentative point?

The texts principle argumentative point – that sleep deprivation is torture and it should not be used as an interrogation technique by the government – is explicitly stated throughout the article. McPhedran does not assume that the reader is attuned to his standpoint and thus he constantly and overtly reiterates his central claim.

Are there any contentious terms in the text and, if so, does the author offer any stipulative definitions of these? To what extent are any such definitions supported with their own justification? 

There are clearly contentious terms within the article, with the author stipulatively defining the concept of ‘torture’ to include ‘sleep deprivation’.  To support his stipulative definition, McPhedran employs a supportive justification; a fact from the United Nations. This appeal to authority indicates McPhedran’s recognition that the term is contentious and that the intended audience may need to be persuaded to align with his argument.

What types of justificatory support (secondary claims) does the author employ and does he seem to favour one type of these? Also see if you can classify each of the justifications as involving one or more of the following justification types.

PRIMARY CLAIMS JUSTIFICATION TYPES
New lows in political cant and hypocrisy have been reached in the debate over sleep deprivation and whether it qualifies as torture. Appeal to ethical, legal or other social norms (torture and human rights issues)

AND

Appeal to precedent, customary practice

(NEW lows have been reached)

Ruddock is incompetent and his opinion should not respected because he has never experienced sleep deprivation. “He has presumably enjoyed a comfortable night’s sleep, many of them at taxpayer expense, most nights for the past 33 years.” Appeal to popular opinion (politicians and taxpayers money – common phrase that initiates reaction)
According to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, extended sleep deprivation is constituted as torture. Appeal to authority (the UNCAT ruling)
War veterans – people that have experienced forced sleep deprivation – believe it is torture. “You don’t know whether you are coming or going. You don’t know whether you are going forwards or backwards”, Mr Gilbert said. Appeal to emotion (detail of extenuating circumstances)

Take the list you have just presented as to the text’s justifications, and then state the warrant by which each justification supports or lead to the primary claim of the article. Indicate if any of these are explicitly stated. Also indicate if any of the warrants are supplied with their own argumentative support. 

PRIMARY CLAIMS JUSTIFICATION TYPES WARRANT
New lows in political cant and hypocrisy have been reached in the debate over sleep deprivation and whether it qualifies as torture. Appeal to ethical, legal or other social norms (torture and human rights issues)

 

Appeal to precedent, customary practice

(NEW lows have been reached)

Sleep deprivation is harmful and should be constituted as torture

(explicitly stated)

Ruddock is incompetent and his opinion should not respected because he has never experienced sleep deprivation. “He has presumably enjoyed a comfortable night’s sleep, many of them at taxpayer expense, most nights for the past 33 years.” Appeal to popular opinion (politicians and taxpayers money – common phrase that initiates reaction) People without primary experience should not make comment on serious issues

(implicitly stated)

According to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, extended sleep deprivation is constituted as torture. Appeal to authority (the UNCAT ruling) The United Nations is trustworthy

(implicitly stated)

War veterans – people that have experienced forced sleep deprivation – believe it is torture. “You don’t know whether you are coming or going. You don’t know whether you are going forwards or backwards”, Mr Gilbert said. Appeal to emotion (detail of extenuating circumstances) People that have experienced sleep deprivation should be allowed to make comment (explicitly stated)

Does the text contain any informal fallacies? If so, list these and present your justification for negatively characterising them in this way.

McPhedran uses an ad homien argument when he attacks the provided views of Ruddock. He says “he has presumably enjoyed a comfortable night’s sleep, many of them at taxpayer expense, most nights for the past 33 years.” This makes the assumption that Ruddock is not qualified to comment on this issue.

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