Thursday, December 31, 2009

From A Rhetorical Perspective

Again...not a political blog, but rather a question of rhetoric, something I've been studying on my own thanks to opencourseware from M.I.T.

In the current forum of public discourse people are mulling over the recent attempt at a bombing on an airplane coming into Detroit. My representative, Candace Miller, in an interview on public radio, was irate that the young man was being prosecuted as a criminal, insisting that he should have been handed over to the military where experts could work on him with aggressive interrogation techniques (her words).

Here is the question for people who enter into this discourse. If you disapproved of hate crime legislation, arguing that it was unnecessary and that intent was unimportant, then how can you now argue that this young man should be tried as a terrorist? What points of debate would you use? Note, I'm just pondering this from a rhetorical perspective and not a political one. I know, I know, politicians don't have to be consistent, nor do pundits, but it's fascinating, isn't it? I wish the interviewer had asked this question, or better yet, I would love to hear two informed individuals sit across the table from one another and enter into a dialog (and by dialog, I mean listening and responding to one another in a calm and intelligent manner).


willow said...

I'm so not in the political mood today! :^)

Warm, woolly wishes for a wonderful 2010~!

Stewart Sternberg said...

Actually, I'm trying to steer away from a political discussion and see if there is a logical path that both camps can present. I'm becoming something of a rhetoric fanatic...and by rhetoric, I'm not talking what passes for such on tv, but rather what Aristotle might have had in mind.

Charles Gramlich said...

Logically, I don't see how you could hold that hate crime legislation was unneeded but that this guy should be tried by the military because his intent was militarily based.

Jon said...

Oh, Stewart, you wild crazy dreamer. Rational dialog...I'm sorry, my friend, but the closest thing you'll find to that is on Comedy Central, The Daily Show. Sometimes Jon Stewart can actually pull it off.
Of course he can...his first name is Jon and his last name is Stewart.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Charles, if I were taking the point of view offered by Miller, I think I would begin by acknowledging the logic of the opponent, but play the extenuating circumstances card. I might offer that to create a deterrent to terrorism, one must treat terrorists differently than the average criminal. Our system allows for representation and limits on sentencing. Many held as terrorists, at least in the last administration, were held without being charged and in fact, without any date for a military tribunal.

If we are to deter terror, then we might consider a different set of rules, at least where it is applied to those who create acts against civilians for the political or military purposes.

Of course, one would also be able to argue that if we did that, we would also have to call the Holocaust Museum shooter a terrorist and look hard at those people who may have influence him.

Again, I am not taking a point of view, just enjoying the chess game.

This is a kindler and gentler Stewart. This is Mr. Nice.

Sullivan McPig said...

The only thing I can come up with is that this person actually was caught in the act of doing something (seemingly) terroristic (is that a word btw?) and other people have been interrogated viciously without any real proof they were terorists.

This is not representing my opinions btw, just what I think a person who's against hate crime legislation and for interrogating this individual could be thinking.
I'll be keeping my opinions to myself.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Sully, I think there is merit in pulling apart such an issue dispassionately. One thing that your statement implies is that how a person views the act of the "terrorist" or the "common criminal" is contextual. This is important in that it calls into question the idea of absolutes and allows for shading according to interpretation. This pathway opens another door of worthy controversy and discussion.

Steve Buchheit said...

Once again, treating them separately, outside the normal criminal channel, suspending our laws, violating our basic standards of humanity and civility, all play into the terrorists' plans.

And why torture him? He was talking freely. It's cheaper to buy a box of donuts and coffee to keep him going. Oh, and first read him his miranda rights, cause we're still going to prosecute his ass and send him away for a long, long time.