Tuesday
November 25, 2014

Homework Help: CRT 205

Posted by Joan on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 8:56pm.

Identify at least two arguments in the article. Outline the premises and conclusions of each argument you find. Do the premises sufficiently support the conclusions? Are the arguments either deductively valid or inductively strong, or are they invalid or weak? Are the premises true or plausibly true, or are they difficult to prove? You may choose to evaluate invalid or weak arguments, but you must describe how they are invalid or weak.

*Controlling Irrational Fears After 9/11*
We present this selection as an example of a fairly well-reasoned argumentative
essay. There is more here than arguments—there’s some
window dressing and you’ll probably find some slanters here and there
as well. You should go through the selection and identify the issues,
the positions taken on those issues, and the arguments offered in support
of those arguments. Are any arguments from opposing points of
view considered? What is your final assessment of the essay?
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, produced a response among American officials, the media, and the public that is probably matched only by the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Since it is the very nature of terrorism not only to cause immediate damage but also to strike fear in the hearts of the population under attack, one might say that the terrorists were extraordinarily successful, not just as a result of their own efforts but also in consequence of the American reaction. In this essay, I shall argue that this reaction was irrational
to a great extent and that to that extent Americans unwittingly cooperated
with the terrorists in achieving a major goal: spreading fear and thus
disrupting lives. In other words, we could have reacted more rationally and as a result produced less disruption in the lives of our citizens.
There are several reasons why one might say that a huge reaction to the
9/11 attacks was justified. The first is simply the large number of lives that were lost. In the absence of a shooting war, that 2,800 Americans should die from the same cause strikes us as extraordinary indeed. But does the sheer size of the loss of life warrant the reaction we saw? Clearly sheer numbers do not always impress us. It is unlikely, for example, that many Americans remember that, earlier in 2001, an earthquake in Gujarat, India, killed approximately
20,000 people. One might explain the difference in reaction by saying
that we naturally respond more strongly to the deaths of Americans closer to home than to those of others halfway around the world. But then consider the fact that, every month during 2001 more Americans were killed in automobile crashes than were killed on 9/11 (and it has continued every month since as well). Since the victims of car accidents come from every geographical area and every social stratum, one can say that those deaths are even “closer to
home” than the deaths that occurred in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
It may be harder to identify with an earthquake victim in Asia than
with a 9/11 victim, but this cannot be said for the victims of fatal automobile accidents.
One might say that it was the malice of the perpetrators that makes
the 9/11 deaths so noteworthy, but surely there is plenty of malice present in the 15,000 homicides that occur every year in the United States. And while we have passed strict laws favoring prosecution of murderers, we do not see the huge and expensive shift in priorities that has followed the 9/11 attacks. It seems clear, at least, that sheer numbers cannot explain the response to 9/11. If more reasons were needed, we might consider that the actual total of the number of 9/11 deaths seemed of little consequence in post-attack reports.
Immediately after the attacks, the estimated death toll was about 6,500.
Several weeks later it was clear that fewer than half that many had actually
died, but was there a great sigh of relief when it was learned that over 3,000 people who were believed to have died were still alive? Not at all. In fact, well after it was confirmed that no more than 3,000 people had died, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld still talked about “over 5,000” deaths on 9/11. So the actual number seems to be of less consequence than one might have believed.
We should remember that fear and outrage at the attacks are only the beginning of the country’s response to 9/11. We now have a new cabinet-level
Department of Homeland Security; billions have been spent on beefing up security and in tracking terrorists and potential terrorists; billions more have been spent supporting airlines whose revenues took a nosedive after the attacks;
the Congress was pulled away from other important business; the National
Guard was called out to patrol the nation’s airports; air travelers have
been subjected to time-consuming and expensive security measures; you can
probably think of a half-dozen other items to add to this list.
It is probable that a great lot of this trouble and expense is unwarranted. We think that random searches of luggage of elderly ladies getting on airplanes in Laramie, Wyoming, for example, is more effective as a way of annoying elderly ladies than of stopping terrorism.
We might have accomplished something if we had been able to treat the
terrorist attacks of 9/11 in a way similar to how we treat the carnage on the
nation’s highways—by implementing practices and requirements that are directly
related to results (as in the case of speed limits, safety belts, and the
like, which took decades to accomplish in the cause of auto safety)— rather
than by throwing the nation into a near panic and using the resulting fears to justify expensive but not necessarily effective or even relevant measures.
But we focused on 9/11 because of its terrorist nature and because of the
spectacular film that was shown over and over on television, imprinting forever the horrific images of the airliner’s collision with the World Trade Center and the subsequent collapse of the two towers. The media’s instant obsession with
the case is understandable, even if it is out of proportion to the actual damage, as awful as it was, when we compare the actual loss to the loss from automobile accidents.
Finally, our point is that marginal or even completely ineffective expenditures and disruptive practices have taken our time, attention, and national treasure away from other matters with more promise of making the country a better place. We seem to have all begun to think of ourselves as terrorist targets, but, in fact, reason tells us we are in much greater danger from our friends and neighbors behind the wheels of their cars.
The remainder of the essays in this section are here for analysis and
evaluation. Your instructor will probably have specific directions if he
or she assigns them, but at a minimum, they offer an opportunity to
identify issues, separate arguments from other elements, identify
premises and conclusions, evaluate the likely truth of the premises
and the strength of the arguments, look for unstated assumptions or
omitted premises, and lots of other stuff besides. We offer sample directions for many of the pieces.

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