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Philosophy

Objectivity and CNN on Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen

One of the abilities that everyone needs to learn is how to think objectively. Usinga news article from CNN, one can read it and determine what it is really saying. We can use this news article as a demonstration of how to use the skill of thinking objectively about something. Using this skill we can learn what CNN says that is true, what is mere propaganda and where the evidence is.

The first step when analyzing a written piece is to ask what it is about. We call this the thesis of the work. So our first question is: what is the thesis of this CNN article? The thesis of the article seems to be that there is new evidence about whether or not Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen is in cahoots with Osama. This new evidence is the testimony of an anonymous person who is a Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen member. He claims that he does not believe that their group helped Osama while in lived in the compound in Pakistan. We know that this is the thesis because it explains the other parts of the article. The first part of the article refers to an unlinked article in the New York Times. The evidence given in that article is compared with the evidence given in this one. In the second part of the article, we are shown the current situation and are supposed to consider the implications of the evidence to that situation.

The second step is consider the evidence for the thesis. We should always examine the evidence prior to analyzing other features of the article. The evidence for the thesis is simply the testimony of an anonymous person within Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen. This person claims that he was not aware of any support Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen gave Osama while he lived in Pakistan. Testimony is a valuable source of evidence. Anonymous testimony is not. We know that Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen is a terrorist organization. We know that they have links to the Pakistani version of the CIA. We also know that Osama lived in Pakistan for years. A cell phone was found on Osamas courier with the contact information for Harakat-ul-Mujahedeens members. This is extremely unlikely to be a mere coincidence. Therefore, this testimony is either from someone who is very new and uninformed or it is a bunch of lies. Either way, the new evidence the article talks about is useless.

The final step is to evaluate how the written piece presents the situation and what implications they point out. This will tell you what kind of bias an article has as well as what how well they understand their own evidence and position. First, note that they refer to Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen as a militant group rather than a terrorist group. That indicates that they wish to be flattering and inaccurate. Second, note that they do not link to the New York Times article they mention. This indicates that they are talking down to their audience rather than treating them as adults that check their sources. Third, almost as much space was spent discussing the source as mentioning what the New York Times said. This shows that they think the sources evidence is important. These are the important features that we should notice. They tell us that the CNN writer did not understand the evidence because they gave it too much importance. They also tell us that CNN is trying to whitewash terrorism again. Understanding this helps explain why the second part of the article is devoted to discussing diplomatic efforts between the USA and Pakistan. Perhaps they are hoping that the diplomats will simply believe that Pakistan is innocent and do whatever they want to live in peace with them.

Now our analysis of the CNN article is complete. The same method is used to analyze all written articles, books, speeches and anything else someone might write. Once we gain practice with this method, it become easier and easier. It also becomes faster. I can do this at the same time that I am reading the article. If you practice, you will be able to do that too.

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