Following demands for a public inquiry into the covert intelligence operations by the Victoria police in October last year. The contentious issue of whether Victoria needs secret police has provoked wide coverage by the media. Civil libertarians believe that covert police are an affront to the freedoms of democracy, and a misuse of power. Victoria police, however, maintains that accurate and timely information is vital to achieve public protection from political crime and violence.
"Who Will Guard the Guards?" , an editorial, attempts to prove to the public how untrustworthy the secret police are. It uses selective reporting by highlighting only those events that show the police to have prejudices. According to the editorial, the 'secret' police 'infiltrated' groups of 'feminists' and 'sundry Kooris' and 'monitored' 'a catholic priest' 'and a uniting church minister'. The editorial wishes to persuade the readership that the secret police are sexist, racist and atheist without actually lying.
The case study of the 'Teddy bears picnic', held by the Child-Care Action Group places all its emphasis on the fact that there were children present. This is an attempt to evoke outrage in the reader, using the knowledge that children are innocent and dear to the hearts of most people. Following this biased case study, the generalisation that police don't respect governments or Victorian's liberties is woven into the editorial opinion. The editorial states that police are 'notorious' for doing what they are assigned to do: 'keep political activists under surveillance'. To evoke a sense of war between public and police, a cause and effect argument is employed: by making 'such operations accountable to elected authority' 'abuses' will be 'avoided'. This implies that the reason police 'abuse' their power is because they are not accountable to an authority elected by the public.
The editorial describes an 'evasive Mr McGrath' and 'flippant Mr Kennett'. These mild attacks are aimed at influential people supporting covert police in an attempt to undermine their authority. The observation that, 'These activities breached guidelines' intends to persuade the audience that the police rejected the law willingly. The editorial also wishes to instil fear into the reader with 'if the government cannot reassure Victorians' and whereby convince them that they want to be reassured.
From the centre for Police and Justice Studies at Monash, Art Veno contends in his letter that the secret police needs only to be regulated. He uses his occupation to substantiate his arguments, 'knowing the way police cultures operate, I would be amazed... .' His expertise in the field leads him to generalise; 'This role (police surveillance) exists in all societies'. This is an attempt to validate his argument that the 'police's surveillance' is legitimate beyond question.
Veno also presents three case studies; the third begins 'as occurred in' which he later reveals to be uncertain by adding 'arguably'. Veno's only rebuttal takes form in a postulation, 'there may have been suggestion'. To make the reader accept his arguments more readily, Veno first appeases them with praise; 'the nations tradition... is one to be proud of'. Veno's words are controlled; he's most emotional when he describes the people being investigated by the Victorian covert police as being 'targets'. Rhetoric is an important part of Veno's persuasive techniques.
He places great significance on the idea that 'police (are) part of the community' and his contention, it's 'what police should do, not whether they should do it'. To make sure that the reader has comprehended these two concepts, Veno reiterates them repeatedly. Veno also asks rhetorical questions, 'Is there any suggestion that the police were inciting the people and groups to engage in criminal activity?' Veno hopes the reader will think, 'No, I haven't heard any suggestion.' then conclude, 'So... the police can't have been inciting people... .' Kenneth Davidson argues that the police have gone too far. Davidson expresses this in a colourful, personal tone: 'In truth, I'm...
.' 'I am angry'. Before beginning his arguments he pleads for sympathy, explaining that he was 'one of the... people on the electronic database'. Then, to further convince the reader that his opinion should be considered, Davidson uses a hypothetical anecdote explaining how understanding he is, 'I pity the young constable'. The reader has by this time, also been presented with three quotes from renowned civil libertarians like 'Thomas Jefferson', in a calculated attempt to coerce the reader into believing he is also wise.
Only Davidson uses analogies and metaphors. Covert police are colour fully referred to as a 'uniformed vigilante squad', a 'renegade cell', 'rabble' and a 'grubby version of the East German Stasi secret police'. Davidson intends to conjure up a picture of hundreds of muscle-bound, men lost in time with 'army of cold war warriors'. His language is continuously loaded, eg 'society is too mean', 'rich crooks', 'corrupt police', 'mocks' and 'belligerent'. Davidson uses both assonance 'meaner and poorer' and alliteration 'fear or favour' and 'beggars belief'. Davidson describes covert police as 'oxymorons' in an attempt to make the reader think about what covert police really are and stand for.
Throughout his article Davidson repeats words and phrases such as 'peaceful dissent', 'community', 'lawful' and 'my reading of history' because they are the key elements of his arguments. Intending to leave the reader pondering, Davidson uses a rhetorical question, 'The question is what is the role of the police in this struggle? Is it to hold the ring (democracy) or to take sides (police state)?' Davidson's heavy emphasis on how he says something, seen through his use of alliteration and assonance, suggests an almost formulated approach to persuasion. His own inclusion in this issue leads to a personal approach verging on a complaint. Veno also displays emotion and this may cause both author's arguments to be discredited by the target audience. Veno does, however, put his knowledge to good use, providing excellent evidence for his main arguments. The editorial is quite mild yet well researched.
It uses a large range of persuasive techniques and has a professional feel, rendering it very effective. Word Count: 998.