In her article entitled “Weak Arguments Against Strong Encryption,” Deborah Pierce, in taking an unequivocal position in the current debate about the use of encryption, tells the reader that under no circumstances whatsoever should unbreakable encryption be banned. She declares that “trying to ban strong encryption is not only futile and wrong, it is destructive as well. ” In an effort to persuade the reader to take her side, Pierce endeavors to achieve what is called the rhetorical triangle or the use of ethical appeal, logical appeal, and emotional appeal in equal proportion.
(Uga Writing Center, n. d. ) Although Pierce employs the three types of appeals, the intended rhetorical triangle is not evident. She commits certain miscalculations which leave the reader either unbelieving or annoyed. Pierce starts her campaign to persuade by establishing her ethical appeal. This she does by describing to the reader in an authoritative way what encryption is and how it works, effectively exhibiting her knowledge about the subject.
She explains that the system is invaluable in that the secure communication that it guarantees “protect[s] trade secrets,” safeguards “sensitive information such as medical records, financial information and transactions,” and “protect[s] classified [government] information that we would not want to fall into enemy hands. ” Rather effective because aside from showing that she knows her topic well, she also informs the reader that she only wants what the reader also requires.
The author, however, commits her first miscalculation when she attempts to persuade the reader through his or her emotions. When she said that “Human rights organizations use encryption to communicate by email with people who would surely be tortured or killed if their communications were made known,” the reader is left rather dumbfounded. Many Americans realize that the sacrifices and the risks being taken by these activists as well as those who help them in their work are in defense of human rights.
For this reason, Americans sympathize with them and certainly do not wish them any harm. However, to say that they or their contacts are in danger of being “tortured or killed” if their electronic mails are publicized or supplied to government authorities is stretching it a bit too far. Everybody knows that human rights activists are protesters and demonstrators, but they are not anarchists or communist revolutionaries who are out to overthrow the government. These people have no secrets which could be fatal for them or damaging to the government.
This is almost certainly a scare tactic, or an appeal to fear. In other words, the author’s use of the second side of the rhetorical triangle – emotional appeal – is a dismal failure. This leaves the third side of the rhetorical triangle: logical appeal. Pierce tries to use this tool – again, to no avail – to argue against the key escrow system being pushed by Republican Senator Judd Gregg from New Hampshire. Under this system, a third party will be authorized to hold copies of the users’ “personal encryption keys.
” These keys will be made available to law enforcement officers as the need arises and on a case to case basis, provided they can obtain the proper warrant from the court. Since rhetorical appeal is supposed to contain statements of authorities, Pierce has chosen to quote Craig Nathan who said that “Key escrow is the equivalent of allowing the government [to] install a web cam in your bedroom, which they could turn on without your permission or notification at any time they thought it might help combat terrorism.
” This statement is highly hyperbolic, an extravagant exaggeration. Giving government access to a personal encryption key does not mean that it can take hold of it anytime. As experience has shown us, there are always guidelines and legal procedures established for such purposes. Terrorism should not be employed as a catchall term either because it could not be used to justify everything that government is doing. Pierce should do better than use terrorists as a red herring and blame them for everything bad occurring in the country today.
After failing to employ the rhetorical triangle successfully, Pierce, therefore, fails to persuade the reader to adopt her view. References Pierce, D. (2007). Weak Arguments Against Strong Encryption. Seattle Press on Line. Retrieved July 21, 2007, from http://archive. seattlepressonline. com/article-9276. html Uga Writing Center. (n. d. ). The Rhetorical Triangle. Retrieved July 21, 2007, from http://www. english. uga. edu/writingcenter/writing/triangle. html
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