Rhetorical Analysis Reflection
I chose to analyze Witness Against Torture’s website because it was the group’s main resource for others to learn about them and their purpose. The website possessed many artifacts, such as images, videos, and text, that could be rhetorically analyzed individually, but I chose to analyze the website as a whole because I felt that each part of it was purposely used to create a central message. This message was to inform the website’s visitors about their views on torture and Guantanamo Bay and to gain support from the viewers. I began my writing process by going through each of the pages on the website and making a list of the ethos, pathos, and logos appeals that stuck out to me on each page. The largest challenge that I faced while writing my essay was limiting what I discussed in the paper. A page could be written to analyze each item on all of the pages, but I had to focus on the website as a whole. To do this, I broke up my paper into paragraphs that were associated with one or two pages of the website. Instead of going into a large amount of details for each image, video, or passage of text that impacted me, I wrote about why the website was laid out the way it was and how the individual artifacts contributed to the central message of the website. The purpose of this assignment was to learn to critically think about why artifacts such as essays or images are made the way that they are. It was to realize that each detail of an artifact was made the way it was for a purpose.
The Homepage of a Movement
The names of certain places carry strong identities with them, and Guantanamo Bay is an example of this. When I think of Guantanamo Bay, many different thoughts and ideas are generated in my head. I knew that the United States has a detention center there and controversy surrounds it, but that was all that I was sure of. Where is Guantanamo Bay? Who is detained at Guantanamo? Why are they being kept there? What is controversial about the facility? To learn the answers to these questions and more about Guantanamo, I began doing research.
Guantanamo Bay is located in southeastern Cuba, and the United States has a naval base and detention center on the land surrounding the bay that opens to the Caribbean Sea. The United States has a lease on forty-five square miles of land along the east and west coasts of the bay. Cuba gave the United States permission to lease the land in 1903 following the Spanish-American War. According to Michael Strauss, this land lease is connected to numerous legal and social justice issues (Strauss 51). Many of these issues have been centered on the use of the facility to detain groups of people. As mentioned in an article written in the Huffington Post, Guantanamo has been used to detain many groups of people in the past such as HIV positive Haitians and undocumented Cuban, Chinese, and Guyanese migrants (Libal). The most controversial event that has taken place at Guantanamo Bay may be the detention center being used since 2002 to detain alleged enemies and terrorists who oppose the United States.
The controversy surrounding the detention of these men at Guantanamo comes from allegations of torture, the removal of all rights of the detainees, and indefinite detention of the men without a trial. In Human Rights in the 21st Century: Continuity and Change since 9/11, Michael Goodhart discusses claims of water-boarding, sleep depriving, and force feeding the “unlawful enemy combatants” held at Guantanamo (Goodhart 35). One specific group that has the goal to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay is the Witness Against Torture group, and their website www.witnesstorture.org is a tool that they use to promote their name and intentions.
Each page on the website has the same dark, brown backdrop and header that reads “Witness Against Torture” in a large, dashed font. Next to the group’s name is a picture of a person in a jumpsuit and hood over his entire head with his hands behind his back. The background color is reminiscent of that of a rusted sheet of metal and creates a cold sensation for the visitors of the site. Having this gloomy background on each page acts as a reminder to the readers that this group takes their movement seriously. The image in the header also plays on the pathos of the site’s visitors. The image has a brown scale set to it so there are no bright, warm colors. The man in it represents a prisoner that is blinded by the black hood over his eyes. If the person in the image was standing tall, it would signify that the person has power and agency; however, the man in the image is on his knees and is at the mercy of an outside force. This image creates a sorrowful feeling toward the prisoner that is represented. It is supposed to demonstrate how the prisoners at Guantanamo are dehumanized and cannot escape the treatment that they receive. This is relevant to Witness Against Torture because a large part of their movement is showing their audience that the detainees are still people that have feelings and rights.
At the bottom of the header is a list of tabs that lead to the various pages of the site. The first is labeled “About.” This page explains how the movement began, the purpose of the movement, and the various demonstrations that they have been a part of. This information increases the ethos of Witness Against Torture by connecting the movement to the actual people who created and support the group. By reading the information provided about the history of the group, the website’s visitors are able to receive factual support of who the group is. This information shows that the group has been together since 2005 and has done research about Guantanamo, such as visiting the center, to back their point of view. The last bolded heading on the page reads: “and the work continues.” This phrase displays the group’s dedication to their goal of shutting down Guantanamo and related facilities as well as ending torture. It shows that the group’s efforts will continue into the future. Having this “About” tab first in the list of tabs is an effective way to provide the website’s viewers with information about the group that is needed to understand the other parts of the website.
The next two tabs in the header are labeled “News” and “Events.” The news tab leads to a page with many articles covering stories related to the movement. Most of these articles are posted by members of the group, but there are a few that have been posted by other people. The stories posted by people outside of Witness Against Torture give the viewers an opportunity to see the movement’s supporters’ points of view on Guantanamo Bay, the prisoners there, and torture. The news stories themselves provide up-to-date information about what is happening related to the group and their goals. This gives evidence that the movement to close Guantanamo is relevant in today’s political and social word. The events tab leads to a page that is used to display scheduled events which gives viewers a convenient way to find out what the organization is currently planning to do. This is helpful for the movement because it provides the audience with knowledge that can be used to help the movement by attending or participating in the events that the group puts on. This also demonstrates that Witness Against Torture is open to the public and willing to be accessible to others.
Following the events tab are the “Resources” and “Media” tabs. The resource tab has links to various books and films that cover the topics of the Guantanamo Bay facility and torture. The books are categorized by the types of sources that they are from such as medical experts, torture survivors, and lawyers. This presents different ways to obtain more relevant information from people of various fields to the site’s visitors. This adds to the site’s logos appeal. By reviewing the provided material, the website’s audience is able to gain more information about Guantanamo’s history, the political debate over Guantanamo, what being a detainee is like, and how torture affects people. Although all of these resources are provided, the site does not provide any way to gain information that supports views that oppose the group’s agenda. There are no books listed that discuss why it is beneficial to have the facility outside of the United States or stories of men that returned to terroristic activities after being released from Guantanamo. Providing these opposing views would be counterproductive to the group. The purpose of providing the material that they do is to persuade their audience to join their movement, and providing people with contending information would make people hesitant to support Witness Against Torture.
Another type of resource on this page is a list of “Allies.” These are links to websites that belong to other movement groups that oppose the operation of Guantanamo Bay. These allied groups include Amnesty International, New America Foundation, No More Gitmos, and 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrow. By providing the names of these groups, Witness Against Torture gains more validity because it shows the site’s visitors that other organizations share the same goal. The use of the term allies to label these groups creates an image in the reader’s mind that Witness Against Torture and these other groups are at war against Guantanamo Bay, similar facilities, and torture.
The media tab directs the viewers to a page filled with pictures and videos taken during events and demonstrations put on by the movement. The members of the group seen in the media provided are dressed in orange jumpsuits, wear black hoods over their faces, and have their hands behind their backs as if they are handcuffed. These visuals reflect the same feelings that the viewers get when they look at the image on the top of each page of the website that was discussed above. By viewing the media present on this page, the website’s visitors are able to see how and what occurs at the group’s events; this creates a large ethos appeal for the website.
The next tab across the header of the website is labeled “Survivors.” On the top of this page is a question in large font that reads: “Are these men your enemies?” This question is personally directed toward the viewers of the site. The purpose of having it on the website is to raise the point of whether or not the men detained at Guantanamo are truly dangerous to United States citizens or not. Below this question are four pictures of men who are or have been prisoners at Guantanamo or Bagram, another US offshore detention facility. By clicking on the pictures, the viewers can learn more about the men by reading personal quotes from them and stories of their hardship in the detention centers. This information provides an identity of the men that opposes the dehumanization that occurs in the detention facilities. These identities create an emotional connection between the readers and prisoners. This connection and knowledge about the prisoners attempt to influence the website’s visitors to answer “no” to the question posed at the top of the “Survivors” page and to support Witness Against Torture’s beliefs.
Overall, www.witnessturture.org effectively promotes the Witness Against Torture group and its goals. The purpose of the website is to promote the group to the general public in hope of obtaining more supporters. The site provide visitors with a large amount of information about the movement and the events put on by the group. An ethos appeal is generated by providing background information about the group and information about what they have accomplished so far. The constant, dark background and image of the hooded man in the top corner of every page of the website creates a serious and cold sensation in the viewer’s mind. The site plays on the visitor’s pathos by creating an emotional connection with the prisoners by telling their histories and stories. One area that the website fell short in was providing information and statistics about Guantanamo, other facilities, and torture. The site did provide links to outside sources that could be used to obtain more knowledge, but I believe that it could have a stronger logos appeal by directly providing more background and current knowledge about the topics that they oppose. The site calls for action of its viewers and is strong in proving support as to why others should join the group’s efforts.
Witness Against Torture has taken a side that opposes the use of the Guantanamo facility to hold alleged enemies of the United States and terrorists. The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay is a current social justice issue and is still being debated about in the political world. As stated in a CNN article, President Barrack Obama signed executive orders in 2009 that required the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to be closed within a year (Henry). Even with these executive orders, the facility is still being used to detain men. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there are currently 122 men being detained at Guantanamo (Guantanamo). Currently, it cannot be claimed whether or not Witness Against Torture will be successful in closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility or not.
Goodhart, Michael, and Mihr, Anja. Human Rights in the 21st Century: Continuity and Change since 9/11. New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2011. Print.
Guantanamo by the Numbers. Online infographic. ACLU.com. Web. Mar. 1, 2015.
Henry, Ed. “Obama signs order to close Guantanamo Bay facility.” CNN.com. Jan. 22, 2009. Web. Mar. 14, 2015.
Libal, Bob and Lauren Martin. “Devastated then Detained: Will the US Incarcerate Haitians at Gitmo?” Huffington Post. May 25, 2011. Web. March 14, 2015.
Strauss, Michael. The Leasing of Guantanamo Bay. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Security International, 2009. Print.