What will our future be?

The Bali bombing which occurred on October 12, 2002 was the deadliest act of terrorism in Indonesia where 202 lives were lost; 88 of them Australians. In this essay, we will consider Deegan’s arguments on the issue of joining the fight against terror, against the Prime Minister’s reply to him. Deegan states that by joining the war on terror, that decision brought death upon their children. The PM’s letter to him, despite displaying sympathy, maintained a resolute stand on to the importance of fighting terror. Here, the issue involves the entire nation and the policies made by the government. Thus, both persuaders have taken a stand and by offering differing opinions on the same issue, they each present an argument and it is up to the readers to decide on this ‘conjectural’ issue (Cockcroft, Cockcroft, 2005, p.110). 

Bali Memorial

In a rational appeal to reason, Brian Deegan wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister in the hopes of finding an answer to fill the empty void in his heart over the loss of his 22-year-old son who died while holidaying in Bali—i.e. “paradise”. His views were based on ‘opinions of authorities’, ‘established truths’ and ‘personal experience’ to convince both readers (Reinking, J A, Hart, A W & von der Osten, R. 1999, p. 160). In his letter published by The Australian on 22nd November, he questioned if Bali’s terror attack, which affected his child and many others likewise, was brought about because of Australia’s part in joining the U.S. in its war against terror (Deegan, 2002, p.11).  

The letter is definitely written with rhetorical pathos stance because it is his own son who became a victim of the terrorist plot. He uses words like ‘parental duty’ and ‘I always thought I could… protect’ to engage the readers with emotion through the power of imagination and experience which creates empathy (Cockcroft, Cockcroft, 2005, p.17). He also uses logos of parenthood and his ethos of fatherhood to ask with sincerity how the government is going to deal with the psychological and physical needs of those affected by the Bali bomb attack.  

I do, to a certain extent, agree with the letter written by the PM dated Tuesday, 26 October 2002. Prime Minister John Howard showed sympathy and was truthful to admit that he did not know all the answers (Howard, J 2002, p.11). A friend once said to me, in life, there are no good answers, but only better questions asked. His letter also states clearly that these acts of violence were done by murderous people who target random nationalities for political reasons. He uses the term ‘definitive issue’ to downplay the belief that the Bali attack was an attack on Australia being involved in the fight against terror.  

Where political persuasion is concerned, definitive issues will be used especially when politicians seek to prove distinctiveness and efficacy of their approach to policy (Cockcroft, Cockcroft, 2005, p.114). He effectively dismisses the syllogism that since Australia joined forces with U.S to fight terror, the terrorists killed many Australians in Bali and therefore, the terrorists targeted Australians and their children. This Syllogistic argument at work shows that both the major and minor premises are true, the conclusion seemed to follow logically (Reinking, J A, Hart, A W & von der Osten, R. 1999, p. 163). 

‘Sadness shared… a determination undiminished.’ This heading starts with a sentimental and significantly perceptive feeling that is addressed to the ‘sufferer’ (Cockcroft, Cockcroft, 2005, p.12). What the ‘sufferer’ suffers is from imagination and because our imagination can and will mould itself much more than our mortal bodies; this imagination combines rational discernment and moral insight, thus tempering pathos into sentiment (Campbell, 1963, p.80). Howard also uses representation, meanings and language to create a perspective of significant impact which exists in this fight against terror (Hall, 1997, p15). Shifting the issue from sympathizing to sharing why he is determined to fight terrorists allows Howard a ‘kairos’ moment where he redefines and shifts the point of issue in the argument because this allows him to stand a better chance of convincing the readers of the irrelevance of Deegan’s argument (Cockcroft, Cockcroft, 2005, p.118). This is seen in his arguing text of assurance that the country’s intelligence agencies did not receive any specific warning of the Bali attack and neither were the U.S. intelligence agencies alerted.  

With this heading, it also brings the readers to the awareness that Deegan’s argument is based on assumptions and was biased towards the government. With words like ‘reportedly’ and ‘apparently’, Deegan’s argument became a conjectural issue of ‘did it exist?’ In the context of persuasion and examining the events, Deegan considers the motives; actions and methods involved as possible causes that are directly related to the terror attack (Cockcroft, Cockcroft, 2005, p.112). 

Kress (1988) mentions ‘Communication, the idea, perhaps even the activity, is a matter of great public interest’. He described communication as meaning rather than information. He also suggests that communication is about the production and consumption of meaning that takes place within a society and cultural environment (Kress, 1998, pg.3). This process of communication is not just between you and me, Howard and Deegan… It is also between structures of power and authority, structures of solidarity and influence made on every reader which brings unity or diversity, harmony or destruction. 

I interpret the 1st letter to the Prime Minister as a heartfelt concern for the present and future of each individual because of the choices we make in our past. The questions and arguments stated pulls the heart of every parent as it is about ‘our children’. His concern for the children that were psychologically and physically hurt brought with it a serious notion. In questioning ‘what part they should be getting over’ is an attempt to dispel the fallacy that victims are victims and that people’s expectation for these victims to ‘get over it’ is never the best solution. Thus the question asked is ‘what about the children?’  

I do agree of the sad fact that many wars have been fought by youths, many wars have started because of the decisions made by fathers but it is always the sons and daughters that carry out the orders and ultimately pay a high price with their lives. Nevertheless, this process brings change to society. Blood that was spilled brings a new life of opportunity to the next generation. I like the Chinese word for crisis. In that character ‘wei ji’, it represents a metaphor and meaning that ‘opportunities are hidden within danger’. In every crisis, there is always an opportune moment… an opportune decision… an opportunity that rises from within the circumstances. Our choices can lead us to go ‘under’ the circumstances or be an over comer and be ‘above’ the circumstance.  

The underlining statement of Deegan’s letter is clear and concise: he wants to know the genuine truth of how the government will examine this bomb incident and respond with legitimate answers for questions such as, who is responsible for the deaths, who is responsible for the attack and what we can do as responsible human beings to make this world and our country a better place to live in.  

Responsibility is defined into several factors of social, human and environmental issues. Whatever the outcome is, it will lead to positive or negative effects on organizations and businesses. The responsible agent who chooses to participate in a society will acquire the benefits of that society. It brings with it, however, a heavy price. Accountability for each individual person, laws and policies affects every person. A decision or indecision, directly or indirectly, holds a country or company responsible for actions or no actions taken. Responsibility has serious implications and much power to change people. Responsibility also applies to both sides. For the government, their responsibility lies in the area of national security, even if it means sending youths to die for a cause. This cause and effect metonymy gives forth a strong message or idea to the audience which, if used correctly, will enhance and reinforce the logos stance of the arguments (Cockcroft, Cockcroft, 2005, p.170). 

In evaluating Deegan’s letter objectively, his arguments have a degree of biasness against the policies of the government even though there was a hasty generalization that the government was warned about the attack and did not announce it to relevant parties due to national security. This persuasion is based on creative impulse driven to define his role as a parent (Cockcroft, Cockcroft, 2005, p.115). The main point is that terrorists are targeting Western nations, of which Australia happened to fall victim during the Bali bombing incident. The argument of Deegan is based on his own view as a father, which leans on a personal view rather than a professional journalist. Most of his facts about the repercussions of war, both as an individual and a nation, are very real. His example of those young children being psychologically challenged within the effects of war and the expectations for them to return to a normal life adds immense pressure which is beyond their age to handle.  

His arguments may seem to have sufficient evidence. However his personal note in that he will ‘never forgive those educated people who cause the death of another child as a result of belligerent policy’ (Deegan, 2002) is not appropriate if he wants to convince the government to create better foreign policies in the future. Instead, his choice or words may even prove offensive. These words spoken with resentment and anger may set the argument up against what it originally intended to do because he failed to identify with his audience by adopting an emotional confusion stance and personality rather than a rational approach (Cockcroft, Cockcroft, 2005, p.49). The text by PM John Howard does present an opposing point of view in that did not directly answer Deegan’s father-based questions. He did not give solutions for the children, the youths and their future. His answer in blaming the Islamic fanatics whom he claimed murdered Deegan’s son and who use it as a tool against democratic societies, evokes a sense of ‘blame shifting’ rather than a genuine answer that was needed in this instance. This brings me to the realization that the world needs more father figures. It also brings to memory a fallacy of ‘a red herring’ or arguing off the point (Reinking, J A, Hart, A W & von der Osten, R. 1999, p. 169).  

Howard sets out to illustrate and convince us that fighting terror is important but he also shifts blame to fault the murderous terrorists rather than appropriately assessing the preparedness of his government to fight terror. He also conveniently says that intelligence agencies did not receive a warning. Personally, I find this statement an irony: Isn’t intelligence supposed to source out possible terror plots beforehand rather than sit and wait for warning to come? It is a ‘non sequitur’ – a fallacy where ‘it does not follow’ and draws conclusions from seemingly ample evidence (Reinking, J A, Hart, A W & von der Osten, R. 1999, p. 168), in this case, “evidence from US intelligence did not tell us, so our intelligence did not know”. 

John Howard’s article holds and imposes certain political correctness. This intentional approach is communicated with the use of special persons involved that relates to our way of seeing the world (Hall, 1997, p25). In this context, it is using the death of a precious son to justify the need that all the more, we need to fight terror and it is the right decision to go to war on terror.

In an investigation done by TIME magazine, Mark Thompson (2007) highlighted the two words that speak of what the war in Iraq has done to the U.S. Army – Broken Down. I believe that the fight against terror is a war that no one can possibly win. One anonymous U.S. officer was quoted as saying: ‘It’s just another series of never ending deployments… there is only one answer to that – show me the door out.’ Statistics in the same TIME article shows that repeated deployments make 50% more on acute combat stress on the U.S. soldiers fighting terror. 

My views is that yes, we are all saddened by the fact that the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, a symbol of U.S. economy and freedom, was destroyed. We understand the need to find the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and the necessity of dealing with Saddam Hussein and Iraq. However, we should now understand the strength of these terror networks and consider fortifying and building defenses to protect our loved ones rather than fight this endless battle. Troops will get tired… gears and equipment will face shortages… but going to war on terror will only fuel the need to prove that what terrorist has done is correct. It will further entrench the terrorists in their beliefs.  

McCroskey (1997) states that ‘rhetorical communication is probably the most important and valuable skill a person can possess. Powerful speeches characterize and form the future. We progress and advance with historical moments. It works both for the faithful and the fearful. It will affect both the positive and the negative. It will influence the good and the bad. Beyond the layers of issues that are involved by the Bali bomb blast; this article has enlightened me to the mindset of each individual and from that of the governments to each concerned father to that of the terror networks.

The Bali attack is a stark reminder for us that no one is ever safe. Deegan’s letter confronts the government’s ability to root out terror networks and questions its defense in its own territories and holiday spots. This place represents freedom, beauty and a life worth living. Deegan’s question: ‘Are we prepared to fight terror?’ ‘Was the government aware of imminent danger?’ These were the very questions that Howard did not answer… and perhaps any government will not, because the fact is: they are not prepared and they do not know when danger will strike.  

In the McCroskey (1997) readings, we should be aware of the misconception that ‘communication will solve all problems’ and it is not necessarily true that ‘communication is a good thing and that the more we communicate the better’. However, we must realize that communication is a tool that if used properly, can save lives and disasters and terror attacks from happening. People communicate for a simple reason: to have their needs met. Perhaps, we should try to talk and reason and find out what do these terror networks need? No, we do not give in to them, but we should listen and communicate before bombing each other’s back yard. 

In conclusion, I think the articles send a very clear message about the hearts of the people, their concerns and the mindset of the government and their sympathies. I feel that Deegan’s letter is better written simply because good and honest questions were asked. John Howard’s letter reveals the government’s weakness in that they do not have a solution for this fight against terror. This brings us to respond with not just our hearts and mind, but with our inner desires, our passions and our destinies. How do we respond to a father who has to bury his own son? How do we convince the people that what we do is for the best interest of the nation or even the world? How do we as individuals contribute to make this world a better place? Or do we believe that dying for a cause is the only pathway to a better life? The force of our cultural values gives light into an ideological and political view; both motivated and constructed within the reality of our society and moral ethics (Kress, 1988 pg.17). These two articles bring meaningful messages of sustainable changes to each of our lives. We live in a society in which majority do not write formal letters.  

Going back to the roots of writing, there was a story at the end of Plato’s Phaedrus dialogue. Socrates relates a myth of an Egyptian god Theuth who one day invented a new magic called writing. He proposed to king Thamus of Thebes claiming it would make Egyptians wiser and better able to remember things. However, the king feared that writing will create forgetfulness in men’s souls because they will stop using their memories. Socrates expanded this theme and mentioned the important thing is not to record ideas but to talk about them in speech and dialogues… these were the beginnings of rhetorical communications and the art of persuasion.  

Applying the three rhetorical principles of ethos, pathos and logos together with the understanding of different fallacies and syllogisms has helped me to see the greater importance of writing and communication. Thus, what does “Bali’ represent? Does it symbolize terror or paradise? Deegan’s letter uses the ethos of him being a father, pathos of his father’s love for his son and the logos of what he understood from the situation as a civilian to make it a more convincing and persuasive letter that presses in the issue: Did we invite terror upon our children? Did I mention terror instead of Bali? Well perhaps it is because of what Hall (1997, pg.17) wrote in systems of representation which is concepts or mental representations. Deegan’s letter has persuaded me to shift my mental and conceptual paradigm of Bali, once a paradise; but now a terror land especially for tourists who come from those countries that have decided to join the fight against terror. 


Campbell, G (1963) The Philosophy of Rhetoric, ed. L. F. Bitzer and D. Potter, Carbondale, IL, Southern Illinois University Press. 

Cockcroft R, Cockcroft S, 2005, Persuading People: An introduction to rhetoric, Palgrave Macmillan, New York. 

Deegan, B 2002, ‘Did we invite Bali upon our children?’, The Australian, 22 November, p.11. 

Hall, Stuart (ed.) 1997, Representation: cultural representations and signifying practices, Sage, London. 

Howard, J 2002, ‘A sadness shared, a determination undiminished’, The Australian, 26 November, p.11. 

Kress, G 1988, Communication and culture: an introduction, NSWUP, Kensington, NSW 

Mark Thompson, 2007, ‘Broken Down’ TIME magazine, 23 April, pg.20, Time Asia (Hong Kong) Limited, Singapore. 

McCroskey, J C 1997, An introduction to rhetorical communication 7th edn, Allyn & Bacon, Boston. 

Reinking, J A, Hart, A W & von der Osten, R. 1999, Strategies for successful writing: A rhetoric, research guide, reader, and handbook, Prentice Hall, New Jersey. 


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