Joseph A. Willard and Dr. Paul J. Baltes, English
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent global tribunal designed to bring to justice the individual perpetrators of heinous war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Although there are a number of opinions in circulation regarding the full history behind the ICC, the general consensus is that the idea first gained popularity after World War II and the criminal trials that were conducted at Nuremberg and Tokyo. During the decades that followed, the ICC plan was resurrected a number of times, but never with enough success to permanently establish it. The development of ad-hoc international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the mid-90’s spurred ICC supporters to action once again, resulting in a five-week UN conference in Rome. On July 17, 1998, at the conclusion of the conference, a majority of 120 nations finally voted the ICC into permanent existence. The ICC will not go into effect, however, until 60 nations have officially ratified the Rome Statute; so far 14 have done so.
My project is an ideological analysis of the quarterly newsletter, The International Criminal Court Monitor, distributed via the Internet by the Coalition for an International Criminal Court (CICC). Made up of over 800 non-governmental organizations—including some of the world’s most prominent human rights groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch—and international law experts, the CICC exerts a powerful influence on world opinion concerning the ICC. In recent years the CICC has directly impacted major decisions regarding United Nations legislation on the ICC. Because the CICC is “the primary NGO [nongovernmental organization] provider of online information about the future International Criminal Court,”1 and because all nine of the Netscape Navigator default search engines2 include the CICC website on their lists of top ten hits for a search on “international criminal court,” the information this organization is distributing warrants close investigation.
In Language and Power, Norman Fairclough argues that ideologies are “assumptions which treat authority and hierarchy as natural.”3 These assumptions, he maintains, are systematically transmitted, largely through language, in order to maintain the status quo, or “legitimize existing power relations.”4 Quoting the French philosopher Louis Althusser, English professor John Lye defines ideology as “a representation of the imaginary relation of individuals to the real condition of existence.”5 This very definition is revelatory about Althusser’s own ideology, for it necessarily espouses a belief in some final, “real condition,” denying the possibility that the world is no more than an individual perceives, or believes, it to be. But Althusser is not my concern. In conducting my analysis, I have tried to identify clues about the CICC’s ideology. I have tried to answer questions about what the CICC perceives as reality, as well as how it works to position its readers as subjects in its own ideological framework.
In doing so I have attempted to synthesize a few different models of textual analysis, including Fairclough’s model for critical discourse analysis (or Critical Language Study); Lye’s model for ideological analysis; Aaron Delwiche’s model for propaganda analysis; and a model for thematic analysis employed by Michael H. Agar in Power Through Discourse. I have used each of these models of analysis in varying degrees. Inasmuch as each method is designed to “uncover” a text, they work well as complementing means of analysis. Practically speaking, there was no way for me to use all of them comprehensively; I began possessing neither the training nor the time for such an undertaking. So I reduced my analysis primarily to one of terms and themes, guided largely by a method suggested by Kenneth Burke. BYU Professor Gregory Clark summarizes:
Persuasion, Burke writes in A Rhetoric of Motives, is enacted in a transformation of one’s perception and attitude, and the elements of that process of transformation are identifications. Consequently, we should learn to defer consent to the transformations that would render a particular discursive act functionally persuasive by first locating the identifications it entails and then choosing from among them which ones to accept. In his essay on education this becomes a method that takes the form of two questions: “you begin by asking yourself ‘what equals what in this text?’ And then, next, you ask ‘what follows what in this text?’”6
This, I believe, is ideological analysis in a nutshell. As a study of terms my analysis is easily broken down into four segments: Justice, Impunity, Effective, and Peace. Following the guidelines of Fairclough, Lye, Delwiche, Agar, and Burke, I attempt to discover and demonstrate what the CICC means by each of these terms. By so doing, I hope to enable readers of The ICC Monitor to better discern the CICC’s ideology and thus to better determine to what extent they agree or disagree with the CICC itself.
This project has been a struggle from the beginning and is not quite complete. I attribute most of the difficulty to the fact that I am attempting to dissect a largely legal and political problem from an English major perspective. The inherent complexity of this approach is magnified considerably by the contemporary nature of the subject matter; UN conferences regarding the various elements of the ICC Statute are ongoing, so although the ICC is established, its evolution continues. Despite these challenges, however, my experience has been a positive one, and one that I hope may eventually contribute to the discussion of this important modern issue.
- Coalition for an International Criminal Court website. <http://www.iccnow.org> (1 Aug. 2000).
- Netscape, Excite, GoTo.com, HotBot, LookSmart, Lycos, Snap, About.com, and Google.
- Norman Fairclough, Language and Power (New York: Longman, 1989) 2.
- Fairclough 33.
- John Lye, “Ideology: A Brief Guide.” <http://www.brocku.ca/english/jlye/ideology.html> (30 Aug. 2000).
- Gregory Clark. “Kenneth Burke, Identification, and Rhetorical Criticism in the Writing Classroom.” Presented at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, Phoenix, Arizona, March 13, 1997. <http://www.siu.edu/departments/english/acadareas/rhetcomp/burke/clark.html> (30 Aug. 2000).