Twelve Angry Men Who Came In From the Cold
Kent’s Imperative, a blog devoted to intelligence studies, has a very interesting post on how lawyers are trained and whether or not such training helps or hurts in intelligence analysis. (This is a topic they have previously discussed here.)
The newest post, though, has a film studies twist: namely, what can be learned from the classic film Twelve Angry Men. The blogger at Kent’s Imperative explains:
For a number of years, the classic black and white film Twelve Angry Men has been a frequent teaching aid in introductory analysis courses dealing with the basics of evidence and argumentation. The conventional use of the film is to provide an accessible means of deconstructing a fictionalized scenario for students with little prior experience with formal debate. Given the current decline in public education, this helps remedy a basic skills deficit that is unfortunately and increasingly all too common.
However, it is with interest that we observe the controversy that has erupted once again over this fifty-one year old movie. The criticisms that have been leveled against the underlying premise of the film deserve some additional consideration – not the least of which because they point out the serious problems in applying much of what is taught as legal logic to the unique problems of the intelligence domain.
One criticism is that (unlike legal logic) intelligence analysis:
is based on the need to focus on the external worldview, rather than the tactical maneuvering in the courtroom that such kinds of arguments inevitably devolve towards. It is a quite valid point, and among the reasons that we have long decried the trends towards creeping legalism that have lately come to dominate intelligence work. The bulk of a lawyer’s litigative activities – and therefore a disproportionate degree of their education and professional experiences – are dictated by entirely tactical considerations that apply nowhere else but within the limited framework of the legal system. Too often this is easily forgotten, to the detriment of the strategic picture – and the accuracy and veracity of analysis. We have written on these problems before, but to be frank we had rarely considered the myriad of ways in which – by borrowing from the older legal profession’s traditions in teaching basic logic and rhetoric – the intelligence academia may continue to contribute to these unhelpful trends of cognitive bias. Among these, of course, are the kinds of ludic fallacy identified by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Read the rest of the post for further critiques and defenses of the film (and possible alternatives) as a means of teaching analytical skills as well as for the broader discussion on the analytical practices of lawyers versus those of intelligence analysts.