Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams: the representation of white and black female athletes under the discourse of femininity

Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams: the representation of white and black female athletes under the discourse of femininity

Jiaqi Lu; z5037864

Over the past decade, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are two of the biggest names in the field of women tennis. Besides their remarkable achievements, their “rival” relationship both on and off the tennis court is frequently reported by media, showing a “double-standard” representation of them. Thus, a further examination of how female athletes are represented in media is triggered by the disparity between the stereotypical depiction of Sharapova and Williams, with regard to the underlying social traditions of femininity. The findings demonstrates an underlying notion of femininity based on a rigid set of beauty standards that skewed to the side of white females rather than that of black ones, which further implies the superiority of whites over blacks to some degree.

The first part of this article will explore the stereotypical representation of Sharapova and Williams respectively and make a comparison. By analysing images on the covers of ESPN The Magazine and typical labels attached by mainstream media, it can be argued that Sharapova is depicted in a relatively active and positive way while Williams are more associated with passivity and negativity. The difference between the way media treat the figure of Sharapova and Williams’s reflects the prevalent perception of the ideal woman who is typically blonde with prominent feminine characteristics, further pointing to the assumed inferiority of black females under the conventional ideology of femininity.

The second part further moves to the unequal position of Sharapova and Williams presented by media including them in one item. An image featuring both of them and an article “Maria Sharapova Blasts Serena Williams, Criticises Her Love Life” written by Agence France Presse and published on Business Insider in 2013, are dissected. Again, the evaluation of Sharapova is more positive than that of Williams. This finding further proves the stereotypical view of white females and black females that the former have inherent predominance in the construction of an ideal figure not only physically but also morally.

It is not a fangle that female athletes, as a particular group, are stereotyped by media based on attributes, behaviours and roles that are socially assigned to them. Because media is the primary news source to serve the public, the way they portray female athletes is fully consistent with the way society perceives these women (Shaller 2006, p. 50). For women, being an athlete violates the conventional female role that is associated with passivity, nurturing and subordination, and thus media coverage tends to highlight aspects of “femaleness” rather than athleticism (Knight & Giuliano 2001, p. 219). According to sports researcher Dorothy Harris, “today’s woman athlete has become so trendy, she has now become sexy” (Shaller 2006, p. 51). Under the social constructions of Western society, female appearance matters to male audiences. A man prefers to view a woman with emphasized feminine qualities who is better looking and not portrayed as powerful (Media Report to Women 2002, p. 7). Since target audience of most sports publications consists of male audience, practitioners have to meet their tastes.

Therefore, female athletes participating in non-contact and “sex-appropriate” sports of tennis are preferred to be covered by media (Kane, MJ 1989, p. 107). More importantly, these portrayals presented in different ways exactly mirrors the socially acceptable conception of women’s figures. This point can be well examined in the comparison between covers of Sharapova and that of Williams presented by ESPN The Magazine, an American biweekly sports magazine published by ESPN network.

Maria Sharapova (ESPN The Magazine, June 29, 2009)
Maria Sharapova (ESPN The Magazine, June 29, 2009)

In this cover, Sharapova is wearing a revealing black dress and standing upright at the certer of the frame. Her blonde hair and exposed skin all suggest her femaleness. Meanwhile, she is wearing a business watch without jewels and keeping a porker face. Besides, her head is askew to her right side and turned a bit down. This shot with a slightly lower angle forces audience to look up at her, thus symbolising a sense of dominance and superiority. Meanwhile, the act of tearing the paper reflects Sharapova is portrayed as active in this image and demonstrates the strength and power which are not matched with her dress up. From this point, this image actually presents more masculinity than femininity, in terms of Sharapova’s pose and action combined with her stun facial expression and simple accessories.

Venus Williams (left) and Serena Williams (right) (ESPN The Magazine, 1998-2008 10th Anniversary)
Venus Williams (left) and Serena Williams (right) (ESPN The Magazine, 1998-2008 10th Anniversary)

However, the cover of Serena Williams makes the difference. In this cover, she is wearing a strapless white skirt and luxurious jewels. The half-exposed breasts and body curve highlight her sexiness and feminie characteristic. Notably, she is standing by her sister Venus Williams who is also a famous tennis player. Here, the representation of sisterhood emphasises the personal role as a sister which is socially assigned to a female. What’s more, it can be found that Williams is poised passively without any dynamic behaviour. Her bright smile and bended body suggest her approachability and tenderness instead of strength and power. In brief, the characteristics of femininity are greatly amplified and there is nearly no additional element representing masculinity in this image.

Then, what is at stake here is the factor contributing to the difference of the way media position these two female athletes respectively. For Sharapova’s cover, the editor assumes this Russian blonde is already recognized by audience as an ideal beauty, who bears Western dominant aesthetic consciousness and conventional notion of female characters. Because the editor believes the appearance of Sharapova has completely met public’s inherent anticipation of women’s images, there is no need to exaggerate her feminine qualities. Rather, it is reasonable to attach a bit strength and power to her because the purely sweet appearance and slender figure don’t accord with the orientation of a sports magazine. In another layer, the sense of dominance delivered by Sharapova’s facial expression and pose demonstrates the assumption of audience that they will be comfortable with the superiority from a blonde.

For Williams’ cover, the editor assumes that this American black woman with well-developed muscles and robust body completely violates the stereotypical notion of an ideal woman. Because audience are supposed to think that Williams lacks femininity socially assigned to a female, the editor tries to strengthen her feminine aspects as a woman rather than masculine ones as an athlete. Thus, the sexiness, gentleness and relative passivity delivered by Williams’s smile and pose on the one hand make her more consistent with public’s expectation of a female figure, and on the other hand weakens the stress and fear brought by her significant masculinity.

Serena Williams (ESPN The Magazine, August 19, 2002)
Serena Williams (ESPN The Magazine, August 19, 2002)
Maria Sharapova (ESPN The Magazine, June 20, 2005)
Maria Sharapova (ESPN The Magazine, June 20, 2005)

From this perspective, these two covers further prove the underlying assumption of audience concerning their regular view of an ideal woman. Sharapova and Williams are both wearing a white vest. Apparently, Williams dyes her hair blonde and perms it straight. Since Williams’ cover was published ahead of Sharapova’s, it is unconvincing to assert Williams are purposely imitating Sharapova; but the change of Williams’s appearance does reflect that audience’s preference of the blonde or the “white-like” figure. What’s more, Williams is still portrayed as passive in terms of her undynamic pose. The shot with slightly higher angle makes audience look down at her, which renders a sense of inferiority. With the comparison of the cover of Sharapova that depicting her playing tennis with an overtly aggressiveness, the similarity and difference between two images well prove the underlying assumption that the white have absolute predominance and superiority in the social orientation of a woman, and conversely black women are positioned as passive and have no say in this matter.

Apart from magazine covers, different labels attached to Sharapova and Williams by media also demonstrate the conventional expectation of a woman. Looking at Sharapova first, the following headlines, exacts and image captions selected from mainstream media reflect the fixed view of her figure:

Russian beauty Maria Sharapova lures fans to tennis centre” – 2012 (News.com.au)

  “Russian glamour Sharapova had people swarming to the outside courts to watch her train” – 2012 (News. com. au)

  “Russian beauty, Maria Sharapova, celebrated a winning point, but it wasn’t enough    to defeat Dominika Cibulkova.” – 2014 (POPSUGAR)

“‘I’m confident in my skin’: Tennis star Maria Sharapova opens up on beauty as she poses for Self magazine” – 2014 (Daily Mail)

  “And despite being known as one of the more glamorous female tennis players, Maria Sharapova admits she doesn’t spend much time focused on her appearance.” – 2014 (Daily Mail).

  “But the issue I am raising is that believing Sharapova — the beautiful, glamorous, eminently-likable, Russian-born tennis star — has instantly gotten that much harder to do.” - 2016 (American Council on Science and Health)

Notably, Sharapova is frequently portrayed as “beautiful”, “glamorous” and closely associated with the label “beauty”. The authoritative organization American Council on Science and Health particularly emphasizes Sharapova’s beauty and glamour when mentioning her name, showing that the most significant characteristic of Sharapova is exactly her personal charm and this belief is backed by the authority. Meanwhile, the word “lure” and “had” reflect that people are attracted to Sharapova subconsciously or even unconsciously since she is the active agent performing the action. By portraying her as positive and active, the media make the assumption that the appearance of Sharapova completely fits into the stereotypical conception of beauty in public’s mind and she has the ability to have an influence on them by the virtue of her socially acceptable appearance.

However, the labels attached to Williams are greatly different. She is quite often attached with powerful words or phrases that often imply negativity. For example:

Williams slays Sharapova to reach ninth Miami Masters final” – 2014 (CNN)

This headline involves both Williams and Sharapova. Williams as active agent performs the act of “slaying”. Generally, the term “slay” means “to kill by violence”, “to destroy” or “to extinguish” (Dictionary.com). It is often used to describe a murder or atrocity, containing negative connotations. Here, the word “slay” not only alludes Williams’s big lead in the game but also implicitly evaluates her play style as “violent” and “cruel”. Meanwhile, Sharapova is portrayed as a vulnerable “victim”, which gives rise to sympathy. This headline operates under the common narrative of femininity that ties feminine quality to vulnerability. A woman like Williams has muscular body and strong physical power is easily associated with negative terms because her appearance and behavior doesn’t meet the conventional understanding of femininity.

This navigate evaluation of Williams especially evident in the description of her as a “gorilla” or as “manly” made by online commentators. The frequent analogy between Williams and an animal or a man precisely reflects a taken-for-granted perception of black women as inherently unfeminine. As Mary Hannigan said in an article “Serena Williams tramples down Twitter trolls and opponents” published on The Irish Times:

  “There has been an anti-Serena element because she didn’t fit the stereotype of the old-fashioned, elegant white female tennis player. She was big and muscular and black. Let’s be candid about it, there’s been plenty of that sort of unspoken prejudice against Serena.”

This extract well explains why media represent Sharapova and Williams in such different ways. The particular version of blackness as “inherently different from other bodies” makes Williams a typical negative example, especially in the field of tennis that are widely recognized as a white sport. What’s more, her achievements are overly attributed to brute-force attacks rather than other internal factors such as intelligence, professional techniques and mentality. For example:

‘Serena out-muscles Sharapova to reach Open semis’ – 2016 (Pasion Sports)

As shown in the term “out-muscles”, there is a characterisation of Williams’ play style dependent on an old and unreconstructed thought of black physicality, consequently making Williams as a stereotype of “All brawn no brains”.

The inequality of media’s treatment of Sharapova and Williams not only exists in the aspects of appearance but also that of internal qualities, which can be well examined in the following section.

Maria Sharapova of Russia, left,  looks at Serena Williams of the U.S. during the awarding ceremony after her women's singles final loss to Williams at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. )
Maria Sharapova of Russia, left, looks at Serena Williams of the U.S. during the awarding ceremony after her women’s singles final loss to Williams at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. )

This is an illustration of the article “Prediction: Maria Sharapova will stun Serena Williams, snap 16-match losing streak at Wimbledon” written by For The Win’s Chris Chase. Two athletes are positioned away from the centre of the frame. From the camera angle, Williams is located in the foreground and blurred, while Sharapova is placed in the background with a clear profile. This axial configuration of elements not only shift audience’s focus on a single element in the image frame, but also establish dynamic, unequal relationships between a dominant element and other less significant elements in the frame (Bednarek & Caple (2012, p. 167). In this image, Sharapova is singled out in terms of the camera focus although she is in the background. She is gazing upon the championship trophy held by Williams in a depressed mood. The frame of this image reflects that media assume audience are more concerned with Sharapova’s reaction and status rather than Williams’s, even though Williams is the champion. The significance of Sharapova and the ignorance of Williams precisely shows the unequal relationship between two rivals in which Sharapova has inherent superiority as a white tennis player who deserves more attention from audience.

Importantly, the intrinsic predominance of Sharapova in figure construction in the aspect of morality is especially prominent in the hard-news style article “Maria Sharapova Blasts Serena Williams, Criticises Her Love Life”,  published on Business Insider. In this article, Sharapova is portrayed as morally superior to Williams:

Williams, the 16-time Grand Slam title-winner, was forced to apologise for her comments regarding the rape of a 16-year-old girl by two high school American football players in the Ohio town of Steubenville.

  “I was definitely sad to hear what she had to say about the whole case,” said Sharapova, who was defeated by Williams in the French Open final earlier this month.

  “I just think she should be talking about her accomplishments, her achievements, rather than everything else that’s just getting attention and controversy.”

From these three paragraphs, it can be noticed that Sharapova makes a moral judgement on Williams’s inappropriate deeds. The phrase “was forced to apologise for” and “should be” indicate Williams’s passive status and Sharapova’s active position. In this scenario, Williams is assumed to be morally inferior to Sharapova and it is reasonable for Sharapova to judge her. This assumption is evident in the following paragraphs that depicting their debates:

“There are people who live, breathe and dress tennis. I mean, seriously, give it a rest,” Williams told Rolling Stone magazine without naming the Russian.

  “She begins every interview with ‘I’m so happy. I’m so lucky’ — it’s so boring. She’s still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.”

The arguments of Williams presented here obviously renders unrespect and impoliteness that violate ethical normality, further deepening the old-fashion perception of blacks frequently associated with misbehaviours. Then, the author presents Sharapova’s refutation:

Sharapova, clearly upset at the insinuation, hit back on Saturday at Williams’s romance with her French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

  “If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids,” said Sharapova.

Sharapova also discusses Williams personal life in an unfriendly manner. However, by the term “insinuation” and “hit back”, the author portrays Sharapova as a “victim” of Williams’s verbal aggression. Thus, her counterattack is legitimate and acceptable. In this situation, Sharapova’s argument can influence the way audience perceive Williams while Williams is always in the dock. The inequality of two athlete’s position precisely depends on the underlying conception of spiritual superiority of whites over blacks that makes media represent them in different ways.

In conclusion, today’s media represent female athlete based on the socially acceptable traditions of femininity that is skewed to whites – i.e. that the white athlete has absolute superiority over the black athlete both physically and morally. The stereotypical views of an ideal woman pushes media to represent athlete with distinctive appearance and ethnic backgrounds in very different ways. Demonstrated in the example of Sharapova and Williams, the disparity of treatment of a blonde with feminie characteristics and that of a black female with masculine features exactly reflects the assumption of inherent predominance of whites empowered by the public. Although many socialists and scholars criticise media practitioners of this inequality and call for actions to eliminate the significant difference in media coverage, this phenomenon is still prevalent because the cultural standard of femininity and beauty has never been essentially changed.

References:

Bednarek, M & Caple, H 2012, News Discourse, Continuum, London.

Kane, MJ, 1996, ‘Media coverage of the post Title IX female athlete: A feminist analysis of sport, gender, and power’, Duke J. Gender L. & Pol’y, vol. 3, pp. 95-127.

Knight, J L& Giuliano, TA 2001, He’s a Laker; she’s a “looker”: The consequences of gender-stereotypical portrayals of male and female athletes by the print media’, Sex roles, vol. 45, no. 3-4, pp. 217-229.

Shaller, J 2013, ‘Female athletes in the media: Under representation and inadequacy’, The Review: A Journal of Undergraduate Student Research, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 50-55.

‘Women in Sports Not Covered Seriously; Beauty, Sexiness Part of the Package’, Media Report to Women, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 7.

 

 

Assignment 4 Proposal – z5037864

Assignment 4 Proposal

Jiaqi Lu; z5037864

In the final assignment, I will focus on how media portray female athletes. The anticipated conclusions fall into:

  • Media portray female athletes in a sexualized manner rather than an athletic one. (highlight their attractiveness rather than achievements)
  • Media portray female athletes in conjunction with males.

(mention her husband, coach or other male relatives)

  • Media portray female athletes with the ideals of femininity.

(emphasize mental weakness and the role as a mother)

Part of selected items:

Covers of Sport Illustrated

Headlines of news articles / Captions of photo gallery

Extracts from articles featuring tennis players including Maria Sharapova, Li Na and golf player Cheyenne Woods.

Assignment proposal

Assignment proposal

Nowadays, the impact of social media is a hot-debated issue, especially regarding to the question whether there is a casual relation between social media use and behavioral problems and personality flaws, which is the topic I want to focus on in the first assignment.

The two articles I’ve chosen are:

  1. ‘The Internet Made Me Do It’: Stop Blaming Social Media for Our Behavioral problems, written by Jared Keller, published in Pacific Standard, on Jun 10, 2013.

https://psmag.com/the-internet-made-me-do-it-stop-blaming-social-media-for-our-behavioral-problems-7e8031cb1fc0#.y9q730pn7

  1. ‘Is Social Media to Blame for the Rise in Narcissism?’, written by Lisa Firestone, in Psychology Today, on Nov 29, 2012.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201211/is-social-media-blame-the-rise-in-narcissism

Both two articles argue that we shouldn’t blame the social media for behavioral or personality problems. What is interesting I’ve found that the first article is more “personal” with the author’s own understanding of the nature or the function of social media, while the second one is more “serious” and “objective” by provides a lot of academic facts to remove the misinterpretation of social media and further give some useful suggestions. So my primary conclusion may focus on their different type of justification and also their assumption of intended readers.

Political correctness: when it goes “wrong”

Political correctness: when it goes “wrong”

Jiaqi LU; z5037864

On 15 December 2014, a gunman, Man Haron Monis, hijacked ten customers and eight employees of Lindt café as hostages, at Martin Place in Sydney. After a 16-hour standoff, the police stormed the café and ended the crisis, leaving three people dead including Monis and two hostages killed by Monis and a police bullet ricochet respectively. On 29 January 2015, the Lindt Cafe Siege Inquest began, with the aim of examining the circumstances surrounding, and issues arising in relation to, the deaths, and findings are expected to be delivered this year. With the inquest going on, some underlying factors accounting for police operations during the siege has come to the surface. About two weeks ago, as The Australian reported, NSW Police commissioner Andrew Scipione and his dupty Catherine Burn said they treated “community stability” as paramount concern during the siege, implying a fear of the possible backlash from right-wing anti-Muslim groups in Australia.

 

However, two opinion articles triggered by the statement from top police officers and recently published in two Australian leading newspapers, “Lindt inquest fallout: The siege mentality was totally missing” written by the Daily Telegraph’s Tim Blair, and “Lindt siege inquest: Scipione, Burns preoccupied with PC ideas” written by The Australian’s political commentator Chris Kenny, suggests that this is not the way the police deal with a hostage crisis.

 

By scrutinizing and comparing these two opinion pieces, it is clear that both two authors present their dissatisfaction with and blame for police operations during the siege, based on the same assumption that an overwhelming majority of their intended readers believe the primary concern of the police is the incident itself rather than any distracting factors. More specifically, they assume that their average readers agree with the viewpoint that police’s treating “community harmony” and “tolerance” as the paramount concern during the 2014 Lindt siege is ridiculous.

 

What is compelling is that although two authors evaluate the police operations negatively according to the same primary premise that the first duty of police is to solve the threat and guarantee the safety of hostages, there is an apparent disparity of the degree of intensifying this premise in two articles. Concretely, Blair piece doesn’t emphasis on or even not explicitly point out the first duty of the police which is absolutely a key point to evaluate the situation while Kenny clearly indicates and reiterates the police’s primary responsibility in his article. Thus, it is worth finding out why two authors put emphasis on the same essential premise to different degrees, thus getting a full understanding of persuasive strategies they use and the underlying worldview they have regarding this specific issue respectively.

 

Looking at the Blair’s article first, whose primary claim can be concluded to this: the police’s treating “community harmony” and “tolerance” as the paramount concern during the 2014 Lindt siege is ridiculous and implies a dereliction of duty, it is notable that the first nine paragraphs services for three similar justifications that appeal to analogy. The author states that one of the important differences between average people and people with special occupations, including athletes from Rio struggling for gold medals, former Australian Test captain Greg Chappell facing a delivery and airline pilots dealing with any emergency in the air, is the ability to concentrate. Using these occupations as an analogy to the police, particularly clearly indicating that “a terrorist siege is the equivalent of losing an engine at 12, 000m”, the author gradually leads readers to his primary claim implied in the following statements:

 

“For police, a terrorist siege is the equivalent of losing an engine at 12,000m. Many lives depend on each step taken thereafter. Talk to pilots and they’ll tell you that the key during any emergency is to remain in the present — not to be bothered with any distracting concerns about what might happen or could happen or won’t happen.”

 

“Instead of maintaining a fixed focus on the 2014 siege to the exclusion of all else, they actually devoted time and thought to something that was never going to happen and in fact never has happened to any great extent. The “backlash against Muslims” is a modern myth. Yet here was NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Cath Burn last week explaining her siege strategy.”

 

So far, the author hasn’t clearly stated any underlying warrant but the justifications are plausible and do support for his primary claim logically. Apparently, he labels the “backlash against Muslims” not happening “in the present” as “distracting concern”. Here, he doesn’t clearly point out what the paramount concern is because he assumes readers have already acknowledged that the pilot’s duty is to guarantee the safety of passengers and thus equally the police’s duty is to guarantee the safety of hostages. From this point, it can be argued that the purpose of the analogy between pilots facing the lose of an engine and police facing a terrorist siege is more likely to remind readers of the mindset they already taken for granted, thus making them easily agree that police fail to do their duty in the 2014 siege. Since the author is confident about readers’ cognition of police’s first duty, he doesn’t have to make effort to state it clearly.

 

Besides, for the idea of “community harmony” itself, he assumes most of his readers would agree it is unnecessary and even ridiculous to worry about “backlash against Muslins”, because this kind of retaliatory violence has never happened before in Australia and is not consistent with Australian identity, proposed by next two paragraphs:

 

“Instead of maintaining a fixed focus on the 2014 siege to the exclusion of all else, they actually devoted time and thought to something that was never going to happen and in fact never has happened to any great extent.”

 

“The Deputy Commissioner apparently believes Australia is such a seething, violent hateland that one mistaken remark from a cop will spark a widespread uprising. Marvel, please, at the awesome powers of Cath Burn, who single-handedly decides the nation’s fate. Were it not for her delicate phrasing and gentle ways, hordes of us would be burning mosques and beating up the local halal butcher.”

 

The first justification appeals to precedent. Sometimes, this type of justification could be problematic when there is no supplementary supporting argument from reliable resources such us researches or official statements to verify what happened or didn’t happen before. However, in this case, the author apparently believes his justification could be effective without any further explanation because target audience of Daily Telegraph are Australian, who share the same national memories and national identity with him. Thus, he merely need to remind an Australian reader of the past experience while living in this country, instead of placing s/he in the position as an outsider when looking at this situation and trying every effort to persuade s/he to believe something already acknowledged.

 

As for the second justification appealing to ethics and social norms, the statement regarding “the awesome powers of Cath Burn” is, of course, meant to be interpreted as sarcastic, pointing out that Australia is not a “seething, violent hateland” and Australian are not narrow-minded and barbarous. Tellingly, in his terms “awesome”, “marvel”, “delicate”, “gentle”, “hordes of us”, “burning” and “beating up”, Blair deliberately exaggerates the “significance” of Ms Burn’s strategy and the “bloodiness” of the backlash, to make readers instantly see through the irony. This argument only makes sense under the worldview that it is absurd to imagine that Australians would conduct collective atrocity to wreak their anger on innocent Muslins in such a civilized and multicultural nation. Thus, here again, the author assumes the worldview of readers is completely in accord with his by not stating the underlying warrant.

 

To sum up, Blair assumes a largely likeminded audience sharing common values and beliefs with him and accordingly operates the logic of his arguments by giving the hint of underlying warrants instead of stating them clearly.

 

For the second article, different from Blair’s piece whose main claim is not displayed at the beginning, Kenny’s first two paragraphs straightforwardly present his attitude towards the issue.

 

“We now know political correctness doesn’t just place worrying limits on how freely we discuss Islamist extremist terrorism — it also dangerously inhibits our ability to fight it.”

 

“The inquest into the Martin Place siege this week revealed with horrifying clarity just how muddle-headed this nation’s response to the terror threat has become. When most Australians would have thought the only priority of police at the time would have been to save the lives of the hostages, we learn they were concerning themselves also with “community harmony” and “tolerance”’.

 

Apparently, his emotive description of concerning “community harmony” during the siege as “horrifying” and “muddle-headed” shows an evaluative argument against police. The first word “we” signals that Kenny intends to establishes a clear “us versus them” distinction between assumed like-minded readers and police preoccupied with political correctness. For this distinction to make sense, then, readers must hold the view that “the only priority of police at the time would have been to save the lives of the hostages” which is explicitly stated in the second paragraph. Here, it can be noticed that although Blair and Kenny make the same assumption of their readers in terms of the primary duty of police, they operate this same warrant differently. Since Kenny clearly presents his negative attitude towards political correctness and police preoccupied with this idea at the very beginning of the article, he needs to subsequently provide further arguments to justify his negative evaluation. Otherwise, his attitudinal and slanted language would equip his claim as the fallacy of evaluative presumption, which undermines the logic of his arguments. However, for Blair, he doesn’t explicitly present any value-laden expression of police and their behavior, so there is no need for him to offer further supporting arguments to avoid evaluative presumption.

 

Following this perspective, through the whole article, it can be found that the author repeatedly emphasizes or implies the primary premise- i.e. police should prioritize the safety of hostages, in every case he uses evaluative expressions or value-loaded language.

 

While real, innocent people were held at gunpoint in a deadly serious act of Islamist extremism, many fellow citizens and media poseurs were boasting publicly about their disdain for an imagined ugly social response. This was distasteful sanctimony — as I wrote at the time — and became even more sickening when two innocents lost their lives.

 

But such distaste should turn to consternation now we realise the police hierarchy — whose only concern that day should have been the hostages — were also troubling themselves about perceived societal responses to this act of terror.

 

“This might be one of the most disturbing manifestations of political correctness we have seen — instead of worrying only about direct victims whose lives were in danger, police were trying to be mindful of some imagined sociological impact.”

 

From above, it can be noticed that every value judgment (as bold) with evaluate language is well justified by the supporting argumentations appealing to ethics or consequences, regarding the widely-acknowledged belief that lives of hostages should be placed above all else (as underlined). Especially, with the use of pronouns through the article and the repeated statement of mindset of assumed like-minded audience, the article operates logically and plausibly.

 

“Most of us would contend that the police role was to eliminate the threat and free the hostages. We have police to defeat terrorism, not to fret about its impact on our social dynamics. We pay police to uphold the law and keep us safe, not to salve our social conscience, educate us about society or patronise us on multiculturalism.”

 

Again, this paragraph significantly demonstrates a “us versus them” distinction between Australian and police based on the taken-for-granted recognition of the first duty of police. Thus, it can be concluded that the author condemns police preoccupied with political correctness from a “us versus them” perspective based on his assumption of like-minded audience and puts more emphasis on that taken-for-granted worldview to avoid the fallacy of evaluative presumption.

 

Another significant aspect of Kenny’s article is the treatment of alternative viewpoints. In Kenny’s article, he presents counter-arguments as follows:

 

“Sure, police will have intelligence and experience when it comes to the possibility of retaliatory attacks. But such strife has been rare in this county and, even if feared, such considerations should not compromise an anti-terror operation. When real lives are in the balance we don’t need to conjure up imaginary victims.”

 

Some might find it heartening to think the police leadership was concerned about the Muslim community and the mental welfare of police officers. But surely it needed to be — as Scipione stressed to the inquiry — the welfare of the hostages that was paramount.”

 

Tellingly, Kenny refutes opposite viewpoints by providing sufficient justifications appealing to precedent and ethics, still based on the assumption of like-minded audience. What is compelling here is that the purpose of his mention of dissenting voice. Looking at the basic starting point of the article, it can be found that in fact Kenny attributes police’s concerning “community harmony” to the idea of political correctness.

Under this condition, he has to consider the alternative viewpoints because political correctness is universally acceptable in many political systems in the world. By presenting the counter-argument, Kenny intends to convey the information that he is not completely negating political correctness; what he actually condemn is the stickiness to this idea at the expense of innocent lives, demonstrated in the tragic of the 2014 siege.

 

Summarily, both articles hold the negative attitude towards police operations during the 2014 siege, with the same assumption of their readers that they would agree the most important role of police is to guarantee the safety of hostages. However, their operation of arguments and treatment of underlying warrants are different, in terms of their specific starting point and language style. Although there is still much space for refining these two opinion articles, undoubtedly, they are compelling and thoughtful enough to provide a new way of rethinking the 2014 siege, as well as political correctness.

 

 

 

Appendix

Lindt inquest fallout: The siege mentality was totally missing

Tim Blair, The Daily Telegraph

August 22, 2016 12:00am

BESIDES ridiculous levels of fitness and superhuman devotion to training, there is another important difference between average human beings and the athletes returning from Rio with gold medals in their luggage.

That is their ability to concentrate — to focus entirely on the moment, excluding all possible distractions.

It’s an extraordinary talent and a difficult one to maintain.

Former Australian Test cricket captain Greg Chappell used to consciously set himself several levels of awareness and concentration while batting because holding complete focus all the time was so draining.

He’d reserve absolute concentration only for the moments when he was facing a delivery.

In a similar fashion, airline pilots train for circumstances that are extremely rare.

When something goes wrong, and an ill-judged decision may result in disaster, that training and an associated intense focus are called upon.

For police, a terrorist siege is the equivalent of losing an engine at 12,000m. Many lives depend on each step taken thereafter. Talk to pilots and they’ll tell you that the key during any emergency is to remain in the present — not to be bothered with any distracting concerns about what might happen or could happen or won’t happen.

Some of Australia’s most senior police could learn from athletes and pilots.

Last week we discovered from the inquest into Sydney’s deadly Martin Place siege that senior police allowed themselves, even while the siege was in progress, to be concerned by fears of a backlash against Muslims.

Instead of maintaining a fixed focus on the 2014 siege to the exclusion of all else, they actually devoted time and thought to something that was never going to happen and in fact never has happened to any great extent. The “backlash against Muslims” is a modern myth. Yet here was NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Cath Burn last week explaining her siege strategy.

“I needed to emphasise community harmony while urging people to provide any information that could help,” she told the inquest.

“It was paramount that my messaging conveyed tolerance so as not to fuel anger which might have led to bias-motivated crime.”

The families and friends of the two people who were killed in the Martin Place siege might wonder at a senior police official who believed her primary role was to “emphasise community harmony” while a maniac held 18 hostages. Community harmony at that point was not really on the table.

And why would any senior police officer be thinking about “bias-motivated crimes” that haven’t yet occurred while a bias-motivated crime, one that would eventually cost two lives, was at that very moment underway? Deal with the now, Deputy Commissioner, not the future.

Equally worrying are the assumptions implicit in Burn’s line about it being “paramount that my messaging conveyed tolerance so as not to fuel anger”.

The Deputy Commissioner apparently believes Australia is such a seething, violent hateland that one mistaken remark from a cop will spark a widespread uprising. Marvel, please, at the awesome powers of Cath Burn, who single-handedly decides the nation’s fate. Were it not for her delicate phrasing and gentle ways, hordes of us would be burning mosques and beating up the local halal butcher.

As it happens, most Australians would not remember a single thing Burn or her fellow senior officers said during the Martin Place siege. That’s because they were concentrating on the siege itself.

In Melbourne one very significant executive demanded a top-level meeting be delayed until a portable TV was available to follow siege coverage. News Corp journalists returned from holidays and even maternity leave to cover the siege. A certain focus was evident throughout the land.

On concentration, Australia’s senior police might take a lesson from retired US airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger. In 2009 Sullenberger was at the controls of an Airbus A320 as it departed New York’s LaGuardia airport. Shortly after takeoff the jet’s two engines were disabled when they inhaled a flock of geese.

Sullenberger suddenly found himself in charge of a 60,000kg glider, which isn’t a viable long-term situation.

Quickly casting about for landing options, he decided to aim the aircraft, loaded with 155 passengers, at the Hudson River.

“I had to summon up from somewhere within me this professional calm that really isn’t calm at all. It meant having the discipline to compartmentalise and focus on the task at hand despite the stress,” Sullenberger later explained.

Sullenberger’s ability to concentrate saw him successfully land, or river, that Airbus with the loss of not a single life. He is now available for speaking appearances.

 

Lindt siege inquest: Scipione, Burns preoccupied with PC ideas

The Australian 12:00AM August 20, 2016

Chris Kenny

Associate Editor (National Affairs)

We now know political correctness doesn’t just place worrying limits on how freely we discuss Islamist extremist terrorism — it also dangerously inhibits our ability to fight it.

The inquest into the Martin Place siege this week revealed with horrifying clarity just how muddle-headed this nation’s response to the terror threat has become. When most Australians would have thought the only priority of police at the time would have been to save the lives of the hostages, we learn they were concerning themselves also with “community harmony” and “tolerance”.

Here, in stark and deadly terms, we can see where all the jihad denialism, victim inversion and virtue signalling can lead us. Not only can it fuel the Muslim victimhood propaganda that Islamist extremists crave but, in the Lindt cafe in December 2014, it even distracted police from their primary responsibility.

When the NSW police should have been totally preoccupied with freeing hostages from an armed, known extremist claiming jihadist intent, senior police were fussing over issues of social engineering. From the evidence of Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and his deputy, Catherine Burn, we learned they “placed huge weight on community stability” during the siege, as The Australian’s Ean Higgins summarised it.

In her prepared statement, Burn accentuated this point as she described her media performances. “I needed to emphasise community harmony while urging people to provide any information that could help,” she said. “It was paramount that my messaging conveyed tolerance so as not to fuel anger which might have led to bias-motivated crime.”

Explaining why he suggested officers remove a YouTube message featuring a hostage inside the siege — an act that might have angered the terrorist further — Scipione cited concerns the video could trigger “retaliation and reprisals”.

So here at the fulcrum of the crisis, at the very top of the chain of command and in real time, police were distracted by the “I’ll ride with you” mentality.

You will remember the hashtag #Illridewithyou sprang up on social media during the siege. It was based on an invented episode of personal abuse on public transport and exhorted the public to ride with Muslims to protect them from a non-existent anti-Muslim backlash.

While real, innocent people were held at gunpoint in a deadly serious act of Islamist extremism, many fellow citizens and media poseurs were boasting publicly about their disdain for an imagined ugly social response. This was distasteful sanctimony — as I wrote at the time — and became even more sickening when two innocents lost their lives.

But such distaste should turn to consternation now we realise the police hierarchy — whose only concern that day should have been the hostages — were also troubling themselves about perceived societal responses to this act of terror.

If ever we wondered whether debates about political correctness and freedom of speech can have any tangible worth, here is the evidence. Politicised thoughts can shape or constrain practical action.

This might be one of the most disturbing manifestations of political correctness we have seen — instead of worrying only about direct victims whose lives were in danger, police were trying to be mindful of some imagined sociological impact. If it weren’t so tragic it would be the stuff of satire — it is like handing over your counter-terrorism operations to a Q&A panel.

It wasn’t the police’s job at that time to wonder whether an act of Islamist terrorism would spark a backlash, much less allow such considerations to influence their decisions. Any backlash, anyway, was going to relate to the terrorism, not the police response.

Most of us would contend that the police role was to eliminate the threat and free the hostages. We have police to defeat terrorism, not to fret about its impact on our social dynamics. We pay police to uphold the law and keep us safe, not to salve our social conscience, educate us about society or patronise us on multiculturalism.

Sure, police will have intelligence and experience when it comes to the possibility of retaliatory attacks. But such strife has been rare in this county and, even if feared, such considerations should not compromise an anti-terror operation. When real lives are in the balance we don’t need to conjure up imaginary victims.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Jeff Loy even detailed how police launched Operation Hammerhead to boost patrols and guard against anti-Muslim violence.

Scipione, we learn, considered his contact with officers commanding the siege operation as “welfare calls” rather than efforts to ensure the operation was being directed to the right outcome. Again, here is the sharp end of law enforcement focused on the warm art of social work.

Some might find it heartening to think the police leadership was concerned about the Muslim community and the mental welfare of police officers. But surely it needed to be — as Scipione stressed to the inquiry — the welfare of the hostages that was paramount.

As soon as the gunman invoked Islamist extremism as his motive — especially given his extremist background — police should have known they needed to incapacitate him before he took other lives on his way to martyrdom. The hostages had every right to think they would be freed before anyone worried about an anti-Muslim backlash.

Media at the time were being encouraged not to mention the Islamist links to this attack. Some journalists, typically, were in jihad denial.

Leading ABC opinionista Jonathan Green tweeted how the “connection” to Islamic State was “made up”. The chairman of the Australian Press Council, Julian Disney, admonished the media over its coverage of what he preferred to call Sydney’s “hostage incident”.

Here we had feelings triumphing over facts. The terrorist in this case had long defined himself through Islamism — he was a self-styled Shia cleric who opposed the fight against the Taliban and had been prosecuted for sending sickening letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. He was facing sex assault charges as well as charges over his ex-wife’s murder.

He had recently declared himself a Sunni, loyal to Islamic State. When he took 17 hostages at gunpoint and claimed to have a bomb, he unfurled an Islamic banner, demanded a proper Islamic State flag and declared he was conducting an Islamic State act against Australia. Yet the ABC published an online profile that did not mention the words Muslim, Islam or Islamic State and denied any links to terrorism.

Instead of dealing with the reality, too many were wishing he was just another nutter.

It is true that having been one of the last people to walk out of that cafe before Man Haron Monis pulled his gun, the Martin Place siege will always weigh heavily on me. But it is also true that for years before that close shave my commentary had warned about complacency and delusion over the jihadist threat.

And the worry is we are not improving. Almost a year after the Lindt attack a teenager dressed in black yelled “Allahu Akbar” after he shot dead a stranger, police worker Curtis Cheng, in Parramatta. Yet in a press conference five hours later, Scipione said there was “nothing to link this event to any terrorist related activity”. Politicians skirted the Islamist extremism issue.

The public needs to know its law enforcement and political leaders are being frank and fearless.