Code War? If only it was that simple…

The Hyundai A-League (HAL) was founded in 2005 following the 2002 Crawford Report, which found Australian soccer (“football”) required a systematic overhaul to reach professional status and stay afloat financially. The league catalysed the growth of football in Australia, both financially and in terms of participation, as seen in the 2015 report by Outside90. Such growth has helped the HAL negotiate what is expected to be its most fruitful broadcasting rights deal in history. Yet, this growing popularity has also resulted in a spike in unduly biased media scrutiny — namely from News Limited publicationsand a consequent code war between other Australian sports. These publications have attempted to sully the reputation of Australian football by hyperbolising the ostensible ‘hooligan problem’ that pervades the sport. On the contrary, they have neglected issues involving the sports they invest in. For example, News Limited owned the National Rugby League until 2012, while the AFL’s six-year, $2.5 billion broadcast deal with Fox Sports highlights News Limited’s vested interests.

With this in mind, my paper will discuss 1) the contrasting perspectives of football fans in Australia, and 2) how these portrayals are used to propagate — particularly right-wing — agendas. My first article is It’s Time To Stop the Football Louts by the late Rebecca Wilson, which was published in The Daily Telegraph November 22, 2015. The article brought conflicting responses — support and ignominy — from all divides of the code war. Mike Cockerill’s A-League: Idiotic fans don’t just attend games, other sports shouldn’t throw stones from glasshouses is a response in The Sydney Morning Herald to Wilson’s article. In short, Wilson’s article portrays football fans in a negative light in her opinion-laden piece, while Cockerill defends’ fans behaviour and argues they are pawns used as a pretext to denigrate football’s growing status in Australia. Before I continue, it is pertinent to preface my analysis with my perspective (not unlike Alia Imtoual did with her paper): I am an avid football fan and the Sydney Correspondent for a football website. I believe this does not make me deliberately biased, rather an informed individual that is able to consider historical contexts in analysing the two articles.

Wilson’s article was published during the HAL’s 10-year anniversary celebrations. This context, coupled with the provocative title – “It’s Time To Stop the Football Louts” – shows her intentions to sully the reputation of football by referencing past eras where the sport was saturated by gang-related firms. It is no surprise that Wilson has portrayed football fans in this light; in her 2016 article, It’s time for the FFA to get tough and ban RBB thugs, she uses a plethora of negative connoting words to label the fans as “bad boys” that “[cannot] behave for 12 months”, “criminals” and “perpetrators.” Such language is unduly biased, as statistics show it is a significant minority of football fans that commit miscreant behaviour. Furthermore, this language — which implies fans attending football games are vagabonds with the sole intention of committing crimes under the pretext of passion — mirrors her lexicon used in the main article I have chosen. Epithets such as “football louts” and “rats in the ranks of clubs” supports her primary framing of football fans. These are aided by her elected image which depicts a security guard chasing a flare that has wondered onto the field of play, as well as the 198 mugshots of fans banned from the games. The photos of the fans are not flattering — rather, they add to Wilson’s insinuations that football is inundated with criminals.

Wilson compares football fans to fans of other codes to highlight the apparent contrasts in behaviour. By referring to other fans as “a few drunk cricket yobbos” and “a small base of Bulldogs fans” instantly relegates their behaviour to actions society should expect as a result of inebriation. These innocent behaviours, she argues, “belies the savagery of hundreds of A-League fans.” One can infer that, according to Wilson’s portrayal, violence at football games mirrors organised crimes, while the misbehaviour at other sports is incidental. Such a portrayal is dangerous for two reasons. Firstly, football in Australia has historically had a negative image because 1) it was first played in Australia when the post-WWII European migrants brought it to Australia, and 2) the violence that arose in the 1980s and 1990s due to the ethnic-based clubs, pre-dating the HAL. Secondly, The Daily Telegraph’s predominantly right-wing, conservative viewership may have a propensity to supporting other sports which have traditionally been dominated by athletes with Anglo-Saxon roots. Therefore, Wilson links hooliganism with ethnicity to add racial undertones to the code war. If journalists are supposed to be the fourth estate, I would argue Wilson is acting irresponsibly and envenoming relationships that already exist in society by portraying football fans as hooligans.

On the other side of the divide lays Cockerill’s piece. Cockerill, one of football’s most respected journalists, responds to Wilson’s portrayal by labelling fans as “supporters” and the “hooligan…idiotic fringe” to separate authentic fans from the miscreants. Furthermore, Cockerill refers to the football community as “tribes in football” to engage with the negative labels and subvert them to portray football fans as united against hooligans. This is supported by his title, where “idiotic fans” again distinguishes the good from the bad and also positions himself as someone who is against belligerent fans. His analogy of “throw[ing] stones from glass houses” implies the apparent hypocrisy of other codes criticising football, thus simultaneously defending football and attacking other codes.  This subversion is further evident when he applauds the FFA for banning miscreant fans — “might actually suggest the game doesn’t tolerate bad behaviour and is trying to do something about it” — before even suggesting that perhaps the governing body has been too heavy-handed in dealing with hooligans. He also cites the Western Sydney Wanderers offering convicted fans the opportunity to appeal their fans, which he labels as a way of correcting “unfair…bans”.  In doing this, Cockerill establishes two things, 1) football fans’ misbehaviour that the code is dealing with, and 2) said issue is being pounced upon by journalists such as Wilson from publications such as The Daily Telegraph.

As I did with Wilson’s article, it is important to cross reference this piece with other works by Cockerill to highlight his perspective on the wider issue. Most telling is in his 2016 piece, Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou wants fan to embrace the ‘fire which burns endlessly, where he summaries the fan-driven football culture with “passion, excitement, obsession”. Contrary to Wilson’s denigrating descriptors, Cockerill chooses these words to portray football fans as victims of innate feelings and Murdoch media’s false characterisations. He elaborates on passionate behaviour as “the size of the fight of the crowd,” distinguishing it from “bad behaviour”. This passion can be seen in his use of the Red and Black Bloc (RBB) — the Western Sydney Wanderers active support group — that are regarded as the benchmark of the league. Furthermore, he has elected the RBB because they were at the centre of Wilson’s criticism, whereby he is attempting to put a positive spin on their negative portrayal. It seems Wilson and Cockerill’s agree that all fans have a right to be passionate. Furthermore, both writers denounce hooligans in sports — albeit to varying degrees. Therefore, I explore a second aspect of my paper: that the apparent pandemic of football hooliganism is exaggerated in the media as a pawn to push right-wing agendas.

In having portrayed football fans as violent hooligans, Wilson attempts to inflate the issue into something synonymous with the code. She uses medical adjectives such as “endemic and acute” to position herself as an intelligent writer, while simultaneously hyperbolising football hooliganism to compare it to a terminal illness that is crippling football and wider society. This continues with her apparent sympathy for the police who are “hamstrung” by the hooligan who have created a “cultural problem within the sport that worsens each season”. This last quote is particularly important as it builds on her earlier portrayal of fans by framing it as a growing issue, and it is here that context and agendas must be considered. This article was published following the 2015 AFL season which was marred by Adam Goodes, an indigenous Australian player, being booed at games after he called out a fan’s racist remarks. Eddy McGuire, the chairman of Collingwood and a radio host, exacerbated the issue by suggesting on national radio that Goodes should be used to promote King Kong.

As well as this public relations nightmare, the News Limited publications also have an investment in the AFL as seen in their latest aforementioned broadcasting rights deal. It is further apparent when, in 2008, then editor-in-chief of The Gold Coast Bulletin – a News Limited publication – was appointed as a board member of the The Gold Coast Suns in their foundational year. This is a clear example of a conflict of interest, thus further highlighting the bias that pervades Australian sport in favour of Australian Rules Football and Rugby League. Regarding the latter, News Limited owned a 50% stake in the National Rugby League until 2012, and the Melbourne Storm were owned by News Limited until the end of the 2013 season. Contrarily, HAL franchise, Gold Coast United, were owned independently by mining magnate, Clive Palmer and no club in the league has had ownerships affiliated with the media. While this does not relate to Wilson, per se, it shows how News Limited are invested in other sports that rival football, therefore highlighting their agendas that perchance Wilson would either have to adhere to or happily comply with.

Conversely, Cockerill frames Wilson’s article as another biased attack on the football fraternity, dismissing her article as having “the familiar whiff of discrimination” and implying the article’s “raison d’etre…[was] clickbait”. By challenging Wilson’s journalistic integrity — “florid language and the aggressively myopic undertones of the article in question — Cockerill discredits not only her portrayal of football fans, but also those done by her colleagues. For example, he calls out Alan Jones’ “odious comparison to the terrorism in Paris” to show the blatant absurdity and partisanship employed by Murdoch-owned media. Another example is his interjection in “Right, of course” to respond to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione’s criticism of football’s culture. By doing this, he has deflected criticism that belied the code not only from right-wing media, but also Subordinate Authorities.

With this in mind, I come to the next part of Cockerill’s piece: attacking the media bias against football in Australia. Cockerill does this by asking readers a question — “Why was the list leaked? — before answering it, in short, by attacking “the establishment…[that] has never understood, accepted, or liked [football]”. This “establishment” is further evident when he questions the violence statistics at other sports. “We don’t know,” he concludes, “because nobody has leaked that information yet. That’s no surprise.” Not only has Cockerill positioned himself as a pro-football writer than is championing the virtues of the game, he is also raising the fact that perhaps there is a conspiracy against the sport. In citing these conspiracies — which include Wilson’s article, Alan Jones on radio, NSW Police — Cockerill has portrayed fans as victims in a wider code and racial war:

“These people…like Jones…[a]re united in their distrust, and dislike, of a game which represents the world beyond our shores”.

This links to my earlier analysis of Wilson’s article which addressed the Anglo-Saxon readership of The Daily Telegraph as well as the lack of Balkan and Mediterranean players in Rugby League and Australian Rules Football.

In conclusion, it is clear that football fans are being portrayed in two contrasting ways depending on the media organisation. My analysis of Wilson’s right-wing article shows how News Limited  criticises fans of others codes to protect the sports they are invested in. On the other hand, Cockerill’s article seeks to defend football fans and the sport, arguing that perchance there exists a conspiracy that seeks to thwart the growth and influence of football.

Bibliography

Cockerill, M. (2015). A-League: Idiotic fans don’t just attend games, other sports shouldn’t throw stones from glasshouses. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/sport/soccer/aleague-idiotic-fans-dont-just-attend-games-other-sports-shouldnt-throw-stones-from-glasshouses-20151126-gl8j3a.html [Accessed 15 Oct. 2016].

Cockerill, M. (2016). Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou wants fans to embrace the ‘fire which burns endlessly’. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/sport/soccer/socceroos-coach-ange-postecoglou-wants-to-fans-to-embrace-the-fire-which-burns-endlessly-20160325-gnqyob.html [Accessed 26 Oct. 2016].

Imtoual, A. (2005). Religious Racism and the Media: Representations of Muslim Women in the Australian Print Media. Outskirts Online Journal, 13(1).

May, B. (2016). Analysing the growth of the A-League | Outside90. [online] Outside90.com. Available at: http://outside90.com/analysing-the-growth-of-the-a-league-123/ [Accessed 28 Oct. 2016].

The World Game. (2016). A-League seeking bumper TV deal. [online] Available at: http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/article/2016/10/17/league-seeking-bumper-tv-deal [Accessed 21 Oct. 2016].

Wilson, R. (2015). Time for denials is over: stop the louts. [online] Dailytelegraph.com.au. Available at: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/rebecca-wilson-its-time-to-stop-the-football-thugs/news-story/ec7ca08fa3bbcb206a30eb714b8a8be6 [Accessed 13 Oct. 2016].

Wilson, R. (2015). It’s time for the FFA to get tough and ban RRB thugs. [online] Available at: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/football/a-league/teams/western-sydney/how-long-can-western-sydney-wanderers-fans-survive-lame-penalties/news-story/471a1c1d8e7a4c04e732ae4638911dd2 [Accessed 25 Oct. 2016].

Media Analysis 4 — Proposal on the media portrays NRL differently to the Hyundai A-League

Drawing upon a variety of online and physical sources, I will hope to conclude that publications such as The Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph have a propensity to negatively report on The A-League (because of their investment in other sports); while SBS and Fox Sports are likely to portray a more bipartisan portrayal (due to their own investment and reputations).

I will pay particular attention to Rebecca Wilson, who incited vitriol amongst sports fans due to her article in 2015 that released the identities of more than 100 football fans banned from grounds.

I will also compare the language used by the media when talking about the two sports. Here, I will hope to conclude the media is biased in portraying football as a sport that cultivates hooligans, while propagating the benefits of rugby league.

John Seroukas Views Journalism Proposal

  1. The topic or subject area  of the views-journalism items you are proposing to deal with in your 1st written assignment

I will be exploring refugees seeking asylum in Australia. Miranda Devine’s article will take a right-wing approach, while Luke Mogelson’s will take a centre-left position in favour of asylum seekers.

2. The headline/title/name etc of the items  (or a brief designator if a broadcast item) and information on where and when they were published/broadcast

Mogelson’s article, titled The Dream Boat, was published in The New York Times in November 2015. It was therefore broadcast predominantly in the USA, but it also garnered international attention after winning the 2013 Livingston Award for International Reporting, and Australian attention because it is a relevant and divisive issue.

Devine’s article, The hypocrites of the left, was published in The Daily Telegraph in February 2014. It is likely that it attracted a predominantly local readership as the newspaper does not attract a large international audience.

3. If the items you are going to be discussing are available online, then provide links to the relevant web pages.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/17/magazine/the-impossible-refugee-boat-lift-to-christmas-island.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/the-hypocrites-of-the-left/story-fni0cwl5-1226837577099

4. One paragraph summarising what you believe are going to be your primary conclusions – i.e.what you anticipate will be the main point of your intended article.

Regarding Mogelson’s article, my primary conclusion will be that he is an author who has taken a relatively objective stance on the matter; and, I believe he has written the article to shed light on an issue that Americans can relate to — insofar as they have a large number of ‘illegal immigrants’ — and also identify with on a humanitarian level. I would label his views ‘relatively objective’ because Mogelson will be coming from a perspective that one can assume is not emotionally invested in the issue. There are few informal fallacies in the piece, as it is a feature story of his experience. I would argue that Mogelson appeals to emotions and social norms, inasmuch as his story will inevitably appeal to left-wing audiences in favour of allowing asylum seekers into Australia.

I believe Devine’s article, on the other hand, contains a modus operandi grounded in fear-mongering and conservatism. Her central claim is that Liberal governments’ policies of past and present were effective, humane deterrents against people seeking refuge in Australia via boats. Devine makes informal fallacies about Stephen Conroy (in the form of a distraction argument) and evaluative presumptions regarding the emotive language he uses to convince readers.

Do You Sea What I Sea?

John Seroukas

The issue of asylum seekers entering Australian shores ‘illegally’ has divided the nation since the turn of the millennium. With each new government comes a new solution that is framed as the antidote to Australia’s ostensible ailment — yet, these solutions seem to remedy the issue like a paracetamol treats cancer. In light of such a partisan issue, the two articles I have elected explore opposing sides of the debate: Miranda Devine’s The Daily Telegraph article, The hypocrites of the left, argues in favour of right-wing politics and criticises left-wing followers that claim the Abbott Government’s policies towards asylum seekers are inhumane. Meanwhile, Luke Mogelson’s award-winning feature, The Impossible Refugee Boat Lift to Christmas Island — published in The New York Times  adopts a humanitarian approach to highlight the perils asylum seekers experience upon embarking for Australia. While the articles share a similarity in assuming their audience needs convincing — or is, in the least, impartial to the issue — and never explicitly state their warrants, differences emerge regarding their persuasive techniques and world views.

Before analysing Devine’s mechanisms to persuade her audience, it is important to understand her world view. While Devine does not explicitly state her position on asylum seekers, it is evident throughout the piece that she is pro-Liberal and supports The Coalition’s zero-tolerance policies. She establishes this in the title, where, through the use of emotive and provocative language, she simultaneously criticises the left and positions herself as right. Devine establishes her position on the issue so blatantly so that she can appear reliable to right-wing readers, which is particularly important as the majority of The Daily Telegraph readers adopt a similar stance.

Her position is further evident in the appeals to comparison and facts. By mentioning the success of John Howard’s government  that “had emptied out the detention centres…[and] left [four people] in detention when Labor came to office,” Devine implies her world view that stoic tactics are the most successful means of deterring asylum seekers travelling to Australia. It seems Devine uses an either-or argument to win over new readers and consolidate ones that already agree with her. Moreover, I believe she does not explicitly state her world view so that she can keep the validity of her arguments. Ergo, despite the title that identifies her as a right-wing author, keeping her warrant unstated gives her the appearance of a bipartisan writer whose conclusion to the asylum seeker issue happens to appease the right-wing.

While Mogelson shares an opposing world view to Devine, he employs similar techniques. This is evident in the emotive language of his title, The Impossible Refugee Boat Lift to Christmas Island, which conveys the refugees’ aspirations for a better life and the upheaval they undertake to reach said goal. This, coupled with the photos of packed boats and dingy buses, attempt to appeal to readers’ social norms, implying that the refugees deserve asylum as a reward for the measures they have taken. Such a view complies with the readership of The New York Times as the majority are liberal, left-wing and would therefore be moved by Mogelson’s account of his asylum seeker journey. Mogelson’s views become more apparent in the third paragraph — “The children…now clung to their parents.” The imagery of frightened children in a life-threatening situation appeals to readers’ emotions as the poignant scene is foreign to Western audiences. Like Devine, Mogelson does not state his view. It seems he has done this to add credibility to the story insofar as he did not undertake the journey to prove a point, rather, the point — that asylum seekers are being treated unfairly and deserve better treatment — has been proven by the journey.

Having established Devine’s beliefs, one can understand why she employs certain persuasive techniques. Devine tries to persuade her audience by using emotive language to appeal to their emotions, seen in “[Adam Bandt’s] emotional flatulence and sanctimonious hypocrisy”. Moreover, through this ad hominem attack on Bandt’s character, Devine ignores his call on Tony Abbott to sack Scott Morrison and the wider attack on the LNP’s treatment of asylum seekers.

Indeed, such ad hominem arguments are employed by other right-wing columnists including Andrew Bolt in Why no tears now for the dead asylum seekers? (“cowardly, guilty, avert-the-gaze silence”) and Rowan Dean in The gay marriage debate is more about emotion and wording than legal impediment or discrimination (“asinine comparisons with Martin Luther King”). Without directing this piece away from Devine, it seems all three figures share a commonality in how they frame their opposition as unintelligent and oversensitive. Devine’s application is different though — it seems she is aware of her diverse audience and so adjusts her argument accordingly. This is clear in her short interjections like “What a joke” and “How dare he” to appeal to popular opinion and attack the status quo. These mechanisms have a two-fold effect: firstly, they support her world view that the Abbott Government has been transparent and beneficial to Australia (thus placating her followers). Secondly, they provoke left-wing readers in an attempt to bring them over to her world view.

Mogelson, on the other hand, subtly criticises the efforts of Abbott and Howard Governments’ treatment of asylum seekers, however is similar to Devine insofar as assuming his audience is impartial to the issue. The story is formatted as a feature, where Mogelson takes readers on the journey he undertook from Georgia to Australia. However, through his appealing to facts and authority, it is clear that Mogelson is in opposition to Devine’s stance. Statistics such as “Last year, nearly 37,000 Afghans applied for asylum abroad, the most since 2001” and “In 2010, a suicide attacker killed more than 70 people at a Shiite rally in Quetta” favour left-wing views on asylum seekers, as Mogelson establishes a dangerous situation in Afghanistan that perhaps lends itself to desperation and therefore seeking asylum. Such desperation is evident in a concluding sentence: “Every story [of embarking for Australia] implies the sadder story of a homeland”. This emotive, poignant language appeals to readers as it frames the refugees — and their eventual settlement in Christmas Island or Papua New Guinea — as the lesser of two evils.

Mogelson deliberately employs appeals to facts and emotions to push his agenda. If his modus operandi was to simply highlight a refugee’s journey, perhaps such statistics and context would not have been provided. However, other works by Mogelson including Total Solar (published by The New Yorker) and These Heroic, Happy Dead  (published by Tim Duggan Books) also explore the lives of those experiencing ongoing danger and the emotional turmoil as a result. Furthermore, Mogelson’s background plays an important role: the issue of illegal immigrants is a contentious issue in the current presidency campaign, with some estimates claiming that there are more than eleven million illegal immigrants in the United States. Mogelson therefore uses the Australian issue of asylum seekers to appeal to analogy. With this issue playing out in the media in a fashion similar to asylum seekers in Australia, it seems that perhaps Mogelson is using the Australian issue as a means of swaying his audience.

One clear difference between the two authors is their attack on the opposition. Devine, for example, employs a straw person argument to present the “[left-wing] compassionistas” as ignominious. The word, compassionistas, draws comparisons to fashionistas where, in the context of foreign policy, such a character would be rendered useless in this debate. Furthermore, Devine proposes a distraction argument by alluding to the time “Abbott’s mother’s photo was posted on twitter last week” and “when his daughters were subjected to crude sexual insults”. Irrespective of one’s thoughts on these events, they have no relevance to the asylum seeker issue and is a clear tactic employed by Devine to convince left-wing readers that the media has treated Abbott unfairly on all fronts. Devine concludes her piece with a hasty generalisation argument — “Collective moral amnesia is the only answer”. This has the effect of criticising the left through irony, as they claim to adopt a humanitarian stance, while also containing an air of absurdity as though proposed solutions by the left are futile in solving the asylum seeker issue.

Mogelson, on the other hand, does not employ straw person or hasty generalisation arguments. This appears to mainly be because such blatant arguments would be incongruent with the rest of the piece which attempts to subtly convince readers to side with asylum seekers by recounting their plight. One way he does this is through the anecdotes of people he met, including Qais, Yousseff, Amir and Siya. Mogelson employs the presence of real people as a poignant anchor that audiences can relate to. Furthermore, Mogelson appeals to readers’ emotions in the final dialogue where a refugee he befriended, Qais, believes his detainment in an offshore detention centre will be swift and temporary. This is Mogelson’s final attempt to convince readers of his worldview — that asylum seekers deserve better treatment.

Conclusively, it is clear that Miranda Devine and Luke Mogelson set out to convince audiences of their respective world views. Devine appeals to a right-wing audience through her defence of Abbott’s Cabinet and their policies on asylum seekers; while Mogelson’s attempts to convince his readers of the need for compassion on the issue, by recounting his journey with asylum seekers.