The many portrayals of Hillary Clinton

The many portrayals of Hillary Clinton


As the presidential race tightens between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, their policies, personal lives and past faux pas have been thrust into the limelight. Since the announcement of Hillary running for candidacy in the 2016 US Presidency race for the Democratic Party, the media hype surrounding her, has varied hugely. From Australia’s ABC declaring that Hillary Clinton has shattered the glass ceiling with ‘milestone’ presidential nomination in early 2015, to later  exclaiming why the election of Hillary Clinton promises a more dangerous world. There is no doubt that the media are consumed with Hillary Clinton and her candidacy. Nevertheless, the portrayal of Clinton is full of contention within the media landscape.  The BBC’s iWonder, Who is Hillary Clinton, details the milestones of her life thus far including her husband’s notorious infidelity whilst the Times contrasts Hillary’s persona to that of a professional corporate avatar in, Why is Clinton disliked? An Observer article examining Hillary’s past words from 2006 when Audio emerged of Hillary Clinton proposing rigging Palestinian Election exemplifies that the worse the news is surrounding Hillary, the better this is for newspapers. The plethora of news articles, in varying styles of hard and views news reports indicate that any topic to do with Hillary Clinton will be picked up by a general readership, allowing diverse portrayal of Mrs. Clinton.


A close analysis of these five main articles with references to several supplementary sources explore how the medias understanding of Hillary Clinton has differed over the past several months. Through indirect and direct persuasive techniques, the media have been influencing the general public to both an immediate and global effect. The vast coverage on Hillary Clinton and her opposition Donald Trump, who himself has faced similar dichotomy from the media has been dispersed globally. This coverage not only effects the immediate opinions of American’s who will vote on the 8th of November, but will also validate global opinions and persuade undecided audiences.

Firstly, the initial reaction to Hillary Clinton being nominated for Presidency in the US was met with (mostly) global support at the nomination of a woman for presidential candidacy. The ABC’s article opens with, ‘the glass ceiling has been shattered with a powerful blow.’

The succeeding quotes chosen by Stephanie March, from Hillary Clinton immediately after her candidacy was announced position the responder to elicit an emotional response.

“Tonight, we’ve reached a milestone in our nation’s march toward a more perfect union: the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for president,” Hillary Clinton said to a roar of applause at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

“When any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”

The mood in the arena was jubilant but as one Hillary Clinton delegate put it, this is a love fest. How her message translates to the rest of America is yet to be seen.”  

Gender inequality is a salient issue in today’s landscape. Through highlighting the plight of Hillary Clinton and allying it with an issue every woman faces, March is using an emotional appeal as well as an ad populum argument to garner support for Clinton. Establishing Hillary as the minority and as the first woman to ‘shatter’ the glass ceiling appeals to a lack of precedent. This works to position readers to be sympathetic towards Clinton and her candidacy. This would especially resonate with a female readership. Whilst the article is a hard news report and aims to report non-biasedly phrases such as ‘roar of applause,’ and ‘the mood in the arena was jubilant,’ are positively loaded. Hillary is being presented as a strong, feminist woman who is challenging the status quo.

A further report by the New York Times entitled, Hillary for President authored by the editorial board, calls for the election of Hillary in a highly emotive plea.

“In any normal election year, we’d compare the two presidential candidates side by side on the issues. But this is not a normal election year.

 A comparison like that would be an empty exercise in a race where one candidate — our choice, Hillary Clinton — has a record of service and a raft of pragmatic ideas, and the other, Donald Trump, discloses nothing concrete about himself or his plans while promising the moon and offering the stars on layaway.

 (We will explain in a subsequent editorial why we believe Mr. Trump to be the worst nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history”.

 The warrant here is intrinsically linked with the justification. Hillary Clinton who has, a ‘record of service and a raft of pragmatic ideas’ is the obvious choice. The paradox, Trump, ‘promises the moon and offers the stars on a layaway.’ The emotive language used here, coupled with an appeal to analogy.  This analogy however, relies on the reader accepting a damning view of Donald Trump. Further support of their justificatory claim comes through the statement, “we will explain in a subsequent editorial why we believe Mr. Trump to be the worst nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history’.

The weight of the word ‘our’ should not be missed in the below extract. Through grouping the staff of an intellectual ‘hard’ style newspaper, that is established and well recognised the phrase, ‘our endorsement’ becomes even more significant. The further appeal to appeal to emotion is clarified through the declaration of Hillary as the first or only woman in the arena. The New Yorker is campaigning for Hillary as a woman who fights for women’s rights and leads by example through being overly qualified and mature.

Over 40 years in public life, Hillary Clinton has studied these forces and weighed responses to these problems. Our endorsement is rooted in respect for her intellect, experience, toughness and courage over a career of almost continuous public service, often as the first or only woman in the arena”. 

A dichotomous view of the above is written by the ABC and declares in its headline that the election of Hillary Clinton promises a more dangerous world. This article negatively evaluates Clinton’s position as mainly policy free despite her position as former secretary of state and promises that the weaknesses in Clinton’s profile, mean we [the world] are in for a rather ‘torrid’ time.

The opening lines of Joseph Camilleri’s article making his position very clear. In what he calls a policy-free contest between Clinton and Trump he asserts that Clinton’s approach has escaped serious scrutiny. His use of questions signifies an appeal to the facts. Through using questions such as ‘how is it, then, that a former secretary of state, who loudly proclaims her intimate knowledge of world affairs, has given so little attention to the grave dangers looming on the horizon?’ forces the reader to recall her past speeches. There are two audiences present in this article, readers who are actively involved in the political sphere and would remember the utterances of Clinton, and the general public, who learn their opinions from establishments they respect. Camilleri is relying on this in his appeal to facts.

“In this largely policy-free contest, Hillary Clinton’s approach to the immense challenges facing the United States has escaped serious scrutiny. Yet, how America views its place in a rapidly transforming world has far-reaching implications not only for security at home and abroad, but for the economy, financial markets, the environment and much else.

“How is it, then, that a former secretary of state, who loudly proclaims her intimate knowledge of world affairs, has given so little attention to the grave dangers looming on the horizon? Part of the explanation is that Clinton’s campaign has judged the electorate as unwilling or unable to tune in to a serious discussion of international risks and opportunities”.

 Camilleri negatively evaluates Clinton again through terms such as ‘acknowledged a grasp of detail on many international issues’. Camilleri is painting a very dystopic view of the world Clinton would create in this way. He further mocks her ‘policy of strength’ through labelling them one-lines that are strong on rhetoric and dangerously weak on substances.   

Clinton has an acknowledged grasp of detail on many international issues. But neither her public utterances nor her stewardship of US diplomacy offer a compelling picture of a world in profound transition, or of the challenges this poses for both domestic and foreign policy”. 

“How then, does Clinton propose to address these and related challenges? In the words of her election manifesto, by pursuing “a policy of strength”.

 This includes preserving and strengthening military alliances, notably NATO; “standing up to Putin”; holding China accountable for any actions deemed destabilising of the existing order, whether in relation to trade, cyberspace, human rights or territorial disputes; holding on to a “qualitative military edge”; and maintaining a “rock solid commitment to the values that have made America great. 

“These one-liners are strong on rhetoric and dangerously weak on substance. What does “standing up to Putin” or “holding China accountable” mean in practice? The intention, one must assume, is to preserve the military, diplomatic and economic dominance the United States once enjoyed, even though the strategy is tantamount to King Canute stemming the tide”.

Camilleri is appealing to the facts, or lack thereof. His statement, ‘one must assume’ points out the holes in Clinton’s argument and aims to highlight the fact she has not made solid commitments or a cohesive argument in his view, surround these issues.  He also uses an analogy of an apocryphal anecdote of The King Canute, comparing Clinton’s strategy alike to Canute stemming the tide. This emphasises what Camilleri believes to be a futile policy and that Clinton doesn’t have the breadth of power she believes to.

His closing statement uses an appeal to consequence and popular opinion to educate his audience on the ‘Trump circus.’ This circus is a disservice to the human future, due to its distractive nature taking away from the very real issues of Clinton’s weak profile and neglect to mention any actual policy. His comments are more on the nature of the election than the content, with personal attacks and faux pas stealing the spotlight from critical discussion. His final sentence, ‘we may be in for a rather torrid time,’ emotionally appeals to his audience and aims to drive home his central argument; that Hillary promises a world that is more dangerous, due to her vague polices.

“Perhaps the greatest disservice the Trump circus has done to the human future — with the media as its willing accomplices — is the failure to lay bare these deeply entrenched and deeply troubling weaknesses in the Clinton profile. We may be in for a rather torrid time”.

  With most of Clinton’s life in the limelight, the BBC created a timeline of the most pivotal moments of her life thus far. With details of her husband’s various infidelities, the FBI email scandal and her most infamous quotes. Hillary’s conceding speech to her Democrat nomination in 2008 in place of Obama was one such occasion the BBC chose to highlight.

“Although we were not able to shatter that highest and hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you it has 18 million cracks in it”.

This is an emotional appeal on Clinton’s part. Speaking to the 18 million individuals who voted for her to be nominated and using terms such as ‘highest and hardest’ create a vivid mental representation of the feat she was trying to achieve. At the end of the timeline, the BBC praises Clinton’s extensive experience, though relays the fact that many remain highly uncertain of what she stands for. This appeal to popular opinion justifies their slight bias to Mrs. Clinton and they pander to an audience who view Hillary as the warranted candidate over Mr Trump.


 “Few candidates in history can match Clinton’s extensive experience and longevity. Yet despite this, many people remain uncertain as to what she stands for. She’s not Donald Trump. And for many Americans that will be enough to win their vote. But many others will never be persuaded to vote for Hillary. We will find out in November which way a deeply polarised electorate responds to a race that has been light on policy and long on soundbite”.

As the campaigning period has progressed, Clinton’s approval ratings are now in a similar range to that of Trump. David Brooks in his article, ‘why is Clinton disliked?’ negatively evaluates Clinton for being too career orientated and not showing the public who she is outside of the office. Through negative evaluations and appeals to popular opinions and analogies, Brook’s central argument is that in order for Clinton to win the trust of the public, she must show she is a real person instead of just a productive one.  With both Trump and Clinton sitting with a 57 percent disapproval rating within the American public. 60 percent of a New York Times survey respondents said they believed Clinton did not share the same values and 64 percent believed she is not honest or trustworthy, Brooks’ argument is a based on the laying out of the facts. Brooks commends Clinton on her dedication to her profession and tenacity but asks the following question:

 “I would begin my explanation with this question: Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun? We know what Obama does for fun — golf, basketball, etc. We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun.

“But when people talk about Clinton, they tend to talk of her exclusively in professional terms. For example, on Nov. 16, 2015, Peter D. Hart conducted a focus group on Clinton. Nearly every assessment had to do with on-the-job performance. She was “multitask-oriented” or “organised” or “deceptive.”

Brooks determination that a president should be more than face value, and create depth of character for themselves is a personal evaluation, however his use of the aforementioned facts supports his claims. The statement that as secretary of state she had a 66 percent approval rating and as early as March 2015 her approval rating was at 50 percent with a disapproval rating of 39 percent identifies the sharp decline in her popularity. Brooks is arguing that the more Clinton portrays herself in media as a résumé, the more her ratings will decline.

Brooks, in order to be unbiased anecdotally explains that those who work with Hillary adore her and explain she is warm and caring but counters this statement through saying she presents herself as a policy brief. This emotional appeal works in a tripartite way. Firstly, to establish Hillary as a grandma, with maternal instincts. Secondly as a warm and caring person and finally, contradictorily, as career orientated individual who lacks warmth in the eyes of the public.   Brooks justificatory warrant is that in order to regain mass public appeal

“People who work closely with her adore her and say she is warm and caring. But it’s hard from the outside to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a résumé and policy brief”. 

 To supplement the above portray of Clinton, The New Yorker’s, ‘does Hillary Clinton still believe?’ and ‘the quiet ruthlessness of the Clinton campaign’ all enhance the idea of Clinton as hard hearted and determined to win the election, no matter the cost. Using an appeal to analogy of her behaviours to past president Obama and even Trump Leamann and Wallace harness analogy to create a Hillary as an individual with a cold persona.  Lemann’s, ‘the quiet ruthlessness of the Clinton campaign’ explores how James Comey, Director of the FBI’s announcement into the continuation of Hillary’s email scandal was turned into positive PR… “Within a few days, the campaign had managed to change the subject from what Comey might find that Clinton had done to what Comey himself had done by making such a dramatic announcement less than two weeks before the election.”


Finally, an article published by the Observer, delved into the archives of 2006 to find audio ‘proof’ of Clinton proposing rigging the Palestinian Election. The heavy media scrutiny Hillary, her campaign and family have been under is immense. This final persona presented of Clinton is one that is highly contrary to her self representation. She is portrayed here as an undemocratic individual, which is a label Clinton has tried to fight. What may have been an offhand comment has been deemed deterministic of the election, as Trump has labelled the election rigged.

Clinton can be heard saying:

“I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake…and if we were going to push for an election, then we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win.”

Chomsky recalls being taken aback that “anyone could support the idea—offered by a national political leader, no less—that the U.S. should be in the business of fixing foreign elections.”

Ken Kurson is trying to position an appeal to consequence through the use of the phrase, ‘Chomsky recalls being taken aback that ‘any one could support the idea…that the U.S should be in the business of fixing foreign elections’. The aforementioned statement correlates to Trumps assertion that the presidential race is rigged, and the public knowledge that the Democrat National Committee, purposely rigged the nomination process through their campaign against Bernie Sanders to Hillary’s favour.

The question must be asked, is a ten-year-old interview, pertinent to today’s issue? Personally, I find it is. With a life in the spotlight and most of Hillary’s words carefully measured, accountability becomes an important issue. Further as secretary of state Clinton’s opposition to gay marriage was widely acknowledged.  Politifact found that as public sentiment around gay marriage became stronger, Clinton’s support of the issue backtracked from a stance that was originally anti-gay marriage to full support. In 2000 Clinton stated:


“Marriage has got historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman,” Mrs. Clinton said while running for the Senate in New York.

Hillary’s appeal to precedent and social norms has quickly evolved over the past 16 years. Aiming to point out the dichotomous views of Hillary, Politifact aspires to highlight Clintons the inconsistency of her opinions and argues Clinton always sides with the views of the people. Her opinions are parallel to that of the people i.e. ad populum.

“Hillary Clinton supports marriage equality and hopes the Supreme Court will come down on the side of same-sex couples being guaranteed that constitutional right,” Adrienne Elrod, a spokeswoman for Hillary for America, said while Mrs. Clinton was campaigning for the presidency in Iowa”.  

As a woman that has lived her life in the limelight, Clinton was always bound to come under severe media scrutiny. The perceptions and portrayals of Clinton range from nothing short of heroic to a pure demonisation of her character. As the presidential race tightens, every past move, current position and familial fall out will be public knowledge. The contention surrounding public opinion on Clinton, is and will remain highly divided. This news furore will no doubt continue, even if she is, or is not elected as America’s next president.  As the plethora of news articles grow, from opinion to hard news styled reports, the face of Hillary Clinton changes. The challenge for the growing number of the general public who are concerned with the political sphere, will be to decipher fact from fiction.

By Maesie Harris



Brooks, D. (2016). Why Is Clinton Disliked?. Retrieved 30 October 2016, from

Camilleri, J. (2016). Opinion: Election of Hillary Clinton promises a more dangerous world. ABC News. Retrieved 23 October 2016, from

Hillary Clinton for President. (2016). Retrieved 29 October 2016, from

Kurson, K. (2016). 2006 Audio Emerges of Hillary Clinton Proposing Rigging Palestine Election. Observer. Retrieved 2 November 2016, from

Leamann, N. (2016). The Quiet Ruthlessness of the Clinton Campaign – The New Yorker. The New Yorker. Retrieved 2 November 2016, from

March, S. (2016). Clinton shatters glass ceiling with ‘milestone’ presidential nomination. ABC News. Retrieved 23 October 2016, from

Sherman, A. (2016). Hillary Clinton’s changing position on same-sex marriage. @politifact. Retrieved 2 November 2016, from

Wallace-Wells, B. (2016). Does Hillary Clinton Still Believe? – The New Yorker. The New Yorker. Retrieved 1 November 2016, from

Who is the real Hillary Clinton?. (2016). BBC Timelines. Retrieved 23 October 2016, from

z5020516 Step 1 Assessment 4 Maesie Harris

For my final Assignment I have chosen to address how Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump are being portrayed in the media and if there are any stark differences and stark biases ( I suspect there will be). I will also be attempting to understand if underlying sexism play a role in the expectations of each candidate.

I will contrast articles from the likes of the Boston Globe, The New Yorker and a range of Australian sources to fully understand how each candidate is being presented to perceived audiences and what the major differences are.

The sources I have so far are:

Refugees: a sea of divided opinions

Refugees: a sea of divided opinions


The ethical debate surrounding the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers within Australia has everlasting currency in the twenty first century’s political landscape. As Nauru horror stories, violent protests and mass world displacement become ever more commonplace, the paradigms surrounding the treatment of refugees has come into contention. What has been labelled as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis has reached the shores of Australia and poured into our print, broadcast and digital media. Two opinion pieces from the forefront of Australia’s media, Sky News and The Australian, purport contrasting viewpoints when under analysis. In a broadcast interview with Sky News, Australian Federal MP Bob Katter, who holds two seats in Australia’s 45th Parliament, called for a ban on Middle Eastern and African Migrants. Paradoxically, Peter Van Onselen of the Australian, has labelled Australia’s policy of using genuine refugees as human repellent as repugnant. An analysis of these articles reveals various beliefs, world views and values held by the authors. The purporting of the condemnation or appraisal of the Australian Government highlights the highly antagonistic area of opinion.

In an interview with Sky News Australia, Robert Katter, (the grandson of a Lebanese migrant as The Australian pointed out) stated his opposition to allowing Middle Eastern and African Muslims into Australia. His central argument, which is full of informal fallacy, is subverted through the use of distraction, consequence and an appeal to the facts. Katter argues the ‘Merkelisation’ of Europe would soon follow to Australia, resulting in, “mass murder or an attempted mass murder every six days.” Katter’s negative evaluation of the humanitarian crisis, that has led to mass immigration, alludes to his position and central warrant. Katter believes that the religion of Islam isn’t that of peace but rather one of mass murder and violence and that it does not belong on Australian soil. His analogy and use of oppositional terms such as ‘them’ and ‘mob,’ all indicate his asserted alarm and hostility to Muslim refugees being allowed to enter Australia.

Katter’s central claim of banning Middle Eastern and African Muslim immigration to Australia is expressed through the use of an appeal to consequence. Katter said:

“Tony Abbott, went around trying to get the identification cards, of all the visa over stayers. Most of these people are on short term visas but they’re a joke. They’re like the Mexican situation.

They get across the border in the United States, you’ll never get them out again and that is the situation in Australia with 650,000 people coming into an economy when there’s already only 200,000 jobs and has over 200,000 school leavers, seeking those jobs. This has to be lunacy. It’s triple lunacy when people are coming from countries of this nature.”

Katter differentiates himself, Australians and immigrants he deems to be fit for Australian life through the use of isolating terms, such as them and they. He identifies an assumed right –wing readership and through personal evaluation interprets Australia’s ‘situation’ as similar to that of America’s. The appeal to consequence, expressed through an analogy, can be likened to the lexicon of Donald Trump. This excerpt ridicules the hardships many immigrants face, legal or illegal. Further in Katter’s argument he uses the statement, ‘no way José,’ which is highly ironic considering his aforementioned comments regarding Mexico. He uses false analogy as well as a non sequitur argument. Australia’s predicament is unlikely to be similar to that of Mexico’s or even Europe’s, in particular considering Australia’s geographic isolation. Through mentioning Mexico, Katter uses distraction tactics and a straw person argument to attack an idea that isn’t closely related to Australia’s current situation. It should however be noted that his interview with Sky News was broadcast live and as such his argument is not as cohesive as Peter Van Onselen’s.

Katter further utilises analogy to justify his agenda:

“They call it the Merkelisation of Europe, the bringer of twenty-three million people from those countries between Greece and India, the Middle East as it’s referred to and North Africa into Europe which results in a mass murder, or an attempted mass murder every six days.

The time has come now, to stop people from those countries, coming into Australia. And if that is an extremist position, then it is an extremist position held by Saudi Arabia and Dubai. They won’t let any of them in. I think that the risks to the Australian people now are so great that that, should not occur anymore.”

Katter’s justificatory warrant here, when simplified, is a matter of a flag waving exercise. This broadcast interview is clearly a platform Katter has chosen to express his unabashed opinion. Katter appeals to the social norms and authoritative norms of the United Arab Emirates, which is incongruous considering the United Arab Emirates regressive positon on many freedoms and ideals Australians’ hold dear. It would be fair to say that the UAE and Australia’s value systems are diametrically opposed. Further, it does not follow that just because the United Arab Emirates does not take in refugees that Australia should not. Whilst factually impressive, it doesn’t provide a sound rationale for argument against providing refuge for those in need. Also, one shouldn’t base foreign policy on another country’s ideals. Not taking in refugees isn’t a universal truth simply because the UAE has decided it. To strengthen his argument, it would be more rational for him to use a western example culturally similar to Australia.

Katter’s attempted use of the facts is negated in the following statements as they contradict each other:

“I mean I cannot believe, a government that continues to bring 630,000 people into Australia each year in an economy that is only generating 200,000 jobs.”

“They’re like the Mexican situation. They get across the border in the United States, you’ll never get them out again and that is the situation in Australia with 650,000 people coming into an economy when there’s already only 200,000 jobs and has over 200,000 school leavers, seeking those jobs this has to be lunacy.”

It’s remiss of Katter to appeal to the facts when he can’t hold a firm figure. Whilst the number remains ‘relatively’ the same, Katter’s entire argument surrounds the fact that allowing even one refugee from the Middle East or Africa into Australia would be a mistake. His statement is an overgeneralization. Whether Katter meant to be hyperbolic or not, to emote and empower his own statistics, is beside the point. If Katter’s aim is to be recommendatory he should aspire to be as precise as possible. Following, Katter’s repeated use of, ‘I,’ negates any semblance of authoritative, governmental opinion, which is a position he has privilege to. Instead it positions his argument as emotional opinion throughout its entirety. Katter also uses the terms refugee and immigrant interchangeably; he is equating refugees as burden’s to the system. He again uses dehumanising phrases such as ‘they’ and ‘they’re like…”. Additionally, the member for Kennedy needs to revise his statement of, ‘200,000 jobs a year,’ as it is vastly under estimated. The ABC’s fact check proves as such, in evidencing the Turnbull Government claim of creating 300,000 new jobs in 2015. This verifies the Australian economy could, in fact, more than accommodate the 12,000 refugees the Coalition agreed to settle in 2015.

Katter’s further use of anecdote and prejudice is prevalent when discussing the terrorism that ‘Middle Eastern and African Islam’ leads to.

“No I’m not choosing the word Islamic because I just don’t think you get that sort of Islamic belief system in countries like Indonesia. Yes, there was the Bali Bombing but outside of that you just don’t get these continuous bombings in their own country and now in Europe, where they’ve taken twenty-three million of these people in.

I mean there comes a point where I’m worried about Australians. I’m worried about the people over there but I most certainly would not, you know, to go back to the Jewish, I mean when I say bring the Sheikhs in, they are persecuted, bring the Jews in, bring the Christians in right?”

Katter is providing a false analogy, as any person current with the news would be able to identify. There have been a string attacks by Muslim Indonesians’ against people who identify as queer, there has been a rise of radical Islam in the Aceh Province and there has been documented genocide in Western Papua New Guinea by the Indonesian Government. Katter’s warrant and assertion that Muslim Indonesians are not cut from the same cloth as other Islamic Extremists is an incorrect, over generalisation. Katter stating that Indonesian Muslims would be allowed into Australia as refugees but not Middle Eastern Refugees is a clear act of personal preferential treatment in decision making. This is in line with a personal opinion or recommendatory piece, not a rigid argument. Through using such deterministic, inflammatory language, Katter succinctly connects with his imagined audience. He believes his intended audience are already aware and ready to take a stance against said refugees. He imagines that through using an Ad Populum argument and appealing to the masses that his world values would gain momentum and spread further into the public.

Peter Van Onselen’s central claim is clear from the opening title, the ‘policy of using genuine refugees as human repellent is repugnant.’ Writing for The Australian, Van Onselen’s opinion piece, through negative evaluation, condemns the Australian Government. He judges the use of Manus Island and Nauru as a type of purgatory to hold refugees and deems it Australia’s national shame. Public sentiment in Australia seems to be dichotomous in its views surrounding ‘boat people’ and refugees. Van Onselen’s personal world view, combined with the use of analogy, facts and appeal to emotion, criticise the Australian Government and calls on the Australian public to have compassion for those stuck in limbo. Van Onselen’s opinion piece understands that, ‘most Australian’s approve of tough rhetoric and hard line measures,’ the government undertakes. His argumentation aims to counteract such notions and push forward a considerate, humanitarian agenda.

Van Onselen’s suggestive use of analogy is interesting in comparison to Bob Katter’s:

“For three years’ thousands of men, women and children have lived in a perpetual state of uncertainty, confined to Nauru under an indefinite detention regime we don’t even inflict on convicted criminals. Rapists and murderers at least know the terms of their confinement.”

“Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote: “The degree of civilisation in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” The degree of civilisation in a society also can be judged by how it treats genuine refugees — not that we have taken responsibility for those coming here by boat (instead exporting the responsibility to offshore locations), and not that anyone is allowed access where they are detained to verify claims of abuse.”

“It is the modern equivalent of mounting decapitated heads on pikes around a gated medieval city to ward off enemies. Any civilised society must repudiate such a strategy.”

The use of emotive language in these excerpts highlight the awful predicament refugees are placed in. Through appealing to analogy and consequence, Van Onselen emphasises the plight refugees face – purgatory. The statement, ‘rapists and murderers at least know the terms of their confinement,’ is a persuasive technique that brings about self-reflexivity. As a reader you are forced to consider a ‘detention centre’ for what it really is, a prison. Further Dostoevsky’s quote regarding civility and treatment of individuals in detention, as a reflection of the prison’s society, allies Australia with uncouth behaviour. The recent release of over 1,000 documents by The Guardian containing reports of abuse serve only to support Van Onselen’s statements. The use of persuasive language, coupled with credible visual discourse, make his argument hard to negate on an emotional basis. Van Onselen’s use of metaphors alludes to the barbarity of Australia’s acts against refugees and is suggestive of an archaic or medieval strategy. His words are poignant and pictorial associating the ‘stop the boats’ strategy to decapitation and the state of nature – anarchy. The likening to the dark ages appeals to the social norms of today and a readers self-assessed progressive nature.

Van Onselen’s use of, ‘I,’ help elicit his central claim more clearly:

“I happen to take the view that turning boats around doesn’t guarantee the safe passage of those aboard thereafter, wherever else they choose to go. We know next to nothing about how safe or otherwise genuine refugees on such boats are when they move off the radar of our border control services. But, yes, there are far fewer asylum-seekers in detention courtesy of the boats being stopped.

It is morally repugnant and I do not accept that the silent majority is comfortable endorsing such a strategy. Not when it is brought to their collective attention.”

Van Onselen uses this piece, contrarily to Katter, as a genuine persuasive argument. Though their opinions are contentious, the use of alarmed, emotive language is used to educate their respective audiences. Van Onselen terms turning boats back, ‘morally repugnant,’ and exclaims that the silent majority would not be comfortable with endorsing such strategies. Van Onselen is trying to inform his audience, but assumes a prior level of morality and compassion. His address is to the Australians he terms ‘hard line.’ He is appealing to the readers and the Australian Government to essentially, ‘do the right thing.’ Van Onselen’s personalised address makes his argument all the more powerful through unloading justificatory claims around safety. He acknowledges that there are fewer asylum seekers due to boats being stopped, but plays on the emotions to push his argument further into the emotional arena. He appeals to empathy and concern as counter arguments for returning asylum seekers to their country of origin.

Van Onselen’s use of rhetoric support his arguments further:

“We are talking about families who have fled war-torn parts of the globe, 800 of whom have been formally assessed as genuine refugees (not economic refugees chasing a better life). Yet because Australia wants a strong deterrent to boat arrivals, they are being used as human repellent.”
“Confirmed refugees have languished in Nauru for three years and they still face an uncertain future. How long is long enough? Five years? Ten years? At what point do the ends no longer justify the means? Ends rarely justify means because it is the means that reflect who we are and what we are capable of.”

Van Onselen positions his argument through details and facts. Language such as, ‘confirmed,’ ‘formally assessed,’ and ‘genuine,’ assert a layer of authority over his statements. These terms contextualise the refugee system once again as the responsibility of the government. He asserts the facts; there are genuine refugees, over 800 of whom are formally assessed as authentic, that have been confined to Nauru for over 5 years. Van Onselen challenges the authority of the Australian Government through testing the validity of their behaviour towards refugees. His use of rhetorical questions throughout his discourse reiterate and emphasise his personal understanding of the situation and asks the reader to do the same. His use of rhetoric effectively persuades the reader to be understanding that these actions cannot be allowed to continue. He assumes that the average Australian reader would not be sympathetic towards his cause and he exhibits, through his own ideology and argumentation, why they ought to change their opinion. He does however cater to a minority of readers he believes agree with his statements, through expressing such vivid opinions.

A close analysis of Robert Katter’s broadcasted opinion and Peter Van Onselen’s written argument, reveal that both authors utilise rhetoric to push across their separate agendas. Their opinions are paradoxical in nature and they both argue their points in individualistic ways. Whilst Katter assumes that most Australians would be in agreement with his ideas in the rejection of refugees, Van Onselen assumes the opposite. Van Onselen presents his ideas and then subsequently provides justification, in an attempt to persuade the audience through appeals to emotions and facts. His evaluates the situation refugees are in and offers a recommendation: that it shouldn’t continue. Katter on the contrary, appeals to social norms and consequence when explaining his hostility towards certain types of refugees. He uses the term refugees and immigrants interchangeably, as a way of confusing his audience and making them question if they are genuine refugees. He consistently creates an ‘us vs. them’ scenario, where Australia seems to constantly be at threat of mass invasion and accordingly, mass murder. Katter attempts to make the term refugee synonymous with violence and abusers of Australia’s generosity. It is reasonable to say both authors express their world view and value systems in their pieces of address. They aim to persuade a more general readership of their central claims in their opinion and treatment of refugees. As one author deems Australia’s treatment of refugees too light handed, the other deems it barbaric.

By Maesie Harris