Rodrigo Duterte vs. the World: What the Media Thinks of ‘The Punisher’

Known as ‘The Punisher’, Rodrigo Duterte – current President of the Philippines – is quite the colourful character to say the least. Following his election as President on 10th May this year, Duterte has garnered attention from international media outlets for his inflammatory comments and his controversial campaign against illegal drugs.

Human rights groups have previously expressed grave concerns about his connections with vigilante “death squads” and role in issuing extrajudicial killings during the 22 years he spent as Davao’s mayor to lower the city’s crime rates. Within his first week as President, Duterte publicly called for large-scale extrajudicial killings as part of his campaign against illegal drugs, putting himself under international media scrutiny in the process.

International media outlets have been accused for being biased against Duterte, particularly in their coverage of Duterte in relation to his drug crackdown. Here in Australia, the TV documentary ‘Licensed to Kill’ from 60 Minutes has been slammed by netizens for portraying Duterte as a ‘trigger happy human rights abuser’. On both occasions, it has been pointed out that international news outlets lack the context needed to understand the severity of Philippines’ drug problem, the value in Duterte’s approach, and therefore the appeal of Duterte himself. This argument can also be found in the comments section of articles about Duterte in both international and Philippine media:

screenshot-2016-11-06-03-32-25
Duterte supporters are quick to challenge media depictions of Duterte in relation to his crackdown on illegal drugs.

In order to investigate this claim, headlines, hard-news articles, and editorial cartoons published by international and Philippine news outlets will be analysed in terms of how they portray Duterte, and taking into account the different contexts and worldviews that underpin each representation.

A quick look at some international news headlines relating to Duterte published during 2016 show that their depictions of the President  remain fairly consistent over time:

  • Marcos set for return to power riding ‘The Punisher’ Duterte’ – The Australian, 7 May 2016
  • ‘The Punisher’ leads polls in Philippines votes’ – Reuters, 9 May 2016
  • ‘Philippines election: ‘Dictator-in-waiting’ Rodrigo Duterte secures huge victory’ – SMH, 10 May 2016
  • Ruthless Punisher puts blood on streets’ – The Daily Telegraph, 29 July 2016
  • ‘Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte revives memories of ex-dictator Marcos’ – The Wall Street Journal, 2 September 2016
  • The Punisher’ is popular: Bloodthirsty Philippines President Duterte boasts support of 84% of citizens as he bans smoking and death squads slaughter drug users in the streets’ – Daily Mail Australia, 13 October 2016

There appears to be a general trend in identifying Duterte as ‘The Punisher’, with the epithet usually coming before his name, and in some cases, replacing his name entirely, as if they were interchangeable. This reflects how the concept of Duterte as ‘The Punisher’ is central to how he is portrayed on international media. The frequency that ‘The Punisher’ appears alongside Duterte’s name in these headlines reflects the large extent to which his reputation as such influences the way international media outlets portray him.

Identifying Duterte as ‘The Punisher’ evokes an attitudinal assessment under which he is viewed as extreme, violent, and draconian, which largely informs the way he is portrayed across multiple headlines as shown above. The representational disposition of headlines referring to Duterte as ‘The Punisher’ works towards positioning audiences to view him negatively, and to favour the viewpoint that he is ill-suited to lead the Philippines, and poses a greater threat to the country than illegal drugs.

Headlines from international new outlets use ‘The Punisher’ in combination with other lexical items to evoke a negative response from audiences. The headline ‘Ruthless Punisher puts blood on streets’ overtly characterises Duterte as ‘ruthless’ and uses a metaphor of blood-splattered streets to suggest that Duterte has no qualms about hurting and killing others.

This is reinforced through the headline’s sentence structure, which assigns Duterte with an agentive role while deleting the affected, giving the impression that he doesn’t discriminate between criminal and civilian – so long as someone’s blood is shed. Using the terms ‘bloodthirsty’ and ‘slaughter’ also depicts Duterte in a negative light, as it positions his desire to curb drug-related crimes as secondary to the pleasure he finds in killing others as if they were animals.

Another emerging trend found in international news headlines was the depiction of Duterte as a budding dictator. This is shown through the use of overtly attitudinal inscription “dictator-in-waiting” and “strongman”, a term that is used interchangeably with dictator in Western contexts. The headline ‘Marcos set for return to power riding ‘The Punisher’ Duterte’ implicitly draws parallels between Duterte and the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose reign was marred by widespread corruption, economic stagnation, and widening socioeconomic inequalities. By suggesting that Duterte is a suitable ‘vessel’ for Marcos to resume his post, audiences are made to negatively assess Duterte due to his association with Marcos. This negative evaluation of Duterte is reinforced through the inclusion of ‘The Punisher’ in the headline, due to its associations with excessive violence and force.

In contrast, news headlines relating to Duterte from the Philippines released throughout 2016 adopt a relatively more objective tone and display a wider range of attitudes towards Duterte:

  • ‘Miriam: Duterte a very dangerous candidate’ – The Philippine Star, 7 May 2016
  • ‘Duterte also trains guns at millionaires’ – The Manila Times, 9 August 2016
  • ‘Duterte slams De Lima’ – Philippine Daily Inquirer, 18 August 2016
  • ‘Lagman likens Duterte to Marcos in firing appointed officials’ – Inquirer.net, 24 August 2016
  • ‘Duterte continues attacks, tells Obama to go to hell’ – The Manila Times, 5 October 2015
  • ‘Duterte seeks ‘everybody’s help’ in destroying 10,000 drug networks’ – Inquirer.net, 25 October 2016

Unlike international news, Duterte’s name is not embellished with the epithet ‘The Punisher’ in Philippine headlines. This reflects how Duterte’s reputation as ‘The Punisher’ is not central to the Philippine media’s portrayal of the current president. It is also worth noting that headlines that either draw parallels between Duterte and Marcos is attributed to politicians who made the comparison, instead of being presented as an attribute that readers should take for granted, as seen with the international news headlines.

In direct contrast to international news headlines on Duterte, Philippines news headlines leave its attitudinal positioning somewhat more open, depending on the event they are reporting. So while Duterte is positioned as the active agent in almost all the headlines, different choices in verbs help soften the effect of Duterte’s actions and change the tone of the story.

For instance, Duterte is said to “slam” his political opponent De Lima rather than “attacking”, and “seeks” the general public’s assistance rather than “urging” them. This specific choice of words sets a more objective tone, which in turn depicts Duterte as less forward and aggressive. However, action phrases such as “trains guns” and “continues attacks” use terms associated with aggressive military action and indicate a target for Duterte to act upon, thus presenting him as audacious, confrontational, and dominating.

Unlike the international news headlines, which show trends that converge and guide audiences to evaluate Duterte negatively overall, audiences exposed to Philippine media are not positioned to make a clear-cut evaluation of Duterte. Instead, they are given various depictions of Duterte and are encouraged to piece together a multifaceted representation of the politician.

To support the initial conclusions founded from comparing international and Philippine headlines, hard new articles and editorial cartoons will be analysed in further depth. First, let’s take a look at the hard-news article, ‘Philippines election: ‘Dictator-in-waiting’ Rodrigo Duterte secures huge victory’, by Lindsay Murdoch published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 10th May 2016. The article opens with,

“A foul-mouthed, anti-establishment outsider has been elected president of the Philippines in an extraordinary political upset that will return the island-nation to authoritarian rule 30 years after a popular uprising ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.”

Murdoch attributes the Philippines’ return to a dictatorship to Duterte’s expletive-laden speech and anti-establishment rhetoric without argumentative support, indicating a negative evaluation of Duterte. Here, the word ‘extraordinary’ is used to duplicate the evaluative meaning conveyed by the phrase ‘political upset’, which describes the overturning of expectations when the underdog beats the popular or veteran candidates in an election. In doing this, Duterte’s success is characterised as especially unexpected, which positions audiences to believe that his abilities as mediocre or below average, and to attribute his success to external factors.

“Rodrigo Duterte, the 71-year-old mayor of the southern city of Davao, told supporters he accepted their mandate with “extreme humility” after crushing four rivals in a landslide victory.”

The use of quotation marks around the phrase ‘extreme humility’ indicate that Duterte wasn’t sincere with his supporters, and was anything but humbled by the election results. In fact, the disjoint between Duterte accepting his victory with ‘extreme humility’ and him ‘crushing’ his political opponents suggests that Duterte is arrogant, and is not tactful enough not to rub his success in their faces.

“Mr Duterte won almost 40 per cent of votes cast after an acrimonious campaign dominated by his profanity-laced vows to kill criminals.”

The use of the words ‘acrimonious’ and ‘profanity-laced’ when describing Duterte’s campaign implies that Duterte is driven by strong emotion, and whose solutions to which he expects to be enough to carry out his campaign’s objectives. However, this is depicted as naïve when Duterte is placed within the context of foreign affairs, as he would be expected to do as President.

“The victory has rattled powerful dynastic families who have ruled the country for decades and alarmed diplomats who fear the foreign policy novice could upend diplomatic efforts to ease tensions over China’s aggressive claim to the South China Sea.”

Here, Murdoch explicitly states that Duterte is inexperienced, and will only cause trouble for the Philippines in the long run. The use of the words “rattled” and “alarmed” indicate government officials and political dynasties – who are positioned as respectable and experienced by mentioning time – view Duterte as a liability. Murdoch employs an appeal to negative consequence to cast Duterte in an unfavourable light by implying that his involvement in foreign relations will only worsen tensions with China and undermine Philippines’ credibility in international affairs. In summary, this article directs audiences to view Duterte negatively, under which he is well out of his depth and ill-prepared to fulfil his responsibilities as President properly.

Understanding Philippines’ political context largely influences how Duterte is portrayed in media. This is especially the case with the editorial cartoon ‘Duterte’s Accomplishments vs. Holy Trapos by Manuel Francisco, which was published in The Manila Times on 2nd December 2015 – back when Duterte was working at Davao. This cartoon positions Duterte as a antithesis to a trapo, a term for ‘traditional politicians’, members of powerful political families that form a national oligarchy in Philippine politics – in terms of affability and competence.

Pick your choice: a sheep in wolves’ clothing or a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Credits: Manuel Francisco/The Manila Times
Pick your choice: a sheep in wolves’ clothing or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
Credits: Manuel Francisco/The Manila Times

The warrant of this editorial cartoon is that actions speak louder than words. On the surface level, ‘traditional politicians’ appear harmless despite being depicted as a crocodile due to its open body language and religious zeal. Meanwhile, Duterte appears intimidating due to his closed body language and extensive use of expletives in everyday speech. However, upon closer scrutiny, it is revealed that the crocodile is spewing religious rhetoric in an attempt to draw attention away from its stash of money, reflecting a personal agenda.

In contrast, Duterte is shown to be an active and accomplished politician irrespective of his expletive-laden speech, which is evident from the stand displaying a list of his achievements behind him. This positions audiences to evaluate Duterte positively despite his intimidating demeanour; unlike trapos, Duterte is shown to be competent in his job, and maintains professional and ethical standards.

For this cartoon to make sense, audiences must attest to the underlying assumption that all trapos are corrupt, power-hungry, and opportunistic, with no clear plan or direction to tackle socioeconomic issues and initiate change. Public attitudes towards ‘traditional politicians’ in the Philippines are predominantly negative, reflecting a wider trend of political disaffection and distrust in the government. This is understandable, considering that Philippine politics is characterised by powerful oligarchies, a weak institution, and systemic patronage.

Bearing this in mind, one could argue that in portraying Duterte as the better alternative to ‘traditional politicians’, Francisco is directing audiences towards a positive attitudinal assessment of Duterte as a non-traditional or ‘anti-establishment’ politician. This contrasts with Murdoch’s article, which evokes a negative evaluation of Duterte on the lines that his anti-establishment views are similar to Trump’s. The opposing attitudinal positions conveyed by media outlets regarding Duterte’s anti-establishment rhetoric demonstrates how differing levels of understanding Philippines’ political context influences the media’s portrayal of Duterte.

Now let’s take a look at Heng Kim Song’s editorial cartoon on Duterte and his campaign against illegal drugs, published in The New York Times on 21st August 2016 – just over 50 days since Duterte assumed presidency on 30th June. In this cartoon, Duterte is shown shouldering a missile launcher and taking aim at the rotten apple – emblematic of anyone suspected of being involved in the illegal drug trade – placed on the head of a man representing the Philippines.

Use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and a missile launcher to shoot a bad apple. Credits: Hung/The New York Times
Use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and a missile launcher to shoot a bad apple.
Credits: Hung/The New York Times

Heng encodes his negative evaluation of Duterte by alluding to the adage “Use a sledgehammer to crack a nut”. By making a missile launcher Duterte’s weapon of choice to shoot an apple, Duterte is implicitly shown as extreme and unnecessary violent for using disproportionate force and expense to accomplish the task at hand. In doing this, the audience is positioned to question Duterte’s leadership and decision-making capabilities.

There is also this: shooting a missile at anyone at point-blank range will result in his or her death no matter how careful the wielder is. This evokes the adage “The operation was successful, but the patient was dead”, under which Duterte believes that ensuring the destruction of the illegal drug trade is worth putting the civilian population at risk of being killed by accident. This in turn evokes negativity towards Duterte, as the warrant of this editorial cartoon is that the government have the responsibility to protect the public from situations that may cause them harm. Audiences are positioned to view Duterte to be negligent in this respect, opting to focus on ‘destroying’ the rotten apples residing in the Philippines, and thus causing many deaths that could otherwise been avoided.

The cartoon also creates a narrative where the Philippines is at the mercy of Duterte, who is seen as a grave threat to people’s lives and to Filipino society at large. This is demonstrated by how the man with the apple – representative of the Philippines – is visibly scared, but unable to escape Duterte’s aim. This depiction of Duterte is reinforced by the cartoon’s caption, which says,

More than 800 people have been killed since the May election of Rodrigo Duterte, who has repeatedly called for killing drug dealers and users.

The caption’s sentence structure attributes the high number of deaths since the May election to Duterte, rather than the Filipino police who shot alleged suspects and drug smugglers. This positions the audience to regard Duterte negatively, which is further augmented by the inclusion of the adverb “repeatedly” as it indicates that Duterte doesn’t care about how his actions are affecting the civilian population.

Last of all, let us take a look at the hard news article ‘Filipinos seen backing Duterte despite rising drug killings’ by Teresa Cerejano from The Philippine Star, published on 27th August. The article evokes a negative assessment of Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs using factual content regarding the body count:

“Two months later, nearly 2,000 suspected drug pushers and users lay dead as morgues continue to fill up.” 

“…Duterte has stuck to his guns and threatened to declare martial law if the Supreme Court meddles in his work.”

Here, the mention of the words ‘threatened’ and ‘meddle’ in relation to Duterte’s conflict with the Supreme Court suggests that Duterte may be developing a overly controlling attitude towards how his campaign is handled, and is overly sensitive to criticism – both of which are indicators of dictator-like behaviour.

However, within the context of the Philippines’ traditional, oligarchic political system, any action is better than no action, and that is precisely what Duterte offers to the general public. Ultimately, Duterte is depicted as a pro-poor President who shares the same frustrations as the people living in the country he is serving, and whose straightforward, confronting approach to certain issues is considered refreshing:

“Duterte’s death threats against criminals, his promise to battle corruption, his anti-establishment rhetoric and gutter humour have enamoured Filipinos living on the margins of society. He overwhelmingly won the election, mirroring public exasperation over the social ills he condemns.”

On the whole, it seems like media depictions of Duterte vary depending on where you are getting your content. International media consistently depict Duterte like his namesake ‘The Punisher’ or as a budding dictator a la Ferdinand Marcos, while Philippine media shifts away from any sensationalised media representations of Duterte and simply focus on what and how he plans on leading the country. This reflects the priorities of each region, with the Philippines media being more grounded with their portrayal of Duterte. By comparing and analysing media coverage relating to Duterte released from international and Philippine news outlets through 2016, we have been able to gain a better insight into how different contexts and modes of understanding Philippines’ political landscape play a role in shaping media representations of controversial figures.


References

Bolton, T 2016, ‘Aussie slams 60 Minutes Australia, portrays Duterte, PNP chief, local police as trigger happy, human rights abusers’, Pinoy Trending News, August 22, accessed 1 November 2016, http://pinoytrendingnews.net/aussie-slams-60-minutes-australia-portrays-duterte-pnp-chief-local-police-as-trigger-happy-human-rights-abusers/

Francisco, M 2015, Duterte’s Accomplishments vs. Holy Trapos’, political cartoon by Manuel Francisco, The Manila Times, accessed 30 October 2016, http://www.manilatimes.net/dutertes-accomplishment-vs-holy-trapos/232465/

Heng, KM 2016, Heng on the Philippines’ President and His War on Drugs, political cartoon by Heng Kim Song, The New York Times, accessed 26 October 2016, <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/21/opinion/heng-on-the-phillipines-president-and-his-war-on-drugs.html?_r=0>

Kine, P 2015, ‘Rodrigo Duterte: The Rise of Philippines’ Death Squad Mayor’, Human Rights Watch, July 17, accessed 23 October 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/17/rodrigo-duterte-rise-philippines-death-squad-mayor

Murdoch, L 2016, ‘Philippines election: ‘Dictator-in-waiting Rodrigo Duterte secure huge victory’, Sydney Morning Herald, May 10, accessed 24 October 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/world/philippines-election-dictatorinwaiting-rodrigo-duterte-headed-for-a-huge-victory-20160509-goqaj2.html

‘Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte urges people to kill drug addicts’ 2016, The Guardian, 1 July, accessed 23 October 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/01/philippines-president-rodrigo-duterte-urges-people-to-kill-drug-addicts

Ploeg, JVR 2011, ‘A Cultural History of Crocodiles in the Philippines: Towards a New Peace Pact?’, Environment and History, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 229 – 264, DOI: 10.3197/096734011X12997574043008

Romero, A 2016, ‘Duterte on negative in international media: I don’t care’, The Philippine Star, 29 August, accessed 25 October 2016, http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/08/29/1618449/duterte-negative-reports-international-media-i-dont-care

The Philippine Star 2010, ‘How would you define a ‘traditional politician’?’, The Philippine Star, 1 March, accessed 30 October 2016, http://www.philstar.com/inbox-world/553485/how-would-you-define-traditional-politician

 

 

 

 

 

Plebiscite – the over-politicised media mess of 2016.

Plebiscite – the over-politicised media mess of 2016.

Over the last few years’ gay marriage has been a hot button topic all over the world. In the last two years, both the USA and Ireland have delivered marriage equality, with major media outlets showing support for these decisions. We’re at a pivotal point on the gay marriage movement. Gay marriage has obtained overwhelming support from the Australian public, and has the backing from big businesses. Writing this article, I was even hard-pressed to find an article which was completely against marriage equality. However, the most interesting part about the whole debate, and probably most annoying, is how marriage equality seems to have taken a backseat to the political nightmare this is causing for both major parties.

Before examining some articles, and how they portray the politicization of marriage equality, it is worth looking at some of these headlines that have featured media over these last few months. The positivity to marriage equality is on show through all of these headlines, the negativity is pointed at the political process.

Apple joins companies backing same sex marriage as crack show in plebiscite plan – news.com.au – July 26 2016

Plebiscite looks set to fail, but push for same-sex marriage will not – The Conversation Sep 12, 2016

Not voting for plebiscite is parliamentary democracy – Dean Smith SMH Sep 13, 2016

“WTF Is Actually Going On With The Marriage Equality Plebiscite?” – Josh Butler – Huffington Post

“same-sex marriage plebiscite politics turns dangerous” – Paul Kelly – The Australian

“The Marriage equality plebiscite message: our parliament can’t do it’s job” – Alan Joyce

Former High Court judge Michael Kirby wrote a piece for The Australian titled ‘Same-sex marriage: Parliament is the proper place for enacting laws’. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where he’s heading with this one. Michael Kirby, an openly gay man, asks readers by way of an evaluative argument, to consider his ten reasons as to why the Australian public should reject the plebiscite.

Kirby was a judge for over 40 years, so it is no surprise his article mostly deals in facts over baseless opinion.

“Complex, sensitive, issues are better decided after debate in parliament, not in the heat of public division and emotional campaigns in the community. If a plebiscite is held, it could become a bad precedent to be copied when other controversial questions come before parliament. This would further weaken our governmental institutions at a time when they need strengthening, not weakening.”

Kirby’s use of “complex” and “sensitive” in his description of marriage equality is a recurring theme in media’s depiction of the plebiscite. This is to appeal to people’s emotions as he continues to call it an “emotional campaign” spurring “public division”.

Although Kirby strays from fact throughout some of his points with mentions about how parliament might “weaken” if a plebiscite were used to decide this issue. He also furthers this point by saying that this could lead to more plebiscites in the future about any sensitive issue. This is a slippery slope argument and isn’t justified by any reasonable fact but is used to have the reader question the legitimacy of holding a plebiscite when the decision should be made by politicians in parliament following an election.

Statements the plebiscite on marriage equality is “sure to be carried” are doubtful in light of Brexit and Australia’s record on national constitutional referendums when these are required.

Another statement made by Kirby, brings about the same idea that came up quite a bit in my research of other articles. Namely, its comparison to the Brexit result and the false analogy associated with how both could carry the same verdict. The media seems to be obsessed with comparing any public vote with Brexit at the moment, while similar in the fact that they are both public votes, neither hold the same context and different variations of public support.

Where Kirby is successful in convincing the reader to come on board is how he effectively breaks down every argument against the plebiscite. He quotes how Ireland is often noted as a healthy comparison to us also having a similar vote on the issue. Although reinforces how Ireland actually had to legally hold a referendum to change their constitution whereas Australia does not legally have to have one.

He also notes how plebiscites have proven to be difficult for other countries, with “23 countries whose legal systems approximate that of Australia” have been defeated in marriage equality. Kirby believes this would delay marriage equality reform for decades.

Kirby ends the article where he began, with his central claim, stating ‘there is no constitutional reason for a plebiscite.’

While Kirby spoke about why the plebiscite shouldn’t be used, news journalism seems to have moved away from the actual issue of the plebiscite and more onto how politicized this whole situation has become.

Josh Butler, in his piece in the Huffington post “WTF Is Actually Going On With The Marriage Equality Plebiscite?” is written to a younger demographic, calling out the Prime Minister for shifting the blame of the failed plebiscite over to the Labor Party. Butler seems to be writing this to a left-leaning demographic who are Greens/Labor swing voters.

In the image Butler included of Turnbull, it depicts him as confused and paints a Prime Minister who is in turmoil. This is in contrast to the photo he shows of Shorten who is seems resolute and strong.

turnbull7screen-shot-2016-11-05-at-5-11-30-pm

 

 

The CEO of QANTAS, Alan Joyce wrote an article in September for the Guardian titled “The Marriage equality plebiscite message: our parliament can’t do it’s job”. Joyce isn’t a human rights activist, nor a politician, nor a journalist for that matter, but his position on gay marriage reflects a longstanding support for marriage equality from QANTAS.

“From giving women the vote to repealing the White Australia Policy, the Australian parliament has an amazing history of taking the transformative decisions that make this country so great today.
On issues like economic reform and gun control, Australia was well ahead of its time and we’re still seen as a global leader.”

Like Kirby, Joyce is attempting to convince the reader that the vote should be held in parliament because decisions as controversial such as the White Australia policy and giving women the vote have not needed to go to such extreme lengths such as a plebiscite.

Joyce represents big business in Australia, as the CEO of QANTAS, his opinion echoes many other business’ in Australia coming out in support of marriage equality. QANTAS have been involved in the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for years, so for him to go against the popular opinion would be unwise. He has also been highly commented on in mainstream media on this issue with SMH, The Daily Telegraph, The Australian and other major media outlets quoting the CEO on his views.

Josh Butler, writing for the Huffington Post delivered the most thought provoking opening line to an article “Australia is the last English-speaking developed country in the world to not allow same-sex marriage” this was presented in his piece titled “WTF Is Actually Going On With The Marriage Equality Plebiscite?”. This is an alarming yet factual piece of information, Butler makes this weighted statement at the beginning of his article to define the ridiculousness of why the discussion is still going on. Butlers aim is to appeal to younger readers with his ‘text speak’ title in “WTF” and the title is presented similar to that of ‘Buzzfeed’ like journalism.

He then continues in the article to speak about the ‘blame game’ that is being played in Australian politics over this issue. He is well balanced in both his quotes of Turnbull and Shorten and provides an understanding of how politicized this issue has become.

Turnbull has put the pressure back on Labor. “What we’ve said is if you have something to put to us, we’ll listen carefully and consider it,” he said on Monday, of the Brisbane meeting.

“The ball is in Labor’s court on this issue. We’ve set out a plan.” Shorten has, in turn, taken aim at Turnbull, and said he will be pushing for significant changes to the plebiscite before agreeing to it. “We want to see if the Government is prepared to make concessions at all in the process. They want Labor to vote in the measure but they present a take it or leave it approach. It is the height of arrogance,” Shorten said on Monday.

This piece is a clear reflection on how politicized the issue of marriage equality has become. Both leaders pointing the finger at each other for halting the process.

Paul Kelly for his piece for The Australian “same-sex marriage plebiscite politics turns dangerous” believes the politics of “same-sex is marriage is now dangerous and unpredictable” if the Labor government doesn’t support the plebiscite. Kelly also states that Malcolm Turnbull and the LNP won the mandate at the election so should be able to dictate how the issue is presented to the public. While this is in part true, it is overlooking the nature of parliament and the slim majority that the LNP holds. Kelly is showing bias to the Liberal Party here by overlooking the actual issue of gay marriage and focusing on how the process should play out.

“If the same-sex marriage champions kill off the plebiscite then they are responsible for the consequences, not Turnbull, not the Coalition.”

Kelly’s political bias is on display here as he ridicules same-sex marriage supporters as being responsible for their own defeat on the issue that they support. Kelly’s political bias is extremely apparent in this quote as he contradicts himself, he suggests that same-sex marriage supporters will be to blame if the plebiscite is not realized although earlier in the article he supports the view that the government won the mandate to control the way in which this issue is presented to the public. He either supports that the government is responsible for all decisions made or not, it can’t be both ways.

Kelly then presents opinions from Former High Court judge Michael Kirby, he summises that opinions by Kirby are a “minority position”. There is no factual basis to this claim and is only seen to sway the reader to discredit Kirby’s opinion.

“Claims the plebiscite is useless because Turnbull has not got iron clad pledges from all his MPs to honour the vote are pure propaganda and media fabrication. The entire cabinet knows the plebiscite will be honoured and the ideological conservatives cannot summon the numbers to halt that.”

Kelly attempts to counter-claim that the plebiscite, even though not legally binding, will be honoured by the cabinet to appease the Australian public. While this may be true, this is too much of an assumption and if the Brexit comparisons are to be taken seriously it would evolve into more of a political mess if given the time to grow.

Lastly, the images that are depicted throughout all of these articles are that of what the public have become accustomed to when discussing gay marriage. The pride flag. Two men kissing. A rainbow.. etc.. These images are overused stereotypical images of how we perceive the gay community.

Marriage Equality in the media in 2016 has seemed to lose sight of the foundations of the movement. At the very heart of the campaign is two people of the same-sex who would like to have equal rights, just as two people of the opposing sex have with each other. The fact that politicians have over politicised the issue devalues the core message and is why it is portrayed in the media in this way.

 

 

Empowering or Unhealthy: The media weigh in on plus-size modelling

By Amelia Chadwick z5016373 (H12A)

Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated (SI), a magazine perhaps more famed for the beautiful women of their ‘Swimsuit Edition’ than their sporting content, made headlines when they featured their first ever ‘plus size’ cover girl.

At an Australian size 16, Ashley Graham ‘made history’ as the curviest woman ever to receive the prestigious title of cover model for SI’s Swimsuit Edition; a feat met with overwhelming positivity and support from the media, sparking headlines such as: Ashley Graham Covers The ‘Sports Illustrated’ Swimsuit Edition Because #Progress’ (Refinery29), Ashley Graham Looks Amazing on the Cover of Sports Illustrated’ (New York Magazine) and ‘Sports Illustrated Makes History With Ashley Graham Cover’ (Bustle).

A topic of great social significance in the 21st century, many plus-size modelling advocates have long argued that increasing ‘body diversity’ in the modelling industry is essential for changing normalised perceptions of ‘unrealistic beauty standards’ (Kovar, 2009); which can be physically and psychologically damaging to girls and women and often lead to low self esteem, depression and eating disorders (Grabe, 2008).

With research on the issue becoming particularly loud in the past few years, the majority public opinion has largely shifted to reflect the negative findings on the matter and support for the ‘plus-size’ and ‘body positivity’ movements are at an all time high (Bazillian, 2016). The attitude is one that has also been largely adopted by the media, where issues regarding plus size models are generally approached supportively or objectively. However, with growing body positive movements encouraging the acceptance of all body types and the use of plus sized models becoming more ‘mainstream’, there have also been expressions of concern.

Several opponents to plus size modeling argue that using plus size models actually encourage obesity, claiming the more we include bigger models in mainstream media, the more ‘normalized’ having a larger figure becomes. In line with this view, plus size Sports Illustrated cover girl Ashley Graham has been criticized for encouraging ‘unhealthiness’ owing to her plus-size figure. Several public figures, including former Tory MP Edwina Currie, YouTuber Nicole Arbour (of ‘Dear Fat People’ infamy) and former Sports Illustrated cover girl Cheryl Tiegs, have all publicly staked claims that Graham is ‘obese’, ‘unhealthy’ and a figure generally detrimental to public health.

In seeking an inclusive insight as to the media portrayal of the plus size modeling trend, beyond just reporting on the ‘new feats accomplished in the movement’, I have chosen to analyze the way in which the media portrays plus size modeling as a healthy and positive movement, even in the face of criticism from public figures. In doing so I will examine articles addressing claims that plus size modeling supports an unhealthy lifestyle or encourages obesity, with reference to articles exploring comments made by Currie, Tiegs and Arbour about Ashley Graham.

 In analyzing media coverage on the matter I found number of articles, including (but not limited to) the following:

  1. Ashley Graham is beautiful, curvy and the picture of health – but is she really obese? (The Daily Mirror)
  2. There’s an ugly backlash against the plus-size model Sports Illustrated put on its cover (Business Insider Australia)
  3. Edwina Currie slams plus-size models and claims size 14 is obese and unhealthy (The Sun)
  4. Ashley Graham: Size 14 women are ‘obese and heading for diabetes’, says former Tory MP Edwina Currie (The Independent UK)
  5. Edwina Currie calls size 14 model Ashley Graham ‘obese’ in attack on curvy catwalk stars (The Daily Mirror)
  6. Cheryl Tiegs, Who Is Not a Doctor, Says Cover Girl Ashley Graham Is ‘Unhealthy’ (Jezebel)
  7. PEOPLE ARE CALLING THIS SIZE 14 MODEL “OBESE” (LOOK UK)
  8. Size 14? Edwina Currie says you’re obese (Metro UK)
  9. Cheryl Tiegs Doesn’t Think Sports Illustrated’s Fuller-Figured Model Ashley Graham Is ‘Healthy’ (US Weekly)

On quickly assessing the general ‘vibe’ of these headlines, we may note that the majority seemingly come to the defense of Ashley Graham and plus size models. Words like ‘slammed’ and ‘attack’ negatively assess the comments, making them seem cruel and unfounded. We also see a trend of positive evaluation directed toward Graham and plus-size models, with terms such as ‘curvy’, ‘beautiful’, and ‘curvy catwalk stars’ being used to describe the group. The frequent inclusion of ‘size 14’, which is the average dress size in UK and USA, is also noteworthy, as it serves to make the ‘criticisms’ seem particularly outrageous; implicitly conveying that it is ridiculous to suggest a woman of this ‘average’ could be obese.

For the purpose of analyzing the most prevalent media portrayal of this topic, I will refer mainly to two articles that have taken the majority stance: reacting defensively to criticism of plus-size models as ‘encouraging obesity’. Firstly I will examine a views journalism piece by Mallory Schlossberg for the Business Insider Australia titled ‘There’s an ugly backlash against the plus-size model Sports Illustrated put on its cover’. Secondly, I will look into a hard news piece: ‘Ashley Graham is beautiful, curvy and the picture of health – but is she really obese? by Rachel Dobson for the Daily Mirror. I will also make reference to a third article, in support of findings from my main articles: ‘Cheryl Tiegs criticises Sports Illustrated for ‘glamorising’ size 14 model Ashley Graham, causes enormous Twitter row’ by Olivia Waring for The Metro UK. By utilizing these varied sources, and addressing several matters regarding the proposed notion that plus-size models are ‘unhealthy’, I aim to illustrate how the media is generally supportive of ‘plus-size’ modeling movement, portraying the industry as having several perceived benefits on society.

Looking firstly into Mallory Schlossberg’s piece ‘There’s an ugly backlash against the plus-size model Sports Illustrated put on its cover’, we are able to immediately identify that the piece is not supportive of criticism against Graham or plus-size modeling. By describing the criticism as ‘ugly’ Schlossberg negatively evaluates the validity of the criticism, painting it in a disagreeable light and setting the tone for her article.

The article was published in the Business Insider Australia on the 28th February 2016, a publication generally noted for its professional and educated readership. The publication as such generally maintains a progressive stance on matters like plus size modeling and body positivity. It is thus understandable that in her opinion piece, Schlossberg addresses her audience as though they agree with her positive view on plus-size modeling, taking the viewers agreement for granted from the lead:

‘When Sports Illustrated announced that curvy supermodel Ashley Graham would be featured in its annual swimsuit edition, there was a lot of positive feedback.

After all, Graham would be the first truly plus-size woman to be featured in its pages.’

Here, Schlossberg addresses Graham’s cover as though it is something deserving of positive feedback. She uses the phrase ‘After all’ to imply that Graham being the first plus-size model to be featured in Sports Illustrated is indeed a feat worthy of positive reaction. We might identify here that the author is assuming the readership already shares her worldview (that the increased integration of plus sized models into the mainstream media is a positive thing), and thus does not require convincing with justifications as to why it is positive. She then goes on to address the criticism of Graham:

‘Still, despite the celebration surrounding Graham’s success, some vocal outliers have criticized Graham.’

A negatively geared characterization of Graham’s criticizers as ‘outliers’, depicts opponents to plus-size modeling as an outcast group. She implies this group falls outside the general social norms embraced by most, who have reacted to Graham’s accomplishment with a ‘celebration of Graham’s success’ – strengthening her portrayal of plus-size modeling as something to be embraced.

Introducing Teig’s comments, Schlossberg describes them as ‘lambasting’; a negative evaluative term that suggests the author finds her comments overly harsh. The author then addresses one of Tieg’s main claims:

[for a woman to be healthy] your waist should be smaller than 35…That’s what Dr. Oz said, and I’m sticking to it’

Schlossberg counters this claim by trivializing the integrity of her source, TV doctor Mehmet Oz by saying his ‘…credibility has been called into question’. She supports this claim by hyperlinking to a supporting article about Oz titled ‘Half the things the most powerful doctor in America recommends don’t seem to be supported by science’. In doing so, Schlossberg is able to externally justify her refute and imply it is widely known Oz is not the most ‘credible’ source.

Schlossberg then issues an appeal to facts in a bid to expel notions put forth by Tieg that plus models can’t be healthy as well as ‘plus-size’, and will ‘suffer in the long run’:

‘The joke’s on Tiegs, though, because when Graham appeared on “Good Morning America” in November alongside a size 2 model, several tests revealed that both she and the thinner model had healthy blood pressure, HBA1C, and LDL levels. They both were in good shape, too.’

This appeal to fact employs scientific proof as evidence of Graham’s physical fitness, dispelling Tieg’s claim that plus-size women are not healthy. Informing the readership that both of the models exhibit healthy test results despite their difference in body shape works to support Schlossberg’s central claim that ‘healthiness and ‘plus-sizeness’ are not mutually exclusive’. In utilizing ‘fact’ Schlossberg also makes her opinion seem more credible than Tiegs, who ‘the joke’s on’ – a phrase implicitly attacking Tieg’s character, suggesting that in Tieg’s attempt to make Graham look bad, she has only reflected poorly on herself.

Schlossberg then goes on to dispel criticism by Nicole Arbour that suggests plus size women cannot be athletic (and thus, healthy) by informing readers that Graham is athletic, despite being plus-size:

‘Arbour denounced Sports Illustrated for putting Graham in a “sports magazine that celebrates athleticism,” but Graham works out. A look at Graham’s Instagram page proves that’s true.’

In support of this claim Schlossberg presents the above Instagram image as evidence. Not only does this image serve as visual support for Schlossberg’s claim that Graham is athletic, and by default healthy, but the inclusion of the original caption serves to portray Graham as promoting such traits in others. An example of this promotion of health may be identified in the use of the hashtag ‘moveyourbody’ – a tag presumably included by Graham to encourage others to partake in exercise.

The strategic inclusion of this particular image and caption implicitly conveys the positive influence that Graham, and other plus models, can have on the health of others even in their day-to-day life. In solidifying further the implication of Graham as a positive health role model, Schlossberg includes a quote from Graham in which she explicitly outlines that being a plus size model doesn’t mean she promotes obesity.

“There’s a [size] double 0 now. It’s a little scary on both spectrums of weight. I’m not a promoter of anorexia. I’m not a promoter of obesity. I think we have to promote women to be healthy at every size as long as they’re getting off the couch and moving their body,” she said to Ellen DeGeneres.”

By quoting the model being criticized Schlossberg adds another layer of characterization, wherein not only are plus-models viewed as ‘healthy’ themselves, but they are also portrayed as wanting to promote health to others; as is supported by the inclusion of Graham’s quote ‘We have to promote women to be healthy at every size’.

 In the hard news article Ashley Graham is beautiful, curvy and the picture of health – but is she really obese?’ for UK tabloid-newspaper The Daily Mirror (29/2/16), Rachel Dobson also writes on the criticism of Graham and plus-size modeling as ‘encouraging obesity’ – this time in relation to criticisms by former UK MP Edwina Currie. Unlike Schlossberg, who refuted the validity of criticism with counter argumentation and factual claims, Dobson maintains an objective news style throughout her article (with the exception of the odd evaluative term), allowing her strategically curated ‘expert’ opinions to do all the convincing for her. She begins:

Edwina Currie has caused a storm with her comments about the 29-year-old model from Nebraska – but experts say the former MP has got it all wrong’ [Lead/Grab]

‘She’s [Graham] beautiful, curvy and the picture of health…Most women would kill to look like the 29-year-old from Nebraska.’

 ‘Yet former Tory health minister Edwina Currie, on BBC Breakfast on Sunday, accused her of being obese, and said Ashley was in danger of becoming diabetic, and even of developing dodgy knees and hips. She was panned for her opinion but defiant Edwina told the Mirror that showing pictures of plus-size models is encouraging obesity.’

Like Schlossberg’s article, from the outset of her article Dobson suggests the unpopularity of Currie’s view (‘she was panned’) and divergence from social norms and opinions (‘most women would kill to look like the 29-year old’) that Currie’s views on Graham represent, implicitly suggesting she must be wrong about these opinions if they are so disagreeable to ‘most’ people.

The article promptly dives into exploring a range of oppositional responses from several ‘experts’ who reject Currie’s view. Firstly the article introduces commentary by Natasha Devon, Ashley’s friend, [and] former model…who now advises the government on mental health and body image, and runs charity [sic], the Self Esteem Team’.

Devon’s areas of expertise, outlined by Dobson as being ‘mental health’ ‘body image’ and ‘self esteem’, are all areas very publically recognized as being linked to the adverse affects of the modeling industry—making her ‘expert’ opinion on Currie’s claims seem particularly credible to the reader. Her quoted material directly refutes Curries claims of plus as unhealthy, saying:

 “Human bodies come in all different shapes and sizes, and models like Ashley provide much needed diversity on our high streets. There is no evidence to suggest that plus-size models make us eat and eat and try to gain weight. But models who are size zero can act as a trigger for girls vulnerable to eating disorders.”

 “We need to teach our children that there is not just one way to be healthy. Bodies come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes and, with the right food and exercise, they are all healthy.”

 The constant reiteration of human bodies as ‘coming in all shapes and sizes’ tied with the idea that you can be healthy in any one of these, is something made very explicit in quotes by Devon, who argues: “you can be a size 14/16 and eat healthily and exercise regularly, or be a size zero and be healthy’. Dobson also includes a quote from Devon in which she rebuts claims by Currie that plus models encourage obesity, by issuing an appeal to fact and comparison:

There is no evidence to suggest that plus-size models make us eat and eat and try to gain weight. But models who are size zero can act as a trigger for girls vulnerable to eating disorders’

Here, Dobson advances an argument that there is no evidence as to any detrimental health impacts of plus-models, whereas slim models encourage poor health habits. This inclusion implies plus-models are a beneficial addition to the modeling world as they remove pressures from ‘vulnerable’ girls who have been lead to idolize slenderness. The author then includes a quote from Devon directly accusing Currie of being not credible:

“Edwina Currie’s comments are ill thought out. She doesn’t have a great track record in what she says and I wonder if she’s said this to be inflammatory.”

Through the inclusion of this quote, the author substantiates an ad hominem argument against Currie, in which she remains ‘impartial’ as it is not explicitly her opinion given. By leaving it to her third party sources to question the credibility and ‘track record’ of Currie, Dobson is able to simultaneously lowers Currie’s perceived credibility and heighten the integrity of her experts – whom are all too familiar with Currie’s past ‘inflammatory comments’.

Dobson also mounts an argument against Currie’s claim that plus models cause obesity, referencing Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum, who campaigns to get the government fighting the obesity epidemic’. As an expert who, owing to his job title, is presumably very knowledgeable on the obesity epidemic, the inclusion of his outright statement that ‘Edwina’s comments are ridiculous,’ and that ‘Pictures of Ashley are not going to entice an women to become obese,’ further substantiate an ad hominem argument against Currie’s credibility. These inclusions also seemingly aim to put to rest claims that plus-size models and the obesity epidemic may be linked, relying on Fry’s opinion that plus-women will not ‘entice’ women to become obese – despite a lack of factual justification.

Outside of utilizing the quotes of experts to substantiate an argument that plus size models are indeed healthy; Dobson includes multimedia to implicitly reinforce this.

The above video of Ashley Graham working out is inserted in the post towards the end of the article. Like Schlossberg’s article, the content has been sourced from Graham’s social media account, however it’s location in the article has little relevancy to the text above or below. Instead the video, which shows Graham performing an intense work out, serves to visually remind people nearing the end of the article that indeed plus models are inarguably fit and healthy—because isn’t athleticism is the ultimate demonstration of these traits?

Following suit with the trend to include content from social media in order to reinforce a message, in her article Cheryl Tiegs criticises Sports Illustrated for ‘glamorising’ size 14 model Ashley Graham, causes enormous Twitter row’ for The Metro, Olivia Waring lists various tweets from the public’s response to Tiegs comments. In doing so, Waring reinforces the lack of progressiveness of Tieg’s comments by way of third-party opinion and advances an ad hominem argument against Tiegs and her ‘right’ to comment:

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-10-54-10-amscreen-shot-2016-11-03-at-10-50-25-am

As with the first two articles, the inclusion of numerous disagreeing third-party opinions (this time in the form of tweets) again enforce the notion that Tiegs’ comments are not in sync with socially normative opinions on the matter, and thus should not be agreed with. These inclusions work to position readers to agree with the ‘majority’ opinion, without Waring having to explicitly state her view.

The author then discredits Teig’s suggestion that plus models are unhealthy because ‘your waist should be smaller than 35 [inches]’ and states that Graham’s waist is in fact, below that size anyway:

‘Tiegs – the first woman to appear twice on the cover of SI’s swimsuit issue – is apparently unaware 28-year-old Ashley’s waist size is actually 29.5 inches.’

Including this fact, despite the questionable nature of Tiegs’ suggestion that ‘waist measurement directly correlates with health’, is particularly telling as it suggests even though Tieg obviously thinks otherwise, Graham even meets the cutoff for her numerical standard of ‘health’.

Waring proceeds to end the article with an appeal to comparison wherein she insinuates that even ‘Barbie’ (a doll that has historically represented only the ‘ideal body’) has already embraced the body diversity movement, while Teig’s opinions situate her as lagging behind the progressive majority of ‘21st century’ thinkers:

‘Come on, Cheryl. Even Barbie’s already adapted. It’s time to join the 21st century.’

Ultimately, the aforementioned articles have provided just a small sample of the media’s positive portrayal of the ‘plus-size movement’. On a whole the media seemingly portrays the trend as something to be considered ‘progressive’ and ‘perfectly healthy’, often implying the trend has significant benefits on society (such as a positive influence on health and body image). By focusing on these three articles, which specifically address criticisms of the movement as promoting ‘obesity’ or ‘an unhealthy lifestyle’, we have been able to garner a more insightful look into how deeply engrained this positive and supportive stance really is. While Schlossberg’s views article relies much on factual appeals to portray plus-size models as healthy role-models, it also encompasses much strategic quoting to discredit criticizers and position readers to view their critiques as being outside of the social norms. This is a theme common across the articles, and both Dobson and Waring also utilize quotes to suggest opposition to the movement is not socially acceptable. While Dobson’s piece was on a whole ‘objective’, the utilization of three expert opinions and strategic quoting resulted in an article which skewed readers to understand the expert opinions as being more credible, and thus to adopt their view that ‘plus modeling and health are not mutually exclusive’, and that the movement encourages a healthy lifestyle.

 

REFERENCES

ARTICLES ANALYSED:

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/ashley-graham-sports-illustrated-backlash-2016-2

 http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/ashley-graham-beautiful-curvy-picture-7467150

http://metro.co.uk/2016/02/26/cheryl-tiegs-criticises-sports-illustrated-for-glamorising-size-14-model-ashley-graham-causes-enormous-twitter-row-5719980/

ACADEMIC REFERENCES:

Grabe, Shelly, Janet Hyde, and L. Monique Ward. “The Role of the Media in Body Image Concerns Among Women: A Meta-Analysis of Experimental and Correlational Studies.” Psychological Bulletin 134.3 (2008): 460-476.

Effects of the Media on Body Image by Allie Kovar, Vanderbilt Univeristy, April 30, 2009: https://healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu/2009/BodyImageMedia.htm

OTHER REFERENCES:

https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/news/268636/edwina-currie-slams-plus-size-models-and-claims-size-14-is-obese-and-unhealthy/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/ashley-graham-model-14-plus-size-edwina-currie-a6901141.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/edwina-currie-calls-size-14-7457140

http://jezebel.com/cheryl-tiegs-who-is-not-a-doctor-says-cover-girl-ashl-1761419577

http://www.look.co.uk/fashion/ashley-graham-called-overweight-by-edwina-currie-and-cheryl-tiegs-210872

http://metro.co.uk/2016/02/29/size-14-edwina-currie-says-youre-obese-5724178/

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/beauty/face-body/study-claims-plussize-models-may-contribute-to-obesity-epidemic-and-unhealthy-lifestyle-choices/news-story/9742de8fb4ef04633b2a67681bf5d376

The Portrayal of Paleo

By: Ben Knight,
November 2 2016

Examples of Food Consumed on the Paleo Diet
Foods Consumed on the Paleo Diet Turn to Nature: Photo by zsoolt

The term ’Paleo’ has historically referring to a prehistoric era in human history. In more recent times, Paleo has taken on a new meaning through a social ‘health’ movement to emulate a diet consistent with food consumption patterns of cavemen. However, this has conflicted with conventional understandings about nutrition, and with great uncertainty as to its tangible benefits and harms, it is quite easy to see that Paleo is has become polarizing and controversial.

A three-way war is being fought between health professionals, scientists and paleo enthusiasts, which have become highly publicized through news media. Emerging from the contest is Pete Evans – celebrity chef and star of popular reality TV cooking show My Kitchen Rules, who has become, and is portrayed as the public advocate, spokesperson and expert consultant on Paleolithic eating in Australia. Evan’s media portrayal as the face of paleo and an overall negative portrayal of the diet itself indicate the likelihood of paleo becoming the next in a line fads chewed up and spat out by the media.

In order to illustrate media constructions of Paleo and Evans, the following opinion pieces were selected. The first is an article in the Herald Sun Cult diet gurus and food fad pushers need to pull their heads in, by Wendy Tuohy. The second is You should not trust Pete Evans’ opinion of calcium from the Sydney Morning Herald, written by Andrew Street. A further 2 journalistic style articles were selected for comparison: Why the Paleo Diet isn’t the answer for weightloss from Kathleen Alleaume published on news.com.au and Celebrity chef Pete Evans mocks study showing Paleo diet could make you fat, co written by Neelima Choahan, Marissa Calligeros from the Sydney Morning Herald. This sample set of opinion pieces and journalistic style news items elucidate common patterns of the portrayal of Paleo and Pete Evans in the media.

Paleo Advocate and Host of My Kitchen Rules Pete Evans
Paleo Advocate and Host of My Kitchen Rules Pete Evans: Photo by Felipe Neves

Tuohy’s opinion piece mounts a primary argument that Paleo is nothing more than a fad diet promoted by ill-informed ‘health’ enthusiasts whose claims of health are unsubstantiated by science. As we will come to see, Touhy’s claim is just a microcosm for an overarching worldview of contemporary media on Paleo.

Touhy utilizes appeals to negative consequences, and leverages scientifically backed appeals to an expert voice in order to discount Paleo as a legitimate health movement. This primary argument becomes obvious from the outset. The headline of the article compares the Paleo movement to be cultish in nature, taking veiled aim at Evans as a “cult diet guru.” These negatively loaded terms ‘cult’ and ‘guru’ immediately frame Paleo and its advocates to be without serious credentials, and thus lead Tuohy to recommend, “they pull their heads in”, chastising both Evans and supporters of the Paleo diet.

The opening line of the article clearly elucidates a presumed ‘given’ about Paleo: “WHAT a non-surprise to learn one more fad diet has been spectacularly busted, and how healthy to see the whole culture of cult-like food gurus take a serious hit.” The notion of a ‘non-surprise’ assumes that there is common understanding amongst those not trapped within the Paleo culture that it is, as she directly labels it, a ‘fad diet.’ It is clear here that Touhy is writing from a moral highpoint above the ‘food gurus.’ She suggests, ironically, that the only remnants of health within Paleo is when its followers and advocates ‘take a serious hit’ – that is, when they are discredited. Again, it becomes clear here that Touhy perceives Paleo to simply be a ‘fad diet’, and therefore devoid of any comprehensive health benefits, which she supports by claiming: “Science has declared the paleo diet can make you fat. Not fit, not immortal, not line-free and vital … actually unwell.” Furthered from this, Touhy introduces the expert voice, which she leverages for expert power – A Melbourne University Study. The implication here is that Paleo is not backed up sufficiently by science, and is in fact discounted as being the new standard for health when tested.

Touhy thus establishes the grounds to appeal to negatively consequences, and the evaluative tone of her article comes to fruition. She implies that Paleo preys on the vulnerable; that people ‘slavishly struggle’ on “detoxifying diets”, feel like failures and “doubt themselves or blame themselves” when they inevitably can’t see the promises of results. In particular, she uses quotation marks in “detoxifying diet” to sarcastically further discredit the legitimacy of Paleo. Calling for those spellbounded by Paleo to “wake up from the spell,” Touhy furthers her writing position as one with authority looking out for the helpless.

Touhy furthermore reinforces the negative consequences of what she calls a “holier than thou food regimen” by claiming it makes people miserable and anxious about every bite of food they put in their mouths. Here, Touhy counters any advocacy by tearing down the moral superiority she perceives of Paleo, despite writing from a position of moral superiority herself. The preposition of ‘worst’ positions paleo lowly in the eyes of the reader – that nothing could be unhealthier than the misery and anxiousness experienced through Paleo.

Furthering on from Touhy’s evaluation of Paleo, she embraces the moral high ground; providing a recommendation to the audience should they consider Paleo a viable option – public health initiatives with science-backed recommendations to protect health. The rationale here is again that Paleo is not backed by science, and therefore cannot be trusted to serve public health interests. Rather, she furthers an accusation of self-interest towards Evans, alluding to an unnamed self-styled food celebrity, “promoting a set of cook books and products with evangelical force.” Again, this perspective of Paleo being enforced like a cult is thrust upon the reader, with Evans portrayed as a vulture, using his influence to further his own interests.

This accusation of Evans enforcing his Paleo will and brainwashing the malleable, passive audience which Touhy assumes becomes clearer as she employs the expert voice of the University Professor conducting the research trials: “You need to speak to proper health professional…rather than listening to Pete Evans who says this is great,” said the Professor. Referring to the expert as his title discounts Evans as having any expert power of value. She furthers this by saying that the Professor is ”the type of diet expert we should be listening to,” which again portrays Evans as not informed enough on health matters, and thus his opinions on diet should be discounted.

Mainstream media itself is just as it suggests – mainstream. It is supposedly indicative of the most common of opinions, understandings and values in order to reflect the widest scope of society possible. Thus, commonality in opinions on Paleo may indicate common patterns of portrayal. Street’s article echoes the sentiments of Touhy’s, thus revealing a common, assumed understanding of Paleo held across a variety of contemporary media. However, unlike Touhy, he does not perceive the Paleo movement itself to be enforced upon a vulnerable audience. Rather, to Street, Paleo is simply a delusion: “If we need some comforting delusions to make that road more comfortable then who can possibly blame us?”

This isn’t to say that Street doesn’t take some exception to Paleo or Evans, at least to the scale that Touhy exhibits in her piece. Rather, Street claims that the problem lays not within Paleo itself, but what it conceptualizes – that “when people provide delusional beliefs as though they’re facts, because you can make stupid, harmful decisions if you base them on the incorrect premise.” He utilizes an appeal to comparison to demonstrate this concept of Paleo as an ill-informed enactment of delusion, on a similar level to, “for example, that climate change has nothing to do with human activity, or that same-sex parents are bad for children.” Here, Street places Paleo within a much wider context than Touhy, but nonetheless establishes the grounds for its similar portrayal as ridiculous and harmful.

Street places the brunt of his exception, as the title of his article suggests, upon Evans himself. Street further claims that Evans has parlayed his knowledge of cooking into a nonsensical, backward oriented cult, yearning for regression: “early humans had the right idea before all that annoying “civilization” nonsense turned us into the most successful species on Earth.” He further sarcastically refers to Evans himself as a ‘handsome television man and avid meathusiast,’ suggesting that Evans’ credentials on diet are limited to his physical appearance and celebrity status.

Thus, Street establishes the grounds to portray Evans as stepping beyond his station, claiming that he does not have the necessary expertise to provide medical advice beyond “guy that knows how to cook stuff.” He trivializes and chastises Evans, which is juxtaposed in scale to what he claims is the “genuinely dangerous nonsense” espoused, painting Evans as misguided and thus, with the scale of his influence, highly dangerous in a matter where health is at stake. He furthers this by saying that even the proposition of such questions being asked – “I’m told I need to take medicine, but can my problem be fixed with chops instead?” – is testament to the damage Evans has caused already.

Street further paints Evans as a danger, describing advice given by Evans in various negative ways, such as “inexplicable”, “utter rubbish” that is “incorrect” and “wildly irresponsible.” In turn, this reinforces the widespread media image of Evans as, what Touhy claimed earlier, a ‘food guru’, devoid of even the most basic level of knowledge and sensibility, as Street claims: Suggesting that dairy somehow leaches calcium out of your bones is not just incorrect – which, let’s be clear, it is. It’s also wildly irresponsible.

The silver lining for Street exists within a desire to adopt eating fresh and healthy foods; such is much of what comprises a Paleo diet. However, for Street, the delusion of Paleo – what he sarcastically terms a “magical regimen involving imaginary superhero caveman to justify eating fresh food” is the metaphor for silly deicison making based on even more foolish reasoning. This “woo-woo silliness” is the media representation of Paleo, unsubstantiated by “dull-but-accurate” scientific research. Thus, Paleo in is a representation of moral and not scientific debate within the media.

Is it Paleo?
Is it Paleo? Photo by Next TwentyEight

However, in a matter that so entrenched in public moral debate, it is important to briefly digress into portrayals of Paleo that exist hard news media. Kathleen Alleaume is a contributor to the health section for news.com.au, and as a nutritionist and exercise scientist, is afforded an expert voice on Paleo. She terms Paleo foods to be “caveman cuisine,” and the Paleolithic eating to be a “trend” where participants become a part of a “food tribe”, a more positive portrayal than what Touhy painted as a “cult” of misery and self-loathing.

Alleaume’s piece is scientific, and largely removed from heavy evaluation. It is however, advice heavy, perhaps due to her position as a nutrition expert who regularly provides diet advice. In turn, Alleaume portrays and critiques the Paleo diet on its merits as a selection of food, as opposed to criticized as movement. Thus, Paleo is given the platform to even be considered what it is in the first place – a method of eating food in a regulated fashion to manage body weight.

The methodology Alleaume employs in her article is as follows. She makes references to scientific research in order to provide support for the macronutrient composition of a Paleo diet, and elucidate its scientifically validated benefits pertaining to diet. However, she also makes a point of noting possible health consequences, without over emphasizing the former. She then leverages her experience as a nutrition expert to offer and make valid applications of Paleo pragmatic. This constructive assessment of Paleo diverges from negative portrayals of the opinion pieces, but is also hidden away in the lifestyle news archives.

The final hard news item is a news report based on the findings of the same University study the opinion piece of Touhy employs. Here, Evans is placed on the defensive, as he is claimed to have “hit out” against the negative health consequences uncovered from the University research. The article makes light of ‘Mr Evans’ employing a Facebook rant to question the veracity of University research, indirectly negatively positioning Evans. This is not overt, and the article balances this by adding that Evans employed an alternative study that favoured Paleo.

The media portrayal of Evans in this article indeed reflects the wider opinions of the Paleo diet. By framing Evans in opposition to a leading University study, contributes to a dominant decoding similar to the worldview espoused in the opinion pieces. This is not criticizing the article or its writers, as Evans has portrayed himself as such by claiming that the media is contributing to spin and that the study is inconclusive on the grounds that it was not conducted on humans, ulterior motives of professors, pharmaceutical funding and lack of credibility of heath organizations. Evan’s points are later countered in the article.

Indeed, Evans is newsworthy as a celebrity and the face of Paleo, which makes him an ideal candidate to report on, but the article clearly discounts his opinion as credible be referring to Paleo as a “fad diet.” In turn, by referencing the support numbers on Facebook, it makes light of the mass delusion Touhy hints at in her opinion piece, which this article is inevitably tied to having being composed on the same University research. This article again indirectly negatively evaluates Evans through the expert opinion employed, as the professor claims dieters should to seek “professional advice.” We can thus see a common negative worldview of Paleo being espoused across media.

Cult, delusion, trend and caveman diet are all terms used to describe Paleolithic. To Evans, it is clear that Paleo is a philosophy, underlined by the principle that food is medicine, and that paleo is the new measuring stick of health. This is a key assumption consistently dispelled – that the popularity of Evans and the Paleo diet does not mean it is working. This claim does not stand up to scrutiny in the scientific sense, and as such, he is targeted and framed in the media in a particularly negative light. Evan’s prominent position as a celebrity figure have led his media image to become synonymous with that of the Paleo diet, and vice versa.

However, the portrayal of Paleo in the media gives great prominence to the celebrity voice. Articles discuss the popularity of Paleo, or critique it, but for the most part, omit the inherent health benefits to criticize the movement. As such, public perception of the Paleo diet and its advocates like Pete Evans become figures of ridicule and targets of public outrage, especially as the stakes of human health become involved. Whilst other media topics of a more trivial nature aren’t going to make or break the world, reporting on matters of health have descended into opinion laded moral debates, rather than, as it arguably should, giving a prominent voice to science and factual based reporting. When the media reports on Paleo, regardless of its negative way, it nonetheless keeps Paleo relevant.
Continue reading “The Portrayal of Paleo”

Final Assessment – Media Analysis Article 2 – Elizabeth Succar – Th12

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Elizabeth Succar

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Th12

Maternal love is a powerful force. It can give a woman the ability to sacrifice for her children with out a second thought  and also neglect to have a second thought all together.

Sally Faulkner is a prime example of a mother acting blindly out of desperation for her children and this is certainly the way the entire child recovery operation gone wrong, which she was the centre of, has been depicted across the media.

Faulkner, a 60 minutes news crew and a recovery team from CARI (Child Abduction Recovery International), lead by Adam Whittington, all became a part of the plight of a mother who wanted her children back. Or at least this is the way most media outlets would have you see it.

No one can dispute the unfair treatment Sally Faulkner received at the hands of her estranged husband Ali Elamine when he went to Lebanon with his children to visit his parents, for what was supposed to be two weeks, and later  announced he and his children were not returning.

Despite the fact that no able and loving mother deserves to lose her children with out warning and for no valid reason, it is also unfair that Australian media has purely depicted this story in a way that makes Faulkner’s and the actions of Chanel 9 OK because they were those of a mother driven by desperation.

This “wronged and desperate mother” angle, combined with the undertones of racism, sexism and lack of recognition for the absence of consideration of the children across the media makes for a fairly slanted representation of the entire recovery gone wrong.

One particular article written in the Sydney Morning Herald by Julie Szego, 60 Minutes: Who are the real victims in the abduction story?, focuses on this with particular emphasis on the fact that neither Faulkner nor her ex-husband were victims in this situation but their children would have suffered greatly.

Although the article has a slight murmur of racism and uses this situation as a general warning against mixed-race marriages, it definitely raises some valid points about the neglect of the media in condemning Faulkner’s actions as selfish and ill considered.

“His was a deeply violent act against his children and their mother….Alas, this is a genre we know well: a cross-cultural marriage gone wrong, a woman outmanoeuvred by a man who once seemed charming and exotic, a foreign country where females struggle for equality before the law.

Szego instantly paints Elamine as the villain in the situation, describing his actions as “deeply violent”. Yes, he was a villain but she has over-generalised the situation by appealing to analogy in reference to “cross-cultural marriages” as a territory that should not be explored.

The unfair representations here are clear. a deeply violent act vilifies Elamine’s actions more than what is called for. A deeply unjust act? Yes. Violent? No.

Racism in this article shines through in reference to cross-cultural marriages gone wrong, with the failure to recognise the millions that have gone right.

Sexism is evident in the painting of Faulkner being “outmanoeuvred” as a woman by a man, rather than simply balancing the blame by stating that Elamine was cunning and Faulkner was far too trusting.

The article exhibits the faults of both parties, but attempts to push western ideals onto a country that has a different cultural and moral standard.

It is inaccurate and far too general to say that “females struggle for equality before the law”. This by a western standard.

It fails to recognise the context of a cultural and religious system that, although is foreign to a western worldview, is not necessarily wrong.   

Lebanon is probably the most progressive country in the Middle East in terms of women’s rights or human rights, however, it is patriarchal.

This means when it comes to family law the father will be favoured. How is this any different from how mother’s are favoured in Western systems?

It is by reversing this depiction that the media has offered that it becomes clear that most representations of this story have positioned their readers to side with the mother, Sally Faulkner.

This is not to say that this is wrong. Faulkner certainly was wronged and was definitely a mother driven by desperation but most coverage of her story neglects to highlight that this was a catalyst to her acting blindly, disrespectfully and illegally yet she is almost championed for what she did.

It is questionable whether a father would be given the same coverage were the roles reversed.

Szego writes,

“Would audiences similarly cheer on a father in the same situation? Or would seizing his children commando-style from their mother be seen as an attack on Mother nature herself?…In this case the father is the villain.”

It is arguable that father’s are undervalued in the western family model. Mother’s are predominately  favoured in family law situations and even things as simple as television commercials for kids products are seen through the lens of a mother.

So, what if we lived in a society where father’s played this part? Even now, according to the British Foreign Office, globally about 70 percent of abducting parents were mothers. Can it be true that these acts are seen as protective of the children because it is the mother committing them.

An article written by Clancy Overell for The Betoota Advocate, Lebanese TV Crew Shot Dead Attempting To Kidnap Brisbane School Kids, offers an interesting and thought provoking role reversal perspective.

“But Thwarted fatherly love doesn’t rate especially well; mostly, theirs is a quiet anguish.”

Szego writes, again highlighting that it is the maternal that is favoured above the paternal in our society.

This positions the reader in a view that sees wild actions fuelled by desperation as acceptable, because they were those of a mother, while father’s are doomed to deal with such situations “quietly”, and should one of them dare to act out of fatherly love, the scrutiny of them by the media would not be the same as the pity that was granted to Faulkner.

In an article written by the Huffington Post, Sally Faulkner On Her Final Moments With Her Children, by Emily Brooks, has gone a step further in positioning the reader with pity for Faulkner, by referencing Elamine as her “estranged husband”, rather than the children’s father, arguably making it seem like he has not rights to these children that are just as much his as Faulkner’s.

“The children now remain in Lebanon with Faulkner’s estranged husband, Ali Elamine”

This subconsciously creates a vast distance between Elamine’s and his children, while continually encouraging condolence for Faulkner.

What added to this pity that the media has sold? Perhaps the fact that Elamine was foreign.

“I wonder if such stories work, even subconsciously, as moral showdowns between East and West and cautionary tales for women about adventurous romances….in an increasingly globalised world, caution has its place.”

Szego assumes a readership that is of western decent. Perhaps as a justification she’s appealed to the ethics of it all, after all, since the morals of the East are different, it must be a showdown with those of the West. An “us against them”.

Then again, acknowledging that the East has morals is acknowledging that they have a legal system to match, one that Faulkner and the 60 minutes crew of channel 9 probably should have adhered to so as to not have the morals of the West questioned. Yet the media choses to ignore this monstrous little detail.

Then there’s the fear-laden language. “Cautionary tales” and “adventurous romances” She writes, as though what is different is an adventure with dangerous connotations.

The warrant here? That we should all just stick to our own kind. Encourage the fearfulness of what we don’t know because after all it’s safer not to be “adventurous” as foreign people aren’t like us.

While Szego’s article does fit in to the over-all trend of victimising Faulkner rather than pointing out that she was treated unjustly and then highlighting her wrongs in response to this, it does have one redeeming quality, that the rest of the media has failed to recognise. It acknowledges the emotional turmoil of the children.

“…Yes, there are two victims here.” Szego writes,

“But they’re not the parents.”

In the spirit of appealing to parental love and maternal desperation, Szego has highlighted that the children are who have suffered most here.

At the hands of both their parents, who acted selfishly at different points, they would have been subject to a plethora of emotions ranging from confusion, to guilt, to just plain old sadness.

Yet the media coverage of the issue barely mentions the children unless in reference to their mother trying to desperately recover them. A selfish act in itself, which Faulkner herself acknowledges as “selfish” and “not worth it” on ABC’s ‘Australian Story’.

Despite this,  Mia Freedman’s article for MamaMia, Sally Faulkner is living every mother’s worst nightmare., continues in the trend of sensationalising an already emotional story by vilifying the father and victimising the mother.

“There’s no greater fear I have as a mother than being forcibly separated from my children. It’s the stuff of nightmares. And Sally Faulkner, a suburban girl from Brisbane, has been living her nightmare – the nightmare of every mother – for more than a year now.”

Freedman is right, any mother, like Faulkner, would be in a living hell after being forcibly separated from their children and Freedman is speaking to an audience that can resonate with this. However, just in case there were any readers doubtful of the torment, Freedman has used fear-laden language and heavily appealed to emotion to encourage compassion for Faulkner. 

“Her ex-husband, Ali Elamine never even wanted children. When Sally fell pregnant to the charismatic man with the Californian accent she met in Dubai while working as part of the Emirates cabin crew, she says he begged her not to have the baby. She was 22 and she refused to end her pregnancy.”

Similar to the article from The Huffington Post, Freedman has distanced Elamine from the children by referencing him as Faulkner’s ex-husband.

Pointing out that he “never wanted children” and “begged her not to have the baby” appeals to emotions and ethics, but it can be fairly argued that it is completely irrelevant.

Millions of people are not ready to have children when they are faced with pregnancy and the prospect of parenthood. They set into panic mode and fear can cause people to say and do things that are ill-considered and sometimes even un-true (see Sally Faulkner and 60 minutes crew’s botched child recovery operation).

However, when the panic settles and the fear subsides, millions of people also step up and accept the responsibilities that come with parenthood. It can not be disputed that Elamine did this.

Faulkner, her family and friends have all attested to the fact that Elamine was a good father to his children and that the pair “co-parented well”, as seen on ABC’s Australian Story.

Thus, it is unfair for Freedman to position her audience to view Elamine as the villainous father who doesn’t care for his children and never wanted them and Faulkner as the brave 22 year old hero who carried out her pregnancy, when both have been excellent parents to the children post-birth and in reality that is really all that matters.

It’s that cheesy saying that goes something like, “actions speak louder than words”.

After all, who would go to the effort of removing their children from their home and take on the responsibility of solely caring for them if there was no real love there?

The article by Freedman is to promote a “no filter” interview with Faulkner. In reference to this, she writes:

“The hole in Sally’s life where her two eldest children should be is like a gaping wound. We both cried during this interview and there are times you can hear Sally’s distress. But we chose not to edit any of that out because this is what Ali Elamine has done to the mother of his children by abducting them from Australia and refusing to let them see or communicate with her.”

Highly emotive language that appeals to emotion, ethics and maternal love has been employed by Freedman here as a means of positioning the reader in line with the emotions of Faulkner.

Freedman has also painted Elamine as the sole perpetrator of any acts in this situation by writing “this is what Ali Elamine has done…”, however, context is ignored.

What were the events that lead to Ali Elamine making life changing decision to take his children to Lebanon and never return? Could it be argued that in a warped way he thought he was doing the right thing?

Freedman boils this down to Ali’s reaction to Sally finding love and moving on with some one else.

By many standards, this seems like an over reaction but taking into consideration Elamine’s cultural and religious context, he may have seen his children having another man as the predominant figure in their life as threatening and potentially not what is best for them.

When mother’s do outrageous things in the interest of their children it is revered, but no one in the media seems to consider that perhaps Elamine wanted the best for his children, and this wasn’t them being raised by another man and hence an over reactive measure occurred.

A father acting blindly out of love for his children. Just as Faulkner did.

While this certainly may not be the case, it is certainly not a perspective that has been considered although it probably should have been, in the interest of media coverage being balanced and unbiased.

“This is the reality of what happens when you have children with someone who lives in another country, especially a country that isn’t a signatory to the Hague Convention that prevents children from being abducted and kept from the custodial parent in exactly the way Ali Elamine and many other fathers AND mothers have done to kids who should legally be living in Australia.”

Like Szego, Freedman has used an over-generalisation. Yes, this is the “reality” of some people who marry from another country. It is NOT the reality of all so Freedman, Szego and the rest of the media should not make this unfair claim.

This also has a warrant that inter-racial marriages are doomed from the start. This can be inflammatory and create fear of the “different” in readers.

Not an encouraging prospect for a “globalised world”.

The author again assumes a readership that is reading through a lens of maternal love, as it is by a maternal and western standard that the “custodial parent” is the mother. In many countries, perhaps even Lebanon, it can be the father.

At the very least, Freedman has appealed to facts in acknowledging that mothers are also perpetrators of child abductions, insinuating that father’s can be victims too.

Freedman has also appealed to the morals of the matter by pointing out that these are kids who should “legally be living in Australia” and by their birth, yes, this is true. Although by Lebanon’s legal system this may be a different story and in contemplating the legality of things, again it should be noted that the array of domestic and international laws Faulkner and Chanel 9 have broken probably raise questions as to where the children should “legally” be living.

Maternal love is a powerful force that Sally Faulkner is loaded with. There is not a shimmer of doubt in all the darkness that this story holds that the woman behind the botched child recovery scandal was deeply wronged when her ex-husband took their children to Lebanon and decided not to return. This mother, in all her love acted in an ill-considered manner with the assistance of Channel 9 and CARI and entered a country, ignoring its laws, in an attempt to steal back her kids.    So, the media painted a devastating picture of a desperate mother and everyone felt compassion for Faulkner and anger for Elamine. While both these emotions are well deserved on both ends, it is a shame that Australian media has neglected to highlight that Sally Faulkner, 60 Minutes and CARI were wrong. It is not at all an unfair representation on behalf of the media to highlight the desperation of Faulkner and point out that this is what drove her, but in order for the coverage to have been balanced, it would have been necessary to highlight that they acted illegally and disrespectfully with a lack of consideration for the law in Lebanon and for Faulkner’s children, Lahela, 6 and Noah, 4. Perhaps it is in this sense that less compassion is warranted by the media, as if she had followed the proper legal steps, as advised by her lawyer, then she would have a far better chance of being reunited with her children than she ever will now. Thus it is fair to argue that the over all media coverage of this issue has been through a maternal lens and slightly slants away from all aspects of the story. That is to say that although Faulkner was a mother driven by desperation and love, it does not make what she did acceptable or ok but the media did not represent this.

Can Kim Kardashian really be a mother, a successful entrepreneur and a sexually expressive woman? Surely not. 

By Georgia Dunkley

 

Throughout the past decade, the Kardashian family have attracted a profusion of media attention, albeit perhaps self-induced, which has nonetheless asserted their dominance in particular over social media. With four of the sisters ranking in the top 20 highest number of followers on Instagram, the Kardashian prominence in modern Western society is indubitable (Socialblade, 2016). It was thus unsurprising that following an assault in Paris on the eldest Kardashian daughter, Kim, a plethora of both news and views journalism pieces were published online discussing the situation, including the UK’s Telegraph commentary by Allison Pearson, Kim Kardashian and the price of preening narcissism.’ This piece is explicitly anti-Kim and the specific language employed throughout suggests a myopic view on female celebrities. Mamamia’s opinion piece by Michelle Andrews, One of the most worrying aspects of Kim Kardashian’s hold-up is being ignored,’ alludes to a similar perspective, however to a lesser extent and through a contrastingly pro-Kim stance. Despite each author claiming integrity in regard to their opinions of Kim, or rather, the opinions which coincide with that of their publication and its audience, both pieces categorise the celebrity in a manner which fails to recognise Kim for who she is in a holistic sense. These pieces thus provide a particular sample of the media constructing representations of female celebrities in an atomistic approach, ignoring specific aspects of the woman in order to accommodate their intended audience.

Kim Kardashian’s rise to fame began when a sex-tape between her and her boyfriend at the time was leaked online in 2007. Shortly afterwards, Kim and her family began broadcasting their reality TV show ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ on entertainment channel, E! Network. Since then, Kim has married American rapper, Kanye West, and given birth to two of their children. Kim has also released three apps — ‘Kim Kardashian: Hollywood,’ ‘The Kim Kardashian Official App’ and ‘Kimoji’ — from which she generates the majority of her income (Forbes, 2015). On October 2nd of this year, thugs disguised as police officers broke into Kim’s Parisian apartment, where she was held at gunpoint, tied up and thrown into a bathtub while the thugs stole millions of dollars worth of valuables (CNN, 2016).

Three days following, the UK’s Telegraph website published a commentary by Allison Pearson entitled ‘Kim Kardashian and the price of preening narcissism.’ This article is explicitly anti-Kim, maintaining the contention that what was stolen from Kim during the heist holds more value in comparison to the self-esteem Kim ‘steals’ from adolescent girls through ‘unrealistic’ body images. Pearson’s claim is evaluative and causal, as it utilises various appeals and value-laden language in an attempt to caricature Kim and scaremonger its audience. It is important to note that the Telegraph has a right-wing political alignment and, in 2012, had an audience age average of 46, and are therefore more likely to hold conservative views and be parents of young children (Wikipedia, 2016; ABC, 2012).

Pearson uses negatively connotative language to justify that Kim is an unrealistic role model for young women. Based on the particularly traditionalist warrant that women who sexualise themselves in a way which can be seen as ‘fake’ or ‘showy’ are inappropriate sources of inspiration, the entire article includes myriad libellous descriptions of Kim, including “vacuous,” “pneumatic” and an implicit reference to her as a “bully”. The author intends that, by the conclusion of the article wherein the key claim is explicitly stated, the audience will inadvertently side against Kim as a result of the aforementioned negative language. Furthermore, Pearson refers to the Kardashian’s television show as “fodder,” Kim’s figure as “preposterous,” and Kim’s idea of “female empowerment” as a reason to laugh out loud, which add supplementary disregard for Kim and her family.

Similarly, Pearson argues that the robbery of millions of dollars of possessions from Kim’s Parisian apartment was self-inflicted through Kim’s social media posts. Despite appearing sympathetic towards Kim, Pearson employs an underlying sarcastic tone to ensure that the audience is exposed to more ridicule of Kim, such as calling her “daft” and suggesting that she’s a show-off, and stating that the theft was “regrettable, but hardly surprising.”

In both cases, Pearson assumes that her audience need only be told what they see as the dominant value, or that which makes them comfortable. Pearson distracts her audience from the main issue at hand (depression in adolescent girls) through ad hominem attacks on Kim and ‘cherry-picking,’ defined as using specific examples to confirm a particular position, while ignoring others that may contradict that position (Wikipedia, 2016). Interestingly, throughout the entirety of the piece, only nine of the paragraphs reference the issues adolescent girls are facing, while seventeen of the paragraphs contain a malicious comment towards Kim. Furthermore, Pearson falsely assumes post hoc ergo propter hoc in claiming that Kim and those like her are the cause for adolescent depression. With no mention of Kim as a mother herself or of Kim’s philanthropic side, and little reference to Kim’s personal successes, Pearson portrays Kim as one-dimensional — a sexual figure and nothing else.

A concentrated analysis of this would suggest that Pearson’s views merely coincide with that of the Telegraph publication and its readership, attempting to encourage parents to deter their children from the “preening narcissist” that is Kim Kardashian. However, this could arguably be more broadly be interpreted as media publications constructing ostensible representations of female celebrities in homogenised categories. These judgements thus pose the question: can a woman not be both a mother and sexually proud, both wealthy and deserving?

In 2014, LA based media company, ATTN, published a piece entitledThe Reasons You Can’t Stand Kim Kardashianby Julie Doubleday. Throughout the article, Doubleday refers to a psychological concept known as cognitive dissonance, which refers to a state of uncertainty or hostility any person may experience when presented with two or more conflicting views or beliefs (Festinger, 1957). In the case of Kim Kardashian, Doubleday applies this idea to suggest that, due to the typical Western person being raised on the idea that “wealth implies capability, that success implies intelligence,” the presence of those like Kim in society, who appear to do little yet nonetheless maintain great success, will inevitably be the basis for bitterness from those less fortunate (Doubleday, 2014). In relation to Pearson’s article, it is possible to construe that the author holds the assumption that the audience will side with the author against Kim, due to their personal hard-working nature and moderate success (recall these statistics), contrasted against Kim’s little work ethic and celebrity status. This dissonance thus stimulates hostility towards Kim, often resulting in the view that she cannot be successful due to her intellect and therefore only gained fame from her sexuality, which in turn is ridiculed, as evident within the article.

In direct contrast to the views of Kim presented throughout the Telegraph’s piece, Mamamia author Michelle Andrews claims that the robbery of Kim is no laughing matter. This piece is highly evaluative, including specific word choices and numerous appeals to emotion in order to portray Kim as a “victim.” Emphatic language such as “bound, gagged, and robbed at gunpoint,” “Kim’s trauma” and “Kim Kardashian West’s nightmare” collectively appeal to the emotions of the Mamamia readership, consisting of a majority of women, to justify that the incident was “purely terrifying”.

Additionally, Andrews argues, on the warrant that all humans should be treated equally, that Kim herself is “a mother… a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and… a human being” and should therefore be viewed as nothing less. Despite possessing the argumentative fallacy of being non-sequitur, in such a manner that the statement itself suggests that all human beings, regardless of their actions, should be viewed equally, this justification to Andrews’ central claim is a further emotional appeal to the target audience, in drawing a parallel between the readership and Kim. Interestingly, Andrews also states that “Kim Kardashian is not a sex toy, she is not an object, she is not a pair of tits and an ass,” which further emphasise the media’s tendency to represent women in a one-dimensional manner. In fact, Kim exploits herself in such a manner as a means of marketing, according to her husband Kayne West, and for Andrews to ignore this fact is further ‘cherry picking’ information to ensure her claim is not jeopardised (LifeStyle, 2013).

Throughout the piece there is little mention of any parts of Kim’s life other than that which involves her motherhood and her family. Upon noting Kim’s successes and tendency to express her sexuality, an informal fallacy of bifurcation is evident as Andrews suggests that either people are “so vengeful” towards Kim “for her blinding and sometimes inexplicable success,” or because “a woman who freely expresses her sexuality, forfeits her social and cultural value to the point where she becomes worthless.” Ultimately, Andrews has established two extreme positions as the only possible options for holding disdain towards Kim, either due to her success or her sexuality, and is denying the possibility of the cause being something entirely different, a combination of the two, or a result of both. In this case Andrews is holding a judgement of Kim, that being successful and being sexualised are the only two reasons one could dislike a woman, which further emanates an atomistic view of Kim, and females in a broader sense.

Despite Andrews’ efforts to portray “Kim Kardashian West” (as she is referred to four times throughout the article) in a positive light, Andrews chooses to ignore aspects of Kim’s life which could potentially damage the author’s claim. Perhaps merely an attempt to coincide with the views of the publication and the readership, Andrews is more broadly suggesting that because she is a mother, Kim cannot be sexualised or successful. Regardless of the beliefs held by the Mamamia publishing group, which state that “[Mamamia] believe strongly that women’s representation in the media needs to improve,” the article nonetheless represents Kim for a minority of the entire person she appears as to the public.

Alternatively to both of the above pieces, an article published on the Complex website this year by Rae Witte entitled ‘Kim Kardashian Makes Me Want to Post Nude Selfies’ acknowledges all aspects of Kim’s rise to stardom. In a holistic approach to Kim as a mother and an entrepreneur, and no shying from including reference to Kim’s sexual endeavours, this piece arguably represents Kim as a woman in a more modernised way, in comparison to the pieces by Pearson in particular and Andrews, to a lesser extent. Priding itself on being a media platform for youth culture, it is evident that Witte’s commentary highlights an emerging value, held most widely in society by youths, who are without a doubt Kim’s widest audience (Complex, 2016).

In conclusion, the Telegraph’s piece was true to its predominantly conservative nature by portraying Kim in a highly negative manner and suggesting that her open expression of her sexuality is something to be frowned upon. This stance is reflective of the Telegraph’s more right-wing views and is also indicative of their older age bracket audience. In contrast, although again as expected, Mamamia maintained a very pro-women stance in regard to Kim, which complement the writings and views of Mamamia. This coincides with Mamamia’s readership, young to middle-aged progressive Australian women, ensuring that the author-reader relationship maintains cyclical.

Although, both of the articles by Pearson and by Andrews show a sample of media representations of Kim Kardashian, which each ultimately categorise the celebrity in an atomistic manner. The selective ignorance of various aspects of Kim’s life further suggest that the representations of women in the media still need to improve, as women need to be viewed holistically and as capable of being multifaceted, regardless of their particular lifestyle choices.

References

Andrews, M, 2016, One of the most worrying aspects of Kim Kardashian’s hold-up is being ignored, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/kim-kardashian-and-the-price-of-preening-narcissism/, Mamamia!, last accessed 31.10.2016

Doubleday, J, 2014, The Reasons You Can’t Stand Kim Kardashian, http://www.attn.com/stories/246/reasons-you-cant-stand-kim-kardashian, ATTN:, last accessed 1.11.2016

Festinger, L, 1957, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, California: Stanford University Press

McLeod, S, 2008, Cognitive Dissonance, http://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html, Simply Psychology, last accessed 1.11.2016

Pearson, A, 2016, Kim Kardashian and the price of preening narcissism, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/kim-kardashian-and-the-price-of-preening-narcissism/, The Telegraph UK, last accessed 31.10.2016

Witte, R, 2016, Kim Kardashian Makes Me Want to Post Nude Selfies, http://au.complex.com/style/2016/07/kim-kardashian-on-forbes-makes-me-want-to-post-nude-selfies?utm_campaign=complexmag&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social, Complex, last accessed 1.11.2016

Australian Soccer v The Media

Soccer (football) has always been a sport for a minority in Australia, playing second fiddle to the mainstream sports like rugby league, rugby union, cricket and Aussie Rules. There’s a famous quote from a revered Australian soccer figure, Johnny Warren, which alleges that mainstream Australia looks towards the round ball game as a sport for “sheilas, wogs and poofters”.

This isn’t a claim without a basis – evidence has come to light that Channel Seven actively tried to shield the sport from the public after acquiring broadcast rights back in 1998 – solely to appease the AFL. Football’s relationship with the mainstream media has always been a troubled one and tensions erupted this time last year after the late Rebecca Wilson published a confidential list of people who have been banned from attending football matches and basically portrayed football fans as being violent hooligans who create an unsafe environment at A-League matches – the national football competition.  This piece will investigate the coverage and discussion of the A-League and its fans across the media and will draw on the original Rebecca Wilson article and reply pieces from Simon Hill and Craig Foster to form the basis of the analysis.

The late Rebecca Wilson was a prominent Australian sports journalist, frequently writing opinion pieces throughout News Limited publications and often appearing on both radio and television programs. On November 22nd 2015, Wilson published a piece in the Sunday Telegraph, which was printed with the names of almost 200 individuals (and photos of many of them) who have been banned from attending football matches in Australia. The article is titled, ‘It’s time to stop the football louts’ and in the piece Wilson takes on the Football Federation Australia and their relationship with troublemakers throughout the sport’s crowds.

The central claim of the article is that football authorities are turning a blind eye to the crowd problems that are plaguing the sport and fans are creating an unsafe environment for people to be in. This is explicitly stated when Wilson claims that “Football Federation Australia and the Wanderers are reluctant to engage in a full and frank ­admission that the problem [crowd violence] has ­become endemic”. The Western Sydney Wanderers are a franchise within the A-League and have developed a reputation for very passionate fans since they entered the competition in 2012. The claim and the article present a distinctly evaluative argument, passing harsh judgement on the governing body of Australian football.

Wilson justifies her claim by presenting the FFA as being in denial of the endemic problems throughout the sport’s culture in Australia, claiming that external authorities are concerned about the lack of action from the governing body and that these problems simply do not exist with the same frequency in other Australian sports. The justification that the FFA is denying widespread crowd problems is an appeal to the supposed facts of the matter, using the so-called “shame file” of offenders to insist that there is widespread problems and not enough is being done about it and writing that “[they] must concede that there are some rats in the ranks of club supporters who wreak havoc” suggesting the governing body is refuting claims that there is trouble in the sport and insisting upon ignorance, “FFA is loath to make a genuine and concerted stand against the Wanderers because of the value they deliver the ­A-League. What it sees are full stadiums, passionate fans and big sponsorship deals”.

Writing that police and stadium security are concerned is an obvious appeal to authority, using the weight of respected bodies to insist that there is in fact a problem which the sport is ignoring – writing that “Police and stadium security forces are privately concerned at the direction in which match days are heading” and that the “shame file must be enough to bring about genuine change“. Claiming that these problems do not occur with the same frequency within other Australian sporting crowds is an appeal to both social norms and comparison. Wilson writes of “a few drunk cricket yobbos and a small base of Bulldogs fans” which supposedly “belies the savagery of hundreds of A-League fans”, insisting that it is in fact a cultural problem which lies solely within the Australian football community.

Wilson writes with obviously judgemental language which harshly criticises and attacks those involved with the sport. The piece is heavily slanted against the football community, writing of the “endemic” problem, the “rats” in and around the game and referring to the “savagery” of football fans. This heavy, value-laden language hints that Wilson’s intended audience is those who share the supposed mentality of the mainstream media and their scepticism of football community, presuming that her audience are approaching her piece with a pre-conceived notion of football and the violence within the game – she’s hardly trying to attract new fans to the sport. This approach takes the negative attitude of her audience and presumes that they will agree with her automatically. The “shame file” upon which she relies for her argument presents almost 200 people out of the millions that are regularly involved in football around the country. There is a distinct lack of significant evidence to persuade those opposed to her that her point of view is the correct one.

Craig Foster is an Australian football pundit who regularly appears on the SBS’s coverage of Australian football – both the A-League and the Socceroos fixtures. He is by no stretch of the imagination a well-known figure but is widely respected and recognised throughout the Australian football community. His piece, titled, ‘Australia’s football fans have won the PR war’ appeared on the SBS mini-site, The World Game, on November 26th 2015, days after the Wilson article and in the aftermath of the football community’s response to the piece. The article’s tone is defensive and praises the community’s response whilst attacking those that criticised it.

The central claim is that the Australian football community is united and much stronger than those who have attacked them and their sport. This claim is an evaluative one, passing a positive judgement on the community which had come under so much scrutiny for the actions of a minority days before. This claim is implied throughout the piece as Foster continually refers to the strength of the community and praises their unity whilst belittling those that have opposed it in the past few days.

Foster justifies his claim by insisting that the football community has developed not only in terms of size but in understanding their place in the national sporting landscape, that the opponents of the football community are prejudiced against the sport whilst the wider football community is only being let down by a small minority. Foster’s justification that the football community has grown and evolved is an attempt to appeal to the authority it has due to its sheer size and attempts to portray the football community as part of the social norms in modern Australian society. He writes that “you [the fans] have learnt that in numbers, and collective passion, is immense power and influence”, “You are a seething mass no longer, but a participant in the national debate through your influence in the political sphere, a voice in the modern sports landscape, a movement not just a moving mass” and he also writes that there are “millions” within the football community, including “hundreds of thousands of children” who are poised to take the sport into the future and consolidate a place in the sporting conscience of Australian society. Foster’s justification that those opposite the football community is an example of an appeal to emotion, insisting that they are “unbelievers” and that “there will always be football haters. They’re challenged in their personal world view” whilst football fans “should feel sorry for them in their ignorance” whilst the media continues to commit “atrocities against publishing”. These phrases all have negative connotations and provoke strong emotions amongst readers. The justification that the wider community is being let down by a small minority is an appeal to the facts of the matter, as mentioned earlier, Foster mentions “millions” and “hundreds of thousands of children” before he mentions the “198 fans banned from attending football matches” and portrays them as a “tiny minority of transgressors”.

Foster writes with the intention of convincing those who may oppose his views that the way he views the football community is a much truer reflection of the reality than Wilson’s piece. This is evident from the strong case built for the football fans and the portrayal weakness and inferiority of their opponents. Despite this, Foster can be seen to fall to the informal fallacy that is the ad populum argument, he relies on the notion that a majority of his audience will subscribe to his views surrounding the opponents of the football community, he fails to present conclusive evidence that they are much weaker than the football fans, instead appealing to the emotions of his readers in the hope they will subscribe to his views.

Simon Hill is a journalist who is not quite in the realm of mainstream media but through his work on Fox Sports has established himself as a respected pundit on Australian football and is a prominent voice in the national football community. His piece is titled, ‘Simon Hill on weekend reports detailing crowd problems in A-League’ and appeared on the Fox Sports website on November 25th 2015. Like the Foster article, Hill defends the Australian football community, but his main focus is on dismantling the stories told by those who have spoken out against it and diminishing their credibility.

The central claim of Hill’s piece is that the views of those who stand against the football community are just as ignorant as they claim the football authorities are. This is a claim that is highly evaluative, passing harsh judgement on the opponents of the football community and aims to discredit their stances completely. This claim is implied throughout the article as Hill presents his justifications and builds his argument against his opponents.

Hill justifies his claim by suggesting that those opposite him are using the history of the sport to present outdated criticisms, those criticising the football community are relying on past stereotypes and are prejudiced against football fans and the final justification is that the critics are taking their opposition to ridiculously extreme levels. The justification that the criticisms are outdated views is an appeal to precedent and social norms, Hill writes that “I don’t know what century Mr Scipione lives in, but it can’t be the 21st, because ‘cages’ vanished from English football grounds post-Hillsborough, as far back as 1989” referring to Mr. Scipione’s comments that cages are a feature of English football stadia and could be considered in Australia. Hill also insists that their views are harboured from “Australia’s Anglo past, rather than its modern multicultural reality”. The justification that criticisms are drawn from prejudices is similarly an appeal to supposedly outdated social norms. Hill writes that, some critics “appear to live in an Australia stuck in some 1950’s time warp, where anyone with a surname longer than three syllables is somehow ‘suspect’ – particularly if they like ‘soccer’” and that some are “desperately trying to recreate the “glory” days of Sheila’s, Wogs & Poofters” an age-old stereotype that has plagued the mainstream view of the sport for decades. Hill’s final justification that the criticisms have been taken to unnecessarily extreme levels is an appeal to the emotion of his audience, hoping that they see the ridiculous nature of their criticisms. Hill mentions Alan Jones’s question of Rebecca Wilson from an interview the day prior, “Is this like terrorism in Paris?“ before writing that “It is barely comprehensible that Jones would equate alleged issues involving football fans with the horrible slaughter in the French capital” discrediting the opposition with a hint of disbelief. Hill also takes the comments of Assistant Commissioner Kyle Stewart, “Behave like a civilized human and not some grubby pack animal, and you’ll find yourself buying many, many more season passes” before continuing to write, “This sentence barely makes for cohesive reading” and comparing it to “Grade two English”, further discrediting opposition and portraying the ridiculous nature of some criticisms.

By working his way through many of the football community’s critics, Hill runs the risk of making an ad hominem argument but manages to steer clear of that informal fallacy, making legitimate criticisms of his opponent’s stances instead of criticising the opposition themselves. Hill writes in a manner that serves to belittle and discredit the opposition in order to sway others to see his reasoning for his stance and perhaps come around to see the matter from his point of view.

Whilst the original Wilson piece that started the discussion took on the football community as a whole, it was noticeably consistent through both of the defensive pieces that both Hill and Foster took on individual critics of the football community. Both Hill and Foster adopted the old adage that attack is the best form of defence although Foster did manage to present more of a balance between praising the Australian football fans and taking on their critics. Taking into account the full content of the original version published, they each present compelling arguments for the viewpoint that they are presenting.

The Articles

 

It’s time to stop the football louts | The Sunday Telegraph | November 22

at: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/rebecca-wilson-its-time-to-stop-the-football-thugs/news-story/ec7ca08fa3bbcb206a30eb714b8a8be6

Australia’s football fans have won the PR war | SBS – The World Game | November 26

Available at:

http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/blog/2015/11/26/australias-football-fans-have-won-pr-war

Simon Hill on weekend reports detailing crowd problems in A-League | Fox Sports | November 25

Available at: http://www.foxsports.com.au/football/simon-hill-on-weekend-reports-detailing-crowd-problems-in-aleague/news-story/a2d3956b0ab2028e86e0749185fec4aeAvailable

The Boys Who Cried “Patriotism”

By Sophie Gobbo

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Source: Twitter – @australian

We’re all aware of Australian “larrikinism” – but where do we draw the line?

If a group of “harmless” young men receive a nickname that is derived from the term used to describe an infamous group of Australian drug smugglers, and the nickname is then used by media publications on an international scale, you can almost guarantee that the coverage of the story will not represent the men, or their actions, in a very serious manner at all.

That is what can be said for the “Budgie Nine” or rather, the nine Australian men who received ample media coverage following their celebrations at the Grand Prix in Malaysia earlier in October of this year.

Shortly after the Australian F1 driver, Daniel Ricciardo, won the competition, the group of men stripped down to their tiny swimsuits emblazoned with the Malaysian flag and did a “shoey;” the act of drinking beer from a shoe (ABC, 2016). The men, who were reported to authorities and shortly taken into custody, spent four nights locked up before being discharged and cautioned by the Sepang Magistrates Court. Despite their arrest for “intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace,” (News.com, 2016) the men were released with a minor charge of public nuisance and no conviction was recorded against their names.

The nickname “Budgie Nine” was coined by tabloid newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, in reference to the “budgie smugglers” or “banana hammocks” worn by the men during the incident. It is also a satirical take on the infamous “Bali Nine” who are recognized as the nine people involved in a huge drug smuggling case from Indonesia to Australia in 2005.

As it would appear, the term was quickly adopted by multiple media outlets including The Australian, The Huffington Post, The ABC, The Sydney Morning Herald, and even Malaysia’s own New Straits Times. A general consensus of the reporting indicates that although the men came into serious legal matters, the hilarity of the situation is very evident.

The general representation of the nine men in question, as was concluded after the analysis of several articles both reporting and subjective in style, is that they are foolish and ignorant of other cultures, therefore, undeserving of the audience’s sympathy. While a minority of articles jumped to defend the men, claiming they obviously weren’t out to offend anyone (Traveller, 2016), several others affirm that their actions were so blatantly inappropriate and one SMH article in particular, goes on to explain that their privileged upbringing and wealthy dispositions are no excuse to behave so obnoxiously in another country.

After a brief overview of how the “budgie nine” were reported on in some “objective” news reports, a comparative analysis of two opinion pieces by Jacqueline Maley in the SMH and Brian McNair in The Conversation will be conducted, revealing the authors’ shared understanding of the notion that “boys will be boys” in both articles. Although, while McNair affirms this concept and is quick to sympathise with the “budgie nine,” Maley rejects the notion completely and calls for a new discourse in society reflecting “proper manhood.”

By starting with a news report from The Australian, we can begin to recognise where an implied judgement is littered around the more or less ‘objective’ report.

The story describes the nine men as “looking chastened as they left the court, with the magistrate’s warning ringing in their ears.” Immediately, this choice of wording connotes an interpretation of the men as feeling sorry for themselves and getting into trouble for their silly actions. The report also makes mention of one of the men, Tom Whitworth, passing out from dehydration,

“Whitworth, read a one-page public apology on behalf of the group to the court…Soon after reading it he collapsed in the dock with dehydration while still handcuffed to one of his co-accused.”

This intentional mention of Whitworth still being handcuffed to his co-accused while collapsing, almost makes the court hearing sound very “over dramatic” and even comic in a sense. The men are represented as seemingly helpless and this is further evident in the article when it mentions the boy’s fathers, who were present at the court hearing.

“Jack Walker’s father, John, said after the decision the group was happy to be leaving.

He said their four days in the lockup had been a big penalty to pay, and he had been surprised the matter had got that far…The fathers of three others were also in court — Nick Kelly’s father Tony, Tom Laslett’s father Craig and Brandon Stobbs’ father Patrick.”

It almost reads like the men are just “naughty school boys,” as Paul Barry worded it, that need saving from their fathers. Here then, it is clear that the general representation of the men favours a reading from the audience that suggests they are deserving of punishment for their silly act. Furthering this claim, a News.com article chose to quote the father of Jack Walker saying,

“They’re good boys” – John Walker

The father is then seen as the “parental figure” or even just the superior male attempting to help his kid out.

Interestingly enough, the author for The Australian article, Cindy Wockner, also published an almost identical story on News.com.au. Seeing as both of the publications are owned by News Corp, it’s not a shock to see the same story. However, while majority of the report is the same, she uses different wording in a number of places that slightly changes the men’s representation.

For instance, Wockner uses an alternative headline in the News.com.au article –

Budgie Nine to face Malaysian court over ‘intentional insult’ after stripping at Grand Prix”

 over the Australian’s

“’Budgie Nine’ escape conviction in Malaysian court over Grand Prix stunt.”

 Just the switch between “stunt” and “intentional insult” changes the tone completely because, the term “intentional insult,” is actually being quoted from what the men were almost charged for, which is Wockner’s way of keeping her judgement out of the story.

However, this is different in the Australian article where the use of the word “stunt”, which was also used in the Malaysian’s New Straits Times piece, connotes definitions of “attention seeking” and “failed prank.” Also Wockner, while still mentioning the presence of multiple fathers of the convicted men at the court hearing, mentions that they were actually there to “support” their sons. An interesting word choice that shifts the representation of the men from needing “daddy’s help” to just simply having their fathers moral support in a time of distress.

The Australian, predominantly right-wing in terms of their political alignment, also tweeted a cartoon sketch of the “budgie nine” (as pictured in the introduction) in prison. The sketch explicitly conveys the representation of the men as immature. This can be read through the suggestion of the men sniggering at the word “penal” as though they are not old enough to deal with the alternative and serious use of the term.

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Source: The Canberra Times

Now moving into the views articles, starting with Jacqueline Maley’s piece The Budgie Nine prove that Australian manhood is in desperate need of an update,” immediately it is expressed that Maley is in no way a fan of the “budgie nine,” through her initial sentiment,

“…might it be time to ask a question or two about the peculiarly Australian brand of homoerotic loutishness they inflicted on the people of Malaysia?”

Maley clearly assumes a likeminded audience through her interesting use of the phrase “homoerotic loutishness” as a way to describe the incident. It magnifies the ridiculousness of the situation itself by being worded in such a complex way, suggesting she expects her readers to agree with her opinion.

The argument itself, of which the claim is made clearly in the headline, “The Budgie Nine prove that Australian manhood is in desperate need of an update,” is a hybrid form of evaluative and recommendatory argument. While Maley both makes value laden judgements of the men and their “dick-sticker diplomatic incident,” she also suggests it is time we update the “model of Australian manhood.”

Maley’s first justification used to support her claim is a dismissal of the counterargument made by other articles who suggest the men were just being insensitive to the Malaysian culture,

Many have levelled a charge of cultural insensitivity against the so-called Nine. But you cannot be insensitive to a culture you don’t acknowledge, or even notice.”

As Maley makes her audience aware that she knows what the widely held viewpoint on this this issue is, before suggesting an alternative opinion, she expects her readers to recognize that her views are well informed and credible. She also is explicitly stating the worldview under which she partakes in, which in other words is, “in order to be insensitive toward a culture, you must first acknowledge its presence.”

This matter-of-fact statement enhances the widely held representation of the “budgie nine” as foolishly immature and recklessly inappropriate as was initially discussed in this analysis.

Maley then goes on to use an appeal to popular opinion in her categorizing of the men as “White Male Privilege,”

“They are hilariously apt examples of what the internet likes to call White Male Privilege, which can be defined as the delusion that drinking beer from shoes and chanting loudly is as hilarious to others as it is to you.”

Clearly the sarcasm which is meant to be picked up on in this statement, is an indication of Maley’s detest for the men of whom she believes will also be disliked by her intended audience. She then adds to this statement with an appeal to ethics/facts that introduces the observation that Malaysia is a conservative country,

“But things became unstuck when it turned out the Malaysians, who don’t exactly hide their conservative Muslim values under a bushel, so to speak, seemed less tolerant of WMP than we are at home.”

Jokingly suggesting that it was odd that the White Male Privilege somehow didn’t adhere to the conservative values of Malaysians, Maley is getting to the crux of her issue with the “budgie nine,” to justify their poor reflection of “Australian manhood.”

It would appear however, that her most radical justification is that of an appeal to comparison, reinventing the “budgie nine” as a group of females she dubs “the Camel Toe Crew,”

“It is difficult to imagine a group of obnoxious female travellers making a virtue of their private parts while abusing alcohol – let’s call them the Camel Toe Crew – and being treated with the same forgiving fondness…”

Maley uses this as the clear point of reference for her readers to recognize that the “budgie nine” don’t deserve our sympathy, because that would surely be the case if it were women in this positon. Moreover, if that’s the example she needed to outline in order to highlight the true injustice of this debacle, then her readers should be convinced by her suggestion that Australia’s manhood truly is in need of an update.

Despite Maley’s clearly made case in her article, she does include a few potential informal fallacies such as the use of false analogy in the statement,

“But you know what they say – if you persecute someone, you only make them a martyr.

Just look at Julian Assange or Aung San Suu Kyi. Their incarcerations only enhanced their celebrity, and increased their devotion to their causes…and so it was with the nine.”

By suggesting the “budgie nine” are in similar situations to the likes of Julian Assange seems a bit ridiculous and does not completely add substantial relevance to her claim. Maley is more interested in poking the humour out of this situation so she and her like minded audience can share in the joke that is the “budgie nine.” Therefore, her commitment to representing the nine men as sad and pathetic seems to hold priority over her justifications at this point in the text.

An alternate approach taken by The Conversation’s Brian McNair in his article, “No offence, mate but…” presents another evaluative and recommendatory argument that primarily claims the punishment of the “budgie nine” and the consequential backlash has been an overreaction. McNair explicitly states this claim, while also recognising he may be voicing an unpopular opinion,

“Call me irresponsible but isn’t this, frankly, a teeny-wee-bit of an overreaction to some celebratory larking about by lads at an international sporting event?”

By suggesting he might be “irresponsible” in this comment, McNair shows that he is writing for a divided readership and is thereby recognising those who may initially disagree with him on the matter.

McNair favours the use of an appeal to popular opinion to justify the “budgie nine’s” actions by saying,

“One could argue that they were mocking their own masculinity and sending up their own “Aussieness” as much as mocking the Malaysian nation, merely by wearing such ludicrous garments.”

McNair, by suggesting the humiliation of wearing budgie smugglers as being more severe than the offensiveness of the act, represents the “budgie nine” in a different way to the majority of the media, offering the audience the interpretation of the men being harmless and good spirited.

He furthers this in the remark,

“…stripping down to your swimmers in tropical heat at a post-race party in celebration of one’s favourite F1 racing driver seems more like what Australians call “larrikinism” – boyishly bad behaviour, and in this case far less transgressive than the alcohol and drug-fuelled antics many professional sportsmen routinely get up to.”

Again, using an appeal to popular opinion here, he adopts the assumption that we shouldn’t condemn the men for displaying a truly Australian way of life; “larrikinism,” when there are much worse things they could have done. McNair then, evidently displays a worldview that things shouldn’t be taken so seriously these days. He explicitly demonstrates this in the section that reads,

“We live in increasingly intolerant times, alas, in which the long-established liberal democratic right to cause offence is under unprecedented attack..”

McNair also enlists the justificatory support of an appeal to ethics, saying that despite whatever your opinion may be of the “budgie nine,” their actions did not warrant such major consequences,

“Whatever you think of it, it is hardly the stuff from which prison sentences and international incidents should be made.”

He then sheds light on what he interprets as a more significant matter in the country, which challenges his readers to accept his opinion,

“While Malaysians get angry about budgie smugglers, their prime minister Najib Razak allegedly loots his country’s state investment fund of billions of dollars. That is the kind of offence that, if true, should really matter to Malaysians.”

This appeal to not only ethics, but negative consequences, attempts to put more perspective on the relationship between the “budgie nine’s” condemning and other important Malaysian problems. McNair begs his readers or rather, his like minded, liberal readers, to take on a role of responsibility in the recommendation,

“True liberals – by which I mean those who believe in diversity and multicultural mingling, as well as not merely tolerance but acceptance of the Other – must stand up and defend the right to offend, and the duty to be prepared to be offended in turn…”

He therefore uses the “budgie nine” as a scapegoat for his recommendation argument, in turn suggesting his readers be more accepting of their actions rather than steadily pass judgement as Maley suggests in her article.

To conclude, the “budgie nine” have had more than their fair share of news coverage following their extravagant celebrations at sporting events. A reading of several news reports found however, there was evidence of underlying judgement toward the men, representing them as foolish and immature young guys who were disrespectful in another country. A closer reading of two specific opinion pieces on the incident, Jacqueline Maley’s The Budgie Nine prove that Australian manhood is in desperate need of an update,” and Brian McNair’s “No offence, mate but…”,  demonstrate differing representations of the men although, both the authors display a shared understanding of the “boys will be boys” ideology. While McNair attempts to defend the men through his worldview of the “right to offend,” Maley rejects any such suggestions, encouraging her readers to accept the predominantly negative representation of the “budgie nine.”

 

 

 

References:

AFP, 7 October 2016, “Chastened ‘Budgie Nine’ back in Sydney after F1 stunt,” The New Straits Times, accessed 28 October 2016 < http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/10/178685/chastened-budgie-nine-back-sydney-after-f1-stunt>

Benny-Morrison, A, Murphy, D, 6 October 2016, “Budgie Nine: How Pride and Privilege can only get you so far,” The Sydney Morning Herald, accessed 19 October 2016, <http://www.smh.com.au/world/budgie-nine-how-pride-and-privilege-only-get-you-so-far-20161006-grwbiz.html>

Butler, J, 5 October 2016, “Daniel Ricciardo Says the “Budgie Nine” Should Have Been More Careful,” The Huffington Post, accessed 30 October 2016 < http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/10/04/daniel-ricciardo-says-the-budgie-nine-should-have-been-more-ca/>

Fadhli, I, 3 October 2016, “Stupid Behaviour: SIC chief fumes over Aussies’ underwear stunt,” The New Straits Times, accessed 28 October 2016 < http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/10/177761/stupid-behaviour-sic-chief-fumes-over-aussies-underwear-stunt>

Groundwater, B, 7 October 2016, “Budgie 9: Why do Australians behave badly overseas?” The Traveller, accessed 28 October 2016 < http://www.traveller.com.au/budgie-9-why-do-australians-behave-so-badly-overseas-grwzl9>

Hawley, S, 7 October 2016, “’Budgie Nine’ flying back to Australia after Malaysian Grand Prix stripping scandal,” ABC, accessed 28 October 2016 < http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-07/’budgie-nine’-fly-back-home-after-stripping-scandal/7911406>

Koziol, M, Murphy, L, 4 October 2016, “Christopher Pyne staffer Jack Walker among Australian men arrested in Malaysia after stripping,” The Canberra Times, accessed 28 October 2016 < http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/christopher-pyne-staffer-jack-walker-among-australian-men-arrested-in-malaysia-after-stripping-20161003-gru4sb.html>

Maley, J, 7 October 2016, “The Budgie Nine prove that Australian manhood is in desperate need of an update,” The Sydney Morning Herald, accessed 10 October 2016  <http://www.smh.com.au/comment/the-budgie-nines-homoerotic-loutishness-proves-australian-manhood-needs-an-update-20161006-grwdby.html>

McNair, B, 7 October 2016, “No Offence Mate…,” The Conversation, accessed 28 October 2016 < http://theconversation.com/no-offence-mate-but-66669>

Media Watch, 10 October 2016, “Return of the budgie smugglers,” accessed 10 October 2016 <http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s4554078.htm>

Murdoch, L, 6 October 2016, “Malaysia government mouthpiece calls for ‘Budgie Nine’ to be deported,” The Sydney Morning Herald, accessed 31 October 2016 http://www.smh.com.au/world/malaysia-government-mouthpiece-calls-for-budgie-nine-to-be-deported-20161005-grw08z.html

Wockner, C, 5 October 2016, “Budgie Nine likely to appear in court,” The Australian, accessed 23 October 2016 < http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/foreign-affairs/budgie-nine-likely-to-appear-in-malaysian-court/news-story/5cf9399a5c93cde4be322830af8abeac>

Wockner, C, 6 October 2016, “Budgie Nine to face Malaysian court over ‘intentional insult’ after stripping at Grand Prix,” News.com.au, accessed 28 October 2016 < http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/budgie-nine-to-face-malaysian-court-over-intentional-insult-after-stripping-at-grand-prix/news-story/01a1bb1a9f20a3817328327399c18e55>

Wockner, C, 6 October 2016, “‘Budgie Nine escape conviction in Malaysian Court over Grand Prix stunt,” The Australian, accessed 20 October 2016 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/budgie-nine-arrive-to-face-malaysian-court-over-grand-prix-stunt/news-story/233ad846f30c506e54cdb92f1a3c2755

Antichrist Superstar: Marilyn Manson and the Media

Publication Style: Dazed and Confused Magazine

Marilyn Manson, whose r8b1253a344fb348d69188febd20d3493eal name is Brian Warner, has been the subject of controversial media attention since the release of album Portrait of an American Family in 1994. Prior to this his band played under the moniker Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids, but when dropping the second half of the  name and shortening the band to simply ‘Marilyn Manson,’ the world was confronted with the fact that his stage name was a combination of one American icon and one infamous mass murderer: Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson. Marilyn Manson’s music, lyrics, stage behaviour and personal life have been discussed extensively in the media, particularly after the Columbine Shootings of 1999 in which he was named by a variety of media outlets and Christian conservative organisations as a ‘cause’ and ‘influence’ of the massacre, as the two perpetrators Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were alleged fans of his music (however this was later proven to be false, however they were fans of the heavy metal music genre). Marilyn Manson is usually discussed in extremes, coverage of the musician is polarising in the sense that he is either highly praised or highly condemned, and there is very little in the way of neutral coverage (as there is for other musicians). False affidavits were given by the The Gulf Coast American Family Association, stating that Marilyn Manson encouraged concert goers and audience members to rape children and slaughter animals, and this created widespread discussion surrounding the safety of his concerts for teenagers. This coverage extends more widely to discussions of violence and heavy metal in the American media, and the origins of this in Tipper Gore’s 1980’s book and subsequent campaign ‘Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society.’ Tipper Gore’s campaigns for stronger labelling and classification of the themes in heavy metal music led to a close examination of the connections between heavy metal and violence, and largely informed the mainstream media’s coverage of the genre, and the ‘moral panic’ surrounding Marilyn Manson throughout the 90s.

Marilyn Manson and The Columbine High School Massacre

The peak of the negative media coverage of Marilyn Manson’s music and stage behaviour came in the wake of the Columbine High School Massacre of April 1999. The Columbine Massacre took place in Littleton Colarado, and the perpetrators Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold took the lives of 13 high school students before committing suicide. In the 2002 film Bowling For Columbine directed by Michael Moore, he examines the way in which Marilyn Manson was continually cited by religious organisations as a cause of the massacre. In an excerpt from the film, a variety of religious figures, news reporters and politicians are seen discussing Marilyn Manson’s links to the murders. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman is seen referring to Marilyn Manson as “the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company.” This use of evaluative presumption by Lieberman heavily implies the inherent vice of Manson’s music, and the use of the phrase ‘promoted by a mainstream record company’ acts as an appeal to ethics and social norms, Lieberman is implying how wrong this is that a mainstream record label are promoting violent and ‘sick’ music, attempting to raise concern in the general public.

Michael Moore’s narration is then played over Marilyn Manson’s film clip for ‘The Fight Song’ in which footballers are seen playing on an American high school football ground, with a 1950’s style “We are all happy to live in America” poster seen in the background. Moore states “After Columbine, it seemed that the entire focus on why the shootings occurred was because the killers listened to Marilyn Manson.” This neutral explanatory statement by Moore leads into an interview with Marilyn Manson about these reported links between his music and the murders, which is cut with coverage from an anti-Manson rally being held by conservative Christian organisation ‘Citizens for Peace and Respect.’ The group have formally stated on their website that Marilyn Manson “promotes the attitudes and actions of the killers” and can be seen in the footage in Bowling For Columbine describing him as promoting “hate, violence, suicide, death, drug use and Columbine-like behaviour.” This Ad Hominem argument implies that Marilyn Manson actively encourages murder, which is presumably drawn from his use of dark and destructive themes within his music. A speaker at the rally can then be heard stating: “Some will be so brash to ask if we believe that all who hear Manson tomorrow night will go out and commit violent acts. The answer is no. But does everybody who watches a Lexus ad go out and by a Lexus? No? But a few do.” This appeal to analogy implies that Citizens for Peace and Respect do not believe that everyone who listens to Marilyn Manson will commit murders, but they do believe that some will. This use of analogy is to create a sense of rationality, that this organisation is not so extreme that they believe everyone will be influenced, but they do believe that this influence is there, and that there is a causal link between heavy metal music and violent behaviour.
These shots of the rally are intersected with Moore’s interview with Marilyn Manson, in which Manson states: “I can definitely see why they would pick me, because I think it’s easy to throw my face on the TV because in the end, I’m the poster boy for fear. Because I represent what everyone’s afraid of: because I do and say what I want.” This is an appeal to popular opinion by Manson, he is outlining  how he believes that the public see him, and by labelling himself ‘the poster boy for fear’ he is implying that this is how he is viewed in society, as someone that people are ‘afraid of’ and as a target for these claims. He then goes on to say: “The president was shooting bombs overseas, yet, I’m a bad guy because I sing some rock and roll songs, and who’s a bigger influence, the president or Marilyn Manson?” This rhetorical question by Manson shifts the focus from his music onto the president (Bill Clinton) and the bombing of Kosovo, and he uses sarcasm when referring to himself as a ‘bad guy’ who sings some ‘rock and roll songs.’ This statement by Manson is used to defend his rs-19786-rectangleright to make music, and uses an appeal to comparison and analogy to imply that violent themes are everywhere in the United States, not just in his music.

This discussion of Columbine is then continued in the article “Columbine: Whose Fault is it?” written by Marilyn Manson and published by Rolling Stone in June 1999, a few months after the massacre. This was published by Marilyn Manson to dispel discussion about his influence on the massacre, and he states: “Harris and Klebold were not Marilyn Manson fans – that they even disliked my music. Even if they were fans, that gives them no excuse, nor does it mean that music is to blame.” He continues: “When it comes down to who’s to blame for the high school murders in Littleton, Colorado, throw a rock and you’ll hit someone who’s guilty. We’re the people who sit back and tolerate children owning guns, and we’re the ones who tune in and watch the up-to-the-minute details of what they do with them. I think it’s terrible when anyone dies, especially if it is someone you know and love. But what is more offensive is that when these tragedies happen, most people don’t really care any more than they would about the season finale of Friends or The Real World. I was dumbfounded as I watched the media snake right in, not missing a teardrop, interviewing the parents of dead children, televising the funerals. Then came the witch hunt.” This condemnation of the media by Marilyn Manson is a clear retaliation to the links promoted by the Citizens for Peace and Respect and other religious media outlets to his music and the murders. He uses inclusive language such as ‘we’re the people’ to show complicity in such acts as ‘sitting back and tolerating children owning guns’ and uses an appeal to ethics to imply that people don’t care about these tragedies, but rather use them as entertainment in the same way they would ‘the finale of Friends.’ This is a critique of the American media culture of tragedy as entertainment, and Manson uses an appeal to comparison to describe the media ‘witch hunt’ linking the vilification of his own music with the antiquated pursuit of burning witches as scapegoats, implying that he too, is being hunted for no reason.

Marilyn Manson condemns Harris and Klebold’s behaviour in this article, stating: “I remember hearing the initial reports from Littleton, that Harris and Klebold were wearing makeup and were dressed like Marilyn Manson, whom they obviously must worship, since they were dressed in black. Of course, speculation snowballed into making me the poster boy for everything that is bad in the world. These two idiots weren’t wearing makeup, and they weren’t dressed like me or like goths. Since Middle America has not heard of the music they did listen to (KMFDM and Rammstein, among others), the media picked something they thought was similar.” This is a clear rejection of the mainstream media’s coverage of the crime, and Manson uses critical language such as ‘idiots’ to distance himself from Harris and Klebold, implying that these teenagers have little to no association with himself or his music, and that they weren’t ‘dressed like’ him.

He describes himself in this article for Rolling Stone as presuming “the role of the Antichrist” and “the Nineties voice of individuality” using an appeal to comparisons of Elvis, and Jim Morrison being subject to the same “scrutiny and prejudice” to imply that musicians have often experienced critiques and negative interpretations of their music.

Manson concludes his self-defence with another rhetorical question “So is entertainment to blame? I’d like media commentators to ask themselves, because their coverage of the event was some of the most gruesome entertainment any of us have seen.” This appeal to comparison again links the media as promoting violence to entertainment, and with the use of evaluative presumption in descriptive adjectives such as ‘gruesome’ Manson distances himself from the crime, placing more vague structures such as the ‘entertainment’ as the casual link to the massacre.

Moral Panic & Christianity

Marilyn Manson arose to popularity in an America informed by the PMRC (the Parents Music Resource Centre), and Tipper Gore’s campaigning for ‘parental advisory’ labels. Gore describes heavy metal as ‘Throbbing chords and violent lyrics’ and states that the genre “focusses on the darker, violent sides of life.” Much of Tipper Gore’s campaigning, and the release of her book  ‘Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society’ centred around the need for a serious evaluation of the themes in heavy metal and rock music, and their links to suicide and violence. Much of these thematic concerns carried through from the late 1980s into the rise of Marilyn Manson’s popularity in the mid 1990s. Robert Wright analyses the evolution of these themes in his article “I’d sell you to suicide: Pop music and moral panic in the age of Marilyn Manson.” He states: “Marilyn Manson has provided the pretext for yet another moral panic about rock music; indeed to judge from the public furore he has inspired, it would seem that he has successfully rendered himself the scapegoat for a far more generalised millennial crisis in American life.” Wright’s description of Marilyn Manson as a ‘scapegoat’ echoes Manson’s own self-defence of himself as the ‘poster boy for fear.’ Wright lists a multitude of descriptions of Marilyn Manson by various organisations and individuals in the media, including the description of him as a ‘cult leader’ by Lynda Fletcher, executive director of the Lower Mainland Purpose Society (an organisation who council troubled teens), and as a celebrated musician with the title of ‘Best New Artist’ of 1996 by Rolling Stone Magazine.

Wright then discusses the religious themes in Marilyn Manson’s 1996 album ‘Antichrist Superstar’ stating: “Manson seems intent on gutting some of North America’s most scared cows, defacing bibles in his live shows, adopting fascist iconography, and revelling in the estrangement of children and parents.” This use of visceral, emotive language such as ‘defacing’ and ‘gutting’ demonstrates the severity of Marilyn Manson’s performances, and the extreme effects that he has on audiences. The appeal to analogy in ‘sacred cows’ is used to convey Manson’s alleged disruption of American ideals and religious values. In the Denver Post, Marilyn Manson has claimed he can find “more offensive material in the Bible than in my own lyrics” and that “I will make it a point to read some of those verses that are dark and overlooked.” This is a consistent theme in Marilyn Manson’s music, that claim that elements of Christianity are just as dark and sinister as elements of heavy metal. He states in Rolling Stone: “Christianity has given us an image of death and sexuality that we have based our culture around. A half-naked dead man hangs in most homes and around our necks, and we have just taken that for granted all our lives.” This appeal to social norms and ethics aims to find the absurdity in religion, and this is demonstrated through the description of Jesus Christ as ‘a half-naked dead man.’

1-ltxilkbvzm-w-rc9eu8ijqWilliam Mueller has been cited as saying on more than one occasion (enough for it to be described as ‘a classic line’ by Paula O’Keefe in 1997): “Raise your kids right, or Marilyn Manson will raise them for you.” This appeal to authority implies what is confirmed by the Christian Family Network’s website, that Marilyn Manson is viewed as a ‘modern Hamelin pied piper.’ This is painting Marilyn Manson as a destructive force, sprinting children away to the metaphorical ‘other side,’ a side of violence, drugs and darkness.

A number of false affidavits were released to the media by the Christian lobby group The Gulf Coast American Family Association, who stated that they had gotten these affidavits from ‘two teenagers who had attended Marilyn Manson concerts.’ One stated of the concert: “ The youngest people in the crowd were 9 or 10 years old. Drugs were constantly being passed out from the front to the back.” Another affidavit detailed “I witnessed the Manson security guards giving liquid ecstasy to children and as those children, 9, 10, 11 years old were affected by the “love potion” drug, them became will to have sex. I have witnessed children having sex in the audience at Marilyn Manson concerts.” These claims were presented as fact by the lobby group, and used by a number of religious groups to present Marilyn Manson as an individual who condones the sexual assault of children. M. José Coperías Aguilar discusses this in ‘Culture and Power: Challenging Discourses’ describing how: “throughout the attacks the wildest fantasies of Marilyn Manson’s opponents flourished. and they created an anti-show that makes the real thing pale by comparison.”

Aguilar details how these ‘fantasies’ of Christian conservatives create an ‘anti-show’: a more extreme version of real events, which then become more intimidating than the actual performances.

However, it is common for news outlets to describe his ‘surprising intelligence’ and level of focus and dedication once the layers of controversy have been peeled away. Robert Hilburn of the LA Times describes him as a: “smart, articulate, fiercely ambitious figure who brings rebellion and imagination back to a rock ‘n’ roll world that has lost most of its spirit and star quality in recent years.” This use of the positive evaluative phrase ‘star quality’ links back to Marilyn Manson’s own representation of himself through his music as an ‘antichrist superstar.’600full-marilyn-manson_2

Robert Wright examines Manson’s relationship with humour in ‘baiting’ the Christian right, explaining; “While many of his adversaries have taken him literally- which, of course, he hoped they would- his critical stance is thoroughly (and even transparently) ironic, making him not a cynical postmodernist, but a classic modernist.” This evaluative claim that Marilyn Manson uses shock tactics to almost ‘tease’ Christian lobby groups is supported by onstage behaviour such as burning bibles, Christian iconography being used throughout his album “Antichrist Superstar” and his title as an honorary Reverend of the Church of Satan. This is supported by Neil Strauss’s account of Marilyn Manson in Rolling Stone 1997, who writes humorously: “Take note, kids: Your Marilyn Manson T-shirt with the slogan that says kill your parents is pure sarcasm. It’s possible to be Public Enemy No. 1 of the American Family Association and still love your mother.”

Overall, the representations of Marilyn Manson in a variety of media are diverse, but with similar thematic characteristics attributed to Manson on either side of the debate. Manson is often described as intelligent, and incredibly talented by publications such as Rolling Stone and the LA Times, who have written a number of longform articles about his personal philosophies and his music. The Christian right media and lobby groups often attribute Satanic onstage behaviour and characteristics to Manson, informed by their interpretation of his music and behaviour. Marilyn Manson is a polarising figure, and coverage of his lyrics and larger meaning and role in popular culture varies in extremes, taking its cues from his own divisive personality and philosophies.

By Ruby Giles (z3420532)

Bibliography

-‘I’d Sell You To Suicide: Pop Music and Moral Panic in The Age of Marilyn Manson’ Robert Wright, (2000), Cambridge University Press

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/popular-music/article/id-sell-you-suicide-pop-music-and-moral-panic-in-the-age-of-marilyn-manson/73F162CE61977752705A0EE05B8286C9

‘Long Hard Road Out of Hell’ Marilyn Manson and Neil Strauss, (1998).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Hard_Road_Out_of_Hell

‘The Travelling Controversy That Is Marilyn Manson’ Matthew Mirapaul, (1997), The New York Times

https://partners.nytimes.com/library/cyber/mirapaul/042497mirapaul.html

-excerpt from ‘Bowling For Columbine’ dir. Michael Moore (2002):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYApo2d8o_A

-‘Why be Afraid of Marilyn Manson?’ P.A. Humphrey (1998), Weekly Wire:

http://weeklywire.com/ww/11-16-98/fw_cover.html

‘Columbine: Whose Fault is It?’ Marilyn Manson (1999), Rolling Stone:

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/columbine-whose-fault-is-it-19990624

‘Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society’ Tipper Gore (1987),

https://www.amazon.com/Raising-Pg-Kids-X-Rated-Society/dp/0687352827

-‘Teens’ Affadavits: Marilyn Manson Concert’

http://www.spookhouse.net/angelynx/manson/afaaffid.htm

‘After Shock’ Robert Hilburn, (1998), The LA Times:

http://articles.latimes.com/1998/sep/27/entertainment/ca-26847

-‘Marilyn Manson: Sympathy for the Devil’ Neil Strauss, (1997), Rolling Stone: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/sympathy-for-the-devil-marilyn-manson-19970123

‘Protests in Denver over Marilyn Manson Gig’, (1999), ABC News:

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=104105&page=1

-‘Culture and Power: Challenging Discourses’ M. José Coperías Aguilar, (2000):

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=OYHSFgt9AmgC&pg=PA122&lpg=PA122&dq=false+affidavits+marilyn+manson&source=bl&ots=Yh-78kUoaj&sig=_nxwunEpNcf6G1LWlHfzKo1t6u0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiX8pCgoInQAhXDHJQKHWw0DXUQ6AEIKzAD#v=onepage&q=false%20affidavits%20marilyn%20manson&f=false

Donald Trump’s Sexist Past Shaping America’s Future

Footage of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump making sexist comments to Billy Bush in 2005 has recently surfaced, positioning sexism in American politics and Trump’s negative attributes at the centre of media attention. The aftermath witnessed numerous articles criticising Trump for his history of misogynistic remarks and inappropriate behaviour towards women. These include Libby Nelson’s article for Vox, ‘Donald Trump’s History of Misogny, Sexism, and Harassment: A Comprehensive Review’, and Jia Tolento’s piece for The New Yorker, ‘Donald Trump’s Unconscious, Unending Sexism’, both of which can be classified as views journalism pieces.

On the 8th of October 2016 The Washington Post published a past video where Trump can be heard making vulgar comments to Bush while preparing for an appearance. The conversation began with Trump describing his actions towards an unknown married woman – just months after his marriage to Melania Trump – admitting he had “failed” to seduce her. He then continued to make chauvinist remarks about actress Arianne Zucker, claiming he had the power to kiss her if he wanted because “when you’re a star, they let you do it”. During the second presidential debate, only two days after the footage release, Trump justifies his actions by labelling it as “locker-room talk” – which many media outlets claimed to be an unofficially defined term and thus, invalid reasoning. The Washington Post described the recording of Trump’s disgusting commentary as sexual assault, as did many other popular media outlets including CNN and The Guardian. This information is significant to companies that wish to convince audiences that Trump is not fit for presidency with the long awaited election occurring on the 8th of November 2016.

The circulation of this leaked footage does not just bring to consideration the nature of Donald Trump’s lewd behaviour, but also the inherent prominence of sexism within American society and the low value women are given by the Republican Party even today (Berg 2009). Although it is true the role of women within politics has progressed over the years, as we can now see Hilary Clinton running for president alongside Trump, sexism still exists within a “cage of gender politics” (Berg 2009, p. ix) despite all efforts to diminish it from the American political arena (Orren & Skowronek 2004). Numerous media outlets such as The New York Times, The Telegraph, Marie Claire and NewStatesman, have identified this issue, but for the purpose of this analysis I will focus on the first mentioned articles by Nelson and Tolentino. They do not report on the footage specifically, but rather represent Trump as sexist to audiences by discussing his past questionable actions to persuade readers that this footage was not his only act of discrimination against women. The articles also highlight the potential for sexism to be normalised within American society if Trump is elected, as his influence over citizens will only grow stronger.

The first article by Nelson for Vox, ‘Donald Trump’s History of Misogyny, Sexism, and Harassment: A Comprehensive Review’, was released less than a week after the footage was leaked as an extensive v Continue reading “Donald Trump’s Sexist Past Shaping America’s Future”