The People, Parliament and a Plebiscite: How Should Australia Legalise Same-Sex Marriage?

By Helena Ladomatos

The plebiscite for same-sex marriage has proven to be a contentious issue as it has constantly been debated throughout Australian society for the past few years.  From the moment that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull changed his initial plan from pursuing a conscience vote in parliament to legalise same-sex marriage to backing a plebiscite, the debate surrounding the suitability of a plebiscite augmented drastically.

An opinion poll taken by the ABC’s Vote Compass, based on more than 350,000 responses, reflected that the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage.  This survey, amongst others, shows that the legalising same-sex marriage is generally supported by Australians.  However, the division in opinion regarding this issue lies in the process.  The two options that Australia currently have are a national vote via a plebiscite or a free conscience vote by politicians in parliament.  Turnbull’s attempt at passing a plebiscite, planned for February 2017, was blocked in October due to opposition from the Labor Party, the Greens and the Nick Xenophon.  Ultimately, this is what is being debated in the media, as writers try to persuade the Australian public of what they believe is the most appropriate process for legalising same-sex marriage.

A pattern that emerges when looking at views journalism regarding the plebiscite for same-sex marriage is that it is not only journalists putting forward their opinion in traditional media outlets.  Instead, there are a large amount of public figures and politicians discussing and arguing their specific views on the situation.  Of the articles that I will be examining, no author is simply a journalist.  The author of ‘Same-sex marriage: Parliament is the proper place for enacting laws’, Michael Kirby put forward his views regarding the plebiscite.  Michael Kirby is a former Justice of the High Court of Australia, and has held other positions within the industry for more than forty years.  Tim Wilson, who wrote ‘Blocking the plebiscite on same-sex marriage would be no victory’ in the Sydney Morning Herald, is the Federal Liberal member for Goldstein, and was also formerly the Australian Human Rights commissioner.  Author of ‘Plebiscite looks set to fail, but the push for same-sex marriage will not’ in The Conversation, Dennis Altman, is Professorial Fellow in Human Security at La Trobe University, and a prominent gay rights activist.  Whilst holding different positions and jobs, each author holds a relatively prominent role in Australian society.  Hence, this illustrates that it is not simply journalists contributing to the debate regarding the plebiscite for same-sex marriage in Australian media.

The examined articles represent the pattern that the majority of opinion articles surrounding the plebiscite express very explicit claims either for or against the plebiscite.  This demonstrates that same-sex marriage is indeed a contentious issue, as authors take a clear side.  A quick search in google for views journalism regarding the plebiscite demonstrates this.  The majority of headlines illustrate the contentiousness of the issue, with explicit headlines that clearly outline the authors view, whether that be for or against.  For example, Frank Brennan’s headline ‘Same-sex marriage plebiscite the only choice left’ from the Australian, explicitly implies that he believes Australians should support the plebiscite.  Tim Wilson argues a similar point that is explicitly evident in his headline ‘Blocking the plebiscite on same-sex marriage would be no victory’. The same explicitness is evident in views journalism with the opposing view.  One example of this is Peter Van Onselen’s headline “Same-sex marriage: parliament could vote yes without plebiscite,” in which it is clear that he does not believe the plebiscite is appropriate. Similarly, Michael Kirby’s headline ‘Same-sex marriage: Parliament is the proper place for enacting laws” overtly articulates his opinion that parliament can decide in a free vote and therefore the plebiscite is unnecessary.  Each article mentioned above uses different persuasive and argumentative mechanisms in order to their argument across, and use different combinations of appeals to legal norms, appeals to facts and appeals to emotion.  Despite these varying styles, they all make very explicit evaluations of the plebiscite, illustrating that in views journalism it is an issue that requires a side to be chosen.  This is reflective of the nature of the issue to the Australian public.  Each author argues strongly for their explicit and respective opinions, insinuating that their audience, as individual Australian citizens, must do the same.

The examination of three articles in particular illustrate the contentious nature of the debate surrounding the plebiscite.  Michael Kirby and Dennis Altman both present their view opposing the plebiscite.  On the other hand, Tim Wilson expresses his argument that Australians should support the plebiscite. Whilst these three examples explicitly hold opposing viewpoints regarding the efficiency and effectiveness of holding a plebiscite, they also differentiate from each other through the means of argumentation.  Michael Kirby’s “Same-sex marriage: Parliament is the proper place for enacting laws” relies on an appeal to facts and legal norms to support his arguments.  He uses clear and direct language to create a structured article with formal tone. In contrast, Tim Wilson’s “Blocking the plebiscite on same-sex marriage would be no victory” relies on appeals to emotion to support his opinion that Australians should support the plebiscite in order to quicken the process of legalising same-sex marriage.  The argumentative style of Dennis Altman in “Plebiscite looks set to fail, but the push for same-sex marriage will not,” lies somewhere in the middle of the previous two articles.  He utilises a greater variety of justifications, including appeals to precedent, facts and emotion.

Published in The Australian, Michael Kirby’s article “Same-sex marriage: Parliament is the proper place for enacting laws” expresses his explicit central claim that parliament should make the decision regarding legalising same-sex marriage via a free vote.  Accordingly, Kirby does not support the plebiscite.  He makes an evaluative argument that relies on legal norms and facts to justify this claim. This reliance on legal norms and facts create a formal tone throughout the article, indicating the contentious nature of the issue because Kirby resorts to facts to present his argument as the ‘logical’ conclusion to come to. He makes his point of clear consistently throughout the article, and it is very clearly set out from the first paragraph:

 “Australians should reject the proposal to hold a plebiscite as a precondition to the enactment of same-sex marriage legislation by the federal parliament.  The elected politicians should get to work on what we the people elected them to do – to decide on the law, one way or the other, in parliament.”

This paragraph introduces his main justification – as a plebiscite has no impact on the Constitution, which is ultimately what we are attempting to achieve, it is not necessary.  This appeal to legal norms sets the formal and structured tone of the Kirby’s article.  He continues to repeat this main justification to persuade the audience of his central claim, stating that “we do not need a referendum, still less an extra constitutional plebiscite, to resolve any issue that parliament cannot decide” and “…there is no constitutional reason for a plebiscite”.

He emphasises that a free vote in parliament would be the most appropriate as it follows the current political processes normal to Australian parliament.  This is evident through Kirby’s multiple references to the Constitution, for example the argument that a free vote “would return Australia to its normal constitutional arrangements.  Under these, Australians do lawmaking in parliament, not plebiscites.” Another example of this is the following argument:

“The Constitution provides for a parliamentary system of representative government.  A plebiscite, as a precondition to legislation, is a totally exceptional procedure with no foothold in the Constitution. Under the Constitution we make laws in parliament, through decisions voted on after debates by the parliamentarians we elect to represent us.”

These references to the Constitution appeal to legal norms and precedent to present a factual argument. By reinforcing this argument he emphasises his evaluative clam – holding a plebiscite to decide on same-sex marriage is inappropriate because it does not have any impact on the Constitution, and therefore it should be left up to a free vote by politicians in parliament.

Kirby also utilises evaluate arguments to produce and justify his opinion.  The use of evaluative language, such as “abysmal” to describe Australia’s history of referendums, indicates his negative judgement of the political process. He follows this justification with the statement “there is no reason to think a plebiscite on same-sex marriage will be different.” This false analogy undermines his argument because a referendum and a plebiscite are two different processes.  However, they are successful in communicating Kirby’s negative evaluation of the plebiscite, and the assumption that it will fail.  A more subtle example of Kirby’s use of evaluative language is evident in “the substantial costs of the plebiscite (estimates of $160 million to $525m have been quoted) could be better spent on supporting, rather than attempting to frustrate, the attainment of the basic human rights of citizens.”   The use of the word “substantial” followed by the inclusion of statistics regarding the cost of a plebiscite further communicate Kirby’s negative evaluation of the plebiscite inefficient because it is a waste of time and money.

Another way that Kirby attempts to justify his opposition to the plebiscite is via appealing to authority.  The most prominent example of this is Kirby’s reference to the High Court of Australia in “The High Court of Australia in 2013 unanimously made it clear that the entire power to enact same-sex marriage in Australia rested with the federal parliament.” Consistent with his writing style throughout the article, Kirby presents the clear and direct argument and justification that the plebiscite is unnecessary because the decision rests with parliament.  The appeal to authority is an attempt to give credibility to his argument and further present his argument as the ‘logical’ conclusion to make.

Michael Kirby’s evaluative arguments help to communicate his firm and explicit opinion regarding the plebiscite.  The appeals to legal norms and facts provide justifications for his negative judgement of the plebiscite and, accordingly, his viewpoint that a free vote in parliament should occur. Dennis Altman shares a similar central claim to Kirby in his article published on The Conversation Plebiscite looks set to fail, but the push for same-sex marriage will not.” Whilst Altman presents arguments that rely on a greater variety of appeals and argumentative means, he ultimately shares the same point of view as Kirby.

Altman explicitly outlines his opinion that the plebiscite should not go ahead via appeals to facts, authority and emotion.   Similarly to Kirby, his explicit view is made evident from the outset as he sets out his central claim in the following statement:

“There are two major reasons to oppose the plebiscite: it distorts the nature of parliamentary democracy, and it will lead to a bitter and hurtful campaign.”

Altman’s first justification that the plebiscite does not follow the Australian parliament’s processes is supported by an appeal to legal norms in “unlike referenda, plebiscites are official public opinion polls, without any binding impact on legislation.” Thus, he infers the warrant that a plebiscites inability to impact legislation makes it an inappropriate action to take. Altman further backs this argument with an appeal to precedent by stating that plebiscites “are rare in Australian history; two on conscription during the first world war heightened sectarian bitterness that persisted for several decades.”  While this appeal to precedent successfully justifies his central claim, it is also an informal fallacy as it is based on a false analogy that assumes that the two separate social issues of legalising same-sex marriage and conscription could have the same impact on society.  Therefore, this assumption reduces the impact of his justification.  This is not the only false analogy present in Altman’s article.  He concludes his piece by relating the actions of members of parliament in relation to grey-hound racing to same-sex marriage in the following example.

“Recently a few Coalition members crossed the floor in New South Wales to oppose the end of greyhound racing.  It is probably not asking too much of their federal counterparts to cross the floor in order to allow a parliamentary debate and vote on same-sex marriage this year.”

Whilst grey-hound racing and same-sex marriage are both prominent and contentious issues being debated within parliament, as well as society, they are two separate issues. Therefore to compare them does not provide an accurate prediction of what will happen if a parliamentary vote for same-sex marriage occurs.

Altman goes into further detail in his reasoning for the plebiscite being unnecessary because of its lack of impact to change legislation.  This is evident in his argument that a parliamentary vote will need to occur regardless of whether or not the plebiscite occurs. The appeal to political norms in “a plebiscite can only stall a parliamentary vote to amend the Marriage Act allowing same-sex couple to wed.”  In this instance, Altman explicitly justifies his claim by stating that the only impact that the plebiscite will have is delaying a free vote in parliament.  The inclusion of the first person narration “let’s be clear” to introduce this point highlights his argument, and causes it to appear more ‘logical’.

Whilst Altman explicitly expresses his opposition to the plebiscite, as previously identified, he acknowledges that the impact of legalising same-sex marriage should not be over-estimated.  Altman states that “in reality changing the Marriage Act will achieve less than either its opponents or its proponents claim… Homophobia will not magically disappear because a number of established couples are able to legally marry.”  This statement is something that is not discussed by Kirby or Tim Wilson.  However, it essentially summarises the impact of the debate of this contentious issue in the Australian media.  It brings to attention that the legalisation of same-sex marriage, whether via a plebiscite or a parliamentary vote, will not necessarily alter anything in society.

In contrast to Michael Kirby and Dennis Altman’s articles in opposition to a plebiscite, Tim Wilson writes in support of it in “Blocking the plebiscite on same-sex marriage is no victory,” from the Sydney Morning Herald.  Wilson’s viewpoint is explicit and he presents the central claim that Australians should support the plebiscite.  He presents a recommendatory argument that relies on appeals to emotion to justify his claims.  However, he article comes across as opinion rather than argumentative as many claims made are not justified and contain informal fallacies.

Similarly to the previous articles discussed, Wilson’s view is explicit throughout the article.  His positive evaluation of the plebiscite is introduced in “many people who support a change in the law seem to think blocking a plebiscite is a victory.  It isn’t.” He justifies this by stating that “it might be the first time in human history when people who have an opportunity to fight for their rights decide they’d rather sit back and wait until someone else permits them.”  This is also the first example of an informal fallacy, as Wilson makes a hasty generalisation that people who support the legalisation of same-sex marriage are not doing anything for the cause. However, he appeals to the emotion of his audience via the image of fighting.  This is continued throughout the article, in which Wilson attempts to motivate his audience. For example, Wilson states “history isn’t delivered on a silver platter. It has to be fought for,” as well as “that is a future worth fighting for.” These examples of the reoccurring image of fighting appeal to the emotions of readers, and are Wilson’s attempt to persuade the audience to support the plebiscite in order to ‘fight’ for the change they desire through the nationalistic tones that are evoked.

The appeal to emotion is continued throughout the article.  Specifically, Wilson includes personal anecdotes to relate to his audience that imply his imagined readers have a similar worldview to himself.  A specific example of this occurs when Wilson recalls his initial reaction when Malcolm Turnbull announced that they would push for a plebiscite. In this personal anecdote, he states “after the announcement I went home, crawled into a ball in bed and cried.”  He continues to describe how it triggered him to relive his personal struggles as a young gay person trying to find his place in the world.  This personal anecdote strongly appeals to the emotions Wilson’s audience.  It indirectly refers to readers through the concluding statement “I know I wasn’t alone in this response,” as it subtly infers that readers share similar experiences or have similar worldviews. It is effective in supporting his central claim as he causes readers to reflect on their current view and reconsider Wilson’s argument, just as he has changed his view since his initial reaction to the plebiscite.

These examples of appeals to emotion are the most prominent justifications that Wilson utilises.  It illustrates that the issue of same-sex marriage, and how it is debated in Australian media is very divisive, and requires people to take a side. Whilst Wilson holds a different view on the plebiscite to Kirby and Altman, they ultimately similar in two aspects. Firstly, all authors address an audience that is made up of Australians who support same-sex marriage and want it to be legalised.  Secondly, they explicitly take a definitive on the issue, implying that it is an issue that each Australian must decide on.


Bethesda, review copies and the role of games media

The relationship between press and publishers is an on-going debate in video game media. Media are often given review copies before a game’s release, giving them time to properly complete a game and write a review; but publisher Bethesda has decided to provide review copies of Dishonored 2 and Skyrim: Special Edition to media a day before the games’ respective releases. Many have written not in favour of this new review policy, labelling it “anti-consumer,” and arguing that it places a lot of pressure on critics. This article will examine four views articles that, while all agree that the policy isn’t fair to consumers or their professions as critics, differ in the ways in which they try to convince their audiences.


Tim Colwill’s “Bethesda, Games Media, And the Uncouth Vulgarity of Acknowledging Capitalism” and Eric Kain’s Forbes article, “Bethesda’s Decision To Withhold Review Copies Is Bad For Games And Sets A Dangerous Precedent”, are both causal and evaluative, and very explicit in not being in favour of Bethesda’s policy. Colwill, however, argues that this sense of anti-consumerism isn’t new to the industry, and is solely based on publisher’s desire to make money, while Kain argues that it goes against the standards of art critique. Ben Kuchera’s “Bethesda wants your money before the reviews hit” by Polygon presents a far less aggressive factual and evaluative argument, explaining the situation while calling for his readers to stop pre-ordering, again labelling the incident as anti-consumer. Stephen Totilo’s “You’re Going To Get Fewer Early Games Reviews From Everyone” by Kotaku offers a similarly lighter-toned view to Kuchera,


Tim Colwill’s “Bethesda, Games Media, And The Uncouth Vulgarity of Acknowledging Capitalism” is a causal and evaluative argument. His central claim that Bethesda’s behavior is incredibly anti-consumer but that the industry’s always been anti-consumer and exploitative requires the warrant that consumers use reviews to justify their – or at least, help them make informed – purchases. His claim is explicitly mentioned in the first few paragraphs as he describes games media as “correctly labell[ing] [Bethesda’s policy] as anti-consumer,” and that “the problem is that the industry as a whole is anti-consumer.” He uses an appeal of comparison to hyperbolically compare the effects Bethesda’s policy has on the games industry to what Republican candidate Donald Trump has done to the Republican party, “scandalizing the establishment by saying out loud the racist things that were previously only conveyed through polite smiles and racist policy.” While this can easily be seen as a hasty-generalisation and requires the warrant that Donald Trump’s racist attitude is unwanted, I argue that Colwill is merely aggressively against the policy, and uses this to vilify the publisher to further position his audience to see that it goes against societal norms.


Colwill uses another appeal to a more related analogy in Rockstar’s treatment of games press, to further justify his view that publisher secrecy isn’t a new practice. He quite forcefully argues with an appeal to emotion, that Rockstar “treats games media like shit and the media plasters on a smile and deals with it because they don’t have a choice,” to demonstrate that journalists have been treated poorly by publishers before. He extends this by very matter of a factly calling to his audience, “You can on one hand the amount of outlets that were graciously granted a preview of Grand Theft Auto V, or an interview with a developer.” This reinforces his appeal to analogy while satirically pointing out the unfair bait from publishers to games press, but by itself doesn’t entirely justify his claim that the industry is anti-consumer. Again, this requires the warrant that pre-release coverage is good for gamers, and that it helps them make informed decisions about their purchases. He undermines the validity of his argument, however, in describing the Rockstar CEO as “liv[ing] in a gold penis on the moon.” This is easily an attempt to further vilify the company but acts as a distraction to his argument, partly discrediting it.


Colwill uses another appeal to analogy and emotion in justifying his supplementary claim, as well.  Colwill introduces his secondary claim that the role of press has changed and been replaced by an uncritical coverage of games with YouTubers, by describing the traditional relationship between publisher, press and consumer, “if you wanted to reach the consumer, you needed to play nice with the press.” While this could be seen as an appeal to “facts” or social norms, as publishers did rely on press in the pass, I’d argue that this is an example of a circular agreement, as Colwill simply reinstates the beginning of the claim to justify it. From there, he uses an appeal to emotion and social norms to explicitly state the later half of his secondary claim that “consumers are explicitly rooting for uncritical coverage of games, and attacking the press for hurting the feelings of AAA publishers by criticising their work.” He hyperlinks the phrase “explicitly rooting for uncritical coverage” to a comment on a game review by GameSpot that compares mainstream games media publications to YouTube personalities, claiming that the former “fail…to highlight positives [and] negatives [about a game] while maintaining an unbiased opinion,” before admitting that YouTuber Angry Joe had received a pre-release copy. While partly an over-generalisation, Colwill uses an appeal to facts in referencing the comment, to justify his claim with photographic evidence of a reader “attacking the press” for criticising a AAA publisher’s work. From this, he uses the metaphorical description – again, another use of an analogy – of the press as the “majestic Sphinx” who had previously “guarded the villagers from the monsters in the dark” but is now threatened by said villagers who are “mad at [the Sphinx for] hurting the monster’s feelings.” Despite the ridiculous imagery glorifying Colwill’s position as a journalist, it clearly defines the shift in games media. That said, it doesn’t necessarily work in justifying his claim by itself, and works well in conjunction with the above appeal to facts.


Like Colwill’s article, Erik Kain’s “Bethesda’s decision to withhold review copies is bad for gamers and sets a dangerous precedent” by Forbes is an evaluative and causal piece against the policy. Kain explicitly states his claim, that Bethesda should abandon their new policy because it is bad for gamers and sets a dangerous example for publishers in the future, in the title of the article. He quotes a blog post from Bethesda explaining the new policy, sarcastically quoting their belief that they “value media reviews.” Kain calls out Bethesda’s claim that they “value media reviews” by sarcastically commenting, “they…would prefer to do away with them entirely, free to sell their products to consumers with as little pre-release criticism as possible,” giving the impression that they are anti-consumer but in a far less aggressive way than Colwill. In this way, he uses an appeal to negative consequences, suggesting it could lead to “[a] loss of trust between publishers, consumer and the media,” before mentioning that “trust is already in short supply,” to reinforce his above critique of Bethesda’s blog post.


He uses a series of appeals to authority, comparison and popular opinion to justify his claim, too. He lists the benefits of providing early copies to media as supplementary claims in bold to substantiate his view. Namely, he uses an appeal to authority in arguing that “early review copies give critics a chance to write comprehensible reviews,” suggesting it’s good for the consumer – although, this requires the warrant that consumers read reviews before making a purchase. He also uses an appeal to authority and popular opinion, stating that review copies “ensure more information for consumers before [the] launch [of a game],” and “reward good game developers”. While these secondary claims have very little justification to support them, and are merely a circular argument, they act as justificatory statements to Kain’s central claim.


Kain later compares games critique to other creative arts reviewing, arguing that “video games should be held to the same standard as other entertainment.” He refers to the reader in second person by means of the analogy in, “you want[ing] to go see a movie on its opening weekend but there being no reviews of it,” to create a personal connection between his claim and the reader. From there, he uses an either-or argument, stating that “you” would either “think twice about seeing the movie” or “go see a movie that would have been reviewed terribly because it’s awful,” which he argues “punish[es] consumers but reward[s] bad films.” He argues that reviews published after a game is released because publishers decide to provide a review copy a day before a game’s launch, has a similar effect to this analogy, and in comparing games and film critique, justifies his claim that this practice is unnatural and goes against social norms.


Ben Kuchera’s “Bethesda wants your money before the reviews hit” by Polygon on the other hand, is a causal and evaluative piece with an underlying recommendatory tone. Kuchera’s central claim that Bethesda’s behavior is anti-consumer and doesn’t actually care about critics and merely sales, is implied in the article by contrasting Bethesda’s view with his own. He uses an appeal to authority and sarcastic choice of emotion in reinforcing Bethesda’s belief that they care about reviews, stating that the company is “going to show that love by wiping out any chance players will have to learn about the quality of a game before it’s released.” Unlike Colwill and Kain however, Kuchera doesn’t explicitly state that this is wrong, and rhetorically asks that if his reader wants to spend money on a game before they know if its good or even works, he can’t stop you since “it’s your money.” That said, there is clearly a judgmental tone to the rhetorical question. He also contrasts quotes from Bethesda’s blog with his own analysis to discredit their view, claiming that “painting [it] as anything other than being consumer hostile requires some pretty hefty spin,” enacting another appeal to authority. In doing so, he creates a more rounded argument than Colwill and Kain who position their audience either on their side or Bethesda’s.


His underlying claim, however, isn’t that Bethesda’s policy is anti-consumer but that people should stop supporting preorders. Kuchera describes the article as a word of advice, suggesting that his audience doesn’t have to believe what he’s saying, which humanises his argument. In the closing paragraph, Kuchera uses an appeal to emotion and consequence, directly engaging with his audience by calling out to them, arguing that “Bethesda wants your money more than anything else, and this is the company’s way of minimising risk.” While this requires the warrant that preordering is bad for the industry, the view that is his underlying true central claim is substantiated by the slug in the URL, “Bethesda-review-policy-dont-preorder”, and the byline calling out to his audience, “You shouldn’t be pre-ordering anyway.”


Stephen Totilo’s “You’re Going To Get Fewer Early Game Reviews From Everyone” by Kotaku presents, like Colwill, Kuchera and Kain, an evaluative and causal argument, but also a factual one. His central claim, that Bethesda’s policy is harmful to both consumers and critics, is mostly explicitly stated near the end of the piece, with a more factual description of the situation acting as the story’s lead. Totilo uses an appeal to facts in detailing the situation, quoting Bethesda’s blog post like Kuchera and Kain; only unlike the others, as Totilo points out, doesn’t feel the need to hold back given Kotaku has been blacklisted by Bethesda – meaning, they’ve been wiped from their media contacts. This in hindsight distances him from the issue while also crediting his view as truly honest and authentic.


Ultimately, these authors demonstrate an obvious bias towards games media and consumers. Despite their differing central claims and perception of how anti-consumer the industry was, currently or still is, they acknowledge a shift from traditional media to uncritical coverage of games in YouTube content. In this way, the issue is clearly undivided and considered unfair, even considering the varied tones these authors adopt.


Reference List

Colwill, T, 2016, Bethesda, Games Media, And The Uncouth Vulgarity of Acknowledging Capitalism, Not So Unwashed, 26th October 2016,

Kain, E, 2016, Bethesda’s Decision To Withhold Review Copies Is Bad For Gamers And Sets A Dangerous Precedent, Forbes, 26th October 2016,

Kuchera, B, 2016, Bethesda wants your money before the reviews hit, Polygon, 25th October 2016,

Totilo, S, 2016, You’re Going To Get Fewer Early Game Reviews From Everyone, Kotaku, 26th October 2016,

Kim Kardashian Deserves to Die

Kim Kardashian West is well-known as an American reality television personality, socialite, businesswoman and model. She was first introduced to the world in 2007 through a leaked sex-tape and since then has become a public figure who is famous for being famous. On October 2, 2016, while in Paris, Kardashian was tied up, gagged and robbed at gunpoint inside her hotel suite. The thieves, who have still not been caught, managed to escape with more than $14 million worth of jewellery. Having lived almost her whole life within the spotlight, she’s not shy of cameras but after this incident, Kardashian has taken a break from social media and has stayed out of the public’s eye. In this piece, I will be looking at four articles which were released in response to the news of the crime. The first, “The three worst kinds of reactions to the Kim Kardashian robbery”, is written by Rebecca Shaw and outlines the many different responses to the star’s ordeal. The second article, “Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint. Now she’s being mocked for it”, by Robin Givhan, portrays Kardashian as less than human; a brand, and thus demonstrates how “unreal” and “staged” the incident seems to many cynics.” The third article, “I wanted Kim Kardashian to die”, written by self-confessed feminist, Vanessa de Largie, discusses Kardashian’s influence over young girls and their body image. And the fourth article, “Is Kim Kardashian Lying About Getting Robbed at Gunpoint?”, by Paul Resnikoff, lists 13 “bullshit flags” about why the robbery doesn’t make sense.

In “The three worst kinds of reactions to the Kim Kardashian robbery”, Shaw starts off her article with a disclaimer. She is not a fan.

“Let me start by saying that I don’t watch ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ or associated programming… I also believe there are many reasons you can dislike and criticise the Kardashians… That is not the issue here,”

She clearly states that she has no relation whatsoever to Kim Kardashian or her life, and is neither interested nor attracted to her world of expensive jewellery and high fashion. Instead, she describes herself as “a human being that has empathy inside their bitter and worn out shell of a body.” By using sarcasm, Shaw attempts to demonstrate the severity of the issue at hand. She questions how it could be possible for people to possess so much hatred towards another human being, that they wish death upon them. She clarifies, “If you aren’t aware, empathy is this kind of feeling that should conceivably enter your body/brain when you are trying to understand and share the feelings of another person.” By specifying that, in a situation like this, empathy should most definitely be felt through the brain, and dumbing down such a seemingly obvious definition, Shaw implies those who reacted otherwise are emotionless and relatively stupid. She reinforces this implication with the use of a gif.


Shaw’s principal claim is that much of the public have been very immoral in their reactions to the robbing of Kim Kardashian and while this is an evaluative claim based on a personal value judgement regarding Kim Kardashian’s right to live and the idiocy of those who think otherwise, I personally agree with her assertion. She uses rhetorical questions to drive her point home, grilling her readers about their morality, and it is at this point that her target audience becomes very clear.

“How does this not hit you on a humanity level? How are you not automatically filled with concern at how terrifying that experience must have been,” she asks, as if speaking to a young child. She appears to be targeting those who reacted in a way that implied Kardashian should have been killed. Shaw quotes a tweet by user @TheHouseOfWTF which said “Kim Kardashian was held at gunpoint in a Paris hotel. Man will be charged with not pulling the trigger and saving humanity for mediocrity,” to further prove how incredulous and unbelievable this kind of reaction is. In the first half of the article, Shaw tries to persuade her readers of the severity of their negative reactions by using sarcasm, child-like explanations and rhetorical questions which prompt her readers to questions themselves. The second half of the article explores three reasons behind the cruel reactions.

While Shaw emphasises that Kardashian is a person just like you or me and condemns the unforgiving nature of the responses, Givhan, in “Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint. Now she’s being mocked for it”, tries to justify them by portraying Kardashian as less than human. He describes her as “less a person and more of an idea, a personality, an icon, a scourge, a curiosity.” He reasons that every part of Kardashian’s life, from her fertility struggles to her extravagant wealth has been in the public domain, and as a result, she does not seem real.  While Givhan accepts that being robbed at gunpoint is a serious crime and issue, he convinces his readers that Kardashian’s unnaturally perfect life filled with “uncalculated truths” makes it seem to cynics as though nothing about her life is factual, and this robbery is just another staged, publicity stunt.

Givhan’s principle claim states that Kim Kardashian’s robbery is just one in a series of staged events that make up her life.  Once again, it is an evaluative claim, based on the idea that Kardashian’s life is too glamorous to be real. Givhan tries to emphasise his point by describing the hours and days before the robbery. He recounts Kardashian’s visits to fashion shows and expensive stores, wearing designer clothing and documenting everything on her social media but he fails to mention that this sort of public presence is her job. He demeans her by stating “Pretty much anyone interested could have plotted her entire day’s schedule via social media,” as if it is a bad thing, but as he mentions later on, Kardashian is a celebrity whose job is fame. Her sponsored twitter and Instagram posts are worth $10,000 – $25,000 each, and by flaunting designer clothing and making appearances at fashion shows and high-end stores, she is only doing her job.

Givhan specifically states that despite putting her life up on social media, this does not mean she “deserved to be robbed or should have expected such an attack.” But the fact that this sentence had to be written implies many people believe that by being such a public a figure, she should have seen it coming. This article is, on one hand, justifying the terrible comments on the basis of her being less than human for flaunting her fame and fortune, and on the other, stating that this is her job and career and she did not deserve to experience such a frightening episode with her fame as the reason. I feel as though Givhan wrote this article in an attempt to mediate the situation at hand and find a truce between those hating on Kardashian saying she deserved to die, and those who are appalled by such negative responses. The result, however, is a confusing and sometimes hypocritical mess.


The title of my third article, “I wanted Kim Kardashian to die,” is pretty self-explanatory. Largie, just like Shaw, starts off with a disclaimer about not liking Kim Kardashian. But while Shaw is considerate enough to consider, “valid and thoughtful and reasonable criticism of the Kardashian phenomenon,” Largie describes her as soulless and contributing nothing to society. She is very emotive with her language using high modality terms to emphasise her distaste. “I have zero interest in anything without a soul,” she says, referring to Kardashian as a “thing”, not even worth humanising. Largie later refers to her as “Kimmy” an otherwise common nickname, used with a sarcastic tone in order for it to sound derogatory.

After a few offensive opening paragraphs, Largie delves into her principle claim that Kim Kardashian has a huge effect on body image and a secondary claim that people that have nothing to offer to the world, and make others feel inadequate are not worth living. While her first claim is relatively factual, her second is a vicious attack to this woman’s right to live. Largie questions,

“Where was the empathy for young girls who are made to feel inadequate because of the Kardashian tribe? And where was the empathy for young girls who have consulted with a plastic surgeon in order to conceive the nose, bosom or butt Kimmy insists are real?”

She then introduces data from a survey which revealed that “body image” was the number one concern for young people aged 11-24, and implies that this is due to a desire to attain a figure similar to that of Kardashian’s. However, body image is influenced by a multitude of factors, and while celebrities are of course included in this range of facets, it is not possible for Kim Kardashian to have influenced every single statistical figure. Largie argues that the “abundance of literature online” including a Wikipedia page with 14 easy steps to transform into Kim Kardashian is why many young girls have been made to feel inadequate.

I understand Largie’s argument to be an over-exaggeration of the idea of an eye for an eye. She is portraying Kardashian as someone with power and beauty, who uses this to influence youngsters subsequently causing them to view themselves in a negative light for not being attractive enough. Largie begs her readers for empathy for these young girls who are victimised by this seemingly perfect Kardashian clan. Largie likens Kardashian to a bully, implying she deserved what she got and more, in response to the harm she’s done to so many impressionable youth. What she fails to identify, is that Kardashian doesn’t necessary intend on negatively affecting people. She does her job as a public figure, confident and true to herself, not concerned about how her conviction to live her life affects others.

Largie asks a rhetorical question posed toward Kardashian, “When you offer so little to the world, is it any wonder that people react viciously to you when something tragic occurs?” It is interesting to see how stubborn Largie is with her secondary claim. She writes as if people are only entitled to their lives if they have something to give to the world in return. This is an unbelievably skewed and immoral world view that I, personally, cannot agree with.

The fourth article I have chosen, “Is Kim Kardashian Lying About Getting Robbed at Gunpoint?”, is an interesting look into the information about the incident, and why it doesn’t all add up. Resnikoff has compiled a list of 13 “bullshit flags” that he identified causing him to be sceptical about the attack.

His first bullshit flag delves into the fact that Kardashian was supposedly alone in her room at the time. However, in reality, Kardashian is always flanked by people, ready to jump into action if trouble arises. Resnikoff notes that Kardashian even bragged that her bodyguard was “always in (her) shot.”  If we disregard her bodyguards, bullshit flag 10 highlights the absence of Kardashian’s children. They were in Paris at the time, and their father was in the middle of a concert, so where were they? Bullshit flag 11 calls attention to the fact that although a Kardashian spokesperson said the robbers had locked her in the bathroom, it is not possible to lock a bathroom from the outside.

The whole article aims to claim that the robbery was completely fabricated and uses “evidence” to back the claim. However, whether it can be labelled a factual claim or not is subjective and related to the truth behind the so-called “evidence” presented.

It is interesting to compare the techniques used between these four articles to present their views and claims to their target audiences. The first article acts as an overview of the situation. It introduces the issue of the Kardashian robbery as a serious incident which must have been terrifying. Shaw reinforces that regardless of who Kardashian is, the fact is that she is a victim of a horrific crime and deserves empathy and understanding for experiencing such an ordeal. As if explaining to a young child, Shaw is repetitive and simplistic in her language, asking rhetorical questions to prompt her readers to self-reflect. The second article portrays Kardashian as a non-human entity.  Givhan refers to her as a brand and pushes the idea that since her life seems so staged, this robbery probably is too. However he also agrees that it was a horrific incident and for someone who was just doing her job, she did not at all deserve it. The third article is angry and harsh, blaming Kardashian for disillusioned youth who are concerned about their bodies, and emphasising that she was well-deserving of what she faced. Largie justifies her claims with data and tries to convince her audience that Kardashian is bad and that the world would be better off without her. The final article is a list of all of the little things that don’t add up when it comes to the story of the robbery. Taking a similar stance to the second article,  Resnikoff uses a “factual basis” to demonstrate how and why he believes the whole incident was staged. And successfully puts doubt into his readers’ minds. Even I was slightly swayed by his accusations.

The internet is a place where everyone has the right to express their opinions, and it is only through this sort of freedom of speech that we can learn about conflicting perspectives within the general public. The different methods of conveying one’s ideas and claims and the techniques with which authors try and convince their readers is always interesting to analyse and study and for such a public figure like Kim Kardashian, who has many fans and supporters, there is a lot to be said, and a lot that should, perhaps, remain unsaid.

The classification of pedophiles in the media: ‘victims’ or ‘offenders’?

By Francesca Guerrera

The debate on the morality and ethics surrounding pedophiles generates an array of conflicting perspectives across an audience platform of self-confessed pedophiles, academics, psychologists and the general public. This underlying debate revolves around the legal, social and ethical classifications of such individuals: whether pedophiles are palpable criminals or the alternate facet, that these individuals are ‘born’ with this such a ‘disease’ or ‘disorder’ incapably determining their unconventional sexual attraction towards children.

The term paedophilia is medically refined as a disorder of adult personality and behaviour, according to the International Classification of Diseases (Buchanan, 2015). The media attributes to the scrutiny and stereotypification of pedophiles, summoning such versatile claims and perspectives on the matter.

A quick Google of ‘Pedophilia in the Media’ comes up with a list of articles that looks like this:

He is a Paedophile, but that Does Not Make Him a Child Molester. Huffington Post. 9/16/16.

What It’s Like to Be a Celibate Pedophile. New York Magazine. 8/18/16.

Shedding light on the dark field. The Economist. 8/13/16.

Should We Lift the Stigma on “Virtuous Pedophiles”? Verdict. 7/12/16.

Disclosing a sexual interest in children to others: The experience of a non-offending pedophile. Weblog. 6/12/16.

Beyond Choice & Reason: Non-Offending Paedophilia. Flint. 5/1/16.

“I’m not a monster”: A pedophile on attraction, love and a life of loneliness. Salon. 5/17/16.

How do we protect our children from the unthinkable? TEDX. Luke Broomhall. 4/1/16.

Pedophiles need help not hatred. Ana Lopez. YouTube. 2/11/16.

Are we all sex offenders? TEDX. 1/26/16.

Pedophiles vs. child molesters. YouTube. 10/20/15.

(Association for Sexual Abuse Prevention, 2016) And the list goes on…

These articles are contrary to our societal conception of pedophiles as:

  • Creepy, middle aged men.
  • Goggle-eyed freaks.
  • Child molesters.
  • Monsters.
  • Rapists.
  • Sex offenders.

Research on academic, biographical, hard news and opinion articles on pedophilia has seen the emergence of alternate perspectives of pedophiles, opposing such traditional media coverage.

Margo Kaplan, Assistant professor at Rutgers School of Law, Camden, presents an opinion article for the NY Times, titled Pedophilia: A Disorder, Not a Crime (2014) on the current status, misconceptions, and underlying consequences of pedophilic individuals through predominate appeals to authority and facts.

Opening definition of pedophilia:

“The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines pedophilia as an intense and recurrent sexual interest in prepubescent children, and a disorder if it causes a person ‘marked distress or interpersonal difficulty’”.

Kaplan’s central argument articulates the failure of current legal systems to recognise the origin and prevention surrounding pedophiles, rather focusing solely on the criminal punishments of pedophilic individuals. This fundamental argument that opposes the current, one-sided perspective on pedophiles is articulated through multiple claims, and followed by sufficient justificatory support.

Kaplan presents these claims through addressing misconceptions on the matter: “Part of this failure [of the law] stems from the misconception[s]…”

Claim 1: “… the misconception that pedophilia is the same as child molestation.”

This claim is followed by justificatory support to reinforce Kaplan’s central argument that pedophiles are not instinctively deemed criminals, rather that “one can live with pedophilia and not act on it.” In other words, not all pedophiles ensue their desires to partake in devious encounters with children. This representation of pedophiles is supported through the example of pedophilic support website Virtuous Pedophiles (VirPed), an online community of self confessed pedophiles virtually connecting and supporting one another through their uniform belief that while they are announced pedophiles and sexually orientated towards children, molesting and imposing such sexual behaviour upon children is wrong.

Virped’s mission statement:

Our website is intended to reduce the stigma attached to pedophilia by letting people know that a substantial number of pedophiles DO NOT molest children, and to provide peer support and information about available resources to help virtuous pedophiles remain law-abiding, and lead happy, productive lives.

Kaplan implements this organisation as a relevant example to follow the claim that child molestation is not the same as being a pedophile. Nevertheless it strengthens her perspective on the matter to audiences and justifies that “it is not that these individuals [pedophiles] are ‘inactive’ or ‘nonpracticing’ pedophiles, but rather that pedophilia is a status and not an act.”

Claim 2: “A second misconception is that pedophilia is a choice.”

Kaplan presents and justifies this claim alluding to pedophiles being helplessly ‘born’ with such a disorder, through numerous appeals to facts and authority:

  • Men with pedophilia are three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous, a finding that strongly suggests a neurological cause.
  • Studies have also shown that men with pedophilia have, on average, lower scores on tests of visual-spatial ability and verbal memory.
  • R.I.s of sex offenders with pedophilia show fewer of the neural pathways known as white matter in their brains.

These appeals to facts allude to Kaplan’s claim that pedophilia stems from neurological origin, and [Pedophilia] could result from a failure in the brain to identify which environmental stimuli could provoke a sexual response. Justifiably, the claim presented supports Kaplan’s perspective of pedophiles as instinctive and unchangeable, just as we are all born different.

Another method to reinforcing this perspective is seen through the introduction of authorial, academic sources to justify the underlying issue whereby pedophilic individuals are not seeking adequate awareness and treatment initiated by current legal systems towards specific sex offenders and pedophiles groupings:

The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit discrimination against otherwise qualified individuals with mental disabilities, in areas such as employment, education and medical care.

The psychologist Jesse Bering, author of “Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us,” writes that people with pedophilia “aren’t living their lives in the closet; they’re eternally hunkered down in a panic room.”

With reference to these examples of current American legal acts and psychologists on the matter, Kaplan progressively formulates a call for legal action and a shift in public perception on pedophilic individuals, by highlighting the immorality of the situation, whereby pedophiles are seen in an unjustified, blurred light.

Kaplan explicitly articulates the underlying issue through the stylistic writing approach of succinct, shortly constructed sentences:

But the reason we don’t know enough about effective treatment is because research has usually been limited to those who have committed crimes.

A pedophile should be held responsible for his conduct — but not for the underlying attraction.

The audience is immediately positioned into this perspective through these to-the-point claims, and particularly initially in the article headline: Pedophilia: A Disorder, Not a Crime.

This continual representation that the text offers on the legal and societal perception of pedophiles is also reflected in the article’s accompanying illustration:



Illustration by Keith Negley 

This abstract illustration is positioned at the top of the article, underneath the heading, thereby automatically illustrating the author’s primary claim and article focus – pedophiles do not choose their sexual orientation by choice, they are often “eternally hunkered down in a panic room”, as psychologist Bering reinforces.

The positioning of the individual in the foreground and the children in the background visibly presents the scenario of a pedophile and children nearby (the subject of his attraction). This foreground positioning of the pedophile draws intended focus to the bodily shape and expression of the man – noticeably the features of twisted arms, torso and body, furrowed eyebrows, sweat, and worried eyes. The twisted body indicates a sense of hiding and heightened emotions of embarrassment from the individual, and the sweat and furrowed eyebrows similarly indicates stress, anxiety, and humiliation. These illustrated emotions and bodily language entail the psychological impact of the pedophiles themselves, helplessly sexually oriented towards children, and often feeling ashamed and judged by society. It aligns with Kaplan’s central claim that pedophiles are ‘victims’ and are obliged to legal and organisational help to control the temptations inflicted by the disorder.

The array of examples, supported statistics and the straightforward writing style presented by the author, formulates a diverse perspective on the ignorance of legal systems and the media to address and resolve the obstacles causing pedophiles to transgress into sex offenders, which thereafter classifies them as criminals. This is particularly summarised and accentuated in the final paragraphs of the article whereby Kaplan uses a direct, opinionated tone to deliver the central claim and conclude the article with a strong call of action for legal and social change for pedophiles:

Without legal protection, a pedophile cannot risk seeking treatment or disclosing his status to anyone for support… he could lose his job, and future job prospects…

Isolating individuals from appropriate employment and treatment only increases their risk of committing a crime.

The fact that pedophilia is so despised is precisely why our responses to it, in criminal justice and mental health, have been so inconsistent and counterproductive.

Acknowledging that pedophiles have a mental disorder, and removing the obstacles to their coming forward and seeking help, is not only the right thing to do, but it would also advance efforts to protect children from harm.

Kaplan conveys the current perception of pedophiles in the media and society as one that is made accountable for society’s inconsistent criminal justice and mental health responses towards pedophiles. Through these personalised passages, Kaplan expresses that the collective failure of society to ‘acknowledge that pedophiles have a mental disorder’ has resulted in these barriers (lack of legal protection, awareness, social acceptance and treatment options), hence creating employment and mental health issues for these individuals, and as a result inducing criminal transgressions, rather than protecting ‘children from harm.’

Let’s take a look at Rose Troup Buchanan’s 2015 article titled, In Germany, they treat paedophiles as victims… not offenders. This hard-news article published in the Independent UK reports on the perspective of Germany on pedophiles, drawing focus on pedophilic awareness initiative Dunkelfeld-Project.

Buchanan’s news reporter perspective entails an article structure of a lead, opening, statistics and interviews/quotes to report on the initiative and more importantly convey the need for awareness and treatment of pedophiles, aligning with Kaplan’s claims on pedophilia as a disorder and not a crime.

The article opens with the following sentence:

Dunkelfeld-Project allows paedophiles to seek help anonymously.

Followed by an opening statistic: 1 in 100 men may be sexually attracted to children… And an attached 2013 YouTube video titled Don’t Offend, an organisation offering ‘people seeking therapeutic help with their sexual preference for children and/or early adolescents.’ (Don’t Offend, 2016).

In YouTube, the video is described as:

The new commercial of the Prevention Network “Kein Täter werden” (Don’t Offend) is to show that therapeutic treatment of people who feel sexually attracted to children is effective to prevent child sexual abuse.

This opening statement, statistic and YouTube video are implemented by Buchanan to present context within the reader: the prevalence of this ‘disorder’ and the significant importance of prevention and aid services offered to these individuals. These are the two focal points explicitly expressed throughout Buchanan’s article.

Throughout the article, we can also identify comparable similarities between this hard news article presented by Buchanan and Kaplan’s academic article above. Buchanan focuses on this notion of prevention and awareness through the example of the Dunkelfeld-Project, aligning closely with Kaplan’s claims, however this hard news article articulates this perspective in more depth by addressing the ‘how’ (what Dunkelfeld-Project offers to pedophilic individuals regarding their current perception and adversities), as opposed to the singular ‘what’ factor (that pedophiles are inherently born with this disorder and should seek support for the treatment they need) which Kaplan addresses.

Buchanan explicitly articulates the objectives and implications of Project Dunkelfeld:

Project Dunkelfeld (which translates as “Darkfield”), allows individuals to anonymously contact therapists who help them control their sexual urges towards children… first anonymously, through email or phone, then after… either group or single two-hour therapy sessions every week for approximately two years… started in Berlin in 2005, has outposts in ten different cities in Germany…

Buchanan positions this mission statement and brief summary of the initiative subsequent of the rhetorical question: So what do we do with approximately one per cent of the male population who are sexually attracted to children?

This aligns the reader with the author’s context and flow of arguments, notably a) the severity and commonality of this disorder, and b) a form of aid and prevention to address this issue (‘what’ and ‘how’ of the issue). Buchanan addresses these focal points through the continual integration and fusion of appealing to facts and authorities (similar to Kaplan), whereby authorities and academics present these significant statistics on the prevalence of pedophilic behaviour in correlation with Project Dunkelfeld’s mission.

Petya Schuhmann, a psychologist at the project managing 30 patients, says we need to start treating these men (it is mainly men – out of 1,000 contacts since 2005 only a “handful” have been women) as victims.

“I feel so much respect for our patients,” she told The Independent. “They are so brave to call us and to work with us and they are really suffering for their feelings [of paedophilia].”

Ms Schuhmann estimates that “80 to 85 per cent” are effectively “reformed.”

The synthesis of the professional, psychological perspective providing statistics and valid opinion on the matter creates conviction and places trust amongst readers – that these statements are valid according to Schuhman, hence further developing the overall claim that pedophiles deserve adequate treatment and support, as generated by Dunkelfeld.

The following series of quotes from Schuhmann, presents strong similarities with Kaplan’s claims and underlying argument – that pedophiles are victims of a medical disorder, and do not necessarily act upon their desires.

“It is a disease, it is a trait, it is not a choice. They haven’t chosen to change, but they can learn how to live responsibly with their sexual desires.”

You can have a sexual interest in children, and be a paedophile, but not offend a child. You can also offend a child and not be a paedophile.”

Another overlapping theme across both articles is the implementation of Virtuous Pedophiles, as presented by Kaplan. Buchanan similarly presents this example of VirPed to add context to her main argument – notably a g-chat interview with the founder of the organisation, “a well-off and respected man in his 60s’”who “has four grown male children and is sexually attracted to young boys, “typically aged 12 to 13”’ (Buchanan, 2015).

[He told The Independent] Realising he was a paedophile was an “incredibly traumatic” event… He insists he will never tell a soul where his alternative sexual fantasies lie.

His wife remains in the dark: “I can see how talking about it would hurt. I can’t see how talking to her would help.”

These direct quotes from VirPed’s anonymous founder strengthens Buchanan’s argument for necessary awareness and support provided for pedophilic individuals. They simultaneously serve to reinforce the current barriers faced by pedophiles – their reluctance to open up about their unconventional sexual orientation in a world of limited safe zones of acceptance and support, as a result of negative media perception.

Further onto this, Buchanan presents a dichotomy by instilling a positive appeal to authority on the matter, through academic Dr Sarah Goode, an expert in examining pedophiles and the views surrounding them.

“[Goode] thinks our attitudes are finally undergoing a ‘paradigm shift’ and that as ‘a society we can begin to understand that sexual attraction to kids is something that seems to be a part of human sexuality’”.

These positive references to the ‘paradigm shift’ and ‘part of human sexuality’ adhere to the perception that Buchanan is articulating – pedophiles are a collective commonality with a dissimilar human sexuality that can be controlled through sufficient support and treatment.

“With one in five [men] “sexually aroused to children under certain circumstances”… Such numbers, she claims, are important because the gulf between the reality of a child sexual predator and someone with paedophilic tendencies is huge.”

Furthermore, Goode’s academic insight continually reinforces the common prevalence of pedophilic tendencies within society, as opposed to society’s accusation of pedophiles as sexual predators due to their peculiar sexual orientation.

It is also necessary to assess current, conflicting perceptions of pedophiles among society, through the eyes of pedophiles themselves.

Self-confessed pedophile Todd Nickerson writes a first person, bibliographical style article for online arts and culture magazine Salon, titled I’m a pedophile, but not a monster (2015).

Nickerson writes primarily on his status as a pedophile throughout the duration of his life, providing context to audiences on how pedophiles ‘see the world’ through their orientation. Nickerson also argues against the discriminated public perception of pedophiles collectively within the media and society.

The first person tone and personal ‘I’ pronoun throughout the article, is used by Nickerson to not only tell his personal story, but to resonate on a personal and authentic level with the audience, contrasting to opinion and hard news articles on pedophilia.

“Pedophile” and “child molester” have often been used interchangeably in the media, and there is some overlap, at base… a pedophile is someone who’s sexually attracted to children. That’s it. There’s no inherent reason he must act on those desires with real children.

Some pedophiles certainly do, but many of us don’t.

Because the powerful taboo keeps us in hiding, it’s impossible to know how many non-offending pedophiles are out there, but signs indicate there are a lot of us, and too often we suffer in silence.  That’s why I decided to speak up.

Nickerson uses colloquial language and a conversational tone to appeal to readers, as an advocate for the pedophilic community, whereby the perception and societal definition of pedophiles as sex offenders and rapists is immoral under certain circumstances, according to Nickerson. Nickerson uses his experiences and narrative argument to portray a ‘lighter’ perception of pedophiles and all the factors to consider before judgment.

In conclusion, the comparison of these diverse media materials and article styles relating to the perception of pedophiles in the eyes of the public and the media, demonstrate a shift from traditional media and the emergence of controversial perspectives on popular, newsworthy matters. All authors articulate aligned ideas and arguments – that pedophilia is an invariable condition that can be monitored and treated though legal and social action. These articles aim to present the issue in a more positive light and generate a ‘paradigm shift’ in how the media and society recognises pedophiles.



Association for Sexual Abuse Prevention, 2016, ‘Pedophilia in the Media’, Association for Sexual Abuse Prevention, 12 October, accessed 29 October, <>

Buchanan, R, 2015, ‘In Germany, they treat paedophiles as victims… not offenders’, The Independent UK, 14 July, accessed 15 October 2016, <>

Don’t Offend Organisation, 2015, Don’t Offend, accessed 20 October 2016, <>

Kaplan, M, 2014, ‘Pedophilia: A Disorder, Not a Crime’, The New York Times, 5 October, accessed 15 October 2016, <>

KeinTaeterWerden, 2013, Don’t Offend (English subtitled), YouTube [Online Video], 17 June, accessed 20 October, <>

Nickerson, T, 2015, ‘I’m a pedophile, but not a monster’, Salon, 22 September, accessed 16 October 2016, <>

Virtuous Pedophiles Organisation, 2016, ‘Who we Are’, Virtuous Pedophiles, accessed 20 October 2016, <>



A drug war: The highs and lows of medical cannabis

By Raiyan Faruque

The use of cannabis as a medical aid has been cultivated for over 6000 years dating back to 4000 B.C. Originating in Ancient China, cannabis was recommended for treating various health conditions such as malaria, constipation, rheumatic pains and female disorders. Over time, cannabis has expanded its medical purpose in several other countries such as India, the Middle East, South African and South America. Cannabis was originally renowned for its healing properties, which, in recent decades has shifted to be recognised as the intoxicating drug of hippies and stoners who laze around smoking ‘pot’ to the detriment of their cognitive development.

The legalisation of cannabis is not the area of debate you would expect to hear from parents with experimental, developing adolescents, but for some, this very debate is a cry out of desperation. Whereas others, argue the potential legalisation of cannabis legalisation will create a socio-economic malfunction.

The current media landscape, particularly in Australia, USA and the UK, the debate has branched into two conflicting arguments – the legalisation of cannabis can be utilised as a medical tool for sick patients, and on the flipside, the potential legalisation of medical cannabis will impose an immense capital investment, unaffordable for most patients in need.

Both a combination of hard news and views journalism articles, with reference to a variety of credible sources from politicians, researchers and patients, these authors have provided ranging perspectives on the issue of legalising cannabis for medical use – one that is of benefit for society whereas on the other hand, imposes an opportunity for a capitalist venture.

In favour of the legalisation of medical cannabis is Jane Fynes-Clinton’s views journalism article titled, ‘Opinion: It’s time to listen to the science on medical cannabis, not the ideology’ published on The Courier Mail on 22 April 2015. The Courier Mail is a News Corp Australia owned, daily tabloid newspaper published in Brisbane, Australia. The Courier Mail has often been criticised for its controversial publications however, its articles range from a variety of issues such as breaking news and current affairs to latest celebrity gossip. Through analysis and research, The Courier Mail has published a number of articles in relation to passing the legislation to permit the use of cannabis for medical aid.

On the other hand, Dana McCauley’s hard news article titled ‘Legalising medical cannabis sounds great, if you can afford it’ published on on 4 March 2016, weighs the economic and financial aspects of the cannabis legalisation and the threats and restrictions it imposes on our socio-economic framework. The is an Australian news and entertainment website which is also owned by News Corp Australia. specialises in publications associating national and international affairs, as well as other areas including entertainment, sport, lifestyle and travel. is recognised as Australia’s number one news site, reaching an audience of over 5.5 million Australians.

Under the Australian law, cannabis is classified as a Schedule nine drug which is of equivalent scale to drugs such as heroin and LSD. According to a research study conducted by Hamish R. Smith from James Cook University, cannabis is highly common across Australia with roughly 40% of Australians aged fourteen and above who have admitted to using cannabis, whereas over 300,000 Australians engage with the drug on a daily basis. Cannabis has developed a negative socio-recreational agenda which contributes to the criminalisation of the substance. Although a number of countries have acknowledged the medical properties of cannabis, decriminalising it for medical practice, the Australian government is still sitting on the fence. Public knowledge and support for the legalisation of medical cannabis has shown a survey result of 69% among Australians. Scientific research has proven that cannabis contains medicinal properties which can assist with several health conditions.

Fynes-Clinton, a journalist of almost 30 years specialises in political journalism and government relationships. Fynes-Clinton voices a strong opinion on the issue of legalising medical cannabis on her various published newspaper articles and Twitter posts.

Fynes-Clinton’s publication on medical cannabis, ‘Opinion: It’s time to listen to the science on medical cannabis, not the ideology’ presents a wide range of journalistic techniques which justifies the debate for legalising medical cannabis.

Journalist Fynes-Clinton has titled her article ‘Opinion: It’s time to listen to the science on medical cannabis, not the ideology’, which explicitly reveals to the reader that is it a views journalism piece. Fynes-Clinton’s principle claim argues that the debate associating the legalisation of medical cannabis first and foremost requires the understanding and clear distinction between the recreational use and medical practice of cannabis:

“We need to stop talking about marijuana [cannabis] that is smoked for fun and cannabis oil that is taken for comfort and survival in the same conversation.”

The principle claim is accompanied by the use of inclusive language ‘we’ which creates a unified community, convincing readers that the conflicting debate of medical cannabis requires the knowledge from society as a whole to eliminate the stigma of cannabis as a recreational substance, and understand its medicinal power.

She cleverly addresses her argument to target her audience from young adults to conservative middle-aged recipients through her use of language and choice of description.

Fynes-Clinton often uses colloquial terms and ‘street’ references such as ‘pot’ and ‘get high’ to engage with a broad audience, particularly young adults.

Furthermore, Fynes-Clinton uses a false analogy ‘stop the oscillating Jekyll/Hyde approach of giggling teen and judgmental parent’ to attract a more mature-aged audience.

“We need to grow up a bit and stop the oscillating Jekyll/Hyde approach of giggling teen and judgmental parent. The health-giving properties need to be discussed scientifically and maturely.”

The author strategically alludes to a historical reference to appeal to the popular opinion and emphasise the ludicrousness of the debate. The ‘Jekyll/Hyde approach’ is understood as a person who is vastly different in moral character from one situation to another. Hence, the author creates a narrative reflection of a serious debate of legalising medical cannabis, using visual descriptions ‘giggling teen’ and ‘judgmental parent’ to position the audience to evaluate their stance on the issue of medicinal cannabis.

The author explicitly states the primary claim of her argument is to steer away from from the idea that cannabis is only a recreational substance, but rather a drug that can be used for medical assistance to aid patients and for patients to have the right to use cannabis without the risk of being charged under criminal substance abuse.

“For the debate on this issue to be properly advanced, the recreational and medical uses of cannabis need to be separated, at least for now.”

 “Politicians need to stop making references to cannabis in this context as a gateway drug.”

 The author uses a strong voice in her statements and claims, and gives her argument an affirmative tone by questioning the political perception of cannabis.

Fynes-Clinton articulates her piece using highly emotive language to accentuate her frustration and strong opinion towards the use of cannabis, and the drastic measures patients experience to fight for their lives.

“The problem is they do so quietly because those who make and supply it, as well as those who use it, risk arrest. It is ludicrous.”

 The author has used an either-or argument to emphasise the severity and desperation of the medically ill patients, who have no choice but to either put their health at risk without cannabis or risk being prosecuted for obtaining and utilising cannabis illicitly. The author’s use of truncated sentences, further supported by the use of emotive-passive terminology claiming the struggle of the medically ill is ‘ludicrous’ further solidifies the author’s frustration and emotions towards the issue.

The article primarily appeals to ethical and social norms, as the author’s primary stance is focused on the legalisation of cannabis.

“It seems strange that yet again, we are not prepared to learn from the findings of other nations. Australia may be an island, but must we always take this so literally?”

“More than 20 nations have already legalised medical cannabis and gone through the motions of checking the science and laying out the safety zones.”

“By insisting on tilling ground that has already been prepared by others, we are delaying the process of approvals – something we have become champions at in Australia.”

The author uses rhetorical questions and the use of statistics to support her claim with a credible backbone. The use of a rhetorical question contests the reader’s ethical values, further supported by her use of a sarcastic tone incorporating slippery slope informal fallacy to solidify her argument. By frequently using the inclusive pronoun ‘we’, the author alludes to the idea that the fate and ethical stance of medical cannabis is a shared debate, one that everyone can empathise and be affected by equally. The author’s appeal to ethics and social morality is embedded throughout her article, as she raises the issue of ill children who suffer from medical conditions, unable to obtain medical cannabis as a treatment. By making references to a sensitive minority group, the author forces the reader to empathise with her argument and creates an atmosphere for the reader to engage with.

“Signing up to be part of NSW’s medical cannabis trial for suffering children and dying adults is a sign it is at least willing to listen to the people.”

 Overall, Fynes-Clinton’s views journalism piece has been presented with a strong emotive voice which speaks highly in favour of legalising medical cannabis. Fynes-Clinton employs a variety of language techniques to appeal to her audience. The author’s principle claim is that medical cannabis is a significant debate, which affects the whole Australian community, and a debate which should encourage Australians to enrich their knowledge and understand the distinction between medical cannabis and recreational ‘pot’.

While global nations are still recovering from the effects of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, state governments continue to explore financial strategies to boost their economic stability. To address the staggering financial deficits, medical cannabis has been a proposed agenda by many legislators to boost tax revenue. Cannabis is recognised as a billion-dollar industry yet while it sounds appealing to many investors, journalist McCauley argues legalising medical cannabis will erupt an ‘explosion of capitalist investment’, becoming unaffordable for many Australians who desperately require this medical aid.

McCauley argues in her article ‘Legalising medical cannabis sounds great, if you can afford it’ published on, that investing in medical cannabis measures will generate more financial burden on Australians than boosting a nation-wide economic status.

The author’s principle claim can be identified in the lead sentence of her article:

 “Australia is about to see an explosion of capital investment in a product that, up until recently, has been the domain of the criminal underworld.”

The author introduces her argument by using strong emotive and highly visual language, ‘explosion of capital investment’ and ‘domain of the criminal underworld’. By incorporating these powerful terms in the lead sentence, McCauley immediately presents her argument to her viewers in a captivating mode.

The lead sentence employs an evaluative presumption, which alludes to the potential negative effects of legalising medical cannabis, a significant factor that is often ignored or unknown to the Australian public.

McCauley constructs her article by exploring and presenting and weighing a variety of credible sources. She contrasts the vision of Canadian investment company, Tilray, with the threats of a medical cannabis investment industry for a middle-class Australian mother who seeks medical cannabis for her epileptic child.

“In Australia, we think that medical cannabis has potential to be a billion-dollar industry, and can create thousands of skilled jobs and generate tens of millions of dollars in foreign investment,” the company’s global president Brendan Kennedy told

“Ms O’Connell does not pay for the product, but believes when it is available in the retail market it would sell for between $30 and $100, depending on the bottle size and strength. She has looked at the prices of medical cannabis products available in the United States and found they cost up to $2000 a month.”

 “She fears regulation will push up the price of the product that has allowed her family a normal life — or worse.”

By contrasting the two distinct sources, McCauley creates a well-crafted blueprint of the reality, threats and potentials of legalising medical cannabis.

McCauley appeals to emotion and ethics throughout her news article and through her use of effective descriptive language and journalistic techniques, forces readers to dig deeper to comprehend the reality of a medical cannabis industry. The effective use of Ms O’Connell as a primary case study, alludes to the audience’s emotional values as it encourages readers to empathise with Ms O’Connell in order to understand the hardships that could be enforced on many patients and families by legalising medical cannabis.

Furthermore, alongside its emotional and ethical appeal, McCauley draws upon authority as she frequently lists and refers to politicians who have spoken in regards to the economic aspects of a medical cannabis industry. By commonly referring to the views and opinions of Australian politicians, McCauley adds credibility and proximity to her argument.

“The Federal Health Department says in a statement on its website: “The Government wants to ensure that Australians get access to the most effective medical treatments that are available, but it is important to ensure we follow the principles of evidence-based medicine.”

Overall, McCauley’s hard news article has been constructed using a broad range of journalistic techniques and resources to appeal to a target audience who have not considered the social and economic strains that are more than likely to arise with a nation-wide acceptance of medical cannabis. The author’s principle claim is to inform the readers that the legalisation of cannabis, while effective and crucial, it requires a broader social understanding to ensure it is available and affordable to those in need.

In summation, while both authors have employed an extensive collection of augmentative techniques to present and solidify their views towards the issue of legalising medical cannabis, they have taken on distinct angles towards the issue. Both Fynes-Clinton and McCauley speak in favour of the medical cannabis legislation, however, McCauley has raised a significant threat that the legislation may impose on Australians and the economic function. Thus, although the fight for a medical cannabis society is beneficial to Australia’s health care system, it is important that the general public and government bodies acknowledge and appropriately action the financial and socio-economic aspect of the issue.

Will Constitutional Recognition of our Nation’s First People’s be any more than rhetoric? By: Ryan Mahon

MDIA2002 Assessment 4: Media Analysis 2

Will Constitutional Recognition of our Nation’s First Peoples be any more than rhetoric?


Name: Ryan Mahon (z5076131)

Course: MDIA2002

Class: Thursday at 1:30pm (H13A)

Word Count:  2494 words (Without quotes)

The public debate about the Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders has gained front-page status in print media in the months preceding and following the 2016 Federal Election. The Federal Government is proposing a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (hereafter ATSI) Peoples as the First Peoples of Australia and to afford protections against discrimination. Protection from discrimination however is already afforded to ATSI Peoples by the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) and the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW). Public commentators have argued that Constitutional Recognition (also known as Recognition) would be little more than a token gesture to Australia’s first people, however the consequences of this referendum transcend both politics and rhetoric. Entrusted to the Australian people is something far more fundamental, if the referendum is passed, the changes made to the Constitution could have a significant impact on the future of Indigenous Recognition and Native Title. The Federal Government has been investigating the possibility of setting a date in 2017 giving the Australian people an opportunity to vote on the referendum.

Media coverage of this debate has seen the publication of many (hard) news, views or opinion articles on the issue. Some articles have the intention to simply inform their audiences, however some journalists have intended to persuade their audiences through the use of a wide range of argument types to frame their writing. Print media articles have framed the debate using different perspectives to either support or condemn the proposal to Constitutionally Recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Australian Constitution. These articles contain aspects of both hard news and opinion.

A critical analysis of these articles concludes that despite each of these articles taking different angles and having distinct differences on the same issue, they all assume that the readership is aware of Constitutional Recognition, but they may not know what form this Recognition would be in. However, these journalists and commentators assume their readership may not have intimate knowledge of the legal ramifications of Recognition. Some authors have argued that Constitutional Recognition would unite Australia, whilst others have argued that it could divide the nation.

In his article, “Push for recognition a threat to national unity”, Stephen Fitzpatrick explicitly states his central claim, that Constitutional Recognition could lead to disunity within Australian society. The emotive evaluation of the referendum by using the words, “a threat”, indicates an evaluative judgement against Constitutional Recognition. The headline also uses, “national unity”, indicating this current unity would be destroyed if Constitutional Recognition was to occur. The author implies to their audience, the slippery slope of potential negative consequences if Recognition was granted. By using “Recognition” and “a threat to national unity”, Fitzpatrick is creating a direct causal link between Recognition and national disunity. Since the article has a clear central claim, it would be possible to assume that Fitzpatrick is appealing to a like-minded audience.

In addition to his own views and opinions, Fitzpatrick appeals to a notion of authority by quoting Australian historian Keith Windschuttle several times throughout the article. It is evident that Fitzpatrick structures his article by making a claim about Recognition such as, “It poses (sic) a clear danger to political unity” and then justifies this claim by quoting Windschuttle. This appeal to authority referenced throughout the article is a construct of Fitzpatrick, as he labels Windschuttle as a historian in order to appeal to a perceived expertise on the issue. However, Fitzpatrick fails to mention throughout his article that Windschuttle has been widely criticised within the academic community for his belief that many historians had fabricated the extent of racism in Australia during the White Australia Policy during the 1900s (Constitutional Recognition carries seeds of reconciliation by Chris Kenny [The Australian]). An instance of where Fitzpatrick appealing to authority is seen in this extract below,

“Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians could lead to the break-up of the nation. Historian Keith Windschuttle has warned, unless voters are clear that notions of sovereignty accompanying it pose a clear danger to political unity.”

Fitzpatrick constructs a false analogy relating Native Title claims from the 1990’s in an attempt to make a legitimate comparison between Constitutional Recognition and Native Title ownership and sovereignty over freehold land (Mabo V Queensland 1992 [HCA]). There is also the assertion of a possible Ad Populum Argument as Fitzpatrick argues, if Australians were aware of the potential implications of Constitutional Recognition, then they would be against it. This is legitimised by the author attributing the content of the quote to Keith Windschuttle, however the veracity of Windschuttle’s arguments must also be questioned as it cannot be determined whether he is an impartial authority on the issue.

Fitzpatrick then attempts to appeal to the emotions of his readership by providing a confronting analogy of the possible unintended consequences of Recognition. Fitzpatrick wrote,

“ATSI Peoples themselves… use the success of native title claims over the past two decades to plot a campaign for full sovereignty.”

“The broadly held view of constitutional recognition – that it would be a courteous symbolic gesture with no real consequences – ignores the potential for it to become a bargaining position for a local black state to exert far more influence.”

The main claim that this appeal supports is that Constitutional Recognition will create a precedent for Native Title claims with ATSI communities forming their own Sovereign Nations. There is an assumption by the journalist that the Australian people are unaware of this potential outcome. Further to this, an Ad Hominem argument is used, alluding that ATSI Peoples are propagating Constitutional Recognition in order to increase their influence and power. Consistently throughout his article Fitzpatrick implies the ‘potential’ negative consequences of Constitutional Recognition. Fitzpatrick’s article appears to be mainly opinion as he uses only one unverified source (Windschuttle) to add veracity to his arguments. Like Fitzpatrick, other journalists have published articles on Recognition that appear to contain more opinion than they do hard-news.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten arrive at the grand final breakfast ahead of the GF today in Melbourne, Saturday Oct. 3, 2015. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy) NO ARCHIVING EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Image: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have taken a bi-partisan approach to Constitutional Recognition, however they have not set a date for the referendum.

Andrew Bolt, a prominent conservative commentator has also publicly expressed his opposition to Constitutional Recognition. Andrew Bolt wrote an article for the Herald Sun called, “Recognition for Aborigines in Constitution only serves to divide.” It is important to note that Bolt uses the term, “Aborigines” an expression deemed offensive and degrading by many in the community. Considering the language used in the headline, it would be appropriate to determine that Bolt’s imagined readership would most likely be a white, middle or upper-class readership who would share his conservative sentiments. It is evident that this imagined reader is positioned to agree with the author as the use of such colloquial terminology could be deemed offensive by someone whose views are not aligned with Bolt’s.

 Andrew Bolt’s article would be more opinion than hard news, as he does not back up many of his claims. At several points throughout his article he makes a non-sequitur argument as he tries to draw links between events and consequences where there may not be any. Bolt suggests that Constitutional Recognition will result in Australia dividing into two-societies. Below is an extract from Bolt’s article,

“It’s apartheid. It is wrong to use the law to insist some of us are First Australians with extra rights because of their ‘race’ and the rest are second- class (sic) Australians.

“Changing the Constitution, as Labor and the Liberals want, means judges could insist this apartheid is our future. Don’t risk it.”

A hasty generalisation or over generalisation of all ATSI Peoples occurs in this extract as Bolt asserts that all ATSI Peoples would misuse the rights afforded to them from Constitutional Recognition for Native Title. Bolt uses the false analogy of apartheid in an attempt to add veracity to his arguments. He is alluding to the possibility for reverse-racism to occur in Australia. Bolt uses “us” and “their” to create an affiliation with his intended readership, a like-minded audience.

In the above extract from Bolt’s article, the agent is identified as, “First Australians”, whilst the affected are “the rest” of society. Bolt argues that due to the manipulation of the Constitution, if it were to be amended, non-indigenous Australians would be disadvantaged. Evident in both Bolt and Fitzpatrick’s articles is an appeal to negative consequences. They argue that Constitutional Recognition is a slippery slope toward Native Title where ATSI Peoples will have the power to create their own Sovereign States.

The debate on Constitutional recognition was recently re-ignited when the ABC documentary I Can Change Your Mind About Recognition was aired. The documentary followed Federal Member for Barton and Indigenous advocate, Linda Burney MP and Andrew Bolt as they travelled to remote Aboriginal communities to discuss the referendum. Andrew Bolt has previously told Fairfax Media he is opposed to the Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous people, whilst Linda Burney has pushed for greater consultation with Aboriginal communities on the matter.


Image: Andrew Bolt and Linda Burney MP on the set of ABC’s, “I Can Change Your Mind About Recognition.”


Paul Daley is critical of commentators such as Andrew Bolt in his article, Indigenous recognition deserves serious debate. Andrew Bolt shouldn’t be a part of it”, for The Guardian. Daley asserts that he is for Constitutional Recognition, however he argues that there has been a lack of public debate on the matter. A dichotomy of values emerges between Daley’s article and Bolt’s article as Daley dismisses Bolt’s arguments through an Ad Hominem informal fallacy. Daley’s counter argument against Bolt calls Bolt’s views and opinions, “indulgent pet assertions”. In addition, Davis criticised Bolt in the following extract,

“Choosing Bolt for the program (I Can Change Your Mind About Recognition)… rendered it a laughably inadequate vehicle to tackle the questions relating to the desire for Recognition within Indigenous Australia – which is where it could impact most.”

 Daley not only attempts to assert a point of view, but he is also attempting to undermine the arguments put forward by other journalists who are in opposition to Recognition. As the article provides background information about the ABC program and the engagement of the ATSI community and stakeholders in Constitutional Recognition consultations, Daley assumes an audience that would fundamentally agree with the referendum. However, this assumed audience may not know how that Recognition should be materialised. Daley makes the presumption that the argument for Recognition, as stipulated by I Can Change Your Mind About Recognition, has been reduced to, “yes (black) v no (white). Although this is a very simplistic and generalised analogy, Daley uses it to criticise the lack of stakeholder engagement by the government.

One of the main claims in this article is that there has not been enough consultation with the ATSI community on Recognition. This is backed by Daley’s warrant that ATSI advocates for and against Constitutional Recognition are not being consulted as stakeholders. Daley argues that Constitutional Recognition does not go far enough to solve systemic inequalities faced by many ATSI Peoples. Daley wrote,

Tens of millions of dollars are being spent on Recognise (a campaign to raise awareness about Constitutional Recognition)… At a time when the Abbott/Turnbull governments have cut at least $550 million from Indigenous programs.”

“Why not reflect the nuance and complexity of argument and concern with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia by having Indigenous proponents on both sides of the debate?”

Daley attempts to create a direct causal link between the lack of ATSI stakeholder consultation by the government in relation to matters that affect Indigenous communities and ATSI disengagement with the political process. Daley uses opinion within a deeply embedded argument to add veracity to his claims and conclusions about Recognition. Daley cites multiple sources including the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Constitutional law, Stan Grant, Mick Gooda and data released by the Federal Government. Daley wrote,

“The Indigenous voting enrolment rate is 58%. I’m told that as few as 30-35% of Indigenous Australians actually bother to vote. Many I know abstain on ideological/political grounds –  a protest against legitimising and acknowledging what they view as the “settler state”.

Daley appeals to this analogy about ATSI voter disengagement in order to criticise the government. Daley, unlike Bolt does not blame Indigenous communities for their disengagement, but instead has criticised the government’s inability to ensure that all stakeholders can come to the table.

Daley clearly outline his primary claim that the government is not engaging all stakeholders in a proper conversation on Recognition. He uses Andrew Bolt, a conservative commentator who has received hours of air-time and numerous columns on the issue as an example of the issue with the current public debate. Whilst Bolt receives this media attention, Indigenous stakeholders have not been consulted by the government or the Prime Minister’s Referendum Council. This leads to Daley’s secondary claim that in addition to Recognition, treaties need to be signed by the government and ATSI leaders. Daley however, does not assert his secondary claim until the last several paragraphs of his article. This could be because his imagined readership could be one that supports Recognition, but may not know enough on the subject matter to support any treaties.

In addition to Daley, Jackie Higgins (SMH), George Williams (SMH) and Megan Davis (ABC) all appeal to emotion, popular opinion, strawperson arguments and presumptions to conclude that Australia needs to have a ‘Treaty’ in addition to an amendment to the Constitution. The articles written by Bolt and Fitzpatrick have the implication that any amendments to the Constitution would act to divide the nation, whilst Daley, Higgins, Williams and Davis argue that it may bring the country closer together. However, they argue further steps need to be taken beyond the symbolic gesture of changing the wording of the Constitution.

Megan Davis in her article, “Scant Recognition: Have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples any Reason to Hope?”, explicitly outlines her claim that ATSI Peoples need to be a part of the discussion on Recognition for it to hold any significance. The reader is positioned to agree with the article as Davis speaks from a position of authority. She is a Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales, Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples and a member of the Prime Minister’s Referendum Council adding veracity to the quality of her argument. In holding these positions, Davis’ credibility as a source should be reliable. Davis appeals to authority several times throughout her article including in the following extract, 

“We must be careful to acknowledge that while symbolism is nice and may have some statutory benefits, as Dylan Lino argues, “the pursuit of wholly symbolic recognition in written constructions often neglects valid grievances about how power is wielded by the state over the group (ATSI Peoples) in general””.

Megan Davis appeals to the authority of Dylan Lingo from the Melbourne Law School, Indigenous Law Centre to add veracity to her arguments. Davis focuses on the implications of Recognition for the Indigenous community in her article, whilst Bolt and Fitzpatrick focus on the agents of change, white policy makers and voters. Davis appears to emphasise the “symbolic” nature of Recognition as her imagined audience (the wider public), may be unaware of what Recognition is. It is important to note Davis’ description of Recognition as symbolic is in contradiction to Bolt’s description of it being a gateway to Native Title. Davis spends the majority of her article explaining the need for treaties in an attempt to inform and in turn, persuade her imagined audience into agreeing with her.


Image: The Prime Minister’s Referendum Council including Megan Davis (Front row, 2nd from right)

Polling conducted on behalf of the Recognise campaign found that 77% of Non-Indigenous people and 87% of Indigenous people would vote “yes” for constitutional change if a referendum was to be held. However, polling conducted at the same time showed a drop in the awareness, the constituency has of the campaign. Awareness of Recognise has dropped from 63% in mid-2015 to 51% in October 2016. This data demonstrates that although the majority of Australians are in favour of Constitutional Recognition, they may be unaware of the meaning and consequences of Recognition and how it can be acted upon. This unawareness in the constituency could be a motivating factor for journalists and authors to publish articles arguing for treaties in an attempt to inform the electorate, who could be agents of change through their voting power.

In many of the print-media articles published on Constitutional Recognition, it is evident that the terms, “Constitutional Recognition” and “Rights” are identified as contentious terms. The definitions of these terms had been subject to debate in the sample texts and different authors have stipulated different definitions for them. Some authors construct the term, “Rights” to mean the rights of ATSI Peoples whilst others have constructed the term to mean the rights of Australians to vote in the Referendum and the rights of Australian people as a whole.

Constitutional Recognition as defined by Megan Davies (ABC), Paul Daley (ABC) and George Williams (Sydney Morning Herald) is simply a change of the wording of the Australian Constitution to acknowledge Australia’s first peoples. Andrew Bolt (Herald Sun) and Stephen Fitzpatrick define Constitutional Recognition as, “a threat to national unity”, that, “can only seek to divide”. The view of Recognition that the reader forms is highly dependent on the work that they read as different authors have defined the term in different lights in order to support their own views and arguments on the issue.

In analysing a selection of articles, it is revealed the majority of authors are appealing to an imagined readership that would vote ‘yes’ in a Constitutional Referendum, but may be unaware of the consequences of such actions. Andrew Bolt and Stephen Fitzpatrick both attempt to persuade the readership by expressing their opposition to Recognition as they feel it would be a slippery slope to Native Title. Paul Daley is not only for Constitutional Recognition, but also a Treaty and undermines the critics of Constitutional Recognition, such as Andrew Bolt in order to add veracity to his own arguments. Daley discredits the arguments of Bolt by calling them, “pet assertions”. Underlying all articles was the opinions of their respective authors attempting to convince the readership of certain points. In some instances, such as in the Daley, Williams, Higgins and Davis articles, the opinion was embedded within a hard-news article. However, there were aspects of opinion, as a number of informal fallacies and counter-arguments are utilised in these articles, but the opinions used appear to be impartial and expert. Indigenous Recognition is a passionate issue for many and these authors provided some of the best examples of journalistic integrity through their use of informed opinion and attempts to avoid bias.


Articles Referenced in this paper:

Legislation Referenced:
Related Articles:


If it ain’t white, it ain’t right

By Roberta Wang

October 2016

If there is anything a mainstream film goer can count on today, it’s the fact that the next Hollywood blockbuster will feature a predominantly white cast with ethnic roles whitewashed and minorities disregarded. From the early days of American actor John Wayne depicting Genghis Khan in “The Conqueror” to the more recent casting of Scarlett Johansson in the role of beloved Japanese policewoman Major Kusanagi in “Ghost in the shell”, Hollywood is nowhere near the ethnic diversity of its audience. This will be examined in the articles “Why won’t Hollywood cast Asian characters?” by Keith Chow in the New York Times, “Does whitewashing ‘Ghost in the shell’ prove that Hollywood is racist?” by Aleks Eror on digital media website Highsnobiety, “George Takei on Doctor Strange controversy: ‘Marvel must think we’re all idiots” by Ben Child from the Guardian and “Asian Americans decry ‘whitewashed’ Great Wall film starring Matt Damon” by Julia Wong from The Guardian.

Upon analysing these four articles, it becomes obvious that their arguments, representations and overarching claims are all very similar: that the mainstream film industry is consciously whitewashing and doing nothing about it. Although various examples are used, they are simply different streams running similar courses into a joint pool, one that belies heavy exasperation at the state of what could be a much more inclusive, diverse and dynamic industry, one which is not only very wealthy but commands excessive amounts influence all across the world.

In recent months the debate has escalated, especially with the casting choice in movies such as the upcoming Ghost in the shell. An image from the anticipated feature depicting Johansson as Major Kusanagi immediately spawned cries of outrage. In the article “Does whitewashing ‘Ghost in the shell’ prove that Hollywood is racist?” by Aleks Eror, the phenomenon of whitewashing in relation to the film Ghost in the Shell is examined and Eror opens his article with a very explicit evaluative claim criticizing the mainstream film industry:

“The big-budget arm of the American film industry managed to fumble its way into yet another race-centered calamity… by casting her [Johansson] as a whitewashed Kusanagi, the two studios are basically telling the world that there isn’t a single Japanese, or even oriental actress capable of playing that role. Either that or they simply prefer a white one.”

The ironic appeal to facts about a lack of Asian actresses leads to the underlying warrant that there is definitely enough Oriental actresses to fulfil the role. This immediately frames Hollywood filmmakers to Eror’s readers as discriminatory, the phrase “fumble its way into yet another race-centred calamity” further implies that the industry is not only discriminatory but also lacking in self-awareness. The article then eases into a more diplomatic tone by acknowledging some of the opposing arguments, Eror’s commentary mentions the opinion of Hollywood screenwriter Mike Landis who defends the casting choice as an economic one. Eror sums up Landis’ arguments as:

“Scarlett Johansson wasn’t cast in the lead role to maintain white hegemony, she was chosen because her name has the familiarity and star appeal to draw in crowds. The majority of the cinema-going public will pay to see her movies regardless of plot or critical praise, and ultimately this is what movie industry suits are interested in, rather than staying true to the original Ghost in the Shell or actively discriminating against anyone.”

The causal claim of Johansson being cast as an economic and profitable choice is backed by an appeal to good consequences, a well-recognised face results in a bigger return for the filmmakers. The underlying warrant here is that earning more money is a positive practice and although Eror sympathises with the fact that movies are a business and need to be profitable, it is immediately contrasted by Eror’s following comment which cements his position against any support for whitewashing:

“By centering this conversation around economics, people like Landis ignore the injustice that money helps perpetuate. Sure, at its very heart, money is colour-blind, but that shouldn’t be taken as a redeeming quality. Also, by framing this as an economic issue, rather than a racial one, we ignore why, exactly, a white lead is good for business: because America’s white population enjoys greater spending power than minorities, and ultimately that’s the reason why culture is created in their image.”

The evaluative claim present is supported by an appeal to ethics, the warrant here being white privilege is inherently wrong and the film industry should be trying to rectify this. Hollywood is once again rendered by Eror into a self-absorbed conglomerate without any consideration for the other spheres of life they are influencing. The article concludes with:

“No media reaches a greater mass of people and has as broad of an appeal as Hollywood blockbusters. By refusing to use their position of influence for social good, film industry insiders are complicit in maintaining a racist system. And that’s only one shade away from racism itself.”

Eror once again utilises a causal claim, saying that the blind eye turned to the issue will undoubtedly lead to further embeddedness of this problem. The appeal to morals leads to the underlying warrant that Hollywood is in a position of influence and should therefore be trying to project positivity to its audiences. The overarching representation of the American film industry is a very negative one, Eror took care to explain then shut down counterarguments whilst strategically arguing his own. There is an overarching disappointment in the way the issue turned out since Eror implies that not only does Hollywood have the means to empower Asian women in cinema, they are choosing to turn a blind eye.

The criticism of whitewashing in Hollywood continues in the article “Why won’t Hollywood cast Asian characters?” by Keith Chow. The piece also condemns the casting of Johansson in Ghost in the Shell stating:

Dreamworks and Paramount provided a glimpse of Scarlett Johansson as the cyborg Motoko Kusanagi in their adaptation of the Japanese anime classic “Ghost in the Shell.” The image coincided with reports that producers considered using digital tools to make Ms. Johansson look more Asian – basically, yellowface for the digital age.”

Chow’s claim of digitally rendering Johansson’s face being “yellowface” is an analogy referring to “blackface” which is an offensive practice where people who are not of African American descent literally paint their faces or bodies darker to play an African American character. Chow’s representation of the mainstream cinema is very similar to Eror’s, they are both highly critical of the industry since it has the means to act on it, the issue of having bankable ethnic stars is also discussed in Chow’s article:

“It’s not about race they say… the reason Asian-American actors are not cast to front these films is because not any of them have a box office track record. But they’re wrong. If minorities are box office risks, what accounts for the success of the “Fast and Furious” franchise which presented a broadly diverse team, behind and in front of the camera? Over seven movies it has grossed nearly $4 billion worldwide. ”

Chow’s claim here that having a diversely cast and produced movie is also cost-effective is backed by a solid appeal to both facts and precedent citing the profitability of the Fast and Furious franchise that has accumulated over many years. The warrant here is easy to identify, that having whitewashed casts both in front of and behind the camera does not always lead to a successful film. This is again discussed in a counter example:

“Chris Hemsworth who stars in this weekend’s “Huntsman” sequel, has had many more box office flops than successes, yet he is considered a bankable movie star. Such facts reveal Hollywood’s dirty little secret. Economics has nothing to do with racist casting policies.”

Chow frames Chris Hemsworth here as an example of Hollywood’s inertia in diversifying, although Hemsworth has had many more failures than successes, he is still considered a “bankable movie star” which begs the question, if Hemsworth was of ethnic descent, would he still have the recognition that he does today? It is also important to note that actors or actresses that are name-dropped in examples are never blamed for perpetuating the phenomenon, rather, they are characterised as pawns in a much larger mechanism that comprises the film industry.

It is also notable that the piece is a blend of argumentative and opinion writing, Chow utilises many evaluative words and states his own opinions repeatedly but also includes various examples and appeals to convince his audience of the ludicrous nature of the industry.

“Why is the erasure of Asians still an acceptable practice in Hollywood? It’s not that people don’t notice: Just last year, Emma Stone played a Chinese-Hawaiian character named Allison Ng in Cameron Crowe’s critically derided “Aloha”

Throughout the article, Chow utilises an arsenal of examples to chastise the issue at hand and the example of Aloha was one that seemed exceptionally outrageous due to the fact that Emma Stone’s character’s actual name is undoubtedly Asian. There is also mention of films such as “Pan”, “Lone Ranger”, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” where Chow’s overarching claim is evident: the mainstream film industry has the choice to make movies more diverse but instead they are choosing to turn a blind eye. To cement this claim even further, Chow adds an appeal to authority:

“A recent study by Ralph K. Bunche Centre for African American studies at the University of California Los Angeles, found that films with diverse leads not only resulted in higher box office numbers but also higher returns of investment for studios and producers.”

The claim here is causal in nature, by citing a well-known university and a centre which revolves around an ethnic minority, Chow adds an extra edge of argumentation that is not only derived from examples but evidence. The warrant here is that the study and the centres are trustworthy, although there are no facts or statistics, the quoted university is a reputable one, reassuring the audience of its legitimacy. It is also prominent that the writers who are from ethnic backgrounds are much more passionate about displaying their disdain since the issue is more relatable to them whereas the Caucasian writers provided a more diplomatic take.

The conversation continues in “Asian Americans decry ‘whitewashed’ Great Wall film starring Matt Damon” by Julia Wong. With the recent announcement of Matt Damon playing the leading role in a movie set in ancient China, the whitewashing issue has become even more palpable.  The article is less about Wong expressing her own opinions but more of a collation of responses to the movie trailer’s release. It features various tweets and quotes from people who reacted to the trailer, one of the people whose comments she included was Constance Wu:

“In her post, Wu wrote: “Our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon. They look like Malala. Ghandi. Mandela. Your big sister when she stood up for you to those bullies that one time. We don’t need salvation. We like our color and our culture and our strengths and our own stories.”

There is a very explicit evaluative claim presented here stating people of colour should be better represented and an appeal to emotion is used, by using the example of “your big sister when she stood up to bullies for you” is aimed at making the example more personal. The warrant here assumes that culture and colour is a positive thing and thus should be represented more widely. The comments by Wu that are included in the article frames the issue as a very personal one, she also denounces the argument that money is the reason the Asian population isn’t better represented, saying “Money is the lamest excuse in the history of being human”.

Another example included in the article is that of a popular blog, although Wong herself never passes any evaluation or opinion on the matters herself, she allows the content of other personalities speak for her. In this regard, it can be seen as more of a hard news story since it is reporting content, specifically the reactions of Asian people in the media reacting to the recent trailer of Matt Damon starring in “The great wall”. Another example she uses states:

“The popular blog Angry Asian Man called the movie “the latest movie in the grand cinematic tradition of the Special White Person”, adding: “You can set a story anywhere in the world, in any era of history, and Hollywood will still somehow find a way for the movie to star a white guy.”

In this example, the irritated tone adds to the evaluative claim that white people cast themselves in anything and everything, the appeal to morality here is obvious with the warrant being ethnic people should be cast in ethnic roles especially if it is set in a historically rich setting. The article is the only one to feature pictures, Wong includes images of John Cho’s face on famous posters such as the one of interstellar and Constance Wu’s face instead of Jennifer Lawrence’s on the popular “Mockingjay” poster.

The final article of the four, “George Takei on Doctor Strange controversy: Marvel must think we’re all idiots” by Ben Child from the Guardian is also less of an opinion or argumentative piece as it is an informative one. Much like Wong’s article, it presents the comment and contents of other people already voicing their opinions on the matter. In this particular article, it was Marvel’s decision to cast Tilda Swinton, a Caucasian actress, as what was originally depicted as a Tibetan monk. The more informative nature is mainly due to the outlets they were published on, while the initial two were on pop culture and opinion sites, the latter two had to restrict passing evaluative judgement since The Guardian is meant to be a reputable hard news outlet.

Child however, presents a very strong voice nonetheless through Star Trek actor George Takei whose quotes and reactions he utilises consistently throughout the piece. Since the title already explains that the entire article is based around the opinions of one person, it can be assumed that Child has utilised Takei as a representative figure on behalf of the Asian population. The article starts with a bit of background information on the cause of the outrage:

“Star Trek actor George Takei has hit out at claims by a Marvel screenwriter that the studio “whitewashed” a traditionally Tibetan character in forthcoming superhero epic Doctor Strange to appease China.”

The article then delves into Takei’s criticism of this statement, Child quotes Takei:

“Let me get this straight,” wrote Takei on Facebook. “You cast a white actress so you wouldn’t hurt sales … in Asia? This back-pedalling is nearly as cringe worthy as the casting. Marvel must think we’re all idiots.”

There is a very evaluative claim stated here by Takei, “Marvel must think we’re all idiots” is reinforced by an appeal to facts, “You cast a white actress so you wouldn’t hurt sales … in Asia” implying that there is seemingly no logical sequence in Marvel’s casting choice, the warrant being Asian people would rather see Asian people portrayed on screen as opposed to white people. The inclusive usage of “we” implies that Takei assumes the audience he is talking to encourages diversity and is similarly outraged at the casting choice. He adopts a very aggressive tone throughout all the quotes included in the article:

“It wouldn’t have mattered to the Chinese government by that point… so this is a red herring, and it’s insulting that they expect us to buy their explanation. They cast Tilda because they believe white audiences want to see white faces. Audiences, too, should be aware of how dumb and out of touch the studios think we are.”

Takei’s claim that Marvel’s explanation is insulting is backed by an appeal to consequences, casting an Asian actor would have drawn a wider Asian audience anyways since Marvel has a large fan base in China and the fact that a white person was cast instead demonstrates the audience which they are trying to reach which is also insulting. The underlying warrant here is that people want to see their backgrounds represented on screen which makes movies more relatable to ethnic audiences and again, Takei assumes this through his use of inclusive pronouns such as we, “audiences too, should be aware of how dumb and out of touch the studios think we are”.

Since this piece is meant to be more objective, Child then presents another counter argument to Takei’s statements in the form of another statement released by Marvel:

“Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU [Marvel cinematic universe] to life,” said the studio. “The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic.”

The claim that “The Ancient One” is meant to be racially ambiguous is supported by an appeal to precedent with the studio asserting that previous films have all included diversity and that “The Ancient One” is simply meant to be a title. The warrant present here is that “The Ancient One” has possibly been an ethnic character in previous generations and the current one is Celtic which justifies the casting choice.  The article concludes with a quote from Takei saying he won’t back down from the issue:

“All the arguments in the world don’t change the fact that Hollywood offers very few roles to Asian actors, and when one comes along, they hire a white actor to do it, for whatever the reasons,” he said. “Until that mindset can change, I will continue to speak out.”

In analysing all these pieces, it becomes obvious that they are all against the whitewashing phenomenon and think change should be implemented. The first two pieces were much more argumentative in style since they were opinion pieces and published on less objective sites than the latter two. The final two articles didn’t project their opinions but instead emanated objectivity through using the content of other people. Despite the differing styles and content of the four articles, none of them ended on a note that justified whitewashing and it can be safe to assume that it is time for Hollywood to change a practice that has been embedded for decades too long.

Word count: 2220 (not including quotes).

To vaxx, or not to vaxx, that is the highly contentious societal debate.

By Frances Tsatsoulis

People tend to become a bit prickly when it comes to getting needles, a notion that is more relevant that ever when considering the controversial subject of immunisation. Immunisation is a hot topic in contemporary society that is able to cause a fiery debate between medical professionals, health conscious Australians and particularly parents. The enduring societal issue has resulted in health professionals taking sides and the dispute has developed to the point where Australian nurses who currently promote their anti-vaccination beliefs are facing prosecution.

Whilst there is continuous friction between the ‘vaxxers’ and ‘anti-vaxxers’, the overarching consensus in both Australian hard and views journalism pieces is that immunisation is necessary. Various articles including Anti-vaxxer’s baby hospitalised with whooping cough by Bianca Hall for The Age, Anti-vaccination is based on prejudice and superstition by Julie Szego for the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian nurses who spread anti-vaccination messages face prosecution by Melissa Davey for The Guardian and Melbourne’s anti-vaccination hot spots: Rich suburbs have low immunisation rates by Marissa Calligeros for The Age position their audience in a manner that coaxes them into embracing the author’s pro-immunisation views. Most of the pro-immunisation pieces found in the media will clearly illustrate their beliefs, yet there are some like the article Hanson says vaccines may cause autism for Sky News that could initially be interpreted as an anti-immunisation piece but if critically analysed is clearly not.  Each of these articles characterises the anti-vaxxers as irresponsible, irrational and a menace to society as they spread an ideology which has no scientific backing. This is achieved through the use of specific lexical choices and appeals to particular facts and emotions to win over their reader.

Despite there being a clear conflict between the beliefs of those pro-vaccination and individuals who are anti-immunisation there is virtually no articles present in Australian media that counter argue popular opinion and promote an anti-vaxxer way of life. After relentlessly searching for an anti-vaccination article only one could be found, which does not exclusively urge its readers against immunisation. Marj Lefroy’s piece Vaccination’s vexed link to autism for the Sydney Morning Herald presents an open-minded perspective of the issue and attempts to convince members of Australian society to be tolerant of anti-vaxxers. However, much like the pro-immunisation pieces the article mentions carefully chosen facts and emotion to demonstrate the reasoning for her stance on the topic.

In Hall’s pro-vaccination article, it is evident that the author has immediately distanced herself from the ‘anti-vaxxers’ through the title, successfully creating an ‘us versus them’ distinction. The mention of the “anti-vaxxer’s baby” side by side with the word “hospitalized” alludes to the notion that the parent who has chosen not to immunize her child is in the wrong and also conjures up negative imagery of those against vaccinations.

In the article’s lead the words “11-week-old” and “anti-vaccination activist” grab the audience’s attention. The reference to the child’s age connotes innocence and vulnerability whereas the phrase activist positions the audience to believe the mother is not adhering to the social norm even if it means, and has meant, harming her child and possibly others.

Hall continues to present this perspective throughout the article by including quotes from fellow anti-vaxxer’s who supported the woman’s decision to not immunise her child and lie to doctors about doing so. Hall also included a statement made by Health Minister Jill Hennessy regarding the importance of vaccinations.

“Be gentle with yrself [sic]… You are tired and have been thru quite an ordeal. You know your facts. As far as vax goes u know more than those docs”. – Anti- vaccination supporter.

 “The science on this is clear. Vaccinations save lives. It is completely irresponsible for people to ignore the science and choose not to vaccinate their child.” – Health Minister Jill Hennessy.

By selecting a quote that is poorly constructed and written in internet abbreviations, the author is trying to demonstrate that Australian’s who are against vaccinations are uneducated. The inclusion of a statement that has a reference to having more knowledge than doctors indicates that Hall believes and is urging her readership to believe that anti-vaxxers are unethical. In contrast Hennessy’s statement is written in standard English and conveys to the reader a sense of professionalism and authority. Hall does this to subconsciously persuade her audience to favour the Health Minister’s opinion over the unknown woman’s, operating under the warrant that the correct belief will be a clear, professional one.

Despite this piece being an objective hard news article and Hall not being forthright in her views regarding those who are anti immunisation, it is evident through her use of language, appeal to authority and mentioning of unqualified opinion that the author follows the general pro-vaccination consensus present in the media.

Akin to Hall’s article is Julie Szego’s commentary piece for the Sydney Morning Herald which identifies anti-vaxxers as resolutely irrational.

“The anti-vaxxers are unlikely to contemplate the precariousness and misery of their ancestors’ lives before mass vaccination eradicated, or greatly reduced, the menace of polio, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, rubella, yellow fever and small pox.”

By listing all of these vaccine-preventable diseases Szego is trying to explicitly highlight the popular view that those who choose not to immunise their child are reckless. Traditionally, views journalism attempts to persuade their audience into adopting their perspective on a particular issue however for Szego this is not the case. The author is confident that her readership does not consist of anti-vaxxers and instead appeals to consequence, choosing to shine a light on facts that will further emphasize the prevalent ideology that immunisation is the only way to go and not doing so is irresponsible.

“And as we see in the now notorious case of Brunswick North West Primary School, where a staggering 80 children, one in four, have been struck down with chicken pox…only 73 per cent of children are immunised—whereas roughly 90 per cent coverage is needed for “herd immunity” to kick in and protect everyone, including the nonvaccinated.”

The statistics used in the piece are alarmingly high and are incorporated to shock the readership and agitate for the condemning of anti-vaccination parenting. The mention of a “herd immunity” adds to the negative characterisation of those against vaccinating their child, highlighting how they are not only endangering their kids but also other children as well. Whilst the statistics do grab attention and add factual evidence to the article the data is not verified which creates a disconnect between information and authority, thus making the piece not as effective as other pro-vaccination articles.

 “This latter fact would hardly sway parents who support “chicken pox parties” for children. For the blissfully ignorant, this is where anti-vaxxers deliberately expose their offspring to disease to supposedly promote “natural” immunity. As in: “Here little (insert New Age name of the moment), have some varicella pox with your chocolate crackles.”

Though the article lacks in certified evidence it makes up for it in appeals to emotion and comic relief. This is achieved via the evaluative presumption that parents who choose not to immunize their children are New Age, a notion commonly featured in articles surrounding this societal issue with Szego’s being no exception. The author continues to solidify her claim that these parents are irresponsible by embedding informal fallacies in her work, these include slippery slope and hasty generalisation. The comedic notion that parents will feed their child an infection not only breaks up the writer’s rant but conveys to the audience that New Age parents are shying away from typical behaviour which may eventually result in them willingly infecting their kids. This is a hasty generalisation as not all parents who partake in New Age methods are anti immunisation.

Szego does not include a counter argument or any statements made by anti-vaxxers which makes her argument one-sided, something that she intentionally does to persuade her pro-vaccination readership to feel more passionate about anti-vaxxer’s “irrational” behaviour.

Image by: Tiffany McLaughlin via Flickr
Image by: Tiffany McLaughlin via Flickr

Unlike, Hall and Szego who take a parental perspective in their pieces, Davey focuses on what being a health professional and an anti-vaxxer means. Despite having a different outlook the author still adheres to popular opinion and proceeds to construct an underlying argument characterising the anti-vaxxers as flawed and dangerous to others. Like Hall’s article, Davey must follow an objective journalistic style however this does not obstruct her ability to inscribe her negative evaluations.

“Nurses and midwives who ignore scientific evidence by promoting anti-vaccination to patients and the public are being cracked down on in a tough new position statement from their industry regulator.”

The connotations surrounding the lexical choices of “ignore”, “scientific evidence” and “crackdown” immediately offers the view that nurses are committing an immoral and now illegal act of quackery despite knowing better.

 “The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia… “The board expects all registered nurses, enrolled nurses and midwives to use the best available evidence in making practice decisions.”

Dr Hannah Dahlen, a professor of midwifery at the University of Western Sydney and the spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives, said vaccination was essential to public health and safety… “Midwives and nurses are highly regarded and trusted members of society and people take their advice very seriously,” 

The AMA president, Dr Michael Gannon, said the booklet was “the perfect response to the lies, misinformation and fear that is peddled by the anti-vaccination movement”. “Immunisation saves lives,” he said. “That is an undeniable fact.” 

Davey provides a well-rounded argument and subsequently supports the government’s decision to prosecute nurses who promote anti-immunisation by featuring statements from reputable health organisations and professionals. Each remark reflects the general consensus of Australian media stressing the dangers of supporting a practice with no scientific proof. The remarks also shame nurses who use their imperative societal role to encourage others to adopt an anti-vaccine ideology. These statements appeal to authority and demonise nurses who are sympathetic towards anti-vaccination presenting them as a potential harm to Australian society.

“Gannon said since the introduction of the government’s No Jab No Pay policy, 6,000 children whose parents were previously registered as conscientious objectors to vaccination were now fully immunised.”

Via the statistic given about the government’s No Jab No Pay Policy the audience is implicitly attitudinally positioned to believe that anti-vaxxer’s are immoral due to their willingness to backtrack on their beliefs for the right price. This simple fact brings into question the principles of those against immunisation and relies on the presupposed notion that strong ethics translates to mean a good person, therefore it urges audiences to

disapprove of anti-vaxxers.

Whilst Davey does not take evaluative responsibility as a result of the story being written in a non-authorial voice there is clear evaluations made which disparage anti-vaccination sympathizers. The article stays committed to creating a negative view of the character of those against immunisation and does so using a similar portrayal and appeal to facts that most media articles pertaining to the subject do.



Images from each of the above mentioned articles


All of the above mentioned articles, along with many pro-vaccination stories, feature images of infants getting vaccinated however they do not ever specifically refer to infant immunisation. It can be assumed that the reason that this particular image has been chosen is because a baby is symbolically linked with innocence and is usually protected. Thus by picturing the baby receiving an injection it is portraying the belief that vaccinations protect the child’s health and propagates the notion that infants need to be safeguarded from ‘cruel’ anti-vaxxers.

Yet, Calligeros’ pro-immunisation piece for The Age breaks away from this stereotype and instead features a video and an image that only shows the top half of a child’s face who appears to have a vaccine-preventable disease.

“It indicates educated professionals living in areas with higher socioeconomic levels are among the worst vaccine dodgers in the state.”

Calligeros’ article further reiterates the points raised in Hall’s, Szego’s and Davey’s pieces as it brings together an appeal to fact, consequence and implicit emotion whilst characterizing anti-vaxxer parents as irresponsible trend followers.

“South Yarra has an immunisation rate among five-year-old children of 82.9 per cent. The immunisation rate is 86.5 per cent in Toorak, 88.5 per cent in Brighton and 86.3 per cent in Elwood. In Prahran, Balaclava and St Kilda the immunisation rate is less than 86 per cent.”

Though the article includes several of the statements present in Davey’s work it focuses on emphasizing the high percentage of children who are unvaccinated in Melbourne’s wealthier areas. By selectively choosing these areas Calligeros is honing in on the idea that anti-vaccination is a trend amongst affluent parents who aren’t concerned with the health of their child. This implicit claim is warranted by the stereotype that parents with higher socio-economic backgrounds do not personally care for their children and are only superficially worried about their wellbeing. This embedded central theme strategically characterizes parents against immunisation in a negative light and allows the readership to make evaluations of them based on these statistics.

“With parents no longer having the experience of the devastating diseases that vaccines prevent, fear of vaccines has crept in. The fear is aided and abetted by groups that exaggerate and distort their possible harms.”

The author inadvertently brands anti-vaxxers as hypocritical extremists by expressing the notion that those against immunisation have received their vaccinations and don’t have experience with harmful diseases that can be prevented as a result of this. These inexperienced individuals are then falling prey to the propaganda of anti-vaccination groups because it is socially in fashion and aligns with alternative health fanatics who are popular on social media.

Video found on South Australian anti-vaxxer group website

Contrasting to the usual vaxxer pieces, Sky News predominantly explores a one-sided view using Australian politician, Pauline Hanson, as the mouth piece. The objective news story first discuses Hanson’s statements in regards to anti-vaccination and implicitly refutes them in the next par.

“The One Nation leader says public vaccination programs may be to blame for the rising rates of autism and cancer and says the government has failed to screen immigrants posing a threat to public health.

 Proponents of the anti-vaccination theories who share unscientific misinformation about the safety of vaccinations online and have long spruiked the discredited link between vaccination and autism.”

The reference to immigrants, an issue Hanson is vocally opposed to, immediately exposes the underlying concept that the politician is expressing her biased opinion along with misconstrued facts. The author explicitly states that the “link between vaccination and autism” has been discredited and as a result positions the reader to disregard Hanson’s allegations.

“In Australia, the anti-vax movement as it is known is represented by The Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network who compared routine vaccinations to sexual assault, running advertisements on social media likening them to forced penetration.”

Similarly to the other articles, the author negatively characterises Hanson portraying her akin to The Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network. An organisation whose main aim is to persuade Australians to not immunise their children, a practice they believe analogous with sexual assault. The article explicitly mentions this belief to evoke an emotional response from readers and strengthen the negative depiction of anti-vaxxers whose views potentially disturb society and offend victims of sexual assault.

“’I have many people who have brought it to my attention, that’s why their kids are autistic,’ she told the Daily Mail.”

Pauline Hanson’s comment where she stated that children are autistic as a result of vaccinations was included to render the One Nation leader as uneducated and insensitive to those who have autism and their families. Sky News purposely does this to allude to anti-vaxxer’s tendencies to make outrageous unqualified statements that are likely to offend and misguide people.

The small corpus of articles chosen above each demonstrate the unanimous belief in the Australian media that vaccination is imperative and that those opposed to it are careless and a danger to others in society. The journalistic pieces all negatively depict those against immunisation and support this representation with carefully chosen facts, statements from authority and evaluative language in an attempt implicitly or explicitly align the reader with a pro-vaccination perspective.

Even though several of the pro-immunisation pieces discuss the anti-vaccination trend and the large number of anti-vaxxer groups on social media platforms there are relatively no articles which promote this lifestyle. Marj Lefroy’s article was one of the first to acknowledge an anti-vaxxer perspective does so in a subtle way which is thought-provoking for an undecided readership.

“I’m definitely pro-vaccines and understand all too well the benefits they bring, and I also know they’re toxic for some kids. Because I saw what happened in the case of one of my nephews, for whom vaccination was one of several environmental factors and assaults to his immune system that, along with genetic predisposition and an underlying vulnerability, stressed his body and his mind so much that he slipped into autism. It’s not a conclusion that his mother, a sober individual pushing 40 with an honours degree in science and a background in public health, wanted to reach, but in the end it was undeniable.”

Lefroy’s claim that she is in support of vaccinations but accepts that there are dangers associated with the practice allows the audience to view her as a middle-ground, ‘voice of consideration’. The author’s personal story included justifies her perspective and emotionally involves her readership as it portrays the idea that this could happen to any child in any family.

“US Court of Federal Claims, the US government conceded vaccines had aggravated a young girl’s mitochondrial disorder to the point where she developed autism.”

Aside from appeals to emotion the article gives an appeal to authority and fact through the mentioning of a case that appeared in front of the US Court of Federal Claims where it was found that a vaccine had triggered a young girl’s autism. This attention grabbing fact was potentially included by Lefroy due to the country in which the case took place. It can be assumed that the author made reference to the settlement with the warrant in mind that the US is a stronger power than Australia and that weaker countries should follow the direction of the US.

We must have the courage and maturity to listen to everyone, including the mothers and the fathers dealing with the unacceptable, potentially avoidable consequences. They’re the canaries in the coalmine, and the real reason why this case is not closed.

The comparison between the children who have sustained diseases and injuries from vaccinations to “canaries in the coalmine” is likely to strongly effect the audience as it connotes that these children matter and should not just be written off as casualties for the greater good. Thus the analogy attitudinally positions the readership to have an accepting view of anti-vaxxers and provides a strong finish to a well-rounded argument.

Immunisation from the perspective of both vaxxers and anti-vaxxers is a debated societal issue in modern day Australia. Though there are several groups on social media that preach anti-immunisation dogma media publications primarily produce pro-vaccination stories. Mainly via appeals to emotion, fact and authority all of the articles explored above indicate the prominent stance on immunisation and reiterate how society views medical professionals, health conscious Australians and particularly parents.

Taking a Stand (or Knee) Against Racism

By Darcy Munce


As racial tensions in the United States amplify Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers Quarterback, has ignited a national conversation by refusing to stand and honour the flag during the national anthem prior to kick-off. Many pieces have since been written both in support and in outrage against his statement that he cannot show respect to a flag that represents a nation plagued with police shootings and systematic discrimination of black and coloured people. For the most part, much of the rhetoric against Kaepernick’s protest has been along simple lines of patriotism with each piece differing very little. Articles which offer sentiment in support of Kaepernick propose different and interesting representations of athletes in the media, their social responsibilities as well as the racial undertones at the heart of the issue. Two pieces which offer different views on the issue despite acknowledging the merit of the protest have been produced by Ijeoma Oluo for the Guardian and Sam Clench for Although both express views in favour of Kaepernick’s reasoning they come to opposing conclusions about its effectiveness in creating a dialogue about race in America.

The key similarity between these pieces is that they stipulate that as a sports star and a black man Kaepernick has the right to feel the way he does about such social injustices. They each then progress their arguments in different ways based on different outcomes and responses to his protest. Each can be categorised as argumentative rather than purely opinion based as they make reference to counter-arguments and cite facts to empirically back up assertions.

Both Oluo and Clench frame their support of Kaepernick’s intent through a negative representation of some of the more ridiculous and hyperbolically oppositional responses to the protest.

“When parents watching school sport are genuinely excited about the idea of a sideline firing squad, it’s fair to say that your country has gone completely, certifiably insane.”

Clench makes reference to a high school football team telling students they would be shot if they knelt during the national anthem. Not only does he make an assumption of the parental response to this announcement but is a hasty generalisation that this sort of response is nationwide and as such signifies national insanity.

Oluo’s piece is similar in making the informal fallacy of grouping all negative responses to Kaepernick’s protest as based on the same grounds and in particular by using emphatic and binary language to push this generalisation.

“But every argument against Kaepernick’s protest is wrong. Every single one.Furthermore, many of them are racist.”

The emphasis in ‘every single one’ is an overstatement and over-generalisation of opposing arguments despite its correctness for many responses to Kaepernick’s protest. Oluo follows his claim by using evocative language in accusing negative respondents to Kaepernick as being accidental white supremacists. The use of such emotive language categorises those who oppose his perspectives as objectively evil through the historic connotations it draws upon. Regardless of the truth of such a statement regarding certain responses it is an informal fallacy of generalisation to view all negative responses in the same light.

The crucial differences in these articles comes through the primary claims as to the consequences of the protest by way of creating a national dialogue regarding race. Despite this difference they both point to the overtly racist responses to Kaepernick’s protest as justification for the main claim. Oluo uses them as evidence that racism is obvious and existent in America and requires protesting, Clench instead blames Kaepernick for creating a conversation in which racist responses are given a platform and legitimacy.

“Others asked why he hates veterans – still others, why he hates America. Yet more people asked why he can’t just stick to football.”

Through listing each argument against Kaepernick’s protest Oluo establishes the grounds for each of his claims throughout the remainder of the piece. The rest of the article is dedicated to providing reasons each of these arguments is categorically wrong while establishing the national discussion as a positive one with beneficial outcomes. Such a list acts as an appeal to fact as although not directly quoting responses, it draws on a general form of response that would be well known to the audience.

“But even though Kaepernick has done nothing wrong, he has done something stupid. He’s turned too many people against his cause.”

Clench defines the created dialogue as somewhat farcical and blames Kaepernick’s protest for acting as a basis by which respondents can voice their racist or overly patriotic views. He effectively points to the fact that refusing to honour the national anthem and flag has influenced those who may agree with anti-racist sentiment to instead oppose the protest on nationalist grounds. The underlying warrant here is that Kaepernick is responsible for having an awareness of how his protest may be perceived by others, not simply in the message he intended to spread.

In addressing counter arguments, the divide between the objectivity of the two pieces becomes apparent. The entire body of Oluo’s article is aimed at responding to the main criticisms against Kaepernick, however each of the arguments listed is summarised into a single-line overview and the categorically dismissed. Clench instead uses a balance of quotes and images to raise the validity of both perspectives of commentary for or against the protest.

“To those arguing that Kaepernick’s protest insults veterans: soldiers did not fight and die for a song or a flag. They fought for many other reasons – American ideals of liberty and equality, access to education, economic opportunities, the draft.”

Oluo undermines many valid points through creating a strawperson argument, he positions his argument as if towards those who disagree with him but is instead defining their argument in a minimalistic fashion before offering his own counter. Many responses along the lines Oluo is addressing claim a correlation between the national anthem and flag with the freedoms and liberties that American soldiers fight for. The overall argument is then weakened by not offering a counter to these more expanded responses, which could be legitimately argued, and instead creating a similar but altered point of contention. The underlying warrant of Oluo’s claim is that the flag and anthem are separate entities from the values of America. This is not congruent with the warrant expressed by opposing commentary which creates the strawperson argument through which Oluo makes his claims.

Clench instead uses quotes to represent the two opposing sides of the conversation Kaepernick sparked.

“(My son) died protecting the ideals of the flag you (Kaepernick) refuse to respect. He died so that ungrateful, privileged, arrogant men like you can be just that — ungrateful, privileged and arrogant. Men and women willing to die to protect you because they believed in the ideals this country was founded on. Men and women of all races and religions.”

Quoting a heartbroken mother who lost her son in the line of duty is definitively a plea to the emotions of the reader as it is difficult to argue with the first hand grief this woman has encountered. The selection of this quote leaves implications as to the author’s personal view of Kaepernick as the quote creates an evaluative presumption about all of the NFL players who have chosen to protest, that regardless of the validity of their claim they are all ‘ungrateful, privileged and arrogant.’ Despite not saying it directly Clench validates the sentiment of the mother by describing her claims as an “understandable reaction”.

“If you’re proclaiming to be a true American, freedom runs in our bloodlines, right? It’s supposed to. If somebody is telling you they don’t feel like they’re free, why wouldn’t you listen to them?”

In providing a quote from another high profile NFL star, Arian Foster, Clench momentarily adds a level of objectivity to his article. This is immediately lost as a stipulative definition is placed on the legitimacy of Foster’s claim. Clench defines Foster’s words as correct only in a ‘perfect world’ and then progresses to point out that due to the varied inflammatory responses the protest should have been more carefully considered. Again Clench falls back on the warrant that Kaepernick and subsequent protesters should be held responsible for the reactions to their protest and as such are accountable for creating a dialogue that is so divisive. This is factually incorrect as Kaepernick cannot be at fault for the inferred meaning behind his protest, only what is directly evident or implied.

Statistics and figures are used to justify many of the claims throughout each article although Oluo and Clench use different statistics to prove different points, they use them in a similar justificatory fashion.

“Black men in America are 3.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police, the average white household has 15 times the average net worth of the average black household, one in three black men can expect to see prison in their lifetimes, and the infant mortality rate for black babies is up to three times higher than that of white babies.”
This appeal to facts effectively makes the claim that because these are true then Kapernick’s intentions are justified. The warrant of this appeal is that if the basis for the protest is valid, then the protest itself is similarly valid.  For the most part this claim and warrant are not contentious and true however it creates an either-or argument in one’s position with or against Kaepernick. These claims create an environment for dialogue in which if you disagree with the protest you therefore believe these facts are acceptable in a modern society. Either you are with Kaepernick or against him and believe racial discrimination is fine.

“According to polling from YouGov, 57 per cent of Americans disapprove of Kaepernick’s actions. Among white people, who presumably need to hear his message the most, the split is 23 approve, 69 disapprove.”

Comparitively Clench’s use of statistics holds the exact opposite problem to Oluo, it fails to distinguish the difference between the protest itself and the way in which it has been responded to. This poll is used as justification for the claim that people have responded negatively to the protest due to the manner in which it was conducted. The warrant is expressly stated later in that Kaepernick “could call a press conference at a moment’s notice, or set up a TV interview”. The use of statistics is a post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument as the poll itself does not stipulate anything to do with the fashion in which the protest was enacted, it was simply an agree or disagree, yes or no question. The use of these poll results then does not in any way prove that the manner in which Kaepernick conducted the protest has had any influence over the responses it has received.

Aside from the obvious issue of race, the role of Kaepernick as a sports star is represented similarly between the two pieces. Oluo explicitly states that it is brave of Kaepernick to risk his fame for this social issue. Clench expresses similar admiration for Kaepernick’s boldness despite believing he could have used his social platform in a more effective manner. A point of similarity between the two pieces is that they both define Kapernick as a black sportsman, not just a sportsman, therefore tying his race to whatever social responsibility he may have on the field.

“What Kaepernick has done with his simple protest is brave. He has risked his privilege, his fame and his very career to stand with his fellow black and brown people against the systemic oppression that is literally killing us.”

In using collective language Oluo makes his closing statement an appeal to his own authority as someone who has experienced the racism being protested by Kaepernick. The warrant of calling Kaepernick brave for speaking out is twofold – sports stars have no social expectation placed on them to risk their fame by speaking out, and that being in such a public position as a black man opens Kaepernick up to receiving more racially hateful commentary.

“Kaepernick was willing to risk his reputation to defend his beliefs, and that is admirable. He certainly achieved one of his goals, because America is now having a conversation about race — albeit one that probably hasn’t lived up to his hopes.”

Clench makes a similar claim, that Kaepernick was brave in his protest, holding similar justification and warrants. Clench goes as far as embedding a video of a San Francisco 49ers fan burning a Kaepernick jersey to act as evidence for the kind of response a sportsman can receive for speaking out turn with what is socially expected of them.

The closing statement from each article reveals the explicitness with which they wish to express their opinion on the matter having previously justified their stance.

“This is what team spirit looks like when you look beyond jerseys. This is what American values look like when you stand for all Americans.”

In a final appeal to emotions Oluo finalises the basis of his argument throughout the piece, that the right to protest is fundamentally American and therefore no one can hate Kaepernick for utilising this right.

“He’s genuinely trying to improve the situation for African-Americans. Unfortunately, in the process, he’s only making it worse.”

Clench similarly uses explicit terms to emphasise his main claim that Kaepernick’s good intentions have not necessarily yielded positive outcome for his cause. The explicitness of both of their closing statements also reveals the political minefield that is the discussion of race in America and the authors’ desperation not to be associated with the racist responses they have made reference to throughout their articles.

Oluo and Clench are not intrinsically opposing each other as their underlying worldview is one of support and respect for both Kaepernick and his cause. The crucial difference between the two pieces is their fundamental disagreement on whether an action can be separated from the responses it receives and whether an individual has any control over the inferred messages of their statements. While both make attempts to be somewhat objective throughout their argument it is evident that they both remain somewhat bias towards their own conclusions through language choice and quote selection.

Despite the form of dialogue not being what was intended by Kaepernick when he made his protest it is undeniable that he has created one. These argumentative pieces answer many questions, Kaepernick’s protest is valid in the social context of recent police shootings and Kaepernick is brave to have spoken on a national stage which is historically quiet. The only question that remains to be answered is whether all social discussions are good discussions even if they inflame racial tensions.


Link to articles:


Hong Kong: a city or a nation after 2047?

By Shun Hei Janice LAM

“One Country, Two Systems” is a constitutional principle that was agreed between Britain and China in the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984. It guaranteed that, after Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, the socialist system in China would not practice in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and Hong Kong’s previous legislative, political and capitalist economic systems would remain unchanged for 50 years until 2047. However, as China keeps interfering Hong Kong’s local affairs and tightening its grip over the territory in recent years, there are increasing concerns in Hong Kong that the political and human rights are being whittled away. There are a growing number of young people demanding more autonomy, or even independence from China. According to a recent survey conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, nearly 40% of the young people in Hong Kong supported independence from China after 2047. Today the debate over Hong Kong independence is heating up.

It has not only stirred up controversy in Hong Kong, but also gained global attention to its concerns. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry’s “Can Hong Kong break free of China?” and Mark C. Eades’ “Beijing Frets Over Hong Kong Independence Movement” are two opinion pieces that show support to the pro-independence movement, while Frank Ching’s “HK’s dangerous pipe-dream: Independence” and Regina Ip’s “No case for Hong Kong secession” are another two opinion pieces that oppose to Hong Kong’s separatism from China. This article will provide a close analysis of these articles by looking into how the authors mount their arguments towards the independence of Hong Kong, as well as how they evaluate and characterise the current government of China. This analysis will support the primary conclusion that although the pieces show different viewpoints towards the talk of Hong Kong independence, the authors of the articles argue to their readers under the same assumption that Hong Kong independence movement is at a nascent stage and has a very difficult road ahead of it. Also, the authors attempted to position their readers to have different views towards the China under Xi Jinping’s government.

By looking into the way the authors mount their arguments, it can be observed that they have different standpoints and different anticipated audience.

First, let’s take a look at Gobry’s piece, which supports Hong Kong to separate from China. It is an argumentative piece that uses appeals to fact and authority to justify and back up his central claim: City-states are the future of Hong Kong as China has been cracking down.

“In 2014, a decision by the Chinese Communist Party to start vetting candidates for elections prompted the ‘umbrella movement,’ a series of sit-ins and protests that froze the city for months.”

This appeal to fact makes the bifurcation between Hong Kong and China stands out, where “Hongkongers” expect a high degree of autonomy when China wanted to take control over Hong Kong and only allow selected Chief Executive candidates to be elected by the universal suffrage.

“Chinese dissidents living in Hong Kong, who used to be able to rely on safety, have been running into “accidents” – or disappearing.”

This justification is reinforced through the case of Lam Wing-kee, the seller of books critical of China who disappeared and was only allowed to return to Hong Kong after months of detention and alleged torture. This is obvious evidence that shows China has violated the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” by breaking the notification mechanism between the Mainland authorities and Hong Kong, which supports his claim that China is cracking down and effective in convincing his readers.


“A recent poll found the number of Hong Kong residents who say they ‘feel Chinese” has dropped to a record low.”

This appeal to authority (The University of Hong Kong) indicates the identity issues take place in Hong Kong, which fewer people in Hong Kong recognise themselves as Chinese, proving that they think Hong Kong is not necessarily a part of China.

From these justifications and supporting claims appealing to fact and authority, it is plausible that Gobry anticipates an audience that is in opposition to his standpoints, as he is trying to convince his readers by using facts and reliable statistics.

Conversely, although Eades’ piece also shows support to the independence movement, unlike Gobry’s, it is largely opinionated, as he expects an audience that is aligned with his viewpoints. Its central claim is clearly stated in the article: “If only as a symbolic or strategic move aimed at resisting mainland Chinese authoritarianism, the growth of Hong Kong’s independence movement is a welcome development and deserves the support of democracy-loving people everywhere.” However, he argues with some presumed evaluation without providing supporting arguments to back up his claims:

“China ‘destroys freedom’ in the territory.”


“An increasingly arrogant China has violated all of the pledges it made regarding democracy, press freedom, and freedom of expression in the handover agreement with Britain.”


“Britain does still have a role to play in Hong Kong under the handover agreement, but blinded by the yuan signs in its eyes, it has utterly failed to do so.”

Eades is trying not only to blame the cause on China but also Britain, suggesting both China and Britain fail to adhere the handover agreement. However, he only glosses over China’s authoritarianism and Britain’s ignorance to the agreement without providing details, which is inferable that Eades assumes his readers are aligned with his point of views, he, therefore, needs not to provide evidence to sway them.

Now, let’s take a look at Ching’s piece, which, similar to China’s perspective, sees the talk of Hong Kong Independence as a threat. Its central claim is explicitly expressed in the article: Hong Kong can be independence only if China wants to expel it and its 7.2 million people from the Chinese nation, which seems highly unlikely. It is strongly argumentative with appeals to fact and authority, as well as appeals to comparison.

“State leader Zhang Dejiang declared during a visit in May that ‘one country, two systems’ is a national policy and will not change.


“Chinese officials point to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitutional document where its first Article says: ‘The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China.’”

These justifications show that Ching is trying to argue to the opposing readers that Hong Kong independence is not practicable regards to the law. Besides, Ching also appeals to comparison by comparing the case of Hong Kong to some independence movements took place in other territories, so as to convince the readers that Hong Kong independence is not feasible. For instance, he compares Hong Kong to the cases with poor prospects of success including Scotland, as well as Philippines and Myanmar. He also compares Hong Kong to the succeeded cases that are strewn with bodies such as Bangladesh and East Timor. After all, he points out:


“But Hong Kong relies on China for most of its water and for much of its food. Hong Kong can only become independent with China’s blessing, which seems highly unlikely.”

He adds, “which seems highly unlikely” in addition to the “only” situation that he personally thinks is practicable, which shows that Eades himself doesn’t think Hong Kong can become independent, and, as he mentions in the headlines, independence is only a “pipe-dream”. By backing up his central claim, he appeals to fact, authority and comparison to eliminate any “possible” cases for Hong Kong to become independent, arguing to his anticipated audience who is in opposition to his standpoint.

Similarly, Ip’s article, which is in opposition to the call for Hong Kong independence, also expects readers who support the independence movement. Its central claim is, again, explicitly stated in the article: calls for Hong Kong independence are absurd. The article is strongly argumentative as she appeals to fact and authority to back up her central claim, and counter-argues to the opposing arguments.

“It is a drastic response to an unjust situation, and can only be justified where are extreme circumstances, such as genocide, cultural annihilation or unacceptable oppression of fundamental rights and freedoms. Such circumstances clearly do not exist in Hong Kong.”


“As Hong Kong has been an inalienable part of China from early times, a case for Hong Kong’s secession cannot be made out.”

However, to persuade and argue to the readers that are in opposition to her viewpoints, she neglects the arguing point that China is gradually damaging the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” and whittling away people’s rights and freedoms, trying to argue to her readers that there is no “unacceptable” oppression of fundamental rights and freedoms. In other words, she commits the current oppression from China and thinks that is acceptable.


“Hong Kong already has a high degree of autonomy under the Basic Law, over and above that enjoyed by any other city or province in China or other country.”

She also attempts to compare the situation of Hong Kong to that of other city and province in China, which is a false analogy. As mentioned above, the principle “One Country, Two Systems” committed Hong Kong as a distinct Chinese region, which is not comparable to other provinces in China. Moreover, she emphasises a higher degree of autonomy in Hong Kong in comparison to the past times and other provinces, trying to divert readers’ attention from the current undermined rights and freedoms. We can, therefore, see that she anticipates an audience who support the independence movement, and tries to convince them Hong Kong is better to stay under the shadow of China.

Interestingly, although the authors expect different audiences and hold different standpoints towards the talk of Hong Kong independence, they argue to their readers under the same assumption that the independence movement is at a nascent stage and unlikely to succeed.

In Gobry’s piece, he supports the independence movement as he suggests:

“Hong Kong is more Hong Kong than China.”


“It has its own history, its own culture, its own people, its own problem.”


He even ends his article with a strong statement:

“Long live Hong Kong independence.”

However, when it comes to the feasibility of the independence, he says:

“The movement is still fringe.”


“The pro-independence movement has a very difficult road ahead of it.”

Supporting with the example of Taiwan, which China still claims it as their territory, and hasn’t gotten over their independence decades ago. China also breaks off relationships with any country that recognises Taiwan as a country, showing that even if Hong Kong declares to be independence, China is not likely to prove or recognise it as a nation. Therefore, we can see that although Gobry supports the movement, he does not think the independence of Hong Kong is likely to be recognised by China and other countries.

In Eades’ article, similar to Gobry’s, he shows support to the movement as he says:

“The growth of Hong Kong’s independence movement is a welcome development and deserves the support of democracy-loving people everywhere.”


“The growing independence movement has nonetheless succeeded in upsetting China’s dictators and bringing global attention once again to Hong Kong’s concerns.”


“There is no point whatsoever in politely asking China’s dictators for the freedom, democracy, and autonomy to which Hong Kong is entitled under the Sino-British handover agreement.”

However, when he talks about the practicability of Hong Kong independence, he says:

“An independent Hong Kong may be ‘easier said than done’.”


“Unfortunately, full independence for Hong Kong seems an unlikely prospect.”


“The point here is not to find a “compromise” that the dictatorship can feel comfortable with, but to wage a fight for democracy and to win.”


Eades thinks that “full independence for Hong Kong” is unlikely to succeed, as the current movement is at a nascent stage, which can only increase pressure on China, but is not effective to claim their freedom, democracy and autonomy.

Meanwhile, in Ching and Ip’s pieces, both of them oppose to the movement and think that Hong Kong independence from China is not practicable.

In Ching’s article, he describes the independence movement as a “pipe-dream”, which clearly shows his point of views – Hong Kong independence from China is impossible and the talk of it is prattle.

When Hong Kong government and China suggest that the mere discussion of independence is dangerous, Ching says:

“The government should welcome discussion because pro-independence advocates will have to defend a proposition that, on the face of it, is indefensible.”


This clearly indicates that he thinks the talk of independence is indefensible which the localists would not be able to support their arguments and standpoints.

In Ip’s piece, she says:

“In terms of practicality, Hong Kong independence would not be feasible, as any attempt by Hong Kong break away from Chin would be vetoed by China as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.”


“The holy frail of Hong Kong people’s quest for self-determination should be universal suffrage in accordance with the terms of the Basic Law, not secession which is neither constitutional nor practically feasible.”


She suggests that Hong Kong independence is not the way for Hong Kong people to seek for rights and freedoms, people should, instead, agree with the universal suffrage that she claims to be “in accordance with the terms of the Basic Law”, which the Chief Executive candidates from Democratic party would be censored out before the election, making sure that the Chief Executive-to-be-elected will align with the communist party.

Therefore, we can conclude that Gobry, Ching and Ip anticipated audiences that are in opposition to their viewpoints, while Eades expects his audience to align with his standpoints. Meanwhile, they argue to their readers under the same assumption that Hong Kong independence movement is at a nascent stage and has a very difficult road ahead of it.

Other than holding different standpoints and anticipating different audiences, the authors also attempt to position their audience to take different views toward the current government of China.

In Gobry’s article, he says:


“To say China is irredentist is to put it mildly.”


“Xi Jinping’s government, far from embracing a putative trend towards a political opening in China following the economic opening, has concentrated power and embraced authoritarianism to an extent unseen since at least Tian An Men.”


“A Chinese prosecutor’s office darkly warned that Hong Kong independence would turn the peninsula ‘into Syria’.”

Gobry is trying to tell the audience, through these statements, that the current government of China becomes a lot more autocratic than in the past times, to an extent that the term ‘irredentist’ is not able to well-describe its dictatorship, and to an extent that is unseen since the Massacre in Tiananmen Square. Along with the justifications provided to prove the growing concentrated power of China, Audience is being positioned to take a negative view of Xi Jinping’s government with respect to its morality and credibility, which the government is trying to strengthen their power without considering people’s voices and keeping their promises.

Similarly, in Eades’ piece, he says:

“An independence Hong Kong may be ‘easier said than done’ given China’s grip on the territory, threats of criminal charges against activists, and even of sending in Chinese troops if the territory were to actually declare independence.”


“An increasingly arrogant China has violated all of the pledges it made regarding democracy, press freedom, and freedom of expression in the handover agreement with Britain.”


These statements, again, position the readers to take a negative view of the current government of China with respect to its morality and credibility, as it gives a sense to the audience that the China government’s tyranny neglect the safety and human rights of its people, and would send troops to attack its people, as if a repeat of the Massacre in Tiananmen Square.

He also says:


“…and despite China’s annoying ‘benefactor mentality,’ the mainland deserves no credit for it whatsoever.”


“Beijing’s ‘father knows best’ routine with Hong Kong is unjustified and absurd.”


“How could there be, when the dictators are incapable of even comprehending them as anything but an object of fear?”


Eades attempts to tell his audience that the current government of China put itself in a privileged position that it does not deserve, criticising its “benefactor mentality” and “father knows best” routine over Hong Kong, which is annoying, unjustified and absurd. It can be observed that he is trying to position the audience to take a negative view towards the Xi Jinping’s government with respect to its capability, showing that the government is incapable.

As the student activists in Hong Kong have been accused of “treason” and “sedition” and attacked as “useless young people with “personality disorders” by the Chinese government through its media, he says:

“Perhaps someone should tell China that ‘great powers’ don’t sit and throw temper tantrums full of threats and insults at people who disagree with them.”

It satirically condemns that China, as a country that believes itself to be the ‘great power’, should listen to people’s voice, instead of insulting them. It also positions the audience to take a negative view towards the current government of China, because rather than taking different opinions, they choose to oppress people’s right to express.

Conversely, in Ching and Ip’s piece, China is being shaped as a country with great power and abundant resources that protect Hong Kong, which Hong Kong people should be grateful for it.

Ching says in his article:

“But Hong Kong relies on China for most of its water and for much of its food. Hong Kong can only become independent with China’s blessing.”

He emphasises Hong Kong’s reliance on China’s food, water and power, which Hong Kong can only survive under China’s resources and power. It tells the audience that, unlike the Gobry and Eades’ viewpoints, China’s ‘great power’ benefits Hong Kong and its people. He also says:

“Hong Kong is tiny compared with the mainland, in all respects. It has no army of its own.”


This shows a completely different point of views to Eades’ argument:

“Hong Kong’s history has left it a far more advanced society in every respect than mainland China.”

Eades’ argument compared Hong Kong to Mainland in terms of their quality, while Ching’s argument compared Hong Kong to Mainland in terms of their quantity in different respects. It emphasises how big and strong China’s power and resources are, which position the readers to take a positive view towards the current government of China with respect to its competence.

Finally, in Ip’s article,

“Hong Kong has been dependent on the Chinese mainland for the supply of water and import of foods, especially fresh food.”


“The mainland is Hong Kong’s largest trade and investment partner. As more than 70 percent of the publicly listed companies in Hong Kong are mainland-related,”


Again, similar to Ching’s piece, besides the food and water supplied by China, Ip also emphasises Hong Kong’s economic reliance on China, suggesting Hong Kong will not be able to survive without being a part of China.

She also says:

“Hong Kong already has a high degree of autonomy under the Basic Law, over and above that enjoyed by any other city or province in China or other country.”


“Hong Kong would unlikely be more secure without the protection provided by the defense forces of China.”

These statements suggest that the power and resource of China are inevitable to Hong Kong. She also highlights the higher degree of autonomy in Hong Kong. It tells the audience that China allows more freedom in Hong Kong than other province, positioning them to take a positive view towards Xi Jinping’s government.

Therefore, it is plausible that Gobry and Eades position their audience to take a negative view towards the current government of China regarding its poor morality, credibility and capability; while Ching and Ip positions their audience to take a positive view towards Xi Jinping’s government by emphasising its competence and capability, and shaping it as the reason why Hong Kong is now a thriving city.

From the comparison and close analysis of the four opinion pieces that advance opposed viewpoints, it is evident that although the pieces show opposing viewpoints towards the talk of Hong Kong independence, the authors of the articles argue to their readers under the same assumption that Hong Kong independence movement is at a nascent stage and has a very difficult road ahead of it. In addition, the authors attempt to position their readers to have different views towards the China under Xi Jinping’s government. For instance, the articles that show support to the movement are trying to emphasise the negative perspectives of China, telling the audience how the over-autocratic government whittled away people’s right and neglect their safety, while the pieces in opposition to the movement position their audience to take a positive view to the government by shaping it as the “saviour” of Hong Kong.