By Matthew Shean z3332248
Greyhound racing in Australia was rocked to its core last year when investigative program Four Corners exposed rampant cases of animal cruelty and illegal acts of live baiting within the industry. The damning expose, entitled ‘Making a Killing,’ seriously called into question the validity and morality of the sport sparking widespread public opinion and media coverage. The issue became even further maligned when NSW Premier Mike Baird moved to ban the ‘dishies’ in their entirety, just last month passing a bill through the lower house of NSW parliament which will see greyhound tracks across the state lock their gates as of July 1, 2017. Media commentaries intensely debated whether or not the decision by the NSW Government, or, perhaps more superficially, the decision made by Mike Baird was the right one. As one of the most polarizing political figures in recent memory, the Premier again faced an eclectic composition of criticism and praise.
Two opinion pieces, “Admit it. Mike Baird has finally done something right with his greyhound ban” written by Ruby Hamad of dailylife.com.au, and “Mike Baird’s pandering to a noisy crowd with a greyhound ban is lazy politics” written by Patrick Carlyon of the Herald Sun, are two particular opposing views journalism pieces that paint an interesting picture of the media reaction to the ban. Analysing and comparing the two texts, it is interesting to note that both have chosen to approach this issue from a similar political perspective, that is, with a preconceived assumption that the ‘average’ reader will have a disliking for NSW Premier Mike Baird. In the case of Hamad’s article, this is a particularly peculiar stance giving she is very much in favour of the ban. Although it would be foolish to assume that this basic assumption made by both authors is representative of the wider public opinion of politics in NSW, it is nevertheless an interesting insight into both author’s assumed readerships.
For two articles that are contrasting in their views, it also interesting to note the way in which both article is pieced together. Ruby Hamad’s article is very much more of an argumentative piece than Carlyon’s, whose is arguably pure opinion. Hamad believes that her readership may not be totally aligned with her view and as such, she appeals to the facts much more regularly to try and sway her reader. Carlyon, assuming that his readers are already firmly in his corner, writes confidently and assertively, in a manner that dismisses all other views other than that of his own. Certainly, the two texts are made for an interesting comparison.
Firstly, let us delve into Hamad’s article published on dailylife.com.au, a lifestyle based website that exists as an online section of the Sydney Morning Herald. From the outset of Hamad’s article, it quickly becomes obvious that she is in favour of the decision to ban greyhound racing in NSW. She articulates this central claim explicitly in her headline, “Admit it. Mike Baird has finally done something right with his greyhound racing ban.” This headline is interesting twofold. First, Hamad calls it “his greyhound racing ban,” positioning the reader in a way that they are to assume the ban is entirely that of Premier Baird’s. In addition to this, Hamad’s calls for readers to “Admit it. Mike Baird has finally done something right,” is an evaluative presumption that readers, and perhaps Hamad herself, have disagreed with Baird in the past. In Hamad’s case, we are able to confirm this Labor alignment later on in the piece when she describes herself as an “inner city leftie.” Hamad’s urgings to “admit it” is in a way an admission that readers, or perhaps labor voters, may find it hard to be associated with Baird’s policies, but in this case, they should be. Hamad reiterates this point in the opening few paragraphs of the article:
“Anyone else feel like they’ve woken up in Opposite Land this week? First, the NSW Liberal Government – not known for its compassion – dropped a bombshell: greyhound racing will be banned from July next year on account of systematic and widespread animal cruelty.
Given that this is the same government that foisted upon us wildly unpopular lockout and liquor licensing laws, as well as rampant over-development, suspicions that the government had plans for Glebe’s Wentworth Park were quickly aroused.”
In this way, Hamad is explicitly enacting the use of the Ad Populum argument. Used effectively, Hamad purposefully employs this claim in a bid to distance Baird’s previously ‘unpopular’ reforms from that of the greyhound ban. Thus, we can conclude that Hamad’s intended readership may harbour this dislike for Mike Baird due to the article targeting those of Labor, or ‘left-wing’ alignment.
With Hamad’s central claim explicitly stated and reiterated, she then starts about justifying her stance. One argument that is illustrative of Hamad’s extreme distain for the culture of greyhound racing is her opinion of the relationship between dogs and their trainers. She states:
“As for the greyhound trainers themselves, after getting busted killing underperforming dogs in their tens of thousands, as well as using other live animals as bait, they’ve suddenly located their own compassion, spilling tears at the prospect of having to put down their beloved dogs that are ‘part of the family.’ Well sure, if an animal you commodify, extract value from, and then kill when it is no longer financially useful, can ever truly be a part of your ‘family.’”
This is both an appeal to facts and an appeal to emotion from Hamad. The facts about the number of dogs killed, which Hamad later touches on again in the piece stating the “McHugh report (the special commission into animal cruelty in greyhound racing) is clear,” comes across as gruesome and unthinkable for a reader. The persuasive language adopted here by Hamad is also delicately crafted, words such as “busted” make the trainers out to be crooks that have been caught pulling the wool over our eyes. The use of the statement “spilling tears at the prospect of having to put down their beloved dogs that are ‘part of the family,’ is, of course, meant to be read as sarcastic, as essentially meaning the complete opposite; that greyhounds were and never will be ‘part of the family,’ when all they were ever useful for was financial gain. Assumedly, Hamad expects that readers will be of such a mind that they will be able to instantly detect such sarcasm, knowing at once that she can’t be serious with this assertion. This in effect, further serves to smear the legitimacy of the relationship between greyhound trainers and their dogs. For this argument to be adaptable, a reader must share a similar view to the one Hamad paints of a greyhound trainer. A view that trainers have absolutely no emotional connection to the dogs that they train, who simply discard the dogs with little to no sentiment once they are no longer financially viable. This of course, can be viewed as a Hasty Generalization. It would be safe to assume that not all dog owners and trainers share this impersonal and unimpassioned relationship with their dogs, yet Hamad attempts to create this image solely in strengthening her own argument.
Furthermore, Hamad goes on to dismiss the argument that greyhound racing shouldn’t be banned in fear of its affect to working class communities whom are “apparently” synonymous with greyhound racing. Hamad states that defending greyhound racing because of its ‘so-called’ link to the working class is “as patronizing as it comes.” Hamad uses the example of Wentworth Park, a greyhound racetrack in Sydney to challenge the thought that greyhound racing will only affect those families of lower incomes. She argues that the postcodes of Glebe (where Wentworth Park is located), Marrickville and Tempe are all now “coveted addresses,” infiltrated by higher income earners who have subsequently “pushed out the previously low-income, ethnic communities.” As Hamad relays, “to now watch these newer residents get huffy about banning dog racing because it may mean having to share ‘their’ inner city with high-rise apartment dwellers is rather something.”
Thus, having analyzed Hamad’s article, it is quite clear to see the assumptions under which she operates. Hamad writes for a reader who is politically aligned with the left, whom in the past has almost certainly disagreed with the current policies and reforms introduced by the current Liberal Premier, Mike Baird. However, through her works, Hamad aims to alter and convince her readership that this policy is in fact the right one. By appealing to the facts of the situation, as well as too the subtle undertones of emotion, Hamad has attempted to persuade her readers to a view that they may not have held from the start, urging them to essentially – “admit it. Mike Baird has finally done something right with his greyhound racing ban.”
Patrick Carlyon’s article, “Mike Baird’s pandering to a noisy crowd with a greyhound racing ban is lazy politics,” published by the Sunday Herald Sun offers a discerning contrast to that of Ruby Hamad’s. Unlike Hamad, Carlyon is strong in his conviction that the banning of the greyhound racing industry is a mistake. As such, Carlyon’s intended reader is expected to be one largely in line with his own views.
Like Hamad, Carlyon’s primary claim, that Mike Baird is wrong in banning the greyhound racing industry, is exhibited in both his headline and the early stages of his article:
“NSW Premier Mike Baird killed an industry earlier this month, then hung around just long enough for the easy plaudits. By the time talk turned to suicides, Baird was off on holiday, presumably to bask in the warmth of Twitterland.”
Carlyon immediately conveys to a reader his opinion that the greyhound ban was an easy move by Baird, attracting “easy plaudits.” By stating Baird was on holiday not long after announcing the ban, (a matter of fact, Baird was on vacation with his family in QLD), Carlyon portrays Baird as dodging the real tough questions of the issue, instead insisting he took the easy route.
Interestingly, Carlyon’s article, like Hamad’s, makes light of the primary reason for the ban was in response to the “ghastly footage” exposed by the Four Corners investigation. Carlyon relays:
“The sport’s already spotted image dissolved in those scenes, as much for the routine manner of the cruelty of the exercise itself. Its revulsion was normal enough. Everyone shared it.”
By acknowledging these shameful acts carried out by a small proportion of the industry, Carlyon assumes that his readership will be like-minded in too having seen and been disgusted by the uncovering’s. Instead of shying away from it, Carlyon admits that it needed to stop, just not by way of a complete ban.
Carlyon’s principal argument in supporting his claim is that the Special Commission of Inquiry report into the Greyhound racing industry was inconclusive and unable to “draw an inevitable conclusion.” Carlyon notes that the same inquiry was used in investigating greyhound racing in both Victoria and QLD, and “both states chose not to invoke bans.” This is a clear appeal to authority and comparison that showcases the NSW reaction, and that of Mike Baird to be one of “over-reaction.” “Anything other than a shock ban would not have cast Baird as the pained savior.” This exert from the text positions a reader to believe that Baird made the decision based on inconclusive and unsubstantiated findings. Instead, he did so in order to make himself appear more favorable in the public eye. “It just so happened that this pleased the crowd that shouts the loudest.” Again, this paints Baird in an extremely negative light, attempting to highlight to a reader that Baird is shaped by popular opinion, caring less about the important issue and whom it will affect, and more about his public image. Of course, as was the case with Hamad’s article, we can argue that this argument is an Evaluative Presumption by Carlyon. Nowhere in the text does he say why the inquiry was inconclusive; he just unjustifiably states that it was.
Continuing to analyse Carlyon’s article, the next justification he uses to persuade his reader in opposing the ban is through the immense impact it will have on the livelihoods of those directly involved in greyhound racing. As Carlyon states, “he (Baird) is seeking to end an industry said to be worth 10,000 jobs and $335 million a year.” This is without doubt an appeal to emotion, as Carlyon assumes his readership will feel sympathy for the thousands of people out of work, whom, presumably, will pay for the actions of a minority. “If you start banning things, you start hurting people you don’t expect to hurt,” writes Carlyon. This doubles as an appeal to consequences, as as of July 1, 2017, the futures of those working in the industry will be foreseeably cloudy.
Supporters of the ban, namely animal activist groups, are further dismissed by Carlyon as a means to bolster Baird and the ban. Carlyon states that these groups “tirelessly campaign against all forms of animal use in sport…some of them even oppose the perceived notion of a horse’s submission to humanity’s fatuous pursuits.” Here, Carlyon is attempting to subvert the opinion of animal activists by portraying them as “a small minority.” As Carlyon writes, “they campaign against all forms of animal use,” shows that the activists don’t have a specific vendetta against greyhound racing; they share this opinion amongst all sports involving animals. As such, Carlyon argues why greyhound racing has to be banned when others are not? He uses the example of activists opposing such a common leisure activity in horse riding to strengthen his argument. In this way, he positions the reader to view activists as fastidious beings, so caught up in their ways that they are disconnected to the rest of society, as how could any ‘normal person’ oppose horse riding. Without question, this argument harbors flavours of a Non-Sequiter fallacy, as Carlyon offers no real support to his claim.
Hence, with a similar analyse conducted on the article of Patrick Carlyon, we can see similarities and vast differences in the way he has positioned his readers to share in his view. Unlike Hamad’s article, Carlyon writes for a readership he assumes already shares in his opinion, and thus, is purely evaluative. It would be safe to assume that Carlyon is targeting a reader who has some form of disassociation or frustration towards Premier Mike Baird, and would therefore be critical of his latest decision to ban greyhound racing.
By largely appealing to consequences and emotion, Carlyon writes in a manner that displays an ‘us versus them’ mentality. In this way, Carlyon positions the reader to be angry and frustrated with Baird, and the “deep impact” this decision is said to have. In comparison, a reader is meant to feel “strong empathy for those that have done nothing wrong.”
In concluding, both of these texts have served as interesting case studies when examining the recent decision by the NSW government and Mike Baird to ban greyhound racing in NSW. Arguably, both articles are suggestive of a readership that is hostile towards the Premier, even despite the articles operating in opposition to one another. Although we can hardly argue this conclusively, based on the scope of the investigation, both articles are nonetheless suggestive of the current popularity, or, perhaps more accurately, unpopularity of NSW Premier Mike Baird in the eyes of his voters.
LINKS TO ARTICLES:
– Ruby Hamad – “Admit it. Mike Baird has finally done something right with his greyhound racing ban.”– July 14, 2016
– Patrick Carlyon – “Mike Baird’s pandering to a noisy crowd with a greyhound ban is lazy politics.” – July 17, 2016