The Debate over Caster Semenya

MDIA2002 Media Analysis Article 2

Kostas, Carolena z5061221 F10A


The Debate over Caster Semenya


Olympians are known to be celebrated by their nation and by their fans, however, issues often arise over the fairness of competition, be it doping or other means of cheating. This in particular has affected South African 800m Athlete, Caster Semenya who has hyperandrogenism, (a medical condition characterised by excessive levels of androgens, male sex hormones such as testosterone, in the body and the associated effects of the elevated androgen levels) and thus a global debate has occurred over how to treat hyperandrogenic athletes.


With an influx of current media representations surrounding hyperandrogenic athletes competing in the Rio 2016 Olympics, Caster Semenya is in a position of intense scrutiny following the debate whether it is fair to allow her to compete or to bar her. “South African Athlete Caster Semenya reportedly under armed guard at Rio Olympics following safety fears” by Benedict Brook for and “Caster Semenya 800m Rio Olympics: Most sensitive race of Games as South African star runs” by Tony Harper for FoxSports, advance similar viewpoints and offer insight into the different perspectives and world views held by authority, athletes and sports fans alike regarding this ethical issue. The personal viewpoints are not advanced by each author, rather the reader’s need to conclude for themselves, after careful consideration of the evidence put forward through use of quotes from figures with relevance to athletics and the sporting world.


A myriad of opinions is portrayed through news stories and there is no conclusion yet on how to treat Semenya’s case in regards to her competing as a woman who is hyperandrogenic. Semenya’s athletic career has been put at stake since the IAAF launched an inquiry into her gender in 2009 after she won an international title at age 18. Semenya has been characterised as an athlete with extraordinary talent but the question remains, is she too fast for a woman? The general attitude represented by authority and sporting figures is that at the heart of the ethical debate, she has grown up and identifies as a women however further research needs to be made to determine if she has an unfair advantage over athletes who do not have her condition. Thus the sensitive issue of her competing at the Rio Olympics continues.


Author Benedict Brook from provides a balance of quotes for those in favour of Caster Semenya competing and those who believe she has an unfair advantage, this positions the audience to better understand each side of the argument before making their own conclusions. Brook’s use of emotive language portrays the issue of the sensitivity of her competing, as displayed in the quote; “Fearful of disquiet from the fans of rival runners spilling over into physical violence they have beefed up Semenya’s security.” Whereby he insinuates that the events currently unfolding in Rio are very controversial. After introducing the current situation in Rio surrounding Semenya, Brook then appeals to authority and ethical social norms, by recounting facts that arose about Semenya’s gender. “A leaked medical report said the athlete has internal testes a condition called hyperandrogenism which naturally increases levels of testosterone. This, in turn, can aid in the building of muscle — essential for an elite athlete.” Through an appeal of emotive language coupled with facts, Brook’s argumentative support justifies the claim that Semenya may have an unfair advantage competing against other women which highlights the generalized attitude people hold when they first hear about Semenya. Generally, the media portrays hyperandrogenism in female athletes in a negative and unfair light and thus Brook argues against these presumed representations which can have a profound influence on the general sporting readership’s opinions of Semenya competing at the Rio Olympics. In this instance, Brook has characterized Semenya as a muscular athlete with uncertainty into her gender, however still implicitly evaluating the case that surrounds her in a justified manner.


In order to present a balanced argument to ensure his readers can come to an educated conclusion, Brook includes quotes to express the opinion of Semenya’s rivals and her supporters, and in this way does not not advance his own opinion on his readers. Drawing firstly upon the opinion of competitors; “Rivals say they would be labelled a drug cheat if they topped up their testosterone to the levels of Semenya and she has an unfair advantage,” he emphasizes the sensitivity of the debate through emotive language. In contrast, Brook immediately goes on to provide the alternate viewpoint; “But supporters say whatever condition she may have, she is still a woman and should be able to compete as one. They say the furore is more because she doesn’t fit the stereotype of what a female athlete should look like.” By providing this balance of arguments, Brook coaxes his audience to make their own opinions by appealing to a comparison, to influence how his audience is informed. Although the argument over whether it is fair to let Semenya compete is a slippery slope, Brook’s strategy is to appeal to different opinions to enable his readers to make their own conclusions and viewpoints. Authors often employ this technique throughout a multitude of media representations in order to not impose their own opinion on their readers. Brook deals with for and against arguments in a manner that suggests his readers have significant understanding of the controversy and that although Semenya may face potential harm, the benefit to society is that they can conclude in an informed manner, whilst respecting the rights of an individual. Although the media portrayal of Caster Semenya is varied and with a certain degree of indecision, as no conclusion has yet to be made by authority, they still afford the debate to be interpreted by their own audiences.


Furthermore, Brook again withholds imposing his own opinion on his readers by including quotes from athletes and authority to support the comparative argument he is attempting to portray. Sports fans have the capacity to respect the opinion of other Olympian’s, and thus Brook appeals to his audience in the quote, “In July, British Olympian Paula Radcliffe told the BBC: “When we talk about it in terms of fully expecting no other result than Caster Semenya to win that 800m, then it’s no longer sport. It’s not just Caster’s rights but all the women with elevated testosterone that need to be balanced with those that don’t.” Brook then goes on to support his argument that a unanimous decision across authority and sporting figures is yet to be made by appealing to facts in, “But a 2016 paper by the American Medical Association poured cold water on the suggestion testosterone would make enough of a difference on its own to support exclude those athletes. “Many factors, favourable genetics, height, muscle type… contribute to competitive success in sport.” This style is employed by authors in order to allow their readers to come to their own conclusions and to ensure their articles are free from their own bias. Through using an evaluative claim, Brook appeals to ethical and social norms as the readers are able to form their own understanding of the issue and then pass their own judgment. An appeal to authority and popular opinion, allows Brook to share the same underlying world view as his readers and supports the claim that a decision has not yet been made by authorities whether it is fair to continue to let Semenya run. As Semenya’s current position has been evaluated by athletes and authority, the readers can understand that Brook has implicitly demonstrated the representational effects of a controversy in sport that has spanned over many years.


Author Tony Harper from FoxSports provides more perspective into the debate over whether it is fair to let Caster Semenya run as a hyperandrogenic athlete. Harper’s article appears to be firstly centered around the fact that Semenya has a right to run and is in favour of her. This is exhibited in the large amount of quotes firstly in favour of Semenya before presenting the other side of the argument. This positions the audience to firstly take on the stance that Semenya is within her rights to run as she is, before allowing them to comprehend whether this ethical debate should result in her being barred from competition. Again the author offers alternate viewpoints to enable the audience to be educated in either side of the debate before coming to their own conclusions. Harper firstly appeals to emotion through an almost sarcastic tone in, “Semenya, the so called intersex athlete, has divided the sport’s fans between those who feel her biological make-up is merely the luck of the draw and those who feel her participation is unfair on her rivals,” by which the words “so called” and “those who feel” deliberately evoke an emotive response in the reader.

Furthermore, the word choice of ’those who feel’ is a direct appeal to the audiences’ emotion as they are subsequently called upon to reflect on their own emotions on the matter. Harper appeals to popular opinion through the inclusion of an athlete’s viewpoint; “It’s a hard situation … This goes beyond sport to the human being,” John Steffensen, an Australian Olympian born in South Africa, told Fox Sports Australia.” As the issue about Semenya translates into the sporting world, as well as being an ethical and moral debate, readers can respect John Steffensen’s opinion as a fellow athlete who has also competed at the Olympic Games. Authors who write about controversy in sport often provide a recommendation claim to appeal to their audience. In this instance, Harper has justified his principle claim that Semenya’s participation is a difficult argument to make conclusions on which creates a relationship between the reader and author. Although Harper does not mount his own argument into his article, he employs quotes that evaluate Semenya in order position his audience to respect the different opinions presented. Through inclusion of quotes from the public consensus against that of a respected athlete, Harper promotes the generalized view that after careful consideration of facts and ethics, one is able to form their own opinion of Caster Semenya.


Authors employ rhetorical questions to intentionally allow the readers to question their own viewpoints as well as the matter at hand that they are reading. Harper additionally appeals to consequence and emotion through the use of rhetorical question in, “This so clear cut and so decisive, she can win the Olympic Games and not run really well,” Bideau told the Herald Sun. “It’s ridiculous but that’s the rules, what can you do about it? It’s not her fault, it’s just unfortunate.” This quote is from Nic Bideau, a coach of Australia’s Rio track team and thus the readers are able to respect the opinion of a figure of importance in the sporting world. Rhetorical question is a device that directly appeals to the audience’s own emotions and displays that although the article endeavors to be fair by providing both sides of the argument, it plays on the readers’ emotions and piques their interest. By including quotes from authority, Harper is able to appeal to his readers and further their understanding of the legal matter on Semenya; “The IAAF are researching into this area to see if there are rules that will help women’s sport to remain fair, but hugely complicated and difficult subject, as you all know,” said Dr Richard Budgett.” By including quotes from figures of authority, including scientists and people responsible in research areas, authors are able to invoke attitudinal assessment by positioning the audience to believe facts coming from authority with relation to this ethical debate. Although as Harper writes for FoxSports and the articles from this media outlet are often very emotive and play on the readers’ feelings, he attempts to provide a balanced argument by offering facts and quotes from authoritative figures. Authors will employ an appeal to facts and authority, especially in the instance of an emotive piece, to further the belief of their readership and to sway them to the underlying world views that they or the publication hold. Harper has positioned his audience in a way that they are able to respect both stances on the Semenya debate as opinions from athletes and coaches with a stake in the issue are explicitly demonstrated, as well as the authority presenting their stance on the issue with careful consideration.


Through a journalistic analysis of two contrasting articles that delve into the controversy of Caster Semenya, it is apparent that although there is no general consensus or conclusion whether she should be allowed to compete, the sporting bodies have not been able to make a reasoned decision yet regarding hyperandrogenic women and thus journalists should tread lightly on this sensitive issue. The authors have also positioned their readers to enable an attitudinal assessment of the situation, which in turn results in the public feeling that they should treat the subject with sensitivity. Each article reaches the conclusion that how to treat Semenya is still up in the air, however the readers are invited to make their own assessment on the matter after being presented quotes and facts from both sides of the argument. Both authors position their audience to understand how this is an ethical debate over fairness of sport and the rights of an individual. Through the many appeals that the authors make to their readers, the authors interpret their audience as sports fans with a capacity for empathy and understanding over the controversy that surrounds Caster Semenya. Thus the conclusions that the audience are able to make are reliant upon personal opinion and how each article has affected the readers’ emotions and overall assessment of Semenya. As the readers are encouraged to come to an educated and informed opinion by the end of each article, this provides engagement as well as the influence each author has. Through a comparison of the linguistic devices of appeals to emotion, comparison, authority and facts, it becomes apparent that each text supports that there are varying opinions surrounding Semenya and her competing at the Rio Olympics. Although there is no general consensus held by both authority and sporting fans alike as to how to treat the ethical debate surrounding Semenya, the readers are invited to make their own opinions on the matter. Brook’s and Harper’s articles are both argumentative in their own right and both attempt to provide a balanced argument for their readers, despite the nuanced play on emotions that occurs. As her involvement in the games is imminent and her progression into the final of the women’s 800m remains, the debate will continue likely into the next Olympics in four years’ time. Being for or against Semenya is a real ethical debate that goes beyond the sporting world as it plays into the world view that everyone should be treated equally.





Brook, B (2016) ‘South African athlete Caster Semenya reportedly under armed guard at Rio Olympics following safety fears’,


Harper, T (2016) ‘Caster Semenya 800m Rio Olympics: Most sensitive race of Games as South African star runs’ FoxSports Australia









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:


A feminist gaze on Abortion—Equal rights or Patriarchy?

In light of the 2016 United States presidential election debate, which saw Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump go head-to-head on the ethics of abortion, the age-old topic of controversy was brought to the forefront of public discussion and media coverage once again.

Maureen Shaw’s ‘Becoming a Mother Made Me Even More Pro-Choice’ (2016), Erika Bachiochi’s ‘I’m a feminist and I’m against abortion’ (2015), and ‘Why Women have a right to sex-selective abortion’ (2013) by Sarah Ditum, are a combination of three opinion or ‘views’ journalism articles that reflect the various conflicting perceptions and opinions that have formed around the heavily-debated topic.

A comparative analysis of the choice of words, world views, persuasive tactics and labels used by the authors lend profound insight into how the media landscape and the wider public portray and perceive abortion, and its implications on gender equality and women’s rights.

According to media spokesman, John Buckley, “[Abortion] is the first issue since the Vietnam War in which some journalists’ instinctive ‘allegiance to their own social class and generational world view is stronger than their professional allegiance to objectivity.’” (Shaw, 1990, n.p.)

Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that abortion has now become a catch-22 conundrum for women and feminists supporting equal rights; for without the right to choose, women would be forced to into the role of mothers, but if given the right to choose, they would be forced to bear the responsibility of raising a child in a hostile society that provides no support for mothers, or take on their ‘duty’ to rid of the pregnancy by undergoing invasive procedures.

Maureen Shaw utilises the very title of her article, ‘Becoming a mother made me even more pro-choice’, to subvert reader expectations by assuming the ‘untenable’ position as both a mother and an advocate for women’s reproductive rights. Shaw derives this from the warrant, or assumption she expects her readers to possess, that all mothers value children and therefore cannot empathise with other women who choose to abort their own. This attitude is suggested as being typical or expected, and Shaw manipulates this to fashion a shock tactic in order to demand readers’ attention and elucidate why such an unconventional positioning as both a mother and pro-choice advocate is logical.

Indeed, Shaw exposes this unstated warrant and challenges it by claiming that mothers, who perhaps know best just how demanding a feat motherhood is—“from pregnancy, labor, and delivery to meeting the endless demands of other human beings”—should support other women who respect the institution of parenthood enough to choose abortion over inadequately and insufficiently raising a child. Shaw claims that women who choose abortion instead of raising a child she is not equipped nor ready to raise is indicative of their maturity and sense of responsibility, effectively characterising and portraying these women in a positive light. Shaw founds this argument on the underlying world view that all children deserve parents who are willing to be responsible and accountable. Also underpinning this world view is the warrant that women are the primary caregivers for children.

Shaw continues her argument by highlighting the social stigma and prejudice associated with abortions and women who choose to exercise their reproductive rights. Evaluative language is used to condemn anti-choice activists and politicians who look down on vulnerable women from their “high horse”, and perpetuate the misconception that women who undergo abortions are usually “thoughtless teenager[s] or a young woman who uses abortion as birth control.” Shaw characterises these politicians as bigoted, patronising and unsympathetic, and claims that this is reflected in their lobbies for “anti-choice legislation requiring waiting periods, counselling, and forced ultrasounds for people seeking abortions”, which suggest that women are incompetent to make informed and conscious decisions about their own bodies and lives without the interference of others.

By characterising anti-choice activists and politicians as powerful and ruthless in contrast to women deliberating abortion, who are portrayed as vulnerable and oppressed by social dogmas, Shaw appeals to her audiences’ sense of emotion and justice, persuading them to support the individuals who recognise their own inadequacy versus self-righteous “right-wingers” who oppose abortion simply out of religious sensibilities or inaccurate stereotypes.

The opposing argument—that abortions are undertaken predominantly by immature, young girls who abuse it as a form of late contraception—is challenged and refuted by factual argumentation. The statistical evidence provided by Shaw demonstrate that the majority of abortions—61%—are “obtained by women with at least one child, and the majority of these women (60%) are in their 20s.” This factual evidence serves to reinforce Shaw’s claim that the opposition’s “supposition is laden with baseless judgements.”

Another important element to note is Shaw’s methodical use of the terms ‘Pro-choice’ and ‘Anti-choice’, which serves to dichotomise the two opposing sides. The word ‘choice’ is laden with emotional and empowering implications; thus by attaching either ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ to the term, Shaw subtly casts one side of the argument with positive connotations, and the other with negative.

In a similar fashion, Erika Bachiochi uses the tactic of establishing herself as being of two ‘contrasting’ positions—a feminist and pro-life advocate—, but to assert an opposing viewpoint to Shaw’s. By pitting against each other two social standpoints or perspectives, which audiences would typically see in antithetical association, Bachiochi attempts to convince readers how an individual can be against abortion without renouncing their feminist values and principles. This also suggests that the author is addressing an audience comprised of feminists who Shaw believes would initially be in opposition to her stance on the matter.

By first asserting that she was once an abortion rights supporter, Bachiochi positions herself as being sympathetic to and understanding of why women choose to undergo abortions. She goes on to list a myriad of plausible and logical reasons why a woman may choose to terminate their pregnancy and how such reasons may lead one to associate childbearing capacity with the inequalities and injustices imposed upon women. “Abortion would seem to provide women with a practical response to the disproportionate responsibility sexual intercourse can lay at our feet.”

In this, we see how Bachiochi attempts to challenge the warrant implicitly conveyed in Shaw’s article, that childbearing is solely a job for women. Bachiochi appeals to her readers’ sense of justice by claiming that abortion purports gender inequality, and imposes women with an unfair responsibility to “care for—or dispense with—the life of a nascent, developing human being.” She further bolsters this evaluative argument by suggesting that abortion-rights advocates assert the notion that women must adopt the characteristics of men and be more like them—not pregnant—in order to be equal with them socially, economically, professionally; women cannot possibly give birth to and raise a child and simultaneously perform the same duties and responsibilities as men. This would suggest a direct contradiction to feminist ideals, which stipulate that women can perform the same roles just as adequately, and perhaps even more sufficiently, than men if given the opportunity, in addition to all the extra biological functions given to women.

As such, Bachiochi fashions a sarcastic criticism of modern society, which she claims has gone “beyond sex in the brave new world of ‘gender fluidity’”, where traditional constructs of male and female have collapsed. Bachiochi employs evaluative language to accentuate the innate differences between males and females, and prompt readers to celebrate the idiosyncratic qualities and attributes given solely to women. For instance, Bachiochi utilises emotive and evocative words, such as ‘courageous’, ‘sacrificially’, ‘wondrous’ to characterise women and mothers as altruistic, heroic and adept. This contrasts to the author’s description of men as “wombless, unencumbered”, and the underlying warrant expressed in the line, “it is time to demand more, far more of men”, which suggests that men are passive and lazy; merely taking advantage of social codes that exempt them from responsibility.

Also in contrast to Shaw’s article, readers can see how Bachiochi avoids the term ‘anti’ in her article; instead, employing the label ‘pro-life’ to categorise those who oppose abortions. According to Clair Pomeroy (2008, n.p.), “’Pro-life’ is widely perceived as an emotionally loaded term that stacks the deck by implicitly suggesting the other side is ‘anti-life’—or ‘pro-death’”. This reveals how the media landscape employs and utilises such terms to implicitly assert differing viewpoints.

Furthermore, the author continues to plays on her readers’ sense of equality and justice, particularly in regards to gender, by making an appeal to analogy and comparing the rights a woman has over her body and unborn foetus to property rights husbands once has over their wives. This also serves to suggest that abortion-rights advocates try to justify abortion by objectifying the foetus, which Bochiochi opposes through her use of emotive language such as, ‘nascent’, ‘miracle’, and ‘developing unborn child’ instead of the scientific term ‘foetus’, to humanise it and suggest that it is alive and growing.

Like Shaw’s article, Bachiochi also shares the underlying world view that women and motherhood should be respected and commended, as demonstrated in her call for a “culture where women’s childbearing capacity is recognised not as an impediment to our social status and certainly not as the be-all and end-all of women’s capacities.” However, this evaluative presumption assumes that all women who choose to undergo abortions do so to achieve equality with men, overlooking the multitude of other plausible reasons for why a woman may terminate her pregnancy.

Sarah Ditum takes an even more controversial approach on the already-sensitive topic of abortion by addressing the practice of sex-selective abortions. Published in The Guardian to a British audience, Ditum makes explicit the primary claim of her article: that while sex-selective abortion is not a justified means for abortion in an ‘equal’ society like the UK, it is reasonable—even rational—in societies where having a girl will be of detriment to the health and wellbeing of both the mother and child.

The entire article is centred around refuting and negating a specific opposing argument that pro-choice activists and feminists are often challenged with: “’You love women so much you want them to be in charge of what grows inside their bodies, but what about the women who are aborted?’”

Ditum positions herself as pro-choice through explicit evaluative language, such as “rank brutality”, to describe the act of forcing a woman to carry and give birth to a child “against her will” in a society where technology makes the termination of pregnancy possible, safe and legal. The author uses the term, “against her will” instead of ‘does not want’ or ‘wants to terminate’ to suggest that there are many plausible reasons a woman may want to abort a child without reducing it to simply something she does not want; the term ‘want’ gives the impression that the mother is driven by selfish motivations and has only her own interests at heart. This also reveals that like Shaw and Bachiochi, Ditum shares the underlying world view that women deserve rights to their own bodies. But instead of using this world view to assert merely a pro-choice or pro-life stance, Ditum goes one step further and contends that we must give women the right and power to have absolute free agency over their bodies, including the right to sex selective abortion.

Ditum makes an appeal to authority by citing the 1967 Abortion Act, which states that abortion is legal when two doctors agree “the continuation of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, to the physical or mental health of the woman or any existing children of her family.” She also makes an appeal to analogy by questioning, “What’s the difference with sex selection?” after listing a range of ‘acceptable’ reasons why a woman may choose to terminate her pregnancy. These include rape and incest to hampering the woman’s education, which are, much like sex selection, not explicitly laid out in the 1967 Abortion Act, but are “nevertheless accepted as legitimate causes for termination.” However, it is evident Ditum is drawing a false analogy here as the legislation she refers to is only applicable in the UK, where, as the author stated before, giving birth to a specific gender does not threaten the security or health of either mother or child.

It appears Ditum recognises and acknowledges the redundancy of this argument as she claims, “this whole scandal is based on a totally fictive set-up.” Instead, she asserts in an either-or argument that all women, regardless of the culture or society in which they reside, be given the choice to exercise their reproductive rights; if women in developing countries have rights to sex-selective abortion, so should everyone else. Much like Bahchiochi, Ditum adopts a feminist standpoint, and wields the underlying world view that women deserve rights “to decide what happens within the bounds of their own bodies.” This is also reflected in Ditum’s characterisation of women as “conscious and legally competent”, in contrast to the author’s references to unborn children in the objective term, ‘it’. This is also evident in Shaw’s article, which scarcely mentions the foetus, instead, referring to it as simply an “unwanted pregnancy.” Moreover, while Bachiochi’s article does employ emotive labels, such as ‘unborn child’ to describe the foetus, the focus remains centred solely on women and their reproductive rights, eschewing from moralising readers on how the ‘baby’ will be affected by an abortion.

A close critical examination and comparative analysis of these three articles thus reveals that the media has generally accepted the notion that foetuses are not actually ‘alive’, but considered ‘potential persons’—and therefore, have no constitutional rights. This is reflected in the language founds in the articles, which are geared towards convincing readers to embrace and protect the rights of women. The foetus and men become a part of the background as the authors assert this argument.

This trend found in the media landscape also stems from the authors’ shared world view, which reflects those held by the general public, that women deserve rights to their own bodies and equality to men. However, while Bachiochi contends that this can be achieved by providing social, government and employment support to women who choose to have children, Shaw and Ditum argue that equality can only be attained by giving women the choice to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, just how men can walk away from their childbearing responsibilities without consequence.

Accordingly, abortion in the media is often portrayed as an issue of gender equality that, regardless of which stance an individual takes, is symptomatic of the patriarchal social norms and sexist ideologies that continue to exist in the Twenty-First Century.

By April Kwon.



Bachiochi, E. (2015), ‘I’m a feminist and I’m against abortion’, CNN, accessed 23 Oct 2016.



Ditum, S. (2013), ‘Why women have a right to sex-selective abortion’, The Guardian, accessed 23 Oct 2016.



Pomeroy, C. (2008), ‘Abortion and women’s rights: unification of pro-life and pro-choice through feminism’, Serendip Studio, weblog, viewed 24th Oct 2016



Shaw, D. (1990), ‘Abortion bias seeps into news’, Los Angeles Times, accessed 22nd Oct 2016



Shaw, H. (2016), ‘Becoming a mother made me even more pro-choice’, Rewire, accessed 22nd Oct 2016.




Our obsession with uncovering the identity of Melania Trump

Melania Trump is best known as the Slovenian supermodel wife of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and for famously plagiarising Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech to the Democratic National Convention.  Yet Melania is considered by the media as somewhat of an enigmatic figure, choosing to stay at home rather than parade the campaign trail with her husband. Despite her mystique and preference for privacy, she has been swept up in the chaos sparked by many of her husband’s scandalous feuds and controversial remarks. Most recently, defending her husband against leaked footage from 2005 where he boasted that because of his celebrity status he could grope and kiss women without their consent.  Melania’s response to the vulgar discussion that saw many Republicans denounce their support for Trump was that it was “boy talk” and that “he was … egged on to say dirty and bad stuff.” The fixation with exposing the clandestine personality of the potential First Lady, who is Spartan with her words and content with maintaining her private life in the Trump Tower, has led to the rising media storm that has encircled Melania since her husband rose in the polls.


In the quest to uncover the character of the next potential First Lady of the United States, various publications have strived to expose what they believe to be the real Melania Trump to their readership. One article by the The New Yorker in particular echoes the obsession with unearthing Melania’s past and familiarising the world with her personality, asking in its headline, ‘Who Is Melania Trump?’.  The article is written by Lauren Collins and presents a fantastical narrative of a young, beautiful, promising Slovenian woman in desperate pursuit of the “American dream”, suggesting that Donald Trump was her ticket out of communist Yugoslavia.  The article draws on the mysteriousness of Melania, lamenting, “Her story is so vacuous as to almost require the imagination to spackle its holes.” With not much information to go on, the author constructs a narrative arch of Melania as a formidable and aspirational woman, longing to exchange her humble town life for a more glamorous existence. The author achieves this by juxtaposing Melania’s modest beginnings to the excessive wealth that awaited her as the wife of a multi-millionaire businessman.


“She was born in Novo Mesto, in what was then Yugoslavia, in 1970, and raised in a Communist apartment block in Sevnica, a pretty riverside town where a smuggled Coke was a major treat.

Now Melania, who once lived a quiet life in the Zeckendorf Towers, on Union Square, lives a quiet life in the Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue. House rules require that guests don surgical booties, so as not to scuff the marble floors.”


The extravagance of Melania’s life in New York is harped on throughout the article to present a sort of ‘rags to riches’ narrative. This story angle serves as an explanation of Melania’s motives for remaining in a marriage with a man 24 years her senior, who is loathed passionately by many worldwide. Yet the author does not call for her audience to pity Melania, and crafts a characterisation of her that is cold, robotic and callous, asserting that she is both “un-American” and has “no affinity for her homeland”. The article presents a character assassination of Melania where she is described as “aspirational, playing ice queen rather than soccer mom”, arguing “If we take the office of First Lady seriously, then it’s worth trying to figure out who Melania is as a person, versus a product to be placed.”


The author uses “we” to unite herself with her readership, which she assumes is the American people. She writes in a persuasive tone, attempting to convince the reader that it is critical that the nation unearth Melania’s personality, the claim being that Melania is rebuffing her responsibility as a prospective First Lady to gain conference with the nation. The author’s negative construction of Melania as a reluctant participant in the campaign and as a sheer “product” lacking personality, is solidified through the comparisons to other First Ladies such as Michelle Obama.


“We marvelled at Michelle’s arms, because it seemed that they could be ours, if only we were willing to work as hard as she did, but you don’t hear anyone (other than her husband) talking about Melania’s legs.”


The author presents a superficial comparison of Melania to Michelle that is purely based upon physicality. She argues that Melania does not measure up to the same standard as First Lady, Michelle Obama, by contrasting their physical attributes. However, the author then contradicts her own emphasis on Melania’s physical attributes by criticising Trump for reducing Melania to a sexual object in their “inegalitarian” marriage.


“Her husband seems to define her largely by her physical advantages, which confer upon him an aura of sexual potency. ‘Where’s my supermodel?’ he yelled from the stage, at a town-hall meeting at the University of Pennsylvania, in 1999, shortly after ushering Melania onto the Howard Stern show to discuss the couple’s ‘incredible sex’ and her lack of cellulite.”


As the quote above demonstrates, the author thrusts doubt upon Melania’s decorum as a prospective First Lady by including quotes by Donald Trump where he overtly sexualises her physical advantages.  This serves as a warning to readers that Melania is incapable to fill the role of First Lady as her depth of character is ignored by her husband and is deemed unimportant, locked away from the public eye. The author also compares Melania to Donald Trump in order to turn the reader against Melania and paint a negative image of her character. This suggests that the article is intended for those who are unsupportive of Trump becoming president. The author attempts to lessen Melania’s likeability by portraying her relationship with her husband, arguing that Donald Trump’s crude and aggressive rhetoric has rubbed off on Melania. The underlying warrant cautions the reader that just as Donald is not fit to be president, Melania is not fit to fulfil the role as First Lady of the United States.


Yet Melania appears to have internalised many aspects of Donald’s culture: his ahistoricism; his unblinking gall; his false dichotomies between murderous scofflaws and deserving citizens, women who ask for nothing and nagging wives. Like Donald, Melania doesn’t drink… She has taken on her husband’s signature pout, in a connubial version of people who grow to look like their dogs.”


These comparisons are largely speculative and are derived from the author’s observations of the couple, rather than on a factual basis. The suggestion that the author concedes to is that Melania, the model, has been branded by her husband and mirrors many of his unflattering qualities. This is a contrast to the independent woman portrayed earlier in the piece who pursued her own interests, compared to the meagre characterisation placed upon the married Melania. Seemingly, the author conveys the opinion that Melania has shed her past self to fit into Donald’s American world and become his wife.


This article from The New Yorker leans on the assumption that a reader is bewildered by Melania Trump and is interested in her true identity. It relies mainly on evaluational claims rather than facts to create a compelling narrative about Melania that is derived from the author’s interpretations of her upbringing, marriage and career. The author is consistent in her traditional and patriotic standpoint that deems the role of the First Lady as quintessential to the US presidency, presenting a negative characterisation of Melania where she is painted as “cold” and “un-American”.


The New York Post presents a slightly different take on Melania, where she is offered to readers in an erotic light, as the so-called sex symbol of the Republican campaign. The hyper-sexualisation that is glued to Melania’s image perpetrates a sense of shame about her past dealings as a naked model, distracting from her personality as readers are directed to focus merely on her physicality. The New York Post released a naked photo of Melania as a 25-year-old model on the cover of their July issue, sparking controversy and a barrage of criticism. The provocative headline read ‘Ogle Office’ and the caption, “You’ve never seen a potential First Lady like this!” Many questioned the relevance of this image and argued that it was placed out of context, considering the image is over 20 years old and its original intention was to be sold to a European audience who may hold sexuality in a vastly different light to Americans. The appeal to comparison with previous First Ladies in the caption reveals the underlying worldview of the publisher who suggests that it is taboo and unprofessional for a potential First Lady to have posed naked in this manner.


The Ogle Office front page by The New York Post, 2016

The spread included other shots of Melania in erotic, canted positions which the magazine censored, indicating that the average reader would find the images too graphic and confronting for everyday consumption. The images were accompanied by an interview with the photographer who commented “I am completely against this world, and I don’t understand why the girls f- -k with old guys to afford a Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermès bags…The fashion industry has become the biggest pimp ever.”


An image of Melania Trump (then Melania Knass) taken from The New York Post spread


Another image in The New York Post spread from the 1996 photo shoot


The final image from The New York Post spread which was originally shot for Max Magazine

These quotes were presented wildly out of context, the photographer describing his general experiences with the fashion industry, rather than targeting Melania directly who he said in a separate article was “a true professional… always smiling, with a very pleasant personality and was polite and very well educated”. The fact that the publisher chose this particular quote to complement the seductive images of Melania misconstrued the photographer’s statement, suggesting that Melania “pimped” herself out by marrying Donald Trump. The piece renders her in a negative light, as a trophy wife and “gold digger” who has sold herself out for fame and money. There is no factual basis for this claim and it is merely evaluative, where a nude image from 20 years earlier is depicted as a palpable signal that Melania is morally inept. This reveals the publication’s worldview, where the naked female body is seen as scandalous and uncouth, especially considering the prestigious and morally-sound position that the First Lady is idyllically expected to represent. The images are arranged and captioned in a manner where audience shock and discomfort is not just anticipated, it is a blatant expectation, as they ‘ogle’ the image which carries flagrant overtones of slut-shaming and hyper-sexualisation.


The media places a great emphasis on Melania’s history as an immigrant and foreigner, casting doubt on whether she is an American citizen and how she obtained the highly sought after H1B visa. An article by St. Louis Dispatch titled ‘Melania Trump’s ‘Extraordinary Ability’ To Gain Special Immigration Status’ accused her of being unfairly granted a visa because of her relationship with Donald Trump, a well-connected businessman.


The modelling profession will never require bending immigration rules so that our country doesn’t get out-modelled by foreign competitors.

The only reason this needs clarification is because Melania Trump, who could become America’s next first lady, somehow finagled a coveted H1B visa in 2000 (the same year she began appearing in public with Donald Trump) under the guise of being a model.”


This accusation interrogates the premise that Melania Trump was awarded an immigration visa based on her “extraordinary ability” as a model. The article’s warrant is that an “underfed” model shouldn’t be awarded a visa before an engineer, scientist or someone in the high-tech field. It also doubts the talents of Melania and implies that she could not have achieved the successful visa outcome without someone working behind-the-scenes to assist her. However, these claims are not supported by evidence and are somewhat impetuous, consisting of sheer speculation. The claims present unsupported conclusions, as article has gaps in its information, refraining from defining what constitutes as “extraordinary ability”, how Melania failed to qualify for this specification and finally, the number of visa applications granted that year and how many were denied.


The article reads as if it was written as a smear on Donald Trump, who is notorious for his anti-immigration policies, arguing that his views are hypocritical as his wife is an immigrant herself.


“Trump lives and breathes by a double standard on immigration in which it’s perfectly fine to bend the rules when it suits his needs. When it’s other people’s lives, families and staffs on the verge of being split up, he shrugs his shoulders and pronounces, ‘Get ‘em outta here’.”


In this quote Melania is an invisible actor with the sole focus resting on Trump who is assumed guilty and the sole individual responsible for “bending immigration rules”. This article is clearly positioned towards a reader that possesses anti-Trump sentiments and who does not require great convincing in order to label Trump a hypocrite. Melania’s foreign background is manipulated to attack Trump as she is portrayed as a passive and compliant partner who is an extension of Trump rather than a separate individual who holds her own vices and sense of accountability.


A copious portion of what has been written about Melania Trump paints her in a negative light. She is viewed, first and foremost, as Donald Trump’s wife, a Slovenian supermodel with an elusive past who has climbed her way to recognition. The quest to piece together Melania’s character has been sparked by her reluctance to appear on the campaign trail and her preference for privacy. These three articles speculated on various aspects of Melania, constructing narratives about her identity drawing on her foreignness, marriage and mere observations of her character. Melania has been hyper-sexualised, framed as un-American and presented as a trophy wife who opportunistically married Donald Trump to gain American citizenship and a percentage of his hefty fortune. Often she is compared to previous First Ladies to argue that her lack of modesty is not compatible with the role of the First Lady, who is viewed as an icon of American femininity and class.  Yet the mystery remains unsolved, as little is known about Melania, the articles showboating the manic pursuit to uncover the personality of the potential First Lady of the United States. The questions remains, who is the real Melania Trump? Is she the immigrant who fraudulently was awarded a visa, an erogenous model, or a young woman from a modest town who stopped at nothing to achieve her American dream, or a combination of the three? An astute reader may be sceptical as to whether the articles are disingenuous in their attempt to unearth the real Melania Trump. In fact the bigger question remains unanswered as to whether these articles borrow from a political agenda, acting to injure the presidential campaign of her husband, the infamous Donald Trump.

Eden Gillespie, MDIA2002, F12A, z5059936

For: The Columbia Review

Words: 2495

MDIA2002 Views Journalism Article

Under the leadership of King Jong-Un, North Korea (DPRK) is one of the world’s most private and isolated countries. With no independent media, civil rights, religion or individual freedom, mass media has branded North Korea as one of the worst countries in the world. For the last ten years the media has reported on murder, enslavement, torture, secret prison camps, mind control and forced labour with little evidence from anyone within in the country. The representation of North Korea in the media is symbiotic with nuclear warfare and human rights abuses. Western Media has perpetuated an image of North Korea as being an unpredictable and volatile threat – a country that we should be afraid of.


Two pieces that reflect the growing ambivalence of the West towards North Korea are; Simon Tisdall’s article, “Kim Jong-un: the tyrant’s son who wants to be loved and feared” for and Suki Kim’s, “Is it Time to Intervene in North Korea?” written for Through analysis and comparison of the two pieces it seems clear that the authors are writing to an audience who would have some form of prior understanding of the political issues surrounding North Korea as well as appealing to the assumption that their audiences are empathic.


Whilst the opinions in both articles aren’t entirely contrasting they both offer up two different perspectives on the modern day crisis’ surrounding North Korea. Suki Kim’s article focuses on the West’s reaction to appeasing DPRK and the potential pro’s and cons of Western intervention. Kim questions the success of the UN’s current sanctions and negation tactics with the DPRK and asks readers to reflect on whether the West’s views on refugees has something to do with why countries haven’t intervened to help the North Korean people.


In a differing approach Simon Tisdall takes a more subjective approach in analysing the personality of DPRK’s infamous leader: “Kim Jong-Un” and how his actions reflect a lonely boy desperate for the approval of his father. Tisdall takes a more psychological approach to understanding what triggers the actions and behaviours of one of the most secretive countries in the world.


Simon Tisdall’s piece, featured in May of this year on, functions under the principle claim that Kim Jung-Un is motivated by his insecurities and that this motivation is a key factor in North Korea’s oppressive regime. Tisdall’s expresses this explicitly throughout the article:


“Without slipping into psychological analysis, it seems plain that Kim’s need to establish himself as a worthy leader… Having been handed power unexpectedly early, Kim may have felt conflicting emotions: one, the urge to be as good or better than his unyielding taskmaster dad; the other, a crippling fear of failure, of being inadequate to the task. For five years Kim has been trying to prove himself.”


“More likely, the four-to-five day meeting will primarily be about cementing his unchallenged leadership role, and entrenching the personality cult in which he has cloaked himself like some kind of paunchy, latterday Superman.”


“Insecure he may be, and vicious to boot, but it would be foolish to under-estimate Kim… This Kim wants recognition, vindication and authentication. He wants to be loved and feared, all at the same time.


Continuously throughout the piece, Tisdall refers back to this almost Freudian psychology of the extreme influence of paternal figures on sons. In doing this Tisdall presents a rounded image of Kim Jung-Un so that the audience can experience a greater level of understanding. Tisdall’s warrant which can be explicated through the lead, is that, a leader of a country shouldn’t allow their personal nature to effect the way they run a country and when they do this, it becomes detrimental. By explicitly stating his warrant Tisdall make’s clear his values and worldview and in effect, leaves himself more open to debate with the reader, who may not share his views.


Tisdall’s piece can be classed as a factual argument due to its structure. You could almost make the claim that it falls into the category of journalistic expose due to Tisdall’s attempt to illuminate the corruptness of Kim. In terms of language devices, Tisdall employs a plethora of emotive terms in order to incite a reaction from his audience. The piece employs descriptive and evocative language like, “chilling” “obliterated” “sociopathic” and “homicidal” are all used to re-inforce the author’s portrayal of Kim Jung-Un and to position the reader so that they understand the depth to which he sees issue in Kim as a leader.


Tisdall supports his principle claim with a secondary argument centred around how Kim has alienated previous allies and this alienation highlights the North Korean leader’s “ruthlessness” and “disregard for peace.”


“He has dragged inter-Korean relations down to a new low, set Japan racing to build missile defences, and alienated the Russian government, historically North Korea’s oldest friend.”


In making this argument, Tisdall is intending to highlight to his audience the severity of Kim Jung-Un’s nature and the intrinsic effect this will have on the North Korean people. It also serves a purpose as a subliminal warning to the West, particularly the United States government, that more effort needs to be made in negotiating and disabling any nuclear weaponry North Korea has at its disposal.


The second article, was written by investigative journalist Suki Kim, who went undercover as a university professor in 2013 to teach 200 boys from North Korea’s top and most important families. Suki Kim, is of South Korean descent and has family from North Korea, because of this her work is imbued with personal context and passion. Her article’s principle claim is that Western involvement and peace keeping strategies are the only remaining options in trying to resolve the human rights deprivations in North Korea, she explicitly states this claim throughout her piece:


“Then, the only remaining method of containment is an intervention, which would finally put an end to the world’s most brutal regime and its 70-year entrapment of its citizens.”


“Why does no one ever talk about the obvious solution of an intervention? What is the real reason for pretending that anything else will work to denuclearize North Korea when it is clear that North Korea has chosen nuclearizing as the only chance of its survival?”


Her article can be classed as recommendatory with Kim urging her readers to get behind Western intervention through her particular course of action. The warrant or underlying judgment of her article is that international diplomacy shouldn’t rely on methods of the past when attempting to help the people of North Korea. Her main way of conveying her point comes through critiquing these passed attempts at negotiation and peace talks with North Korea.

“If negotiations and sanctions do not work, then all we can do is to continue paying North Korea off with an aid package to keep it contained until the next threat, which might or might not be the real hydrogen bomb.”


Continuing on after this statement, Kim hypothesises the threat of DPRK forging an alliance with the Middle East and ISIS, in doing this she plays into public discourse to perpetuate a culture of fear. By doing this Kim hopes to affect the way people, as democratic agents, interact with and view the DPRK.


An important element to Kim’s article is her appeals to emotion in order to support her primary claim of insisting that intervention is the only remaining solution in disabling “the most oppressive regime in the world”


“One thing I have found remarkable following this topic from both inside and outside North Korea, is how rotten that government is at its core, and how infectious that rottenness can be.”


Suki Kim’s writing is plain and blunt as to highlight the oppressive nature of North Korea’s leadership powers and to appeal to the emotions of her readers. Through the use of visual language like “rotten” and “infectious” Kim constructs a horrifying image in order to garner further sympathy.


Both articles rely on an appeal to consequences, encouraging their audiences to reflect on what they believe is the good and right action to take in regards to international diplomacy. Their motivations for this appeal stem from slightly different aspects. Suki Kim, appeals to her audiences instinctive understanding of the truth being good and lies being bad.


“What distinguishes North Korea from any other nation in the world is its isolation, and the degree to which that isolation is built on lies. The foundational myth of the great leader is a lie, and the system largely functions on maintaining that lie by shielding it with a maze of further lies.”


She subliminally directs her audience to have a political conscience all while promoting her solution of Western intervention. She is careful not to directly link her statements on the necessity of intervention with statements about the conditions of living in DPRK as to allow the reader to connect the ideas and come to a conclusion on their own.


Tisdall is slightly more forthright in his appeal to human nature and our assertions of what is right and wrong, throughout the article, Tisdall details instances when Kim Jung-Un asserted his power by murdering anyone he believed went against the ideology of his leadership.


“Hyon Yong-chol, head of North Korea’s military, was supposedly cut to bits by blasts from an anti-aircraft gun last year. The reason, again according to hearsay, was that he dozed off during one of Kim’s speeches”


Tisdall is appealing to both his audience’s ethics and rationality by assuming that they would be horrified by this action and therefore make a value judgment on the sensibility of having Kim Jung as North Korea’s leader. Through his use of explicit examples Tisdall is utilising argument based techniques in order to convince his readers on his view that Kim’s specific personality traits and insecurities are having a direct and intrinsic effect on the people of North Korea.


At the end of her article, Suki Kim makes a final appeal to comparison in order to not only strengthen her argument but to postulate a correlation between the victims of North Korea and the victims of gun violence in North America.


“At the start of the New Year, President Obama shed tears for American children who have died from gun violence. But children are children everywhere.”


This is a clever tactic in the sense that “,” the online outlet she is writing for is an American start up with a fairly large North American readership. Gun violence in America is incredibly topical at the moment and it makes sense for Suki to attempt to appeal to her readership through the death of young American children – in doing this she gains automatic sympathy and encourages her readers to see all children as equals.


They difference in Kim and Tindall’s articles is not found in their political agenda or alignment but instead in their motivation for writing their pieces. Whilst Tisdall’s intention is to illuminate the machinations of Kim Jung-Un and illicit sympathy for the conditions inflicted on North Korea’s citizens he doesn’t propose any type of solution or plan to rectify Kim’s leadership principles. Suki Kim on the other hand writes with the specific intention of promoting what she believes to be the best and only solution the human rights violations occurring. She filters images and depictions of what’s going on but solely with the purpose to bolster her case and garner support.


Both articles detail the human rights injustices and international issues surrounding North Korea, however they both do it through different forms of persuasion. Whilst Simon Tisdall, uncovers information about the effects of leadership on people, Suki Kim takes a more Western perspective. In doing this it would seem Tisdall’s article is more persuasive in achieving both of their overall goal of gaining sympathy from Western readers on an international human rights issue. Tisdall’s use of direct examples paints a better picture that would better engage audiences.





Kim, S. (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 20th August – 1st Sep. 2016].


Tisdall, S. (2016). The Observer profile / Kim Jong-un: The tyrant’s son who wants to be loved and feared. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 20th August – 1 Sep. 2016].


MDIA2002, Eden Gillespie, z5059936, F12A, Media Views Article 1

MDIA2002 Views Journalism Article 1

Eden Gillespie, z5059936, F12A
Words: 1933

Is the proposed marriage plebiscite the best way to settle the issue of same-sex unions?

The legal recognition of same-sex marriage has been widely debated in Australia, remaining on the public agenda for decades. As of 2016, countries like Spain, New Zealand, the United States, Britain and Canada have confirmed their legal recognition for same-sex unions. With the plebiscite under heavy scrutiny by some Greens and Liberal MPs, the issue is on the forefront of the government’s radar. ‘Malcolm Turnbull, please don’t break the nation’s heart over marriage equality’ by Kristina Keneally and ‘Only a vote can end same-sex marriage debate’ by Andrew Bolt, are two articles with significantly contrasting standpoints on the marriage plebiscite. Both articles are ‘recommendatory’ as their main purpose is to propose solutions to settle the issue of same-sex marriage. Despite their conflicting views, both pieces assume a like-minded reader and rely on assumptions rather than quantitative evidence, using emotionally-laden language and inserting their personal opinions into their articles to cement their arguments.

Kristina Keneally’s piece from The Guardian is an example of the emerging criticisms of the marriage plebiscite. Her stance on the marriage equality plebiscite is clearly articulated in her article and appeals to the negative consequences of a nation-wide vote. She argues that marriage equality will not be achieved through a plebiscite and predicts Malcolm Turnbull will ‘break the nation’s heart’ if it occurs. This claim is a generalisation which relies on the emotional assumption that all Australians share the same worldview on same-sex marriage and will be devastated if it is not legalised. The warrant in this claim is that Turnbull is directly responsible for the outcome of the plebiscite and that the nation is emotionally invested in the topic of same-sex marriage. This heading sets a precedent which continues throughout the article, where the author relies on her own assessments rather than factual evidence to support her claims. It also emphasises the author’s ‘recommendatory’ approach as she deters the reader from supporting the plebiscite in favour of a parliamentary vote. Thus, an analysis of her article reveals an example of  media coverage concerning the plebiscite that is devoted to championing the alternatives to a nation-wide poll, her solution being a parliamentary vote.

“Technically speaking, the fastest way to guarantee a vote in the parliament on gay marriage is if the prime minister brought forward a bill on the subject and let his party room have a free vote. No plebiscite is needed to give the parliament permission to vote. “

Keneally’s article assumes a progressive reader that is in support of same-sex marriage. This is evidenced by the article’s headline, which acts as a plea directed towards the prime minister. Although, the author expects her reader to be in support of same-sex marriage, she does not assume that they follow her opposition of the plebiscite. Thus, her article is written persuasively, aiming to convince the reader of the negative consequences which the author associates with the plebiscite. Instead of providing factual analysis to advance her position, she attempts to convince the reader by reflecting on how her opinion has changed as a result of the plebiscite not reaching fruition. Thus, she acknowledges her imagined reader who may be unsure about the plebiscite and its consequences.

“I have previously supported a plebiscite… If we’d had a marriage equality plebiscite within a year of Tony Abbot’s original proposal, I think there would have been less angst and fear”.

Further, Keneally relies on a historical narrative, making empty and unproven predictions about the aftermath of a marriage plebiscite vote. She draws on the Australian public’s history of rejecting bills, comparing John Howard’s referendum for a republic to the marriage plebiscite. This is a tactic employed by the author to draw comparisons between the two politicians to suggest that the plebiscite is ill-fated based on the premise that the Australian public have a history of denying parliamentary change through affirmative voting. The underlying warrant is that the marriage equality plebiscite proposed for 2017 is comparable to the referendum for constitutional recognition in 1999. However, according to the Australian Electoral Commission, referendums require a ‘double majority’ and alter the Constitution, whereas a plebiscite is “an issue put to the vote which does not affect the Constitution”.

Throughout the article the author also contrasts the political tactics of John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull to reach the conclusion that Turnbull is misguided in championing for a marriage equality plebiscite.

“Here’s the difference: Howard was not a republican. It’s hard to judge him too harshly… A politician using political tactics to defeat his political opponents is not new.

But Turnbull tells us he is in favour of marriage equality. Yet now that he is the prime minister he’s using Howard’s tactics with little thought for the consequences.”

She implies that Turnbull is careless and inconsistent with his politics, warning that this carelessness will result in the plebiscite being rejected by the Australian public. To emphasise her opinion of Turnbull’s sloppiness she uses emotive language that presents Turnbull as ignorant and incompetent. Some of these terms include; “little thought”, “all over the shop”, “sanguine” and labelling him a “Pollyanna”.  This character attack on Turnbull is another way that the author reveals her own biases, rather than criticising the plebiscite itself, which was proposed initially by Tony Abbott in 2015.

Towards the end of her article, Keneally cites some key influencers in the queer community who are against the plebiscite including Michael Kirby, Dr Kerry Phelps and Patrick McGorry who acknowledge the mental ramifications on the queer community considering the debate surrounding the plebiscite. This is one of the key points of the article where the author appeals to authority instead of relying on her own assumptions concerning the best method for solving the issue of same-sex marriage. It relies on the worldview that the insights of significant members of the queer community should be heard when discussing the same-sex marriage plebiscite. This represents the author’s final plea for Turnbull to reconsider the plebiscite, considering that significant members of the queer community are up in arms about the vote. Thus, an analysis of the article consolidates that it is opinion-based rather than fact. However, the article acts to present a ‘recommendatory’ opposition to the plebiscite.

Andrew Bolt’s article from The Daily Telegraph encourages a public vote on same-sex marriage via the marriage plebiscite. However, his article ultimately rests on a traditional worldview that marriage is between a man and a woman and that same-sex marriage is “changing the nature of marriage”. His article relies on the assumption that changing the nature of marriage requires more consideration than economic reform or laws and indicates that same-sex marriage is considered outside the norm of what the author considers to be a standard marriage.

“Let’s vote and not just because changing the nature of marriage is not the same as changing some tax; it is far bigger in consequence, and irreversible.”

While this sentence does not state outright that Bolt is against same-sex marriage, it is encumbered with negative undertones that suggest same-sex marriage needs strong consideration. His claim that changing the nature of marriage to include same-sex unions “is far bigger in consequence”, also demonstrates a belief that marriage equality will impact upon more of the population than just those entering into same-sex unions. Further, the term “irreversible” is a negatively-loaded word, traditionally associated with something that has dire consequences. The Oxford Dictionary definition of irreversible is “Not able to be undone or altered: she suffered irreversible damage to her health”.  Thus, considering that the article has been formulated on a conservative worldview, the author’s campaign for a nation-wide vote on same-sex marriage is unsurprising.

Bolt’s and Keneally’s articles both present directly opposing insights into the same-sex marriage plebiscite. In spite of this, they are similar as they overtly state their opinions and assume a like-minded reader. The two articles are both ‘recommendatory’ as they suggest methods of reaching a conclusion on same-sex marriage. This is particularly evident when analysing the headline of Bolt’s article: ‘Only a vote can end same-sex marriage debate’. This claim relies on the worldview that the plebiscite is associated with the universal ‘rightness’ of the democratic process and the people’s right to vote. Bolt’s direct, conversational tone and repetition conveys strong evidence of his assumption of a like-minded reader. This is consolidated in his final sentence ‘So let’s vote’ where he reiterates his view, favouring his own recommendations instead of quantitative research from experts.

Like Keneally’s article, which mainly consists of historical comparisons and character assumptions, a large majority of Bolt’s article is based on opinion rather than argumentation. For example, Bolt claims that traditionalists have been “stitched up” by the media without utilising anecdotes or factual evidence, forcing the reader to rely solely on the author’s evaluations and personal experiences.

“But right now these traditionalists — scores of whom have written to me or called — believe they are just being stitched up by the political and media class.

They believe (correctly) the media is campaigning for same-sex marriage, while meanwhile discrediting the Catholic Church and vilifying its priests.”

This statement is completely unsupported and would been more factual or reasonable a claim if the author presented evidence that the Catholic Church have been represented in a bad light. However, without this evidence, this claim seems to meander from the issue of legalising same-sex marriage and thus, it serves as an off-topic distraction from the plebiscite.

Bolt’s article is rife with opinion rather than supported argumentation that is founded on a factual basis. He utilises first-person to show his support for the church and traditionalists. Thus, indicating that the article is littered with the author’s personal insights and bias. His support of the Catholic Church highlights the article’s divisiveness and the resounding sense of ‘us and them’ rhetoric throughout.

“In fact, same-sex marriage supporters already claim they have overwhelming public support, so why would they be scared of a popular vote?

Rather, they have very much to gain.

They say they want public acceptance of same-sex relationships, so what better way to get it than by a loud “yes” by the people?

…so is a political deal really how we want to settle this critical issue?”

Both Keneally and Bolt use emotionally-laden language to strengthen their arguments.  Bolt emotively implies that any alternative to the same-sex marriage plebiscite will be unfair to the Australian people. Some of these words include “dodgy deal”, sell out” and asserts “nothing less will prove to opponents they really have been beaten fair and square.”  The articles venture into strongly opinionated piece that consist of little argumentation and rely on assumptions and unsupported generalisations. Thus, the articles function as a type of loudspeaker, giving volume to the voices of prominent journalists rather than creating well-researched and argumentative pieces that consider expert opinions and factual information.

An analysis of both articles demonstrates an assumed readership whose views align with the opinions of the authors. The articles are significantly bare in terms of argumentation, relying on assumptions and projecting their own opinions into their articles. Both articles assume their readers follow their worldview, with Bolt imagining a conservative readership that may be sceptical of same-sex marriage and Keneally, imagining a progressive reader who supports marriage equality. A deeper study of the articles surrounding the marriage plebiscite debate would result in a stronger analysis of the issue. However, they reveal a significant amount about the marriage plebiscite and the disarray of the current political climate. Thus, both articles utilise recommendatory approaches, attempting to sway public opinion. This reveals that marriage equality is at the forefront of the government’s agenda with the plebiscite under heavy scrutiny.

Domestic violence in the media: The sting of stigma

When news broke in May this year that Amber heard had filed for divorce against husband Johnny Depp, it appeared to be yet another typical celebrity break-up. However, the situation quickly turned ugly when just two days later Heard requested a restraining order against Depp due to domestic violence claims. Instantly the media was overwhelmed with angered fans. The world went up in arms taking sides, creating hashtags and making false assumptions.

Initially, a large portion of the world defended the Pirates of the Caribbean actor and slammed Heard as a gold-digging, manipulative liar and deeming all of her domestic violence claims as false. Being such a contentious issue, however, as time moved forward and the accusations started adding up we began to see a shift in response as people started coming to Heard’s defense. Two opinion pieces, Amber Heard ‘cried and screamed as she refused to testify against estranged husband Johnny Depp’ published August 10th 2016 by Kala Paul-Worika on the and the other ‘We’re getting it all wrong with Amber Heard’ published June 5th 2016 by Katy Hall on both play crucial roles in displaying the media’s reaction to the accusations at hand. Contrasting both articles exposes the raw reality of the stigma that surrounds domestic violence and why it is so hard for women everywhere to come forward when they are suffering.

Comparing the two pieces to one another we can immediately see the difference between the worldviews of the people writing them, and also of their intended reader. The contrast in the two pieces comes not only from their varied response to the controversial issue but also in the way they make clear their principle argument and their style of writing in doing this. Worika’s piece is more so a timeline of events so could be seen as argumentative, however the sources of this timeline are ‘on the grapevine’, meaning there is not 100 percent accuracy in them. She discretely uses this timeline to paint a particular image of Heard to her readers. On the contrary, Hall’s piece is quite opinionated. She uses appeal to ethics and emotion to provoke the reader’s response. The main arguments of the two pieces differ completely. One is pro Johnny – and even anti Amber, whilst the other is pro Amber and females suffering from domestic violence in general. It is crucial, however, when looking at the Worika piece to also view the comment section as evidence of the articles main purpose.

In Amber Heard ‘cried and screamed as she refused to testify against estranged husband Johnny Depp’ by Worika, the central principle claim is that Amber Heard, during her court trial, refused to go under oath and testify, pushing the idea that she must have been making false accusations against Johnny Depp. However, this is done discretely, with the use of a more factual style of writing, although, she only reports negatively on Heard and positively on Depp. This can be seen when she states

Amber Heard refused to go under oath and testify at her deposition on Saturday, according to new reports. Johnny Depp’s lawyers are claiming the 30-year-old actress cried and screamed and never once entered the deposition room.”

Meanwhile Depp’s team has submitted a list of nearly two dozen names of witnesses who can support his claim that Amber is lying about the domestic abuse.”

Through these claims alone you can see she is setting the viewer up to have specific thoughts on the issue without pushing her personal opinion directly through the use of ‘I’. She writes in assuming that people reading the Dailymail will have a particular worldview, and are unlikely to look for further evidence or sources of information and will take ‘according too’ as a genuine form of factual evidence. She is not explicit in her warrant but she uses specific pieces of information to paint one image of Heard and another of Depp, leaving out details that could be crucial in revealing a different truth. This is one of the major difference of the two pieces, this appeals to authority, whereas Hall’s piece appeals more so to emotion.

We can immediately see her appeal to authority when she states, “Legal documents filed by Laura Wasser and seen by TMZ reveal that the Rum Diary star repeatedly refused to submit for questioning”. Here it is obvious that because a respectable lawyer and TMZ have revealed this, it must be true. It can also be viewed, as an appeal to “facts”, as Worika makes the assumption that the documents provided by TMZ are indeed factual. This use of appeal to authority and facts is the central nature of the piece and how Worika makes it clear she is against Ambers claims.

For this piece in particular it is crucial to look to the comment section of the article to establish Worika’s central principle claim. Where she has left out emotive language and purely framed the court case in a particular light, we can see the individual’s in the comment section taking responsibility for the emotive language. Comments such as,

“She is TOAST! Wasser has the goods on her and that is why she does NOT want to give a Depo…….Word up to Amber….SETTLE and move on. The gravy train left the station. What Depp ought to do is ask for annulment.. then he would not have to give Amber a dime!”

 Clearly makes the point that the knowledge they have on this issue comes straight from this one article. Other comments that reference,

“Amber Heard sounds like a nightmare.”

“The girl obviously has serious mental issues!”

“What was he thinking marrying that one? You can see her greed from space.”

All emote the central argument Worika is trying to express. Her use of ‘factual evidence’ and the structure of her piece, where she intensifies any claims against Heard and belittles any claims for her, forces the reader to feel a certain way about Heard without hearing any other sides, and this can be seen as successful via the comment section. The success of her argument will only arise in readers who come from a low educational background and do not find it crucial to use more than one individual source as factual evidence, thus she is assuming her audience will fit this category.

Worika’s piece, whilst using pieces of evidence from different sources, is structured in a way that is not particularly fair, as she only really tells one side of the story, whilst belittling the other. A lot of her arguments are questionable and weak, however she has managed to successfully paint the image of Heard in which she intended. The technique of laying out the ‘facts’ as a timeline as such allows her audience to feel as though she is only stating things as they happened. She makes a clear assumption that her audience will share her views that a rich, reputable man is incapable of abusing a woman, and that she must be doing it out of greed.

In our second piece ‘We’re getting it all wrong with Amber Heard’ by Katy Hall we can explicitly see her principle claim immediately referencing, “As a society, we’ve responded pretty terribly to Amber Heard’s accusations that Johnny Depp was abusive towards her.” This article follows an eruption of abuse hurled at Heard after she had first made the accusations against Depp.

When classifying Hall’s primary claims, we could say she uses both causal and recommending claims. Her arguments are causal as she makes it clear that the way the public have responded to this issue has intensified the stigma that surrounds DV that so many women want to avoid, thus potentially decreasing the number of women who speak up about their circumstances. It could also be considered a recommendation as she puts forward her arguments as to why we as a society need to change the way we respond to such claims, even if it is in the public eye. We can see these two things to be true when she says “What matters is that when the story broke, our message to Heard was clear: Your word isn’t true, your proof isn’t proof enough, we’d rather not know about it, we don’t believe you.”

Her main underlying warrant throughout the piece is that the public’s reaction towards Heard’s abuse claims is the reason for the stigma attached to domestic violence and it is a true example of why the majority women who suffer DV do not come forward. We can see this is the case when she states, “Because of both Heard and Depp’s status, that message has now gone around the world and reached countless victims of abuse. And what does matter is what they’re hearing in all of this.”

Hall’s piece makes the main appeal to both emotion and also consequences. This is the case due to her emotive language such as “Abuse is a disgusting, horrific and uncomfortable truth of our society” and also “I don’t want to see another woman abused. I don’t want to see another woman killed by a current or former partner.” Here she is pleading to her audience to understand the severity of abuse, and how a situation like this can make it so much worse. She also makes the appeal to emotions in stating that women are dying at the hands of domestic violence. There is evidence to suggest Hall’s worldview and belief set being that she finds it crucial to diminish the stigma attached to domestic violence and that circumstances where celebrities are put in the spotlight for being victims is a sure fire way to push the stigma further. She references “The worst crime she’s committed, it seems, is that she’s dared to accuse a respected public figure of committing a crime.” In which she is making the point that Heard speaking up about her DV case should be treated more sensitively, rather than as though she has done something wrong.

She makes the assumption throughout her piece that her readers are well informed, and that they share the same worldview as her. These worldviews include wanting to diminish all forms of domestic violence and destroying the stigma that is attached to it. We can see this through words such as “epidemic” and “desperate ‘breaking point.’” She further tries to persuade an audience who potentially do not share her worldview referencing,

“We know that when exposed, many people around the abuser will be completely shocked and say that this behaviour seems totally out of character. 

We know that victims on the other hand are good at hiding injuries and explaining away suspicious situations.

We know that they are unlikely to share what’s happening to them with others until a desperate “breaking point” is reached where they begin to truly fear for their safety.”

Here Hall makes factual claims from real studies of a generic sequence of events that often takes place in domestic violence cases. These all link particularly closely to the Depp and Heard case. People continue to deny Heard’s claims due to their pure shock that Depp could be capable of such things.

Hall’s piece is persuasively effective as she truly monopolises her use of emotional appeal to her audience. It is made hard to reject her plea for the public to stop dismissing severe cases of domestic violence when it has the potential to end a person’s life. Through references “Just because Johnny Depp is a much loved actor doesn’t mean he can’t be abusive.” And also “I want society to believe women who are brave enough to talk about abuse and offer them meaningful help.” We can quite clearly see Hall’s desperation for the wider society to take responsibility when women do come forward. Throughout her entire piece, however, she never makes a blanket statement that Johnny is wrong and amber is right, which we can see here, “Just because a court of law hasn’t found Depp guilty – and again, he may not be – doesn’t mean that we should take cover under the shade of the “we don’t know what really happened” tree and hope to avoid the harsh sunlight of reality.” She is purely making the point of how necessary it is to not sweep accusations like this under the rug purely because they are “out of character” or hard for us to fathom.

The entirety of Hall’s piece is made not to discriminate against one party in this case, nor to put another above the other, however, it is purely to make the reader conscious of the consequences of denying a female when she steps forward with such accusations. Instead of claiming she is crazy, we should listen to what she is saying and handle it with extreme caution which we can gage through quote “Mostly though, I want to live in a society that acknowledges this atrocity and does something to stop it from happening.” Hall’s central argument is about standing against domestic violence, rather than believing one celebrity over the other because of “how much money he is worth versus how much she is not. Nor whether this was a one-off situation or consistent abuse.” All of these aspects group together to show that Hall’s piece is well founded and educated and extremely fair. She does not belittle one over the other, rather state pure facts about DV and expresses how she feels such a high profile case of DV can lead to detrimental circumstances for our wider society.

Through analysis of these pieces we can see both authors had a clear opinion to get across to their audience, however reaching this goal was done quite diversely between the two. Whilst both having effective means of expressing their argument, both had differing views completely. The article by Kala Paul-Worika attempted to persuade her audience into seeing Amber Heard as a crazy, manipulative woman who was after Johnny Depp’s money. However, she did so in a discrete manner, which made the article appear to be a simple timeline of events, but in doing this she pushed one side harder than the other. Her use of appeal to ‘facts’ and authority was what mad her piece successful to the readership she had intended it for, which we clearly saw through the example of comments that were left on the piece. However, her piece for someone who potentially has different worldviews on domestic violence may have a diverse effect. Katy Hall’s piece, however, managed to create a fair and reasonable argument with the use of appeal to facts, whilst also using appeal to emotions and consequences to truly emote the sincerity of her argument. This made her article successful for her intended readership as she was assuming they would be compassionate and against domestic violence, as she was. The two pieces clearly point out the diversity of perception on such an issue from varying readerships.

By: Emily Schepis