Conflicting Perspectives Essay
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Manipulation is present in any representation, as a result of an authors inherent bias towards their own perspective. This bias causes an author to attempt to influence the perspective a reader will take on the text, whether this influence is intentional or otherwise. Geoffrey Robertson is one such author, whos collection of essays titled The Justice Game contains a number of techniques in order to sway readers to support his perspective on the legal cases which he writes about. Paul Waterhouse’s current affairs story Would you let your kids do this? Is a television segment on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and its rising popularity as a sport, in which Waterhouse’s bias against the sport is notably evident.
The Trials of Oz is an essay in The Justice Game in which Robertson recounts his perspective on a court trial in which the editors of Oz Magazine are defending a series of obscenity charges. Robertson’s bias towards the editors is evident through his representation of judge Michael Argyle as harsh and unreasonable, and prosecutor Brian Leary as a condescending bully. One of the first things readers are told about Judge Argyle is his well known catch-cry “We just don’t do this sort of thing in Birmingham!” This immediately conveys to readers that Argyle tends to base his judgements on his own moral perspectives, rather than legal jurisdiction. This unfair impression is built upon when Robertson describes the lengthy prison terms that Argyle is known for sentencing thieves and vandals to.
Argyle’s harsh nature is confirmed when he quotes the Bible “Those who lead children astray deserve to be drowned in the depths of the sea, with millstones around their necks.” Robertson’s bias towards the Oz editors is also evident through his portrayal of Brian Leary as a condescending bully. In the opening paragraph of the essay, a lengthy quote from Leary refers to the Oz editors as “part of an alternate society… one that relies on the state to provide, and by the state, I mean you (The jury) and I.”
While Leary’s words have the effect of grouping him together with the jury against the editors, they imply his nature as a bully to readers. This implication is built upon during his cross examination of the editors, where his sarcasm and patronising tone “you call this youthful genius?” make him appear smug and condescending. Finally his nature as a bully is confirmed when he loses his temper, shouting and cursing “BY MAKING RUPERT BEAR F***?” The skewed representation of these key characters in the essay are key examples of Robertson’s manipulation of readers perspectives in The Justice Game.
Another example of Robertson’s manipulation of readers perspectives in seen in his essay Michael X on Death Row, where Robertson is acting for Michael X, who is facing the death penalty on a murder charge. Robertson’s perspective is made clear when he says “What death house lawyers are opposed to is punishment by way of human sacrifice”, showing that while he does not believe Michael X should not be punished, it should not be with death. The use of an extended metaphor of a zoo is used to convey the dehumanising nature of death row, when Robertson says “I was taken to see (Michael) in the same way one might be taken to see the prized specimen in a monkey house”, and continues “(the inmates) were shouting and screeching… fingers scratching through the wires.”
This dehumanisation is later conveyed through gruesome, graphic descriptions of the hanging process “His eyes pop out of his head, his tongue swells and protrudes from his mouth, and the rope many times takes large portions of skin and flesh from the side of the face.” The expression of the twisted and cruel nature of the officials involved is the other way Robertson conveys his bias against the death penalty, when he describes the process of the death warrants being read to the prisoners “The guard takes a small sadistic pleasure in stopping briefly in front of a man, and torturing him for a moment merely my clearing his throat.” A macabre description of the meal that the officials have in the presence of the new corpse is another technique Robertson uses to display the cruelty of the officials involved in the process of execution.
Paul Waterhouse’s current affairs article Would you let your kids do this is a television story in which Waterhouse’s bias against the UFC can be clearly seen through his ongoing representation of the sport and those involved in it as brutal and thuggish. He also makes mention of the earnings of UFC boss and his collection of luxury cars, which makes no real contribution to the story from portraying the boss as materialistic. Throughout the story, a series of interviews, camera techniques and extended metaphors continue to build the barbarous perception that Waterhouse clearly has of the UFC. Fighter Rhonda Rousy says “I was willing to kill them, and I was willing to die, in order to win”, and later continues “That’s why we have governing bodies to make it as safe as possible, because its the referee’s job to save the other girl from me.”
Reporter Denham Hitchcock makes reference to an extended metaphor of Roman gladiators, referring to the UFC ring as “the modern Colosseum”, and describing a small children’s tournament “dads fine tuning their fighters, mums, cheering their kids on as they beat each other up in a cage.” The savage impression is built upon through film techniques such as freeze-frames of blood splatters from punches, and a fighter’s shin snapping in two. A shot of a young fighter being kicked in the head is replayed three times in rapid succession in order to emphasise the violence of the sport, and his pain is highlighted through the removal of diagetic sound while the boy chokes back tears in an attempt to continue the fight.
The inherent bias that all authors possess leads to a natural manipulation in any representation they produce. This is expressed through the authors attempt to persuade their audience to align with the particular perspective of the author. Both Geoffrey Robertson and Paul Waterhouse exhibit this manipulation, through their respective texts The Justice Game and Would you let your kids do this?