Language Analysis – Alcohol and drug culture in Australia Following the death of Leigh Clark after the circumstances which occurred after he was supplied alcohol by another parent, writer Bruce Guthrie argues in an opinion piece that the law requiring parental approval to supply alcohol could save lives. The second article which supports Guthrie’s contention is a cartoon by Mark Knight, published in the Herald Sun which highlights the public outcry against the call to legalise drugs, where both articles are in favour of changing the law to alter the alcohol and drug culture in Australia.
Guthrie employs an anecdote to begin the article which evokes compassion in the reader who responds emotionally to the plight of Bruce Clark who lost his son to an alcohol related event after a party where he was supplied drinks without his parent’s permission. The phrase ‘fatal binge drinking episode’ effectively positions the reader to respond negatively to the event as the terms have negative associations and are intended to evoke a strong emotional response in the reader.
Guthrie personalises the issue for the reader when he places the matter into his own experience, ‘as a parent of two teenagers, one of drinking age’ which persuades the reader as it suggests that the contention comes from a personal involvement in the issue, rather than merely from readings. The successful rebuttal of the shadow minister for consumer protection further persuades the reader, “Nothing could be simpler”, as it is stated in an assertive fashion and appears conclusive.
The image which accompanies the article effectively supports the contention by providing visuals that reinforce the notion of irresponsibility, which Guthrie has concluded in the article. The idea is shown graphically in the image through the positioning of the parents lying drunk underneath a table and their child who uses a parent for leverage to reach a bottle of alcohol on the table. The focus of the image is on the bottle, and the child is shown straining to get alcohol, which evokes concern in the reader.
The confronting nature of the image is intended to raise alarm and effectively supports the point of view that Guthrie supplies in the article. The alarmist tone of the image predisposes the reader to accept Guthrie’s contention, as the reader’s attention is likely to be drawn to the image before they read Guthrie’s article. On the other hand, Knight’s cartoon expresses concern about the drug culture that is the subject of much media debate. The caption which accompanies the cartoon, ‘The public outcry against the call to legalise drugs’ effectively conveys Knight’s contention that legislation should be introduced to legalise drugs.
The term ‘outcry’ is effective as it suggests that the opposing point of view is based on emotion and hysteria. Knight employs the stereotype of the bikie gang to raise alarm in the reader who is likely to recall from the exaggerated figures in the foreground. The figures are intentionally confronting and the caption ‘Outlaw Motorcycle Gang’ on the back of the jacket of one figure encourages the reader to draw associations between the figures and the violence which has recently been widely reported in the media.
The figure holding the placard is distanced to suggest that his voice is marginalised. The reader is lead to infer that those who are in favour of legalising drugs are shouted down by the violent majority like the unattractive figures in the foreground of the cartoon. The fact that these figures are shady and obviously involved in illegal activities is intended to position the reader to side with the cartoonist and therefore those who support legalisation.
The caption ‘A lot of people would be harmed by the look of things’ is sarcastic and is intended to lead the reader to the point of view through revealing that these shady characters would be the ultimate victims of legislation. The reader is likely to feel vindicated by the idea that such unseemly characters will be removed as a threat to common decency is drugs were legalised. Both articles effectively persuade the reader that there is some urgency in the issue of our increasing tendency to embrace a drug and alcohol culture.
Concluding with an assertion ‘maybe it will for someone else’, Guthrie leaves the reader feeling that there is a solution to the issue which needs to be embraced. Knight’s cartoon uses visual language to effectively raise alarm in the reader, leaving them feeling that, given the unsavoury nature of the characters who benefit from the drug trade, not enough is being done to convince the public of the urgent need to immediately legalise drugs, which he has so effectively positioned his readers to believe.
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