Appeal to justice

Also referred to as an appeal to a sense of rights. Please note this technique is sometimes used interchangeably with an appeal to fairness.


“The Government is violently oppressing these people from expressing their opinions.”

Definition and effect on reader

An appeal to justice or sense of rights is an attempt to rally the reader’s feelings about what rights should be available to the individual, and condemn any perceived attacks on these freedoms. In a country like Australia, where our rights are enshrined in law, most readers have an emotional attachment to what we view as our rights as human beings. In the above example, the writer is suggesting that a group’s right to free speech is being violated, therefore evoking a response of anger or indignation.

Consider the freedoms and protections from the justice system that Australians consider to be their rights. It is natural to assume that if someone committed a crime against these rights, the police would arrest them and they would be charged. Equally, we expect not to be persecuted for the things we say, the political party we vote for or the legal activities we engage in. If a writer suggests that we, or another group, may have these rights violated, it naturally evokes an emotional response and a desire to change the situation. In this way, an appeal to sense of rights can evoke indignation and anger in the reader in order to motivate them against perceived injustices being committed.

Equally, writers can rally readers against outcomes that they see as unjust. Consider some of the writing that appears after a well-covered criminal trial concludes. If a perpetrator who is thought to be guilty in the court of public opinion is found innocent in the court of law, sometimes writers can appeal to the reader’s sense of justice to evoke outrage that the justice system is failing to provide for the people.