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Inciting racial hatred

category indonesia / philippines / australia | migration / racism | other libertarian press author Wednesday December 21, 2005 09:57author by unknown Report this post to the editors

Will the media pay for the damage?

From melbourne Indymedia Wednesday December 14, 2005

And they call it the «voice of the people». It’s not. It’s the voice of a very small number of blinkered fools who make enough noise to drown out the commonsense majority. In the wake of the Cronulla riots, the cry has gone out: Why did mainscream media incite racial hatred? - And fingers have pointed at talkback radio and some of its more visible hosts, such as Alan Jones on 2GB, The Daily Telegraph and the Australian Newspaper.

While every pro-government media outlet has feigned outrage over Sunday’s events the Lebanese bashing continues unabated because of revenge attacks.

But the initial violence was primed by the media giants themselves for the Howard government’s continued and unabated scapegoating of the Muslim community.

The culmination of a week-long campaign of provocation and incitement didn’t help, particularly by the Murdoch press and «shock-jock» talkback radio. Immediately following last week’s alleged assault on the lifeguard, right-wing media outlets launched a blatantly racist campaign against immigrant Muslim youth.

Please forward your complaints to 2GB, and Murdoch press about covering your costs, as they were to blame for the initial spark that incited the violence that inflamed racial hatred in the community.

Some radio practitioners are fond of calling talkback shows «dial-in democracy» - as if the ability of people to go live to air to have their say, no matter how wrong in fact, misguided in intent or inflammatory in effect, somehow brings a benefit to society.

Talkback radio can inform and entertain. But it is also the haunt of a core of uneducated, bigoted, aged insomniacs carefully orchestrated by clever and manipulative hosts, universally right-wing, who know exactly which button to push to yield extreme reactions - all in the name of «radio media».

And they call it the «voice of the people». It’s not. It’s the voice of a very small number of blinkered fools who make enough noise to drown out the commonsense majority. In the wake of the Cronulla riots, the cry has gone out: Why did mainscream media incite racial hatred? - And fingers have pointed at talkback radio and some of its more visible hosts, such as Alan Jones on 2GB, The Daily Telegraph and the Australian Newspaper.

The pro-hoWARd government media primed the Cronulla disgrace and help ignite tensions, fanning the flames.

Media outlets that primed the violence should be damned for winding up rising tensions, and publicising them. The issue exploded on radio last Monday week, a day after the alleged bashing of surf lifesavers at Cronulla that was the catalyst for the events that followed.

Jones has been accused by his longstanding critic, Sydney Morning Herald writer David Marr, of grabbing the issue and agreeing with callers who preached hatred and violence towards so-called «Lebs» from the western suburbs who were trying to take over the «Aussie» beach at Cronulla.

Jones did not stand up to nor dissociate himself from the views of his extreme callers. Several times he repeated the text message that was a call for surfsiders to defend «their» territory.

The question is whether talkback hosts should self-censor, knowing how inflammatory is the material they put to air. It is also a question for newspaper editors: Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph and The Australian published pictures and texts of SMS messages that alerted hundreds of thousands of readers to the time and place of the confrontation.

A sample of the headlines in the Sydney tabloid the Daily Telegraph, gives a flavour of the campaign. On December 6:

«Fight for Cronulla: we want our beach back». On December 7:

«Gangs turn Cronulla beach into war zone». The gangs referred to were not, of course, local surf gangs and racist groups, but rather «thugs of Middle Eastern descent». Last Friday the Telegraph’s front page screamed, «NOT ON OUR BEACH: Cronulla police vow to defend Australian way». Throughout the week, letters to the editor on the issue—a number of which were critical of the newspaper’s coverage—were published under the subheadings, «Let’s make it safe to go back to the water» and «Let’s unite to fight this shame on the beaches».

Last Friday the Telegraph also dedicated a large part of its lead op-ed piece to a sympathetic interview with Koby Abberton, one of the leaders of the Bra Boys gang. Abberton, the newspaper explained, spoke with reporters, «to offer a view on why his home beach—Maroubra—is one of the few in Sydney not to have been swamped by Middle Eastern gangs in recent years».

Explicitly racist commentary was by no means the sole reserve of the tabloid press. The major op-ed column by Paul Sheehan published «liberal» Sydney Morning Herald attacked Middle Eastern immigrant youth. After first downplaying Sunday’s violence as merely «the actions of a minority of idiots», Sheehan attacked the «alien subculture» of Lebanese gangs.

«The cops hate and fear the swarming packs of Lebanese who respond when some of their numbers are confronted, mobilising quickly via mobile phones and showing open contempt for Australian law,» he writes. «All this is the real world, as distinct from the world preferred by ideological academics who talk about ‘moral panic’ and the oppression of Muslims. They will see only Australian racism as the problem.»

Democracy is best served by the public being informed, but that right to know has to be tempered with a law-abiding perspective that condemns all vigilante action or violence.

Both the Liberals and the Laborites are committed to implementing deeply unpopular right-wing economic reforms—exacerbating social inequality, eliminating job security, and driving down wages and living conditions. The two parties seek to deflect opposition to their agenda by fomenting racial divisions in order to channel the insecurity and disaffection felt by millions of ordinary people into deeply reactionary channels. At the most fundamental level, that is what caused Sunday’s events.

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