A possie in Aussie

March 31, 2010

Boat people scoop! They buy Home Brand Hawaiian pizza

The Brisbane Sunday Mail had a scoop last Sunday – and honoured it with a front page banner headline:  “THEY’RE HERE”: Refugee crisis hits home! As Christmas Island overflows boat people are enjoying shopping trips in Queensland.

International news agencies have not yet run with the story, but just when I was ready to write, the perfect words on the topic were published by Crikey: They’re here! The racist ham eating muslins have arrived!

Enjoy!!

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March 29, 2010

‘Kevin Rudd’s boats’ are looming, and yet some people just don’t care!

The asylum seeker rhetoric is coming out of the closet, after a remarkably slow awakening, and the Australian is paving the rhetorical road with new nasty labels and malevolent metaphors.

Asylum seekers are now ‘Kevin Rudd’s boatpeople’, and the boats are now also ‘Kevin Rudd’s’.  Not only are they flooding us, but now the Australian says, they are ‘looming’ Detainees flee Villawood as Kevin Rudd’s 100th boat looms

Single words and simple phrases are of such importance of in the asylum discourse that Niklaus Steiner used rhetoric as the empirical basis of his book about asylum in Europe, because of ‘the power of language’ to ‘set the political agenda’.

In contrast to our national paper, Al Jazeera has produced an excellent report on asylum in Australia, very balanced, acknowledging both the rights of asylum seekers and of the government to control entry.

There is a remarkable comment from Gordon Thomson, the Christmas Island Shire Council president.

“I think, complaining about a couple of thousand people coming to Australia by boat is just absurd”.

Clearly Gordon Thomson does not perceive the ‘looming threat’ nor is he concerned about being ‘flooded’ by the boat people, who now number about twice the population of his council area.

Here’s the video: enjoy. (And thanks to Jack Smit for the heads up!)

March 15, 2010

Outrage? I condemn it as cheap and nasty

Filed under: humor,humour,media,News — Nayano @ 7:09 am
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I have been having trouble keeping up the momentum for this blog lately. It would be a lot easier for me if I wasn’t trying so hard to present a balanced view (What do you mean, you hadn’t noticed!).

Yes, I try to avoid posting out of outrage.

Larvatus Prodeo made reference to the ubiquity of outrage and condemnation on the web when he recently opened a thread in this way:

“What’s been worthy of condemnation this week so far? Which evil political, cultural, social, musical, religious, and other phenomena need condemnation? (Or loud denunciation?)”

Larry Gellman at the Huffington Post wrote Feeding the Beast–Our Addiction to Anger and Fear:

“If you ask most people what they want the most for themselves–and certainly for their children–the vast majority would say “happiness.” So why do so many people spend every waking moment watching, listening to, and reading things that tell us up front are specifically designed to make us angry or afraid?

“…Millions of Americans have become truly addicted to anger and outrage. Fox News and talk radio figured it out first, and years ago became the crack pipe of the angry Right. They realized early on that there’s no money in real journalism any more but they could get rich feeding our insatiable need for heroes and villains.

Millions of Australians, too.

I am constantly amazed by the volume of posts put out by Andrew Bolt (subscribe to an Andrew Bolt RSS feed – it’s very instructive!)

It’s true that his posts are usually short, but there is another factor that makes posting more efficient for him – outrage. The ‘outrage’ theme is so ubiquitous at his blog that even when an action is stated its bare bones, it is implicit that it is being stated because it is OUTRAGEOUS.

It would be much easier to settle for outrage, instead of considered comments.

For a (unintentionally) cynical take on feeding the hungry ‘beast’ of the media, have a look at Feeding the media beast: an easy recipe for great publicity By Mark Mathis

January 20, 2010

Soon we will be fighting for immigrants – any immigrants

The new documentary movie The Demographic Winter (narrated in that ‘prophetic/lone voice of reason’, as one commenter says), explores the coming downfall of humanity caused because we are not reproducing sufficiently to  sustain our economies.

The movie implies that anyone who is not having children is not doing their duty.

Sociological Images, a great blog on Context.org, featured this movie, and pointed out how it is anti-gay, anti any sex outside marriage. It is, indeed, suspected of being propaganda for the Christian Right.

This is, however, a real and important issue. Its effects will overcome the barriers, both actual and ideological, against immigration of the marginalised from the Global South, because within the next few decades all economically-developed countries will be desperate for workers, from anywhere, of any colour and of any skill level. The recent sharp increases in skilled migration to Australia are just the beginning.

Sociological Images, and people who comment on the blog, usually give insightful reports, but this time paid little attention to what I see as the real issue here. Why assume that growth must continue?

Yes, the current wealthy lifestyles of the Global North are dependent on growth. And that means growth in numbers of people. But the world is already over-crowded and dying of the stress.

January 12, 2010

Indian students, Shapelle Corby: Having a go, Part 2

Are Indians hysterical?

India’s External Affairs Minister, S. M. Krishna, calls the murder of Nitin Garg a ‘heinous crime against humanity’.

Minister Krishna threatens: ‘if attacks of this nature continue, we will have to seriously think what course of action lies with [the] Government of India; India will not tolerate [it] any more.’

Australian police are depicted as members of the Ku Klux Klan in an inflammatory cartoon in an Indian newspaper.

Indians  reacting hysterically? What about the Corby case? Remember that hysteria? And she was a person correctly charged with importing drugs into Bali. The only interest the Corby case had for Indonesians was the Australian media’s coverage of it

Jeff Sparrow at the ABC Drum asks, ‘why were the Indonesians mystified and fascinated? Because the news coverage here was utterly and bizarrely – what’s the word we’re looking for? – hysterical.’ Home grown hysteria

Are Australian’s racist? How about this excerpt from a transcript of a show on Radio 2GB about the Corby case:

Presenter: The judges don’t even speak English, mate, they’re straight out of the trees if you excuse my expression.

Sarah Hanson-Young points out that in India, where both families and the media are hysterical, and the family is burying Nitin Garg, the Australian Government’s indignant dismissal of the suggestion that racism exists in Australia can only be seen as ignorant and insulting.

As Miranda Devine says, ‘If I were a mother in India, I wouldn’t want my son going to Melbourne to study’ Feelgood sops from politicians are no help in healing a mother’s heartbreak

OK. Now I am going to have a go at making sense out of this:

It is inflammatory and inaccurate to talk about ‘racism’ (see Why Indian students are attacked in Australia: Having a go, part 1.)

But there are racist behaviours in Australia.

The attacks on Indian students were most likely a result of opportunity plus a high crime situation, and it is likely that racist epithets were tossed in too.

The Indian media is over-reporting and over-reacting to the situation.

Public debate about whether Australia is racist misses the point: some areas of Melbourne and Sydney are unsafe for anyone

Australia could calm the hysteria by a passionate focus on making the streets safe

The reaction in India is to be expected, and Australians have proven themselves to be at least as hysterical about Australians overseas.

Public debate about whether Australia is racist incites racism in itself

As Paul Colgan says in the Punch, blaming racism for crime breeds fear and anger. And once that starts it can be difficult to control.

January 10, 2010

Why Indian students are attacked in Australia: Having a go, part 1.

The murder of Nitin Garg has inflamed the debate about violence against Indian students in Australia. Nitin was  stabbed to death last week just before starting work as night manager at a Hungry Jack’s store in West Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne. (see also Yet another attack on Indians in Australia)

Then Jaspreet Singh, 29, was attacked in Melbourne’s north-west yesterday. He had come home from a dinner party with his wife in the early hours of the morning and was parking his car when four men poured fluid over him and set him alight.

The Indian Ministry of External affairs is urging journalists to show the utmost restraint in covering the story. Slain Indian student’s body arrives home

The Ministry says just what I have been worrying about: that irresponsible reporting could aggravate the situation and have a bearing on bi-lateral relations.

It is important that we debate what has happened, so I would like to have a go at looking at the situation as dispassionately as possible. Please let me know how I do!

1. Every society that has a mixture of ethnicities has racist incidents, including Australia. Racist incidents are a form of bullying, and there always have been and always will be people who bully others.

2. Australia is not racist. As far as I can see there is no officially condoned discrimination on the grounds of race, there are laws against any types of discrimination, and governments make positive efforts to encourage multicultural harmony.

3. Australians are not racist. I don’t like to apply that term to anyone, because I don’t think it’s useful. It’s more useful; (and less inflammatory) to talk about racially motivated behaviour.

In addition, from all the studies I have read, there seems to be less of this behaviour in Australia than most other countries.

4. The majority of these crimes appear to have occurred in Melbourne, in suburbs in high crime areas where ‘drugs, mental illness and poverty’ are the issue, late at night. International students in general must work to support themselves, and take after-hours jobs, and travel alone. They live in high crime areas because housing is cheaper. The Indian students I have seen look anything but ‘tough’.

Darkness + high crime area+ single person alone+ ‘looks middle class, not tough’.

Add in the factor that guys who hang out in groups at night looking for targets are probably people who will ‘have a go’ about anything.

Result: opportunistic crime plus racial abuse, but not ‘racism’.

The greatest worry here are the crimes, and the answer is better policing, not debating whether the crimes were racist or not.

In Part 2. I will have a go at how we should be conducting this important debate.

November 10, 2009

Murdoch owns Newspoll. Newspoll can’t poll accurately. Any connection?

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people,media,refugee — Nayano @ 6:38 am
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Newspoll is ‘the nation’s most authoritative snapshot of the political landscape’– that’s what Tony Abbott says. ABC Radio Breakfast

If Newspoll says that Rudd is losing support because he is too soft on asylum seekers, it must be true. Right?

Last week’s Newspoll result showed a significant narrowing of Rudd’s lead over Turnbull, and a significant increase in angst about asylum seekers- seeming to indicate that Rudd was losing because he is too ‘soft’.

These numbers were soundly overturned by the subsequent numbers provided by Essential Research and Morgan polls, that showed little change in Rudd and Turnbull’s popularity or in voter intentions, and a more benign view of asylum seekers.

Most commentators seem to be coming to the same conclusion as Crikey’s bloggers, that the ‘most plausible conclusion from recent polling is that last week’s Newspoll is an outlier’. So You Think You Can Interpret Polls?

But, as Crikey also notes, a result of the Newspoll results is that there is now ‘common wisdom’ that Rudd has suffered because he has not been as tough as Howard towards asylum seekers.

It is interesting to note that Newspoll is owned by Murdoch. The same people who own my local Sunday paper; The Sunday Mail.

In last Sunday’s edition (the first edition after the Newspoll results) the Mail ran this headline on the front page:

‘Howard: Fact: We stopped the boats: exclusive interview’

And on page 2

‘Rudd policies ‘vain, arrogant’, accompanied by a photo of asylum seekers on the Oceanic Viking.

On page 7

‘Rudd has achieved nothing- Howard’

Page 17

‘Lighten up a bit, Kev’ – Murdoch says that PM is ‘too sensitive for his own good’

Page 67

‘We stopped the boats’

Page 74 (continued from page 67)

‘Howard: we got it right’

(There were no comparable headlines in the sports section, however).

Quotes are good. You can print all sorts of things and hide behind the person who ‘said’ them.

So, I shall quote Bob Ellis:

‘After years of calling Newspoll ‘the Bill O’Reilly of statistics’ and asking why it has a CEO if its numbers are accurate, and why it turns up month after month those figures to Murdoch’s liking that make the headlines that sell the papers and do his enemies damage (‘McCain passes Obama’, ‘Nelson terminal’), I see at last, this week, what seems to me to be, the biggest whopper of all.’

Questions to be asked about whopping poll

October 29, 2009

Sudanese stabbed and media skewered

Filed under: African,media,racism,refugee — Nayano @ 7:25 am
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A young Sudanese man was murdered in an Adelaide suburb a couple of days ago.

There’s a PhD waiting for someone in analysing the news reports.

First I heard of it was through ABC radio news:

“A group of Sudanese men were sitting on an oval on Eastern Parade at about 4:30pm when they were attacked by about half a dozen other young men armed with knives and baseball bats.” Fatal brawl treated as murder

I assumed that the ‘other young men’ were Sudanese too. (Me! I thought that I was too sensitive to racial reporting in the media to be sucked in!!)

The next reports were through the Adelaide Advertiser. The first report I read excluded all mention of race – perpetrator, victim or otherwise.

Later that day in the Advertiser the victim became ‘African’ and the attackers ‘white’.

The latest reports have the victims (now 2) as Sudanese, and the perpetrators stripped of any descriptors. Six people to face court over Ottoway killing of Akol Akok

I reckon that this is going to lodge in the public consciousness as ‘another’ Sudanese murder, like the killing of Daniel Awak. Never mind the hundreds of murders that have taken place in the meantime that have not involved Sudanese.

And I dread the slow news summer months, and return of the so-called ‘experts’ who try to make their names through misinformed and misleading comments about Sudanese youth. A stab in the dark

October 24, 2009

Win the asylum seeeker war of words Part 4: turn off the tap

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people,refugee — Nayano @ 10:04 am
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What is the most pervasive metaphor we use about any migration, but especially about forced migration?

David Turton, in a lecture to the Oxford Refugee Studies centre, identified it as a ‘substance’ metaphor. The substance is water.

Flows, streams, trickles, floods, sluice gates, inundations, dams.

It sounds like a natural event, something that is not man-made, but somehow inevitable, that we must be on guard about.

And it turns migrants into an undifferentiated mass. Of molecules of liquid that need processing.

Studies of Australian media during the asylum seeker panic of early this century showed that while ‘asylum seekers’ were referred to as ‘illegal’s’ ‘floods’ and ‘criminals’, whenever there was a story about individual asylum seekers or TPV holders, or even of a particular identified group, stories became sympathetic.

Don’t mention the flood!

October 23, 2009

Winning the asylum seeker war of words part 3: Honesty

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people,refugee — Nayano @ 7:47 am
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Here’s a novel idea to battle to asylum seeker war of words: honesty.

Keane Shum, previously an asylum officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that when he interviewed asylum seekers who had used people smugglers and asked them how much they paid, they would inevitably say “Everything, everything I had.” Only honesty will produce the best asylum seeker policy

Keane asks us to imagine if these people he interviewed were Caucasian women and children, fleeing Zimbabwe.

“Imagine hundreds of white faces behind bars on Christmas Island who had done nothing wrong but for being born white and fleeing the people who hated them because of it. Ask yourself if you would feel comfortable about that.”

‘Be honest with yourself”, Keane says.

A very useful thought experiment.

(I remember enjoying the scene in the Day After Tomorrow where Mexicans were building fences and turning white Americans away at the border. Memorable, because it was such a new twist on an old problem.)

I also believe, however, that we need to be honest about our own negative reactions.

The local paper, the Adelaide Advertiser, published this yesterday:

“A man harassed by anti-war mail after his son was killed in Afghanistan says immigrants who can’t adapt to Australian life and values should live elsewhere.” Immigrants ‘who can’t adapt should leave’

My honest reaction? I was exasperated because this item is contributing to the anti-immigrant lobby. And immediately recalled statistics about how many immigrants are an overwhelming positive for the Australian economy and culture- not to mention food.

And? Well, a whole lot of me agrees that ‘people like this’ should go home.  And doesn’t give 2 cents for the argument that this is their home.

This is honesty of emotion. We are being honest when we quote correct statistics, (see Invaded by boat people: Let’s build barricades with statistics!) but the honesty of emotion always counts for more.

What was your reaction to Wilson Tuckey’s stupid remarks about terrorists coming by boat to Australia?

Kevin Rudd gave an emotionally honest reaction:

“To go out there and to smear asylum seekers in the way in which Mr Tuckey has done I say again is divisive. I think (it) is disgusting,” Mr Rudd said. Wilson Tuckey rocks boat on border protection debate

See all posts on the asylum seeker war of words How to win the war of words about asylum seekers and Winning the asylum-seeker war of words, part 2

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