The Hoopla: US & THEM PROJECT

By Randa Abdel-Fattah
July 3, 2013

Anglo-Australians are a bunch of drunken bogans. They wear wife-beater Bonds singlets, drive around in utes with bumper stickers such as ‘Real Aussies drive utes’ or ‘F off, we’re full’.

When they’re not marinating their barbecue meat in VB, they’re at the pokies or bumming around at the beach, or posing for a photo in front of a Holden while draped in an Aussie flag, posting status updates about Aussie pride.

Pretty offensive, isn’t it? This kind of crude caricature is intuitively repulsive.

Imagine what it would be like if every news story about Anglo Australians contained an accompanying image of a drunkard in a ute. Actually, no, I think I can do better than that. An image of a cast member from The Shire.

Imagine if every racist, sexist, rat bag named and shamed on the online site, the anti-bogan press, was the visual representation and dominant marker of Anglo Australian identity.

Now imagine you are a Muslim and belong to any one of the countless ethnic backgrounds that characterise the Australian Muslim community. Or imagine you are an Arab. The most persistent images of Islam and Muslims that we are bombarded with in our popular culture and media are the Shire equivalents in Muslim communities.

If you don’t believe me, just switch to Today Tonight, which regularly churns out the ‘angry bearded Muslim man’ story.

All the research demonstrates that since the 1990s and certainly post-September 11, Muslims and Arabs are our ‘folk devils’. The vitriol and Islamophobic diatribe Ed Husic (Australia’s first federal parliamentarian of Muslim background) was subjected to yesterday for choosing to swear an oath on the Koran was not surprising.

Being Australian and Muslim is considered an oxymoron.

Muslims are accused of failing to ‘fit in’ (code for abandoning one’s Muslim identity) or, as part of larger moral panics and discourses surrounding Islam, are viewed as a clandestine group attempting to subvert the nation from within.

When you type a text in your smart phone, the predictor text function automatically inserts a word that overrides what you intended to write. I believe that even the most well-meaning ‘I’m-not-racist-but types’ have failed to develop an immunity to the predictor text function.

Because we are living in a time when any and all discussions about Muslims and Arabs start from several default positions, namely, that a) Islam is intrinsically incompatible with Western values; b) Muslims and terrorism are inextricably linked and c) Islam oppresses women.

And so in the public imagination you try to say ‘Muslim’ but what you automatically get is ‘terrorist’, ‘extremist’, ‘radical’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘Islamist’. You say Muslim woman and you get a woman in a black burqa. You say Muslim man and you get an angry, hairy bearded guy frothing at the mouth.

But wait! We should reassure ourselves, we are told ad nauseam, because the Italians, Greeks and Asians had their turn. Is that supposed to make us feel better about our experience of prejudice? We just need to wait until we can hand the baton onto another group and breathe a sigh of relief that the focus is off us.

The only thing that Australia’s ‘cycle’ of victims tells us is that Australia is fundamentally a racist country.

One of the most insidious aspects of the racism we see in Australia is how deeply entrenched it is in the language we use in our public space and discourse, and how such language threatens the capacity for Muslims as a diverse and nuanced group to be treated as legitimate citizens.

By language I mean words and representations and the values and meanings we ascribe to particular communities. I mean the way we visualise Muslim otherness.

Countless studies have been carried out that demonstrate both the overt and subtle dimensions of racism that exist in this country.

racist-eggs

Underpinning it are moral panics about so-called boat people, ‘Islamic’ extremism, creeping shariah, the burqa debate, a clash of civilisations, angry men as ticking time bombs.

I am just as interested in subtle racism as I am in the overt. While subtle racism is systemic and pervasive, it is easily disguised and denied and represents a symbolic violence, challenging people’s status as legitimate social participants. Its banality renders it less embarrassing to the dominant cultural elite and so it doesn’t really provoke much fuss.

Yet while I am utterly appalled by our government and community stance on asylum seekers, for example, and see that debate as a clear example of how effectively some politicians and media commentators can exploit the politics of fear and racism, I am also concerned by the white-washing of our popular cultural content on TV as another example.

Trivial? Perhaps, but nonetheless an example of the dangers of systemic and subtle racism. Our popular culture and media can disenfranchise and delegitimise human beings who are literally liquid papered white in our cultural, artistic and political production.

The ‘ethnics’ and Aboriginals are relegated to SBS while commercial TV is still predominantly white. Neighbours practically imploded when an Indian family arrived on Ramsay Street.

Our hospital and medical shows are also largely white even though anybody who’s been to the ER department of any Aussie hospital knows it’s the Aussies of Indian and Asian descent who run the show.

I see this as a cultural white elite desperate to retain the delusion of a monocultural society against the reality of our clearly diverse population. As for our indigenous population, they are by and large invisible.

After all, as anthropologist Ghassan Hage argues, Australia constituted itself physically through a racist act. It exists as a territory because of an act of appropriation of a land and the decimation of a people who were defined racially.

The ‘us and them’ project continues, perpetually against indigenous Australians, and cyclically against various kinds of ‘brown or third-world looking people.’

Australia’s culture of racism can only be challenged when we acknowledge and address the systemic, shameful racism that persists against our indigenous population, and cure the racism that deprives agency and dignity to the indigenous people of this country.

This is fundamentally about honestly rejecting our colonial mindset, understanding and owning up to dominant group Anglo privilege and reinventing ourselves as a nation.

Randa-Abdel-Fattah*Randa Abdel-Fattah is an author and current PhD candidate, exploring Islamophobia and racism in Australia. You can follow her on Twitter: @RandaAFattah.

Source

Media Watch: TT’s false facts fuel fear

Episode 37, 24 October 2011

With the government’s policy in chaos, a hundred and thirty-eight more asylum-seekers arrived at Christmas Island over the weekend. But why is it such a huge political issue?

Partly, at least, because many Australians believe that boat-people are being treated far too generously.

If you’ve just watched Sarah Ferguson’s 4 Corners report on the effects of detention, you might find that hard to believe. But far more people watch Seven’s Today Tonight. And get a very different picture.

According to TT, asylum-seekers and refugees live in luxury, costing the taxpayer squillions. Two weeks ago, they served up this:

Kylie Gillies: First tonight our investigation into how the Government is putting out the welcome mat for refugees. We’ve gone inside the so called ‘refugee resort’ where there’s no wire fencing, there’s no bars, and the inmates live in four star luxury…

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

See that? $400 a week. What was that figure based on? We aren’t told. But later in the report, we’ll see this:

Secret camera: how much do you get?

Refugee: Same as all the people. About $400.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

We’ve talked to that person. Media Watch has blurred his face. Today Tonight didn’t. As we’ll see later, he has good reasons not to want to be identified. But he told us:

I was talking about Centrelink payment. I get $400 a fortnight .

Mohammed, Statement to Media Watch, 21st October, 2011

A fortnight. Not a week. Today Tonight have now told us that the graphic was

An error in the editing.

Craig McPherson, Executive Producer, Today Tonight, 17th October, 2011

In the editing? Pull the other one. As we’ll see later, one of your interviewees says the false information was given to her too.

David Ecclestone’s report supposedly dealt with how asylum-seekers and refugees are treated. Yet it barely mentioned the detention centres where most unauthorised arrivals are locked up for months and years. Instead, we got this:

Voice: this is a two-bedroom apartment

David Ecclestone: Today Tonight has found asylum seekers put up in a four star hotel like this one, awaiting judgment on their immigration status.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Today Tonight ‘found asylum seekers’ at the Virginia Palms Motel in Brisbane in July last year.

It hasn’t been used to house them since June this year. No motels are currently being used as detention centres anywhere in Australia…

Which isn’t to say that they won’t be soon, now that the Malaysia solution has collapsed. The Department of Immigration’s Sandi Logan told us…

A place of alternative detention is selected based on what is readily available, readily accessible and suits the department’s needs at the time for long-term accommodation for families and unaccompanied minors.

Sandi Logan, Department of Immigration, 14th October, 2011

It’s all about families with kids. It’s not about luxury. But on with the show…

David Ecclestone: they even have a Facebook page. What better way to spread the word about the land of plenty to those back home?

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Like the motel footage, this is old stuff. When Today Tonight showed that refugee’s Facebook page, in July last year, we got in touch with him.

We’ve concealed his identity. Today Tonight did not.

He told us that the photos on the beach at the Gold Coast were taken during an excursion while he was in detention. But most were not…

David Ecclestone: Others are taken to Sydney Olympic Park, Luna Park, and the Melbourne Aquarium.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Those pictures of him, said the owner of the Facebook page, were taken

when i realesed from detention. like sydney olympic park and aroun opera house.

Email to Media Watch, 8 July, 2010

Today Tonight has told Media Watch that its

contacts in the immigration department … maintain they were all taken while in detention.

Craig McPherson, Executive Producer, Today Tonight, 17th October, 2011

As if ‘contacts in immigration’ would know better than the subject of the photographs.

But the most damaging misinformation was still to come.

David Ecclestone: The Australian government don’t want you to know the locations of their makeshift detention centres. Manned by 24hour security, they’re in permanent lockdown.

Secret camera: I didn’t tell you but they’re those refugees. Ohh right, from? Boat people.

Reporter: But we spoke to them.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Really David? I seriously doubt it. That mysterious figure was filmed outside the Virginia Palms Motel last year. The interview was first broadcast in July 2010.

Secret camera: I didn’t tell you but they’re those refugees. Ohh right, from? Boat people.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 7th July, 2010

As we said, that motel no longer houses asylum-seekers. This man was filmed in the last month or so, in an entirely different location in Brisbane

Secret camera: Are you a refugee are you?

Refugee: I came to Australia by boat yes.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

He is not in detention at all. He’s been accepted as a genuine refugee, given a permanent visa, and is free to live wherever he can find a place he can afford.

How do we know? We tracked him down. He told us…

I was sitting outside the place where I live waiting for a friend and I was approached by a man. He said he was waiting for a taxi. He did not tell me he was a reporter. …He asked me ‘are you a refugee and how long have you been in this country’? I told him I am from Iran

‘Mohammed’, 21st October, 2011

So the man was being secretly filmed and recorded by a Today Tonight producer – in any other state than Queensland, that would be illegal.

He says he wasn’t told he was talking to a journalist. That would be against the journalists’ code of ethics.

Then his face was shown on national television, without his permission. That is grossly irresponsible.

It is not right for them to put me on television and show my face because it could cause a problem with the Government in my country in Iran. … When I was in Iran I was shot in my chest, a bullet went in my chest …I am very scared and am worried for my family.

Mohammed, 21st October, 2011

Today Tonight‘s Executive Producer, Craig McPherson, assured us…

Naturally we don’t want to put anyone’s safety in jeopardy.

Craig McPherson, Executive Producer, Today Tonight, 17th October, 2011

Really Craig? Then how about asking them before you put their faces on the screen? Or are you too busy showing what a luxurious life they lead?

Voice: how much do you get?

Refugee: Same as all the people. About $400.

Voice: Have you been here for long? How long?

Refugee: 5 months. It’s not too bad. But it could be better.

Margaret Thomas: Pensioners would be disgusted if they knew. I’m sure they don’t know what’s going on with all these boat people and what this government’s giving them.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Hullo? That refugee actually gets a bit over two hundred and forty dollars a week Newstart allowance and just under sixty dollars a week rental allowance – normal benefits available through Centrelink to any Australian resident. Almost half his total income goes in rent.

I pay $140 a week for a room. We have shared bathroom, shared kitchen and shared toilet. There are 14 other refugees living on the same floor.

Mahommed, 21st October, 2011

The lap of luxury, eh?

But Today Tonight‘s entire report was aimed at fuelling the myth that refugees are given extraordinary treatment.

Margaret Thomas: Well what have they contributed to our country? Nothing. And they’re giving them more money than we get.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

And where did Margaret Thomas get that idea? Well, she says, from Today Tonight. She told us that the reporter had …

…showed me on his phone the video of that bloke saying he got $400 a week. Now that just got me very angry. …

I didn’t know he was getting $400 a fortnight. I think that’s very sad and Channel 7 should not do that…I would have preferred to have been told the truth

Margaret Thomas, 15th October, 2011

Gee, so would we.

Here’s the truth. Asylum-seekers in detention get no cash benefits. Once given visas, refugees, whether or not they arrived by boat, get the same Centrelink benefits as everyone else.

Is it surprising that so many people are concerned about boat people, when they’re fed inflammatory nonsense like this by one of the most popular programs in Australia?

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Content in this work by TAB  is ©Media Watch Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC – TV) and  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

UPDATE by Jonathan Holmes at ABC’s The Drum

The Hamster Wheel V Muslamic Burqa Rayguns

We love The Chaser here at TAB so we were very pleased to see their new show The Hamster Wheel.

In one of their latest episodes they have taken on the vexed question of the burqa, a question which seems to really worry about half a dozen extremely odd people and which is a convenient way for A Current Affair 60 Minutes Today Tonight to fill up some air time (and presumably keep the viewers and sponsors of A Current Affair 60 Minutes TDT happy with some gratuitous minority-bashing).

Internet fashion guru Kye Keating apparently took time out of his busy schedule of creating and keeping up with dodgy Facebook groups to give his considered opinion to TDT on an article of clothing worn by a handful of observant adherents to a minority religious group . We find that Kye has no job or study plans we can immediately discern but he does have a snappy line in emo hairdos and a refreshingly charisma-free media presence.

Batty burqa site

We forecast a great future for Kye doing something or other especially with head-shots like this.

Kye Keating

Kye gets his bliss on

In other highlights, media whore and self-appointed mad  Mahdi to the unshriven Ibrahim Siddiq-Conlon was also happy to lend his presence to the proceedings. Perhaps he and Kye can get together and exchange hair and makeup tips?

Ibrahim Siddiq-Conlon

Ibby struts his stuff

And The Hamster Wheel has some handy hints for media eager to get on the batty burqa circuit.

Islamo-media

Move over pet rocks and Rubik’s cubes, TAB foresees some great pointless merchandising opportunities. With dynamos like Kye and spruikers like Ibby, you can’t miss!

Watch The Hamster Wheel on ABC-TV
All content belongs to: Chaser Broadcasting Pty Ltd