Let’s Talk About Refs

[cross-posted @ groupthink.com.au]

As the flashy pics in our shiny new Multiculturalism Policy shows, we truly live in a Salt’n’Pepa nation. And I’m talking pepper with all the fancy green, pink, etc corns as seen on Masterchef. Look at all the colours! Pretty!

But with the debacles and nasty verbiage surrounding last week’s funerals for the victims of the asylum seeker boat tragedy off Christmas Island, it seems that in addition to celebrating the good things that may be, there are a lot of bad things about our approach to race, cultural differences, and discussion of ‘the other’ that we really need to address.

And one of the really bad things is major newspapers who take it upon themselves to blow the dog vuvuzela whenever they get the slightest sniff of a story about immigrants. And escaped immigrants who were supposed to be detained at the pleasure of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, at that.

The simmering cultural melting pot is truly on the verge of boiling over, and, gosh, rightly so. The outrage that humans who are detained not for committing a crime but because they are about to get shipped off for not having the proper authorization to be in this country get taxpayer-funded trips to bowling alleys and aquariums is clearly a palable tension in our community that must be addressed at THE HIGHEST LEVELS.  And WHAT DOES QUENTIN BRYCE HAVE TO SAY about the all expenses cross-country sight-seeing holiday we gifted that little Iranian kid (who, let’s not forget, arrived here on a pleasure cruise!) who’s parents died or were lost at sea or something.  </sarcasm>

As Teh Hon Scott Morrison MP, Member for Cock and Opposition Spokesperson for Anti-Immigration pointed out last week:

…because these people, who tried to get into the country, and were allegedly asylum seekers – allegedly asylum seekers – we‘ve got to pay for that?

Scott Morrison MP, Squire of Teh Shire, allegedly a wanker (allegedly!), would probably get more ‘Whatta Man’ accolades if he started making sure his buddies at the papers (especially the Daily Tele’s Chief Political Reporter, Simon Benson) start using the word ‘allegedly’ a bit more liberally in their work.

I refer specifically to the yarn over the weekend about how many ‘detainees’ have escaped from detention centres, which was unabashedly splashed with the terms ‘refugees’ and ‘asylum seekers’.

The Tele’s editorial that same day on the need to ‘balance strength with compassion‘ on the refugee issue also made mention that DIAC is:

tracking down dozens of asylum seekers who have been strolling around the country for months. One of them had been on a bowling trip.

Luckily, the Benson’s article made the very decent effort to reassure readers that:

There was no evidence that any of those asylum seekers who had escaped had engaged in any criminal activity subsequent to their escape.

Whew. #thanksGetUp.

Here’s the thing, right: there was also NO EVIDENCE that ANY of those ‘detainees’ who had escaped WERE ACTUALLY ASYLUM SEEKERS.

O_o

And yet, Benson’s article about the Refugees On The Run And Off The Radar (let’s give the subs top marks for alliteration, shall we?) went gung-ho painting the subjects of the story as the very people that everyday Aussies worry have come here to (allegedly) take advantage of us and our respect for humanity and decency.

DIAC’s National Communications Manager Sandi Logan confirmed to me via Teh Twitters that none of the immigration escapees are or were asylum seekers.

The assumptions portrayed by the Tele in choosing to highlight refugees and asylum seekers breaking out of detention and being ‘on the run’ are hateful and vile.  In addition to showing poor journalism in jumping to conclusions without bothering to check the facts, the way they took every opportunity to magnify the beat up of such a sensitive issue (and this week, of all weeks!) is just disgusting.

With deliberate trolling like that in the mainstream media, there is little hope that we can move beyond the ignorance and fear that leads to hate and intolerance.

There are some excellent warm & fuzzy ideas in the the People Of Australia policy document. But in addition to also querying the bureaucratic efficacy (sic) of a National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy, there it may be very difficult to get people to understand they actually have the wrong idea about this situation while they being fed shit like this down their throats.

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