It takes a riot to get Australian news into the world media.
This week we even made SF Gate’s World Views with the unflattering headline: "Australia’s Leb Bashings" the other piece in the column this week was on the international reaction to the US torture policy – fine comapnion pieces:
War, bombings and torture in other places are the routine stuff of
headlines, but this past weekend, sun worshippers at Cronulla Beach in
Sydney, Australia, got a taste of a different kind of violence — the
homemade kind. Reportedly provoked by assaults about a week ago on two
lifeguards at the beach by youths described as being of "Middle Eastern
appearance," Sunday’s race riots involved what papers called "thousands of
drunken youths." (BBC/Daily Telegraph/Courier-Mail)
A number of commentators have compared the situation in Cronulla with the recent riots outside Paris. But Gary Sauer-Thompson makes a key distinction:
The race riots at Cronulla
on the weekend bring the Australian Right into the foreground. The
riots can be connected to what recently happened in France. I agree
with Andrew Norton over at Catallaxy
that the Cronulla violence is similar to the most recent Sydney riots
at Macquarie Fields and Redfern. In both the French and Sydney cases
the base economic issues are clear: poorly educated young people
fuelled by anger, dispossession and booze/drugs, low incomes and poor
job prospects, turning tribal.
However,what happened Cronulla is also different from the events in
France. Cronulla turned tribal and became racist, without the police or
the political authorities fueling racism, which is what happened in France.
The other key distinction is that the media in both countries have behaved very differently as the Australian Media section reported on Thursday:
French media had a rather novel ethical
approach to covering the recent Paris race riots after the images
reached saturation point: they simply stopped showing them.
Incensed critics have labelled the move censorship, accusing
the French media of political biases and an over-inflated sense of
power. Yet others have seen the move as an indication that the media –
a powerful social force — could also possess a social conscience.
"We have a unique situation in France at the moment. Because
events have been continuing for some weeks, we have the time to
consider the impact of our reporting," says Antonin Lhote, chief editor
at Canal Plus, one of France’s privately owned television stations.
"Often when we film something, we are unaware of its impact until later. Our job is simply to witness.
"But here we have the unique opportunity to consider what the images mean and whether they should be shown."
The difference, Lhote says, is that the station has decided not
to show the images it obtains for fear of spreading what he calls a
contagion through the thoughtless dissemination of the images.
"It’s not about the violence," he says. "Iraq, Tel Aviv,
Pakistan … these are all much more violent images. But they are news.
This is not news; it is a show. We know there can be a perverse
relationship between young men and the media, and they are giving us
beautiful pictures … things burning, people running around in the
night, it looks wonderful. But what we want to do is draw the
distinction between spectaculars and news."