Cronulla Part III

After a few days reading the comments on this and other sites, as well as reading a range of articles, engaging in some debates and giving it further thought myself, here are some other conclusions I’ve come to.

1 My two other posts on the Cronulla race riot and related actions have got more visitors than any other I’ve done since I started blogging over 15 months ago. They also drew a lot of comments, including a reasonable number from people who hadn’t commented before. I guess this could indicate that, beyond the unrest being of widespread interest, the issues involved also raise strong interest and opinions, and may touch on some key matters of dispute in the community.

2 The public discussions, shown even just on the two Cronulla threads on this site, have demonstrated that much of this debate involves people talking on different planes, and using the same words to mean very different things. No doubt this is part of why such situations are so hard to resolve.

A key example is the word ‘multiculturalism’. Aron Paul’s description of it in his comment equates pretty much with my view: multiculturalism as a policy “aims at integration of diverse cultural groups into a cohesive community and national identity that transcends race/ethnicity. It recognises that ‘assimilation’ is unrealistic as a policy and leads to trouble/resentment and greater difficulties in integrating communities.”

But other commenters equated multiculturalism with deliberately encouraging (or at least facilitating) segregation. The result is that when a bunch of people in the community hear ‘multiculturalism’, some (like me) hear a term which embodies the importance of treating people equally regardless of their ethnic background, while others (like Gibbo) hear a term which seeks to justify treating people differently depending on their ethnic background. Not surprisingly, this makes it rather more difficult to reach common ground.

3 Guido also points to different understandings in what ‘racism’ means, and how it is sometimes wrongly equated to ‘xenophobia’ (although the two aren’t mutually exclusive obviously). It seems the new political correctness is that we aren’t allowed to call any Australian people, attitudes or actions racist, as this is somehow anti-Australian. I understand the problem in being too ready to use this (or any other) label too easily or readily, but frankly we have got to a stage where our refusal to label racist actions or statements for what they are is giving credence to views which should be unacceptable in Australia. Whenever debates happen about race related issues, as has occurred following the Cronulla riots, there are always lots of mentions about the need to have some universal, shared Australian values. One of the comments askedwhat are our shared Australian values”. This is a discussion I believe our country would benefit from having. Like any set of values, they will define and put boundaries on each other, but surely one of our shared values has to be that racism is not acceptable. As this comment said, “most of us catch ourselves out being racist in small ways from time to time”, and the potential to be racist is something which is present in virtually everybody. This is precisely why we have to be much stronger in asserting that it is not acceptable. For political and community leaders to pretend it’s not really there is just a subtle way of saying that it’s OK.

4 Some of the Cronulla situation is an ‘only in Sydney’ thing, with aspects that are unique to Sydney and its local cultures, history, media and politics. Indeed the more I read about the various factors and views, the more it strikes me how very Sydney-centric so much of it is. It is hard to see the same sort of thing happening in Brisbane, or (at least from my experience and knowledge of them) in any other city in Australia. That’s not to say that everywhere else in Australia is all sweetness and light – I know of some regional towns where the racial atmosphere is pretty poisonous, usually involving resentment and antagonism towards and from Aboriginal people, rather than migrants. EDIT: Have thought some more and changed my mind on this – there are certainly some key factors to this particular situation that are unique to Sydney, but the same sort of thing could happen in plenty of other places in Australia, if people let it.

5 It is obvious that talkback radio and other media have played a role in inflaming this problem – over a long period of time, not just the last week or so. This is another aspect that has uniquely Sydney components. Compared to the talkback I hear (and have occasionally participated in) in other Australian cities, talkback radio in Sydney (to my ears at least) seems far more prone to foam at the mouth, unashamedly and quite deliberately aiming at tapping into people’s inner-bigot, and more interested in reinforcing and validating ignorance than dispelling it. I say this not to have an easy shot at the media, but to flag one of its dilemmas (and indeed one of the dilemmas of democracy and politics too). If you want to attract attention, whether for ratings, sales or votes, there is no doubt that conflict and fear rates way better than peace and harmony.

The same dilemmas exist on a smaller scale on blogs and websites, as well as all the other mechanisms for disseminating and expressing views. Freedom of speech is essential to democracy, especially given the narrow focus and agendas of the mainstream media. However, there is no doubt that they can also be a means for vilification even more vociferous and extreme than would be feasible in the mainstream media. Censorship can’t and shouldn’t counter this, and people need to be able to speak strongly against things they oppose. However, we do need to regularly remind ourselves of the potential for political rhetoric from both left and right to inflame and divide, and to reinforce and entrench prejudice, rather than help overcome it. I can’t see an easy solution to this dilemma, but one none the less needs to be conscious that it exists.

6 David Flint has rushed to defend those in the media who inflamed rather than informed. He does the same himself, deliberately putting up a false definition of multiculturalism so he can then attack it. “If (multiculturalism) is used to mean that people should be classified and then advantaged or disadvantaged according to some ethnic tag, or that the essential principles and values of our Australian culture must give way, this is unacceptable

In a much more coherent offering in The Australian, Mike Steketee explores the almost pathological aversion by John Howard and some other political leaders to using the word “racist”.

Larvatus Prodeo points to how Cronulla is becoming the latest conscript in the culture wars waged by the elites.

7 Finally, links to a couple of satirical entries from William Burrows Baboon – here and here – just cos I like them.

and at time of posting, “Cronulla” has slowly sunk to number 6 on Technorati. It should be out of the Top 10 by Saturday.

Laurie Oakes’ piece in The Bulletin on John Howard’s politically driven response to Cronulla says pretty much all that needs to be said.

According to the prime minister, there is no underlying racism in this country. That was John Howard’s claim during the ugly violence that rocked Sydney and trashed Australia’s international reputation. If Howard really believes it, he has been wasting his time blowing his dog whistle all these years. But, of course, the man who cashed in so cleverly on the prejudices exposed by Pauline Hanson’s brief period of political glory knows better.

And if proof of that was needed, the PM supplied it when he was asked on A Current Affair about the drunken hoons involved in the Cronulla violence, who wrapped themselves in the Australian flag. Howard — still with an eye to the lessons he learned from Hansonism — could not bring himself to criticise this behaviour.

“Look, I would never condemn people for being proud of the Australian flag,” he said. It was a disgusting cop-out, and an inglorious way for Howard to end the political year. What those louts did was just as much an abuse of the Australian flag as the flag burning by a Muslim youth outside an RSL club during the revenge “smash and bash” raids which followed the Cronulla riots.

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  1. Hallelujah Sydneyref…

    I asked the question of Andrew specifically for that purpose… so far he hasn’t got back to me. I guess he’s still reading Lopez’s book.

    A hand full of elites and their cronies foisted multiculturalism on us… most migrants didn’t even want it.

  2. Dee you are right about many things but the old saying is you cant put old heads on young shoulders. They should be given a one two five year visa not PR right from the start. My Aunty owned a milbar at Cronulla and let me tell you its true to say that the lebs started this long ago like Bankstown and other places. All these do gooders that stopped us deporting this type years ago have stopped us standing up for our own rights.
    When i called phillip Rudocks office years ago in regards to some of these people marrying in the Mosques despite already being married the both adviseres could not see a problem. They actually said oh well the Ausies have a wife and mistress so whats the difference?When i tried to explain there was a huge difference because they were thumbing their noses at our law and we would be goaled if we did like wise i was brushed off. Thats means we have kids that we dont really know who or where they come from and no real records.Even more scarey they didnt know it was common practise. I certainly have many muslim friends and conduct business with several and they agree we have some real problem people here as well. So i guess its the class that we have already shipped here that is our problem. Make no mistake they see it as much their country as it is ours.That is our fault. I am with Dee . The old school are basically pro Ausie and most of us would have to addmitt that we dont see them as equals. We see them as lucky to be here and if you cant behave go back home. Dee anytime you want to help with our campainge against our jobs being shipped out and the cruel live export trade let me know because you are! Australia as we see it. Good for you Dee.

  3. As we are talking about overeas and its effects on Australia > Now might be a good time to mention the enquiry into the Australian W Board and the millions going to T.
    Andrew Kevin Rud has received a call from a Jorno as to why he has not mentioned the AWB prchased Westfarmers interests in live Exports in August 2002 and the funds going into what we now have an enquiry into.
    I must say i am surprised you have not shouted it from the roof tops. All in all the Australian public have not been informed by anybody about much of this funding coming from live exports. Can you tell me why please?
    I mean i understand the oppostion keeping quite because they have the feeding of the chooks]
    For the benefit of your readers > The feeding of the chooks is a common term used for donation money to partys from persons with a veted interest in this barbaric trade. The Government get most but then we have the chooks. However i am at a loss as to why the Greens and or both your party Andrew have not infomred the public of this very important fact. Also it is untrue that the Government were taken by surprise because they were contacted back in 2002 bringing this concern to their attention. Of that i can assure everybody. Lets see what Rud has to say since nobody else is raising it.

  4. Andrew Bartlett wrote

    As this comment said, “most of us catch ourselves out being racist in small ways from time to time”, and the potential to be racist is something which is present in virtually everybody. This is precisely why we have to be much stronger in asserting that it is not acceptable. For political and community leaders to pretend it’s not really there is just a subtle way of saying that it’s OK.

    This is exactly the problem. Community leaders will not accept that their communities are are racist. The most racist people in Sydney are the Muslims. Until this is addressed and those calling racist racist actually apply the term equalyy then the term holds no merit and will not make people look into themselves.

  5. Good point Sydneyref…

    There are 2 main problems with the overuse of the term “racist” in Australia.

    One is that people don’t use it correctly, so just about any comment dealing with “race” is seen a racist… (thanks largely to the Left and their PC hangers on) and that the same people promote it as an exclusively “white” phenomenon… yet it is they who by and large speak in colours.

  6. Dee Good Post. Good to know there are still some real Ausies around.
    People like M are usaually lacking that magic link that makes them real Ausies. My god pull the place down M while speaking of the opera house. Are you kidding. Thats it isnt it. No respect or understaning of a national jewl. My god thats scarey. Then again you did tell us your background and you just are not an Ausie. You might live here but the heart for real Ausies isnt there M. Dont eat bangers and mash or 4 and twenty pies. You dont have to M. You make out we Australians dont care about others when we are THE most giving country in the world M. As an Ausie i resent that. You can read all the report books you like but nothing is fact unless you are there. Some of these people lie through their teeth. Its just the way the are. Its accepted because its only lieing tothe west which doesnt amount to much. If we are so horrible why then does everybody want to come here?

  7. Well at least we still have Cronulla to discuss the Muslim situation….

    Ah yes, the sweet smell of Multiculturalism; from the DT…

    Still not one word

    By RHETT WATSON Police Reporter

    March 10, 2006

    A MUSLIM leader has revealed that many parents of the youths involved in the Sydney reprisal attacks last December would be harbouring their children out of sheer embarrassment.

    Police chaplain and Lakemba community leader Sheik Khalil Chami said many Middle Eastern parents, traditionally tough on their children, would be embarrassed to admit they had gone off the rails.

    “It will be very hard to find someone who will not protect their son,” Sheik Chami said.

    “I can see it in many people. They are too embarrassed to say their son is an outlaw They will hide it,” he said

    There was also the fear of being the person who sent their son to jail, Sheik Chami said.

    The Sheik’s theory has alarmed police who say the matters they are investigating are far from minor. Of the 67 people arrested by Strike Force Enoggera so far, about 25 were involved in the reprisal attacks.

    “If you just stick to the serious assaults we’re investigating – there were about 14 incidents where people were set upon – then none of this is minor,” Detective Superintendent Ken McKay said.

    “If they think these are minor then look out for the future. They hide away from us. Whether it’s ignorant bliss, I don’t know. It appears to be a cultural thing,” he said.

    Police were also among those threatened on the night of December 11 as youths carrying weapons such as iron bars rampaged through suburban streets.

    The attacks resulted in a total lockdown of not only Cronulla but all beach suburbs across Sydney over Christmas.

    The original riot and reprisals managed to tear apart the communities from Cronulla to Lakemba, leaving social wounds.

    There is still yet to be an arrest over the most highly publicised reprisal attack, that of Steve B in front of the Cronulla YHA, which was captured on CCTV footage (pictured, right) and broadcast on TV news bulletins and published in newspapers including The Daily Telegraph.

    “While the picture quality was poor, it’s still the case that if you knew one of them you’d be able to identify them,” Supt McKay said.

    “But we’ve had very few calls from the Middle Eastern community. There is going to be someone out there who heard the people preaching to the crowds before they all headed out to Cronulla,” he said.

    The possibility of jail is distinct for some involved in the reprisal attacks considering the damage they wreaked.

    The attacks were launched on the Sunday and Monday nights following the Cronulla riot where racist statements adorned bodies and shirts and the crowd lashed out at anyone of Middle Eastern appearance.

    In response to the racist violence, young men of Middle Eastern surged into Cronulla, Maroubra and La Perouse, smashing cars, shops and bashing people.

    As many as 50 cars were smashed in Maroubra on one night.

    Police Commissioner Ken Moroney has renewed his pleas for the community to assist police and give up their own.

    “I call on the Middle Eastern community to come forward with information and to join the general community’s condemnation of the criminal behaviour displayed during the riot and the subsequent reprisal attacks,” he told The Daily Telegraph.


    Of course there are some that would call Ken Moroney a racist for making such a comment. How dare he discriminate… they’re probably still fulminating and frothing about it.

  8. excerpts from another article…

    As nine of the 20 white youths shamed by police yesterday over their roles in the riot were either caught or surrendered, the silence from Sydney’s Lebanese was denounced by police and politicians.

    But Det Supt Ken McKay – the man running Strike Force Enoggera which is investigating the Cronulla riot and the reprisals – went further.

    “The Middle Eastern community has to understand if they want to live in this society, the only way the police can operate is with community help,” he said. “If that doesn’t happen it will all turn to rubbish.”
    Since the reprisal attacks in the days after the December 11 riot, police have received little or no information about them from the Middle Eastern community.

    Yet within 24 hours of police releasing images of 20 of the Cronulla rioters, up to nine were identified as information streamed in.
    Mr Scully echoed concerns a veil of secrecy had descended over the Arab community.

    “Generally, when caucasians are put on the front pages they’re identified,” he said.

    “When footage is presented of people of Middle Eastern background we get zip.”

    Now some may call this reporting anti-Muslim or the work of a Muslim hater… etc, etc, etc :roll:
    problem is it’s not , it’s just the truth.
    Deal with it… don’t deny it, an vilify others in the process.

  9. The DT’s agenda in targetting individual groups to whip up community antagonism (and sell papers of course) doesn’t smell very sweet to me, although it’s nothing new.

    Interesting to see parents being accused of covering for or protecting their children. It would never happen in any other families in the Australian communities I’m sure.

    Of course, being publicly singled out and targetted by police and politicians seeking to play to the Sydney tabloid/shock-jock agenda is hardly going to make people feel more inclined to give themselves up, but that doesn’t seem to matter. We wouldn’t actually want to get the need for a constructive solution get in the way of the main game.

    (and a reminder to try to aviod just posting long screeds from articles as comments)

  10. Oh I get it now Andrew. Its all a game. If somebody commits a crime and they are caught on camera and they wont own up and so their pictures etc are put in the papers/media then that is seen as singling out and targetting in your books.

    Does the fact that they were caught on tape committing a crime mean nothing!

    I am starting to see a clear picture here in that if it’s nothing new then there is nothing new so long as we continue with the same old same old.

    How tiring.

  11. wow – that reinterpretation of my comment is so far removed from what I actually said that even Geoff wouldn’t have tried it.

    No wonder politicians usually stick to saying things in as dry and meaningless a way as possible.

  12. Okay Andrew, if my re-interpretation of your comment, as you put it, was so wrong. Why dont you explain to me what you mean in order to help me understand.

  13. The issue is the contrast between community responses.

    When pictures of Anglo youths were publicised, 9 out of 20 were identified to the police within one day.

    But the response from the Lebanese community in the same period has been nil.

    Clearly, one of these communities is better for our society than the other.

  14. Evil. YOu would have to agree that there was a marked difference between the pictures that were posted in the papers of the Anglo youths as they were as clear as day than the video view produced of the Lebanese youth.

    Do you really think that if the siutation was reversed the Anglo’s would have been running to the police station to dob themselves and each other in if their pictures were even slightly blurred.?

    I dont understand how posting anybody who is wanted in connection for a crime can be called targeting or singling out.

  15. Jolanda, I think there would be people in both communities who know the identities of the offenders, regardless of the clarity of the pictures.

    The fact appears to be that one community responded by turning in the guilty ones to justice, while the other didn’t.

  16. I just want to let you know what was recently said by a teacher in front of an entire class of students.

    The teacher was referring to slang words in the Australian vocabulary and was describing the word bonzer. Here is the example that the teacher used to describe bonzer:

    “Us Aussies are having a Bonzer of a time bashing Lebs at the beach!”.

    The Lebanese students in the class felt very uncomfortable, were deeply hurt and offended. It wasn’t and isn’t the only inappropriate racist comment that this teacher has made but the students are too scared to complain or to voice their objections as they live in fear that they will be targeted, picked on and victimised if they speak out and that nobody will protect them or care because they are of Lebanese background.

    There is so much fear, racism and hatred in society.

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