When did ‘The Australian’ turn into an outright, unabashed, reactionary tabloid? It wasn’t that long ago it prided itself on a balanced view but on Tuesday it ran the standalone headline, “Black Saturday is Allah’s revenge.” I haven’t seen anything as recklessly destructive of social cohesion and cultural respect since the worst years of Howard and his xenophobic election victory over Beazley, where ads were broadcast across the country to dob in anyone that even looked suspicious. We all knew the kind of person we were meant to be calling in. Anyone not white and possibly Muslim. If you thought that particular fire had begun to simmer down, here comes ‘The Australian’ with a barrel of oil. They’ve even brought the human sacrifices to be lynched and set aflame.
Before we talk about the Australians in our communities who are not white and possibly Islamic, the less obvious insult is to the 173 dead of the recent fires, used here as nothing more than fuel to incite rage. All those properties and families destroyed, just kindling for anti-Muslim polemics of the most crude and brutal kind. Those Victorian mothers, fathers and their children just incendiary devices for the journos at ‘The Australian’ to lob into communities and workplaces around the nation.
‘The Australian’ can report whatever they like by whatever means they choose to use. I’m not going to argue for objective journalism or point out the many ways they fall short in the actual article. The paper will be picked up by people who want to read it and some will even call it news. It’s the storefront window headline cast out into the street from newsagencies, milk bars and 7-Elevens in our suburbs, at any and all passers-by — that’s where a national media outlet becomes criminal in the kind of social distortion and destruction it causes.
The wars in the Middle East go on ceaselessly and newspapers like ‘The Australian’ re-draw those battlelines through our communities. They alienate and disaffect the general population. They encourage and aggravate cultural strife in our neighbourhoods. They perpetuate mayhem and disorder while they pretend to objectively report and reveal them. Why? Because it catches our eye. It sells papers. It makes them a buck.
It is certainly not a focal point of the news item what some madman says. A disgrace to his family, his country, religion and history. Of course ‘The Australian’ uses him as the voice piece for all those identities. As though he wasn’t just an imminent psychopath to everyone that knew him, whatever the colour of their skin or religious affiliation. What is far more frightening to me is that the editors and journos at ‘The Australian’ calmly chose to broadcast that message across the nation on a standalone headline. “Black Saturday is Allah’s revenge.”
As puerile as these storefront window headlines are normally, Tuesday’s declaration went beyond the kind of Death and Destruction Is Imminent message that we’ve all heard broadcast from newspapers, in hundreds of different ways, all our lives. This message is more basic. It translates into a word — Hate. It is spoken one psychopath to another. One newspaper to a nation.
Tomorrow, a new headline. We move on. No big deal. It happens all the time. But on Tuesday, millions of Australians read that message. Thousands talked of death sentences and deportation. War and dismemberment. Us and them, them and us. And that’s what we call the news. But the job they do at newspapers — what do they call that again?