The Ruminator

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Thursday, March 06, 2003

A Whiter Shade of Black

I was reading an interesting opinion piece in The Australian today about anti-war protestors giving support to Saddam and ignoring the suffering of the Iraqi people.

This sort of thing has been said before, including by the Prime Minister, with varying degrees of vitriol. In this case the article was by a former Iraqi refugee.

I don’t feel the need to go into an Iraq debate here as other people have already done so admirably. However I found the article interesting as an example of the way in which issues of significance are always portrayed as a set of simple binary opposites. EITHER you are a rabid warmonger who wants to bomb the hell out of Iraq and doesn’t care about dead Iraqi babies, OR you are a naïve pacifist who supports Saddam and doesn’t care about the ongoing suffering of the Iraqi people.

Doug has already talked about his own “no unilateral war by America” protest being interpreted as “no war at any cost”. Everything is portrayed as a case of polar opposites, rather than a complex set of issues. Is there adequate justification for war? Would such action have legitimacy under international law? Are measures in place to minimise the effect of war on the civilian population? Will the West support post-war reconstruction? Is the short-term civilian suffering in war outweighed by the chance for long-term change in Iraq? Will a war succeed in ousting Saddam? If so will it lead to freedom for the Iraqi people or will he simply be replaced by a new dictator? What effect would a war have on regional stability? This all seems to get swept aside for a simple Bomb: Yes/No mentality.

The same phenomenon is notable in public debate about indigenous issues in Australia, which are inevitably portrayed as Black Australia vs. White Australia. This totally ignores the wide diversity of views held by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Not to mention perpetrating this strange myth that black and white are the only options. Like, what about Asian Australians? Or African Australians? Well, you’re black. And you’re Australian. But you’re not black Australia. Goddamn, this shit drives me crazy. I wrote my thesis on this sort of thing – still not adequate catharsis.

The media largely seems to cater for the delivery of information in thirty-second bite-sized pieces – the Fun Size pack of current affairs. I’ve seen more in-depth analysis of reality television programs than some of the media coverage of the Iraq issue.

So, by that measure, the real news affecting Australian society today? One of J-Lo’s ex-husbands, choreographer and dancer Chris Judd, just won the American version of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here by not getting voted off during two weeks filming in the Australian rainforest. Or, as the article put it, he was voted ‘King of the Australian jungle’. I know they were just reproducing an AAP article, but you would think that News Ltd would have realised that we don’t actually have ‘jungle’ in Australia. Apparently not. Upon winning, Judd thanked the American audience for liking him. Maybe they just refrained from voting him off because it meant he was the one who had to live the longest with “heavy rain conditions, spiders, snakes and mosquitoes.”

I’m not a celebrity, get me out of here.


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