Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not for those of Australia’s most squalid content providers. This past Easter weekend, Seven and News Corp were among those hoisting a Melbourne milk bar owner up to the hill at Golgotha. If you weren’t yet sufficiently convinced that the emotion of outrage had been drained of all its meaning by corporate media, have a little sniff of what News hypocritically exudes: racism is “shocking”. Odd for a company that so routinely finds racist cartoons courageous, or even amusing.
According to several reports, a small business proprietor in an outer Melbourne suburb had affixed a sign to his business window prohibiting entry by “14-18 year old blacks” into his store. Of course, this act of communication, since removed, is appalling. It was also one intended for a limited audience. Were it not for interest by 3AW, the Daily Mail and others, the hostile sentiment would never have been amplified.
If we lived in a nation where acts of racist speech were an exception and not currently a reliable feature of public “debate”, we could forgive this wide reporting. If this milk bar sign were something singular and not an echo of the newsstand posters displayed within it, we could all agree that this man had acted contrary to the dominant will. He had not. He had simply acted per the relentless guidance of much of our local media, who in turn lost no time in declaring that this guy had the broken moral compass.
Racism is just terrible. Just to show us how terrible racial slurs are, news.com.au scoured the internet for a few and printed them verbatim. “The racist note displayed at a Melbourne milk bar was bad enough — but then came the online comments from ordinary members of the public.” And here they all are! That which follows offers an audience accustomed to reading defence of “the right be a bigot” a few guilt-free minutes of pure racist reading. It was a bit like offering critique of sexist pornography through the generous display of boobs. Ooh. Isn’t it dreadful!
You can have your hate cake and eat the evidence too, it seems, through a range of media moments that simultaneously scold and uphold racism. However apparently livid the reports were at the cheek of this milk bar proprietor, they largely legitimise the fear of the so-called Apex gangs they have been courting for months. Crime rates in Victoria, says The Australian in its milk bar report, are “leaping”. It is also true that in all Australian states, excepting Western Australia, that crime has declined over the longer term. It is also true that any annual “leap” in crime may be attributed to an increased willingness to report, especially in recent years around intimate partner violence. But, heck. Never permit a tedious thing like a clear statistical trend to obstruct the real job of journalism, which is, as we know, to confirm bias and maintain unreasonable fear.
And, of course, to cast the news provider as a purveyor of pure reason. In ascribing to a small business owner all the sins of unreasonable racism, these outlets absolve themselves. If you make a little deposit of ostensible anti-racism, you are free to withdraw in future. We’ll charge a guy in outer-Melbourne for buying the fear that we sell. Build a little credit and spend it on lavish defence of 18C on Wednesday.
It really didn’t hurt at all that the maligned racist at the centre of all this craven fuss was not of Anglo-Celtic heritage. If the guy’s name had been Kev, his skin white and his accent more acceptably heroic to the ears of Seven producers, a film crew might not have been dispatched to Melton. But this man was an Asian-Australian, and so the racism of which he is charged can be framed as even more distant from its intended audience. This is not the sophisticated racism of an IPA fellow who argues so manfully for freedom of speech, but the simple racism of a man from a nation less liberal than ours.
Racism is “shocking”, insist companies that have for so long urged powerful figures to stop boats, guard against “sharia” and end the career of Adam Goodes. Racism is a scourge, say outlets that valourise the brutal ideology of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Racism is unacceptable, bleat news sites who otherwise serve the idea that loathing for others is acceptable.
If public comments by men like Steve Price, Eddie McGuire and the late Bill Leak had received one-tenth the serious scrutiny that an A4 printed page on a small street in Melton had, we might be able to read this tosh with a straight face.