After news broke than an SUV that had smashed its way through a very familiar part of Melbourne on Thursday, news outlets reported it was a deliberate incident, not just an accident. Later, terrorism was ruled out, the perpetrator having a long history of drug abuse and mental illness.

We soon learned the driver was an Australian of Afghan heritage. The hateful commentators, columnists and trolls were waiting for this moment. “These Afghans come to our country and refuse to follow our ways”. “Wherever the Afghans go, terrorism follows”. “Afghans are the ones who filled our country with drugs”. On and on they went.

No, I’m not talking about Newscorp tabloids. At least not yet. The anti-Afghan hatred didn’t need much of a trigger to be set off in Pakistan where racist politicians and columnists and TV anchors are doing the dirty work of successive governments that want Afghan refugees of the Soviet-Afghan war and US-led invasion to go home.

The Peter Duttons of Pakistan are declaring Afghanistan to be safe enough for Afghans of the Hazara ethnic group to … um … be blown to smithereens by the sectarian Taliban. As if that isn’t already happening in Pakistani cities where the Hazaras have settled, studied, established businesses, learned local dialects and, well, integrated. But the Hazara look different and they follow a different sect. Hence an incident in Melbourne can send shivers down the spines of Hazaras in Pakistani cities.

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Hatred is generated by incidents we know little about or which we compare to past incidents and to what we are taught about certain groups. The post-Flinders hate was making its voice heard even before police had confirmed any motive. As at the time of writing, we learn that the driver referred to the “perceived mistreatment of Muslims” among other “utterances”. And what utterances were they? Who knows? Who cares? The guy was an Afghan; Muslim and with a grievance, and inspired by identity politics. Even one Indigenous “leader” has already decided this was an act of terrorism.

 

Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine retweeting United Patriots Front and Hilter sympathiser Blair Cottrell

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Recent research by All Together Now has shown the media is often the only exposure the average Aussie has with people of non-white races and non-Christian ethno-religions. Which makes the media’s role in all of this crucial in maintaining social cohesion: “… the media has an agenda-setting role that informs how the general public treats migrants. And, when ethnic minorities occupy a central role in mainstream media, they are often portrayed as threatening to the Anglo mainstream.”

From a sample of opinion articles, the report showed that “negative portrayals of race were most often published on News Corp Australia online newspapers such as Daily Telegraph (24 articles), The Australian (17) and Herald Sun (11). The data analysis showed that the highest number of articles about a single group of people were about Muslim people, with other groups represented in smaller percentages.”

These are also the papers that rarely allow any room for Muslim authors or academics to write on their pages. So allegedly conservative media expect Muslims to speak out but won’t allow them space to do so. How is this so? Is there some kind of agenda at work here to marginalise minorities? If you have any doubts about the attitudes of some of our most powerful opinion makers, just follow their tweets. ​

I subscribe to Crikey because I believe in a free, open and independent media where news and opinions can be published that I can both agree with and be challenged by.

As a Crikey subscriber I always feel more informed and able to think more critically about issues and current affairs – even when they don’t always reflect my own political viewpoint or lived experience.

Jess
Singapore

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