Reportage Vs Representation, Reel Vs Reality, Us Vs Them: The medium, the message and the Arab-Australian folk devil in a moral panic's culture of fear.
When 14 year old Korean school boy Edward Lee was stabbed to death outside a party in the south-western Sydney suburb of Punchbowl in 1998, police described his attackers as being of Middle-Eastern appearance, and conducted a 'stop and search' campaign in nearby suburbs – targeting a number of Middle-Eastern youths in a series of arrests. Two weeks later, the local police station of Lakemba was shot at in a drive-by, and despite no evidence to suggest that this was in fact the case, Australian media described this drive-by shooting as 'retaliation' for the 'stop and search' campaign, and, in its reportage of both events, contextualised the criminal acts through the race and ethnicity of the suspects, constantly re-iterating that they were perpetuated by gangs who were Middle-Eastern, and Lebanese (Collins et al. 2000:1).
In the ten years that have passed, we’ve also witnessed a series of infamous gang rapes, Cronulla riots, and religious extremism – events which not only warrant concern in and of themselves, but also in the context of a post-September 11 culture of fear, a culture that has divided our Australian society in a panic of 'us' and 'them', fuelled by a dominant Australian culture and an unassimilated 'other' whose values warranted question – the Middle-Eastern community.
This research project will analyse the moral panics surrounding this community by analysing their representations in both English language and Arabic language Australian newspapers, in a sense comparing the point of view of both the communities involved, as well as the editorial principles of the mediums behind the reportage. It takes into account the studies on the socialisation of Arab-Australians in Australian societies, and how this has impacted on their assimilation and integration, (or lack thereof) and how this in turn plays a role in their criminal behaviour.
But it also goes one step further. Considering that it is the youth in these communities that bear the brunt of the ‘criminal’ branding, it also looks at them as they are caught in between two very different worlds, and how they have successfully capitalised on their labels through pop culture – plays, comedies, TV shows and Australian films, making a contribution to Australian arts through the havoc that some of them wrought on the nation, and glamourising gang culture in the process