Tuesday, 8 February 2005

why i am ashamed of the local daily newspaper

i live in perth, western australia. there – i said it.

western australia has quite a few things going for it; long sandy beaches, wide open spaces, natural abundance and variety and …did i mention long sandy beaches?

problem is that whenever i talk to anybody interesting, i find myself explaining how i came to live here and how i’m really quite different from what they might expect. the parochial local attitudes to most things including sex, fashion, politics and food are easy enough to deal with. after all i am a man of the world, exploring it’s cultural hinterland. where things start getting embarrassing is when subjects like feminism, nationalism, environmentalism and racism are raised. western australia seems, to all intents and purposes, to be stuck in a pre-60’s time warp. in fact the place reminds me very much of the 1960’s south africa that i visited several times as a child. it is conservative, sexist, racist, environmentally unthinking and culturally backwards.

so is the west Australian newspaper to blame? i suppose not entirely. if it was a good newspaper rather than a trashy tabloid, it might try to inform its readership of the changes that have happened in the world since the middle of last century. if it was an even better paper, it might try and lead the community forward by stimulating debate on matters of import. if it was a great newspaper, it might even present an original enlightening point of view of the world every now and then but the paper is what it is: a reflection of the baser, more conservative, reactionary public that it advertises to.

so now i have admitted the place isn’t perfect and the local paper is, like many others, rubbish. so why should i care – why be ashamed of it? well, on Saturday (5/FEB/05) the paper published a so called article regarding a case brought against it by an australian Aboriginal man. the man (Robert Bropho) claimed that a cartoon that the paper had published was racially insulting to Aboriginal people, thereby contravening the racial discrimination act. now seven years later the high court has rejected his case as not meeting the narrow legal definitions required of it. anybody reading the cartoon however can see that it is a vitriolic attack on him and on other Aboriginal activists as well as insulting to Aboriginal people as a whole. The article in the paper contains no substance whatsoever but its sole purpose was, obviously, to republish the inflammatory and defamatory cartoon. what i am ashamed of is not that i live in a racist state but that one of the pillars of my new (i’m not from here) community is so openly proud of being racist and that we all tolerate it. shame on the local rag and on all of us for not speaking up. what a right royal mess we are in.