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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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Dog-whistle Journalism and Anti-Muslim Racism in Australia Since 2001

Scott Poynting.


Main Description* 'Dog-whistle politics' was much discussed around the 2001 Australian federal election campaign in which the Howard government used the 'Tampa Crisis' and September 11 to appeal successfully to popular xenophobia and insecurities. The notion involves sending a sharp message which, like a dog whistle inaudible to humans, calls clearly to those intended, and goes unheard by others.

This paper argues that this sort of ideological manouevre has been abetted by an analogous process in the tabloid media, in which ostensibly liberal, reasonable stories speak at the 'inaudible' level to those whose insecurity and ignorance leaves them susceptible to populist claims that their relaxed and comfortable past has been stolen away by cosmopolitan, 'politically correct' elites and the 'multicultural industry'.

Cae studies here analysed include: the stories of the Muslim women's gym and the halal hamburgers in Western Sydney, and that of the Muslim man threatened with dismissal from his Sydney North Shore professional job for praying during his lunch hour. Each was originally run as a 'good news story' or as sympathetic to Muslim protagonists, but knowingly and deliberately to provoke a backlash which generated extended 'news' and comment - much of it racist - and irresponsibly exacerbating community tensions.

Presenters

Scott Poynting  (Australia)
Associate Professor, Humanities
Centre for Cultural Research
University of Western Sydney

Scott Poynting is Associate Professor in the School of Humanities at the University of Western Sydney. He is co-author of Kebabs, Kids, Cops and Crime (Pluto Australia, 2000) and Bin Laden in the Suburbs (forthcoming) and co-editor of The Other Sydney (Common Ground, 2000).

Keywords
  • Racism
  • Islam
  • Australia
  • Terrorism
  • Media
  • Ideology



(30 min Conference Paper, English)