Expat

Monday, August 08, 2016

A Visual Dog Whistle


A couple of weeks ago Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC, aired a report, based mainly on CCTV footage, about child abuse in the Northern Territory’s Don Dale Juvenile Detention Center.

Under the watchful eye of the Territory government these kids, whose ages range from 11 to 17, were beaten, subjected to solitary confinement for up to 17 days at a time, stripped naked, tear gassed, subjected to high pressure hoses, hooded and restrained in a chair not that dissimilar to those associated with Guantanamo Bay.

Not surprisingly public revulsion prompted the Federal Government to set up an inquiry into the whole sordid mess.

Then the veteran political cartoonist Bill Leak entered the fray with the above cartoon in Rupert Murdoch’s national daily newspaper The Australian.

It has elicited a firestorm of commentary about its racial stereotyping with perhaps the best comment coming from Deakin University’s Senior Lecturer in History, Joanna Cruickshank, who wrote on the ABC’s website “To instead regurgitate once more the very stereotypes of Aboriginal parenthood that have been used to undermine Aboriginal families - and to do so with the alleged aim of assisting Aboriginal children - is a very sick joke indeed.

For, you see, 98% of the kids in the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Center are Aboriginal.

In his defense Leak drew the cartoon below casting himself as the victim for telling the truth.

Whilst I am prepared to accept that he may be telling a truth, but to claim he is telling the truth is a toon too far.

Perhaps if in the first cartoon Leak had portrayed the policeman as a white feller he may have come closer to a universal truth. But as he has drawn it he can be rightly accused of attempting to absolve 97% of Australia’s population from any involvement in this case of child abuse.

For that is the point at issue, the combination of ethnicity and circumstance that led to the children’s incarceration are possibly contributing factors but, they are immaterial to the state sanctioned evil visited upon them.