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Unbalanced article fuels moral panic

This morning I glanced at Twitter and noticed @SandiHLogan of DIAC sending messages to @MirandaDevine (Daily Telegraph journalist), criticising her article titled, emotively, “Fooled by a ship of frauds“.  Stupidly, I had to stick my nose in, didn’t I?  In for a penny, in for a pound, so from Twitter to my own article. Edit: Since I published this article, the headline of  the Daily Telegraph article has been changed to “Soft touch threatens border security“.  Attempt to be less emotive, perhaps?

In the current political climate in Australia that article is certainly a cheap attempt at attracting readers.  There is a worse problem, however.  Articles like this feed and nurture the existing moral panic in the community about asylum seekers and refugees.  Look at the comments on the article!  What is moral panic?  There is an excellent article to be found at Law Information, an extract follows:

The Sydney Morning Herald ran the headline:

“Stop boat people getting on boats – Julia Gillard PM”

This simple headline shows the escalation of fear or misunderstanding of illegal immigrants. The word ‘stop’ is a call to action and implies that something needs to be done. ‘Boat people’ is the label which implies the threat of illegal immigration and it ran in a national newspaper, purportedly endorsed by the PM and used to bring to the attention of the voting public an issue which is considered to be of grave concern. In reality, a study conducted by UQ research group says there were only 1033 boat people out of 48,700 illegal immigrants in Australia.

http://legalcatch.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/what-is-moral-panic-and-why-does-it-occur/#comment-5133

Miranda, there is a flip-side to this coin which you have not mentioned.  The poor people who are battered by “the system” and disbelieved at every turn and are almost forced from Australia, as I was.  You criticised the Migration Review Tribunal (MRT) in your article – let me tell you right now the MRT was the first glimmer of sanity I saw – FROM MY OWN COUNTRY!  Do you really think we are the only case?  If we were, the MRT would not be suffering under the deluge of applications that it is!

“Our decision-making is sound,” he [principal member Denis O’Brien] told the ABC. But with such an overload and, under orders from the minister to process people faster, you can see the pressure on review tribunals just to wave people through.

Miranda then goes on to give her OPINION that “you can see … review tribunals just to wave people through”.  I take a very personal exception to your unbalanced reporting.  I have no doubt there is fraud.  There is fraud and corruption in every walk of life.  Accountants and lawyers steal clients’ money.  Big corporations pay kickbacks for contracts.

What we must not do as a nation is penalise the many for the actions of a few.

In 2011-12, the Immigration Department enrolled 51,352 fingerprints in a data bank, and referred 7306 fingerprints to other countries, resulting in 839 matches.

Of those, 101 identities were found to be mismatched; that is, fraudulent.

0.197% were found to be fraudulent!  Oh, we have a national emergency, surely!   This is so very like Emotive reporting, perhaps? where I took a good hard look at the emotive headline and figures of another article from 2009. The opening line was an emotive  “Surge in spouse visa applications ‘intimacy test’ exposes sham lovers. Hundreds deported“, yet an analysis of the figures (I didn’t have access to accurate historical figures so have probably overstated the result) showed a HALF a percent were deported.  I’ve been personally contacted by some people affected by such deportations and in some the partner has left Australia too.  Not genuine?  Then why did the partner leave too?  As I would have been forced to do had the MRT not made the CORRECT decision.  Others fight. Many cannot afford to fight – it is expensive and those who do fight are often left repaying the debts incurred for years.

No system is perfect, but articles like this do nothing to support rational, meaningful discussion about the issues.  What articles like Miranda’s actually do is give the xenophobes open slather to venomously scream “see, all asylum seekers are crooks”. 

A fingerprint match does not, in and of itself, mean the person is not a genuine refugee.   Why lump asylum seekers and illegal entrants together as you did in your sentence starting “Fingerprints of asylum seekers and illegal entrants”?  Asylum seekers are NOT illegal!  It is not illegal to be an asylum seeker.  Yet this wording gives readers, inexperienced in the field, the impression that one is a subset of the other.  In my view, irresponsible reporting when dealing with people’s lives.

In my experience, Miranda, DIAC go the other way more often than not.  Certainly NOT soft!  

There was also no discussion in the article about the world we live in that has led to an increase in the number of  displaced people, nor how FEW of them Australia actually takes.  It was a political article, aimed at blaming a political party for a situation not necessarily of their making.  David Horton said today (on Twitter), “The Media is to the Coalition as money launderers are to drug dealers. Whatever lie, crap, evasion is uttered by LNP is turned into truth.”   His views may be a little stronger than mine and there is no suggestion that this article originated from any LNP source: certainly the article stood out as nothing more than an attempt to continue using the lives of vulnerable people as a political football, irrespective of the damage that does.

I take into consideration that Miranda may have no personal experience of “the system” and is therefore writing from a position of lack of experience and knowledge.  Even so, I do not like the further nurturing of moral panic in the community. 

Thankfully, other articles paint a better picture, such as this one appearing in the Sunshine Coast Daily on May 4th! 

The second family, two parents and three little girls, were far more traumatised.

He says for almost six months all five family members slept in the same bed, at first because it was familiar, then because the girls couldn’t be convinced they were safe.

http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/story/2012/05/04/lets-make-a-start-by-inviting-refugees-into-our-ho/

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16 comments on “Unbalanced article fuels moral panic

  1. […] of others and a public act. In Australia we are very good at inciting moral panic. I have used this example before, but to save you clicking about, I’ve reproduced it […]

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  2. Great analysis, expressed the dismay a lot of us are feeling. Who owns Sunshine Coast Daily? It’s articles remind me of how newspapers used to be.

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    • Thanks Horatio. Not sure who owns the Sunshine Coast Daily. The same journalist made a very disparaging Tweet about the ADF scandal yesterday, so perhaps an article on that is looming too.

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  3. […] Unbalanced article fuels moral panic (teamoyeniyi.com) Spread the word:FacebookTweet ThisShare on TumblrMoreEmailPrintDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Read more from General Australia, Budget, news, refugee, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ← Nigerians forging a future in Australia – Timomatic […]

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  4. Good for you to speak out! 🙂

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  5. @TeamOyeniyi ~ You debated Miranda’s ‘unbalanced’ views perfectly. Well-done!

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  6. My God, I would also have been spitting feathers!

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    • Thank you Karyn. I am always wary of being biased myself when commenting on these sorts of articles, but I believe I was fair and to the point. The Sunshine Coast article is a lovely read!

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