Monday, March 26, 2012

The News Limited Anzac centenary "multiculturalism" beat-up

Nearly every newspaper owned by the Australian arm of the Murdoch empire appears to have published a story about a "government" study that has committed the unpardonable sin of being less than 100% supportive of every single thing that anyone might ever do on the centenary of Anzac Day. Worse these "bureaucrats" have supposedly "attacked" this Australian cultural icon in the name of "multiculturalism".

The Daily Telegraph: Anzac centenary commemorations should be culturally sensitive, government research claims
FEDERAL government-commissioned research claims commemorating the centenary of Anzac Day is a "double-edged sword" and a "potential area of divisiveness" because of multiculturalism.

The Herald Sun: Gallipoli anniversary could divide Australia, Federal Government warned
THE Federal Government has been warned that celebrating the centenary of Anzac Day could provoke division in multicultural Australia - and told there were "risks" in honouring our fallen soldiers.

The Herald Sun is also running a poll with the question "Will celebrating the centenary of Anzac Day cause racial disharmony?"

The central online presence for News Limited Anzac Day 'just a party for drunk yobbos' - Aussie attitude study.
FEARS Anzac Day is nothing more than a bogan day of work-free drinking have been revealed in an intensive study of Aussie attitudes.

A study for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to determine community attitudes ahead of Anzac days 100th centenary used 36 focus groups of eight people totalling 288 participants from all age brackets 18 and over at a cost of $370,000.

These stories have been reprinted by other News Ltd outlets including Perth Now, the Courier Mail, and Adelaide Now.

The online outrage has already started, about how "government bureaucrats", in the name of "political correctness", are somehow trying to prevent any commemoration of the Anzac Day centenary from taking place at all. The omissions and distortions in the News Limited "news" reporting certainly help give that impression. But in trying to look into the actual facts instead of News Limited's invitation to unthinking outrage, a few things become interesting:

  1. Nowhere in these "news" articles do we discover the name of the study, or any details about how to find it on our own. In fact all we are told is that it is "government-funded" by the Department of Veterans Affairs to the tune of about $370,000, that it consisted of 36 focus groups, and of course that it said all these horrible things about the Anzac Day centenary apparently being a "potential area of divisiveness", with the addition by the journalist (NOT the study) that this is because of "multiculturalism".

    I believe that the research study in question is a study mentioned on pages 48-49 of the How Australia may commemorate the ANZAC CENTENARY report, released today. It was NOT "bureaucrats" that did this study, but a private company who got paid by the DVA to do it. Thia private company, Colmar Brunton, describes itself as "the largest independent Australian owned market research agency". Any fulmination about "politically correct government bureaucrats" supposedly writing things in this study should check their facts: no "government bureaucrat" wrote anything in it at all.

  2. From what I can tell from News Limited's highly selective quoting of the study in question, at no point does the study suggest that Anzac Day centenary commemorations should not be held at all. True, as the News Limited "reporting" occasionally bothers to note, there is some concern about the way in which Anzac Day might be commemorated. Despite the angry rantings of more than a few online commenters, this is an entirely fair concern. Or are we just supposed to accept that there is no wrong way to think about Anzac Day, so that we should support disgusting things like Jim Wallace using Anzac Day to attack Muslim and gay Australians as not entitled to consider themselves included in what Anzac Day stands for? Is it "political correctness" to object to something like that? Or just basic Australian decency?

    So it is quite deceitful of News Limited, in particular the Herald Sun, to run their poll saying "Will celebrating the centenary of Anzac Day cause racial disharmony?", as if anyone has even suggested that it's the mere existence of the centenary commemorations that is concerning. The News Limited "reporting" admits that the report expects the commemoration to continue, noting guidelines for how celebrations ought to be conducted, not whether it should be conducted at all:
    Commemorations should be "culturally sensitive and inclusive", the paper states.

  3. Of course, there will be those who insist that "culturally sensitive and inclusive" means "not allowed to engage in Anzac Day traditions". Unsurprisingly, the News Limited "reporting" says nothing about what the study itself actually means by that. I suspect it means that you don't denigrate the culture of the people you have fought against. But absent a first-hand examination of the report, it's impossible to know for sure.

It's only a matter of time before other news outlets pick up on this. Unfortunately it's unlikely that this story is attracting attention because of important and salient facts, but because it has been reported in such a way as to cause maximum outrage. And just as unfortunately, the study which is being selectively quoted in this New Limited outrage manufacturing campaign is not readily available to the public. I will try to look for it, but I don't expect much success.

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