Themes in the reporting of the Cronulla riots
The reporting of the Cronulla riots (see Case Study 3) centred on several
key themes. These included the notion of “un-Australian”,
a term much used by politicians in recent years. Precisely what is meant
by “un-Australian” is never defined – although it is
frequently invoked in the context of terrorism or potential terrorism
– but it reflects the popularity in the United States of the term
“un-American”. In reference to the events at and around Cronulla
in December 2005, “un-Australian” is variously used to refer
to the riots, the “Aussie” (predominantly Anglo-European)
rioters and the cultural practices of Muslims.
A second theme reflected the involvement in the Cronulla riots of white
supremacist groups. A range of white supremacist organisations was initially
reported as being involved in or expressing opinions about the events
at Cronulla, but this reporting theme faded after the first few days.
At the same time, the reporting of “retaliation” increased.
Revenge for the targeting by “Aussie” rioters of Lebanese
and Middle Eastern people was a theme in the coverage that developed in
the days after the December 11 riots, with numerous accounts of retaliatory
acts and of threats of retaliation. These attacks and threats were most
strongly associated with young men from Sydney’s Arab, Lebanese
and Muslim communities. In addition, reporting about retaliation focused
on fears of further violence, covering topics such as the cancellation
of a planned surf carnival at North Cronulla because of concerns about
the possibility of violence.