Reporting Diversity
Case Study Five

Themes in the reporting of the Cronulla riots


Introduction

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.

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