catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Are the Cronulla riots the start of a long-term problem?

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I’m not going to disagree with most of the adjectives being used to describe yesterday’s events in Cronulla and later Maroubra – ‘appalling’, ‘disgraceful’ etc. At the same time, we need to avoid falling into the analytical equivalent of yesterday’s mob violence – of over-reacting to a specific event. Andrew Leigh, for example, saw shades

of Hindu/Muslim violence in India, and perhaps even the treatment of Jews in early-1930s Germany.

In reaching for analogies the racist element of yesterday’s violence has been upper-most in people’s minds. I think, however, that the better analogies are closer to home, in the Macquarie Fields riots earlier this year and the Redfern riots a year before that. In all three occasions, simmering tensions turned ugly after a specific violent incident – the Aboriginal boy TJ impaling himself after a bike accident, the road accident death after a police chase in Macquarie Fields, and the stabbing of the surf lifesavers at Cronulla last weekend. None of the three Sydney incidents was caused by a belief system of wide appeal (Nazism, religion etc). I think I have found most of the polling evidence on racial attitudes in Australia (some of it is here and in the links), and while racial prejudice undoubtedly exists most of it is mild and little of it results in specific racist behaviour. On the other hand, the research does show that Middle Eastern people are the least popular ethnic group in Australia, and this was true even back in 1988, before the more recent wave of terrorist attacks.

None of the three Sydney riots had any significant organisational capacity behind it. The neo-Nazis in yesterday’s incident were parasites on something that has acquired its own momentum, and not its instigators – a huge contrast with Nazi Germany. Particularly bad incidents (the deaths or stabbings) can motivate violence for short periods, but after that it fizzles out, speeded along by the police being fairly easily able to find and arrest key troublemakers (many faces are clearly identifiable from media reports alone). There is none of the sophisticated concealement of well-organised hate groups like Islamist terrorists.

Yesterday was the ugliest day in Sydney in 2005. But on the evidence so far it is not a portent of looming social disaster.

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Written by Admin

December 12, 2005 at 11:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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