Embellishing Crime: Melbourne’s “African Gang” Problem

Always trust the handy anecdote to overwhelm reality with force and false persuasiveness.  The taxi driver irate at the latest opportunistic scribble in a Rupert Murdoch rag is bound to regale you with a story as you speed to the airport: “Those bloody gangs.  And the police didn’t even bloody mention they were African!”  A vital canon of reactionary politics is extolling the supposed reality of a phenomenon that does not affect you.  All that matters is its existence, however modest its effect.

Forced difference matters in the politicisation of crime.  Certain offenders command more attention than others.  Saying that a good deal of crime is done by Caucasians in a still dominant Caucasian country or state is a fairly valueless exercise, a commonality that will, at best, induce a yawn.  Let those felons be.  Attention should be paid, rather, to acts that can be underscored as spectacular.  Besides, it sells papers, however poor the copy.

Take such headlines from The Australian, calculated to chill the blood and curdle compassion: “Melbourne is most liveable city for gang members and bully unionists”.  Another: “Streets of menace: gang violence in the suburbs.”  This is entertaining stuff giving the impression that going out on a Melbourne street would be akin to strolling in an unlit part of fifteenth century London.

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