Race Portrayal in Society

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Why does it matter how race is represented in the media?

The fact that there is a lack of a biological basis for racial difference raises fundamental socio-political questions as to why certain groups are marginalised in society and others are not. The notion of being Australian or ‘un- Australian' is facilitated and maintained by the news media and their ability to portray nationalist stereotypes. This ability to construct racial boundaries based on the ideas of ‘nationalism' and ‘otherness' must therefore be scrutinised in order to uphold the basic human right's that apply to all citizens living in a liberal democracy. Using the negative representations of asylum seekers in 2001, I will argue that the relationship between the news media and the government perpetuated racism, and furthermore, that the media failed in their cross-examining role as political watchdogs on this issue (Street, 03).

Due to the time constraints and commercial realities of many news organisations the frequent use of race is a way of creating a quick, common understanding of a normal ‘us' to a strange or different ‘them'. The power to influence attitudes, whether intentional or not, can result in the media legitimizing prejudice through the linking of ethnicity to various often unrelated negative events.

In August 2001, a Norwegian cargo ship having rescued 438 asylum seekers was denied permission to enter Australian waters. Thus, the government had significantly changed its stance on responding to human rights obligations and proceeded to control the way the media reported on the issue. Because the government was the primary source of information about asylum seekers, many of the reports were framed using rhetoric sympathetic to their policies. Negative, blatantly false portrayals of asylum seekers were created to support policies of tighter border protection and this was artificially linked to ideas of terrorism. Analysis of media reports during this time has shown that...
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