Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Self Perpetuating Machine


Reinforcing the fact that this State Election will be about one issue and one issue only, today's 'Age' reports that 50% of Victorians no longer feel safe out on the street at night. Other reported findings include:

- 89 per cent don't feel safe using public transport at night
- 88 per cent don't feel safe in the CBD at night
- 14 per cent have considered moving because of a crime
- 36 per cent have experienced a crime at home
- 55 per cent said violence is racially motivated
- 42 per cent were disappointed with the government's initiatives on law and order

The information contained in the article came from a survey conducted for 3AW's Neil Mitchell. Approximately 6500 homes spread across Melbourne participated in the survey, a large sample size for this type of thing, so even though 3AW is a cartoonish outfit with only the most tenuous attachment to the idea of 'serious news,' the results cannot be easily dismissed.

But what this survey really tells us is less about the crime situation in Melbourne and more about the perception of the crime situation in Melbourne. In other words, people in the suburbs have already been convinced that crime is really out of control in our city and that they're unsafe unless they're at home with the doors and windows locked and a blanket over their heads.

And we've got people like Mitchell himself to thank for this.

Obviously, if you go on the radio everyday and talk in a LOUD VOICE about the law and order problem we have in this state - never trying to determine if there is one of course, just shouting about how bad the problem is - than a lot of your listeners are going to get it into their heads that the problem exists and is getting worse. This is really how Mitchell and his ilk define their existence: shouting about something loud and long enough so that people start talking about it so that they can then shout about it some more and companies that manufacture security doors and burglar alarms will advertise on their show.

'Yellow Journalism,' it's called, in the parlance of a completely different time.

Nevertheless, now that the self perpetuating machine that is the media has been set in motion on this topic, you can expect to hear about almost nothing else for the next three weeks. John Brumby and Ted Baillieu will fall all over themselves trying to outdo one another, trying to prove to us which of them will be toughest on crime.

Brumby will go on Neil Mitchell's show to state that serious crime figures have actually fallen in Victoria while he's been Premier (a fact, by the way)... before adding that nevertheless, he still thinks that we should have more police, tougher laws and longer sentences across the board.

Then Baillieu will give an interview to The Hun where he'll talk about a few of his constituents whose house was burgled and that he feels that suspended sentences should be done away with (Liberal party policy, by the way) and that he would legislate for more police, tougher laws and longer sentences than the Premier has proposed.

Then Brumby will be in The Hun stating that this just shows how weak his opponent has gotten on this important issue and that if he had his way than thieves and drunk drivers would be hung, drawn, quartered, guillotined, stoned, asphyxiated, buried in soft peat and recycled as firelighters.

Then Baillieu will be on Neil Mitchell's show yelling about how this merely highlights Labor's weakness when it comes to really cracking down on crime and that he feels that really everyone in the state who's ever littered or jaywalked or cut a loud fart in church should be sealed up in a block of concrete and buried somewhere in the desert.

Then... well, you get the idea.

Yet all this hyperbolic debate makes me think of is an old bit of Bill Hicks’(truncated, paraphrased and taken out of context, but still, you’ll get the drift):

'WAR, FAMINE, DEATH, AIDS, HOMELESS, RECESSION, DEPRESSION, WAR, FAMINE, DEATH, AIDS.' Over and over again. Then you look out your window - (crickets chirping) - where's all this shit going on, man?

And all this at a time when there are serious issues facing olur state, and mistakes the Government has made that they should be held to account over. As a tweet I saw after the leaders 'debate' last week put it:

'Did I miss the debate on public transport?'


Allright! Anyone that made it this far deserves a treat: It's Bill!

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