Bin Laden in the Suburbs

Few of us would choose to bathe in bile. But we seem to have little choice but to be bathed in the media bile that daily constructs the ‘Arab other’ as the pre-eminent folk devil of our day. Radio shock jocks and talkback hosts, TV current affairs and newspaper opinion columns are awash with it.

How do news media and popular culture shape the ‘Arab other’? What does this teach us about national identity and global politics? Bin Laden in the Suburbs shows us how social anxieties feed on each other in a chain of moral panics, and how these in turn nurture the politics of fear and exclusion.

The authors show how current values, brittle with fear, are stitch by stitch unpicking the thread of multiculturalism not only in Australia, but in the UK and North America as well.

Military metaphors predominate in reporting Arab crime and those committing such crimes are reported as young men ‘lost between two cultures’, thus laying easy blame on the ‘failure’ to assimilate.

This is an empowering book because it gives readers the skills to overturn such shrill nonsense. It moves between global and local events to show how news reports and political reaction misrepresent and mislead, demonize and distort, and how wise words from the well informed can foster not exclusion of the other, but its embrace. Robust, fair and accessible, Bin Laden in the Suburbs is an excellent source book to pull the plug on the media bile of otherness.

mag cover This article is from the January 2005 issue of New Internationalist.
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