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Monster-making mutes purposeful alarm

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Jack ThomasNext Monday marks the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack and the beginning of the 'War On Terror.' In that time, many of us have made fun of the 'alert but not alarmed' catchcry.

All the while, we have progressively lost a sense of purposeful alarm, which is the necessary wake-up call we need when a situation goes beyond the pale, and action is required. Our capacity to respond to alarm is diminished by the media's manufacturing of monsters, in order to sell papers and compete for ratings and website hits. Last week, acquitted terror suspect 'Jihad' Jack Thomas was recalled from holidays in Gippsland to have a control order placed on him. At the weekend, sex offender turned model parolee John Lewthwaite was put back behind bars in response to the media-induced outcry after police spotted him exposing himself to a consenting adult in the dunes at Cronulla Beach.

John LewthwaiteThe hysteria created by this style of reporting of such events diverts our hearts and minds from more legitimate sources of alarm. The Dili jailbreak has created conditions for a return to the violence we saw earlier this year in East Timor. In North Darfur, the security situation has taken a major turn for the worse, with a massive build-up of troops and military hardware. In Sri Lanka, there have been massacres every few days, almost all of them unreported in our media. The Catholic Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in Jaffna lists scores of violent events that took place in August, such as the Allaipitty massacre in which 20 people were killed in an attack on a church. 91 were injured, including seven babies, 20 children, 18 men and 28 women.

In this issue of Eureka Street, we sound the alarm where it is required. In the week of the release of An Inconvenient Truth, the legitimately alarmist film on Al Gore's climate change crusade, we look at the implications for the elderly and the most vulnerable. The bottom line, as Kate Mannix puts it, is that their bodies will cook if we don't do anything about it.

Suzanna Koster, a correspondent based in Pakistan, looks at the ongoing battle between the desire for democracy and the dangers of allowing militias and al-Qaeda-associated groups too much freedom. This is not a battle easily won, nor one in which either side is without fault. Similarly, Kaylea Fearn writes on the Solomon Islands, and a people who daily struggle with the very real problems of corruption and decaying social cohesion. The day-to-day struggle for these people is a reminder to all of us of just how lucky we are to live in this country.

Also in this issue, we feature three 'replies' to articles from the previous issue. As editors, we begin to have a sense of being on the 'right track' when emails, phone calls and letters start coming in, declaiming and proclaiming what is so right, or so wrong, with what we have published. We welcome all of your correspondence, and encourage you to keep watching the letters page, and sending in your feedback, which we will continue to feature on the site.

Margaret Dooley Young Writers' AwardFinally, a short note. As some of you will be aware, we are running a competition at the moment—the Margaret Dooley Writers Award. This award honours a woman who made a significant contribution to her community. It offers budding Australian writers (under the age of 40) a chance to make a contribution to the fields of ethics and journalism. We like to think that a distinctive feature of Eureka Street is its moral component. We focus on the human implications of events and policies. We believe that this perspective is much needed and often lacking in Australian writing. This is the reason why we offer such a generous award for short essays on ethical topics—so start writing!

Click here to download an MP3 audio version of this editorial (2.6MB)



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Existing comments

I am pleased to see a growing, albeit yet farlry muted, voice being raised about the other side of "the war on teror" namely, the damage being done to our own way of life, sense of justice and fair play.

Joe Goerke | 06 September 2006  

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