AUSTRALIA, as we all know, was founded as a penal colony, so the cherished idea that informing on neighbours and workmates is antithetical to national spirit and heritage just doesn’t ring true. Anyone who has had any dealings with the Criminal-Australian community will know that dobbing in underworld associates is as much a part of doing business as is making off with other people’s property. A friend, now dead, who did a little time for being far too fond of opiates and petrol stations’ takings, learned this while cooling his heels at the Bluestone College. As he told it, prison authorities were going through the motions of making the premises drug free, a crusade that cannot have been pursued with too much enthusiasm, as it was warders who were said to be chiefly responsible for running contraband. But someone had to take the fall and, as luck would have it, another incarcerated junkie nominated the Billabong’s buddy as the chief source. He did extra time for that and never again spoke of honour amongst thieves.
Dobbing has now gone mainstream, with ads like the one below urging citizens to help put malefactors behind bars. Few would object to that, as few find much to enjoy in coming home to find the new flat screen, little woman’s jewelry and anything else easily pocketable have gone missing.
Still, look at this ad for Crime Stoppers and wonder if there might not be another message, a subtle one, woven into the narrative. The bash artists are white and the victim Asian. He is welcomed to his thumping with the announcement that he has journeyed to “the wrong place.” Toward the end of the video, when the voice-over is urging people to phone their tips to Crime Stoppers’ operators, the images are overwhelmingly of various ethnic minorities.
Look, it may be one Bunyip’s hyper-sensitive perception, but was it really necessary to cast a simple incident of theft and assault with an entirely unneeded underscore of racism?
Readers are invited to share their perceptions of the ad in comments.