The ABC has again attacked Alice Springs residents concerned with the ongoing destruction of their town on its flagship program “The Drum” with one guest comparing a recent town hall meeting to Mississippi Burning.
Controversial academic Nareen Young joined the ABC’s assault on the gathering of up to 3,000 locals only hours after the public broadcaster came under pressure for a report depicting attendees as “white supremacists”.
Ms Young said the “elephant in the room” was the “racism” spurted during the meeting, despite there being no recordings or footage to corroborate the claim, as she drew links to the controversial 1988 film Mississippi Burning.
“If you saw that room in Mississippi Burning for example Australians would say, ‘How terrible, that’s terrible that happens there’,” Ms Young said on Wednesday night.
“The vitriol and racism and lack of regard and respect for those people on their land while those people were living off the bounty of it was appalling.”
The Drum host John Barron failed to test Ms Young’s comments and swiftly moved on.
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The film, which faced significant scrutiny when released, depicts institutionalised racism during the investigation of the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers including one African American.
Famously the movie features meetings of Ku Klux Klan members who were later convicted on civil rights violations due to their involvement in the deaths.
The shocking reference made on The Drum continued a slate of reporting of the Save Alice Springs meeting which has been criticised as being “one-sided” and biased.
In a report on its flagship Radio National AM program by Indigenous Affairs reporter Carly Williams, the ABC depicted the town as severely racially divided.
One attendee said the meeting was a “disgusting show of white supremacy” and was “scary” to be in the room.
Another told the ABC: “The tension and violence and anger in the room was really palpable and was clearly all around white supremacy and the safety of white people in this town.”
However, a third interviewee suggested locals concerned with the rapid rise in crime borne out in recent police figures should abandon their town.
“I am way more concerned about the danger posed by those people in there those white people that have a choice whether to live here than vulnerable aboriginal children whose connection to this country cannot be broken,” she said.
“If they don’t like living here if they’ve got a problem with it they can leave.”
Shadow communications minister Sarah Henderson unleashed on the public broadcaster’s “absolutely disgraceful” coverage and demanded an “urgent” apology as well a retraction and an internal review into journalistic training.
But Senator Henderson reserved most of her criticism for ABC management, conceding the journalist should not be “hung out to dry”.
“The bottom line is that the ABC has a statutory responsibility to report the news impartially and accurately and it has monumentally failed to do so in this case,” Senator Henderson told Sky News Australia’s Laura Jayes on Thursday.
“Journalists do make mistakes… but what I’m more concerned about is ABC senior management’s defence. They don’t seem to get it, they don’t seem to understand that if a mistake has been made it’s got to be corrected, there’s got to be an investigation.
“The ABC’s defence of this report was actually more concerning than the mistakes made by the journalist.”
Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson panned the original report, suggesting it was a “kick in the teeth” to locals as number of attendees spoke up refuting the ABC’s claims.
Mr Paterson, who demanded the ABC apologise and retract the story on Wednesday, said he still had not received contact from the public broadcaster accusing it of lighting a “fuse” in the town.
“We’re already heightened by anxiety which is a really hard thing to describe because it’s bubbling away,” he told Sky News Australia’s Pete Stefanovic on Thursday.
“It was a really disappointing article and I just want to be clear that it certainly (does) not has anything to do with the ABC local down here, they’ve done a great job and they understand the sensitivities.
“This was just a journalist from interstate who’s lit a fuse here and I look forward to the apology, I’m not sure that I’ll get one, it’s certainly not the way the meeting was run, it was handled very sensitively.”
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