PANIC

David Marr, Black Inc

Have you ever struggled to comprehend the seemingly disproportionate and hostile response to the tiny numbers of asylum seekers who arrive on Australia’s doorstep?  What about the irrational anxiety that surrounded the Wik and Mabo decisions of the High Court in the late ‘90s?  In PANIC award winning journalist and author David Marr argues that these, and many other issues in contemporary Australian history, have been shaped by an underlying fear which has then been effectively manipulated by our leaders.

PANIC is a collection made up of Marr’s Sydney Morning Herald articles and longer pieces.  The earliest article dates back to 1997 when Pauline Hanson entered the political landscape of Australia.  Marr’s later pieces are much more recent. While the collection jumps across a number of eras and ideas, the focus is on the central theme of fear and panic within Australian society.  Marr contends that panic has been with us since Federation, fuelled largely by political leaders on both sides of politics, aided and abetted by a large section of the Australian press and shock-jocks.

Marr’s research enables the reader to see behind some of the issues that have raged in the media, such as the panic over security during APEC held in Sydney in September 2007, the Bill Henson photographic exhibition, and the Cronulla riots in detail.  The final piece in PANIC explores the history of “boat people” dating back as far as the 1960s.  Laying out the stories, including comments by various protagonists, Marr allows the facts to speak for themselves.

What the reader is left with, apart from a very bad taste in the mouth, are the questions: Why are we (Australian people) so scared and why are we so reluctant to do anything about it?

Essential reading for thinking Australians.

Karyl Davison

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