Steve Irwin's death "quintessenatially Australian"????

by Stuart Munckton

It is impossible to avoid the media surrounding the death of Steve Irwin, the 'crododile hunter", known apparantly in the US as "Mr Australia".

I have nothing particularly against the guy. I never related to him in any way at all. I never watched his show. I vaguely remember that he said something along the lines of John Howard being the best Prime Minister this country ever had, which didn't really ingratiate me to him. But it sounds like he died a pretty horrible way.

However, the media surrounding it is pretty bizzare. One angle is obvious - he was a walking talking Australian cliche. A stereotyppe utterly deviod of any reality. That doesn't stop the media using him
to pump up Australian nationalism. He was a "true Aussie", because apparantly, true Aussies do crazy things like wrestle crocs and say "crikey" a lot.

It bares no relation to anything other than Steve Irwin himself, which is why, when running out of cliches to throw around, the media resort to calling him "one of a kind". Ie: he isn't actually very
"Australian" in any real sense at all, in the sense of what the *actually existing* people of Australia are like.

None of this is surprising, but it is still pretty bizzare. But just when I thought it couldn't get any more bizzare, John Howard is quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying that Irwin died a
"quintissentially Australian death".

Come again? The guy was stung to death in a freak accident involving a sting ray. Quintessentiaslly Australian? How many other Australian's have ever seen a live sting ray? How many do you know who might, in the fartherest realms of possiblilty, have had any chance *at all* of dying in similar cicumstances?

In fact, there are on record in human history only 17 other people who have died, anywhere on this planet, in a similar way.

Sometimes, the completely false construction of a "national myth" by the politicians and corporate media takes on a truly surreal dimension.

This is to say nothing of the sickening hypocricy of the media. Because, as well as being a great conservationsist apparantly, he was also a great "family man". This is repeated ad nuesuem by the *very same* talking heads who a couple of years ago savaged Irwin for a stunt with a crocidile involving his small child. And both the hailing to the heavens and the damning to hell of Irwin and his relationship to his family have occurred for exactly the same reason - a cynical drive to sensationalise to score ratings.

The focus of the media is, besides from the gruesome angle which is always good for sensationalism, is on how Irwin waws a "great Australian". Which means, a "real Australian". This guy's freakish death becomes an excuse for an excerise in pumping up the nationalist
agenda. He is so "Aussie" he even died in an "Aussie" way, according to Howard.

Well, I guess you don't see any of them Muslims that wont integrate being stung to death by stingrays do you? Possibly the stingray in question was an Islamic terrorist working for Al Quaeda trying to strike a blow at out "way of life" by taking out an "Aussie icon".

Irwin was presented as an "Aussie icon" not to "the rest of the world", as is repeated by the media. But specifically to the rich Western world, as part of building up Australian tourism to those who
can pay for it

Australia has two faces it presents to the outside world. Tourism Australia, which used Irwin in its campaigns, produces a film with the "contraversial" catchphrase "Where the bloody hell are you?", which is to be screened in the rich white, English speaking world to attract the tourist dollar. It features lovely beaches and scenery, people having barbeques and plently of cold beer on offer.

Another government department, immigration, produces a film of its own. This is to be screened in the poor, dark-skinned world. It is to be screened to the desperate, in refugee camps, who have no money to spend in our hotels, and tourist attractions. It is aimed atdiscouraging them to come. It presents the exact opposite picture of Australia - it is hell compared to heaven. Dry scorching deserts as oppossed to lovely inviting beaches, inhospitable terrain compared to lovely scenery. Snakes and other dangerous animals out to kill you, as opposed to blokes offering you a beer.

I always wondered what the result would be if the government bureaucry in its incompetennce had a mix up. And on English TV the picture of hell was screened, while in the refugee camps they saw the "Where the bloody hell are you" campaign.

The final point is what makes a hero and how the media portray them. Irwin is apparantly a hero because of course, if he contributed something positive to the environment (although how
hailing such a distaster for the environment as the Howard government contributes to the cause I am not sure).

But then you think of a real hero like John Cummins, who wrestled much more dangerous creatures than a crocodile - the capitalist class and its state. And actually achieved things of real lasting value, gains for working people.