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37 responses to “#GoBackSBS asylum-seeker doco aftermath”

  1. paul walter

    What a slu*g Sheehan is.
    What I’ve seen of it, one large chunk where they were staying in Malaysia and then Africa or the Middle East, was rivetting.
    It was encouraging to see some thing of the hype and emotion reined and it is the first show to live up to a full conception of “reality tv”, as they said in Crikey. Even reality can be interesting, cat’s out of the bag, whoops!
    I hoped we could see that at least the country that has agonised on this issue for over a decade is at last discovering more sophisticated ways of explaining what our current issues to the atomised public we are, in effect explaining our selves to ourselves. For the first time genuinely delicately and with some sensitivity appropos the Malaysian refugees and Malaysian or Indonesian poor, the real victims of wars and disasters somewhere else.
    “Lest we forget”.
    Also our own lot, with that oddly aussie friendship between the young woman who seemed so shell shocked and the more streetwise mature woman who befriended her. I heard of the younger woman later warming to Africans, so it shows how the integrity and message is delivered in the term “sensitivity” and works in the “Town Like Alice” metaphor. Beautiful how cultural knowledge is passed on.
    But what fearsome places these are for fat cats like us.
    Did I see the polis looking a little shame-faced today?

  2. Charlie

    I hate voice-overs telling me what I should be thinking or feeling.

  3. adrian

    Quite brilliant and courageous television.

    Although why you’d link to the stinking pile of excrement that is the Sheehan article for a ‘countervailing perspective’ is a mystery.

  4. patrickg

    I hate voice-overs telling me what I should be thinking or feeling.

    Good thing there were literally none in this show, which you’d know because you watched it, of course.

  5. Robert Merkel

    I think it was on Crikey that somebody said that every TV producer in Australia is probably kicking themselves right now. They’re right – it was brilliant television.

    I suppose what I found most interesting was that most of the participants – even the offputting Racquel – “got it”, after spending time with some of the refugee families. Not exactly a huge sample size, but interesting nonetheless.

    Yes, it was simplistic and tabloid, and wasn’t some anodyne “objective” look at the issue. Tough.

  6. The Lorax

    I was gutted Racquel piked out and didn’t go to the Congo.

  7. Paul Burns

    Watched the first two episodes and am stukk kicking myself for forgetting to watch episode 3 last night. What I saw was absoluteky brilliant. At least I’ll be able to cqatch it up online.
    No surprise the Young Lib’s heart didn’t soften. (I wonder how many Lib politicians watched it?_
    I found Racquel’s attitudes fascinating, if only because it showed what we have to struggle against. Glad to hear she softened later, though there were signs of that even in episode one.
    Great stuff!

  8. Tim Dymond

    I note from twitter that Samantha Maiden is equating criticism of Racquel’s racism to racism itself. However the people who set up the ‘Deport Racquel Moore’ facebook group did no one any favours.

  9. Fran Barlow

    I watched all three episodes in sequence on download from SBS.

    I found that it passed the most important tests of documentary — data salience to issues raised and accuracy. That it was also confronting and somewhat polemical doesn’t diminish this.

    Re: Sheehan. Like Adrian, I am surprised you linked tyo this without substantive comment. The obvious problem is in Sheehan’s remark:

    Last August, the ABC’s Four Corners presented a searing program, ”Smugglers’ Paradise”, which presented a far more accurate and confronting picture of the people smuggling trade to Australia.

    This was not a documentary about people smuggling. It was a documentary about people who are “smuggled”. There is a world of difference between these things, and the presentation of the issue as if it is about “boats” or “people smuggling” or “human trafficking” lies at the heart of the problem. It is this focus which gives people so inclined to hide a bigoted and xenophobic posture behind misdirecting claims about “the evils” of people smuggling. people “smuggled” are certainly exploited/mistreated in part by those smuggling them, but their principal problem lies before they contact a people smuggler, and after, when they arrive in mandatory detention.

    Sheehan is therefore misdirecting when he speaks as if the Gillard-Rudd-Abbott-Howard perspective (“it’s about people smuggling”) is the standard by which this documentary ought to be evaluated. I haven’t seen this other documentary, so I can’t attest to its rigour but that’s not really the point. Fair and balanced or outrageous propaganda, it’s not looking at what, from the perspective of Australia’s treaty obligations, and simple humanity, is the key issue.

    On a side note, I’m glad that #gobackSBS included at least one person who started from the point where those possessed of empathy ought to begin. It’s a matter of some irony that “Gleny” consistently endured the challenges and privation rather better than the rest of the group. She’d have been rather more entitled to complain than the others after all, for she had never doubted their force at all.

    Raye seemed genuinely chastened, and one hopes that she returns to her peers at Inverbrackie and works to subvert the animus towards asylum seekers there.

    Overall the documentary affirms what I have long believed — that while many fear asylum seekers as a class, they find it hard to fear them as individuals. From almost the moment they become humans rather than mere faceless “waves” empathy sets in. Contact leaves each of them wondering why these folk should not have the same life chances as they feel is their own due, but then the very next question arises — why should anyone have less than they claim for themselves? The Golden Rule is reasserted. One of the men asserts the problem as they go on the “raid” in Malaysia. If there are any Chin there, I’m going to lose it. He had just bonded with a community of Chin in a refugee district in Malaysia, sleeping amongst them, witnessing their harsh treatment, and found them personally agreeable and thus ill-deserving of this dealing. Now he was to be witness and party to the thing they most feared — arrest. As Raye notes, reflecting on her time with the Chin children — what if this action were against them? Such thoughts are corrosive of the will to deal harshly with refugees.

    At the end, even Racquel (sp?) found it hard to reconcile her hatred of dark-skinned foreigners with her horror at their life-circumstances. Just one participant — the Adelaide “businessman” held onto his boats dichotomy.

    Really, this documentary ought to be shown at every school in the country. It really is that compelling.

  10. via collins

    per Tigtog at # 6, the extent of Sheehan’s response was illustrated by Bolta sparing himself an initial response – I’m sure the full-blown essay is being typed now – by linking to Sheehan’s piece, and letting the commenters loose.

    Happily, the commenters there were rather well met by calmer, saner viewpoints.

    This programme, for all it’s flaws – the music, the simple set-ups, – was a real watershed. As Robert says above, there’s going to be a lot of producers burying their head in their hands this weekend, especially if ratings show an increase over the three nights. It was absolute reality template format, but with consistently engrossing content.

    I’m fairly fixed in a centrish-liberal POV, and I found my assumptions challenged several times. And cheesy as it may be, I found Raquel’s redemption captivating.

  11. Fine

    I felt the Liberal Party guy didn’t have much to say because, without his mobile, he couldn’t phone home and find out what the correct line is.

    It’s fascinating that the programme used all the tropes of reality tv to such good use (Heroes and villians, challenges and surprises). It rated much higher than that time slot usually does for SBS. I bet Michael Cordell is planning a similar series putting participants in Indigenous camps in the NT to look at the intervention.

    Because I work in documentary, I find out the strategy of this series fascinating. No broadcaster is interested in what they see as dull and worthy docos which they know won’t rate well. In fact, documentary is a bit of a dirty word for television and it’s now referred to as ‘factual content’. The production company makes its bread and butter with series such as ‘Bondi Rescue’, which sell well overseas. But, you can tell that this sort of political content is where their heart really is.

  12. Sam

    she “doesn’t like Africans”.

    There are some Africans I don’t like, especially the white supremacist Afrikaaners. I’m also not in love with Robert Mugabe, the mass murderers in Darfur and the Congo, and so on.

  13. Katz

    Paul Sheehan:

    Because this debate is not about empathy. It is not about numbers. It is not about race. It is about principle: control the borders. The biggest beneficiaries of strict border control would be legitimate asylum seekers.

    Sheehan is at best an ignoramus. It is also possible that he is a provocative rabble-rouser.

    This is a debate about Australia’s honouring of its treaty commitments.

    If the debate were really about control of borders, then concerned persons would be up in arms about how Australian visas are exploited to enable tens of thousands of overstayers who arrive by air. All the people who arrive by boat seek political asylum. Virtually none who violate Australian visa conditions after arriving by plane seek political asylum. Instead, they skulk around the country under false pretences.

    Sheehan is complicit in encouraging Australians to swallow the whale but to choke on the sprat.

  14. Fine

    Epside 3 rated 851,000 in the five mainland capitals, up from 524,000 on the first night. SBS usually rates at 250,000 – 300,000 in that time slot.

  15. adrian

    That is good to hear Fine – there’s an audience for TV that’s not relentlessly dumbed down.

  16. Helen

    Sheehan is at best an ignoramus. It is also possible that he is a provocative rabble-rouser.

    We do know that he’s very gullible and liable to cling to beliefs for which there is inadequate proof.

  17. Labouring the Point

    I remember Sheehan on coming back from the USA saying Paula Jones’s allegations against Bill Clinton had to be true because she could describe marks on his genitals.

    However we later found out there were no marks at all!

  18. adrian

    Sheehan’s got what it takes to be a conservative commentator on a major Australian newspaper these days – immense gullibility, unlimited arrogance, lack of logic and consistency, and a mediocre writing style.

  19. Charlie

    for [email protected] – NARRATOR: COLIN FRIELS

  20. Fine

    But were the voiceovers telling you what to feel or think, Charlie?

  21. Tim Macknay

    The only thing one can say about Paul Sheehan is: magic water.

    There are some Africans I don’t like, especially the white supremacist Afrikaaners. I’m also not in love with Robert Mugabe, the mass murderers in Darfur and the Congo, and so on.

    Call me a bigot, but personally I’ve always disliked Idi Amin.

  22. via collins

    Charlie # 20 , you’re in a dead end there, and there’s no reversing out.

    Friels’ narration simply filled in some background, and did not seek to tell anyone how to think. If you have examples to quote, I’d be really interested to see them. Part of the fascination here is waiting to see if the conservatives can mount a cogent and meaningful criticism of the show. Sheehan’s clearly isn’t.

    The reality format is loaded with manipulations, and Go Back Home played true to all of them. But it left the viewer very much to make up their own mind – hence the variety of views we’re reading and hearing.

  23. Fran Barlow

    Tim said:

    Call me a bigot, but personally I’ve always disliked Idi Amin.

    Then again, I wasn’t overly fond of Milton Obote either.

    In both cases though, it was their role in human social arrangements that was reprehensible, and since that was largely the product of much wider drivers of human organisation — scarcity and inequality key amongst them — Amin and Obote and their kind are really just the ugly carbuncles of a much wider disease. They were unsightly — hateful if you like — but the underlying epidemic is what was/is germane.

  24. Siobhan

    This was very powerful, competent television. It was a great leap forward for the reality-TV genre, taking it beyond meaningless challenges just for the sake of it, to a challenge that taps right into current real world debates. (Although I suppose you could argue that Wife Swap does that too.)

    Watching the fast flowing flood of the twitterstream later, I was intrigued by a) how many people were treating the information about refugees it contains as news and
    b) the frequent calls for it to be shown to school children.

    Surely it is not news to so many people that refugees flee out of well-grounded fear for their lives, and live in squalor while they try to catch a glimmer of hope. Surely it is not news that people react differently to a human being in the room with them than they do to a set of numbers in the news.
    GoBack is a good use of the TV medium to illustrate these facts, but it is not news.

    As for the calls to show it in school, I am surprised people are so ignorant of what is already taught in schools. Our high school curricula are already well stocked with empathy-building stories about refugees. Teenagers know this stuff, and usually care.

    It is adults already of voting age who seem to somehow unlearn the art of empathy and the facts that might provoke it.

  25. robbo

    With no SBS and no broadband I would like to remind everyone that some of us just -don’t- get it.

    At all.

  26. David McRae

    Bloody brilliant.

    I’ve got it recorded. My mum, a self-described racist won’t see it .. yet .. I’m working on her. I see alot of Raye in her.

  27. Charlie

    By the makers of ‘Bondi Rescue’…. from the auditions of the many…. the final CAST were chosen… for their POVs and backgrounds. Good talent. Traveling with a crew of around 16 bodies to some awful places in the world. ‘reality’ this is not …. the great refugee race, the biggest loser…. yes it is ‘good televison’ because it moves us, plays emotional strings. Same reason that 7 and 9 send their people to the Queensland floods – same reason. If this content could be called ‘documentary’, then so could the Kardishans (or whoever they are). Instead of 25 days, it would be more interesting to see the CAST in situ for 25 months with a little digi-cam to upload their weekly reports – now that could be real and that could be documentary.

  28. Fran Barlow

    Siobhan said:

    As for the calls to show it in school, I am surprised people are so ignorant of what is already taught in schools. Our high school curricula are already well stocked with empathy-building stories about refugees. Teenagers know this stuff, and usually care.

    I don’t agree that this is so. Yes, in a general sense, there is far more empathy amongst students for those who are here on humanitarian grounds, but I don’t hear their stories being told loudly and ubiquitously because, like someone diagnosed with cancer, there’s reticence talking about it and reluctance to ask.

  29. Paul

    Of course, most Anglo people don’t want SBS so most of the people they were trying to influence wouldn’t have seen it.

  30. Siobhan

    School students may not talk much about refugees. But they ARE already exposed to information about the refugee experience.

    Showing GoBack in schools would add to the substantial number of texts on refugees that is already in schools, not add something completely new.

  31. paul walter

    For me, they could ask a question, “who thinks they’ll be worse/better/same if boat refugee policy is eased?”
    and see what sort of impressions or quantative measures could be obtained (ok so mortgage belt tradies are some times mentioned as political swingers).
    You could go a bit deeper and ask those who said yes or no to above propositions did so and why.
    Who is most “anxious” about refugee seekers?
    Can they differentiate between boat and other forms, do they conflate migrants with refugees?
    Don’t laugh.
    Those Aussies on that show performed like a footy team first week back at training, in some ways and the pain showed. Are we talking about denial, delusion or both or neither, or effectiveness of media in selling an issue to the public?
    How could they/ we not know what the Third World was like and go into physical shock at the sight of an actual we either had forgotten or not anticipated when we should have?
    Identity issues are subtle but powerful.

  32. Bill Posters

    Of course, most Anglo people don’t want SBS so most of the people they were trying to influence wouldn’t have seen it.

    Time to put this one to bed. Ratings topped 500,000. That’s a lot, especially for a doco on SBS. And more people talked about it.

  33. Helen

    Listening to Fran Kelly interview Scott Morrison on RN this morning I was interested to see how the debate has been reframed by the Malaysian plan. Morrison is saying it’s too harsh and they would be better off on Nauru. The overall impression was that our concentration camps are now not only acceptable, they’re the humane alternative (to something even worse, that is).

  34. Chookie

    In my work capacity, I have already seen a censored “Go Back” offered by a major documentary video seller.
    They’ve removed the naughty words, apparently.

  35. wbb

    Some of the best telly I’ve seen. Shame they couldn’t get it on a commercial channel. It had all the right ingredients to rate it’s sock off.

    And try the Exit Australia simulation thing at http://www.sbs.com.au/asylumexitaustralia/ – great use of that medium, too.