Wernerhoff Carl - What's going on A critical study of the Port Arthur massacre


Author : Wernerhoff Carl
Title : What's going on A critical study of the Port Arthur massacre
Year : 1996

Link download : Wernerhoff_Carl_-_What_s_going_on_A_critical_study_of_the_Port_Arthur_massacre.zip

Preface. Like most Australians, this author was deeply affected– and to some extent, emotionally scarred – by the tragedy at Port Arthur in 1996. Like most Australians, moreover, I accepted the word of the government, the police and the mass media that Martin Bryant of New Town, Hobart, Tasmania, had perpetrated the massacre. My willingness to accept what I now know to have been a bundle of lies was bound up with my ability to effortlessly incorporate the incident into my mental framework. It seemed to me then that what had happened was really very simple: a generation of young people which had grown up in the shadow of that machine-gun toting icon of the 1980s, Rambo, had produced a couple of young men who craved nothing less than using high-powered weapons to inflict as much carnage as possible. Since there was no Vietnam war and therefore no Vietnamese peasants for them to destroy, the best alternative for these suburban Rambos was to go beserk in their own backyards. This they did at locations like Hoddle Street, Melbourne, where Julian Knight killed seven people in 1987, Queen Street, Melbourne, where Frank Vitkovic killed eight people four months later, Aramoana, New Zealand, where David Gray killed thirteen in 1990, and Strathfield Shopping Centre, Sydney, where Wade Frankum killed seven in 1991. Now, to prolong this series of young Antipodean Rambos, was the Broad Arrow Café, Port Arthur, Tasmania, with Martin Bryant playing the lead role. My understanding of the massacre was naïve, to be sure, but it was consistent with a popular view according to which episodes of mass violence are triggered by images diffused throughout the mainstream culture. Whenever a figure like Rambo emerges as a culture hero, I reasoned, there would inexorably follow Julian Knights, Wade Frankums and Martin Bryants. The meaning for the massacre for me was simply that society is biting off far more than it can chew when it sets up lethal characters like Rambo as its heroes and role models. In another fit of naïvete that I now regret, I was also favourably impressed when John Howard of the Liberal party, Australia’s newly-elected prime minister, acted decisively after the massacre to ram through stringent new gun laws of the sort I had long supported. To me, strict gun laws was a Labor party policy – and it was almost unthinkable to me that a Liberal leader would move on the issue. I was pleasantly surprised to see a Liberal party stalwart like Howard champion one of my pet causes. I really didn’t think a conservative had it in him to do something that, in my opinion, was manifestly in the country’s best interests. Yet, for all my naïvete, I cannot say that I was entirely satisfied by what I read in the newspapers and saw on television about the massacre. At the subconscious level, I felt uneasy about the fact that it had taken place only seven short weeks after Howard had become prime minister. I sensed that there had to be a connection somewhere. I was also disturbed by the fact that no satisfactory explanation was ever offered for the fact that the locking mechanism for a rear exit from the Broad Arrow Café had been damaged so as to render it unusable, thus preventing escape by that route. It seemed to me then, as it still seems to me now, that anyone who thinks that this defect was not connected to the massacre – as if it was a minor problem that had occurred but simply not been noticed before April 28 – has to be a complete fool. ...

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