…and the Urban Myths Begin

I have my little sister visiting from Perth. She was forwarded an email from a friend that sought to connect the James Bulger murder in the UK from the early 1990s to the recent murder of an Perth shopping centre.

Discounting the possibility that such a situation has actually occurred, this is a very good example of the way events are discoursed outside of the channels of the mass-media to create urban myths. I think this one is on par with the photo-shopped image of the death-skull in the smoke of the twin towers from 9/11.

You can see the key issues being raised in the below.

To begin with, ‘truth’ is in quotation marks. Such quotation marks are commonly called ‘scare quotes’ to signal a non-straightforward meaning. The truth has to be ascribed to an outside source, one that does not belong to the national community. Hence, the link to ‘illegal immigrants’ in the latter part of the email.

Related to this is the belief that the government does secret business. Of course such secret business could never be the actual collusion with business and other institutions, but the secret business of a lax social order. This attack of the ‘transparency’ of the government/state reinforces the positioning of ‘truth’ as actually being located in the common-sense popularist discourses espoused in the email against outsiders and of stronger law and order, rather than in the ‘truth’ of experts and governmental figures.

A particular discursive logic is being utilised to make sense of the situation. Part of this abstract logic has been cultivated by the current federal government and the other part is a favourite of the current state governments (5 states and 2 territories in Australian federation for international readers). The federal government controls the ‘border police’, ie customs and the military (navy). The state governments are in charge of the everyday police.

The first element in the discursive logic is the outsider/community binary that has been deployed in most of the refugee politics. It is not a question of social values of one’s own community, but of an outside force that is somehow soiling one’s own community. Such is the grief and public outrage felt because of the horrific nature of the crime that this discursive logic of the outsider is deployed. There is an attempt to locate the cause or source of the horror outside of one’s own community.

Similarly, the second key element in the discursive logic of the email is the desire of an allegedly stronger system of punishment and incarceration, ie the popularist ‘law and order’ refrain. Questioning the effectiveness of the police to control criminality, rather than the social structurations of the community that produces it. Here the role of police and government is to literally purify the social order (not unlike Bruno Latour‘s description of modernist institutions). Again, there is a reach for something outside of the social order — an anomolous ‘something’ that should be controlled by the police as purifiers, and the government as controllers of the police.

Lastly, the tone of the email is friendly (‘alerting friends’) and yet generic, alarming (‘alerting’) and yet casual. The deployment of these discursive logics adds to the inertia behind them; the currency of contemporary politics is in the affects of security that such logics are used to attenuate the affective dispositions of entire populations.

EDIT: Update, the WA police have put out a press release saying that it is not one of the two (now) men convicted of the Bulger murder.

Email follows (verbatim except for the [SOMETHING] inserted if it actually is the correct location):


Hello friends
I am just so angry, frustrated and really upset at what has happened at the Livingston Shopping Centre that I needed to let you all know the “truth” behind the mongrel murderer.

About 3 yrs ago when I was working at the prison we found out that one of the boys (at the time aged about 12) that abducted James Bulger from a shopping centre in the U.K., then brutally raped and murdered him, had reached the age of 18 and had been sent out to Australia with a new identity for his family, etc. Long story short is that he was given the name of Dante Arthurs, his grandfather’s name is Arthur Dante, and his family moved into a house in Canning Vale. When the prison staff got wind of this it was all supposed to be kept hushed up, it was some sort of prisoner exchange deal the Aust Govt set up. Soon after he got here he assaulted a 12 yrd old girl in a park in Canning Vale and consequently came to Hakea prison but for only about 6 weeks as they couldn’t get enough evidence on him and the incident was brushed under
the mat.

His parents used to visit him and their photos were on the computers at work and I clearly recall seeing his mum at the Livingston shops one day. I even had his address and because I’ve got friends and family in the area, I felt I had a right to tell them, stuff the prisons!! I had even driven past his house in [SOMETHING] !

Anyway when this happened yesterday I said to Ron, it’d be interesting to see if it’s that Dante Arthurs guy from the U.K. and sure enough today we find out that it is him. I am, along with a lot of others, absolutely furious that the mongrel arseho*le was allowed to come here via the Govt in the first place and that he was allowed to appear to live a normal life!! Why haven’t the police done something about this – he should not be allowed to breathe air, he is the scum of the earth.

And tonight he would be sitting back in a comfortable cell in prison, having just had a reasonable hot dinner and be watching TV!

That innocent little girl and her poor family will never ever be the same again – all because the piss weak Justice System and Govt allowed him to live in our country! There is a register for paedophiles so that the community are allowed to know where they’re living and yet this piece of shi*t can live on our back door step with a new identity.

People winge about illegal immigrants, what about this?

It will be interesting to see what unfolds over the next few days, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s whisked out of the country in the same manner he was bought here, then again knowing our pathetic laws, we’ll probably keep him here in our justice system, costing tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars to feed and entertain him PLUS the do-gooders will believe in their minds that they can rehabilitate him!

I was just going to type “sorry ” but I’m not at all sorry for alerting my friends to something that should be publicly known.

Stay safe, talk soon.