Wednesday, February 03, 2010

It's never that simple

A couple of reports recently from Oz prompt me to post again about the attacks on Indians in Victoria.

I posted a couple of times last year, when the media frenzy in India seemed to be at its peak.

The theme was that Indians were being targeted in racially motivated attacks. There were the inevitable protests on the streets, effigy burning, government discussions at the highest level, calls for Indians to boycott Australia because it's so unsafe, the Indian government issuing a travel warning.

Of course, like everything, it's not that simple.

I don't doubt that some of the attacks were racially motivated. Morons, usually young males, usually with the bravery that comes from being in a group and often drunk, attacking lone walkers after dark.

But then you look at context.

According to the Victorian police, in 2007/08, 1,447 people of Indian origin were victims of crimes against the person such as robberies and assaults. This compared to 24,260 Caucasian victims and 36,765 victims overall.

The police go on to say that a lot of international students work and study late at night and are often travelling home by themselves on trains, equipped with their laptops and phones. That makes them much easier soft targets than the average person.

Then to the two recent reports.

At the end of December Ranjodh Singh was stabbed repeatedly and then set on fire. Another racially motivated attack?

At the end of last week it was reported:

"In a new twist to the 'horrific' murder of Indian youth Ranjodh Singh, whose partially charred body was found from the city of Griffith Dec 29, Australian police Thursday arrested an Indian couple in the case and said the victim was burnt alive. Police charged a 23-year-old Indian man and his wife with murder."

An Indian couple.

The report is here.

Early in January we also had:

"In yet another attack targeting Indians in Australia, a 29-year-old man from the country was set on fire by four assailants, drawing strong condemnation from a student body which called such assaults unacceptable and asked authorities not to "dodge" the issue."

The Times of India reports that story here.

Today's report:

"AN Indian man who told police he was attacked and set on fire by a gang of four men has been charged with making a false report to authorities and criminal damage for financial gain."

It was an insurance scam.

That story's here.

As I said, things are always more complicated than the knee-jerk reaction would have us believe.


Anonymous said...

The City of Leicester near me is officially now"over 50% ethnic minority" according to the local paper. Surely they meant "ethnic majority"? But I digress. Over 70% of muggings and attacks in Leicester are black on black or black on white. That's official, and I'll bet most of the attacks are racially motivated.

Matt said...

seabee, you always like to point out about the whole picture and you should this time as well.

you make the point that you're 17 times more likely to be attacked if you're caucasian vs indian, but i'd also assume there are at least 20-30 times more caucasians than indians in melb.

therefore, (using my unsubstantiated logic) you're almost twice as much at risk as being physically attacked if you're indian.

and that's just not fair.

Mita said...

Hi Seabee, I do enjoy your blog and as always I think you're right to put a perspective on this. I think any one knows that you have to be sensible otherwise you're in trouble. Just that some of the stories (maybe partly exaggerated) are not just muggings and that's what is horrifying.

the real nick said...

Nice one, seabee! So you’ve gone under the comedians?
You’d be 17 times more likely to be a Caucasian victim only if your population was around 1.5million – the same number as Asians in Australia – and of those 1.5m Caucasians 24,260 were victims of crime. Since however the Ethnic white population in Australia numbers approx. 19.5million (92% of the total pop.), the crime rate per population percentage is about the same for Caucasians and Asians – about 1 per thousand for Asians and 1 for 800 for Caucasians. Note that ‘Asians’ includes Indians, Chinese, Koreans etc., so I guess the rate for Indians is most probably greater than 1 per 800. (Source for population numbers: CIA World Fact book)

rosh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rosh said...

Thanks for this Seabee. The only point I'd differ are with numbers. I partly agree with Nick's.

That said, the twin, his fiance and I lived in Oz about 4 (and 2) years whilst completing our undergrads. Oz is a lovely place and so are the Ozzies. Of course there are the random unpleasant folk. Whilst racism is alive and kicking in some remote parts of most countries, one can also be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being a victim of crime and taking lives are heinous crimes. As much as there's justice, ignorance and hate takes over some folks I guess.

As for the Indian media, I think most educated Indian folk know the Indian media is a joke. The media love to provoke, sensationalize and get the masses moving. There's little sense of responsible journalism or a sense of accountability. Freedom of speech does not concurr with expressing whatever those with the pen pleases. It comes with an incredible sense of responsibility. And these are not my sentiments -- most Indians I know in the UAE and here in America, share the view.

Mohammad said...

Come on Seabee, you can do better. As others put it, the number of Caucasians is surely more than 17 times the number of Indians there?

Also, having 1 fake attack (for insurance claims) out of 200 attacks doesnt reduce the magnitude of the other 199 attacks.

Seabee said...

I didn't think I'd need to spell the percentages out in great detail guys, I assumed it would be obvious, especially given the para following the figure:
"...a lot of international students work and study late at night and are often travelling home by themselves on trains, equipped with their laptops and phones. That makes them much easier soft targets than the average person."

I'd assumed you'd compare apples with apples - the number of young people being out late on their own in dangerous areas, not the simple raw numbers.

I put the basic figures in and commented on them to try give some context to the numbers and to emphasise that anyone can be attacked, given the claims that Indians are being specifically targeted.

Mohammed, I wasn't trivialising the attacks. I was pointing out that any assault on an Indian is being immediately played up by the media as a racist attack by whites, but that it isn't that simple. Of course some are, but in fact many are opportunist muggings, and there are even others such as these examples of Indian killing Indian and insurance scam.

Anonymous said...

First we have:

Of course, like everything, it's not that simple.

Then we have:

I didn't think I'd need to spell the percentages out in great detail guys, I assumed it would be obvious, especially given the para following the figure

A constant theme on this blog is the fact that many (particularly in the western media), in your view, incorrectly report the news or are overly simplistic in their analysis of it.

So I would have thought that when you made a pretty big error about the likelihood of being affected by crime in Australia we would have received a correction from you and a mea cupla. Instead you blame the rest of us for not getting it with assumed it would be obvious, especially given the para following the figure and I'd assumed you'd compare apples with apples.

Come on Seabee - a bit of a double standard don't you think?

Seabee said...

Anon@12.51, no I don't think it's a double standard, but you're perfectly entitled to your opinion that it is.

I don't think I made 'a pretty big error', I quoted the official figures. I deliberately put the '17 times' line in to emphasise a point, but in view of the way it's been taken as the most important sentence in the post, taking attention from the real point, it obviously wasn't the right thing to do. If I took that one sentence out it would solve the problem. In fact I'll take everyones' advice and do that as soon as I've published this comment - I'll leave the comments in place though.

BTW, I think you've probably raised a blog post subject with your comparison between mainstream professional media and bloggers.

There's a huge difference between a mainstream media outlet, with an enormous team of professionals and massive resources, and bloggers. The two can't be compared.

We're largely ordinary, untrained people, we sit alone at our computers and type our thoughts. Like just about everyone in the world we have, and express our, opinions on all sorts of issues. Some people do it verbally to their friends, family and colleagues, some write to the media, some protest in the streets, some write on blogs.

You can't compare that with a media outlet.

Seabee said...

OK, the offending sentence has gone.