Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crikey! Aussie Media Tries To Find Context Amid Hysteria Over Steve Irwin's Death

Amid Offers of A State Funeral for the Croc Hunter, Reports Try To Make Sense of Ray Attack
Now the second-day stories from Down Under on Steve Irwin's demise are starting the transition from grief to questions to reflection.
Click on the story in the Sydney Morning Herald where police determined Irwin was not "intimidating" the homicidal ray, and you get 31 links to other sidebars, tributes, videos and photos. Also included is a poll asking: "Should video footage of Irwin's death be shown?" As of this writing, it's 58 percent against, by the way.
Over at The Australian, columnist Matt Price sounds a bit bemused, even a little put off, by the worldwide reaction to Irwin's bizarre death, noting it shows how little the rest of the world knows about his country.

In truth, of course, Irwin’s Australia is largely a romantic myth. We are the most urbanised nation in the world, living in increasingly crammed cities on an increasingly crowded coastline. We are, as a rule, terrified of sharks, crocodiles, snakes and spiders, just like everyone else in the world.

Then again, Prime Minister John Howard appears to be buying into the myth, when he said Irwin died in "quintessentially Australian circumstances" and offered up a state funeral if Irwin's family wants one.

But there are the inevitable dispatches that try to knock Irwin's legacy down a peg or two, including one from Mark Coultan in Melbourne's The Age. Writing from New York, he made note of the saturation coverage here and added for good measure: "Irwin was a nightmare for tourism marketers trying to shift Australia's image from beaches and koalas."

Coulter says Irwin's success begat other Discovery Channel staples like Shark Week. More danger = higher ratings, but encouraging irresponsible behavior -- if a bloke like Steve can do it why can't we? -- among viewers that can lead to a bad outcome. His death might give Discovery pause before showing other programs of this ilk. But don't count on that.
Over at 2UE, one of Australia's leading news-talk stations, this was topic one, of course. It was refreshing to listen to overnight host Stuart Bocking actually talk to a caller who felt Irwin encouraged disturbing animal habitats for the better part of seven minutes, and not once shout him down, call him an idiot and hang up spewing epithets.
Conversations on talk radio. How quaint.

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