Manipulative silences and the politics of representation of boat children in Australian print media

Helen McLaren, Tejaswini Patil Vishwanath

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    16 Citations (Scopus)


    There is substantial literature on media representations of asylum seeker policy in Australia from a number of theoretical standpoints, namely moral panic theory, whiteness studies and belonging and citizenship. While many of these studies use discourse analysis of textual media as a methodology, there is scant attention to the contribution of manipulative silences in media texts on asylum seeker children. Using a form of discourse analysis to explore the idea of manipulative silences, we demonstrate how media representations may steer public attention towards asylum seeker children in two dominant ways: (i) in discourses of deviancy by association with adults and (ii) the rights of boat children in association with immigration detention. Both generate confusion between rights, compassion and deviancy and, by shifting public attention, they serve to silence more essential concerns for the children. We seek to analyses these manipulative silences in the context of Australian asylum seeker policies of the Abbott government. In elucidating the use of textual silences to manipulate discourse, it is possible to see how Australian media representations may be skewing dialogue in the public sphere away from core political, legal and humanitarian issues that are imperative for the well-being of asylum seeker children.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)602-612
    Number of pages11
    JournalContinuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies
    Issue number6
    Early online date2016
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


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