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Darrin Hodges ran as a candidate in the “D” ward of Sutherland Shire for the 2008 council elections - he received 333 votes out a possible 20,662.
His campaign addressed some environmental and developmental issues – the usual politicking carried on in the local council scene every three years or so.
Hodges, who is the NSW Chairman of the Australian Protectionist Party, certainly has an appetite for publicity, gaining media coverage on SBS World News
What was the secret to his successful national media coverage?
Running a race-related campaign in the backyard of the 2005 Cronulla riots, Hodges’ main sales pitch was that the “Shire should be a place for white Australians” and warned against the influx of Asian immigrants into the area.
“I'd just like to maintain it the way it is - keep it as a predominantly Anglo enclave, for want of a better expression,” Hodges told a news reporter prior to election night (SBS World News
Despite his best attempt to create a link between local development decisions and broader national issues of race and identity, he failed.
Councils deal with libraries, arts programs, local infrastructure, recreational and sports facilities, waste collection and recycling, among other things – but not immigration – FYI that is a Federal Government issue.
Luckily, for the Sutherland Shire community, the majority saw through Hodges’ scare tactics and racist remarks and cast their votes elsewhere – designating him to dead last in the vote count.
However, I remain dumbfounded on how such extensive media coverage was provided to him on a platform that was clearly not a council issue?
Hodges’ comments, disseminated by media outlets nationally, gave an otherwise mundane local election a newsworthy twist and in the process delivered inflammatory messages to the masses without the proper checks and balances.
Where were the editors and chiefs-of-staff to provide the editorial judgement when asked to deal the race card? When do codes of ethics play a role in journalistic coverage?
Whilst most media reports “featuring” Hodges were fair and balanced, media consumers must question the validity of journalists placing unnecessary emphasis on a politician using a racially charged message designed to raise tensions during an election to determine who is best to govern local facilities – not the quantity of Asian immigrants.
Whilst subscribers to this blog are aware of political spin and a genuine political campaign, I am less inclined to think that the public have the same capacity to distinguish the difference.
Naturally, Hodges has every right to campaign and seek media attention to boost his voting numbers; however, when did racial campaigning become such a news story and part of the normal election process?