You are on page 1of 3

Name Module number / Tutorial group Purpose Date of submission Number of words

Amanda Chan Yu Ling UWC2101S / Section 1

Assignment Submitted Paper 1 Peer Review Draft 26 January 2014 1,092

Racism exists in any society, albeit to varying degrees, and societies have made use of propaganda to aggravate and spread such prejudices. This poster, titled The Thin White Line, or the Northern Coast Defence shows an instance in which racist attitudes are blatantly expressed to incite racial prejudice. Taking up half the poster is a caricature of a Chinese man, with narrow, slit-like eyes, protruding bulk teeth and sharp fingernails, taking on a crouching posture like that of a hunter hunting its prey, which in this case, appears to be the country of Australia. Prima facie, this leads me to believe that it is essentially an anti-Chinese propaganda to warn the Australians that their country is at risk of being invaded by the Chinese, who judging by his menacing stance is unlikely to hold good intentions. But if that was indeed the intended message, it could be sufficiently brought across with just the caricature and the outline of Australia what then is the role of the aboriginals standing in between the caricatured Chinese figure and the two Caucasian man? At the same time, why did the poster depict the aboriginals to be a part of Australia, only to emphasize the whiteness of the northern coast defence in the title as if the aboriginals who were black didnt actually belong? These red flags signal to me that this is not just an anti-Chinese poster, but one that is trying to incite racial prejudice against anyone that is not Caucasian as well as a desire to make Australia a country that is made of purely Caucasian, by depicting the Chinese as a threat, the aboriginals as inferior and uncivilized, and the Caucasians themselves as outnumbered, overwhelmed and vulnerable. The Chinese is portrayed as a threat that is trying to invade Australia. The most obvious clue in the poster that gives it a racist overtone is its play on racial stereotypes by depicting the imposing figure to have squinty eyes, thick lips and buck teeth, which instantly identify him to be a Chinese. His fingers are curled up to look like claws that parallels what animals do when they are hunting for their prey, while his narrowed eyes make him seem like he is watching Australia very intently and waiting for the best opportunity to strike. His large size as compared to the rest of the figures in the poster makes him out to be a formidable and overwhelming force, and the title that speaks of the northern coast defence further reinforces the fact that the Chinese were
Page 1 of 3

made to be seen as a menace that had to be kept out, and a threat that Australia has to be defended against. To the Australian viewers, this would lead them to associate the Chinese as a sinister race that is threatening to encroach upon their country, which in turn incites a sense of vulnerability and fear that would make them more protective of their own race. In the same vein, this poster also involves a racial slant against the aboriginals as they are portrayed to be inferior, uncivilized and oblivious to the impending threat that the Chinese represents. First, the aboriginals are dressed in only shorts, with neither shoes nor shirts, which is in stark contrast with the Caucasians who are fully dressed in uniform, together with hats, helmets and shoes. This suggests that the aboriginals were much less civilized as compared to the Caucasians. Second, they are seen to be holding very primitive weapons of spears and clubs, which does not seem like they would do much harm to the imposing Chinese figure. On the left side of the poster, two aboriginals are depicted to be running away from the scene while on the right side of the picture, and yet another is portrayed to be hiding behind a rock, with only one man left to face the Chinese head on. It can then be concluded that this poster intended for its audience to go away with the message that the aboriginals are an inferior and cowardly race, and hence not fit to be a part of Australia. Turning our eyes to the Caucasians, the bigger of the two is dressed in a black and white checkered uniform that resembles the Sillitoe Tartan that is associated with the Australian Federal Police. From this, we can infer that they represent the thin White line or the Northern Coast Defence mentioned in the title, which is responsible for protecting Australia against the non-Whites. The relative size of the two suggests that the bigger man is the superior, and his aggressive act of clutching onto the front of the smaller soldiers shirt suggests that he is displeased about something. We get an inkling of what that might be as we observe the direction his left hand is pointing towards, but it is interesting to note that the target to which he is pointing is intentionally ambiguous. This suggests that the race that they are trying to keep out is not just the Chinese, but the aboriginals as well. It speaks of a desire to create a pure Australia that consists of only Caucasians, of which neither the aboriginals nor the Chinese are welcomed to be a part of. The anti-non-white message is further reinforced through the portrayal of the Caucasians own vulnerability. The poster depicts the Caucasians to be severely outnumbered and overwhelmed, with only two tiny figures at the bottom of the poster relative to 4 aboriginals and a giant Chinese figure. This could be an attempt to convey the message that the non-Whites were overpopulating the Whites. The large empty land that is Australia also speaks of a dwindling
Page 2 of 3

White population that is too small to defend itself against onslaught of other races, and hence corroborates with the title to create a sense of urgency that works to prompt the Whites to discriminate against the non-whites even the aboriginals who are the natives of the land. To sum up, this poster that appears to straightforwardly be anti-Chinese propaganda is more accurately trying to incite prejudice against all non-white races, which reveals a bigger desire to create an Australia that is the preserve of the Whites. If this poster is successful in conveying its surface message, it could have implications on Australias immigration policies. For instance, the criteria for the Chinese to immigrate to Australia would be a lot more stringent. If even the underlying message is successfully conveyed to the Australian public, it could result in prejudice and discriminating policies against the native Australians as well.

Page 3 of 3