Irwin, widely known as “the Crocodile Hunter,” was killed Sept. 4 by a stingray which rose and stabbed him in the chest while the young man was at work filming a television segment, swimming at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Irwin’s enthusiasm was infectious. His manner of death was certainly noteworthy. All doubtless sympathize with his wife and two young children.
Still, Irwin died doing what he loved. And without diminishing his memory or his family’s loss, perhaps we can draw a distinction between a death which is merely unfortunate and fascinating, and one which was significant.
It could be an interesting exercise to compare the prominent coverage of Irwin’s death with the slim few paragraphs (at most) devoted by the America news media on or about Aug. 4, 1999 to the death -- in a shoot-out with government police -- of 44-year-old Rodney William Ansell, the 1988 Australian Northern Territory Man of the Year, so honored in part because he was widely acknowledged to be the real-life character on whom Paul Hogan, Ken Shadie, and John Cornell based their movie character “Crocodile Dundee.”
Yes, the circumstances surrounding Ansell’s death took a little more time to put together. The question is: Did anyone in the press ever bother, and if not, why not?
Ansell was just 21 when he became lost for two months in the bush west of Darwin. He’d been on a fishing trip near the mouth of the Victoria River, accompanied only by his two cattle dogs, when his boat was capsized and sunk, possibly by a whale. He managed to board his tender vessel, a small dinghy with only one oar, and retrieve his dogs and a small amount of equipment including his rifle, knives and bedding -- but no fresh water.
Alone, far from any shipping lanes, Ansell travelled up the Fitzmaurice River over the next 72 hours, becoming severely dehydrated before finally finding fresh water above the tide line. He then managed to survive for two months by hunting and shooting cattle for food, before being rescued by a small party of drovers.
(Presumably it wasn’t their cattle he’d been shooting, or our tale might be much shorter.)
Ansell, blonde and bearing an uncanny resemblance to actor Paul Hogan, wrote a book and starred in a documentary about his exploits, both called “To Fight the Wild.” The story sparked the interest of actor Hogan and his co-writers, who scored a major hit with their 1986 film “Crocodile Dundee.”
Seven years ago, Ansell was killed in a shoot-out with police just south of Darwin. An Australian police sergeant also died. Why?
In a June, 2000 essay posted at www.newsmax.com/articles/?a=2000/6/26/12629, physician, author, and Cuban emigre Dr. Miguel Faria asks what was going on in Australia in the late 1990s that could help explain the timing of this famous Australian survivalist shooting it out with authorities:
“Although Ansell was no angel and had had previous run-ins with police, he had been named 1988 Australian Northern Territory Man of the Year for inspiring the movie and putting ‘the Australian Outback on the map,’ ” Dr. Faria notes.
“What motivated this shooting? In 1996, Australia adopted draconian gun control laws banning certain guns (60 percent of all firearms), requiring registration of all firearms and licensing of all gun owners. ‘Crocodile Dundee’ believed the police were coming to confiscate his unregistered firearms.
“In Australia today, police can enter your house and search for guns, copy the hard drive of your computer, seize records, and do it all without a search warrant,” Dr. Faria reports. “It’s the law that police can go door to door searching for weapons that have not been surrendered in their much publicized gun buy-back program. They have been using previous registration and firearm license lists to check for lapses and confiscate non-surrendered firearms.”
It all began with the Port Arthur (a Tasmanian resort) tragedy on April 28, 1996, Dr. Faria recalls, “when a crazed assailant opened fire and shot 35 people. Australians were shocked, and the government reacted quickly.
“Draconian gun legislation was passed in the heat of the moment. ... As a result of stringent gun laws (really a ban on firearms) in Australia, all semiautomatic firearms (rifles and handguns) are proscribed, including .22-caliber rabbit guns and duck-hunting Remington shotguns. ...
“At a cost of $500 million, out of an estimated 7 million firearms (of which 2.8 million were prohibited), only 640,000 guns were surrendered to police. What has been the result? Same as in England. ... Crime Down Under has escalated.
“Twelve months after the law was implemented in 1997, there had been a 44 percent increase in armed robberies, an 8.6 percent increase in aggravated assaults, and a 3.2 percent increase in homicides,” reports Dr. Faria, a retired neurosurgeon who wrote “Medical Warrior,” “Vandals at the Gates of Medicine,” and “Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise” -- and served until recently as editor-in-chief of “The Medical Sentinel,” the journal of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
“That same year in the state of Victoria, there was a 300 percent increase in homicides committed with firearms. The following year, robberies increased almost 60 percent in South Australia. ...
“Two years after the ban, there have been further increases in crime: armed robberies by 73 percent; unarmed robberies by 28 percent; kidnappings by 38 percent ... according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
“And consider the fact that over the previous 25-year period, Australia had shown a steady decrease both in homicide with firearms and armed robbery -- until the ban. ...
“The ban on firearms and the disarmament of ordinary Australians has left criminals free to roam the countryside as they please.
“Bandits, of course, kept their guns. ... Yet the leftist Australian government has responded by passing more laws; in 1998 Bowie knives and other knives and items including handcuffs were banned.
“Licensing is difficult. Self and family protection is not considered a valid reason to own a firearm. The right to self-defense, like in Great Britain and Canada, is not recognized in Australia. ... A way of life has ended. Please, don’t tell me it cannot happen here!”
Did the real-life Crocodile Dundee die because his own government left him with no choice but to “use his guns” -- guns which had saved his life -- “or lose them”?
If so, why did we hear so little about it? Could it be because most in the press favor victim disarmament, and are therefore loath to report on its recurrent -- often tragic -- negative consequences?
It certainly doesn’t seem to be because Americans don’t care about the fate of famous, good-looking Australian crocodile hunters.