Politics of Fear


John Howard, 31 August, 2007

John Howard, 31 August, 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia) It’s always good to stand in front of a flag when playing the politics of fear.

It’s on again. Increasingly right wing politics has become a politics of fear and Tony Abbot has learnt the lessons well at the feet of John Howard.

In the movie “The American President”, close to the end, Michael Douglas gives a speech defending his new girlfriend from character attacks from a Republican hopeful.

I’ve known Bob Rumson for years, and I’ve been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn’t get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Bob’s problem is that he can’t sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. And wave an old photo of the President’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism and you tell them, she’s to blame for their lot in life,

Well what happens if we do some editing? If we take that speech and replace ‘family’ with ‘battlers’, ‘American values’ with ‘Australian values’ and ‘character’ with ‘huge deficits’. Then switch ‘the President’s girlfriend’ with ‘refugee boats’ and scream about ‘Australian borders’.

Does that sound like the noises we are getting from the Coalition? Check this story from their puppet newspaper “A Coalition Would Change National History Curriculum” and this one “Activists disrupt Abbott’s ‘illegal boats’ tally”.

Is this a party that is talking about the future shape of our country? Or are we likely to have a government after September that got there by “making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it”?

First, notice that Mr Abbott uses the term “illegal boats” when the term would actually be “unlawful boats” but “illegal” is inflammatory and easier to scare people. Then we have the half truth about the lawfulness of the boats. Technically the boats are unlawful in that they are boats for transporting passengers that don’t comply with maritime law, but of course that’s not what Tony means or what he wants you scare of. On the other hand the people being conveyed have broken no laws, it is perfectly lawful to turn up at any border of Australia by any means and apply for refugee status just as you can turn up at any border and enter with a visa, indeed private sailing vessels do exactly that all the time in Queensland.

Then we have Education spokesman Christopher Pyne bringing back the old favourite “black armband view of Australian history”. The real irony here is when Mr Donnelly as the Coalition education expert “said it was ironic Anzac Day was underplayed” is that of course we wear a black armband to commemorate losses exactly like Anzac Day. When Pyne and Donnelly talk about the ““black armband view of Australian history” they mean a history that places as much importance on indigenous and Asian history in Australia where there are tragedies in our history. They also drag out the old bogeyman “political correctness” which I never really understand, shouldn’t we be correct?

Previously I wrote of the unfortunate domination of economics as the main component of the political discourse rather than other important questions such as the structure of our welfare and education systems.

At the same timer as we might make those changes to the discussion it might be good to lift it above the level of the politics of fear. Excuse me Mr Abbott but could we have a debate about the future of our country?

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