Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Any lessons for Australia from Norway atrocity?

We have learned over the last couple of days that the Oslo mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, was a reactionary Islamophobe with a messianic bent. Progressive politics was conceived by him as the arch enemy of his crusade to reprise a 'christian', white Norway under a Templar banner. Overtones of Third Reich mythologizing and racial theory are discernible in his largely plagiarized manifesto. He appears to be a self-obsessed sociopath with little or no empathy with his fellow citizens. No doubt the full extent of his pathology will emerge over the next days, weeks and months, and to what extent he had links with internal and external players. It is of passing note that he appears to have been drawn to the ideas of John Howard, Cardinal Pell and Keith Windschuttle. I'm sure all of these men would be horrified by this connection but why are they in the picture at all?

A shameful xenophobia has been whipped up in this country by politicians and their apologists, particularly targeting Muslim immigrants and asylum seekers, whenever they need to shore up electoral support. They pander to a dark underbelly, where sub-cultures lurk that frequently find voice through an 'easy racism'. One Nation tapped into this phenomenon and a key legacy of the Howard years sees Coalition politicians exploiting this tendency ruthlessly. Misrepresentation of facts and ethnic stereotyping are the calling cards (or ‘dog whistles’) of ‘culture warriors’ within politics and the media, pandering to the ignorant and misinformed.

The Coalition has gained rich pickings from fear-mongering, as evidenced by the Queensland vote at the last general election. The 'tea party' rump of the One Nation party has drifted back to the LNP, in thrall to simple minded messages on debt & deficit, the carbon & mining taxes and good ole migrant & refugee bashing. The relentless banging of the fear drum on immigration and asylum seekers has enabled large swathes of the reactionary commentariat to shape public opinion in an unhealthy way. Commercial TV has been a disgrace for a long time in reporting immigration & asylum seekers issues.

The trend in recent times has been for serious current affairs programs to use Fox News style approaches to covering political issues. We get the constant crosses to so-called 'expert' commentators, many of whom are so politically biased as to verge on the farcical. There is also the tendency to use the lumpen media stalwarts as guest commentators. ABC News 24 constantly relies on so-called 'expert' commentary to 'fill' the analysis pieces - whose regular currency in trade is indictment of progressive policies and glad handling of reactionary approaches.

The skewed opinion settings of the mainstream media have galled me for a long time. Narrow sectional interests get a helpful leg up in most areas of debate on public policy. We also get a diet of reactionary, simple minded drivel on issues such as immigration & asylum seekers; a plethora of important areas of public policy are 'spun' through the lens of media celebrities who survive on a dumbed-down strategy of sound-bites, 'gotcha' moments and limpid sensationalism. Political analysis has been reduced to talk-show patter and infotainment for a presumed audience with the concentration span of a distracted gnat.

As a result of our simple-minded and largely mean-spirited approach to asylum seekers:

. We still see children behind bars because their parents or guardians had the courage & temerity to arrive on our shores unannounced

. Many accepted refugees struggle to find public housing and to get a toe hold on the economic ladder

. Asylum seekers in the twilight limbo of our detention centres are self-harming again out of desperation with a system that grinds painfully slowly and which treats them like criminals

. Trash language such as 'illegals', 'boat people', 'queue jumpers' and the rest of the nasty lexicon continues to pepper our air waves and be bandied about by politicians, shock jocks and right wing pamphleteers so as to press the buttons of the permanently credulous and the pygmy intellects of the lumpen mob

. A promise to reprise the Pacific Solution and to punish refugees with reinstatement of the draconian TPV regime remains a centerpiece of the Coalition's policy platform - twin violations of international human rights and refugee instruments

. The Government has been forced into harsh arrangements with neighbouring countries to counter the political wedge shaped around fear of asylum seekers arriving by boat.

. Migrants of Islamic faith continue to feel marginalized and demonized by the 'hate' media and fear-mongering demagogues whose dog-whistling clearly influenced a disturbed mind in Norway.

On another front we find the 32-year-old Norwegian Christian fundamentalist also accepted the conspiratorial thinking of some climate sceptics. Crikey has the story.

Thanks to Larvatus Prodeo

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