Friday, 30 October 2009

The bloody price of playing with prejudice

By Peter Boyle, October 28, 2009

Every time the capitalist politicians play with racist prejudice against asylum seekers there are violent consequences. I'm not just referring to the threatened forceful disembarkation of the Tamil refugees from the Oceanic Viking, which is outrageous; the bi-partisan anti-asylum seeker rhetoric in Canberra is very likely provoking more racist violence across Australia.

“Next time an Indian student is bashed up, Rudd and Turnbull, should be charged as accessories to the crime”, Sue Bolton, a respected Melbourne grassroots political activist told Green Left Weekly.

PM Kevin Rudd's I-make-no-apology stance was pinched from the hated former Liberal PM John Howard, who used it to advance a raft of reactionary positions. Howard used this rhetorical technique to steal Pauline Hanson's appeal to established reactionary prejudices.

Now Rudd is doing the same and it is having a very nasty and widespread effect. Rudd has repeated over and over again that he makes “no apology” for being “tough” on refugees, raising racist anti-refugee prejudice to a new high. But that is not all Rudd is unapologetic about, as Sydney Morning Herald columnist Annabel Crabb noted on October 27:

“In May this year, he declared himself an 'unapologetic optimist about this region's future'.

“By July, he was also an 'unapologetic supporter of the United States'.”

When politicians play with prejudice there are always violent real-life consequences. But even Crabb, a young and general socially progressive columnist, has so far ignored the real-life price of this latest bi-partisan exploitation of racist prejudice. If you can still bear to watch the ABC TV's Q & A, there is the same inescapable message that it is “civilised” politics-as-usual in Parliament House, Canberra. The nasty bipartisan campaign to fan racist hysteria is being treated as just some political game of pass-the wedge.

A similar thing is happening with the public debate on climate change. Political wordplay has displaced serious discussion about how to deal with this global emergency. Truth has become a casualty, as politicians and right-wing commentators fulminate against “climate alarmists” and rally behind the denialist' ideological leader (and mining company mouthpiece) Ian Plimer’s declaration that environmentalism is just another belief system.

David Spratt, the co-author of Climate Code Red notes in a message of support for Green Left Weekly's Spring Offensive fund appeal.

“In a world where politics and the media are the triumph of form over content, Green Left Weekly stands in contrast as a paper dedicated to publishing the news, analysis and ideas at the core of today's community, labour and social movement concerns. Whether it be the banking crisis, what is really happening in Afghanistan or environment and climate issues, GLW plays a unique role in digging and prodding and cajoling and stirring and pushing debates and actions.”

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