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Friday, February 28, 2014


This piece in The Drum the other day demonstrates clearly how democracy has been eroded and usurped by a media dedicated to manipulating public opinion with spin, half truths and outright lies.

It seems that most people who answered the question referred to in the article about whether or not they believed 'most of the refugees were genuine’ said they were not, whereas the reality is that the vast majority of them in fact actually are genuine refugees.

One needs to ask then; where are those people getting their information from that led them to making a factually incorrect decision? Clearly, these opinions are not informed and yet there is a tendency for politicians to formulate policy based on this uninformed opinion.

Furthermore, as the example shows, not only are their responses ill-informed, but they are based on their political allegiance.

Real democracy based on a properly enlightened people armed with facts has become obsolete. ‘Democracy’ today seems to revolve around those that have the means to successfully manipulate public opinion – and are able to do so with total disregard to the facts and, increasingly, with total disregard to any sense of morality or even reference to or respect for international law.

We have become a poll-driven ‘democracy’ that is dominated by the political commentariat in the employ of influential right-wing media barons for the benefit of their friends and associates in business and politics which, by its nature, is also predominately right-wing.

In the build up to the present refugee crisis, right-wing commentators have succeeded in developing an anxiety among the community based on xenophobic and Islamophobic fears bordering on paranoia. In the run-up to the last election this led to both sides of politics scrambling to pander to those fears in order to secure the votes of an electorate that had become misinformed about the realities of the boatpeople situation.

Australia’s responsibilities to asylum seeking refugees was overlooked in this scramble by both sides of politics to placate an electorate that had been whipped into a frenzy by the rightwing who had discovered that the ‘preventing deaths from drowning’ meme was a suitable vehicle to drive the anti-boatpeople propaganda.

Today, Jonathan Green in another article at The Drum takes a look at what the alternatives are to what is increasingly being seen as an entirely inappropriate system of dealing with boatpeople. He writes:

The compassion now shown to the miserable victims of circumstance and people smugglers is of course opportunistic and politically inspired. It is as genuine as the tears that flowed when Liberal members howled down the Malaysian people swap promoted by the Gillard government, only to sit back, smug and happily certain when more recent policy left people beaten to death, bloodied or shot while within the not-so-protective custody of a detention camp administered in our name. Camps, it should be said, established specifically to promote hopelessness, psychological trauma, degeneration and despair; the sum of these parts being deterrence.

Green sees the problem but, sadly, is unable to provide an adequate answer to it. Instead, he handballs the problem to Labor though he acknowledges that Labor’s initial answer to the problem of boatpeople was more or less the same as the Coalition’s. Green says that it is Labor that must rethink the problem and provide alternatives.

The main reason that both Green and the Labor opposition are unable to provide an alternative to deal with the problem is because of the way both define what the problem is. For them the problem is how to deter refugee boatpeople from attempting to sail to Australia to seek asylum yet, at the same time, deal with those that do turn up on our shores with compassion and with respect to their human rights.

Ignored is the real problem that has yet to be addressed and that is: why do we need to deter asylum seeking refugees from coming to Australia? For those on both sides of mainstream politics the answer has been to ‘stop the drownings’. For many this has become the whole reason for the entire off-shore processing exercise, but what if there had never been any drownings? What excuse then would there have been to lock people up in places they didn’t want to be for indefinite periods of time in the most appalling conditions? If there had been no drownings, would there then be no need to deter asylum seekers from coming to Australia by boat?

‘Stopping the drownings’ is just an excuse to cover the real reasons for deterring boatpeople from coming to Australia.

The unspoken bottom line lies in Australia’s innate fear and loathing of non-European foreigners coming to Australia. It is this that lies at the heart of the boatpeople problem. Everyone knows it but everyone denies it. Australians have put forward every excuse under the sun as to why boatpeople shouldn’t be allowed to come to Australia. They range from faux compassion over the drownings, to them not being real refugees, to them being queue jumpers or just rich country shoppers. It is with a certain irony that the only people being honest about their reasons for not wanting them in Australia are those monoculturalists on the extreme right who quite gleefully exclaim that they don’t want non-European non-white foreigners in Australia to dilute or change our existing culture – in other words, straight out racists the likes of which one will find commenting at blogs everywhere especially those run by Murdoch journalists like Tim Blair, Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman, et al.

The answer to the drowning problem is simple: provide seaworthy boats – something the navy is now actually doing – but instead of sending them back to Indonesia, allow them to come to Australia. Alternatively, fly them in. Once they are here they can be quickly processed and dealt with accordingly. Those that are genuine are then released into the community and allowed to work, and those that don’t meet the requirements are then detained in humane conditions until alternative arrangements are made for them.

But before any of this or any other alternative answers to the problem can be considered, the Australian people need to either own up to being racists or do the right thing and meet the obligations we signed up for with regard to refugees because this ‘tough to be kind’ nonsense simply isn’t fooling anyone.

Australia must declare itself: we are either a nation of out and out racists or we are a compassionate fair-go nation willing to give anyone a chance.

We cannot be one while pretending to be the other. Australians need to face its racist demons and drive them out.

There needs to be honesty in the media and the propagandists need to be exposed and shut down. There needs to be penalties for lying in the media. The Australian Press Council needs its powers strengthened to ensure the media tells us the truth. And, finally, we need to look to the long term future of a compassionate Australia – and that starts with education.

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