The bloody price of playing with prejudice

Issue 

Every time 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 bipartisan anti-asylum seeker rhetoric in Canberra is also very likely provoking more racist violence across Australia.

"Next time an Indian student is bashed up, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and parliamentary opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull should be charged as accessories to the crime", Sue Bolton, a respected Melbourne grassroots political activist and Socialist Alliance member told Green Left Weekly.

Rudd's I-make-no-apology stance was pinched from former Coalition prime minister John Howard, who used it to advance a raft of reactionary positions. Howard used the technique to steal Pauline Hanson's appeal to established reactionary prejudices.

Now Rudd is doing the same, and having a very nasty and widespread effect. He has repeated that he makes "no apology for mandatory detention", or for being "tough" or "people-smugglers", raising racist anti-refugee prejudice to a new high.

But that's not all Rudd is unapologetic about, as Sydney Morning Herald columnist Annabel Crabb noted on October 27: "In May this year, [Rudd] 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, generally socially progressive, has so far ignored the real-life price of this latest bipartisan exploitation of racist prejudice.

If you can still bear to watch ABC's Q & A, there is the same inescapable message that it is "civilised" politics-as-usual in parliament. 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.

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.

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