Racism and the empire

July 22, 2016
Pauline Hanson has been elected to the Senate.

In the discussion about Pauline Hanson's election to the Senate and her recent appearance on ABC's Q&A there have been appeals by some commentators to go easy on her because: "She is just saying what a lot of people are thinking".

Well, dopey racist ideas need to be condemned for what they are, regardless of how many people share them.

This defence of Hanson is like the completely false idea that the degrading treatment of asylum seekers by Labor and Coalition governments is just responding to what the voters want. This of course puts the cart before the horse.

For a decade and half we have been bombarded by a relentless propaganda campaign of fear-mongering and scapegoating of Muslims and refugees. It is little wonder that a significant number of Australians have been sucked in by it all.

Hansonism is a product of mainstream Australian politics and the corporate media, the symptom of a sick system.

The reactive nature of Hanson is revealed by the shifting targets for her fear and hate. When she burst on to the political scene in the late 1990s her main concern was the "Asian invasion". Whatever happened to that terrible existential threat to lily-white Australia?

It was not Hanson who flicked the switch from Asians to refugees and Muslims. In both phases she has tapped into people's anxiety and insecurity while distracting them from the 600 biggest corporations who pay no tax and all the other corporate rorts. For the big end of town she is the useful fool.

But big business does not just need domestic scapegoats, it needs Australians to be indifferent to the lives of people in less developed countries as well. The fear of Muslims and refugees serves this purpose.

A hundred years ago Australia was a loyal partner in the British Empire's conquest of the globe. The white man's "civilising mission" was a divine right and any troublesome natives who got in the way deserved to be crushed. It is put in slightly more sophisticated terms nowadays, but the agenda is the same and the disregard for life remains unchanged.

Only days after the mass murder in Nice, more than 60 civilians were killed in a US air strike on the Syrian town of Manbij. This made a minor ripple in Western media and has since faded away, much like the one million lives that have been lost as a consequence of the invasion of Iraq.

The failure of Facebook to provide flag profiles to allow people to show sympathy for the victims of terrorist attacks in less developed countries has rightly sparked indignation, but this is the least of it.

The Western corporate media systematically under reports the deaths of non-white people in developing countries. This is no accident. Invasions, coup plotting, arms sales, carpet bombing, drone attacks and the general regime of post-colonial plunder needs our passive support, or at least indifference. They cannot afford to have us think that 80% of the world's population are people like us.

This manipulation is exhaustively examined in the famous work Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky. They even quantify the relative "worth" of people in developing countries compared to Westerners based on the media space afforded to their deaths.

Needless to say Hanson and similar far-right groups in the Western world have no complaint about all this — quite the opposite. They are servants of the empire, happy to support even more wars if required. In return they think the loyal white subjects deserve a few more crumbs from the corporate table.

But that is not on offer. Corporate Australia has no serious plan for rebuilding Australian manufacturing or solving the housing affordability crisis, and even less intention of reversing the drive towards workplace insecurity, no matter the colour of your skin. Our touchstone must be the classic slogan "Workers of the world, unite!". Green Left Weekly was founded in the midst of the campaign against the 1991 Gulf War. We have always insisted that the only safe and secure future for humanity is one that treats the lives of people equally. We need your support.

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