Tony Abbott beware! Incitement is a very dangerous game

Again this week we heard Liberal apologist Grahame Morris, former adviser to John Howard, loose lipped, sarcastic and very nasty, commenting on ABC Radio 702 Sydney about Tony Abbott's awful performance during a Leigh Sales’ interview on 7.30 last week. "Well Leigh can be a real cow sometimes when she's doing her interviews." was his verdict. Read about it here on Adelaide Now. Host Linda Motram observed that Morris’ remark was ‘over the top’. Twitter went wild with criticism. Leigh twittered back: “I’d rather be a cow than a dinosaur”, and thousands complained there and on talkback. How did Morris respond?

Three hours later he rang Motram ostensibly to apologize to Sales, and added: "…there's no doubt at times Leigh can be tough” and: "that would have been a much better expression than being a cow at times." It certainly would have been. Like you Tony Abbott, Morris did not know where to stop. He even criticized those castigating him over his remark for being ”poor little sensitive souls”. That riposte is a pretty accurate reflection of this man’s pejorative approach and his caustic tongue when he pours scorn upon PM Gillard, Labor and its supporters, as he often does. Tony Abbott, you dismissed Morris’ remarks as a "rush of blood to the head", and added “that to Mr Morris' credit, he had since apologised". Apologize and all is forgiven, your formula for grievous errors!

Morris has form. In early May on News Limited’s Sky News as recorded by David Donovan in Independent Australia, in a rant about Julia Gillard’s decision to distance Labor from Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper, Morris exploded: “What are these bleeding heart Labor lawyers from here on in, screaming bloody hypocrites they are. They should be out there kicking her to death”. Don’t try to understand his contorted English, just re-read the last sentence. Compère David Spears, embarrassed by his angry outburst, tweeted: “I am not a spokesperson for Grahame. Just passing this on!” And later: “I’ve just spoken to Grahame Morris and he says his ‘kicking to death” comment was inappropriate and he was sorry.”

So twice in three months this nasty little man has uttered unseemly words and then had to apologize because of the public reaction. But the damage had been done. He had demeaned our PM and in doing so ran the risk of inciting, unwittingly or otherwise, the extreme right wing haters to hate her even more vehemently perhaps even to the level of violence. Don’t laugh.

An ‘Opinion’ piece in The Age on 28 August: Misogynists and nut jobs need to turn down the volume, by Andrew Stafford began: “Last Friday, I saw something that disturbed me greatly: a young man wearing what appeared to be a home-made T-shirt featuring a caricature of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. She had a bullet in her head.”

Folks, this is serious. Stafford continues: “That sort of thing, unfortunately, will be of little surprise to Gillard, who the day before had called out the ''misogynists and nut jobs'' on the Internet, where calls for her assassination, both veiled and overt, proliferate. They proliferate on talkback radio too. And it's not just the callers. Alan Jones infamously suggested - on five occasions last year - that Gillard ought to be ''put in a chaff bag'' and dumped at sea.”

Remember the shooting in the head of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat member of the US House of Representatives, near Tuscon, Arizona over a year ago. She almost died, but recovered eventually with such neurological deficits that she could no longer represent her state of Arizona. Read about it here. Of course we all know that in the US, where one in three adults own a gun, shootings are all too common, but political shootings are relatively rare. This one demonstrated though to what lengths political hatred could drive unbalanced people.

Don’t imagine that this could not happen here given the language of intense hatred that now pervades our political discourse.

Who will ever forget that infamous interview in February last year on Sydney’s radio 2GB that Alan Jones conducted with Julia Gillard, where he, a mere noisy shock jock, chastised our PM for being ten minutes late for her interview with him as if she were an errant schoolgirl, pointing out that other people (meaning himself) were busy and couldn’t afford to be waiting around for a full ten minutes for the leader of the nation to present herself. His anger with her was palpable. Suitably enraged, he proceeded to then apply the tag ‘Ju-liar’, one that has stuck ever since. If you have not heard him verbally assaulting our PM with this pejorative label, play the video on the Brisbane Times account of this encounter.

Can you imagine something as unseemly as a bullyboy shock jock castigating the Prime Minister of Australia for being ten minutes late, and then calling her a liar? Would he have ever done anything as gross as that to John Howard; would he ever do it to Tony Abbott? What has become of the media in this country when a self-important shock jock could do that and remain in his job?

But it’s more than just being insulting and rude – Jones’ behaviour exhibited a gross level of vitriol, anger and loathing, even hatred. These emotions are infectious. If Jones can loath and hate so vehemently, if Jones can express such feelings on air to thousands, and the many thousands who heard him later, does this not give permission to his sycophantic listeners to feel and act similarly? By being rude and disrespectful, by exhibiting his hatred and loathing so overtly and publically, he incites his acolytes to exhibit the same.

As if that episode was not enough. Jones organized and spoke at anti-carbon tax rallies in Canberra where ‘Ju-liar’ placards were prominent, along with those emblazoned with ‘Ditch the Witch’ and ‘Bob Brown’s Bitch’, in front of which Jones, and Tony Abbott, Sophie Mirabella and Bronwyn Bishop proudly stood to give them their endorsement. Their pathetic denials that they were unaware of the presence of the placards are implausible.

How could they possibly believe that such placards would not promote disdain, loathing and hatred of our PM? If they were insensitive to their effect on others, they had only to look around and listen to the language of those attending the rally.

Not satisfied that these events would have the desired humiliating effect, Jones repeatedly stated on air that Julia Gillard, with or without Bob Brown, should be put in a hessian bag and dropped out to sea. What sort of language is that from a widely listened-to broadcaster – vitriolic language that incites anger, loathing and hatred, language that evokes behaviour that could turn dangerous?

Apart from all this, almost every day Jones has derogatory things to say about PM Gillard and her Government. His disdain and detestation is unremitting.

Even this week Jones has been at it again as reported in “Broadcaster Alan Jones today accused women of "destroying the joint" as he widened his attack on Julia Gillard to take in other female public figures. Mr Jones seemed to suggest that women should not be in politics…” 
He was furious over the $230 million aid the Prime Minister had announced for South Pacific nations to promote Pacific Island women in business and politics.
 Take a look at the photo of this misogynist man, ugly with rage.

If you doubt if Jones’ language could evoke similar feelings in his listeners, look here at the responses to a recent question on Jones’ website: “Is the Gillard government deserving of a full term in office?” You will be astonished at the ferocity of the verbal abuse, the contempt, and the hatred. Here’s just one example: “…how can we have a woman like gillard running this country when she has the brain the size of a pimple in a wrinkle on a money spiders ball, you stupid woman.” There is page after page of such comments.

He has plenty of support from his 2GB mate, Ray Hadley, who lays into PM Gillard at every opportunity. Others are not spared; recently he called Wayne Swan ”a boofhead and a liar”.

3AW’s Neil Mitchell too puts the boots into PM Gillard, but at least he does similarly to Tony Abbott, something Jones and Hadley never do.

Do these men realize what they are fostering – a level of aversion to, and hatred of our PM that is at pathological levels. We saw how Goebbels fostered such hatred of the Jews in Nazi Germany that the populace ignored the Holocaust as it unfolded. Do these vicious men realize they are on the same dangerous track?

And it’s not just shock jocks that are playing this game. Earlier this month, David Farley, CEO of Australian Agriculture Company, called the Prime Minister “an unproductive old cow” in the context of discussing new techniques for animal slaughter.

Ages ago, George Brandis said that “she has chosen not to be a parent…she is very much a one-dimensional person”, and the loose-lipped Bill Heffernan called her “deliberately barren”. Sophie Mirabella and Janet Albrechtsen too seem pre-occupied with her decision not to have children. Others delight in criticizing her earlobes, her ear-rings and her dress, while Germaine Greer, feminist and great defender of women, has now twice talked disparagingly on Q&A about her dress, adding: “You’ve got a big arse, Julia, just get on with it”, and most recently: “She looks like an organ-grinder’s monkey”. Even Tony Jones was embarrassed!

News Limited’s Patrick Carlyon, who has great writings to his credit, notably on Gallipoli, heaped scorn on the PM about her gender when he likened her behaviour during Barack Obama’s visit to Australia to “a high school girl who has, finally, after much bedroom plotting, captured the gaze of the football captain”.

And more recently there were the vicious misogynist cartoons and comments flowing from the venomous pen of Larry Pickering about the Slater & Gordon matter, which have continued unremittingly, accompanied by hundreds of spiteful, malevolent comments by Pickering sycophants only too ready to jump on his ‘demean and destroy’ bandwagon.

Tony Abbott, I can hear you saying: “What’s this got to do with me?” My answer is: ‘everything’.

You stood with Alan Jones in front of those placards at the carbon rally; you never pulled him up when he coined the ‘Ju-liar’ tag and insulted the nation’s most senior politician on his 2GB program; you agreed with Germaine Greer’s comments about Julia Gillard’s dress with your own public comment: “I know, I know, I know, . . . Germaine Greer was right on that subject”.

You are only too ready to let these adverse and very personal remarks about your opponent go unopposed. You would never dream of leaping to the defence of a female opponent, not matter how gross the adverse comments were. To you they are simply grist to your adversarial mill.

As Leader of the Opposition, you ought to be man enough to stand up in vigorous opposition to the misogynist denigration of the nation’s most senior politician, no matter that she is your political adversary. But you are not man enough; you haven’t got the decency, or the guts, to make that stand. It serves your political purpose to not only decline to stand up to oppose such denigratory remarks; you actively foster them in a shameful way, a measure of your small mindedness and lack of common decency. Instead you cuddle up to Alan Jones when you want a soft interview full of Dorothy Dixers. You would never tell him his vile misogynist remarks are unacceptable, because you believe they are acceptable!

Read Anne Summers’ article in the SMH this weekend: Conspiracy of silence lets persecution of PM fester that concludes: “I think it is time to name and shame, to expose all examples of this hateful misogyny and call on decent Australians to not share it, forward it, re-tweet it or otherwise give it exposure. The Prime Minister, like the rest of us, is entitled to be able to do her job without harassment, bullying or sex discrimination.” Reflect on that.

By taking the acquiescent approach to misogyny you do, you foster the malevolent words and actions of these anti-Gillard forces, you support them and you actively join with the perpetrators to accentuate the denigration of the nation’s Prime Minister. In doing so, you are a party to a process of disparagement that could end in tragedy if some of what Julia Gillard rightly describes as ‘misogynist nutters’ take matters into their own hands, as did Gabrielle Gifford’s would-be assassin. You are in there with the misogynists, the nutters, the Alan Jones’ and the Ray Hadley’s inciting detestation, revulsion, and hatred to an extent that could result in the sort of tragedy here that we saw in the US.

You have longstanding form yourself. You call Julia Gillard a liar almost every day, based on her ‘broken promise’ over the carbon tax. You insisted she ”make an honest woman of herself” by taking the carbon tax to an election, a misogynist variant of ‘liar‘ if ever there was one. Even when you don’t use the tag ‘Ju-liar’, you repeat ad nauseam that ‘she’ is not trustworthy, which is another way of calling her a liar. In your interview last week on Channel Nine’s Today Show with Lisa Wilkinson, when she asked you about Julia Gillard and the Slater and Gordon matter, your reply was: “Whether or not she was an untrustworthy lawyer is not the issue, I think this Prime Minister is an untrustworthy head of government.” Even in parliament you call her a liar, a banned word, and when last week you were asked by the Speaker to withdraw that word without qualification, you defied her, qualified your withdrawal, and were kicked out. As Anna Burke said: “You just can’t help yourself”.

You continually tell the electorate that Julia Gillard is leading ‘a bad government getting worse’, and no matter how good the economic news, you insist how much better it would be if there was a ‘good government’ in power.

Don’t you realize that every time you refer to the PM as ‘her’, or use the word ‘she’, or talk about ‘this Prime Minister’, you are demeaning her? Every time you call her ‘untrustworthy’ you are reinforcing Alan Jones’ malicious tag: ‘Ju-liar’. Every time you call her a liar outside or inside the House, you are perpetuating that image of her. That is your intent. And the irony is that while you lampoon her for that one carbon tax ‘lie’, you yourself lie so often that we have lost count. You even admit on national TV that you lie, but that doesn’t stop you doing it day after day.

Don’t you have enough insight to know that as you poison the minds of the electorate day after day you are building up antipathy, aversion, resentment, detestation, bitterness, anger, loathing and hatred among our citizens towards our Prime Minister that could incite unbalanced people to dangerous action? If you don’t realize that is what you are doing, that is reprehensible; if you do, that is immoral.

As a welcome sign this week that you are beginning to realize the danger of verbal abuse, you said you wanted ”tougher legal powers to order "scurrilous" internet bullying attacks to be taken down”, and that ”online bullying was a more disturbing phenomenon than verbal attacks.” Maybe Tony Abbott, but do understand that the verbal attacks you, Alan Jones and other shock jocks make on our PM day after day are also disturbing, alarming and dangerous.

This has got to stop. As Opposition Leader, you are in a powerful position to put a halt to this unremitting, perilous demonization of the nation’s leader. Will you?

Tony Abbott beware: incitement is a very dangerous game.

Please act before something terrible happens.

What do you readers think?