The polluting power of poisonous politics

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Friday, 11 May 2012 21:37 by Ad astra
We are witnessing the most disgraceful campaign of poisonous politics this country has ever experienced. It is perniciously eroding the confidence of the people in its elected Federal Government. The campaign is aided and abetted by much of the mainstream media, which faithfully echoes the disingenuousness and downright lies of the Opposition.

This world has seen how lies perpetrated by malevolent people can cause damage to people and ultimately unspeakable destructiveness. The treatment of Jews by Nazis in Germany in the first half of the last Century is a grotesque example. They used Joseph Goebbels' ‘Big Lie Theory’ that states: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Goebbles went onto say: “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie…”.

Before Coalition supporters bristle at the drawing of the parallel between what the Federal Coalition is doing and what the Nazis did during the last Century, read on for a while, and then use the comments option to point out whatever error you believe I have made. I am not in any way suggesting that the Coalition and the Nazi Party have anything in common ideologically or politically. What I am proposing is that the Coalition is using Goebbels' ‘Big Lie Theory’ to advance its political objectives. Let me elaborate.

We know that the Nazis used a purposeful strategy to demean and dehumanize the Jewish race. As recorded in Jews in Nazi Germany, in a speech in Munich in 1922, referring to the Jews, Hitler said: "His is no master people; he is an exploiter: the Jews are a people of robbers. He has never founded any civilisation, though he has destroyed civilisations by the hundred...everything he has stolen…” It goes on:“Once in power, Hitler used his position to launch a campaign against the Jews that culminated in the Holocaust. Hitler blamed the Jews for all the misfortunes that had befallen Germany: the loss of the First World War was the result of a Jewish conspiracy; the Treaty of Versailles was also a Jewish conspiracy designed to bring Germany to her knees; the hyperinflation of 1923 was the result of an international Jewish attempt to destroy Germany.”

Having promoted hatred, the Nazis forced Jews to identify their businesses with the Star of David, which they also had to wear around their necks with the label ‘Juden’. Hatred for the Jews based on their race was deliberately escalated. They were labelled as exploiters and robbers, to be despised and rejected. In 1938, in Germany and Austria, 10,000 Jewish stores, homes and synagogues were burned, looted and destroyed in what became known as ‘The Night of the Broken Glass’. The police did not intervene; the fire brigade did not arrive; and afterwards the Jews were forced to clean up the glass from the streets and pay for the damage.

I relate all this simply to demonstrate the terrible outcomes that result from fostering hatred, from demeaning people, from debasing people or groups by telling downright lies about them.

This is what we have seen in this country politically for a long while. But it has never been as gross as it has been since the ascent of Tony Abbott to leadership of the Federal Coalition. And it is having its predictably awful effects on our political life, and particularly on the people’s image of the nation’s Prime Minister. Let me illustrate with some now familiar examples of how Abbott and his strategists and minders have used these devices to damage the Prime Minister and her Government.

Demeaning the Prime Minister – Ju-liar
It was shock jock Alan Jones who created the now-infamous tag: ‘Ju-liar’ at the beginning of that appalling interview on Sydney 2GB in February 2011, which he began by publically castigating her in the way of a schoolmaster chastising a schoolgirl for being ten minutes late for the interview. His attitude from the beginning was belligerent and rude. Writer Mick Molloy had this to say after hearing the audio: "There is not another nation in the world that would tolerate that kind of cross examination, that petulant cross examination from a radio announcer." Indeed!

The Ju-liar label stuck and has been repeated endlessly by the PM’s adversaries, the media and by members of the public. Every time it is used it puts her down, diminishes her in the eyes of the electorate. Tony Abbott has promoted the ‘liar’ meme over and again, adding variations such dishonest, devious, evasive, tricky, untrustworthy, not to be trusted with anything. Is it any wonder that opinion polls about attributes rate her poorly on ‘trustworthiness’? Coalition members will argue that she broke a promise on the carbon tax. I won’t go over the fallacy underlying this accusation, but to label the PM as an inveterate liar as if all other politicians are as pure as the driven snow when we know they are all prone to lying, is disingenuous. Abbott’s lies abound as pointed out on The Political Sword in Tony Abbott, we are sick of your lies, yet has he been burdened by the ‘liar’ tag? No, it’s only Julia Gillard, and that is not because she has told more lies than Tony Abbott – he leaves her well behind – but simply because the Coalition strategy is to make the ‘Ju-liar’ tag stick indelibly, as it virtually has. She will have great difficulty shaking it off.

Even during Abbott’s Budget Reply speech last night, during which the electorate was hoping to hear about his vision and plans for our nation, what we inappropriately got was another vitriolic attack on PM Gillard, calling her ‘fatally compromised’ and urging her removal, and yet another load of lies, misrepresentation and deception.

Demeaning her has been very successful. It has given ‘permission’ for others to follow the lead. So we saw ‘Ju-liar’ again at the Alan Jones sponsored anti-carbon tax rallies in Canberra where Tony Abbott stood with Sophie Mirabella and Bronwyn Bishop in front of ‘’Ditch the Witch’ and Bob Brown’s Bitch’ placards. Once the demeaning process begins, it escalates.

It has given the OK to interviewers, even on our ABC, to be rude and aggressive to our PM. Only this week we had Chris Uhlmann interviewing her on 7.30 in a demeaning way, disrespectful of her as a person, and as our Prime Minister. If you missed it, view it here. His opening question was: “Do you think that people believe you when you say that you're going to reach a small surplus by this time next year?” Later Uhlmann asked: “If you have to break a series of old promises on aid, on Defence, on company tax, in order to make new ones, why should people believe any promise? And later: “And all of them were promises that you broke.” And: “But to some of those three things, on company tax, on aid and on Defence, you're happy that people will look at all those things and take you at your word, that you are not breaking any of those promises?” Note the repetition, and the emphasis on ‘broken promises’, which is another way of calling her a habitual liar.

Just as in Nazi Germany ‘permission’ was given to the German people to demean the Jews, so in Australia ‘permission’ has been given to anyone to demean our PM by calling her a liar, to question her ability to keep a promise, to be disrespectful and rude. It seems there are all too many willing to join the throng ready to demean her whenever they can. It is dangerous for our democracy that our elected leader is so treated.

Labelling the Government incompetent
This is another tactic that the Coalition has used to good effect. Again it was Alan Jones who said: “…in the best country in the world we have the worst possible government.” How many times have you heard Tony Abbott say “This is a bad government getting worse”; “This government can’t manage money”; “This government is addicted to spending and debt”; “This is an illegitimate government that has lost its way”; “This government cannot be trusted”; and just this week in reference to the return of the budget to surplus: “This is a desperate government in diabolical trouble that has cooked the books and the people are not buying it’. How does he know what the people are ‘buying’ the day after the Budget? He doesn’t – it’s just another Abbott lie, which we can be sure no one in the media will challenge.

More recently, it has become fair game to accuse PM Gillard of lack of judgement. Abbott does it all the time, and just this week on 7.30 Chris Uhlmann asked the PM in reference to the fact that her support for Craig Thomson went on for a long time: “Was your judgment wrong on that?” And later: “Was it an error of judgment to put Peter Slipper in the Speaker's chair?” Uhlmann was deliberately provocative and rude.

In Nazi Germany the Jews were labelled as exploiters, robbers and conspirators, despoiling and destroying the countries in which they lived, and responsible for all their economic ills. These labels invited retaliation from non-Jewish citizens. In a similar way, PM Gillard and her Government have been labelled as illegitimate, incompetent, one that can’t manage the economy, lead by a PM who has poor judgement, and which needs to be removed immediately. Judging by the mood of the people derived from the additional questions asked by pollsters, the people have bought this rhetoric. They blithely discount the buoyant state of our economy, the fact that the Labor Government steered the country through the GFC with flying colours, sustaining it as the most admired economy in the developed world, and instead believe the rhetoric of the Coalition, echoed in the media, that this is an appalling government that should be chucked out now. In polls that ask which party is the best economic manager, the Coalition wins comfortably, the respondents apparently ignoring the Government’s outstanding recent record as economic managers and the Coalition’s almost complete absence of economic credibility or knowledge. Coalition propaganda, redolent with big lies, Goebbels-style, has so far won the day.

Dishonesty about Government achievements
A vast array of lies has been perpetrated about the achievements of the Gillard Government. Although it has now passed over 300 pieces of legislation, and only yesterday the ‘Schoolkids Bonus’ legislation, the Coalition represents it is a do-nothing, incompetent government. Among the bills passed have been vitally important and far-reaching reforms in education, health, infrastructure, climate change and taxation. None of these achievements are acknowledged by the Coalition or by much of the media. Moreover, the reality of the GFC and the ongoing uncertainty in global markets, against which Labor’s economic achievements have been wrought, seems also to be denied by the Coalition and the media.

Successful programs have been pilloried. The HIP, demeaned by the derogatory term ‘pink batts’, insulated a million roofs; the BER, characterized by the slogan ‘waste and mismanagement’, was highly successful, attracting over 97% approval. JohnL has debunked the criticism of these initiatives in a series of four articles on The Political Sword: Absurdities abound as Abbott wages a crass war, Abbott’s amazing amnesia on insulation inquiry, Nonsense of $8bn BER ‘waste’ claims exposed, More falsehoods of the $8bn BER ‘waste’ claims.

Yet the pollsters tell us that much of the public still regards these programs as failures, debacles and disasters. The only exceptions are the parents who have children at the schools that benefitted from the BER; they give it a tick.

Spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt
The ‘toxic’ carbon tax is an example of how slogans and cleverly designed Coalition propaganda have influenced the electorate through fear mongering. From a majority wanting action on climate change a couple of years ago, a minority now accept that an ETS, preceded by a price on carbon, is necessary. Abbott’s ‘toxic tax’ has taken hold in people’s minds. His propaganda has effectively negated the generous compensation that will accompany its introduction. Climate deniers too have been given much publicity and have added to the rising opposition to the ‘toxic tax’. Lies and disingenuousness have triumphed over the truth. Only when the people experience the tax will the fear and the doubts be removed, and that will take time.

Another area where Abbott has transmitted doubt and uncertainty is the state of the economy. For his own selfish political purposes he has constantly talked down the economy, even in the face of low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates, growth at trend, return to surplus, and a vast pipeline of investment. The result is diminished consumer and business confidence, which is harming our economy. Abbott does not care about the damage he is doing so long as he gains some political advantage. He is an economically irresponsible liar.

Media complicity
How is it that this mountain of lies, misrepresentation, and disingenuousness has been promulgated so successfully. There is a simple answer – the media.

In Nazi Germany the police and the state-controlled media were complicit in transmitting hatred and lies that so poisoned the minds of the people against the Jews that indescribable obscenities were committed against those people, beginning in the towns and cities, but inexorably leading to the extermination camps of the Holocaust.

In the same way, much of our media, particularly the Murdoch media, is complicit in promulgating the hatred of our PM and the lies about her Government, so much so that her position in the eyes of much of the electorate is significantly diminished. Indeed, her chance of reelection is deemed impossible by the very same media that has spread the hatred and the lies, relying as they do on their own unreliable polls of voting intention, polls that result from the lies and misrepresentations that are fed daily to the public by their media outlets. Is it any wonder her status in the polls is low?

I trust that this comparison of the outcome of Goebbels' ‘Big Lie Theory’ in Nazi Germany last Century, and the contemporary outcome of its use by Tony Abbott, the Coalition and the media here in our own country, will convince you of the pernicious effect of this malevolent strategy, and that you will join me in condemning it vehemently.

Poisonous politics pollutes powerfully. It was lethally dangerous in Nazi Germany – it is dangerous here.

What do you think?