On the last day of the most recent session of federal parliament, Julia Gillard accused the Opposition of 'Race Baiting'.
Now, the immediate response from the media, predictably, was, 'How could she say that?' Tony Abbott, just as predictably, sidled up the next day to whatever sympathetic media outlet would have him on, and condemned, with a straight face to camera, the PM for her 'baseless slur'. As well as the previous day in parliament launching one of his entirely predictable ‘Motions to Suspend Standing Orders to Censure the Prime Minister’, going to the outrage he felt about her accusation.
So, I thought, rather than just take his word for it, I'd go in search of the proof for the Prime Minister's assertion and its validity, one way or the other.
First, let's start with a definition:
Race Baiting: Strictly speaking, Race Baiting ‘is the act of using racially derisive language, actions, or other forms of communication in order to anger or intimidate or coerce a person or group of people.’
As this definition refers to defiling a particular group of people in a society based upon their race, e.g. Chinese, Black or White, then coming to a conclusion about whether the Coalition has been 'Race Baiting' with respect to the Muslims in our society, or those attempting to seek Asylum here, or Muslims in the world in general as part of some concerted Conservative attack on them, then, I guess you have to say that Tony Abbott was right and Julia Gillard was wrong. The Coalition is not guilty of 'Race Baiting'. The Muslims are not ‘a race of people’.
However, and this is where I think the PM was right, and probably where she was coming from, the term 'race' in this context can be construed very broadly to include the social constructs which define race or racial difference as ethnic, religious, gender and economic differences. This broader definition covers the vilification of a religious diaspora such as the Muslims. It's not strictly correct, as you can deduce for yourselves, but it's understandable how vilification and the term 'Race Baiting' have become co-mingled.
Which brings me to the point then of what exactly is it that the Coalition ARE guilty of, if not 'Race Baiting', as it's obvious to Blind Freddy and his dog that they are guilty of some sort of generalised and organised slur against those 'invaders' of our shores via the haphazard mode of the leaky Slow Asylum Seeker Boat to Australia. Who have in common with the 'Terrorists' (just don't mention the White Supremacist ones), the fact that, in the main, they are Muslim.
I think where a lot of people are getting confused with what is going on here and elsewhere with respect to Muslim 'infiltration' and 'Race Baiting' is that it bears a great many eerie similarities to past eras of Australian and World history: the 'White Australia Policy' here, and the 'Jim Crow' era of race hate and vilification of African Americans in the USA. Unlike, in the John Lennon song, where 'Woman is the Nigger of the World', the tide has turned against Muslims such that, 'Muslims are the Nigger of the World' now. Any sort of mealy-mouthed equivalency from the likes of Cory Bernardi wherein he trys to paper over his overt anti-Muslim remarks, by saying he just meant anti-radical Islam, is just playing a semantic game. He, and many others in the Coalition mean to encourage an attitudinal bias against Muslim members of our community, and those seeking to become part of it as Asylum Seekers. In general, they are doing it knowingly and deliberately.
To get an idea about how far down the Islamophobia rabbit hole we have gone, because I think in the final analysis, without having to be specific about it, that was what Julia Gillard was implying that the Coalition were guilty of, I thought I'd therefore take a trip into this netherworld in Australia that the Coalition are playing to with their dog whistles and pick off the scab that covers what is festering underneath.
Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, I haven't quite decided which of this religious bigotry is being nurtured and nourished by...the Christian faithful. That is, the religious!
First, let's start with a Christian crew called the 'SaltShakers'. 'Christian ethics in action', so they say. Go to their website
What you get instead from these self-aggrandising 'Christian ethicists', is flat-out homophobia, Islamophobia, Climate Change Scepticism, sanctimony about the Labor Party's 'Lies' and 'Broken Promises' (funny how they never highlight the Coalition and self-proclaimed sinner, Tony Abbott's form in this area though), and, humbug when it comes to their 'pro-active' discrimination as regards their 'right' to choose who works for them in any of their organisations, schools or business enterprises. Of course it goes without saying that these intolerant bigots dressed up as happy families and ethical individuals are rabidly anti same sex marriage, anti-pharmaceutical contraception and anti-abortion. In short, people who wish to impose their 'values' on you and me just as much as the groups whom they vilify. Also, if you have a look at the website, check out the left-hand side of the home page. Want to know where all the organised e-mail campaigns to our Members of Parliament are coming from? Wonder no longer.
That's the 'Shiny Happy People' side of the seamy underbelly of our society that Julia Gillard says the Coalition are dog-whistling to with their mischaracterization of the effect Muslims are having on Australia.
Further down the rabbit hole we have 'The Q Society
', whose motto, in the good old style of the Culture Warrior demographic of unbending Coalition support is, 'Upholding Australian Values'
These people have realised that a reasonable-looking spokesperson is the key to disarming the sceptical and winning over a lot of people who otherwise may have been antagonistic to your message than if you instead put out as your media talent someone who looks like Adolf in a skirt or a suit. And here she is, the entirely anodyne and harmless looking Ms Vickie Janson
, a migrant herself (!) from New Zealand. Now, if you read through this candidate's statement from the recent Victorian State Election, where the perennial candidate for the Christian Democrat Party laid out her platform you can see that she has deliberately sought to go down the road of equating even moderate Muslims with terrorist groups such as Hizb Ut Tahrir:
Also, you can see how she has honed in on Australia's most eloquent and reasonable spokesman for Muslims in Australia, Waleed Aly, as her target for attack. Smart because, if she can delegitimize this most rational Muslim's credibility in the eyes of the public, then it will be that much easier therefore to negatively characterise all others in the Muslim diaspora in Australia, save those who meekly agree to subsume themselves and their religious beliefs and conform to a broadly Judeo-Christian set of 'values'. Which Ms Janson and her Christian Democratic godfathers, such as Fred Nile, have deemed to be appropriate for modern-day Australia. And I use the term 'modern' advisedly because the world that the Vickie Janson's, the Fred Nile's, the Cory Bernardi's et. al.
want to plunge us back into is that of a strictly patriarchal, conformist, Christian conservative paradigm, where women know their place is behind the ironing board wrangling the creases out of Tony Abbott's crisp, whiter than white shirts, baking Pumpkin Scones to Flo BJP's recipe for Fred, and pumping out Stepford babies for Cory. Of course, now that the 'Feminism' genie is out of the bottle, and in line with the acknowledgement, post-Thatcher, that some women should be allowed out of the kitchen to lead (as long as they go home to cook tea and perform their 'conjugal duties', I suppose), we have started to see Conservative women take from feminism what they want and bin the rest. Thus we have Vickie Janson, Sarah Palin, and an increasing number of others, proudly wearing their Conservative Christian credentials on their sleeve, but in an 'empowered' way, a la Feminism, however seeking again to impose, along with their Conservative Christian brothers, the same old straitjacket and mindsets, with minor modifications merely for decorative and distraction purposes.
Still further down the rabbit hole, and beyond the bright and breezy spokes-models for the anti-Moslem push, when you start to get down among the weeds of their intolerance and belief in a Judeo-Christian Supremacy (which appears to have replaced that nasty 'White' sort of Supremacy as they have co-opted a wider demographic of different skin colour but essential belief in those J-C 'values'), you then begin to see the seamy side of it all.
Larry Stillman, in a very cogent piece for New Matilda
, called 'The Rise of Organised Intolerance'
, points out that the coalescing of this new grouping of people who are organising the ramping up of Muslim Intolerance runs through conservative sections of the Jewish community, the Q Society, the Salt Shakers, and through a myriad of other groups, some of them nominally 'Left'( though as I have always said, the Far Left and the Far Right have a lot in common and are closer bedfellows than they would like to admit), such as those who support the rights of Indigenous West Papuans to independence from Indonesia, a Muslim State, of course.
A lot of the Anti-Muslim emotions are stoked at this website
And guess what? There's a 'Say No to Burqas!' letter you can sign there. I'm sure Senator Bernardi is well chuffed about that.
Which only goes to prove my point, really. No, the Coalition are not guilty of 'Race Baiting', specifically, as accused by the PM, or, only 'yes' in the broad sense, as I outlined earlier. However, yes, the Coalition are as guilty as sin of stoking religious intolerance and feeding the beast whose maw is growing bigger by the day on the internet.
Are they knowingly complicit in this? Only they know that.
All I know is that President Obama put up the correct signpost in this area when he said the other day, “Despite all our differences, culture, religion, language; ultimately Humankind is one.”
What do you think? Do you think we should be rearing up against the Muslims? Learning to live with them, and they with us? How?
One thing there is no question about, the Coalition stand condemned. They ARE guilty, looking at the 'Field Evidence', as Tony Abbott has taken to parroting in the style of John Howard, of stoking the fires of Religious Intolerance. And I didn't even get around to mentioning Scott Morrison!