Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Whistling for the Dogs

Scott Morrison's comments today potiticising the funeral of asylum seekers who had lost loved ones in the recent Christmas Island tragedy marks a low point in the Coalition's simplistic "stop the boats" attacks on the Government. It comes hot on the heels of racist comments from Sen. Corey Bernardi and a stunt from Sen. Gary Humphries tabling a petition calling for a moratorium on Muslim immigration - signed by 1.3x10-7 % of the population (yeah, that's right, 3 people).

Tony Abbott, showing his true "leadership", backed both of them. This also comes after Abbott's attempt to politicise Australia's Aid policy (ironically introduced by the Howard Government) in his unnecessary "fantasy" budget.

So it's not conspiratorial to suggest that there's a "theme" running through the Coalition at the moment - in fact, liberal members of the Coalition have said that the party is being influenced by One Nation.

Along with the 'stop the boats' sloganeering it is quite obvious that the Coalition is busily dog-whistling to the so-called "Howard Battlers" - and the reason for this has to be coming from somewhere. My guess is that polling is showing a great deal of resonance between the coalitions anti-Muslim themes and the "Howard Battler" voting segment. It is this segment that is essential to either party to win and Howard was adept at using dog whistling to capture them.

Now it would be simplistic to suggest that mere racism is the dog whistle - this segment is not 'racist' - "some of their best friends are <insert minority here>". It is actually a manipulation of that Howard standard: "aspirational jealousy".

Aspirational jealously is that powerful rage that inhabits the McMansions of the outer suburbs. Distilled, it is the sentiment firstly of entitlement and secondly, that others are getting stuff they shouldn't (to the Battler's detriment) and this underserving is the reason for all the Battler's problems.

Aspirational jealousy is the glue of almost all Howard government policies from middle-class welfare (cf.  welfare like the dole - which goes to underserving 'bludgers') to private school funding (which is a necessary "entitlement") and it is also what drives the racist dog-whistle. The dog whistle is all about the "other" - not the "guy who owns the kebab shop and is a really top bloke". The "other" is underserving, is incapable of understanding our "way of life", is a queue jumper, is an "illegal".

So it's hardly surprising that Abbott and Co. would use this tried and true method of dog whistling about underserving people wasting the taxpayer dollar to go to a funeral, or Indonesian schools when our money is better spent here or even a 3-person signed petition against Muslim immigration - it's all whistling to the dogs, the ones Howard set loose when he refused to condemn the Hansonites.

And always remember if you're thinking about making any sort of sophisticated argument about the merits of such spending  or even trying to appeal to their humanity -  its "political correctness gone mad".