In Come Monday (Part 1 of my ‘nasty people post’) I bemoaned that many in this country are hateful, spiteful, racist bigots. For example, the deaths of little children in Japan have been greeted with joyous howls and stomach-churning suggestions that the tragedy is ‘whale payback’ or ‘WW2 payback’.
Are many of us inherently this pathetic, or are we media inspired into a nationalistic frenzy that places us above all other races and cultures?
I believe the latter. It has happened before. Let’s take a look at it and draw the parallels with this new found racial superiority.
I need to take you all back to the 1890s – on the eve of Federation- which witnessed a growing sense of nationhood amid the need to maintain and consolidate a sense of ethnic identity.
For most of the nineteenth century there was no strong evidence of distinctively Australian identity, Australians saw themselves as part of a group of predominantly Anglo-Saxon emigrant societies. A sense of national distinctiveness only grew stronger towards the end of the century, and this was accompanied by a more explicitly racial element, based on being Anglo-Saxon, as confidence in the new society grew. It was further possible to isolate the Australian national type founded on the structure of ideas about national character, which witnessed the construction of hegemonic ideas of racism and superiority among the European-Australians
European racial ideals and preoccupations were well exemplified by editorials, staff and correspondent’s features in a number of contemporary journals, both influencing and reflecting public opinion. These publications harangued the public with sensational articles and cartoons warning of the threat to the social and moral well being of – and in particular – an emerging Australian type. These journals were filled with articles of substance and lively debate on provocative issues provided their readers with a wealth of illustrative material which both popularised racist theories and provided plenty of local examples to bear these theories out.
Let’s stop there. Re-read the previous paragraph and ask yourself if the public discourse in the 1890s is really much different to that of the past decade. I argue that there is no difference. Taking an isolated case, the influencing and reflecting of public opinion has been no better illustrated than Alan Jones’s call to arms which led to the Cronulla riots a few years ago and forever cast the Lebanese as an undesirable people in this country.
It was a sweet victory for Jones. The people had spoken and he had listened, he boasted. However I prefer to think the people had been stirred.
Over the past decade the public have also become tools for the media. In the 1890s it may well have been the journals that were filled with articles of substance and lively debate on provocative issues that provided their readers with a wealth of illustrative material, but now the readership is invited to provide the illustrative material on the condition that it meets with the media agenda. Over the last 40 years I have never witnessed such patriotic hysteria and the belief in our own racial superiority as I am now witnessing. Why is it being drummed up? Why are so many rising up with it? Where is it leading us?
In 1901 the belief in our own ‘drummed-up’ racial superiority culminated in the first act of Parliament being the Immigration Restriction Act . . . the White Australia Policy. The media had been the vehicle for political interests who wanted to maintain that racial superiority. But I ask the reader; “What’s it all about this time?” Are we still trying to convince ourselves that only we decide who comes into our country? Are we again trying to convince ourselves that we are morally and racially superior to all other races? Is there again a political agenda that underpins this belief, and why is the media giving this agenda so much currency?
Questions, questions, questions. Does anybody have an answer?