POPULAR LEADER: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
POPULAR LEADER: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. BORIS JANCIC

Australian pollies should act to quell far right's rhetoric

HAVE we been conditioned to automatically think that all perpetrators will be Muslim?

As details of the horror unfolding in Christchurch began to trickle through, my reaction evolved from: (1) When are these extremists going to stop targetting us Westerners? to (2) attack on a mosque? Another sectarian Sunni vs Shi'ite atrocity? to (3) a feeling of shame when it finally emerged that the gunman was an Anglo-Australian.

I've been fearful the rhetoric we've been exposed to for so long now, emanating from some politicians from both the mainstream and the fringes, would not only give some form of legitimacy to those pushing divisive agendas on the far right but would also subliminally and imperceptively find a niche in everyone's minds.

In the days that have followed, we've seen some politicians display the statesman-like qualities we've been crying out for.

We look at New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern and marvel at the grace, strength and leadership in someone so young. And we have to wonder why there exists such a lack of that in the current crop of politicians in this country.

We've seen certain politicians both here and overseas doubling down on the divisive, hateful and frankly paranoid bile since Christchurch. The bile they've spouted in order to maintain a media profile for far too long.

SHAME: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
SHAME: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The remarks of Turkey's President are not helpful. They aren't consoling or reflective. They are distressful and only serve to diminish the memories of those who perished. In the midst of an election campaign, he's chosen to walk the low road. He shames his country. He shames his great predecessor, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, whose famous tribute to the Anzacs reads in part: "You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives in this land they have become our sons as well”.

This is one of the clearest examples of what defines a true leader from so many of today's pretenders.

In the wake of Christchurch, Erdogan has sought to wip up his faithful crowds by displaying images of the massacre and pictures of Fraser Anning and his disgraceful comments. This being his own take on the anti-foreigner narrative so popular at the moment.

Erdogan. Hanson. Anning. To some extent Morrison and Dutton also.

Although they come from completely different reaches of politics, their rhetoric is remarkably the same. Just as Erdogan seeks to make political capital from cultivating a distrust of Westerners and several ethnic groups in his own country, so too we see much the same tripe belching from the mouths of politicians here.

As important as the principle of free speech is, certain sectors have made the deliberate decision to weaponise it. We cannot tolerate a free-for-all where some have decided to pervert this freedom into an expression of their opinions akin to lobbing hand grenades.

Just what influence this form of rhetoric had on the Christchurch gunman will reveal itself in the fullness of time, no doubt. But Australian politicians should take this time to take a deep breath and consider the power of their words.

It is quite clear that whilst attention has been in many cases rightly given to keeping us safe from Islamic extremists, we must now ask whether they've dropped the ball in terms to the threat posed from the far right fringe.

They share an equal hatred of the Jewish community. They share an equal hatred of anything different from themselves. Hence, they are just as likely to target a synagogue or a Christian church whose congregation may include people of the "wrong” colour.

And yet the messages of people such as Anning and Hanson in particular have not been tempered since last Friday. If anything, they've ramped up.

In the past couple of years, society has placed pressure on politicians to recognise that we have a major problem with bullying in all its forms. That includes the power of one's words.

This is the long-overdue moment that we should be demanding better from our politicians.

Yes, politicians should apply pressure on both traditional and social media to smarten up their acts in that regard. But in that regard, our elected representatives need also to greatly improve.

Gympie Times

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