Friday, September 10, 2004

Friday I've got Tampa on my mind...

Now, lets not pretend for a second that producing a politically- skewed analysis of the Embassy bombing in Jakarta is evidence of a lack of emotional/compassionate response to the event. Blogs like Troppo Armadillo present political comment, opinion and analysis. The abuse that was directed at Ken Parish is astounding.

It just seems to be further evidence that conservatives/right wing types, think that disgust at, and compassion for the victims of terrorist acts are partisan issues. These people need some flash-cards to carry around with "I do not own the concept of outrage at terrorist acts", just so they dont' forget it.

Furthermore, it is ridiculous to deny that there will be some impact on the election campaign. It is therefore ridiculous to suggest that we can not discuss that impact, for whatever reason. Enough said really, I don’t really think it serves any good purpose to sit here and try to expose further the folly of personal abuse when discussing politics. Let’s get back to discussing politics.

Malcolm Farr notes that events such as these push national security (a Coalition strong point) back up the list of electoral issues, making it even harder for the ALP to keep the focus on what it sees as the Coalition’s weaknesses – health, environment, education and ‘trust’.

In my (humble) opinion, the prominence of security issues in this campaign may be decisive.

The bombing reinforces Coalition party rhetoric and ideology which has sought to place Australia in a ‘war’ state of mind. This is very important if you keep in mind this election campaign can be chiefly understood in terms of an “incumbent vs outsider” construct. An incumbent is in a very powerful position when the electorate is fearful. A general sense of fear can easily magnify the typical suburban fear of change.

The irrepressible Krugman explored the consequences of a ‘war’ state of mind in an election campaign here.

When war psychology takes hold, the public believes, temporarily, in a "mythic reality" in which our nation is purely good, our enemies are purely evil, and anyone who isn't our ally is our enemy.


Any of this sound familiar? The ‘comments’ (abuse, more like it), levelled at Ken Parish are just one example of this ‘mythic reality’ and its polarising effect. You don’t have to look very hard to see this theme in Government rhetoric, and indeed, US Republican party rhetoric.

And the political consequences?

This state of mind works greatly to the benefit of those in power […]. The point is that once war psychology takes hold, the public desperately wants to believe in its leadership, and ascribes heroic qualities to even the least deserving ruler.

And it is testament to the polarising power of the ‘mythic reality’ that even small attempts to explore the influence of war/threat on politics elicit the kind of responses you can find over at Troppo Armadillo.

A further consequence of this atmosphere will be that it will now be very difficult to get reasoned analysis of Howard Government foreign relations policy onto the agenda. For example, any attempts to draw links between the utter catastrophe that is our involvement in Iraq, and the heightened threat of terrorist activity will, of course draw shrieks from the right along the lines of “we won’t be bullied or threatened.”

I find the inability of those on the right to understand that recognising that the war in Iraq has failed miserably in decreasing the threat of terrorism (something the Government probably knew beforehand anyway) does not equate to a capitulation to the demands of terrorists to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq, to be very disturbing.

When pure emotional response dominates public discourse on an issue and drowns out the concerned voices of the critical minds, we are surely headed for some very big mistakes (flashback November 2001).

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