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Monday, 18 March 2019 09:17

Pollies, don't try to pin the blame on social media. Look in the mirror Featured

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Pollies, don't try to pin the blame on social media. Look in the mirror Pixabay

When anything bad happens, politicians always look for the first convenient scapegoat. And in the case of the massacre of Muslims in New Zealand, they have their bete noire right in front of them: social media.

Friendly media outlets are helping out by calling for this, that or the other restriction to be placed on these tech companies.

To be true, social media — in this case, Facebook, Google (YouTube) and Twitter — have their faults and plenty of them. iTWire is a regular and harsh critic of them when they put a foot wrong.

But in this case, they are one of the effects. The cause is the dog-whistling by politicians of various stripes, putting down this community or the other, and demonising people by reason of their faith, origin, and colour.

Also contributing to this are politicians on the other side of the aisle, those who sat silent while hymns of hate were being sung by some in order to make political gains. They are no less guilty.

We have seen the effects of this in the US where Jews, Indians and Muslims have all been killed en masse by white nationalists ever since Donald Trump came to power. But apparently we have not learned from the horrific spate of deaths.

The dog-whistling starts right from the top.

Back in 2011, Lenore Taylor, then working with the Sydney Morning Herald, reported that Scott Morrison, then the shadow immigration minister, had told his colleagues at a 2010 shadow cabinet meeting to capitalise on the growing fears about "Muslim immigration", "Muslims in Australia" and the "inability" of Muslim migrants to integrate.

This is the same Morrison who has made all the right noises after the New Zealand slaughter, including a call for shutting down streaming on Facebook as though that would erase the effects of his dog-whistling.

Remember that members of the government were willing to support a resolution in the Senate that "it's OK to be white" introduced by a woman who has done more than her fair share of outright smearing of Muslims and anyone who suits, as long as it keeps her in the limelight.

In 2016, the Senate held an inquiry into halal food, with many questions seeming to imply that the proceeds from certification of these foods were going to fund terrorism. Islamic terrorism, for anyone who is confused.

More recently, former Labor leader Mark Latham, now running for the Senate in NSW as a One Nation candidate, called for Aborigines to be DNA-tested before they are eligible to receive welfare payments.

And how can one forget Queensland Senator Fraser Anning and his "final solution" statement in Parliament? True to form, the man put out a media release after the New Zealand killings, blaming Muslim migration for the deed!

The Opposition has been strangely quiescent about these racist incidents. Unlike Bob Hawke who hit back strongly at John Howard when the latter claimed Asian immigration was taking place too quickly, and Paul Keating who also bit back strongly at Howard's racist memes, Labor leaders from Kim Beazley onwards have been like blancmange.

Leaders have to lead – just look at New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern. One wishes that Australian leaders had one-tenth of one percent of her leadership qualities.

Many people in every society have strong likes and dislikes. But we practise tolerance to maintain cohesion. We keep our feelings in check for the greater good. Else, there would be anarchy on the streets.

Sadly, those 51 people who died at the hands of a fanatic, who was encouraged to think that he was doing a favour to Western civilisation (?) will not be there to see the fallout of the reaction to their deaths. They have become just another grim statistic to the power of dog-whistling.

Tech companies have contributed much misery to the world at large – Microsoft's software is a glaring example. But in this case, Facebook, Google (YouTube) and Twitter are not to be blamed for this heinous crime. Instead, politicians in Australia need to take a good hard look at themselves in the mirror.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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