[csaa-forum] Howard's Tampa
crofts5 at hotmail.com
Mon Jul 16 14:57:52 CST 2007
The following contribution was bounced a couple of weeks ago, but I hope it
may still conribute to discussion.............
Stephen Muecke, thanks indeed for kicking off this strand of discussion with
Jennifer Martiniello's brilliant analysis. I'd like to add my two cents'
worth on Howard and the electoral politics of all this.
I actually hate to think of Howard's mind, and what he really thinks -
though his revulsion from dark-skinned people has been evident for years in
his facial and body language. Nor am I sure that there's any one persona.
Isn't it rather a matter of adopting whatever rhetorical posture he and his
focus groups think will advance his causes? As for the causes, I think
there are two agendas: governing the country in the interests of those he
favours and who favour him; and maintaining power through the next election.
Broadly then, there are the interests of corporate - including landowning
white - Australia over the battlers he occasionally pretends to woo.
Internationally, alongside his fear of upsetting Indonesia, theres his
poodle role to King George Dubya. Expanded uranium mining in NT is surely
connected to Howards recent deal with BushCorp on nuclear power and his
urgent promotion of nuclear power as our best clean energy source. And
lets not forget Howard's serious attempts from 1996 on to dismantle the
advances of Mabo and Wik not to mention that glorious moment when almost
half his Aboriginal audience turned their backs to him and Noel Pearson
spoke out so forcefully against him!
Then every third year there's the next election. Howard's politics, as
Robert Manne has shown, are thoroughly unprincipled, lacking any coherent
social vision of the Whitlam-Keating kind. Hes too interested in
maintaining power. And he, his advisers and his pollsters are quite
brilliant at it. Of course there was the outrageous lie of Tampa. But who
else could win an election on the GST?! Hence the present wedge politics
trying to alienate both corporates and unions from Rudd. Wedge politics is
at play in the current NT affair too: separating Rudd from the left
liberals worried about sending in the military and about the abject failure
of this Government's health and educational programmes for Aboriginal
communities. But also in seeking to play off state Labor premiers against
Rudd. And, too, theres Howards long-held ambition to reduce the powers of
the states. I suspect the powers invoked against the NT Government are at
the least constitutionally dubious, but they could be an interesting prelude
to attempts to wrest yet further control from the (Labor) states.
If Howard declares war on a section of our own population, its to win
votes. Its been working very nicely for him and his friends ever since he
co-opted Hansonism against Asian immigrants in 1997. The recent
demonisation of Lebanese Australians updates the tactic.
I agree we CS folk need not to theatricalise our own discourse. As for
getting to grips with those of Howard and friends, we might ask why the
discourse of war works so well: war against drugs, war against child abuse,
even war for democracy in Iraq (but wait for Howards retreat from that
once King George phones him). War unifies populations against a perceived
external or internal enemy and instils a phoney patriotic pride (the
Falklands War was how Thatcher won the 1984 election). War against others
external or internal to the nation-state often carries a discourse of blame.
Hanson used to rail against Aborigines for getting welfare when her
partys outer suburban and regional constituents supposedly did it hard.
Supporters of Schapelle Corby vociferously blamed the Indonesian judges who
sentenced her. Who feels better as a consequence of such a discourse?
Ideally for Howard, the swinging voters targeted by his focus groups. I
suspect that some purchase on the discourses of what might be called
Howardism can be gained from work in media studies that partakes of a CS
approach: John Langers analysis of news categories in his Tabloid
Television book, and my own contribution to that work in an article on the
Corby media phenomenon in the Oz Journal of Communication 33 (2-3).
Some final questions: Why is it that this topic takes off with us now?
Perhaps because another Howard electoral victory looms ahead? Perhaps
because it's Aboriginality at stake?
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