The responses to Fraser Anning’s asinine statement following the Christchurch Mosque Massacre have come thick and fast. But none is ridiculous, or more dangerous, than Peter Dutton’s recent spat with the Greens. Get your potato peelers out, ladies and gentlemen, for we are going into the veggie patch to confront Spud on his home turf.
The sourced article opens by quoting Spud drawing a direct equivalence between the Greens and Fraser Anning. This was in direct response to the Greens accusing Spud of having a role in fueling the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment that underlined the Christchurch attack. Specifically, Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, who is a Muslim, accused Spud of contributing to ‘creating an atmosphere where hate is allowed to actually incubate in our society’. Given Mr. Dutton’s rhetoric on boats and national security as well as his comments on Lebanese immigrants, this is not an unreasonable claim.
Spud Replies #adultgovernment
What was Mr. Dutton’s mature, well thought out response? He said as follows
“I’m hardly going to take morals lectures from the extreme left who frankly are just as bad in this circumstance as people like Fraser Anning, they should equally be condemned. We have people on the far-left or the far-right trying to extract political advantage. I think it’s a disgrace
Ok, the Greens are not on ‘the extreme left’, but even if they were, that does not invalidate their opinions. This quotation from Spud exposes two of the right wing’s favoured tactics when it comes to dealing with their opponents.
Right-Wing Tactics and The Stunting of Discourse
The first is to place a label on their opponents, which, by its very existence, will make them go away. An American example of this is the attachment of the slanderous label ‘anti-semite’ to anyone who dares to criticise Israel for anything, whatever the evidence. If you criticise Israel, you are an anti-semite by definition. This tactic has the added bonus, so they think, of preventing the right from having to engage with the actual arguments that their opponents advance. Sorry, but this is called ad hominem (toward the man), and it means attacking the person making the argument rather than the argument itself. It does not work on anyone with even the most fundamental grasp of logic.
The second tactic this calm, mature and even-handed response exposes is the dangerous habit on the right of false-equivalence’. This is the idea that both sides of an issue are equally to blame. This is intellectually lazy and requires very little actual thought or analysis. We see this in politics constantly ‘they’re all bastards’ or something to that effect. While no side of politics is perfect, it is the height of laziness to simply say ‘both sides’. This tactic, like the ad hominem approach, prevents us from having a serious discussion and actually placing blame where it lies, since neither side is more responsible than the other.
False Equivalence: ‘He did it Too!’
Mr. Dutton is drawing an equivalence between criticising someone for yelling ‘FIRE’ in a crowded theatre and actually doing so. The Greens rightfully called out Dutton, Anning and the rest of their right-wing nutjob (RWNJ) colleagues for their bigoted rhetoric. His response was to say ‘Well, you’re being bigoted as well’. No. They are not. You are simply trying to drag them into the mud with you so the Ray Hadley, Alan Jones and Sky so-called News crowd will think the whole thing is a wash. To respond directly to Mr. Dutton’s false equivalence, pointing out the bigotry of those who fanned these fires is not ‘extracting political advantage’. If it happens to be to their political advantage to take a stand against prejudice, so be it. But that was not their intent.
The point rather was to point out the bigotry of those who seek to actually make political hay of the issue of immigration and to politicise religious tension. If that happens to render Mr. Dutton and his ilk uncomfortable by getting too close to a nerve, that is on them, not on the ones pointing it out. To take a somewhat less abstract approach, how can criticising a thing be the equivalent of that thing? Mr. Dutton’s comparison is ridiculous. As a side note, I am not asking for parliamentarians to be Vulcans, but some basic knowledge of argument and logic would not go astray.
Little Awful Anning and The Censure Motion
The man at the centre of this storm, apparent Senator Fraser Anning, will have a censure motion brought against him when Parliament resumes. Notably, fellow bigot Pauline Hanson, from whose Senate ticket Anning emerged following the ousting of Malcolm Roberts, will abstain from the motion. This means she will not vote. Her grounds? The motion will ‘not prove a damn thing’ as she said. Hanson went on to say that ‘He [Anning] is an elected member of the parliament. He has a voice’. Indeed, as does the rest of the parliament. The motion is not to silence him, so you can put the ‘free-speech’ combination strawman and red herring away. This is a censure motion condemning his ill-informed bigotry. Nothing more. He retains his right to spew his bile, and any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate.
This incident, for all its horror, has successfully shone a spotlight on both the bigoted rhetoric and the terrible ‘argumentation’ of the right. This group of increasingly disconnected radicals are being pushed out to the fringes where they belong. The real shame is that it took an incident as tragic and vile as this to achieve a result which, in any functional democracy, would have been achieved decades ago.
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