Pauline Hanson: Please Explain!

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by Neil Godfrey

Pauline Hanson

Australia’s Pauline Hanson is something like America’s Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. She brought Australia into notoriety among her Asian neighbours twenty years ago with her maiden speech in Parliament declaring that Australia was in danger of being “swamped” by Asians. She publicly claimed that aboriginal peoples were getting it way too easy (free this and that) while other Australians had to work hard and pay their way. Hanson deplored “political correctness” and accused her critics of trying shut down free speech.

In an early TV interview she looked blankly confused for a moment when asked, “Are you xenophobic?” Her response, “Please explain” made her a laughing stock among many Australians — but not among her enthusiastic supporters.

She has not had an advanced education. Her background was in running a fish-and-chip shop.

The point is that as the more educated and cosmopolitan-minded of the population expressed their disdain for her, and ridiculed her, the stronger her support base grew. Politicians attempted to dismiss her as an embarrassing irrelevance but they were pulled up fast when in Queensland’s state elections her party won a full eleven seats in Parliament the very first time they had competed in an election.

When she was jailed for electoral fraud it looked like the end and we could all move on again. But no. The establishment forces that had essentially “plotted” criminal charges against her were exposed for their dishonesty.

And now she’s back. She won a Senate seat in the recent election. A single seat doesn’t sound much, but the future direction of the present government depends heavily upon winning over “crossbenchers” — that is, independents.

This time she is attacking Islam more than Asians, to “get rid of all the terrorism in our streets”. She also continues to attack big business and multinational corporations and what they are doing to the “ordinary workers” in Australia. She is outraged every time another Chinese millionaire buys up another rural property in Australia.

Her supporters regularly congratulate her, saying “You are saying what we are all thinking!”

Ridicule and loathing is easy. It’s the natural reaction for many. But it doesn’t work. It backfires. Her popularity grows the more she is insulted by representatives and classes whom many Australians believe are out of touch with “reality” and how they really think.

Watching last night’s documentary, Pauline Hanson: Please Explain!, an uneasy awareness came over me that the ignorance and prejudices among many of us is not being seriously addressed. National leadership ought ideally to be engaging with Pauline Hanson’s supporters in community dialogue. I was once involved with one such community effort. We would advertise public meetings with persons able to discuss from the perspective of direct experience various topical or controversial subjects of community concern. I’d love to see such efforts start up everywhere.

I do hope that Donald Trump’s mouth alone will be enough to eventually disillusion and turn away his support base.

But then what’s left? What’s next for his disillusioned supporters?

But one thing I do fear: ridicule, insult, derision have the potential to only make the Hansons and Trumps ever more popular. People really do need to be listened to.


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Neil Godfrey

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27 thoughts on “Pauline Hanson: Please Explain!”

  1. The unfortunate fact is that those who follow such people already feel ridiculed, insulted, and derided; doing that only hardens their opinion and causes them to enter a “siege mentality” where it is Them against The World…and The World consists of those who have educated opinions on matters, which Them does not.

    The only workable approach is, as you say, to engage their followers in serious dialogue on the issues, treating their ill-informed views as if they were worthy of rebuttal. Most of these people are not evil, they are just ignorant and uninformed. If you engage with them instead of dismissing them out of hand, they can be reasoned with and persuaded. But pooh-poohing them and their views as being beneath consideration simply serves to reinforce their recalcitrance.

  2. You can have your criticism of your Pauline whatever undisturbed. Let me defend Trump—somewhat–however.

    Please don’t get me wrong.

    I intend to vote for Jill Stein, to whose campaign I’ve donated–even though she’s too ‘conservative’–for me. Trump has disgusted me at times. He is capable of doing horrible things.

    Yet he and his supporters, like Sanders and his, are routinely subjected to the filthiest distortions by the major media and other supporters of war and imperialism, of the looting of the middle and lower classes by the current elites, who want to continue without the slightest deviation. Almost everything on either one of them in the US from Faux News to National Pentagon Radio is increasingly blatant propaganda. Those (like Jill Stein) with critiques somewhat more incisive than Trump’s or Sanders’s are treated by the distortion apparatus in an even more disgusting fashion.

    Even at his most erratic Trump might do good by being a wrecking ball that hits them first. They fear it. He has some of the best array of enemies you can want.

    Although (typically) he’s contradicted himself on Palestine, he has called for even-handed treatment of Palestinians. (The demonization of him seemed to increase afterwards.) He has said he would talk with Putin and with Kim of Korea. Peace-makers talk. They speak in peaceful terms of getting together to make deals. Clinton has compared Putin to Hitler and criticized Trump as a more or less reckless lunatic for wanting to talk with Kim.

    He has suggested the US pull out of Korea and out of NATO. Though at times belligerent-sounding about the mid-east, at other times he has suggested the US quit stirring up trouble. The elites are scared that he might provoke a demilitarization that would cramp their style–they might have to cut back on looting and endangering the world’s population.

    The Clintons have been uniformly a disaster, a neo-con, a neo-liberal plague on humanity. Bombed passenger train and cluster bomb in market in former Yugoslavia after starting the 1st bombing of a European city after WWII. Hundreds of thousands of deaths during Bill’s presidency in Iraq—a bombing campaign with a lot of concentration on sewage and water facilities, leading to deaths by diarrhea. Preventing importation of meds into Iraq. Then her supporting Bush’s Iraq aggression. Her own work in preventive aggression in Libia (preventive war was said in Nuremberg to be the ultimate war crime). Destroyed one of the wealthiest African countries, with a decent welfare system. One is not supposed by war crime laws to try to kill or disrespect leaders of defeated enemy countries. Gaddafi was killed by her flunkies—after being stabbed in the rectum. She laughed about it. Big joke.

    Has persistently seen to the funding of head-choppers and torturers. Has supported ‘regime-change’ and coups. Clintons took in lots of money from head-chopping Saudi Arabia, were pals with Mubarak.

    She and her types smeared Bill’s rape and molestation victims.

    She and her husband have repeatedly facilitated looting by big financial institutions and the whittling down of freedom by “free trade.”

    Trump say horrible things? Of course. She has spoken however of annihilating Iran. Millions of people there, some very nice actually.

    Who’s the proven bigot? Who’s the proven consistent enemy of humanity? Be cautious about what you ingest from the media and other hirelings of the 0.01%.

    Yes, she can be charming. I think I came across her in 1970 and thought so then. Certainly more charming than Donald Trump or Jill Stein. Eager to please in her own way. As someone wrote, all it takes is for someone to write in the NYTimes that she isn’t tough enough on Iran/Russia/XYZ and the button gets pushed–she’ll want to please.

    (For a current piece from a leftist with a partial defense of Trump, found on a rightist website—I admit the left/right distinction tends towards meaningless—see
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-07-30/michael-hudson-obama-said-hillary-will-continue-his-legacy-%E2%80%93-and-indeed-she-will – where he discusses the obscene neo-McCarthyism being employed against Trump.)

  3. So I’ll be voting for Jill Stein but (unless he says something even more repulsive than the absolutely atrocious things he’s said so far) rooting for Trump.

    1. Voting for her, too — unless she’s not on the ballot in my home state. Then I’ll pick Gary Johnson.

      But I can’t root for Trump: his statements on climate change leads me to believe he’ll cement our extinction through global warming.

  4. Didn’t the documentary bring out though that during the 1998 election campaign, when there was some engagement with One Nation, Hanson would choose to just not believe the facts presented to her.

    Sure, ridicule won’t work and will just make her stronger, but engagement needs to be persistent, long-term and conducted by people with an endless supply of patience. I for one am not qualified for that task.

    1. Yes, Pauline said that she refused to believe the statistics the interviewer presented to her. That got me thinking along the lines that led to this post. Why do people simply not believe data presented to them? Probably for quite rational reasons given that they know they have been lied to many times by those at the top. To them, the eggheads are out of touch with the reality as they experience it. I don’t consider a public television interview as the type of “engagement” I am thinking of. In that situation they are under the spotlight and required to defend their views. The time and place to discuss is not in front of TV cameras. And the format cannot be confrontational or inquisitorial.

      In my own discussions with the kinds of people who follow her I have realized I am not prepared. I cannot change their minds on the spur of the moment because my own views tend to be ideologically based as well. I don’t know sufficient factual details. I have found myself thinking that I need to go back and do some real homework before I raise questions or discuss issues in depth with them.

      I have in fact done that with respect to how religion works and the factors underlying terrorism. I would not want to engage with someone antagonistic towards refugees unless and until I really knew the facts in some depth and detail.

      Statistics are not enough. One must also know how the stats were obtained and by whom, etc.

      1. Also important to know their own sources of information and something about who and what is behind those.

        Not likely to change a person’s mind when they have made a strong public stand; their identity, their pride, is staked on their views. But questions can be raised among others. But there really needs to be an alternative movement . . . .

        1. I think you hit upon an important point. We can all be reasonably well informed about general issues, and some of us are *very* well informed about one or two things. So the trick is to be open to having your views changed when you come upon expert knowledge that runs counter to your deeply held perceptions. But if you’re not open to that, as I suspect is the case with One Nation supporters, where does one armed with actual facts start? I don’t feel equipped to engage, armed with the sort of generalised knowledge I have.

          I also think that the political scene in Australia is like a bell/normal curve. On one side of the mean is a big bulk of moderate views who will vote Labor. On the other side is a big bulk of moderate views who will vote Coalition. On the left tail is about 10% who are left of Labor and will vote Greens. On the other tail is a bunch of dissatisfied people who won’t vote for left-leaning parties, and if presented with an alternative, will reject the Coalition. Last time, their votes went to Palmer. This time, to Hanson. They’re always there, one way or another.

          1. I agree. I have learned not to try to change minds or argue points unless I am very well prepared. Best, I think, is to listen and prod others to explain how they know some of the things that upset them so much, what their experiences and sources are. At least I can try to use that understanding when I prepare information spiels etc.

            Interesting that we can often predict where someone stands on issues simply on the basis of what they think about something quite different. (Not always of course, but generally.) We are not surprised to learn that Trump and Hanson disbelieve in climate change, for example. That suggests to me it’s not at bottom a matter of having information and a clear head. There’s something else going on.

            We do what we have to do . . . I’d like to be an optimist, but . . .

  5. This made me think of comment from a common person on the street during an anti-immigration protest in The Netherlands:

    Reporter: Don’t you think you’re being xenophobic?
    Demonstrator: So what, should i be xenophilic? Like you?
    Reporter: … (cut to next demonstrator)

      1. “… ridicule, insult, derision have the potential to only make the Hansons and Trumps ever more popular. People really do need to be listened to.”

        Derision is easier isn’t it? That man couldn’t possibly have a legitimate reason to respond the way he did right?

        You’re missing out on quite a lot of things that are much more at play then dumb racism and xenophobia. But i suppose that would make news articles to complicated. And i can’t really fault outsides for not understanding the background of something hyperspecific like this exchange.

        Fact is, a lot of people see that, and identify with that man because they are pretty tired of media and government trying to tell them what’s appropriate for them to feel. Uninformed comments like yours only add more resentment because they feel, no, *experience* that nobody is listening.

        1. If you are relegating my quip to an example of ridicule or derision by way of response to genuine concerns you have misinterpreted it badly.

          You offered a fleeting quip and I responded to the quip you reported with a counter quip.

          To suggest my line was a serious attempt to engage with the issues of concern is very misguided indeed. My post above was a discussion of the importance of engaging with the issues of concern, after all.

          I was responding to a quip with a quip, to something you presented as a cause for amusement with a counter-point to point to the seriousness of the issues here. Your report was not a report of the issues of concern to that person.

    1. Why not set out the real concerns as you see them, rather than just respond with reports of dismissive quips? If you would like an exchange then let’s have an exchange concerning the issues.

  6. Hi Neil,

    I hate to interject, but…

    Being an American and in the thick of the catapulting of the propaganda, I perceive that unfortunately some (I say a lot of) people who support the likes of Donald J Trump and Ms. Pauline Hanson really DO see your quip as a derogatory comment, even an insult to them. And they remember it, among many others, as supreme examples why the liberal salary class is so annoying to them.

    PS I’m liberal too.

    1. You are right. I should have just walked away and ignored DoublePlus’s anecdote like the reporter he spoke about did.

      Maybe it is just a problem with visceral racism and bigotries and there is no room for engagement after all. I don’t know.

      1. Thanks, Neil.

        I don’t know how to deal with them neither, except by ignoring them or monitoring the comments.

        Monitoring the comments would not allow this kind to go through. But of course, they’ll scream censorship. They always do.

        Or you could be mean to them the way Morris Berman (Dark Ages America Blog for Morris Berman) is to this kind of poster. He calls them trollfoons (internet trolls and buffoons in one word) and such. But that just makes them crazier.

        Someone actually got together a team of psychoanalysts and tried to respectfully engage this type of people on the subject of climate change. The effect was the opposite of what the team expected.

        1. I have to admit I sometimes find myself fluctuating between optimistic and pessimistic views of human nature. We have seen here that on topics I cover that trigger strong hostile feelings in some readers there have been very few, if any, serious rational engagements with the issues.

          Some may sound as if they are wanting to engage with the evidence and reason at the beginning but it doesn’t take long for them to show a different side.

          I try to present evidence and valid conclusions but in the end the response is indignation and personal attacks.

          Recently I re-read one commenter’s lamenting that I was “dismissing” his arguments by calling them straw men. Normally if one had been told that one had a false idea of what one was opposing one would want the matter to be clarified. But no, attempts at logical clarity and clarity of evidence are not recognized as such but are seen as ideological smokescreens for threats to the other party’s feelings and beliefs.

          Perhaps the only thing I can do in the end is try to present the evidence as best I can for anyone to read when they are ready, when they are in a situation and frame of mind wanting to genuinely explore the issues and ready even to question their own past convictions.

          1. Neil, I sympathise with you, in your disappointment about the unwillingness of people to change their beliefs – or even their opinions-.

            But you set yourself a very challenging target if you expect your publications to change people’s minds. Even the best evidence will persuade only very few people to change their views.

            The art (science?) of persuasion involves a lot more than ‘just’ presenting the evidence; it includes motivational aspects (why should I change, what’s in it for me, what are the risks, peer pressure etc.). And it uses a communication style that forges relationships, rather than only presenting evidence.

            So cheer up; I think this is a great place to discuss the evidence (and lack thereof) of widely held opinions. Let’s keep it respectful and civilised, and we can all learn stuff here. But I don’t expect to change your mind, and you shouldn’t expect that I change mine……..

            1. Bob, I have written here many times that people are where they are at according to their life experiences etc and I do not expect to change their beliefs.

              In my comment to Andrew I pointed out that we see evidence that the issue something other than any particular belief.

              You have missed my point. It is not peoples “unwillingness to change beliefs” that “disappoints” me. Something far more serious concerns me.

          2. Neil, thank you. I try to do the same thing, too (present the evidence as best as I can and let the reader accept it if and when he’s ready). Of course on my blogs I hardly ever get any comments!

            1. Please do give the link to your blog here. The disappointment with me is that all too often those who disagree with my posts only drop off few comments to abuse and protest and then leave. (Not all, fortunately.) But that also reminds me that the discussion is really about something other than logical argument and evidence.

              I rolled my eyes when Jerry Coyne complained in his latest book that he had not changed the minds of enough American on evolution with his first book. He then proceeded to explain all the scientific and logical flaws with religion. My eyes rolled because I have learned enough to know he has no understanding at all of what religion is or how it works or why people are religious. But then I know I myself don’t always know enough in order to argue on entirely logical and evidential grounds against someone whose views I disagree with. I have to wonder.

              I keep thinking of that now, and I am asking myself if I am in the same boat when I have expected argument and evidence to have any impact in other areas.

              I have read a fair bit about religion, beliefs, reasoning, etc, — I should have some idea. I need to do a refresher of that literature and learn some more.

              1. “I have learned enough to know he has no understanding at all of what religion is or how it works or why people are religious.”

                Would you consider writing an article summarizing your views about religion, explaining what specific findings of those serious peer reviewed researchers led you to your conclusions?

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