Planting the seeds of hatred: The radicalisation of the Christchurch shooter

The ideas of white supremacists are not new. The belief that whites are superior to others has existed since time immemorial.  What is new, however, is the prevailing climate we have today. An idea, like a seed, in order to grow, must be nurtured.  Then, and only then, will the holders of this idea be so brazen as to act on it.  Whether it’s in the attack of Muslim women on the streets or the callous slaughter of worshippers as their pray, it all begins with a tiny seed.

So how did we get here? How was this white Australian radicalised? What induced him to become a brutal terrorist? What emboldened him to act on his twisted ideology?

It was our leaders. It was John Howard, who cultivated the land by making it easy for us to hate after his fabrications that refugees and Muslims are the types of people who throw their children overboard into raging waters for some perceived benefit.  Who after sending our military to war based on false intelligence, went on to belittle his mistake, describing it as embarrassing and by doing so relegating the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives as a small blunder.

It was Tony Abbott, who planted the seed when he declared that “all cultures are not equal”. Who thought that Australia should stop “tip-toeing’ around the religion and that ASIO needs to be “open and upfront” about the danger in Islam.  Abbott, who stated that there are massive problems with Islam, that it needs to be reformed and who had no qualms about publically proclaiming this.

It was Malcolm Turnbull, who irrigated it in his famous phone call to Trump, where he reassured him that 80% of the refugees in a prospective refugee swap would be Christian, as if non-Christians, namely Muslims, were sub-human and born with an innate tendency towards violence.  Turnball, who later stated in a national security address that “our success as a multicultural society is built on strong foundations, which include the confidence of the Australian people that their government and it alone, determines who comes to Australia.”

It was fertilised by Hanson who rebuilt her political career on the back of Islamophobia as she warned Australia that we are being “swamped by Muslims”.  Hanson, who referred to Islam a disease we need to vaccinate ourselves against, and demonising Muslims whenever given an opportunity to do so.

And lastly, it was further nourished by Morrison who in late 2010 urged the then shadow cabinet to capitalise on the public’s concerns about “Muslim immigration”.  Who late last year, felt impelled to call out “radical, violent, extremist Islam that opposes our very way of life” stating that the “greatest threat….to this country is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam” and further claiming that Muslims, and in particular Muslim leaders are not doing enough.

Is it really surprising then, that a sadistic individual would be spurred on to inflict as much damage as possible upon those who he was taught to hate?  Is it really that astonishing that this fertile ground would give rise to an opportunist to create a name for himself? Is it any wonder, with our history of arousing hatred and Islamophobia, that a ‘cute little blonde boy’ would grow up to be a monster?

Late last year our Prime Minister said “There is a special responsibility on …leaders to protect their…communities and to ensure that these dangerous teachings and ideologies do not take root here.  They must be proactive, they must be alert and they must call this out, in their communities and more broadly for what it is”.

It’s not often that I agree with Morrison, but this an exception. I agree with him one hundred per cent, we do have to call it out.  Morrison and some of his fellow politicians have created the climate that allowed these dangerous teachings and ideologies to take root here and all we see now is the fruit of their labour.

The Danger of Defending Violent Acts

Picture this: A 26-year-old king hits an 18-year-old.  It comes out of nowhere.  The punch is so forceful that the victim is left with a broken jaw and missing teeth.  After the first couple of days where people are critical, the narrative surrounding the transgressor begins to change.  “He is is beside himself,” it is said.  “Good people do bad things.” Some even go further, seemingly showing more sympathy for the culprit. The victim “will be uncomfortable for a week or two and then he’ll be fine”.  In contrast, “the guilt and the shame will live with [the culprit] for the rest of his life”.  Even the father of the victim weighs in,  showing concern for the offender’s welfare amid “this maelstrom which is pretty intense”.

This is precisely what has occurred very publically in Melbourne over the past few days.  The original incident occurred on the football field during an AFL match on Sunday, with West Coast player, Andrew Gaff, striking Fremantle youngster, Andrew Brayshaw. The story has dominated the media since the event and you’d almost have to be living under a rock in Melbourne to be unaware of it.

On the one hand, I admire these comments. On the surface, showing empathy to one who is clearly suffering is to be valued. By defending him they were trying to help alleviate his shame and anguish, exacerbated by the barrage of criticism he faced in the immediate aftermath. I particularly admire Brayshaw’s self-less father who was willing to overlook the wrong done to his son and reach out to a young man in pain. However, given that this episode is not a private matter and played in the public arena, it goes beyond personal views.

The fact is, as some legal experts have implied, if this had occurred anywhere other than the football field, criminal charges would be laid. “I’ve had people go to jail for less,” stated prominent lawyer, Tom Percy.  There would be no media coverage surrounding the culprit’s remorse.  There would be no character references and statements highlighting the importance of separating the act from the person.  There certainly wouldn’t be any words of support from the victim’s father.

It’s not only the double standards that are of concern.  More troubling, is the effect that this saga will have on society at large.  What is the underlying message are we sending the community when sympathies are almost more aligned with the culprit? What are we saying about violence when it is suggested that the violent action should be separated from the person?  And most importantly, how will this impact on the rates of potentially deadly king hits and violence episodes towards women when we emphasise that good people can do bad things?

Andrew Gaff is not merely a man who made a mistake.  Andrew Gaff is a role model and a hero to many.  When prominent individuals defend him after such a violent act, whether they are aware of it or not, they become defenders of all those who commit violent acts.  Maybe he is a good man and maybe the guilt will eat away at him for the rest of his life, but this is much bigger than the apparent suffering of one man.  The defense of Andrew Gaff can potentially contribute to the suffering of countless others, and people need to consider this before making these public statements of support.

 

 

 

 

When Leaders Betray

Recently in Melbourne, we have heard much about Sudanese gangs. As the new boogeyman, we are encouraged to fear them.  Australia’s minister for immigration, Peter Dutton,  has publically stated that Victorian’s are too scared to go out due to of a fear of African gangs.  Unfortunately, it didn’t end there.

As leader of this country, I thought that Prime Minister Turnball would take a more measured approach.  Being the head of the liberal party I didn’t expect him to completely dismiss his minister. What I did expect though, was that maybe, just maybe, he would try to be a little more responsible.  Maybe he would provide some context and tone it down a little in an attempt to maintain social cohesion.  I was wrong.

After a warning by the Victorian equal opportunity and human rights commissioner, Kristen Hilton, against “racially divisive statements” the government didn’t back down.  Turnball defended his minister, claiming that “there is a real concern about Victorian gangs” and going on to say that “you’d have to be walking around with your hands over your ears in Melbourne not to hear it”.

As a Victorian who evidently walks around with her hands over her ears, I can honestly say that I have never actually come across anybody who expressed any fear towards Sudanese migrants.  Personally, the only fear I’ve felt towards Sudanese migrants has been that of their prowess on the football field.  What I have seen, however, is a lot of eye rolling and frustration towards a government who are dealing with this issue recklessly.

Even if there is a small minority who genuinely feel this fear, this needs to be dealt with appropriately.  Instead of allaying their fears this government has preferred to capitalise on them.  Instead of decreasing the tensions they have elected to fuel them.  Instead of leading responsibly they have chosen to betray those they are meant to represent.

Last week a 14-year-old Sudanese boy walking home from school was viciously attacked.  He was stabbed twice for no other reason than his African heritage, an attack which the media has chosen to largely ignore.  Where are racially divisive headlines when the victim is of African heritage?  Where is the hysteria and hyperbole? Where are the inflammatory government statements?  Sadly this boy was not only a victim of a cowardly attack, this boy was also a victim of the betrayal of his leaders.

Leaders are those who set the standard. Good leaders promote unity and cohesion among those they represent.  Bad leaders create discord and unrest.  Turnball and Dutton, you both have blood on your hands.