The recent very public arrests of Muslim type people, alleged to be planning to smuggle a bomb encased in a meat grinder onto a plane, has been foiled by Australia's security teams. Airports were on alert as passengers were encouraged to be thankful for the terror watch forces. Prime Minister Turnbull in sonorous tones - as one speaking to small children declared – "Everyday we are working to keep Australia safe from terror."
"The only thing we have to fear - is fear itself. Nameless unreasoning unjustified terror, which paralyses needed effort"
This is part of the oft-quoted 1933 inaugural speech of President Franklin D Roosevelt.
He was right about nameless unreasoning fear and its immobilizing impact.
The fight, flight or freeze mechanism, is a survival instinct for visible immediate threat. It is far less useful for non-immediate threats. In fight or flight, our thinking narrows to a primitive reactive mode. It is an early evolutionary instinct. Heart rate rises, blood pressure increases and digestion is suspended.
Higher cognitive functioning is disrupted. There is no time to ponder ambivalence or consider a range of possibilities.
Authoritarian leaders have historically used fear to make their people submissive by:
- Manufacturing or inflating threat.
- Arousing fear and terror regarding this threat.
- Claiming their leadership as a saviour in the face of this threat.
- Increasing powers regarding command surveillance.
- Waiving accountability
If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
Who said that? Oh it was Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
Examples of fear mongering that have been used politically, historically and currently include:
- Asylum seekers
- Asians .
- Wind turbines.
- Head scarves
- Meat grinders
During the world wars thousands of citizens of German and Japanese ancestry were interred in camps despite being law abiding loyal residents of Britain, the United States and Australia. They were classified as enemy aliens.
In Australia people from over thirty nations were interred, but most were of German Japanese or Italian ancestry.
Incredible as it seems - Indigenous people were also interred.
Many innocents were accused of sending signals to the enemy due to something as spurious as turning lights on and off in a home photography dark room. The logic went something like this.
We are at war with Italy.
This man is Italian.
He switches lights on and off.
He might be signalling the enemy.
Fear has the capacity to undermine rational thought.
Once aroused, fear can dominate.
This is illustrated humorously by Woody Allen's character in the film Hannah and Her Sisters. His feared brain tumour diagnosis is cleared; but the fear remains.
Despite the ludicrously comic nature of this internment paranoia, it resulted in real heartbreak and suffering for those imprisoned and their families. It also robbed Australia of the participation of loyal citizens. Some imprisoned citizens had even fought for their nation in the first war.
It is no accident when governments use fear to manipulate their citizens.
It is no accident when Governments seek to increase their powers of surveillance and arrest to allegedly keep people safe.
The question arises. How safe are we from 'rulers' who have excessive power and control? In surrendering our rights do we become more endangered?
Barrister and Human Rights activist Julian Burnside believes the violation of human rights and repressive laws can be a greater danger than the things from which they purport to protect us. In his latest book Watching Out: Reflections on Justice and Injustice Burnside explores justice and injustice issues including the treatment of stolen generations and of imprisoned asylum seekers. Without a Bill of Rights Parliament can pass unjust laws, which the judiciary may be obliged to uphold.
Burnside maintains that the separation of powers is essential to ensure justice. There must be no political pressure on the judiciary.
There was a concerted effort to undermine the work of retiring Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs.
She has accused the current government of being ideologically opposed to human rights.
There is evidence of this in the attacks on Triggs and the Human Rights Commission by Attorney General "people have a right to be bigots" George Brandis.
By indefinitely imprisoning asylum seekers in offshore detention, Australia has:
1. violated the Refugee Convention to which it is a signatory;
2. failed to protect and safeguard those imprisoned on Manus and Nauru;
3. ignored frequent calls from the United Nations and Amnesty, Human Rights Commission Reports and concerned citizens regarding the Asylum Seekers who arrived by boat from July 19th 2013;
4. shown negligence in its failure to adequately provide timely medical treatment resulting in thedeaths of asylum seekers;
5. begun to dismantle offshore detention without providing safe alternatives to those detained.
Also White Australia continues entrenched structural disadvantaging of Australia's First Peoples. The unsightly homeless are moved on from the streets; but we do not house them.
Eerily like the words and actions of Dr Joseph Goebbels, included in his recorded diary, the current policies are moving towards suppression of democratic rights and away from protection of rights.
Lies are essential to this process.
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.: Joseph Goebbels
Guidelines for the Ministry of Utmost Fear.
- Suppress and denigrate dissident voices especially the press and independent broadcasters
- Promote press that supports government propaganda.
- Blur separation of powers.
- Identify enemies as scapegoats for the purposes of the regime.
- Enact zealous and secretive anti terror laws.
- Use extensive propaganda, especially three-word slogans.
- Promote convenient lies
- Incite the populace against designated individuals or groups.
- Enact laws that reduce poor people's rights in favour of the rights of the powerful few
- Distract citizens form the regime's failings by sensational press coverage of a threat
- Expand and over glorify police and armed forces.
- Denigrate and defund expertise and science.
- Do all incrementally, so that the lulled populace remain compliant.
We should heed the hard earned words of Martin Niemoller an anti communist who had at first supported Hitler. He was later imprisoned as a dissident.
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.
To which list you could add homosexuals, disabled, gypsies and repeat.