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Lessons from Hansonism

By Brian Holden - posted Tuesday, 12 February 2008

What can the Pauline Hanson experience teach us?

We have witnessed how the politicians, the media and the public have reacted to Hanson in what has been a unique episode in our recent social history.

Pauline Hanson’s "policies" were unworkable and her party did not have much financial backing. So, why did she become a household name?


First, she tapped into a waiting market.

There are many older people who feel betrayed by successive governments as they observe the increasing number of non-Europeans on the trains and in the streets of the poorer suburbs.

Feeling threatened by strangers is rooted in our survival instincts. Our mammalian ancestors marked their territory out with dobs of their dung and squirts of their urine. We still carry the program in our DNA. Xenophobia is the natural state to be in and a change in consciousness is required to step out of it.

Second, she was likeable.

She was not a real politician in that she was an open book. While not glamorous, she was interesting to look at. She was a change from the shifty and the boring.

By the time the structure of her party, One Nation, was getting some negative scrutiny and she clearly had no idea what a big job “stopping the rot” really was, many who still continued to vote for her did so out of spite for our two-party and seemingly self-serving political system.


One factor tended to maintain support for her when she was stumbling. This was the bitter criticism from those younger people on the left who the older conservative people do not like. Those who sneered at the ex-fish and chip shop owner’s perceptive limitations were dismissive of her extraordinary courage. Older people saw her as the gutsy redhead who stood up to be counted.

Third, her arrival on the scene was manna from Heaven for the media.

Hanson was a politician who could generate some emotional heat. The media followed her around. Without the media attention she would have been almost invisible. But, regrettably, the media went a step too far. The on-air ravings encouraged by the disgraceful presenters of talkback radio frightened a lot of non-Europeans. If there was any “polarising” of the nation at the time, the media must take most of the blame.

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About the Author

Brian Holden has been retired since 1988. He advises that if you can keep physically and mentally active, retirement can be the best time of your life.

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