You don’t beat the likes of Fraser Anning by belittling
JUST to be absolutely clear, there is barely a word that has passed the lips of the new Katter Party senator Fraser Anning with which I find myself in agreement.
You could drive a fleet of trucks through the errors, generalisations and made-up statistics in his maiden speech. But the concerted smash-up job on this man by the media, the political establishment and progressive activists stands as a powerful example of the flawed tactics used to counter those with arguments that are both inhumane and intellectually flawed.
These tactics are marked by a sneering, smartypants, uni wanker smugness, and come with a demonstrated history of having the opposite effect of what is intended.
Back in mid-1996, a disendorsed Liberal politician by the name of Pauline Hanson was rocketing to prominence after an incendiary maiden speech where she took aim at everything from indigenous welfare to Asian immigration and loafing dole bludgers who could benefit from the reintroduction of "nasho".
Her most memorable interview was on 60 Minutes, where reporter Tracey Curro asked her the question: "Are you xenophobic?" After an awkward pause, Ms Hanson finally answered: "Please explain?"
To the journalists, activists and political establishment, this was the ultimate "gotcha" moment whereby Ms Hanson was exposed on the national stage as a fool. There were guffaws all round, at least in the groovier parts of town. I mean, seriously, who doesn't know what xenophobic means, and while we're chatting, can you top up my tempranillo?
The answer to that question is hundreds of thousands of people don't know what the word xenophobic means. It's a word worth knowing, for sure, but it's a poseur's word, and the reporter had deliberately chosen it over the readily-understood (and, therefore, journalistically better) term "racist" in a cheap attempt to embarrass Ms Hanson.
What happened next? Thousands of people who also didn't know what "xenophobic" meant saw this woman being put through the wringer on national TV, derided for her Queensland drawl, rubbished as some bogan who ran a fish shop (as if there is any shame in that), and they ended up feeling pity for her and solidarity with her.
The journo's assault on her intellect was seen as an assault on everyone who never got a flash education, or was too busy working hard for a pittance to buy and read books.
As a tactic, the result of the concerted two-year persecution of Pauline Hanson by small-l liberals was that she won 13 seats at the 1998 Queensland election, one million votes at the 1998 federal election, and continues to be a political force today.
Mission accomplished, lefties.
Fast forward more than two decades and Fraser Anning faces similar treatment over his use of the historically loaded and foul term "final solution" in the context of remarks about the composition of our migrant intake.
For those not in the know, the term "final solution" was used by Adolf Hitler to describe his planned extermination of the Jewish people during the Holocaust in World War II. It stands as the high watermark of human evil - best documented in Primo Levi's book If This is a Man, the most important book of the 20th century, and one which should be required reading for every high school student (and aspiring senator, it would seem).
The reality, though, is not everyone knows the term. And it is plausible someone would use those two common words, in that combination, with no knowledge of the diabolical weight they carry.
No such grey areas for the critics of Anning. He was denounced as either a bigot who deliberately referenced the Final Solution, or an idiot for not knowing the origin of the term.
I have no doubt Anning knew nothing of its meaning, mainly because I have read the rest of his speech and he doesn't seem to know much about anything.
All his crime statistics are made-up. His claim that the (Greek-Australian) man who allegedly drove his car through Melbourne's CBD was in fact an Islamic terrorist tells you all you need to know about the man's commitment to fact-checking.
And the funniest part of his call for a European-only migration policy is it might result in the belated deportation of his Lebanese-Aussie boss, Bob Katter.
But as with Hanson being subjected to that "xenophobic" party trick on 60 Minutes, the many progressives who attacked Anning on the basis of historical ignorance achieved one main thing - to insult the many Australians who have no idea what the term "Final Solution" means either.
You don't beat the Fraser Annings by belittling him or demanding he apologise. You do so by picking apart his argument. You do it by exposing his baseless statistics. You do it by pointing out he is generalising about a diverse group of people from many nations who share a common religion but pose no unified threat.
On the contrary - the story of Islamic immigration in a city like Adelaide has been a wholly peaceful one, with the huge influx of Hazaras from Afghanistan who (like us) have been at war with the Taliban for years.
Conversely, you also need to engage the Fraser Annings on the one part of his argument that progressive people run away from - the complete incompatibility of Islam in its radical form with western values.
It is a point amply illustrated by the fact that, on the same day Anning gave his speech, our mother Parliament in Britain was (again) under attack by Islamic State.
Abusing him, shouting him down, is the worst ploy of all. If you don't agree, look at the White House. It's currently occupied by a bloke who was uniformly derided as an unelectable buffoon by the media, and whose supporters were dismissed as "deplorables" by his establishment opponent. Currently, he is on track to win a second term.