Racism, prejudice and fear does not occur in a vacuum. These are learned responses created by our environment, culture and media.
The horrific terrorist who slaughtered innocent worshippers in Christchurch mosques is fully responsible for his own actions. But with extremists we know indoctrination and an environment that feeds these people creates a situation that leads to mass murders and massacres.
I will not read the manifesto released by the Australian who gunned down 50 innocent people peacefully engaged in Friday prayers. However, media reports say it talks about white genocide and other terms we see in social media and on far-right websites.
Words have consequences.
The shocking terrorist attack in New Zealand, like the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and others before it (and sadly, those likely to happen again), was fueled by the divisions and fears perpetrated in the mass and social media, by certain politicians, and by a public that has been assailed by fear mongering about immigration and refugees.
In Australia, we have seen media ‘commentators’ and so-called ‘opinion’ makers from particular media outlets, as well as some Members of Parliament, stoke the flames of division and fear.
Macnamara is home to large faith based communities. These communities recognise all too well that when the media and politicians make it acceptable to demonise one section of our community based on their religion, race or ethnicity, it exposes all other communities to the fast spreading virus of hate and division.
When Peter Dutton said it wasn’t safe to go out for dinner in Melbourne because of Sudanese gangs, the message was loud and clear – be afraid of people of colour, people who are Muslim and anyone who is “different. Dutton’s dog whistle was echoed by the sections of the Murdoch media, who perhaps ignorantly thought that stirring up a bit of fear pre-election wouldn’t have any significant consequences.
It did, and it does.
Some LNP members, One Nation and that abhorrent senator from Queensland (who doesn’t warrant being named) have been using immigration to attack the Greens and the Labor Party. ‘Border security’ is a proxy for anti-Muslim, white-onlyimmigration. Everything from traffic congestion to public hospital waiting lists has been blamed on migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The undercurrent to these inflammatory remarks is that it is Muslims, and people from Africa and Asia who are a threat to us. You never hear talk of limiting the number of British or white South Africans in the debate on population and immigration.
These right-wingers saw no consequence to their prejudice and racism. They used this divisive and intimidating rhetoric to woo voters and scare them away from progressive, inclusive parties like the Greens.
The right-wing media and MPs did not cause a terrorist attack, but they have fostered an environment where extremism and terrorists emerge. Under the pretense of free speech, they have demonised minority groups and perpetuated fears.
It’s important to point out that almost all the recent acts of terrorism perpetrated in America, and now New Zealand, have been carried out by right-wing individuals.
I welcome the genuinely sincere response to Christchurch by Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten. But we must see a change in the political environment in Australia. When dozens of people are gunned down by semi-automatic weapons, we must, as a society, have an open and robust look at our media – mainstream and social – and the language and ideology of the far-right, One Nation in particular.
An Australian has committed the most horrific terrorist act in New Zealand, our closest friend and neighbour. It is us as a nation that needs to understand how and why this happened, what role we played and where to from here.