*Satire: Graphic designer Lucille Clerc via Banksy on #CharlieHebdo ... on Instagram here
Fast as a rat up a drainpipe, Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, wasted no time in seizing the opportunity to link the tragic killing of twelve employees and the injuring of eleven others in an horrific attack on the staff of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris with the Sydney siege despite the two incidents being completely unrelated and totally different.
Doubtless, Abbott sees political advantage in telling Australians that we are under threat from a global terrorist campaign on ‘our way of life’ but his facile association of the incidents in Sydney and Paris is irresponsible, inflammatory and pernicious nonsense, however much it may be wishful thinking on his behalf.
Speaking in South Australia, Mr Abbott linked the Paris attack to the jihadist group Islamic State. It demonstrated the extent to which the IS or DAESH death-cult had declared war on the whole world, he said. His comment flies in the face of all available evidence. Indeed, in some reports the terrorists identified with Al Qaeda in Yemen.
According to the account of one witness reported in the French media ( here ), one of the gunmen told onlookers in the street to “tell the media that this is al-Qaeda in Yemen” before launching the attack. The paper’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier, who was killed in the latest attack, was named in a hit list “for crimes against Islam” in al-Qaeda magazine Inspire. ( here )
In fairness to the Prime Minister, it is not unreasonable to assume that he had not had time to digest this information but in fairness to the Australian people, he could have got his facts straight before he shot his mouth off. What he said was characteristically divisive, ill-informed and premature:
“These people, they are in love with death, as was demonstrated by the Martin Place siege in Sydney.
“There are people who think that free, pluralist, easy-going societies such as ours are some kind of a satanic expression.”
The connection is a mischievous and wilful distortion of the truth. Despite the best efforts of several Murdoch tabloids, including The Daily Telegraph and the Sun-Herald, the Martin Place gunman was not affiliated with any ‘death cult’ and was apparently motivated chiefly by a legal decision refusing his appeal against a previous sentence for writing abusive letters to the families of deceased soldiers who had served in Afghanistan.
For Man Haron Monis it was personal not political. Conversely, it would appear at this stage that Charlie Hebdo was targeted because it published satirical material critical of modern Islam. In the eyes of Islamic fundamentalists, it was a public enemy.
If the motivations appear totally dissimilar, so, too was the nature of the crime. Trained gunmen who were French nationals appear to have stormed the newspaper’s office in Paris, calling out their victims by name, whereas in Sydney, a lone demented and deluded migrant Iranian on bail for sexual assault and a suspect in his wife’s murder, held random café customers hostage and demanded a debate with the Prime Minister on radio over Australia’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan.
A number of political purposes are served by Abbott’s association of the Paris and Sydney incidents ...
The contrasts between the two incidents could not be more self-evident and need not be laboured further. Why, then has Tony Abbott made a beeline for the preposterous merging of the two in the public mind? What purpose is served in helping to create a siege mentality for the entire nation in which nothing less than ‘our way of life’ is at stake?
A number of political purposes are served by Abbott’s association of the Paris and Sydney incidents.
Whipping up hysteria about terror, as with any heightened group or mass anxiety helps conservative leaders look more appealing. Abbott has nothing to lose. He could hardly look any less appealing at present in opinion polls. When all about us seems threatened, we favour politicians who promise stability; politicians who profess to uphold decent, old-fashioned values. A safe pair of hands.
The irony with Abbott, however, is that he is a radical, whether it be in the effects of his budget, his free market deregulation of university fees, his energy policy, his policy of forcing responsibilities back on the states, his winding back of ASIC regulation. And he is a radical with some very serious credibility issues caused by his habit of not appearing too fussed about breaking a promise; any promise.
His foreign interventions in Iraq and Syria have also done much to increase the threat of terror at home. Despite this, however, his mantle of conservatism and his alarmist drum-beating could help him pass his anti-terror legislation, the retention of meta data and all other measures designed to strengthen the power of the state. Today he was already on the air-waves talking of increasing anti-terror laws.
There is so much at stake for the beleaguered Prime Minister; his job, his government and its political future are all on the line. If he beats the patriot drum, if he sells us his myth of a threat to our survival, his myth of a death-cult intent on destroying our way of life in its war on western civilisation, then he may, he reasons desperately, pick up a few more votes.
And it will help him inflate the power of the state over all of us, increasing his government’s chances of getting its own way the next time.
The problem with Abbott’s reasoning, however, is that the tide of public trust and approval is too far out. With record unpopularity and stunning lack of success with his ‘reforms’ including a failed budget, Abbott risks appearing calculatedly manipulative; desperately exploiting every opportunity to make himself look better as a leader and if that’s impossible, every opportunity to help him look less of a complete failure.
We must challenge his glib, simplistic assertions yoking two quite separate and distinct events for his own purposes. We must stand up for ourselves and the truth before our capacity to do so is stolen from us.
*Urban Wronski is Born in England, raised in New Zealand and an Australian resident since 1979 Urban Wronski grew up conflicted about his own national identity and continues to be deeply mistrustful of all nationalism, chauvinism, flags, politicians and everything else which divides and obscures our common humanity. He has always been enchanted by nature and by the extraordinary brilliance of ordinary men and women and the genius, the power and the poetry that is their vernacular. Wronski is now a fulltime freelance writer who lives with his partner and editor Shay and their chooks, near the Grampians in rural Victoria and he counts himself the luckiest man alive. A former teacher of all ages and stages, from Tertiary to Primary, for nearly forty years, he enjoyed contesting the corporatisation of schooling to follow his own natural instinct for undifferentiated affection, approval and compassion for the young.
EARLIER on Tasmanian Times ...
• Greg James, in Comments: Support for the security services should be mandatory and the thought police should all be awarded medals, grog and pay rises for their bravery under criticism. All beaurocrats should be given a license to kill, not just the Police and secret guys. I say it is time to organise against difference, no more sarongs on our beaches, this type of suppression of women created by the fashion industry is a conspiracy against the bikini and our beautiful budgie smugglers and matching hairy legs.