Pauline Hanson Weaponises Her Wilful Ignorance. Why Can’t We Call It Out?
This post was originally published on New Matilda. Reproduced with permission.
Pauline Hanson has learnt nothing. With the recent bushfire crisis and the outpouring of evidence, from the Rural Fire Service to bushfire experts from around Australia, stating that the fires were largely not caused by arsonists or lack of fuel reduction burns, but were exacerbated by climate change, Hanson has used her media platform to repeat the false information spreading on social media via another of her regular spots on Seven Sunrise.
It’s what Hanson has done for years, repeating false and unverified claims about everything from Muslim Australians to domestic violence victims.
Call out Hanson’s ignorance, however, and you run the risk of being called an elitist, a snob. Hanson stands for all the ordinary Australians who didn’t have the chance to go to university and don’t have time to read in depth journalism (that probably has a leftist bias, anyway).
Criticise her, and you criticise them.
But Pauline Hanson is not one of them. She has access to knowledge and resources beyond the reach of most Australians. Her ignorance is a choice, one that is fair game to criticise.
Hanson’s entire brand is of the uneducated, “ordinary Australian” who has common sense on their side; she is proud of her background story leaving school at 15, marrying at 16, and running various small businesses until coming to national prominence whilst running a fish and chip shop.
It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t lived the life of a struggling regional small business woman since the days of the Macarena.
For nearly 25 years, Hanson has had access to resources beyond the capacity of nearly all Australians; salary as an MP and a Senator, with the staff and resources of the parliamentary libraries.
In July 2019, as part of the series on Key Issues for the 46th Parliament, the Parliamentary Library released briefings on issues including climate change. If Ms Hanson is going to comment on these issues, she should read the briefings or at least get one of her staff to give her a run down.
She won’t, though. Her brand is to be the voice of ‘all the Australians who don’t know, don’t want to know anything’.
Knowledge is conflated with the dreaded inner-city elites; verified sources and peer-reviewed research can be dismissed out-of-hand, as this knowledge comes from these dreaded elites and is therefore, by definition, biased, out of touch, fake news (fake news being any news they don’t like).
Who needs NASA, the Bureau of Meteorology, and a planet full of climate scientists to tell you the planet is warming when you can remember lots of hot days when you were a kid, that Australia has always had bushfires, and here’s the first two lines of a Dorothea Mackellar poem so get over it?
Hanson’s raison d’etre is to be the voice of these people, and she knows it. She may wallow in her ignorance, but she is not stupid. She knows that she is voted in by the people who agree with every one of her fevered ramblings, that she gets a voice on TV for saying outrageous things, with her fans tuning in to have their every prejudice confirmed, and her detractors wondering what on earth she is going to say this time.
Hanson also knows that if she stopped to look at the facts and evidence, and actually took it on board, the voters would abandon her and the TV spots would dry up.
She knows that playing the role of the ‘ultimate ordinary Australian’, the simple country girl who left school early and struggled to make ends meet, has won her a powerful role she would not be able to play under other circumstances, and she uses that role to cloak herself in an aura of vulnerability.
“Well of course she’s ignorant, she left school at 15”. “You snob! How dare you malign all those who had to leave school early”.
For Hanson, there have been years when she could have completed her education and further studies, but she won’t do so; it would be poison to her brand. In fact, it has never been so easy for almost any member of the public to educate themselves.
A free local library membership will, in most states, allow you access to the resources of your state library and its databases, with a galaxy of peer-reviewed research on almost any subject you choose. But the likes of Hanson have tarred academic sources themselves as the tools of the elite.
Hanson’s schtick might be forgivable if she didn’t have such a powerful voice in the media, one that does a lot of harm. Her racism creates a climate of hate that, at its worst, leads to racist attacks on foreign students and recent migrants, the appalling statistics on Indigenous incarceration, and our criminal treatment of asylum seekers.
Her aggrieved and inaccurate claims about the family court further prejudice a system that is already biased, so that mothers are warned not to make allegations of abuse against their former partners which might see them accused of parental alienation, with custody awarded to the abusive parent.
Her claims that global warming is a massive hoax influence the Morrison government’s shameful inaction on climate policy.
In the late 1990s, there was once fear that One Nation could become an important third party in the Australian electoral system. There was no need. The Liberal National parties stemmed the loss of voters by adopting One Nation ideology as its own.
One Nation received 5.4% of the primary vote at the 2019 Federal Election, but there are surely many more voters who preferenced the Liberal party, but hold Hanson’s views as their own.
Calling Pauline Hanson’s views ignorant won’t make her change them, it’s her whole schtick. To be criticised by the elite reinforces her views that she is the voice of the ordinary Australian, one who deals in common sense not academic nonsense
But we definitely should not let her inaccurate claims go unchallenged.