From Today’s Crikey
Trashing Pauline Hanson was a class act
Jeff Sparrow, editor of Overland writes:
Yesterday, Jonathan Green asked the excellent question: if photos of a youthful Peter Costello mugging in his Speedos found their way to a newspaper editor, would the images turn up in your Sunday paper?
Obviously not. But theres another, perhaps even more interesting, hypothetical. What if the flesh being flashed belonged to another female politician? Say, for example, the nudie holiday snaps purported to show a teenage Quentin Bryce or a young Julie Bishop. Would the Sunday Telegraph have published then? Would, a couple of days later, the so-called quality press have been speculating furiously about belly-buttons and hair cuts?
If s-xism remains one of the great unmentionables in Australian politics, class is even more so. Why did Sunday Telegraph editor Neil Breen press ahead with a story that now seems to have been based upon the word of a man who remembers nothing? Was it not at least partly because Hansons background (a bit of a scrubber, probably been around the block a few times, etc, etc) made her fair game?
Back in the day, the tabloids pushed Hansonism to the hilt, but despite all the newspapers she sold for them, they, like most of the media, still see her as white trash, the kind of person to whom you can do absolutely anything you want.
In 1997, at the height of her popularity, Hanson published a volume entitled Pauline Hansons The Truth, a strange title, since she didnt actually write it and it wasnt exactly true: you might recall the warning about how an Asianised Australia would soon be ruled by a lesbian cyborg called Poona Li Hung. But beneath all its craziness, the books sentiment was entirely genuine: it expressed, in distilled form, the rage and confusion of those left behind by the economic reforms of the Hawke-Keating years, people whose lives had been transformed without their consent, and by forces they didnt understand.
That was Hansons support base, men and women who werent simply outside the polite circle of respectable politics but were actively hostile to it, who identified ABC journalists and university-educated parliamentarians as the kinds of snooty elitists who had always patronized and belittled them and taken them for granted. Thus every time a perfectly enunciating interviewer humiliated Hanson on the TV her popularity grew, since those who voted One Nation knew exactly how it felt to be asked unanswerable questions by some sneering know-it-all, whether at the DSS or in the bank managers office. Naturally, most Hanson voters will, quite correctly, draw a simple lesson from these photos: if youve got an accent like Pauline Hanson, then youre fair game for any kind of smear.
None of which is to whitewash the underlying viciousness of Hansonism, a phenomenon in which the relatively powerless found psychological comfort from attacking the absolutely powerless. After all, if you wanted to think of others whom newspaper editors treat with utter contempt, you need look no further than Paulines favourite scapegoats, Aborigines and migrants. Hanson will presumably sue the Telegraph; the refugees accused of throwing their kids overboard — what redress did they ever get?
Still, this grubby little affair with the Sunday Telegraph shows that 13 years after Hansons maiden speech, nothing much has changed. In Australia, if you come from the wrong side of the tracks, no-one will ever let you forget it.
The only bit I disagree with is that Hanson’s supporters were the ‘victims’ of Hawke and Keating’s policies. To the extent that they were victims (some were not victims, they were just troglodytes who still had their jobs) they were the victims of a changing economy – as a result of globalisation and technology – and there would have been more of them without economic management which tried to integrate the economy with those developments at the same time as building a better safety net.