Borders Nationalism and Pandemics

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The Anglo world including Australia, US, UK, parts of Europe and developing world there have been xenophobic and nationalist obsessions coursing through political and media elites as not just a political strategy but as deep seated nativist ideology.

The COVID-19 pandemic was originally viewed as an Asian or Chinese problem but has now spread and managed to show how unprepared many western nations have been.

From John Quiggin in Inside Story:

Border deflection

 

The pandemic shows up the weaknesses of nationalism
Supporters of ethnonationalist and anti-immigrant sentiment have been quick to seize on the Covid-19 pandemic as evidence against what they call “open borders,” by which they mean any relaxation of the stringent controls that prohibit international migration by anyone who falls outside a tightly defined set of categories, each subject to numerical limits. The underlying idea is that foreigners who don’t look or think like us are all potential carriers of infection, and that we can keep ourselves safe by excluding them.
The reality is quite different. The vast majority of Australia Covid-19 cases acquired overseas had a recent history of travel to Europe or the Americas, or arrived on cruise ships such as the Ruby Princess. Hardly any (in fact none, as far as I can determine) were new migrants to Australia.

 

It could scarcely be otherwise. Australia (or at least some Australians) welcomed 162,000 migrants in 2019. The same year saw forty-two million passenger arrivals. On average, a Boeing 787 landing in Australia with a full load of 300 passengers contains just one permanent migrant.

 

This is the contradiction within the thinking of immigration restrictionists. While many like to cast themselves as “left behind” “stayers” — in contrast to “rootless cosmopolitans” — lots of them enjoy international travel. This was strikingly illustrated by the Brexiteers’ attachment to the traditional blue-covered British passports — hardly something that would matter to anyone content to stay in their home country.
More generally, the push to reduce international migration has been matched by all-out efforts to promote tourism. Scott Morrison embodies these contradictions. As managing director of Tourism Australia he famously asked, “Where they bloody hell are you?”, inviting the entire world to enjoy our beaches and charming cities; as prime minister, he cut the immigration intake by 30,000 (about one day’s worth of passenger arrivals) declaring “enough, enough, enough… The roads are clogged, the buses and trains are full.” Tourists, of course — who are by definition engaged in travel — use our roads and public transports at least as much as permanent migrants.
It’s not only migration that ethnonationalists have in their sights, but also any kind of international cooperation (unless it involves waging war). Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of the Australian and admirer of Hungary, Poland and other anti-democratic regimes, says that “coronavirus is the hunter-killer enemy of globalisation”…..’

 

Many conservative governments’ white nationalist and ‘great replacement theory’ narratives and arguments, promoted too easily by like minded media, have been wrong footed or contradicted, to the point of appearing incompetent and bigoted.
For more articles and blogs on immigration, white nationalism and related populist politics click through.

 

Political Parties Hollowed Out and Identity Issues

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Australian politics as with Trump’s America and U.K.’s Brexit has become hollowed out with declining membership, less organic policy development, more reliance upon both external policy development by trans national think tanks and promotion or opposition by media or PR.

An enforced focus upon immigration, population growth and refugees, or white nationalist issues, may risk bi-partisan support and ignore the immigrant heritage of Australia versus aggressive demands for a WASP white Anglo Saxon protestant and Irish Catholic culture to rule.

Brexit, Trump and Australian politics have obsessed about immigration.

Populist Politics and White Nationalism (Image copyright Pexels).

This is especially so among the less diverse above median age vote in regions, while Australia’s elites in business, government, politics and media also reflect the same mono culture or lack of diversity.

Further, positives and benefits of immigration are seldom cited and especially the leveraging of temporary resident churn over; whether students, backpackers or temporary workers who are net financial contributors supporting the tax base, vs. ageing and increasing proportion of pensioners or retirees in the permanent population.

From The Lowy Institute:

Hollowed out, but not unhinged

Judith Brett

The scenario put forth in Sam Roggeveen’s “Our very own Brexit” runs counter to the major parties’ economic realities.

Sam Roggeveen has written a lively essay on the current state of Australian federal politics, centred on the hypothetical scenario that one of the two major parties takes an anti-immigration policy to an election, overturning Australia’s post-war bipartisan commitment to immigration to gain political advantage. Such an election would be a referendum on continuing population growth, and bring to a halt our cultural diversification and our integration into Asia, which is now the largest source of permanent new settlers.

It sounds unlikely, but as Roggeveen argues, both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump were unlikely, rogue events that have overturned political assumptions. His scenario is not a prediction, he stresses, but a plausible, worst-case scenario arising from the current state of our political parties.

Our two major parties have become “hollowed out”, Roggeveen argues, untethered from their traditional social bases in class-based interests. Party membership and party loyalty have declined, leaving a more volatile and skittish electorate potentially vulnerable to the anti-immigration siren song of a party desperate to gain electoral advantage.

There are two parts to this argument. The first is that the parties have become hollowed out; the second that it is plausible that one of the major parties break the bipartisan support for the migration program.

First, the evidence is clear for the decline in rusted-on party loyalty.

However, Roggeveen does not, to my mind, have a sufficiently nuanced understanding of the reasons for this decline and writes as if it is mainly the result of a deficient political class.

In the early 20th century, when our current party system took shape, it made social and economic sense to have two parties based on two class blocks. Working and middle class, employee and employer, labour and capital – these spoke both to people’s everyday experience and sense of themselves and to competing economic interests. This is no longer the case. More than a hundred years later, Australia’s society and its economy are much more complex.

In developing their policies, parties have to broker compromises among various competing interests, and this undertaking is much harder today. To take a stark example: the problem Labor has in developing policies responsive both to its traditional union base and to the middle-class social democrats who flocked to the party with Gough Whitlam. Compared with the early 20th century, lines of class division have blurred, and new lines of difference have been politicised: gender, race, ethnicity, attitude to nature, and, after the fading of sectarianism, religion again. If the parties are failing, it is in part because the task of uniting disparate constituencies is harder…..

……Second, I do not find it plausible that one of the major parties would break the bipartisan consensus on immigration.

A minor party might succeed with an anti-immigration policy, but neither major party could afford the electoral risk. The 2016 Census reported that 49% of the Australian population was either foreign-born or had at least one foreign-born parent. Not all of these people will be on the electoral roll, but all who are citizens will be, and once on the roll, they will have to vote.

Because of compulsory voting, Australian parties do not need highly emotional and divisive policies to get out the vote, and to support them carries considerable risks. Both Brexit and the election of Trump occurred in polities with voluntary voting, where it makes electoral sense to risk courting an alienated minority. There is no doubt there is a nativist faction in Australia that would support a stop to immigration, but Australian elections are won and lost in the middle, which is occupied by increasing numbers of foreign-born voters and their children.

Also holding the major parties to their consensus on immigration is its contribution to the economy. Australia’s recent sluggish economic growth would be even slower were it not for migration. The housing and retail sectors in particular would be sharply affected by its halt. Our two major political parties may be untethered from their historical social bases, but they are not unhinged from contemporary economic reality.’

 

For more articles about populist politics, demographics, immigration and white nationalism click through.

 

Fighting Fake News in Finland via Schools

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We have witnessed years now of conventional and now digital media being manipulated to confuse, misinform and mislead the public of all ages round science of climate change or global warming, politics and campaigns, immigrants and population growth, vaccinations, natural disasters, religion and minorities etc.

Like some states in Australia used to teach critical thinking to high school students in the 1970s, since been ’embedded’ and/or disappeared, Finland has taken the lead in developing skills at primary school age dealing with Russia especially, and global warming denialism.

From The Guardian:

‘How Finland starts its fight against fake news in primary schools

Country on frontline of information war teaches everyone from school pupils to politicians how to spot slippery information

You can start when children are very young, said Kari Kivinen. In fact, you should: “Fairytales work well. Take the wily fox who always cheats the other animals with his sly words. That’s not a bad metaphor for a certain kind of politician, is it?”

With democracies around the world threatened by the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of false information, Finland – recently rated Europe’s most resistant nation to fake news – takes the fight seriously enough to teach it in primary school.

In secondary schools, such as the state-run college in Helsinki where Kivinen is head teacher, multi-platform information literacy and strong critical thinking have become a core, cross-subject component of a national curriculum that was introduced in 2016.

In maths lessons, Kivinen’s pupils learn how easy it is to lie with statistics. In art, they see how an image’s meaning can be manipulated. In history, they analyse notable propaganda campaigns, while Finnish language teachers work with them on the many ways in which words can be used to confuse, mislead and deceive.

“The goal is active, responsible citizens and voters,” Kivinen said. “Thinking critically, factchecking, interpreting and evaluating all the information you receive, wherever it appears, is crucial. We’ve made it a core part of what we teach, across all subjects.”

The curriculum is part of a unique, broad strategy devised by the Finnish government after 2014, when the country was first targeted with fake news stories by its Russian neighbour, and the government realised it had moved into the post-fact age.

Successful enough for Finland to top, by some margin, an annual index measuring resistance to fake news in 35 European countries, the programme aims to ensure that everyone, from pupil to politician, can detect – and do their bit to fight – false information.

“This affects all of us,” said Jussi Toivanen, chief communications officer for the prime minister’s office. “It targets the whole of Finnish society. It aims to erode our values and norms, the trust in our institutions that hold society together.”

Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917, is on the frontline of an online information war that has accelerated markedly since Moscow annexed Crimea and backed rebels in eastern Ukraine five years ago, Toivanen said.

Most campaigns, amplified by sympathetic far-right, nation-first and “alternative” Finnish news sites and social media accounts, focus on attacking the EU, highlighting immigration issues and trying to influence debate over Finland’s full Nato membership.

Resistance is seen almost as a civil defence question, a key component in Finland’s comprehensive security policy. Toivanen said: “We are a small country, without many resources, and we rely on everyone contributing to the collective defence of society.”

The programme, piloted by a 30-member, high-level committee representing 20 different bodies from government ministries to welfare organisations and the police, intelligence and security services, has trained thousands of civil servants, journalists, teachers and librarians over the past three years.

“It’s a broad-based, coordinated effort to raise awareness,” said Saara Jantunen, a senior researcher from the defence ministry who has been seconded to the prime minister’s office. “Like virus protection on your computer: the government’s responsible for a certain amount, of course, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to install the software.”…

…..He wants his pupils to ask questions such as: who produced this information, and why? Where was it published? What does it really say? Who is it aimed at? What is it based on? Is there evidence for it, or is this just someone’s opinion? Is it verifiable elsewhere?

On the evidence of half a dozen pupils gathered in a classroom before lunchtime, it is an approach that is paying off. “You must always factcheck. The number one rule: no Wikipedia, and always three or four different and reliable sources,” said Mathilda, 18. “We learn that basically in every subject.”….

…..Part of that continuing education is also provided by NGOs. Besides operating an effective factchecking service, Faktabaari (Fact Bar), launched for the 2014 European elections and run by a volunteer staff of journalists and researchers, produces popular voter literacy kits for schools and the wider public.

“Essentially, we aim to give people their own tools,” said its founder, Mikko Salo, a member of the EU’s independent high-level expert group on fake news. “It’s about trying to vaccinate against problems, rather than telling people what’s right and wrong. That can easily lead to polarisation.”

In the run-up to Finland’s parliamentary elections last April, the government went so far as to produce an advertising campaign alerting voters to the possibility of fake news, with the slogan “Finland has the best elections in the world. Think about why”.

Similarly, Mediametka has been developing and working with media literacy tools since the more innocent days of the early 1950s, when its founders were motivated mainly by fear of the irreparable damage that comic books might do to the minds of Finnish children.

These days, the NGO, part-funded by the culture ministry, organises ed-tech hackathons with inventive Finnish startups in a bid to develop “meaningful materials” for schools and youth groups, said its executive director, Meri Seistola.

“We work with pictures, videos, text, digital content; get our students to produce their own; ask them to identify all the various kinds of misleading news,” said Seistola: from propaganda to clickbait, satire to conspiracy theory, pseudoscience to partisan reporting; from stories describing events that simply never happened to unintentional errors of fact.

Finland has something of a head start on information literacy, ranking consistently at or near the top of international indices for press freedom, transparency, education and social justice. Its school pupils have the EU’s highest PISA score for reading.

“The level of trust in national institutions, in the media, in society as a whole, does tend to be higher in the Nordic countries than in many others,” said Faktabaari’s Salo. “But that means we really need even greater vigilance now, to prepare ourselves for the next phase. Because we have more to lose.”’

 

For more articles and blogs about younger generations, critical thinking, climate change and curriculum click through.

 

Australian Brexit?

Sam Roggeveen of the Lowy Institute has written about the potential of an ‘Australian Brexit’ due to a global political transformation (ideology and strategy) towards radical white nativist ideas, isolationism and putting pressure on mainstream parties to comply, while being presented as organic or the ‘people’s will’.

There has been gross over simplification of Brexit to supposedly avoid bureaucracy, the EU, Europe and increasing antipathy towards immigration by ageing electorates through populist politicians.

However, many would suggest Australia had a form of Brexit upon colonisation via the First Fleet 1888 by the British, then after Federation in 1901 the bi-partisan ‘White Australia Policy’ inspired by British eugenics movement (and finally ended after mostly through opposition by NGOs, churches etc.).

Fast forward to the supposed crisis of Tampa when then Australian Prime Ministers helped start the demonisation of refugees with able support from mainstream media including Murdoch’s NewsCorp, then carried further by society in creating antipathy towards non-Europeans; a new proxy white Australia policy.

Further, there are clear links between ideology, political and media tactics of white nativism or white nationalism inspired by eugenics, which has been mainstreamed in the US and UK; with further links onto the fringes of Europe.

White nationalism, white nativism or eugenics all share a clear architecture including astro turfing, manipulation of media, fake news etc., that can also be linked to radical right libertarians or elements of neo-liberalism by global corporates, via think tanks, to deflect attention away from tax avoidance, interference in domestic policies, cast doubt on climate change etc.

Brexit for Australia?

The new conventional wisdom in Canberra doesn’t stack up

By Sam Roggeveen

November 5, 2019 — 12.00am

It is Canberra’s new conventional wisdom: the government’s unexpected election victory gives Prime Minister Scott Morrison stature and stability that his recent predecessors all lacked. The last decade of political dysfunction is behind us. The trouble is, this view is based solely on very recent events in one country alone. What if we took a global perspective over a longer period?

A political transformation has been under way in Western democracies for decades now, quietly and in the background for most of that time, though in recent years it has broken cover. In the US it produced Donald Trump, in the UK Brexit, and in Europe the rise of new right-wing populist movements.

Western democracy has hollowed out. It has happened in two stages. First, the public has drifted away from major political parties, the institutions that once connected them to the political process. In every Western nation, mainstream centre-right and centre-left parties are in decline. In the early to mid-20th century, party affiliation was a question of class, religion and family inheritance – you voted a certain way because your parents and peers did too. But for decades now membership of the big parties has fallen and the share of the vote they can rely on has decreased.

In response (and this is stage two), the big parties have found new ways to survive. They have evolved from amateur mass-membership organisations to small, professionalised outfits financially reliant on big donors and, increasingly, the state. Other than at election time, the big parties don’t really need the public.

So, voters withdrew from political parties, and the parties responded with a withdrawal of their own. The result is that the public square is left empty and politics is hollow.

In Europe, right-wing populist parties have done well because the minority of voters who are attracted to those ideas have slipped from the grip of the big parties. But as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Greens show, the big parties are not bleeding votes only to the right, they are losing them in the centre and on the left too.

In America, the weakening of parties helped mavericks like Trump and Bernie Sanders, who tied themselves to the big parties out of self-interest rather than conviction.

In the UK and Australia, the decline of the big parties has produced a different kind of instability. In both countries the voting system makes it hard for small parties to win seats even though their vote share has increased. Yet as the big parties have become less popular, they have also become less stable and more vulnerable to shocks from outsiders and ambitious MPs. That’s what caused Brexit, essentially an internal Tory Party dispute stirred up by Eurosceptic backbenchers and Nigel Farage’s UKIP.

It is also what has produced the leadership churn in Australian politics over the last decade, a succession of tight election results, and two periods of minority government. Australians are abandoning the major parties at record rates. At the same time, these shrinking and insular parties are increasingly cut off from a bored and unengaged Australian public.

Lacking genuine connections to a deep social base, major-party MPs look to their peer groups in politics and the media for inspiration, which is where they got the idea that changes of leadership might fix their problems and why, for instance, Morrison borrows Trumpian language on “negative globalism”.

The 2019 election resolved none of these underlying problems. True, the Liberal and Labor parties have now changed their rules so that leadership coups are harder to mount, but this is much more than just a leadership issue.

Again, if we broaden our view beyond Australian shores, we can see why. Angela Merkel has been German chancellor for 14 years, yet in that period, German politics has been completely transformed – Alternative fur Deutschland, a populist party that didn’t even exist when Merkel took office, is now the official opposition in the Bundestag.

It would be foolish to assume that Australian politics, still dominated by two parties the public cares little for, is suddenly immune to upheaval on that scale.

Sam Roggeveen is director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute and author of Our Very Own Brexit: Australia’s Hollow Politics and Where It Could Lead Us.’

For more articles and blogs about white nationalism, immigration and Australian politics click through.

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