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Rage, revile, repeat: Hanson's great swindle



Back in 2008 I was holidaying on the Gold Coast with my young family, sailing off Surfers Paradise on an amphibious bus. I yarned away with fellow sailors, including a Muslim man whose wife was clad in a colourful, full body burqa, and whose kids were happily talking and playing with ours.

Hoodwinked — How Pauline Hanson Fooled a Nation by Kerry-Anne WalshI later chatted with a sunburned local, who nodded in the direction of the Muslim woman and said with a grin, 'Pauline would wet herself.' The Gold Coaster didn't need to add a last name. And, years before Hanson's burqa stunt during Senate question time in 2017, blind Freddy would have known why he thought a burqa-clad holidayer would have prompted her to engage in outraged public urination.

In HoodwinkedHow Pauline Hanson Fooled a Nation, Canberra press gallery doyen turned best-selling author Kerry-Anne Walsh revels in dismembering the personal failings and policies of the Queensland senator, former independent Oxley MP, Ipswich councillor, and fish and chip proprietor.

The weight of history seemingly leaves little wriggle room for Hanson to justify her racial belligerence on behalf of 'white' people, colloquially known and manifested as white supremacy. There's perhaps even less room for Walsh to tell us something we don't know.

While raising allegations of fiscal wrongdoing with public funds, and Hanson's continuing minor vendettas against immunisation, multiculturalism, science, immigration, same sex couples, reconciliation, sex education, climate change, single mothers, former lovers and staffers, friends, supporters and assorted Svengalis, Walsh majors on Hanson's key preoccupations: her views and representations of Indigenous Australians, Asians and Muslims.

Walsh recounts Hanson's long obsession with halal food preparation, and resultant terrorist and sharia law conspiracy theories. It's timely, considering her call last month on the Coalition government 'to toughen immigration vetting [and] investigate and crackdown on allegations of welfare fraud centred around polygamous relationships'. Walsh relishes chronicling Hanson's view of Indigenous Australians; it's a recurring theme when you consider Hanson's recent call for corporal punishment of a primary school student who dared to question the inclusiveness of Australia's national anthem.

Walsh records Hanson's belittling of Aboriginal people, depicting them variously as cannibals, lazy and privileged. Walsh includes Hanson's attack on Indigenous Aussies last April for 'hogging' the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games ceremonies with their culture: 'I thought it was disgusting, absolutely disgusting ... as far as I'm concerned, that is not Australia.'


"Hanson's stunts and statements are part of the political mise en scène, embedded in our discourse. Walsh aims to change the scenery."


It's not a novel stance for Hanson. In the context of the black armband history wars, Walsh notes a Hanson interview in 1996 (with The Australian) where Hanson declared she'd spend her time fighting for 'the white community, the immigrants, Italians, Greeks, whoever, it really doesn't matter — anyone apart from the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders'.

As well as First Nations people, Walsh canvasses Hanson's vilification of those 'swamping' Asians and Muslims. (Walsh's analysis of Hansonian hyperbole, flying in the face of reality, has been often drawn out and confirmed by media and academic outlets.) In the marketplace of ideas, Hanson is down the end of the row selling cheap-as-chips knock offs of historically regrettable avowals from the likes of Enoch Powell and Arthur Calwell.

Australia is still demonstrably racist in its treatment of minorities and our First Nations peoples. That's why this book matters. Consider the sheer volume of Hanson's emotive denouncements over decades. The anti-intellectualism that undergirds her populism. The shifts in tack, to capture the wind of whichever tragic event puffs up the Hansonian sails. These days, we're breathing in Hanson's views without conscious recognition of their invalidity.

Pointing out the paucity of thought; that's why Walsh writes and why she's readable here. Hanson's stunts and statements are part of the political mise en scène, embedded in our discourse. Walsh aims to change the scenery.

By placing that unpalatable, unpopular perspective of nationalistic racism (yet again) squarely in the midst of our uncivil discourse, Walsh demonstrates how Hanson has sought to lead older and rural Australians down a garden path of 'remember when?' that has no ties to deeper, empirically-verifiable historical truths.

Life both mirrors art and is mirrored by art. When you have a self-perpetuating engine of propaganda at your disposal, in the person of Pauline Hanson, Walsh's account by necessity sometimes seems muddied and repetitive. You tend to think, 'I've heard this before'. Yes, we have been there before with Drone On Nation, and we will be there again as Hanson generates more and more tabloid headlines.

For the politically astute, culture warriors and parliamentary viewers, Walsh's tallying of Hanson's greatest miss-hits is predictable. But for non-Australians, and that great percentage of our citizenry who do their level best to ignore the stupidity emanating from our capital? This could be a game changer.

Walsh knows words don't have to make sense to stimulate political capital: 'While most politicians duck and weave around the truth and play word games, Hanson is in a class of her own. Testing her statements against known facts has always been a futile exercise. She's long relied on firebrand rhetoric and stuttering passion to deflect any basic requirement for data and evidence-based argument to make a point. To date her disciples haven't cared, so why should she?'

I value the idea of words being weighed for meaning and validity. Hoodwinked will help us do so.



Barry GittinsBarry Gittins is a Melbourne writer.


Topic tags: Barry Gittins, Pauline Hanson, One Nation, Kerry-Anne Walsh



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Existing comments

The big worry is that Hanson is only one of them. There are buckets more of 'em in Queensland! When I grew up I left and have only ventured back occasionally for holidays! No doubt some might think that some of the stain still endures in some of the things I say and write!

john frawley | 03 October 2018  

No doubt Pauline regards her own words as 'valid' and 'meaningful'. And those who vote for her may do so as well. We can characterise her as one-dimensional and deluded, indulging in her own warped view of the world. While I don't agree with her take on many things, is all the personal criticism we heap upon her showing us in a good light? I could want her to be a certain sort of person, one who is always kind towards others and accepting of diversity. A number of my fellow citizens have elected her to parliament though and this democracy is what attracts people seeking refuge. A bit of a quandary isn't it.

Pam | 03 October 2018  

I agree with John. In some ways Hanson is the least of our worries. There are many more just as dangerous, albeit not so gaffe-prone, on the government benches.

Ginger Meggs | 04 October 2018  

Three posts that in a sense exonerate Hanson and politely but firmly put Kerry-Anne Walsh as well as Barry Gittins in their place. As one who in his student days was spat upon by the supporters of Enoch Powell, may I say that these deflective exercises, minimising Hanson's impact and voiced from a position of white privilege, badly miss their mark. Ask any person of colour or Aborigine.

Dr Michael Furtado | 11 October 2018  

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