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‘Please Explain’: A tragicomic portrait of a bigot, sympathetically done

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Did you know that Pauline Hanson is not only an ultranationalist who seeks to throw everything she doesn’t understand into a bin of flaming turds? She’s also a person, just like you and me. This humanity was the preoccupation of a documentary that aired last night on SBS. In Please Explain we learned that Hanson came up hard, has been treated callously by men and that what she lacks in understanding of nearly everything, she makes up for with good knowledge of deep-fried, battered foods.

Look. I don’t give a shit. I don’t care about the private lives of politicians generally, and I care even less to learn the backstory of an isolationist menace. I don’t want to know if Slobodan Milošević was nice to kittens when he wasn’t busy inciting Bosnian genocide, and if H F Verwoerd ever took time out from classifying people into Apartheid categories to play popular songs on the tuba, that’s really no business of mine. Nor is it of yours, if what you hope to understand is a particular and ugly political climate. But such understanding was the ambition of this beautifully shot, irrationally conceived film for television.

We should say that director Anna Broinowski is a very decent filmmaker with a good eye for unusual women. In 2004, she made the good documentary Helen’s War about her anti-nuclear aunt, Dr Caldicott. Forbidden Lie$ was the justifiably profitable 2007 account of author Norma Khouri’s undoing. Broinowski is tops when her subject has done something more unusual than become a prominent nativist in a time of economic downturn. Pauline is doing something that is, however brutal, very commonplace.

Political jingoism is an old story, and it frustrates me greatly to see it approached in a putatively fresh way. It is not only history where we can find leaders who, naively or cynically, turn the fury working class people have at their working class lot into the false solidarity of racism. It’s in the effing present. Europe is almost now as full of racist politicians as it is of bad discos, and didn’t Nigel Farage do a marvellous job of taking a white British class battered by the austerity rent-seekers demand and blame it all on the foreigners? Isn’t Donald Trump making strides with his anti-bank, anti-migrant two-step? And, haven’t we been brilliantly distracted in Australia by twenty years of a “debate” that has as its topic the brown bodies of the world’s real underclass? John Howard’s “battlers” really believed that those greedy foreigners who so selfishly fled airstrikes endorsed by our government had come to pinch our stuff.

This shit is not new. Which is not to say it oughtn’t to be discussed; it must be discussed. But that discussion must not revolve around a predictable product of history in a sundress.

I don’t know why anybody thought that a sympathetic portrait of a racist might change the mind of a progressive.

I don’t need a look into Pauline Hanson’s white and dull unconscious to tell me what I already know: racism is the work of the elites. They hand it down to the people to whom they’ve denied an education and a living wage and say, “go and blame the brown people for taking your money and your social services and your dignity”. Or the Jews. Or the indigenous Australians. Or the Mexicans. Whoever is the bad-taste of the month, blame it on them, not us.

The intimate link between hardship and racism is briefly addressed in the first few minutes of the program. A narrator mentions the effects of globalisation on those who would become Hanson’s constituents, and there is some discussion about how the ALP disowned its base. Which it totally did. Then, we slip into a tragicomic portrait of a bigot who is not, as is largely the case on SBS, lampooned, but painted in a sympathetic light.

Jesus. Why? Sympathetic TV portraits of migrants don’t work to change the minds of racists, so I don’t know why anybody thought that a sympathetic portrait of a racist might change the mind of a progressive.

I understand and almost respect the work of artists and journalists who urge the liberal class to understand the illiberal impulses of others. Press gallery veteran Margo Kingston, who is charming when she appears in this documentary, is one such reporter. In 1999, she published Off The Rails: The Pauline Hanson Trip to make the case that the core frustrations of One Nation voters are economic and legitimate. With Hanson’s re-emergence, Kingston has again attempted to explain the social mechanism that produces racism. “I’ve always believed (the impatience progressives have with you) was about class,” says Kingston to Hanson in the doco and, of course, she’s right. Just as a white underclass wrongly blames a brown underclass for the work of the investment class, a progressive class blames a white underclass for the work of the investment class. If you’re with me. The point is: no one is looking at the persons and entities who really benefit from all this hate.

I mean, yes, it’s instructive to remember how journalist Tracey Curro was one of many to take a cheap and easy shot at Hanson by throwing her a word that no one raised in poverty is likely to have learned. And I suppose if every other liberal feminist on Twitter is entitled to write 15 articles about how her views are legitimised by the death threats she’s received, then Hanson is, too. But, come on. The world is actually burning, and we’re pausing to ask Pauline for a little gasoline.

Poor white people in developed countries are turning to bigotry. This won’t be corrected by a flock of Curros pointing out their spelling errors. But, it won’t be corrected by personal, implicitly liberal, documentaries like this one. The message is: if only we understand the racists, then we can cure them with our reasonable conversation.

Yeah, nah. The racists don’t really care if I’m nice to them or not. The racists care, as we all do, to experience economic justice.

I believe that Margo Kingston and the makers of this documentary want to make the case for a broader discussion about economic justice. But, they end up making only the case for cultural justice for Pauline Hanson.

Economic justice is no longer a core progressive aim. It has become the work of isolationist crazies. This is a fact that the very great Glenn Greenwald discussed in detail last week and one borne out by Donald Trump’s convention statement that supporters of Bernie Sanders, an endangered progressive animal who hunts economic equality, “will join our movement, because we will fix his biggest issue: trade.”

The terrible thing is, Trump has a real basis for this claim. I mean, of course he’s not going to fix trade, and if the TPP doesn’t pass in the lame-duck session before his election (it’s a real possibility) then Trump, the lying faux-socialist prick, will not veto a future identical trade agreement. But, with Sanders deposed, he’s currently the guy talking about economic justice.

I believe that Margo and the makers of this documentary want to make the case for a broader discussion about economic justice. But, they end up making only the case for cultural justice for Pauline Hanson.

What will that get us? And how is this plea for “respect” and better morals any different from the ones that enrage bigots? Don’t tell me to “respect”, like that will change anything. This “it all starts with a positive attitude” shit is exactly what is so repulsive to so many of us about progressives.

For as long as liberal progressives continue to believe in large number that “calling out” racism in individuals is a top priority, people who haven’t jobs, hope or dignity will be swayed by a woman like Pauline or a man like Trump who promises the lot.

And, no, idiot. I’m not saying Vote For Trump Nation. I’m just one of many, like Kingston or like David Frum in The Atlantic last week, who knows that there’s a reason large numbers of poor white people worn down by life will vote for racism.

The underemployed American living in the Appalachian ghetto does not vote for a candidate like Clinton who insists that they use respectful liberal language and pretend that the ugly America they live in is great. The underemployed Queenslander who can’t afford to run an air conditioner does not vote Green. They vote for the person who promises them dignity and a wage. And, with the Australian progressive class currently more preoccupied with “calling out” racism in individuals than calling billionaires to heel, that’s Pauline.

While I do not believe that racism is derived entirely from wealth and its lack, I do believe the economic case Kingston and producers of this film attempt to make is crucial to consider. I just wish they’d actually considered it, instead of letting a woman incapable of considering anything beyond her own persecution talk shit.

94 responses to “‘Please Explain’: A tragicomic portrait of a bigot, sympathetically done

  1. I chose not to watch this documentary. I’m sure that it was well-made and .. oh, whatever platitude is relevant here. But… but… When is the media, both progressive and conservative, going to stop giving this woman so many column inches? She is not the product so much of a disenfranchised or unhappy working class, than a product of a media who knows a good thing, ratings-wise, when they see it. Can anyone name one other ex-politician who has had such constant access to television and newspaper self-marketing opportunities as she has had in the years since her demise? This is some political wilderness she is supposed to have come out of.

    1. Samesies, Andrew. I am confident that the documentary makers deluded themselves into thinking that This Will Change Minds because If We Can Only Get To Know Each Other and a Stranger Is A Friend I Haven’t Me Yet etc etc.
      Fuck that noise. When can we stop arsing around with this petty liberalism and concede that good jobs and a nice bed and the ability to maintain an actual residence and, just maybe, feed your kids is what keeps people sane. I am sick to the back teeth of understanding and respect proposed as cures. They don’t cure shit.

      1. I am reminded of a comment (I can’t remember who said it) made elsewhere in another context: we have got to stop making dreadful people famous.

      2. I suspect that one reason people such as Ms Hanson get so many column inches lies in Helen’s statement that, “a white underclass wrongly blames a brown underclass for the work of the investment class.” If that is the case, it would serve the interests of the investment class – including those controlling the media – to give a platform and disproportionate attention to Ms Hanson and her ilk to distract us from the real cause of the problem.

      3. “When can we stop arsing around with this petty liberalism and concede that good jobs and a nice bed and the ability to maintain an actual residence and, just maybe, feed your kids is what keeps people sane.”

        Helen, I really appreciate that you point that out time and time again. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to stop thinking about everything as an individual issue, and need to talk about structural issues way, way, way more.

        However: I also think that a good job and a nice bed and the ability to feed your kids alone will STILL not solve racism and bigotry. A massive bunch of ‘traditionalist’-LNP-voters and -members who HAVE nice jobs and nice beds (and an investment property) and who are nonetheless massive racist bigots, are living proof of that. Yes, the One Nation-part of the white working underclass relates to Pauline Hanson in a way they do not to Richard DiNatale, and that has *something* to do with poverty. But there’s also a white upper middle class that relates to Peter Dutton in a way they do not with Richard DiNatale, and that has obviously *nothing* to do with poverty.

        Peter Dutton and Pauline Hanson are equally racist, one just speaks *marginally* more refined than the other (using the term refined very, very loosely). Values and beliefs ARE part of the equation. And I don’t believe for a scond that it’s all strategy and tactic from the big end of town. Half of them have a pudding for a brain. ScoMo does that stretegically, maybe. But Dutton the potato? Eric Abetz? No way. And neither do (most of) their supporters. They just believe that white people are superior, full stop.

        Economics determines which representation of racism a racist is drawn to, but not whteher they are a racists in the first place. That actually also has to do with values. The other living proof of that are the large section of the white working underclass that are actually not racist, or at least no more so than the rest of society who are all settled with nice beds and well-fed kids and all the bells and whistles. For a lot of the people who vote for Pauline, I dare say: if you improved their economic status – they’ll just start reading teh Australian instead ofthe Herald Sun and turn from Pauline-fans into Dutton-fans, allthewhile remaing just as racist as they’ve always been.

    2. Re can anyone name any other ex-politician etc…… Kevin Rudd comes to mind. Athough he has only recently started as an ex pollie.

  2. Really eloquently put. So many of my frustrations you’ve nailed here.
    Beyond the obvious, there has been opposition to her views through the years (Asian immigration and now Muslim bashing), she’s surely heard logical opposing views and had the chance to be educated if for no other reason then to better understand how to make a point. But she hasn’t. She’s reapplied the same template, blown the dog whistle, rustled up the usual assholes in support and pushed the battler/victim angle and each time some elements call on everyone else to help swaddle this asshat. No, just fucking no.

  3. Its about intent. Someone I know thinks “Muslims are a problem” because the right wing media want her to think that and stop her from seeing that she is exploited by companies. If you show her that Muslim people are not a problem, shes fine, and understands it. She isn’t a purveyor of hatred and racism.
    Hanson is that. She knows she is stirring up hatred of a people, regardless of whether she is affected by poverty and class exploitation.
    I too saw the ad and refused to watch it.

  4. Totally agree. It had lots of merit, but it spent too long asking us to consider HER as a real person, without asking us to consider her SUPPORTERS as real people. I think the economically disenfranchised will continue to enable people like Hanson, Trump, etc, until the other side can offer solutions that speak to them and educated them, rather than the blatant dismissal they get.

  5. It would be difficult to make the point that Hanson has grown in both knowledge and as a person as a result of talking about, first Asians, and now Muslims. There’s no debate—only hectoring. And that too goes both ways. She still sees them as the OTHER.

    1. I don’t think this matters, Barbara. She can be an autonomous idiot or an idiot with female advisers. She’s still an idiot.

      1. Which is to say, she is the vessel for idiot, ruling ideas. The ideas are the problem.
        The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, etc.

  6. This is a great article Helen. I am constantly frustrated by the important issues being left off the political agenda, thereby playing into the hands of people like Hanson.

  7. Your early mention of a working class battered by “austerity rent seekers” indicates that you know about the root cause of the poverty and unfilled promises of so-called free market capitalism. Failure to speak of these things when addressing larger issues is irresponsible in the extreme as it is in this instance. Pauline Hanson is a shill for the wealthy who for centuries have exploited and impoverished humanity all the while telling them through their surrogates that the system is not the problem and that something else accounts for what is not working. No blame and no shame. She just probably has no idea how this is so nor cold she since hardly even the good hearted liberal left among us don’t get it either.

    1. I see – respect for ‘bigots’ wont change anything but respect for jihadists will – give me a break
      Self important ‘progressives – bah!

      1. Responding to this pithy comment, is an excellent example of the mental gymnastics necessary to engage. By “jihadists”, should I assume you mean extremists? In which case who’s asking for them to be respected? A mental double backflip might allow me to understand that the author sees this as self-evident because he sees all brown Muslims as extremists, no evidence necessary. A Full Twist with Pike, allows me to understand that ‘bigots’ (these ‘quotation’ marks are fucking tiring) are the true victims here. In which case. Bollocks.

      2. What the blind shit are you talking about, mate?
        To say “Pauline Hanson is not worth making a telly show about” is hardly to say “DEATH TO THE DEVIL AMERICA”.
        Please. Calm down and learn to read and make an argument. Or don’t. Whatever.

        1. You are all so superior but still can’t express yourselves without being crude,
          But I guess that’s the progressive way.

          1. Sir. I apologise for my vulgar language. It was not my intention to cause you offence, however, I accept that I did and will endeavour without pause to guard against this in future.
            I trust that you will take the time, conditions allowing, to again read my original post and reconsider your reaction.
            I had hoped that I made it clear that I do not despise those who hold anti-Islamic views. Rather, I despise the way in which such sentiment is used to advance the investment class. Other readers have noted this, so I hope that on a second reading (again, should you have the time) you will see I make this case. And, that I do not make the case for Islamism or religious statehood nor even do I say “Muslims are great”.
            I am of the personal opinion that “celebrating” any class of persons is a silly thing to do. I am of the opinion, as you are, that progressives are a bunch of idiots. I hope you can see that I wrote this in the text very clearly.
            Regards and, again, apologies

  8. Unfortunately “making dreadful people famous” also makes dreadful people awfully rich. Just look at the explosion of ridiculous and meaningless “reality” shows on television that serve no other purpose than to dull the minds of the viewer and hide the harsh realities of life from them.

    1. Small point. These shows don’t so much make people rich. TV network profits have become very modest. They are just very cheap to make; less than half the cost of drama, for example.

  9. “Just as a white underclass wrongly blames a brown underclass for the work of the investment class, a progressive class blames a white underclass for the work of the investment class.”

    Maintain the rage HR.

    I saw the ads and had no intention whatever of watching it. What could I possibly gain from it, except more angst.

    I have gone through various stages, and for a time believed that education was a critical part of the solution, but education doesn’t amount to much at all, except for those who have none. Apart from myself, I know very few people who actually change their mind about things once they learn more facts. And I do that because I practiced it constantly since leaving school, when my mind was allowed to think for itself.

    I used to think that the ‘chattering classes’ and the progressives were different groups of people with similar values, now I just recognise them as a different class of bullshitters, with nicer intent, if there is a difference.

    I also am so over this ‘understanding’ stuff. There’s nothing there to understand. It’s visceral reaction to unexplained phenomena, that is all. The real culprit is our current version of capitalism, which surprise surprise, is eating itself. If only there had been someone around 150 years ago who could have written a thesis about it!

    1. I know. I wish there were a nineteenth century guy who devoted his life to describing the movement of capitalism in great detail over three volumes. And, you know, if the ideas of this guy weren’t able to, say, inspire anything more than state-sponsored capitalism in 1917, then maybe around the time of the Great Depression, there could have been another, more moderate guy who described in a very long book just how capitalism could extend its life through demand-side growth. And there could have at LEAST been an American president who really effectively tried something that he might have called, I dunno, a New Deal. If only there were historical examples of this book that was never written. And if only there was, maybe, a guy called Wayne who looked at that book that was never written in 2008 and saved the Australian economy by using stimulus.
      No one has ever written anything about how to defeat or amend capitalism ever in history. So, we should probably just stick with this supply-side economics which is working so well.

      1. Thanks Helen, you’re irony beat mine, hands down.

        But I am more convinced than ever that rage is required, but well directed rage, rage at the real enemy.

        People matter!

  10. Spot on. The billionaires and the system that enriches them being let off the hook reminds me of why it is billionaires are so keen to invest in mainstream media. For the role of the media, as someone once said, is to be a tool for the rich to convince the middle class that the problem is the poor. And it works. And SBS to its discredit just joined in.

  11. Well done Razer – I actively fought her and her nazis, in the 1996/98 period and there is nothing we need to know about her or her followers.

  12. . I think I need to do a course teaching me how to talk to Pauline’s acolytes. Like.. how do you say stuff where.. when you say it they say.. oh yeah.. I get what stuff you’re saying, and now we are best friends and also climate change is real.
    The worst thing is when you realise that you’re talking to one coz they’re only triggered by certain isshews. And although you don’t need it one tiny bit, Here’s a handy guide!

    * Abstudy is bad because.. um.. their kids don’t get free shit on account of being too white..? Because some of the kids they KNOW for a fact GET ABSTUDY aren’t even slight brown! Whhhaaaat!

    * Islamic women shouldn’t be allowed to have access to a private, segregated public swimming pools because.. uh.. they might.. terrorise.. some towels.

    * TAX. We can all agree on TAX, amiright? Big business should pay more tax? No, you see, you’ll lose them there. They agree that THEY should pay less tax, and as Razer and many of the commenters here have opined it’s because they need it to buy things to live. But try it, honestly! If you don’t wanna talk to a Hansonite about tax just bring up the big businesses not paying their share thingey. They just kind of.. drift away.. The whole concept of the world being controlled by ultra-elite 1% of 1% is just not part of the Hanson cosmology. Vested interest? What’s that? Straightening up Political contributions? Never heard of it!

    I could go on. But I won’t. Youse know what I’m talkin’ bout. And the worst thing is us chardonnay socialistes have our own triggers. Asylum seekers, climate science, public health.. don’t get me started! How do we fix this? How do we pull our heads out of our collective arseholes and actually have open and democratic discussions with the other side instead of the usual 2 choices, a) fisticuffs or b) group tree-hug?

    1. Look. You know I agree. After last week’s DNC diversity circle-jerk, I despair. It’s of course absolutely great when all kinds of people take to a public stage. But if they are doing so in service of “diverse” candidates who have a record on capturing profits for the 1% of the 1%, it don’t mean shit.
      I don’t know how to convince persons that we need to find solidarity in economic issues. I don’t know how to say to the left “Look. We don’t need to make sure every person who joins our movement uses impeccable diversity language.” I mean. Even the Trotskyists attend demonstrations for equal marriage these days. MARRIAGE, PEOPLE. DO I NEED TO REMIND YOU WHAT ENGELS HAD TO SAY ON THE TOPIC OF MARRIAGE?
      And, for that matter, do I need to remind you what Marx had to say on the fiction of equality under the law?
      But. This first world is in love with rainbow ribbons.
      Still. I have hope for the younger ones. These millennials are the people supporting Corbyn in the UK and Sanders in the US. And these men lead economic conversations.

      1. Great piece Helen. What do you mean by “solidarity in economic issues?” It would be a good read if you expanded this statement. When you speak of “economic conversations”, it would be instructive to understand more clearly what you mean? public policy? would you add in Adam Smith’s “moral sentiments” (considerations)?…I couldnt conceive of you making it all pecuniary? Trouble with Marx and Engels is that while they are icons, and deservedly so in some respects, they weren’t all that successful and are as mis-interpreted as the bible. Surely Keynes was more on the ball, and he saw the greatest problem as “Uncertainty”. Seems to me he is still correct, its the uncertainty of job security/the weirdly evolving future which freaks people out and sends them to the racists? Is it only economic uncertainty or cultural/moral uncertainty or all of them?

  13. We need to pull the cat out of the bag on economic justice and the global corps and elites undermining democracy. More please Helen 🙂

    1. The peculiar thing is, the cat well and truly ran from the bagmen of Wall St in 2008. And still, the golden parachutes are awarded. The biggest financial disaster since the Great D and the most explicit admissions, even by Greenspan, that trickle-down economics doesn’t work, and STILL, the idea that big money needs to get bigger at the expense of the people prospers. I mean. FFS. If you want to give welfare to help the effing lenders, how about giving it to the people to pay off their houses? ARGH. Corporate welfare. It doesn’t even work to save capitalism.
      Anyhoo. I just don’t know why the cultural is seen as so much more important than the economic, when clearly, it’s the other way ’round. There would be no racist “movement” of this size if people had enough security and everyday comfort. One of the best arguments for needs-based funding of education, too, is unintentionally made by minds such as Hanson’s. Every time she speaks, my first thought is, “the schools weren’t very good in Ipswich.”

  14. FFS now we have another six years of this divisive clueless twat.
    I almost punched the air while reading this. You nailed it!

  15. You give Hanson oxygen, she’ll thrive. Hey, the media is all about sensation and sensationalism. They largely don’t care about the impact
    of their Hanson doxologies and their neologisms. Only a few take their professions seriously enough to report or comment in a
    disciplined and responsible manner..

  16. Found what i watched boring, otherwise I love Broiniwski’s work. HR you utterly nailed the issue. Maybe more challenging to make a sexy doco about.

  17. I’m sure any thinking person can establish a link between the impoverished
    and the lifeline thrown their way, courtesy of an extreme view that seeks to rationalise
    their situation, it’s a political tool that all parties use. Pauline Hanson gained her Federal position because of the machinations of Oldfield, Abbott and ultimately Howard. This program outlined that and, of course, it was denials all the way, but the plan backfired on them. Hanson herself conceded this, making the comment that had she not been dis-endorsed by the Liberals she probably would not have won anything.
    You can get carried away Pauline Hanson’s stance as much as you like, the real problem is the duplicitous nature of the major parties, particularly the LNP, and the way they have been corrupting serious debate on issues affecting this country to distract argument away from their private agendas. Why not direct energy in the direction that mostly affects the majority and don’t waste time chucking a log on a few dying embers.

    1. I agree with your assertion that getting carried away with Hanson is pointless. That it would be much better to get carried away by the failure of the ALP to address the needs of those who once formed its base. This is, in part, why I despair at programs of the type which are largely designed to help people get more carried away by Hanson.

      1. Helen,
        It’s all political parties who have lost their way and primarily because of a detachment from the electorate at a grass roots level. Pauline Hanson strikes a chord with many people frustrated because they don’t have a voice any longer. All this discourse about her being ignorant, a “nincompoop” etc. is futile bile. She is, whether people like it or not, an ordinary person who has chosen to have a go and being backed by other ordinary people, probably like the Mums, Dads and Grandparents of many of the respondents here. I’m not endorsing her policies, but she is living proof that ordinary people can make a change. If the energy of her detractors was channeled toward positively supporting candidates we could trust to work for us, we can only imagine what mountains could be moved. Having a voice in the media gives you the chance to open minds to change, I look forward to more articles that can do that.

  18. Have people forgotten already that the political party Hansen established took people’s money for ‘membership’ but didn’t provide opportunities for ‘members’ to meet and discuss political issues? ‘Members’ were discouraged from providing opinions or feedback up through the party network. They were expected to provide financial support regularly and were required to read mailings of party ‘opinion’ on a limited range of issues (hate scripts to rehearse). That was the extent of the individual member’s participation in politics. You didn’t have to think at all, just provide money as needed to perpetuate community hatreds and bigotry. Politics made easy for the intellect deprived among us. Hansen worked hard to create a vision of community-based politics in a fascist Dystopia. Why do people give her any encouragement at all?

  19. I liked your argument. I even liked the way you didn’t belittle the less educated, for their ignorance.

    But I didn’t like the way you incorrectly used the words, racist and bigot. They are are not synonyms. Nor are they in any way related.

    Using just one dictionary as reference for their meaning (the Oxford dictionary was closest to hand, but any others will state the same)

    ………racist – (as a noun) – a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.
    …….. . bigot – (as a noun) – a person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions.

    As you have just demonstrated, you are a bigot. You are intolerant towards those holding a different opinion to yours. I am a bigot. And like you, I’m proud to be able to hold a different opinion.

    I do hope you will refrain from using the two words together, in future. But, like all pseudo journalists, I doubt it.

    1. Whenever anyone starts arguing fine points of meaning in this way, I am reminded of those high school speeches which begin “The dictionary definition of excellence is…”.
      Anyhow. I believe that you believe that you made a point. I respect your right to that delusion.

    2. BTW. You just Googled these definitions and used the summary definition that the search engine throws up., didn’t you? Either click through, or buy yourself an actual dictionary.

    3. Oh FFS.

      There are views in this world that are diamtetrically opposed to other views. I cannot at the same time be of the opinion that vanilla ice cream is tastier than chocolate and that chocolate is tastier than vanilla. (I can of course not care whether someone else eats chocolate or vanilla or anythign else or nothing. But that is an entirely different thing.) I cannot at the same time be of the opinion that the RBA cutting interest rates is good economic policy, and that it is bad economic policy. I cannot at the same time be of the opinion that human have unalienable rights (and enslaving them can thus never be just) and think that they do not have such unalienable rights (and it can thus potentially be okay to enslave them). The only way how I could be tolerant of both opinions in each of those scenarios, is by denying myself the right to have one. In which case I would again be intolerant of someone’s opinion, namely my own. It is simply impossible to reconcile two mutually exclusive opinions, no matter how much you try to not be a bigot. That is an inevitable result of fundamental logic.

      If you want to define a bigot as anyone who thinks that any opinion is wrong, then “being a bigot” is thus 100% synonymous to “being a thinking human”. At that point, you will have ventured so far from what everybody else understands the word “bigot” to mean, that you’re unlikley to be able to communicate effectively with other bigots, sorry: thinking human beings, about the pros and cons of bigotry. Seeing that effective communication was once the purpose of having words in the first place, that seems like a stupid strategy.

      You could, alternatively, behave like a grown-up and acknowledge that many things exist on a continuum. And you could look at more dictionary definition. You’ll find that most of them include not only an aspect of “unreasonable”, “excessive”, “extreme” or the like, but also one of intolerance not only towards opinions, but also towards groups of people (especially racial or religious groups). Go figure. Just what people usually have in mind when they use the word. It’s almost as if the dictionary didn’t create words and their definitions, but simply documented their common usage!

  20. I am curious why we do not zero in to the men behind Hanson? The current one (Ashby) is clearly the one, who will do anything to get her on the telly, and even make her seem more appealing than Oldfield did. Ashby destroyed a Speaker of the House, which brought down the ALP, and Ashby is playing the media with his new puppet Hanson. I am not saying that I am sorry for Hanson, she is a dangerous and ignorant, who got a lot of money out of her various attempts to crack the Parliament, but she is nothing more than that. The real shits are the men playing her for various reasons. What I do not understand is what was Margot Kingston about? Did she get paid for that last visit to Pauline? The whole thing stank of money from somewhere, to play the so-called SBS supporters (who are clearly not the ‘progressives’ any more). Bring back the old SBS, there is clearly a very peculiar political atmosphere over there, since the Brits took over the organisation! Just watch NITV, there is nothing else anymore since the ABC also needs so stridently show political balance, just like the SMH etc.etc.

  21. Like it or not, One Nation have 3 Senators in Parliament for the next term (I hasten to add that they didn’t get there with any assistance from me) and the only way to prevent a re-occurence is to persuade the people who voted for ON to vote for someone else next time. Calling them racists, bigots, deluded fools or whatever won’t achieve much toward that aim.
    I’m not suggesting “peace, love and understanding”, but if you want people to change their thinking, calling them a mob of drongos is probably not the place to start.

      1. My apologies. My comments were directed toward some of the other posters and I should have made that clearer.
        That was a cracking good piece, Helen.

  22. I thought I may have been alone in either not tolerating the shit that this program was presenting or switching it off well before its conclusion (I did both). I started watching it on the pretext I would implement a little of Sun Tzu’s philosophy and try to understand someone I stridently disagree with (i.e. my enemy) to better position me in future battles with her ilk. However – as Helen has pointed out – I soon started to think “hang on – what are they doing here? Trying to humanise Hanson!” Like Helen, I started saying “who gives a fuck how hard her upbringing and development as a working adult / parent was” – she’s a racist bigot (and yes I understand the similarity and the difference of these two words and is why I have used them in conjunction!) – show her for what she is – palease!” When they didn’t I verbally abused the goggle box for voicing such inane rubbish and with a force that almost pushed the button through the back of the remote I turned it off and went to bed.
    Over the past couple of days Ive heard a few people try to justify this show by referring to the cliche’d “in the interest of balance both sides of a story need to be told”. To which I have responded that when it becomes all about who, where and how, and less about what and why all we do is contribute to the cult of personality – not awareness. What we need is more awareness and less personality. Personality is the last thing that needs to be considered (but as Helen implies – it is what is being primarily used these days by the Machiavellian politico-socialogs) as part of this increasingly complicated debate ne world we live in.
    However – if I had Helens “Milosevic playing with kittens analogy” (love it Helen!) on hand at the time – it think it would have made the argument easier.

  23. I dont know Helen, I must have watched a different doco to you on Sunday. The one I saw made it obvious to me at least that she is a nincompoop and bigot and easily manipulated. I have every reason to hate racists as I saw them in action a s kid growing up being sworn at and having fights all because I was a wog. Yep saw them come up to my dad’s face while we were out shopping and tell us to stop speaking our fucking lingo and speak english and if we dont like it go back to your own fuckin wog country. Sure do remember it quite clearly as I do the what the local RSL in Marrickville did, a suburb with a huge number of greek migrants, they made it compulsory that only English be spoken, this was about 1968/69. Just as Jake and Elwood hated the Illinois Nazis, I hated racists and still do. but we have to acknowledge even if economic times are good there will still exist racists, people who hate others for no other reason than their religion or ethnicity being different. Granted she is able to attract people to vote for her party today because of fear of Muslims, then Asians and last but not least Aborigines. What annoys me is that our political leaders, ie Turnbull and his ministers and Shorten as well have to come out and clearly, loudly and publicly state they do not support her racist policies, having reports last week of Turnbull contacting Hanson to congratulate her was offensive but not surprising because they want her support. Public displays of racist behaviour whether it be verbal or physical is certain to increase if our leaders dont slam her and the party’s views Not only should be slamming her but we should as well and just because she had 500 thousand people vote for her party I dont care as there w ill always be racists amongst us.

    1. There is nothing racist at all about pauline hanson, she is a patriot concerned about preserving the values that made this country so attractive to the “races”.

      1. No – she is a fish and chip lady who doesn’t know anything. Hanson and her motivation is about Hanson. He concern is about being a celebrity – the Kardashian of politics.

  24. Helen Razer seems conflicted about the SBS documentary on Pauline Hanson. She thinks the plight of the “underclass” is worthy of consideration, but she believes a film that focusses on a politician who attracts significant support from that underclass is nothing more than “letting a woman incapable of considering anything beyond her own persecution talk shit.”

    According to Razer, Hanson is “an ultranationalist who seeks to throw everything she doesn’t understand into a bin of flaming turds”. I didn’t know turds were flammable, and it’s a metaphor that’s as muddled as the rest of her review. Yes, says Razer, the poor old underclass has reasons aplenty to be upset, but their champion is a racist moron, and that’s all we need to know about her.

    Razer is concerned that the documentary is sympathetic to Hanson. That’s the problem, she says, when you make a film that shows her as a person. Razer thinks that a film that showed Slobadan Milosevic being nice to kittens might make us think more kindly of him. Really? Is it dangerous or unimportant to learn that Hanson is a nuanced personality with a background not unlike many of her supporters?

    I’m not sure what kind of documentary Razer would rather have seen, but my guess is it would be unwatchable. I think Anna Broinowski did a fabulous job of film making with great respect for viewers’ intelligence. It seems that Razer wanted something far more didactic, something to tell us just what a hopeless dope Hanson is, or perhaps not to mention her at all. That sounds like something the Committee for Proper Thinking might dream up.

  25. “a white underclass wrongly blames a brown underclass for the work of the investment class.” No one ever explained to the white working class why it was necessary to change the face of their society, and their lives, in the first place, firstly with other races, and then with other religions. And then decades later, when the media started constantly extolling the horrors of the islamic world, its’ violence and its’ hatred of our values, our slutty women, our lax morals, our homosexuals, we expected the working class to accept them as immigrants without question, plus finance the wars against their religion. And we call them racists, which is nothing at all to do with the recent core problem of value estrangement of a secular society whose working class only has its’ smokes, and beers and porn to keep it entertained, and is now getting them judged by a resurgent and alien religiosity. It’s the elephant in the room. It’s not just the Pauline Hanson’s that have a problem with the increasing presence of a pious and sometimes violent religious minority in our midst. It’s, shock horror, the rest of society that is happy for Pauline to do their dirty work because real liberals are too scarred to call the situation out for what it is, too timid to stand up for our liberal values for fear of offending. It’s not about racism , it’s about a new politically correct state fear of religious based conservatism, and it not only doesn’t suit the Pauline Hanson working class, it doesn’t suit the quarter of Australians of no religion, and the other 60% of Christians mostly in name only, who don’t want to be dealing with medieval and cruel superstition in secular Australia. What SBS and Helen Razor and every other Australian journalist surprisingly seem to refuse to countenance, is that behind Pauline Hanson’s crass argument is a strong liberal intelligent argument for stopping the increase in devout religiosity, and the judgement of us that it brings into our society.Maybe progressive liberalism will only survive when the rights of insane religions to control and abuse are not upheld as human rights? The US and the UK have the sanity and intelligence of courageous secularists like Bill Maher and Douglas Murray to give validity to valid fears of the threat to liberal societies of politically correct silence. If you asked any Australian whether they would be happy for a person of any race to come here to live, if they were excited to come, not just because they wanted to be safe anywhere, but they wanted to be a part of OUR secular values and rights and freedoms, and our laws, I think most Australians would be welcoming.

    1. Paul maybe you should do some reading mate, the US is the leading supplier of weapons to those religious zealots, the Saudi’s. To date the US is the main supplier some 65% of all arms sent to the religious establishment in the area. It’s a shame you have brought the same same blinkered unintelligent response to Helens great article that proves her argument.

      1. Well said, Mark. Helen Razer speaks for me. I watched in dismay at this softly softly program that almost idolises a bigot.

    2. So what was her justification for hating Asians? Aborigines? Gays?

      I’ve got plenty of Muslim friends who don’t display any of those traits you’re describing. Sure, there are some out there who do, but then, there are some pretty far-right ultra-conservative Christians too.

      I won’t deny though, that generally speaking third world countries are more conservative than Western Liberal Progressive ones. From what I’ve seen though, it only takes a generation or so of living in the West to embrace our mores.

      It probably works the other way around too.

    3. Yes, this is the really big elephant in the room when it comes to Hansen. Helen’s assessment of the SBS documentary makes valid points. It is a huge mistake, however, to underestimate the fury that many feel at the weak response of the progressives to the misogyny and homophobia that is indisputably practised and accepted in the most traditional Muslim communities in Australia, and in other western communities where Muslim immigrants have been settled. It is not OK, folks it is just not OK! The fight for gender and other forms of equality has been long and arduous and is far from won. Why do you all look the other way on this issue? Just don’t understand it. All the fuss about Hansen, when there are Imams speaking on national media about their support for killing homosexuals to “save them from themselves”.

      1. Julie, I understand what your saying – misogyny and homophobia are unacceptable. However, please remember that the western world is decades ahead of communities in Muslim countries in terms of acceptance of equality and difference. Yet racism is STILL raising its ugly head in Australia, the USA, UK, Europe etc. It’s going to take a lot longer for the Muslim world to reach the stage that we are at right now. Cultural change takes eons, as evidenced by the time it’s taken for the western world to (almost) accept equal rights for the LGBTQI community. And we’re still a long way from equality for women in the workplace. The worst discrimination in the western world today is that shown towards animals of other species. The human species views other sentient beings as ‘property’, food, clothing, entertainment and more. Vegetarianism and veganism is growing as we become more aware of the detrimental impact of intensive farming on human health and on the planet but it’s going to be decades from now before we view the slavery of other animal species in the same way that we now view slavery of coloured people.

        1. Read about what is happening in Rojava and you will find that Muslims can take part in qutie revolutionary changes. Although muslims aren’t steering the Rojavan revolution, they are participating in it. The revolution has brought massive democratic and secular reforms that are heading towards empowering women and also giving minorities freedom to practice their religions. It has made religion a private matter in the regions affected by the revolution, and violence against women is harshly punished.

    4. Most Australians do not welcome muslims because they are aware of what Islam teaches and practices which I can understand. Its practices are against the law. Read mohammed Unveiled, Life of mohammed, People v Mohammed.

  26. “I don’t need a look into Pauline Hanson’s white and dull unconscious to tell me what I already know: racism is the work of the elites. They hand it down to the people to whom they’ve denied an education and a living wage and say, “go and blame the brown people for taking your money and your social services and your dignity”. Or the Jews. Or the indigenous Australians. Or the Mexicans. Whoever is the bad-taste of the month, blame it on them, not us”.

    This has been my main online diatribe for years. Thank you for putting it more eloquently than I’ve ever managed to.

    1. It’s the British system of Divide and Conquer and most political systems have run with it to great effect. Divert attention with a scapegoat. They did it in India until Ghandi motivated his own people and then the British working classes when he visited UK’s northern mill towns to explain his own people’s plight.

  27. Helen Razer says it the way that many of us, including myself, would wish to say it. What she says has as much relevance for people in Europe (including the UK) as it has for Australians. An excellent article. How much longer, how many more elections, will it take to loosen the hold of the elites, the establishments, the powerful, over the vast proportion of ordinary people around the globe. It will obviously require more than the political and economic awareness of the likes of Sanders and Corbyn. They seem to be like voices in the wilderness, but they are at least a beginning. There is the preacher and the message, but the ears need to listen. That seems to be the issue.

  28. I would havee thought the best way is to ignore Hansen but do something to ameliorate the situation of her natural constituency. Remember that there is no such thing as bad publicity, except *no* publicity. I didn’t see the documentary but some of the best allow the subject to shoot themselves in the foot. I would just like to see how Pauline would answer the question “Shouldn’t those of European descent go back to their ancestral countries, and further immigration from anywhere be forbidden?”. After all, the country belonged to Aboriginals before all those plunderers landed.
    Of course, if we do restrict all immigration of brown people, who is going to drive our trams, pick up our garbage, work as baggage lifters at airports, tend the tills in our nationwide retail outlets, and stuff advertising flyers in our letter boxes?

    1. When you look at the far right in Europe you’ll realised the fascists don’t disappear when they’re ignored – they grow and mobilise. Look at the France National Front – they’re polling second for the presidency. As far as “no publicity” goes, in the 90’s toward the end of Hanson’s spin with the Libs, there were 200 mentions of her in the media per day. The media and Murdoch press wont let her racism fade into obscurity because it serves their needs of dividing society with Islamophobia or the latest minority group of the day.

      The second half of your argument is racist but with seemingly good intentions (??)

      1. Katie. Can we PLEASE stop “calling out” racism in people quite so often.
        While what Hedley said about new arrivals to Australia taking on low-paid work is not always true, it is also often true. Now, it’s not great, of course. There are dreadful regulations which prevent an entirely qualified person from abroad from being recognised professionally. If Reza Berati had not been slain in an Australian run detention centre and had been permitted to reside here, as he should have been, he probably wouldn’t have been recognised as an architect as we was in Iraq. He probably would have taken on minimum wage work. If he hadn’t been slain. If we did not maintain these absurd and bloody places that exist not to “stop the people smugglers” (heaven forbid we ever stop participating in the wars that make people smugglers necessary) but to create a particular market for votes.
        SO, saying “brown people are more often in underpaid professions in Australia” is actually a statement of fact. It’s not an endorsement. Your assessment of this as racist is, I think, wrong. If we cannot talk about inequality because someone might think we’re racist for doing so, then how the heck are we going to address inequality?

  29. Pauline for our next pm i am sick of being a hard working class australian born taking it up the tail pipe from all forms of grubs colored or not government leaders included because we all know the current leader is an oxygen thief, raping my back pocket flogging me to death tgis country is just shy of whipling peoples backs for bread crumbs and sooner or later we will get fed up with all the bullshit and the australians of this country will stand together as one and do what needs to be done to keep this great country of ours great

  30. Hi,

    I get the gist of the underclass theory and its relation to the popularity of Hanson and Trump. But most people I know who endorse her are comfortable financially. Just racist. Plain and simple. What evidence is there that her voters don’t have comfortable beds, money to feed their children? I’ve not met one single Hanson voter who is poor.

    Also I thought the documentary was interesting. In that it shows she is completely uneducated and is representative a good portion of Australians who think just like her. And why shouldn’t they have a voice? Who cares? One Nation secured a lot of votes but so did the Greens and Nick Xenophon’s party. More of a worry is there’s people in the Liberal Party, who are in control of the Liberal Party at the moment, who think exactly the same but are educated enough to keep schtum about it publicly. That’s worse. The silent racists who actually form part of this current government and execute policies that punish the brown people who try to get here by boat, not to mention the LGBT community.

    1. I get that your experience may be of well-to-do Hanson voters. The median wage of the electorates in which her party was voted tells a different story. I know personal anecdote is a popular way to prove a point these days. But, you know. You can go to Essential or to any newspaper really, and see that her base is poor and poorly serviced. Don’t be a lazy!

    1. I do understand that is how some people view my work. And I have made an effort to correct it. But I can’t actually work out how I am patronising. Could you give me a clear example of a patronising sentence? And, who is being patronised? Pauline Hanson? She’s just being outright dismissed. Or, is it the reader? And, if so, how? Please help me out and give me an example.

      1. I have to disagree with Rod, Helen. I find your style forthright, colourful, frequently hilarious and the opposite of patronising because it’s honest.

      2. Helen,
        I am neither wordsmith nor literary critic, however I have considered your question and tried to analyse why I came away from your article feeling patronised.
        I don’t think I can narrow it down to a sentence (except maybe the one where you state the obvious “She’s also a person, just like you and me.”) Its more of an overall overall feeling, a taste in the mouth if you like.
        Perhaps I was reacting to the insults you used in describing the subject of the portrait, “..a predictable product of history in a sundress” Really? If you don’t like her sense of fashion then that commentary belongs elsewhere.
        There were more; “…dull unconscious” “a woman incapable of considering anything beyond her own persecution” etc.
        Maybe that made me feel you were not so objective, and the article was intended to be didactic.
        Overall, as I said in my first comment, you made some good points, just a little heavy handed for me.

        1. Rod, I am keenly aware that political critique of women that uses their appearance or fashion sense is wrong. However, this is television criticism. Hanson made conscious wardrobe decisions. Her choice of costume, and her decision, as a media veteran of twenty years, to pose in front of Parliament house in a holiday frock bears comment. She didn’t do this by accident. This was an “I’m different” visual statement. It bears analysis. It is not condescending to mention her dress here.
          In using the “just like you and me” tone, I was attempting (and honestly, I think quickly succeeding) in describing the humanistic aims of many documentary makers. I could have written “these were the humanistic aims of documentary makers”, but I say that later one once I have, hopefully, gained the attention of the reader and established the terms of the criticism in a snappy first paragraph.
          As I said, the critique I made of Hanson was not patronising. It was outright dismissive, because she does not, especially in this documentary, say anything that is in any way informed about anything. I appreciate that being critical of working class persons is terrible, and I spend a great deal of time in the second half of this article talking about how a smug left fails to understand this. I am actively arguing against criticism of the “she can’t spell” type. But, I am addressing an audience who already agrees (as, really, anybody reasonable would) that Hanson fails to analyse or express her “thoughts”.
          I mean, this was a show on SBS, right? And, this is an arts review site. I have to make certain assumptions about who is reading and watching. And I tell this audience outright that the show has value in arguing against being patronising. But, heck, there is no way on earth that I am going to say that Pauline Hanson has anything interesting to say. And, if I did, I would be doing the same thing this doco did, and I would alienate my readers.
          Honestly. All the things you mentioned I did on purpose. I had to balance my revulsion, and a general revulsion, with Hanson against not being condescending. And, again, it is not condescending to say “she is not worth listening to”. It’s just outright dismissive, which I think is the only approach I and my readers can take to a politics of fear and idiocy. What I am also saying is that we need to analyse how this politics arose. I say the show fails to do that.
          I agree that we must be careful not to be smug and middle class about racists. But, I think the show was doing that in trying to understand a woman (a cynical political actor) to describe that. And, again, in order to address my audience, which is largely comprised of people who abhor racism, I am NOT going to say that Pauline has anything interesting to offer and I must make a clear statement about that.
          I would say that you call me patronising, perhaps, because maybe you just (and I understand this; people don’t have a lot of time to read) skimmed the article. You saw a few things that triggered you and you responded to these. I suggest reading the article again.
          I so understand people don’t have time for articles. I understand that it is easy to commit a first reaction to a comments section, and I have done it myself. But I would also say that if we are talking about a serious matter like racism that what we need, if we are really interested in that, is to read before responding. Otherwise, we end up having this conversation based on poor comprehension.

          1. Helen, Brilliant. I love your response. And I understand your position, Thanks.
            BTW, I read your article fully, and my comprehension is good.
            Cheers, Rod.

  31. I must disagree with your analysis Helen. The program about Pauline Hanson really gave some insight into the machinations of politics. I was unaware that David Oldfield had been a Manly City Councilman, a Liberal candidate for Manly and previous to jumping over to One Nation, a political advisor for Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott eventually set up a fund to bank roll legal action against One Nation which resulted in Hanson and David Etheridge being jailed. Obviously Howard was after Hanson as she was taking away Liberal and National party voters. To view the Pauline Hanson supporters as just uneducated, poor white people is a dangerous trap into which to fall. There is an element of this but Hanson appeals to regional and country voters who feel alienated from their city folk and from centralised governments. To me, it is the feelings of alienation by this group which is the biggest driver. There is also appeal for these people, that hanson appears to say what she thinks. In essence, she knows how to tap into what people are thinking and feeling- regardless of what she might really think. We have Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and Andrew Bolt doing exactly the same things in NSW. These guys are popular!!!! Definitely there is a strong racist element in the One Nation dogma. This same racist element was used by Howard ‘…We shall decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come.’ to the ‘Children Overboard’ incident stirred up by Peter Reith. They knew how to tap into the xenophobia of Australians. Just like Hanson.As mentioned in previous posts some members of the current government have also used these strategies to great effect with the Australian populace. Like all cultures, you don’t have to scratch very deep to find racist views- at all ends of the spectrum. The existence of Christmas Island and Nauru without a huge public backlash is testament to what people think of ‘the other.’ Watch the rhetoric ( of the current government) ramp up on asylum seekers, immigrants and Islam over the next 3 years .They know what side their bread is buttered. The program also highlighted the lovely property where Hanson lives and this raised questions for me as to who funded that and her recent campaign. Finally, the program highlighted how little personal awareness Hanson has of her actions and how she feels so victimised if there is a reaction against her actions. It demonstrates the true vulnerability of this person- how emotionally fragile she can be and how this can lead to a dangerous result when mixed with the power she exerts. I think we will see evidence of this in the next 3 years. I found the program quite edifying.

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