What’s normal now (5)…Turning science into ignorance and “illegals” into offense
Blurring boundaries with intent
I’m reading for the first time a book called Agnotology – The making and unmaking of ignorance (2009) which is a collection of reflections on how ignorance is the boundary of knowledge. It includes some treatment of how the boundaries of ignorance are maintained by the satisfactions of current knowledges. Esoteric? Only until I read the chapter on how in the early 1950’s in the US Big Tobacco, with the active collusion of PR major Hill Knowlton, set about defeating good science and pursued it successfully for 60 years to this date. A recent stage in debasing the science of smoking-induced cancer is presenting the industry as “responsible manufacturers of a risky product”. A satisfactory knowledge is profit producing. There are some others like self-esteem enhancing and identity supporting ones.
The flow on from this PR learning process, driven by the need to protect pre-existing knowledge and interests from threatening truths, can be seen in the debasing of science in the climate wars. If the government can call victimising of refugees a “war” and struggles about class (income imbalance) and consciousness (history) wars, then climate war is a no brainer. “War” is a condition which removes the right to any other conditions, the condition which smooths all kinds of legal-ethical-conceptual tangles. ‘War’ has history as a promotional threat of preference in the US – see the 1960’s war on poverty and the 1980’s war on drugs (the latter lead by a “drug czar”) for historical instances. Only the war on poverty made some headway, while the war on drugs amplified the depth and spread of drugs into a multi-national crisis.
A low grade but high impact variation on this theme is the “illegal boat people” meme which has been imposed / plastered on the ignorant public with special energy since the Howard government’s SEIV-X campaign at the turn of the election in October, 2001.
Demonising sticks, mud clings and the past catches up with you
This piece of clearly intentional deception has created a mud which sticks to refugees these days, to the tune of 60% of our citizenry agreeing “illegals” are not dealt with harshly enough by the government of this day…as if they were some kind of bikie gang or alcohol-fuelled one-punch mongrels who should be punished into submission to normal behaviour routines…a policy unlikely to succeed as others have noted in those spheres. Repetition of “illegal” eventually produced an unquestioned label in the minds of the unaffected public – a label for something to be avoided, a reverse brand, so to speak as we can now see building up with the war on “illegal bikie gangs” (Campbell Newman at the borders of Queensland turning back the bikies??)!!
The “illegal” boat people meme may also give the offense-can-only- be-taken crowd (summarised in ON OFFENCE - THE POLITICS OF INDIGNATION by Richard King; Scribe, 2013) something to think about. If you give offense to the defenceless by berating, debasing, and denying their humanity and that adds to their defencelessness, have you given offense which they could just not take by choice? I suspect so. Work on anger and male rage / violence would suggest otherwise, too.
An observation about how long term vilification effects shared truth
It will take years to recover the moral ground that has been eroded by these years of inhumanity to the defenceless. Much the same can be expected for the recovery from years of deriding the only form of empirical knowledge we can have agreed confidence in – natural science. Of course, the recovery may not happen and the defenceless parts of the world which have been injured may slide slowly out of sight, their after images lingering on the wings of the latest political spins. Do I hear ‘responsible providers of end of life services’ for instance, which are offered by the privatised health and incarceration industries which manage our prisons and refugee holding pens now (Serco, etc.)?