Sunday, March 7, 2021

Scare tactics

Reading Time: 3 minutesFear is the lever to win the next election

Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the USA, famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Napoleon said that men are moved by two levers: self-interest and fear. And yes, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also been recently saying that Islamic State is “coming after us” and “coming … for every person and every government”. While all three are talking about the effect fear has on the human psyche, two are looking at calming their constituents, and one is keen to drive a political agenda.
Over the past few months the debate seems to be zeroing in on the issue of national security. It seems that the think tanks in the current Coalition government have done their homework and feel that this is an issue which can be made to resonate with the population. With their strength in this area, the Coalition government will prefer to have national security as their main focus on the next Federal election.
It has been a tough time for the Abbott government in Canberra since they were elected in 2013. A number of issues, both international and local, have not given them the momentum expected from a first term government. World economic growth has been lacklustre and with that the Australian economy has not moved strongly forward. Their first budget economic reforms have not been allowed to pass by a hostile Upper House in Parliament. The public has not exactly warmed to the Prime Minister and there is uncertainty about his long-term leadership. The only times the government has done well in the polls is when there have been tough national security issues on the front pages such as the strong showing of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop against Russia after the Malaysian Airlines tragedy. Even Abbott’s “shirt fronting” comment did well for him at the polls.

It is little wonder that the second budget was designed more to appease the population than to solve any long term financial structural problems and over time the optimistic numbers may well unravel. Enter a new issue to get the front pages and also to set the platform for a national pre-election campaign – that of national security and the politics of fear which goes with it.
Prime Minister Abbott’s comments about the “imminent” threat of Islamic state terrorism needs to be put in context. Yes, we do live in uncertain times, but there has never been a time when we have not, from the Cold War to the 9/11 threats, to the rise of Islamic fundamentalists to the current danger of lone wolf attacks. But then governments are elected to protect us; should they not allow for a rational debate on security? The problem with fear-based politics is that it tends to divide us, and those who are most vulnerable are those who look different, talk different, or dress different to the majority of the population.
It is these people who may be most at risk from being alienated from the population. True leaders talk about inclusive policies rather than building on the fear of fear itself.

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Pawan Luthra
Pawan Luthra
Pawan is the publisher of Indian Link and is one of Indian Link's founders. He writes the Editorial section.

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