Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How to change the "boat people" game

The easiest way to mess up the political debate around the arrival of boat people is to change the identity terms that are being used to shape the debate. Simply call them "New Australians" from the second they arrive.  If the media continued with this strategy, it would focus the argument in ways that make it very difficult to demonise the immigrants.

Can you imagine a politician trying to turn the phrase "New Australians" around? Just imagine the foot-in-mouth opportunities for some of the less mentally agile elected members and public commentators.

If the new arrivals are refugees who are only wanting a haven until things settle down in their own country, call them tourists or some other term that blends them into the population and reduces the us-them naming conventions that are used to focus on difference and unknowns to foster fear and uncertainty.

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