Protesting a broken system is not emotional blackmail

8 Apr

Peter DuttonImmigration Minister Peter Dutton yesterday declared that he would not submit to what he described as “emotional blackmail” by Iranian asylum seeker Saleed Hassanloo, who has been on a hunger strike for forty-four days in protest at the DIBP’s refusal of refugee status.

Asylum seekers imprisoned indefinitely in Australia’s off-shore detention camps have few methods available to them to protest their plight. That the camps on Manus and Nauru are hellish has been apparent for some time now. This has been recently confirmed by the damning Moss Report, commissioned by former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison some seventeen months ago after the government alleged Save the Children workers were “coaching” asylum seekers to self-harm in order to attract the government’s attention.

Peter Dutton obviously doesn’t know what emotional blackmail is. For a start, it takes place in a personal or intimate relationship, such as that between husband and wife, mother and child, siblings, bullies in the workplace, or close friends. It’s a manipulative behaviour intended to control the other party through fear, obligation, and guilt, and it isn’t a one-off occurrence, it’s a pattern of behaviour established between two or more people as a primary means of communication and interaction.

Detained asylum seekers have virtually no avenues for legitimately  protesting their situations. Self-harm, which is using the body as the vehicle of protest, is all they have. This is not the fault of the asylum seekers, but of governments that have created conditions in which human beings have no hope, extremely limited rights, and are forced to lives that can only be filled with despair.

Dutton’s reason for refusing to respond humanely to Hassanloo’s protest was that if he did, hundreds of asylum seekers would self harm, seeking the same humane outcome. This likelihood should tell Dutton there is something terribly wrong with the system he oversees. If the people incarcerated in it, including children as young as five are willing to harm themselves in order to escape the detention camps, the problem obviously lies in the detention system, and not in the human beings Dutton is forcing to endure it.

It is the default position of the coward and the bully to blame the victim for his or her reaction to the bullying he or she has been subjected to. Australian governments, both ALP and LNP, have bullied boat-borne asylum seekers for decades now. For decades now both governments have criminalised, demonised and dehumanised asylum seekers for their own nefarious political purposes.

Whenever asylum seekers have self-harmed we’ve heard the same old government spin about emotional blackmail, and the same old complaints about the duress these important politicians have been subjected to by asylum seekers protesting with their bodies. We’ve heard this from every Immigration Minister, from Philip Ruddock who infamously made repeated references to a child asylum seeker who refused to eat as “it,” onwards.

The problem and the fault lies with the treatment of boat-borne asylum seekers by both major political parties. Human beings detained under the conditions these governments have imposed are human beings who are, daily, being severely abused by governments. Our governments are bullies and serial abusers. Their victims self-harm, as victims of serial abusers and bullies frequently do. Our governments blame their victims, as bullies and abusers inevitably will. Our governments then claim victim status for themselves, as they accuse their victims of causing them duress by emotionally blackmailing them.

This is sick. This is dysfunctional. This sickness and dysfunction are at the heart of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection as they implement pathological government policies. Every Minister who heads that department, of either political persuasion, perpetuates the sickness and dysfunction by intensifying the secrecy surrounding boat-borne asylum seekers arrivals, and the conditions of their incarceration.

Increasingly, attempts to threaten and silence anyone who attempts to speak out about the daily abuses, fail. These attempts at silencing have been taken so far by the Abbott government as to personally attack Human Rights Commission head Gillian Triggs, when her report on the detention camps was released.

You can’t shut everybody up, though Transfield, to whom maintenance of the off-shore detention camps has been outsourced, is working very hard to assist the Abbott government in this mission with outrageous attempts to gag its workers.

You are only as sick as your secrets, and this government is fatally ill.

43 Responses to “Protesting a broken system is not emotional blackmail”

  1. Marilyn April 8, 2015 at 6:52 am #

    Australia as a nation is sick to the core, it’s a racist shit hole scarcely fit for decent human beings as the bogans and right wing nut jobs take over.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Florence nee Fedup April 8, 2015 at 8:23 am #

      What this government really means, they are not open to listening to voter protest.

      While they maintain the secrecy surrounding all to do with Sovereign Borders, there must be public protest.

      Dutton’s response is the opposite.

      When Houston made recommendations for Manus and Nauru. transparency was one of his strongest. There is no protection for inmates otherwise.

      For Dutton to say if anyone has complaints, all they have to do is tell him or the department, is ridiculous. Only answer is a completely open independent oversee body.

      Demanding the truth, is not emotional blackmail. It is demanding that justice not only be done, but see to be done.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jennifer Wilson April 8, 2015 at 8:32 am #

        Yes. Where’s there’s no transparency, there’s very bad outcomes.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Florence nee Fedup April 8, 2015 at 10:47 am #

          New laws bought in by this mob, deny asylum seekers access to any lawyer or legal advice. Press, lawyers, community groups and and politicians must be allowed unfretted access to all centres.

          Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter April 8, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

        I think part of the reality is that the government does listen to voter protest.

        It’s the type of voter protest that is the problem.

        Part of manufacturing consent comes with the manufacture of a voter base stupid enough and nervous enough to have its night-terrors given tangible reality through slyly constructed mythologies that misrepresent reality and provide the grounds for erroneous judgements on various issues.

        A tax dodging American Media tycoon who spreads lies about others to draw attention away from himself can walk away with $5 billion in offshored money without comment, while the public remains fixated on innocent people who they are told, through monotonous, repetetive propaganda, are agents of calumny.

        Liked by 2 people

    • doug quixote April 8, 2015 at 8:36 am #

      Where are you going, then? Can we help you pack?

      Please don’t be so absurd, Marilyn. It really doesn’t help the cause.


      • Marilyn April 8, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

        Doug I get so tired of you, seriously I do. Australia is a racist fucking shithole and there is no fucking cause except the defence of human rights for everyone.


    • Florence nee Fedup April 8, 2015 at 10:49 am #

      Marilyn, do not give up. There are more decent people in Australia. Eventually they will speak up. Happening now. Don’t dwell in the past. Get with the present and future.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter April 8, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

        The place is becoming a dictatorship and the public, kept in the dark and thwarted by walls of silence by those running things has become discouraged and passive.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson April 9, 2015 at 6:20 am #

          Hard as it is to admit, I share this view PW. And fear where it is taking us.


      • Marilyn April 8, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

        I am not dwelling on the past, it’s just that the past is still happening now.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson April 9, 2015 at 6:21 am #

          Yes. The past is repeating itself, with a few new variations that aren’t improvements.


  2. doug quixote April 8, 2015 at 8:34 am #

    Which picture is Dutton, left or right? Reminds me of Micalleff, who has a fine gallery of photos for his satirical show. A must-see for mine.

    Morrison was at least a competent minister; he overreached his powers and misapplied the laws deliberately and calculatedly. Dutton is doing the same, but in a dozy, clumsy and almost random way. The whole government is with few exceptions the same. They should resign and get out of the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter April 8, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

      Beat me to it.
      I thought the comparison most unflattering, for the cabbage.

      Liked by 1 person

      • olddavey April 8, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

        His eyes are totally dead, which does not bode well for anyone who is affected by whatever portfolio he is poured into.

        How a numpty like him ever won pre-selection is a total mystery.

        Come to think about, that also applies to………………….

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson April 8, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

        Ha! (PW)


    • Marilyn April 8, 2015 at 9:00 pm #

      On what level was Morrison competent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • hudsongodfrey April 8, 2015 at 9:56 pm #

        If pissing people off almost every time they open their mouths is a skill then several members win a sleeve patch in it.

        Morrison has distinguished himself by unwaveringly doing his masters’ bidding against all odds and with unflinching inattention to anything resembling a conscience. I think the badge for that one is known as henchmanship.


      • Jennifer Wilson April 9, 2015 at 6:23 am #

        I think he’s a very competent man, but if only he would use his powers for good.


    • Jennifer Wilson April 9, 2015 at 6:22 am #

      I thought of you as I watched last night, DQ.
      Micalleff is the only satirist worth watching atm for mine.


      • doug quixote April 9, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

        Clarke and Dawe have their moments; tonight was good, with Mr Snogood, later revealed to be Tony Snogood. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. hudsongodfrey April 8, 2015 at 9:21 am #

    You end by concluding that the government is fatally ill, and Marilyn having probably concluded their main opposition wasn’t a lot better extends that observation to the nation as a whole.

    Certainly there’s support for stopping the boats within the electorate. Vocal minorities in marginal seats would seem to be the most visible symptom of that problem.

    But going back to your apparent quibble over Duttons usage of emotional blackmail, clearly the matter of whose emotions are involved merely means he’s using political language to take a term otherwise belonging to interpersonal relationships out of context. A mere observation perhaps, but one which I think has real importance to the diagnosis of the illness we seem to agree exists but haven’t as yet offered any diagnosis for.

    Thinking about the fact that Dutton’s protest clearly excludes the prospect of allowing himself to become emotionally invested in Saleed Hassanloo’s case and the state of mind involved in deliberately withholding empathy that should naturally from the suffering of others I begin to wonder whether we aren’t verging upon a state of collective psychopathy.

    After recently revisiting the work of Robert Hare on the subject compared with the way James Fallon sees his himself on the spectrum of psychopathy I also begin to find the distinction identifying sociopaths with criminality more useful. Whereas I’m now less sure that the othering in-group/out-group behaviours that seem to propel otherwise normal citizens towards violent or cruel behaviours aren’t somewhere on the same continuum.

    Being reminded also that psychopathy is not a kind of psychosis, and knowing that in many cases people are quite high functioning only seems to increase the prospect of its prevalence.

    In other words a certain kind of right wing thinking has a propensity towards psychopathy which being mild by comparison with the hollywood psycho nevertheless grants permission for far more harm than any Hannibal Lecter ever imagined. It is also more of a force to be reckoned with.

    If the truth were to be told I’m probably embarked on a path to demystifying psychopathy that eventually takes some of the sting out of using the term as an epithet for unacceptable behavior. In the short term however a diagnosis like this may help us to recognise behaviours in modern Australia that accurately parallel those of citizens within Nazi Germany. Not in the sense that I want to evoke Godwin’s law, but simply because the difficulties we’re in are symptomatic of the same kind of thinking though with less dire consequences.

    That I think we’d find other societies have experienced similar turpitude, including our own in the past, will probably be evidenced in every incidence of genocide, enslavement and perhaps torture.

    That I think the arc of history bends away from violence means I think we make the comparison with a sense of perspective telling us to nurture an impulse to social order which trends away from permission to pathologically disregard human rights.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jennifer Wilson April 8, 2015 at 7:31 pm #

      I agree that certain right wing thinking appears to have a propensity towards psychopathy, and we have no idea where this will lead us. I fear the attitudes to asylum seekers are transferable to other groups that will be scapegoated if and when economic conditions become more stark. Just as in Nazi Germany.


      • hudsongodfrey April 8, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

        Yes I know. It seems a hairs breadth short of evoking the Martin Niemoller quote, but I think we’re actually further from that disastrous kind of circumstance than the logical progression would seem to indicate, even though it is true to say that several unacceptable levels of behaviour have already been breached.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson April 9, 2015 at 6:26 am #

          I’m reassured to see you think we are further from disaster than appearances suggest, HG. It encourages me to keep slogging away, howling at the moon, pissing into the wind, shouting into the abyss…

          Liked by 1 person

          • Michaela Tschudi April 9, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

            I think this government is totally paranoid. I also fear that the world as we know it is totally fucked. I have been an optimist for 52 years but right now, I’m looking into that abyss and it fills me with fear.

            Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter April 8, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

        You’d have loved Xenophon grilling one of the multinationals executives accused of offshoring taxation owed on 730 this evening.

        The show ended on a hint of the real problem, the USA and its Capitalism-captured politics and manufactured tax dodges, which compel other countries to allow tax dodging, or big corporations freely offshore to avoid tax.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson April 9, 2015 at 6:27 am #

          Xenophon was marvellous I thought.
          Chipping away at the corporations that determine our lives, not governments.


  4. hudsongodfrey April 8, 2015 at 10:30 am #

    Having made the macro analysis (above) and posted quickly against the chance it might be lost in the twinkle of a glitch there’s a second part to my response that is more realpolitik than reflection.

    There is every case to be made that stopping that boats has lead to some positive outcomes. That is to say that nobody really saw thousands of deaths at sea as a good thing even if we ended that era with maximal prejudice and complete disregard for human rights.

    The realpolitik comes about at a point where we take stock of our current situation looking for the best way around the perceived tensions I alluded to elsewhere in these pages last night between larger numbers of worthy refugees as part of an ongoing refugee crisis and the smaller number of unresolved cases within our detention system.

    If some of the arguments are to be taken seriously around the issue of cost involved in detaining people and fighting cases as irreconcilable as Hassanloo’s, then reassured as some people may be that the boat problem has been “solved” maybe there’s room to argue that after languishing since 2009 his place is quietly edging towards the front of the “queue”.

    Surely even the cruelest and most disingenuous of human rights abusers running what has become a sham of a refugee program is still entitled to be asked how long they expect to take to resolve a case? Iran effectively refuses to take Saleed Hassanloo back unless he chooses willingly to return, which he does not, and our immigration officials have been equally unmoved by his case for asylum. Nevertheless it is as physically cruel to keep him incarcerated for no crime as it is to mentally torture him with no prospect of resolution. Yet, when we stoop to coercion there is nothing surer than the opportunity afforded him to exert an equal and opposite kind of pressure by resisting it.

    The situation reaches the point where even the most uncaring of our countrymen are tired of hearing about such cases. If the government cannot resolve matters or otherwise resettle people within a year then they should at least be compelled to offer them residency albeit reluctantly as the fairer and more equitable solution over picking a battle they’re bound to lose. And by lose I mean being somewhere between incompetent or ineffectual even in the unlikely event that you manage like a spoiled child to get your own way the political will to be cruel to “others” at great expense to the taxpayer surely has its limits?

    If realpolitik here is that the moral high ground in relation to refugees in boats was abandoned a decade ago then it also tells us that the current government is spending an awful lot of political capital to cast themselves rather than Saleed Hassanloo in the role of the bad guy.

    I quietly hope we’re not so psychopathically deluded as to fail to recognise the law of diminishing returns on our own cruelty.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. doug quixote April 8, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    Iran won’t take him back; he doesn’t want to go back and he is not a refugee in any relevant sense. What then do we do with him? He clearly wants us to let him in, but we don’t want the precedent set where a person can gain entry, effectively, by threatening suicide.

    So he stays where he is, in limbo. Indefinitely.


    • hudsongodfrey April 8, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

      Well I guess I’m erring on the side of saying we’ve already treated him so badly, and are spending a fortune continuing to do so to no avail, that I’m inclined to say that being a refugee may not be the only reason we might choose to act generously towards a person. Maybe we damaged him more than he deserves and owe him what used to be called a “fair go”.

      I know as well as anyone that Australians have well established objections to being taken advantage of, but somewhere short of talking about race, religion or even nationality in ways that permit discrimination much less bigotry we probably ought to conclude that irregular entry isn’t a crime subject to incarceration and coercive treatment verging upon torture.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson April 9, 2015 at 6:30 am #

        I agree with you HG. The man has been treated so abominably and severely damaged as a consequence that we owe him.
        As we owe every other incarcerated human being we’ve wrongly described and treated as criminals, who have only accepted the invitation we extended to seek sanctuary in this country.
        The whole thing is breathtakingly vile.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn April 8, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

      The fact that he cannot physically go home means he is a refugee but more than that he is a human being.

      Liked by 1 person

      • hudsongodfrey April 8, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

        I don’t know that Iran would refuse to accept him back if he wants to return, but rather that they refuse to accept forcible repatriation from Australia. It only makes it worse if what they’re doing in our name is trying to coerce him to return against his will.

        I think I’d characterise it as a symptom of people’s insecurity when they feel compelled, perhaps by fear of being revealed in their weakness, to find somebody much weaker than themselves to brutalise. Pathologically thuggish!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Michaela Tschudi April 9, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

    Check this out from tonight’s Lateline

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Michaela Tschudi April 12, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

    And see this article about the young asylum seeker who is now in intensive care:


    • paul walter April 13, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

      This is a bastard of a trick, Abbott and Bishop trying to get Iran to take them back. You can imagine the reception they’d get, as dissenters from minority groups, if they were taken back.

      I notice the house troll there, Iain Hall (or tin shed as I think of him/her) is in the starkly insensitive humour they usually are as to these things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michaela Tschudi April 13, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

        Thanks PW. Hope you’re well.


  8. paul walter April 27, 2015 at 1:06 am #

    Funny, no one has thought to add the example of the five year old girl at Darwin cracking up at being told she was being returned to Nauru:

    Quite apart from the kid being apparently an absolute mental wreck, there is the issue of yet more expensive flights to Nauru, when the government claims there are budget problems for it, as to anything else?

    The Lomborg affair indicates that if the governemt is nuts on one issue, why not others?
    What happens when its fantasies collide with reality or/and when human life is involved..isn’t it normal for individual psychotics off the street to be locked up, until they receive treatment in case they do harm to others?

    Why not, therefore, politicians?



  1. Gaming in a Refugee's Shoes [VIDEO] - Culture Addict/History Nerd - April 23, 2015

    […] Protesting a broken system is not emotional blackmail […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: