PAULINE Hanson has again diminished the tenor of political discourse in this country with her ill-informed and ill-advised thoughts on whether children on the autism spectrum should be allowed in mainstream classrooms.
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Ms Hanson told parliament this week that “these children” were holding back their classmates as teachers [apparently] were being forced to spend all their time with just one or two students.
As with much of what Ms Hanson has to say, her comments were high on emotion but shamefully low on nuance.
She showed no real understanding of autism nor, it would seem, appreciated the wide range of abilities and disabilities of students with autism. Across a whole spectrum, perhaps?
It was just another attack on a minority group and “these children” was simply the latest iteration of “these people” [Asians, Muslims, refugees] that Ms Hanson has been claiming for 20 years are bringing our country down.
But Ms Hanson’s regular outbursts put the Australian media in a difficult position.
On the one hand, the media is charged with vigorously challenging any MP’s outlandish or controversial statements in an attempt to bring balance to the discussion.
Where Ms Hanson is concerned, though, it might be time for her to be starved of media scrutiny rather than nourished by it.
Ms Hanson has proved to be one of the great survivors of Australian and she gets by not on what she has to say, but her manner of saying it.
Her supporters – like Trump supporters in the US – are less concerned with what she says than what she represents.
To her supporters, Ms Hanson is the voice of the people, speaking out against the elites, the Greens, the left, the foreign, the rich and, worst of all, the un-Australian.
She over-simplifies her message by treating her targets as homogenous entities, as if every Muslim person holds the same values and beliefs or that every child with autism has the same disabilities and challenges.
But when she is taken to task or proved wrong, her cheer squad is not chastened. Rather, such attacks simply strengthen their resolve and solidify their support.
So perhaps the best way to deal with Pauline Hanson is to let her say what she wants without response or retort. Let her yell into a chasm where her words can do no harm because by giving her a voice, we are only prolonging her political existence.
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