Migration – Humanitarian or Security Issue?

The aim of this essay is to explore and discuss critical issues of human security with relevant application of the framework of securitization suggested by the Copenhagen School. Specifically, this essay will argue that since the end of the Cold War western governments have placed an emphasis on securitising the relocation and resettlement of victims of forced displacement. Furthermore this essay suggests, drawing on the ideas presented by Hammerstad (2010) and Suhrke, in Newman & van Selm (2003), that through the securitisation of the displaced persons from areas of conflict and political unrest Western governments have been able to justify further conflict and constructed a vacuum which has caused net migration of displaced persons to increase. This essay concludes that until forced displacement is treated as a humanitarian issue and not a security issue migration will continue to be a contentious issue within the global political sphere.

To effectively achieve this the essay will; establish an underlying framework from constructivist theory drawing on Wæver (1995), Neumann (2010) and McDonald (2011) of the Copenhagen School to apply to the human security issue of forced displacement and migration, analyse trends in the rate of displaced persons globally since the end of the Cold War as well as noticeable changes post-September 11, and finally, comparatively analyse the issue of securitisation of forced displacement and migration in a case study that explores the issue across Australia and Europe. Further to Hammerstad (2010), Suhrke (2003), Wæver (1995), Neumann (2010) and McDonald (2011) this essay will also be supported by key readings from Gleeson (2016), Klocker & Dunn (2003), Huysmans (2000) and others which will be cited appropriately throughout.

The twentieth century brought with it many advances in international relations theory as detailed security studies became prevalent on a global political stage post-Cold War. Though widely acknowledged by scholars to have been ambiguous by definition, as society progressed so too did the state centric focus of traditionalist security theory (Neumann 2010; Wilkinson 2007). At the centre of this revolution of socially aware theory the Copenhagen School proposed that any referent object can be securitised when facing an existential threat, from entire nations to smaller collective groups sharing a common identity, provided they hold a perceived value within their community (Wæver 1995; Wæver 2003; Wilkinson 2007).

This shift in focus saw the prioritisation and securitisation of specific individual issues and threats to national interests become more justifiable as genuine security threats where this may have not been the case previously. Williams (2013, p.72) asserts that this approach in the context of post-Cold War International Relations encourages the broadening of security to include any manner of pressing and hitherto neglected concerns such as poverty, climate change, and, most relevant to this piece human rights. This specificity builds on the underlying principles of social constructivism which, while encouraging the inclusion of ideas, culture, identity and interaction in international relations (Agius 2016, p. 71), has strong opposition from Rationalist theorists who claim that it cannot be observed empirically (Agius 2016, p. 84). In the context of this essay’s subject matter, the securitisation of displaced persons, the interpretation of the Copenhagen School’s approaches is in line with Hammerstad (2010, p. 241) who states that the process of securitisation in this respect is a hermeneutical circle in which, “the way we talk about a phenomenon helps shape how we react to it… our actions and their consequences in turn help shape how we discuss the phenomenon”.

Based on this understanding of the Copenhagen School and the social constructivist theories, and the subjectivity of their application. Suhrke (2003, pp.97-98) offers perspective from the other side of the argument recognising legitimate occurrences where the relocation of asylum seekers may be legitimately securitised for fear of the speed or volume of migratory persons entering a new country. This is recognised, however, as having more to do with a nation’s infrastructure and ability to cope with resettlement of the migrant populations and not their willingness to abide recognising that the societies that formed the backdrop of the Copenhagen School’s explorations were strong industrialised states. This interpretation of Suhrke’s is vital to appreciating the securitisation of forced displaced persons through the remainder of this essay as it is these same strong and stable industrialised nations currently looking for alternatives to helping with the currently high levels of displaced persons globally.

 Since the end of the Cold War, and more recently the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, heightened levels of international conflict have seen the total number of displaced persons globally rise to an estimated 65.5 million as of 2018 (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2018). The gravity of this most recent figure can be better appreciated where Odhiambo-Abuya (2003, P. 237) shows that the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported the total number of displaced persons at the end of 2001 was an estimated 5 million, a figure which has increased more than thirteen times. While the UNHCR figures account for both internal, those who are still living within their native countries borders but forced away from their native home, and external displacement the two are not mutually exclusive as both cases are brought about as a result of conflict or civil unrest which, in a modern geopolitical sphere, can be considered threats to international security which should be addressed as the obligation of each country who is in a position to assist (Ayoob 2010, p.81).

Odhiambo-Abuya (2003, p. 236) recognises this as being caused by many modern conflicts being typified by non-state actors such as terrorist groups or militias, as opposed to tradition state versus state conflict, though as can be seen by the United States and Allied Forces ‘War on Terror’ these traditional conflicts still play a part. Further to this Internal Displacement is often an afterthought of the international community who feel it is the obligation of local governments to provide for their people (Cohen 2001, para. 6) and as such intervention may not come from outside forces until such a time that conflict is unavoidable, as has been the case in the Middle East, which in turn causes a shift in migration as civilians seek to flee the violence. A contemporary example of this can be seen with through the mass-migration of Afghan and Iraqi refugees to Australia in late 2001, following the events of September 11, when international intervention was made into already ongoing conflict.

The securitisation of displaced persons, particularly refugees, in Australia since the turn of the twenty-first century has been characterised by the narrative of the “boat people” (Bolger 2016, p.13; O’Doherty & Lecouteur 2007, p. 1) and the perceived threat that they pose to the Australian people and their way of life. For a country which regards itself as one of social and cultural progression (Hancock 2017, para. 17; Social Progress Index 2017) Australia’s approach to the resettlement of migrants throughout this period and into the current day has been polarising in international political discourse (Australian Institute for Progress 2015, p. 3; Crowe 2016, para. 1). The Pacific Solution legislation which passed through parliament on September 21st 2001 (Commonwealth of Australia 2002, p. 291; Phillips 2012, para. 2) in the wake of the Tampa affair, which saw a Norwegian freighter rescue a sinking boat carrying refugees (Klocker & Dunn 2003, p. 73; Commonwealth of Australia 2002, p. 1), the securitisation of displaced persons in Australia had begun. The public were desensitized to the influx of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East and the legislation saw the use of smaller pacific islands, notably Papua New Guinea and Nauru, as well as the Australian territory of Christmas Island used to detain asylum seekers until they were eligible for on shore settlement, processing  or return to their country of origin (Karlsen 2016; Refugee Council of Australia 2016, para. 1).

The then Howard government set about systematically demonizing legitimately displaced persons as a threat to Australia and eventually, in October 2001, would publicise allegations that refugees had intentionally thrown children off of boats in an attempt to force a rescue and settlement in Australia (Head 2004, para. 3; McGrath 2004). These allegations were later investigated and found to be falsified and used to wilfully mislead the Australian public (Commonwealth of Australia 2002, p. xiv) but not before the general perception of displaced persons in Australia had become one of severe negative connotations. A study published in the Australian Journal of Psychology found that more than half (59.8%) of individuals surveyed held negative attitudes towards refugees on a set of data collected in 2002, twelve months after the aforementioned Tampa affair and Children Overboard incidents (Schweitzer, Perkoulidis, Krome, Ludlow and Ryan 2005, pp. 17-18).

Over the years that closed out the decade, and in subsequent elections, immigration policy remained one of the top priorities in Australian mainstream politics, with election campaigns built by both major parties on the securitisation of asylum seekers (McDonald 2011). By 2011, despite a decrease in the overall number of migrations to Australia, the securitisation of the issue meant more than half of people surveyed felt that immigration numbers were increasing (Wilkie 2011, para. 7).  By engaging the Australian public with this perceived security threat, with Government ministers even going as far as to claim ‘an undeniable link between illegal immigrants and terrorism’ (Klocker & Dunn 2003, p. 71), the Australian government was able to justify its involvement in international conflicts in the Middle East as an allied partner of the United States and the ‘War on Terror’ (Aslan 2009, p. 112; Gleeson 2016, p. 85).

In committing themselves to this conflict and the escalating violence in the Middle East the Australian government was in effect contributing to the creation of further forced displacement and following a vicious circle in which they were assisting in creating the very asylum seekers that they were then refusing entry into their country. Humanitarian groups, including the Refugee Council of Australia and the UNHCR, raised concerns with the validity and legality of the Australian approach to immigration policy (Archbold 2015, pp. 137-158; Bhuiyan & Islam 2013, p.33) not only for the immediate impact it had on the displaced persons seeking refuge but also on the precedent and example it set for other western countries, particularly in Europe where the issue was also coming to prominence, to go against a moral obligation to lend aid where possible.

Similarly to Australia the intake of forced displaced persons has been seen to fluctuate generationally, peaking around times of great political instability and conflict. As this has been the case this essay focuses specifically on recent developments since the end of the Cold War as the body of evidence would otherwise be too great to contain in a single discussion. Since the conclusion of the Cold War there has been an ongoing struggle for power across each of the three sectors of Europe. The Eastern bloc, characterised by ex-soviet states and borders into Asia and the Middle East, has existed in a state of near perpetual conflict since this time. The dismantling of Yugoslavia, unrest in the Balkans and war in Kosovo throughout the 1990’s saw millions of persons displaced within Europe itself (Cohen 2001, para. 3) while conflict continued from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Europe’s doorstep (Reuveny & Prakash 1999, pp. 693-708). As tensions in the West towards the Middle Eastern states of Iraq and Afghanistan escalated into war following September 11, 2001, there began an influx of displaced persons into mainland Europe. As the conflict moved through the Middle East and into Syria over the decade the mass-migration of displaced persons, refugees and asylum seekers reached its peak in the summer of 2015, when millions of Middle Eastern and African natives began travelling by land and across the Mediterranean sea  seeking admittance en masse in numbers not previously seen in Europe since the aftermath of the Nazi regime at the conclusion of the second world war.

The ‘European migrant crisis’ as it became known lead to the widespread securitisation of immigration as, in the wake of jihadist style terror attacks in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom, European governments and International intelligence agencies reported concerns that the crisis was being used by Islamic terrorist cells were smuggling trained jihadists amongst the genuine refugees with the explicit purpose of committing further acts of terror across Europe (Faiola & Mekhennet 2016; Reuters 2016). This securitisation lead to widespread fear across Europe and destabilised faith in the European Union, leading a resolute United Kingdom to vote to secede following a referendum where voters were promised full control over their borders and a stop to the relocation and integration of displaced persons into their country.

One of the key issues in the securitisation of migration in Europe is the blanket European Union (EU) regulations implemented via the Dublin Convention which creates a more restrictive and control oriented approach to the resettlement of asylum seekers (Huysmans 2000, p. 756). By enforcing a set guideline across the Union it becomes harder for member states to ignore their responsibility to aid in the humanitarian process of resettlement. As the European migrant crisis unfolded the issue became not the task of resettlement but with who the responsibility lied to undertake it. Ultimately the threat of action resulted, at least in the case of the United Kingdom, the member state feeling that the EU had too much power over the immigration policy of their country despite their active participation in the conflicts which had contributed to the crisis itself. In a 2017 report published by Chatham House public attitudes of United Kingdom citizens were found to default to negativity when asked about immigration with a strong link made between displaced persons and a threat to national security and sovereignty (Dempster & Hargrave 2017, p. 10). Similarly to the earlier case study focused on Australia this combination of public opinion combined with government securitisation of the minority group lead to widespread fear and vocal disapproval, in this case of both the displaced persons and of the European Union itself for seeking humanitarian assistance. 

While the situations are noticeably different between the two continents analysed in this papers case studies the approach to the securitisation of forced displaced persons in Australia and Europe share several key similarities. Most notably the securitisation of refugees as a threat to national sovereignty and individual security, an indifferent approach to their relocation with a predisposition to attempt to shift the burden onto other countries and, with respect to Hammerstad (2010, p. 241), the contributions of both Australia and the United Kingdom to the hermeneutical circle of conflict which aides in the creation of forced displacement. In the instances outlined in the case studies both shared in the public action of securitising Middle Eastern immigrants.

The handling of the Tampa affair and the children overboard issue, publically citing Middle Eastern refugees as potential terrorists, was much the same as in Europe where it was suggested that jihadists were being smuggled across the borders amongst those seeking legitimate humanitarian aid. The key difference between these two cases however is that the European concern was found to be legitimate with several arrests made as a result of joint operations through European Police (Faiola & Mekhennet 2016; Reuters 2016). This highlights the importance of using securitisation as a tool to assist in the development of the international narrative as stated by Suhrke (2003). In the European case study the United Kingdom’s approach to the Dublin Convention for managing the relocation and settlement of refugees can be seen as having direct parallels to Australia’s attempts to force the Norwegian government to take responsibility of the individuals that were rescued during the Tampa affair (Klocker & Dunn 2003; Commonwealth of Australia 2002). When this approach was unsuccessful the Australian government then attempted to return those individuals to their point of origin in Indonesia which was also unsuccessful before eventually having no choice but to take them in for processing. Unlike the United Kingdom, who were bound by European law, Australia was not able to avoid their humanitarian responsibility under the United Nations charters both countries remained vocal in their desire to return migrants to their point of origin.

This aversion to fulfilling a humanitarian obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights further demonstrates the separation that exists and is perpetuated by Western governments in the securitisation of migrants to take the safety to people rather than take the people to safety (Schmeidl 2003, p. 145). The third and final comparison in this critical analysis considers each of the points that have been raised throughout this paper and considers them with the application of Hammerstad’s (2010, p. 241) proposition of a cycle of conflict. Both Australian and European forces continue to be a presence in active conflicts around the world with the war in Syria and the Middle East continuing to threaten the lives and residency of millions. This state of affairs only deepens the potential for the refugee crisis to grow and further delays a timeframe in which resettlement for displaced persons to return to their native land, if at all possible. Until conflict can be resolved the situation will continue in a state of perpetual warfare and as such the displaced persons, refugees and asylum seekers will continue to exist without a national identity.

This paper has considered the current state of securitisation of migrants from a critical approach with the application of social constructivist theories from the Copenhagen School and demonstrated how the issue is escalated by the use of conflict as a means of resolution and dehumanising of the individual displaced persons. Throughout the exploration and discussion of human security in this essay a recurring theme, particularly in the two case studies, has been the securitisation of what is very much a humanitarian issue. Regardless of the progress that is made by international bodies in the quest for conflict resolution the displacement of people from affected countries will remain to be an issue long after the fact. This serves as a realisation that displacement and issues of human security must be treated as humanitarian issues and not security threats as this securitisation can only serve to continue perpetuating a divide between sovereign publics and those displaced who come seeking asylum. Without systemic change at an international level migration will continue to remain a contentious issue within the political sphere as illustrated in the Australian and European case studies. Ultimately it is the responsibility of international bodies to see displaced persons not as a burden of the state but simply as people who are doing their best to survive.

 

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Terrorism in Australia: A Legitimate Threat?

Following the New York City terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the subject of national security and counter-terrorism has become increasingly prevalent in western society. In Australia this prevalence has seen significant changes made to the way foreign policy is considered and written, beginning with the first Terrorism White Paper of 2004 (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004a) . Over the years that have followed new government entities and international agencies have emerged to combat the threat of terrorism and subsequent strategic documents have been developed, most notably in this instance the Counter-Terrorism White Paper of 2010 (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet 2010).

The aim of this essay is to explore and discuss how the threat of terrorism has been portrayed in this Counter-Terrorism White Paper with specific regard to commentary by Chris Michaelsen (2010) who has suggested that in this document the terror threat has been inflated. This will be effectively achieved by; analysing the 2010 Counter-Terrorism White Paper and the effect it has had on Australian foreign policy, exploring the commentary of Michaelsen and the suggestion of a potentially inflated terrorist threat being published and concluding with a brief discussion of the consequences of the securitisation of terrorism with a specific focus on both of these articles. As the Counter-Terrorism White Paper 2010 forms the foundation of this essays analysis from here on terrorism shall be defined as it appears in this document, specifically as; “the use of violence by groups or individuals pursuing political objectives, indiscriminate in attacks and often deliberately targeting civilians and non-combatants seeking to inflict mass casualties” (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet 2010, p. 3). Further to the 2010 Counter-Terrorism White Paper and Michaelsen’s commentary this essay will be supported by key readings from Stevens, Agho, Taylor, Jones, Jacobs, Barr & Raphael (2011), Wolfendale (2007) and Koo (2005) as well as secondary sources which will be cited appropriately throughout.

The Counter-Terrorism White Paper (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet 2010), commissioned by the Rudd Labour government, was designed to build a framework by which the Australian government could increase its preparedness for dealing with and preventing any form of terrorist attack on home soil. The paper frames terrorism as an imminent threat to the Australian populace which must be dealt with by any means necessary and suggests relevant changes to foreign policy as a result. So blunt is this message the paper itself begins with a Prime Minister’s Forward, signed by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, which states simply, “terrorism continues to pose a serious security challenge to Australia” (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet 2010, p. i) The continuation that this article refers to stems from the initial White Paper of 2004 Transnational Terrorism: The Threat to Australia published by the Howard Liberal Coalition (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004a, para. 2). Subsequently much of the content of the 2010 White Paper attempts to build on the previous ideas of its 2004 counterpart in a more contemporary setting (Michaelsen 2010, p. 19). While similar in parts the 2010 White Paper focuses predominantly on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of terrorism in Australia, rather than addressing the ‘why’ as was covered in the 2004 document (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004b, para. 8-13).

The most logical way to accept this shift in focus is to think of the 2010 document as an extension of its predecessor, and of the shared stance of the Australian government towards terrorism regardless of party leadership, rather than a completely separate document. Whereas Kevin Rudd’s foreward tells of the immediate threat of terrorism to the average Australian, at the launch of the 2004 effort then Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer addressed the National Press Club and spoke at length about individual threats from Al Qaeda and the Middle East (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004b, para. 18). In his speech Mr. Downer discussed the evolution of modern terrorism and attempted to demonstrate that it was not what Australia had done that made it a target but rather what Australia stood for (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004b, para. 9). While the underlying message of both Downer and Rudd was the same in their addresses, highlighting the need for Australia to enhance and strengthen its approach to national security, foreign policy and counter-terrorism, the way in which terrorism was portrayed differed greatly between the two. Given the length of time between these two particular White Papers it must be considered that terrorism itself had changed, both in its severity and forms, with new technologies and terrorist organisations creating different means and methods to attack (Kruglanski & Fishman 2009; Zammit 2015, p. 2). Considering this it is fair to conclude that while the approaches and methods of communication between the two White Papers portrayed terrorism in different ways terrorism itself was different at both times and, regardless of the definition, both parties acted on their responsibility to ensuring the safety and protection of the Australian public.

Based on the development of a national narrative around the subject of terrorism, and the integration of Counter-Terrorism into governmental procedure, the securitisation of the issue by the Rudd Government allowed the common persons perception of terrorism to change. While previously depicted as a random act of violence by an external force traveling to Australia with the specific intention of attacking the nation (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet 2010; Wolfendale 2007, p. 76) the Counter-Terrorism White Paper 2010 moved away from this traditional notion of terrorism with the introduction of threats more closer to home. Homegrown terrorism as it is known, defined as those who are born, raised and educated within the countries they attack (Wilner & Dubouloz 2010, p. 33), was given little attention in Australia prior to this White Papers release, despite arrests and foiled terror attacks planned from within the country’s borders dating back to 2001 (Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet 2010, p. ii). Going by the definition of Wilner & Dubouloz the proximity of potential terrorists to their targets should make this the most legitimate and credible threat to Australia.

Despite this, however, there has still been few genuine terrorist attacks to justify the way the homegrown terror threat has been portrayed in the Counter-Terrorism White Paper. This is perhaps the most challenging aspect then for policy makers when considering the approach to take towards terrorism as it exists in a constant state of unpredictability. Had the Australian government chosen to take a more casual approach to the Counter-Terrorism White Paper, and the subsequent policy reformations it sparked, it may have had the potential to encourage terrorists to target Australia and caused widespread fear amongst the public as legitimate security concerns were ignored. Conversely, a casual approach could have also strengthened the public resolve, encouraging members of the public and the wider political sphere to see Australia as a nation which shows no fear in the face of the terror threat (Schmid 2017; Stevens et al. 2011). This example of the subjectivity of the terrorist threat demonstrates the fine line faced by foreign policy makers and the vast array of consequences that they must consider before any action is taken. In the case of the Counter-Terrorism White Paper it is fair to assume that the portrayal of terrorism was carefully developed by the Rudd government to ensure a clear and simple message of safety and solidarity was sent to both its citizens and any would be terrorists that the issue of terrorism in Australia would be treated with the utmost seriousness.

The portrayal of terrorism in the Counter-Terrorism White Paper of 2010 was critiqued heavily by Chris Michaelsen in his 2010 article Terrorism in Australia: An Inflated Threat which critically assessed the Rudd governments document, suggesting through both anecdotal and statistical analysis that the actual threat of terrorism in Australia is almost non-existent. In his paper Michaelsen calculates the chance of an Australian being killed in a terrorist attack on home soil to be 1 in 33,300,000 (Michaelsen 2010, p. 24) some 2,200 times less likely than that same individual being killed in a car accident (Michaelsen 2010, p.24). Michaelsen supports the need for this analysis by questioning government spending, using the aforementioned car accident anecdote as a probe into why money that is spent on counter-terrorism could not be put towards something more prevalent, such as the repair and maintenance of Australian roads. Despite his perceived aversion to the portrayal of the terrorist threat in Australia Michaelsen’s main argument seems to be more focused against what he suggests is frivolous government spending without regard to potentially more pressing issues (Michaelsen 2010, p. 24).

The detailed breakdowns he provides into the investments made by the Australian government on matters of Counter-Terrorism and policy implementation following the recommendations of the Counter-Terrorism White Paper demonstrate a desire for governmental accountability as opposed to a legitimate opposition to the government treating the issue of terrorism as a serious one. Given the complexity of terrorism, and the subjectivity with which it can be viewed by the public, Michaelsen’s beliefs can also be interpreted in a variety of different ways. Idealistically his assertions that the terrorist threat is inflated are correct, given the detail and evidence he provides, however in reality as terrorism by definition is random, unpredictable and indiscriminate in nature its true threat can never truly be measured and, for this reason, can never truly be ignored as its potential to occur continues in perpetuity.

Michaelsen is not the first, and most certainly will not be the last, political commentator to suggest that the threat of terrorism is inflated. Many scholars have explored the securitisation of terrorism as a means to push for policy reform, most notably Wolfendale who made similar assertions to Michaelsen with reference to policy changes and what she calls the counterterrorism rhetoric (2007, p. 76). In Australia, specifically since September 11, 2001, there has been significant foreign policy reforms by both Liberal and Labour government based heavily in counter-terrorism and the interest of national security. The lack of actual terrorist attacks has not stopped the Australian government from investing $16 billion dollars into ASIO, and other government task forces dedicated to combating terrorism (Michaelsen 2010, p. 24; Williams 2017), nor has it change the message to the general public that terrorism in Australia is inevitable. This inevitability has seen the National Terrorism Threat Alert level remain constantly at “probable” for the last 4 years (Australian National Security 2018, para. 7). This threat can be seen as far back as the initial Terrorism White Paper of 2004 which, following the foreign policy reforms after the Tampa incident and refugee crisis of the early 2000’s (McKay, Hall & Lippi 2017), outlined Al Qaeda and Middle Eastern terrorist cells as posing the most significant danger to Australia and one which needed to be addressed (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004b, para. 18).

Six years on the Counter-Terrorism White Paper of 2010 was then used as a platform for the Rudd Labour government to enact further policy around security, taking the total number of new federal statutes implemented since 2001 past 50 (Williams 2011, para. 1), implementing restrictions around visas and travel and strengthening the nations aviation security (Michaelsen 2010, p. 20-21; Wolfendale 2007, p. 79-80). Understanding these events are significant as despite the passage of time and the different areas of focus there has still yet to be a major terrorist attack occur in Australia. When considering Michaelsen’s claims of inflation in this sense then it seems unlikely that they can be refuted as both Liberal and Labour governments were able to publish similar manifestos, utilising similar political tactics, to ensure policy reform was made on issues of national security and counter-terrorism over a six year period without any acts of terrorism occurring. This does not mean that there exists no legitimate threat from terrorism, with the need for proactivity essential not only to the nation but also to Michaelsen whose questions of inflated threat levels would potentially become instantly redundant if a terrorist attack were to occur. This shows not only the subjectivity of terrorism and its links to national governance but also of the commentary that inevitably follows it.

Based on the analysis presented on both the Counter-Terrorism White Paper 2010 and Michaelsen’s subsequent commentary it is fair to determine that the securitisation of terrorism has become a significant factor in the development and execution of foreign policy in Australian politics. Without discounting the very real and legitimate threat of terrorism that exists to the Australian people, either as a result of Australia’s involvement in international conflicts or due simply to a difference in national values and cultural identity, it can be seen in the evidence presented that the chances of terrorism are significantly lower than they are often portrayed (Koo 2005, para. 13; Michaelsen 2010, p. 23; Michaelsen 2012, p. ; Wolfendale 2007, p. 77). This use of securitisation reinforces the ideas presented by the Copenhagen School who assert that its use in policy making is an effective means for governments to gain larger support on topical issues that may not otherwise be afforded the same attention (Balzacq 2007; Koo 2005, para. 13). In this case the use of securitisation to inflate the threat of terrorism by the Rudd government in their Counter-Terrorism White Paper was an effective means to justify the increased spending and policy reform that followed. This consequence would have been considered when the strategic process was being planned and executed, however, what may not have been anticipated was the eventual actions of political commentators.

By way of questioning the government’s spending, policy reformation and even the securitisation of the issue and portrayal of terrorism Michaelsen was able to publicly protest the legitimacy of the government’s plan and call into question its validity. Ultimately it is the responsibility of any Australian government to maintain a commitment to ensuring the safety and prosperity of the Australian people. If the securitisation of a perceived threat, in this instance terrorism, is deemed to be necessary by the government to preserve the national interest then any consequences resulting from this should have been considered at length when planning. The question then becomes not a one of whether the terrorism threat has been intentionally inflated, but rather, is it ethical for the government to present a threat to the public that they may understand to be less than demonstrated. Had this argument been presented by Michaelsen, as opposed to the argument pertaining to statistics and government spending, the analysis of his opinion of the terror threat may have found a different outcome. However, all things considered, this was not the case and as a result his assertions of an inflated threat can be seen for the most part to be true. Though, once again, it must be stressed that this is not in any way a dismissal of the existence of a terrorist threat.

Life in a Post-September 11 society has seen a rise in the prevalence of the threat of terrorism and the counter-terrorism measures employed by governments to deal with this. The subjective nature of the application of a definition of terrorism means that individuals will never be able to agree entirely what does and does not constitute a significant threat, however, all will be able to agree that the threat exists. Through analysis of the Counter-Terrorism White Paper with specific regard to the commentary by Michaelsen this essay demonstrates this and identifies how any inflation to the terror threat by a government will have been done so with consequences in mind the authorising government feels is in the nation’s best interests. The most important factor when considering the threat of terrorism is not how great the threat is, or how it is perceived to be, but instead ensuring that policy makers are constantly vigilant and plan and prepare to deal with the worst possible scenario, while maintaining hope for the best.

 

References

 Australian National Security 2018, ‘National Terrorism Threat Advisory System’, nationalsecurity.gov.au, viewed 3 June 2018, <https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/securityandyourcommunity/pages/national-terrorism-threat-advisory-system.aspx&gt;

Balzacq, T 2007, ‘The Policy Tools of Securitization: Information Exchange, EU Foreign and Interior Policies’, Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 75-100.

Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004a, Transnational Terrorism: The Threat to Australia, foreignminister.gov.au, viewed 3 June 2018, <https://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/2004/fa0102_04.html&gt;

Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade 2004b, Transnational Terrorism: The Threat to Australia, foreignminister.gov.au, viewed 3 June 2018, <https://foreignminister.gov.au/speeches/2004/040715_tt.html&gt;

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 2010, Counter-Terrorism White Paper, defence.gov.au, viewed 3 June 2018, <https://www.dst.defence.gov.au/sites/default/files/basic_pages/documents/counter-terrorism-white-paper.pdf&gt;

Koo, KL 2005, ’Terror Australis: Security, Australia and the ’War on Terror’ Discourse’, Borderlands e-Journal, vol. 4, no. 1.

Kruglanski, A & Fishman, S 2009, ‘Psychological Factors in Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Individual, Group, and, Organisational Levels of Analysis’, Social Issues and Policy Review, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1-44.

McKay, F, Hall, L & Lippi, K 2017, ‘Compassionate Deterrence: A Howard Government Legacy’, Politics & Policy, vol. 45, np. 2, pp. 169-193.

Michaelsen, C 2010, ‘Terrorism in Australia: An inflated threat’, Security Challenges, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 19-25.

Michaelsen, C 2012, ‘The triviality of terrorism’, Australian Journal of International Affairs, vol. 66, no. 4, pp. 431-449.

Schmid, A 2017, ’Public Opinion Survey Survey Data to Measure Sympathy and Support for Islamist Terrorism: A Look at Muslim Opinions on Al Qaeda and IS’, International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, viewed 3 June 2018, < https://icct.nl/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ICCT-Schmid-Muslim-Opinion-Polls-Jan2017-1.pdf&gt;

Stevens, G, Agho, K, Taylor, M, Jones, AL, Jacobs, J, Barr, M & Raphael, B 2011, ‘Alert but less alarmed: a pooled analysis of terrorism threat perception in Australia’, BMC Public Health, vol. 11, pp. 1-11.

Williams, C 2017, ‘The Australian budget and counterterrorism’, lowyinstitute.org, 9 May, viewed 3 June 2018, <https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/australian-budget-and-counterterrorism&gt;

Williams, G 2011, ‘A Decade of Australian Anti-Terror Laws’, Melbourne University Law Review, vol. 35, no. 3.

Wilner, A & Dubouloz, C 2010, ‘Homegrown terrorism and transformative learning: an interdisciplinary approach to understanding radicalization’, Global Change, Peace & Security, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 33-51.

Wolfendale, J 2007, ‘Terrorism, Security, and the Threat of Counterterrorism’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, vol. 30, pp. 75-92.

Zammit, A 2015, ‘Australian foreign fighters: Risks and responses’, lowyinstitute.org, viewed 3 June 2018, <https://www.lowyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/australian-foreign-fighters-risks-and-responses.pdf&gt;

Securitisation, The Danish Way

The aim of this essay is to explore and discuss critical issues of human security with relevant application of the framework of securitisation suggested by the Copenhagen School. Specifically this essay will argue that since the end of the Cold War western governments have placed an emphasis on securitising the relocation and resettlement of victims of forced displacement. Furthermore this essay suggests, drawing on the ideas presented by Hammerstad (2010) and Suhrke, in Newman & van Selm (2003), that through the securitisation of the displaced persons from areas of conflict and political unrest western governments have been able to justify further conflict and constructed a vacuum which has caused net migration of displaced persons to increase. This article concludes that until forced displacement is treated as a humanitarian issue and not a security issue migration will continue to be a contentious issue within the global political sphere. To effectively achieve this the essay will; establish an underlying framework from constructivist theory drawing on Wæver (1995), Neumann (2010) and McDonald (2011) of the Copenhagen School to apply to the human security issue of forced displacement and migration, analyse trends in the rate of displaced persons globally since the end of the Cold War and specifically noticeable changes post-September 11, and finally, the issue of securitisation of forced displacement and migration will be comparatively analysed in a case study that explores the issue in both Australia and Europe. Further to Hammerstad (2010), Suhrke (2003), Wæver (1995), Neumann (2010) and McDonald (2011) this essay will also be supported by key readings from Gleeson (2016), Klocker & Dunn (2003), Huysmans (2000) and others which will be cited accordingly.

The twentieth century brought with it many advances in political international relations theory and after the Cold War ended detailed security studies became more prevalent issues on the global political stage. As society progressed so too had the idea of security as a medium, though widely acknowledged by scholars to be of an ambiguous meaning anyway, the scope by which security was defined has evolved beyond immediate threats to a nation and its borders (Neumann 2010; Wilkinson 2007). At the centre of this revolution of socially aware theory the Copenhagen School proposed that any referent object can be securitised when facing an existential threat, from entire countries right down to smaller collective groups sharing a common identity, provided they hold a perceived value within their community (Wæver 1995; Wæver 2003; Wilkinson 2007). This shift in focus saw the prioritisation and securitisation of specific individual issues and threats to national interests become more justifiable as genuine security threats where this may have not been the case previously. Williams (2013, p.72) asserts that this approach developed by the Copenhagen School in the context of post-Cold War International Relations encourages the broadening of security to include any manner of pressing and hitherto neglected concerns such as poverty, climate change, and, most relevant to this paper human rights on state security agendas. This specificity builds on the underlying principles of social constructivism which, while encouraging the inclusion of ideas, culture, identity and interaction in international relations (Agius 2016, p. 71), has strong opposition from Rationalist theorists who claim that it cannot be observed empirically (Agius 2016, p. 84).

In the context of this essay’s subject matter, the securitisation of displaced persons, the interpretation of the Copenhagen School’s approaches is in line with Hammerstad (2010, p. 241) who states that the process of securitisation in this respect is a hermeneutical circle in which, “the way we talk about a phenomenon helps shape how we react to it… our actions and their consequences in turn help shape how we discuss the phenomenon”. Based on this understanding of the Copenhagen School and the social constructivist theories, and the subjectivity of their application, Suhrke (2003, pp.97-98) offers perspective from the other side of the argument recognising legitimate occurrences where the relocation of asylum seekers may be legitimately securitised for fear of the speed or volume of migratory persons entering a new country. This is recognised, however, as having more to do with a nation’s infrastructure and ability to cope with resettlement of the migrant populations and not their willingness to abide recognising that the societies that formed the backdrop of the Copenhagen School’s explorations were strong industrialised states. This interpretation of Suhrke’s is vital to appreciating the securitisation of forced displaced persons through the remainder of this essay as it is these same strong and stable industrialised nations currently looking for alternatives to helping with the currently high levels of displaced persons globally.   

Since the end of the Cold War, and more recently the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, heightened levels of international conflict have seen the total number of displaced persons globally rise to an estimated 65.5 million as of 2018 (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2018). The gravity of this most recent figure can be better appreciated where Odhiambo-Abuya (2003, P. 237) shows that the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported the total number of displaced persons at the end of 2001 was an estimated 5 million, a figure which has increased more than thirteen times. While the UNHCR figures account for both internal, those who are still living within their native countries borders but forced away from their native home, and external displacement the two are not mutually exclusive as both cases are brought about as a result of conflict or civil unrest which, in a modern geopolitical sphere, can be considered threats to international security which should be addressed as the obligation of each country who is in a position to assist (Ayoob 2010, p.81). Odhiambo-Abuya (2003, p. 236) recognises this as being caused by many modern conflicts being typified by non-state actors such as terrorist groups or militias, as opposed to tradition state versus state conflict, though as can be seen by the United States and Allied Forces ‘War on Terror’ these traditional conflicts still play a part. Further to this Internal Displacement is often an afterthought of the international community who feel it is the obligation of local governments to provide for their people (Cohen 2001, para. 6) and as such intervention may not come from outside forces until such a time that conflict is unavoidable, as has been the case in the Middle East, which in turn causes a shift in migration as civilians seek to flee the violence. A contemporary example of this can be seen with through the mass-migration of Afghan and Iraqi refugees to Australia in late 2001, following the events of September 11, when international intervention was made into already ongoing conflict.

The securitisation of displaced persons, particularly refugees, in Australia since the turn of the twenty-first century has been characterised by the narrative of the “boat people” (Bolger 2016, p.13; O’Doherty & Lecouteur 2007, p. 1) and the perceived threat that they pose to the Australian people and their way of life. For a country which regards itself as one of social and cultural progression (Hancock 2017, para. 17; Social Progress Index 2017) Australia’s approach to the resettlement of migrants throughout this period and into the current day has been polarising in international political discourse (Australian Institute for Progress 2015, p. 3; Crowe 2016, para. 1). The Pacific Solution legislation which passed through parliament on September 21st 2001 (Commonwealth of Australia 2002, p. 291; Phillips 2012, para. 2) in the wake of the Tampa affair, which saw a Norwegian freighter rescue a sinking boat carrying refugees (Klocker & Dunn 2003, p. 73; Commonwealth of Australia 2002, p. 1), the securitisation of displaced persons in Australia had begun. The public were desensitized to the influx of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East and the legislation saw the use of smaller pacific islands, notably Papua New Guinea and Nauru, as well as the Australian territory of Christmas Island used to detain asylum seekers until they were eligible for on shore settlement, processing  or return to their country of origin (Karlsen 2016; Refugee Council of Australia 2016, para. 1). The then Howard government set about systematically demonizing legitimately displaced persons as a threat to Australia and eventually, in October 2001, would publicise allegations that refugees had intentionally thrown children off of boats in an attempt to force a rescue and settlement in Australia (Head 2004, para. 3; McGrath 2004). These allegations were later investigated and found to be falsified and used to wilfully mislead the Australian public (Commonwealth of Australia 2002, p. xiv) but not before the general perception of displaced persons in Australia had become one of severe negative connotations.

A study published in the Australian Journal of Psychology found that more than half (59.8%) of individuals surveyed held negative attitudes towards refugees on a set of data collected in 2002, twelve months after the aforementioned Tampa affair and Children Overboard incidents (Schweitzer, Perkoulidis, Krome, Ludlow and Ryan 2005, pp. 17-18). Over the years that closed out the decade, and in subsequent elections, immigration policy remained one of the top priorities in Australian mainstream politics, with election campaigns built by both major parties on the securitisation of asylum seekers (McDonald 2011). By 2011, despite a decrease in the overall number of migrations to Australia, the securitisation of the issue meant more than half of people surveyed felt that immigration numbers were increasing (Wilkie 2011, para. 7).  By engaging the Australian public with this perceived security threat, with Government ministers even going as far as to claim ‘an undeniable link between illegal immigrants and terrorism’ (Klocker & Dunn 2003, p. 71), the Australian government was able to justify its involvement in international conflicts in the Middle East as an allied partner of the United States and the ‘War on Terror’ (Aslan 2009, p. 112; Gleeson 2016, p. 85). In committing themselves to this conflict and the escalating violence in the Middle East the Australian government was in effect contributing to the creation of further forced displacement and following a vicious circle in which they were assisting in creating the very asylum seekers that they were then refusing entry into their country. Humanitarian groups, including the Refugee Council of Australia and the UNHCR, raised concerns with the validity and legality of the Australian approach to immigration policy (Archbold 2015, pp. 137-158; Bhuiyan & Islam 2013, p.33) not only for the immediate impact it had on the displaced persons seeking refuge but also on the precedent and example it set for other western countries, particularly in Europe where the issue was also coming to prominence, to go against a moral obligation to lend aid where possible.      

Following the end of the Cold War there has been an ongoing struggle for power across each of the three sectors of Europe. The Eastern bloc, characterised by ex-soviet states and borders into Asia and the Middle East, has existed in a state of near perpetual conflict since this time. The dismantling of Yugoslavia, unrest in the Balkans and war in Kosovo throughout the 1990’s saw millions of persons displaced within Europe itself (Cohen 2001, para. 3) while conflict continued from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Europe’s doorstep (Reuveny & Prakash 1999, pp. 693-708). As tensions in the West towards the Middle Eastern states of Iraq and Afghanistan escalated into war following September 11, 2001, there began an influx of displaced persons into mainland Europe. As the conflict moved through the Middle East and into Syria over the decade the mass-migration of displaced persons, refugees and asylum seekers reached its peak in the summer of 2015, when millions of Middle Eastern and African natives began travelling by land and across the Mediterranean sea  seeking admittance en masse in numbers not previously seen in Europe since the aftermath of the Nazi regime at the conclusion of the second world war. The ‘European migrant crisis’ as it became known lead to the widespread securitisation of immigration as, in the wake of jihadist style terror attacks in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom, European governments and International intelligence agencies reported concerns that the crisis was being used by Islamic terrorist cells were smuggling trained jihadists amongst the genuine refugees with the explicit purpose of committing further acts of terror across Europe (Faiola & Mekhennet 2016; Reuters 2016).

This securitisation lead to widespread fear across Europe and destabilised faith in the European Union, leading a resolute United Kingdom to vote to secede following a referendum where voters were promised full control over their borders and a stop to the relocation and integration of displaced persons into their country. One of the key issues in the securitisation of migration in Europe is the blanket European Union (EU) regulations implemented via the Dublin Convention which creates a more restrictive and control oriented approach to the resettlement of asylum seekers (Huysmans 2000, p. 756). By enforcing a set guideline across the Union it becomes harder for member states to ignore their responsibility to aid in the humanitarian process of resettlement. As the European migrant crisis unfolded the issue became not the task of resettlement but with who the responsibility lied to undertake it. Ultimately the threat of action resulted, at least in the case of the United Kingdom, the member state feeling that the EU had too much power over the immigration policy of their country despite their active participation in the conflicts which had contributed to the crisis itself. In a 2017 report published by Chatham House public attitudes of United Kingdom citizens were found to default to negativity when asked about immigration with a strong link made between displaced persons and a threat to national security and sovereignty (Dempster & Hargrave 2017, p. 10). Similarly to the earlier case study focused on Australia this combination of public opinion combined with government securitisation of the minority group lead to widespread fear and vocal disapproval, in this case of both the displaced persons and of the European Union itself for seeking humanitarian assistance. 

While the situations are noticeably different between the two continents analysed in this papers case studies the approach to the securitisation of forced displaced persons in Australia and Europe share several key similarities. Most notably the securitisation of refugees as a threat to national sovereignty and individual security, an indifferent approach to their relocation with a predisposition to attempt to shift the burden onto other countries and, with respect to Hammerstad (2010, p. 241), the contributions of both Australia and the United Kingdom to the hermeneutical circle of conflict which aides in the creation of forced displacement. In the instances outlined in the case studies both shared in the public action of securitising Middle Eastern immigrants. The handling of the Tampa affair and the children overboard issue, publically citing Middle Eastern refugees as potential terrorists, was much the same as in Europe where it was suggested that jihadists were being smuggled across the borders amongst those seeking legitimate humanitarian aid. The key difference between these two cases however is that the European concern was found to be legitimate with several arrests made as a result of joint operations through European Police (Faiola & Mekhennet 2016; Reuters 2016).

This highlights the importance of using securitisation as a tool to assist in the development of the international narrative as stated by Suhrke (2003). In the European case study the United Kingdom’s approach to the Dublin Convention for managing the relocation and settlement of refugees can be seen as having direct parallels to Australia’s attempts to force the Norwegian government to take responsibility of the individuals that were rescued during the Tampa affair (Klocker & Dunn 2003; Commonwealth of Australia 2002). When this approach was unsuccessful the Australian government then attempted to return those individuals to their point of origin in Indonesia which was also unsuccessful before eventually having no choice but to take them in for processing. Unlike the United Kingdom, who were bound by European law, Australia was not able to avoid their humanitarian responsibility under the United Nations charters both countries remained vocal in their desire to return migrants to their point of origin. This aversion to fulfilling a humanitarian obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights further demonstrates the separation that exists and is perpetuated by Western governments in the securitisation of migrants to take the safety to people rather than take the people to safety (Schmeidl 2003, p. 145). The third and final comparison in this critical analysis considers each of the points that have been raised throughout this paper and considers them with the application of Hammerstad’s (2010, p. 241) proposition of a cycle of conflict.

Both Australian and European forces continue to be a presence in active conflicts around the world with the war in Syria and the Middle East continuing to threaten the lives and residency of millions. This state of affairs only deepens the potential for the refugee crisis to grow and further delays a timeframe in which resettlement for displaced persons to return to their native land, if at all possible. Until conflict can be resolved the situation will continue in a state of perpetual warfare and as such the displaced persons, refugees and asylum seekers will continue to exist without a national identity.

This paper has considered the current state of securitisation of migrants from a critical approach with the application of social constructivist theories from the Copenhagen School and demonstrated how the issue is escalated by the use of conflict as a means of resolution and dehumanising of the individual displaced persons. Throughout the exploration and discussion of human security in this essay a recurring theme, particularly in the two case studies, has been the securitisation of what is very much a humanitarian issue. Regardless of the progress that is made by international bodies in the quest for conflict resolution the displacement of people from affected countries will remain to be an issue long after the fact. This serves as a realisation that displacement and issues of human security must be treated as humanitarian issues and not security threats as this securitisation can only serve to continue perpetuating a divide between sovereign publics and those displaced who come seeking asylum. Without systemic change at an international level migration will continue to remain a contentious issue within the political sphere as illustrated in the Australian and European case studies. Ultimately it is the responsibility of international bodies to see displaced persons not as a burden of the state but simply as people who are doing their best to survive. 

 

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Phillips, J 2012, ‘The ‘Pacific Solution’ revisited: a statistical guide to the asylum seeker caseloads on Nauru and Manus Island’, APH.gov.au, 4 September, viewed 12 February 2018, <https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2012-2013/PacificSolution&gt;

Refugee Council of Australia 2016, ‘Australia’s offshore processing regime’, RefugeeCouncil.org, 24 June, viewed 12 February 2018, <https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/getfacts/seekingsafety/asylum/offshore-processing/briefing/&gt;

Reuters 2016, ‘German spy agency says ISIS sending fighters disguised as refugees’, Reuters, 5 February, viewed 12 February 2018, < https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-security/german-spy-agency-says-isis-sending-fighters-disguised-as-refugees-idUSKCN0VE0XL&gt;

Reuveny, R & Prakash, A, ‘The Afghanistan war and the breakdown of the Soviet Union’, Review of International Studies, vol. 25, pp. 693-708.

Schmeidl, S 2003, ‘The Early Warning of Forced Migration: State or Human Security?’, in E Newman & J van Selm (ed.) 2003, Refugees and forced displacement: International security, human vulnerability, and the state, United Nations University Press, Tokyo, pp. 130-155.

Schweitzer, R, Perkoulidis, S, Krome, S & Ludlow, C 2005, ‘Attitudes towards Refugees: The Dark Side of Prejudice in Australia’, Australian Journal of Psychology, vol. 57, no. 3, pp. 170-179.

Social Progress Index 2017, ‘2017 Social Progress Index’, Social Progress Index, viewed 12 February 2018, <http://www.socialprogressindex.com/results&gt;

Suhrke, A 2003, ‘Chapter 5 Human security and the protection of refugees’, in E Newman & J van Selm (ed.) 2003, Refugees and forced displacement: International security, human vulnerability, and the state, United Nations University Press, Tokyo, pp. 93-108. 

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2018, ‘Figures at a Glance’, UNHCR.org, viewed 12 February, <http://www.unhcr.org/en-ie/figures-at-a-glance.html&gt; 

Wæver, O 1995, ‘Chapter 3 Securitization and desecuritization’, in R Lipschutz (ed.) 1995, On security, Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 46-86. 

Wæver, O 2003, ‘Securitisation: Taking stock of a research programme in Security Studies’, viewed 12 February 2018, <https://www.clisec.uni-hamburg.de/en/pdf/data/waever-2003-securitisation-taking-stock-of-a-research-programme-in-security-studies.pdf&gt;

Wilkie, B 2011, ‘What do we really think about immigrants?’, ABC.net.au, 10 October, viewed 12 February 2018, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-10-10/wilkie-what-do-we-really-think-about-immigrants/3459274&gt;

Wilkinson, C 2007, ‘The Copenhagen School on Tour in Kyrgystan: Is Securitization Theory Useable Outside Europe?’ Security Dialogue, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 5-25.

Williams, PD (ed.) 2013, Security Studies: An Introduction, 2nd edn, Routledge, London.

Going Danish: An Introduction to the Copenhagen School

The aim of this short essay is to introduce the Copenhagen School and social constructivism as political theories which will be analysed further in a later paper. This essay will analyse both the merits and disadvantages of the Copenhagen School and social constructivism, arguing that the theories of the Copenhagen School have the potential to revolutionise international security but, ultimately, are left in the shadow of long standing traditionalist values. This will be achieved by analysing the merits of the Copenhagen School theories, supported primarily by Wilkinson (2007), followed by an exploration of the disadvantages of the theories which inhibit its overall influence in the political sphere. Thereafter this essay will discuss where and how these notable characteristics, both good and bad, are applied in modern global international relations. This essay will then conclude by suggesting how revised application of the Copenhagen School theories could bring about constructive social change to modern international relations. Further to Wilkinson (2007) this essay will also be supported by key readings from McDonald (2011), Wæver (1995) Neumann (2010) and others which will be cited accordingly.

The merits of the Copenhagen School lie within the theory‘s approach to the evolution of security from that of the traditionalist military state into an overarching social construct which can be applied to any referent object, be it state or other collective group identity (Neumann 2010; Wilkinson 2007) , through the interpretation of what security does (McDonald 2011). Where as traditional international relations theory focus on practical application and empirical analysis (Burchill, Linklater, Devetak, Donnelly, Nardin, Paterson, Reus-Smit & True 2013) in the protection of the state and its sovereignty the Copenhagen School suggests that any referent object that is facing an existential threat can be securitised in so far as it has a perceived value within it’s community (Wæver 1995; Wilkinson 2007). By breaking down the state into smaller collectives, be they political divisions such as the military and economy, or into collective groups of race or religion, objects can be securitised more specifically (Wæver 2003). This securitisation can occur through traditional broadcast media channels but is more likely to occur through the actions pertaining to the localised referent objects and groups such as protest or lobbying (Wilkinson 2007). A contemporary example of this occurring within the framework of the Copenhagen School is given in Wilkinson (2007, p. 15-16) when the Kyrgyzstani government was overthrown citing, amongst other factors, an insufficient level of attention being paid to domestic security analysis in favour of the traditional regional and formal politics. This lack of attention resulted in the securitisation of opposition to the government and eventual revolt starting at a local level and ending in the toppling of a government. While this is an extreme example owing to a nations revolution it does well to showcase how, when securitisation actors are scaled back from the state and focused on a smaller referent object, they can enact genuine social change. The rise of this political event without the assistance of mainstream media also showcases how in the social media age social constructivism can be utilised to encourage political change.

Like all international relations theories the disadvantages of the Copenhagen School are highlighted when they are demonstrated in a way that is detrimental to society. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage in this sense then is the subjectivity of these theories of social constructivism. With only a series of frameworks and no prescribed method on how to use them the question of ethics arises, particularly when posed against delicate issues of international diplomacy such as migration. While it may be convenient for a government to create a narrative of fear in its population and a threat to their national sovereignty it may not necessarily be ethical or aligning to the Copenhagen Schools penchant for human rights (Diskaya 2013). A notable example of this, as documented by McDonald (2011), occurred during the 2010 ‘resecuritisation’ of asylum seekers for the first time since the Howard government’s Children Overboard scandal of 2001 (Head 2004; McGrath 2004). Just as the Howard government had done previously both major Australian parties brought the subject of asylum seekers to the forefront of the political narrative in the lead up to the election and in doing so stimulated a national debate on the validity of their migration into the country. By these actions the Australian govenrment enacted the securitisation of the group making them a target for those traditionalists who wanted to jingoistically protect their nations sovereignity. The end result created a narrative whereby the asylum seekers, now seen as a threat to the Australian way of life, were able to be either refused entry on arrival or detained in detention centres, with public support. Another contemporary example of this can be seen in the manner which the United States have approached the conflict in the Middle East and the “War on Terror” (Williams 2013). By securitising the threat of Islamic extremism and creating a perception of countries filled with dangerous weapons the US was able to justify a war effort which was then responsible for the securing of natural resources (Juhasz 2013). Not only doe these examples demonstrate how the theories of the Copenhagen School can be utilised to effectively enhance a chosen position within the political sphere but it also highlights the importance of educating the public to better understand them and pressure those with power to use them ethically.

Considering both the merits and disadvantages that have been outlined in this essay the underlying point of contention then becomes how are the theories of the Copenhagen School applied to international relations and, in doing so, how are they interpreted. The benefits of social constructivism can be seen throughout Europe and the EU where individuals are granted freedom of movement between member nations are free to settle within the local communities. Depending on the political views of those interpreting this theory however this is not always necessarily a good thing. Many far right European movements believe that this is a threat to their freedoms, similar to the manner in which the Australian government presented the asylum seekers in 2010, and attempt to securitise these migrants which again brings about the issue of the theories subjectivity. Were the theory more rigid in its application then it may have the potential to become more widely accepted in international relations, though by the same token were the theory to become too rigid it could gravitate more towards that of a traditionalist theory which would undermine it’s position of social exploration. Similarly the issue of subjectivity can be explored again when considering conflicts between two states, as opposed to factions and referent groups within them. While the Copenhagen School encourages securitisation of local socio-political practices (Wilkinson 2007) it is not uncommon for nations which may share similar religious beliefs, such as those in the Middle East, to find themselves at odds over any manner of difference from traditional land ownership to historical disputes and even division of natural resources. There may be any number of causes for conflict however it is the manner in which the opposing sides frame the issue that determine its interpretation. Similarly to the United States using a war on terror to secure resources so to may a perceived religious dispute, such as that between Israel and Palestine, be used to frame a dispute over land. Ultimately, in both instances, the disputes eventually fall back to traditional measures of security which end in conflict.

Based on the theories demonstrated in this essay for the teachings of the Copenhagen School to be effectively applied positively to international relations the political sphere would need to better understand how they are utilised and have been utilised in the past. As this would require acknowledgment of past instances where perceived threats may have been embellished to appear as more dangerous to the populace than they were there may be reluctancy from traditionalist states to commit this level of transparency for the sake of progress. This is somewhat ironic as, by virtue of the specificity in which of the Copenhagen School theories can be applied, traditional security could be enhanced by diversifying how each manner of the state is securitised. Ultimately, regardless of theoretical approach, the securitisation of states will remain in the hands of the governments who serve and it is therefor the obligation of the people to better understand how they want to be protected and exercise their democratic rights accordingly.

 

References

Burchill, S, Linklater, A, Devetak, R, Donnelly, J, Nardin, T, Paterson, M, Reus-Smit, C and True, J (eds) 2013, Theories of international relations, 5th edition. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

 Diskaya, A 2013, ‘Towards a Critical Securitization Theory: The Copenhagen and Aberystwyth Schools of Security Studies’, 1 February, viewed 7 January 2018, <http://www.e-ir.info/2013/02/01/towards-a-critical-securitization-theory-the-copenhagen-and-aberystwyth-schools-of-security-studies/&gt; 

Head, M 2004, ‘Australia: Howard’s 2001 election lies return to haunt him’, wsws.org, 25 August, viewed 7 January 2018, <https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2004/08/howa-a25.html&gt;

Juhasz, A 2013, ‘Why the war in Iraq was fought for Big Oil’, CNN, 15 April, viewed 7 January 2018, <http://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/19/opinion/iraq-war-oil-juhasz/index.html&gt;

McDonald, M 2011, ‘Deliberation and Resecuritization: Australia, Asylum-Seekers and the Normative Limits of the Copenhagen School’, Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 46, no. 2, pp. 281-295.

McGrath, C 2004, ‘Mike Scrafton speaks live about children overboard affair’, The World Today, 16 August, viewed 7 January 2018, <http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2004/s1177463.htm&gt;

Neumann, I 2010, ‘Chapter 8 National security, culture and identity’, in M Dunn Cavelty & V Mauer (eds) 2010, The Routledge Handbook of Security Studies, Routledge, London, pp. 95-105. 

Peggs, A 2017, ‘How Momentum changed British politics forever’, Huffington Post, 13 June, viewed 7 January 2018, <http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/adam-peggs/momentum-jeremy-corbyn_b_17054254.html&gt;

Wæver, O 1995, ‘Chapter 3 Securitization and desecuritization’, in R Lipschutz (ed.) 1995, On security, Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 46-86.

Wæver, O 2003, ‘Securitisation: Taking stock of a research programme in Security Studies’, viewed 7 January 2018, <https://www.clisec.uni-hamburg.de/en/pdf/data/waever-2003-securitisation-taking-stock-of-a-research-programme-in-security-studies.pdf&gt;

Wilkinson, C 2007, ‘The Copenhagen School on Tour in Kyrgystan: Is Securitization Theory Useable Outside Europe?’ Secuirty Dialogue, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 5-25.

Williams, P 2013, Security Studies: An Introduction, 2nd edn, Routledge, London.

Review: WWE 2K18 – AKA: The worst game I ever played

Have you ever played a game so excruciatingly terrible it made you want to cut off your hands, burn out your eyes, and give yourself a partial frontal lobotomy to try and remove any trace of how terrible it was from your brain because just the thought of it would make your blood boil with murderous rage? Before this week I didn’t even know that feeling existed but now, as I sit here writing these words, I can feel myself developing an unquenchable bloodlust from the mere memory of this steaming pile of garbage.

Touted by many critics as the best wrestling game to date I have to admit maybe my expectations were set a little too high – though after last years game which felt like there was finally progress being made for the franchise for the first time since the switch from PS1 to PS2 – nothing could adequately prepare me for the disjointed, block headed, unresponsive, glitch-filled festival of shame that I was about to endure. 8 person matches were now a thing, and with a roster of over 170 people (many of which are included for the first time) it seemed like the only logical thing to do was try it out – a decision I would later come to regret.

Graphics comparison between 2K17 and 2K18 – so far, so good… Wait, what?

 

Firstly, the animation of the wrestlers was awful. My entire team were doing the same things on the apron, pulling the same poses and at one point after a double team all three of them were along one side of the ring and I couldn’t tag them. But hey, you can’t win them all, and I just figured it would get better. It didn’t. After beating the other team senseless I made no less than 3 attempts to end the match where there was a pin attempt for 10 seconds or more that the referee never counted – by the time he eventually started the cover was broken or the opponent kicked out and I had to start again. Alright, this is a little glitch, it’s no big deal this will get better. It didn’t. On no less than 3 occasions, and for no apparent reason, my characters turned into what I can best describe as “rubber spaghetti men” contorting and twisting at unnatural angles, at one stage Bobby Roode even bent in half backwards, but it’s a new engine and I just figured it would get better. It didn’t. As the match went on for some reason that is still beyond me Rich Swann disappeared through the mat and got stuck half in half out while vibrating around in a circle until he was eventually picked up by an opponent. At this point I don’t even need to say what I was thinking about it improving. It didn’t.

After over half an hour of disjointed, glitch riddled game play – including this nifty new feature where I got caught in between two opponents and kept auto targeting them repeatedly while getting beat on by the other one – and a seemingly never ending match because the referee wouldn’t count I finally lost. This only occurred, however, when Samoa Joe went for the Coquina Clutch, Bobby Roode got tangled in the ropes, did a spaghetti man bend, and then submitted without even being held on to. Yes, I know wrestling is fake, but that was taking the piss even by my standards. After this match I turned the game off and swore never to play it again.

8 people in a ring is like communism. In theory great, in practice terrible.

 

I lasted until the following day. Waking up with a new attitude and a new outlook on life I thought to myself it’s a new game, it will take some getting used to, it will surely get better. It didn’t. Going against everything my brain told me I decided to give it another chance, this time in the MyCareer mode, where you make your own superstar and work your way up from prospect to big time guy (I assume, if you can manage to play the game that long). For the first time since Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth on the PS2 the player is able to walk around backstage and interact with other people on the show. I thought that this feature might bring back some nostalgias and make the game more three dimensional. It didn’t. Instead it made even the simplest of tasks time consuming and laborious. Like previous years titles you are introduced to the regular gameplay in the performance centre and you are forced to compete in a series of tutorials. Unlike previous years where this happened all at once this year had the added feature of completing a tutorial, then loading out to walk around and talk to the guy who just gave you the tutorial, loading back in, and doing the next one. After an hour of tutorials, and a squash trial match because you just need to be reminded you are a lowly peon, eventually I graduated to the arena and I was going to be on an actual wrestling a show.

Matt Bloom – The gatekeeper of the tutorial mission/loading screen sequence

 

On arrival I had to find the Stage Manager and talk to him, he pointed me in the direction of a whiteboard, I had to go and find it, I had to choose my activity for the week – which was to cut a promo – and that was that. All in all my TV debut was pretty good apart from the crowd chanting some random phrases at me for no apparent reason and the 5 loading screens I had to wait through. Despite having to run all the way out of the arena and out to the carpark where I had to find the security guy who would let me leave and advance to the next week it seemed like it was going to get better. It didn’t. And when I say it didn’t I mean that what transpired in my second week was the single most infuriating thing that I have ever experienced.

My second week started off as I loaded in next to the parking lot guy, then I had to run all the way through the parking lot, to the arena, and then all the way through the arena to the Stage Manager. He put me to work in my first proper match. Sort of. First I had to sit through another of the games excruciatingly long loading sequences, which I couldn’t skip, I arrived in the arena and was greeted by Michael Cole saying the same thing he said last week – Orlando is the resort city in case you forgot – then the brief cutscene ended and I went back into another loading screen. So I waited and it loaded. I made my entrance, my opponent made his, finally after 2 hours of tutorials and backstage shenanigans and running too and from the parking lot I was going to play the game properly. The match started, I took my opponent down with a strike attack, and then it went to a cutscene. Bobby Roode came out and attacked me and the match was over. To say I was annoyed at this point was probably an understatement as I could feel the controller starting to crack in my hands as I squeezed it with rage and just like that week two was over. Well, almost, but first I had to sit through another loading screen to load back to the backstage area where the stage manager told me that “things like that sometimes happen” and then had to run all the way back through the arena, back through the car park, back to the security guy and then sit through another load screen to load out. At this point I’d had enough and not even the mystery of what might happen in week 3 could force me to keep it on any longer. I turned the PlayStation off, switched off the TV, and sat in silence listening to the little voices in my brain urging me to snap the disc – sadly a request I couldn’t even afford them because the game was purchased digitally, though if it hadn’t have been god only knows what would have happened.

911
An accurate summary of the game

All things considered, after some 20 odd years of gaming, this was the single worst game I have ever played. I can’t even think of another game which comes close to how bad this was, especially for the amount of hype which surrounded it upon release. The graphics are average, the gameplay is awful and the only thing I could give it a 10/10 for is loading screens – and that’s not because they are good it’s just because you have to sit through 10/10 before anything will actually work. If this game were the answer to a high school equivalency quiz at the end of a movie I would award it no points and may god have mercy on its soul.

 

 

Public Relations: Saving the Oldest Olympic Sport

Background 

In Strategic Sport Marketing (Shilbury, Westerbeek, Quick, Funk and Karg 2014) the authors present a case study which centres on the removal of amateur wrestling as a sport from the Olympic games. In this case study the authors suggest that the eventual survival of wrestling as a sport, in whole or in part, was due to the intervention of professional wrestling company TNA wrestling. This response considers a number of factors in determining whether the campaign was a success and, further to the authors proposition, what influence TNA wrestling had in the final outcome.

Response

In order to determine the success of this campaign the first requirement is defining what is success and, from this, determining what influence the TNA wrestling campaign had on achieving this outcome. Success in this case would see wrestling returned to the Olympics – a feat which occurred on September 8th, 2013 (BBC 2013). But what influence over this did the TNA public relations campaign have? While the quote in the Case Study (Shilbury, Westerbeek, Quick, Funk & Karg 2014, p. 318) identified Kurt Angle, and his then employer TNA, it also identified the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) – the world sanctioning body under which Angle won his two gold medals – who’s members also made up the international collective Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling (CPOW) (Smith 2016). Following the announcement to remove Wrestling by the IOC the standing president of FILA was removed following a vote of no confidence and, as suggested by other members of the FILA board, part of the removal of the sport was because of his dealings with the IOC (Smith 2016). This structural change allowed the FILA board to develop new ideas and present the sport to the IOC in a new light.

Around the globe national wrestling bodies were coming together in a show of unity, putting on events like the Rumble on the Rails at New York’s Grand Central Terminal (Raskin 2013). During this campaign Kurt Angle was a vocal participant, appearing and speaking out on behalf of the sport however, besides from being introduced as “TNA wrestling’s” Kurt Angle, there was little involvement from the company themselves. As a company with a history of poor management and PR (Murray 2016) – including most recently their failed attempt to have fans name an owl (Rueter 2017) – this seems to be another case of TNA (now Global Force Wrestling) trying to cash in on someone else’s hard work (Konuwa 2017). This evidence then suggests that the TNA public relations campaign had a minimal effect on Wrestling remaining an Olympic event beyond having an employee who happened to be a part of the CPOW. As for that committee, as seen in the evidence provided, the PR campaign they ran was a much more contributing factor to the success of the sports reinstatement.

 

References

BBC 2013, Olympics 2020: Wrestling reinstated to Games, BBC.com, 8 September, viewed 11 September 2017, <http://www.bbc.com/sport/olympics/24009517&gt;

Konuwa, A 2017, ‘Matt Hardy Vs. Impact Wrestling: Who Owns The Broken Universe?’, Forbes, 13 March, viewed 11 September 2017, < https://www.forbes.com/sites/alfredkonuwa/2017/03/13/matt-hardy-vs-impact-wrestling-who-owns-the-broken-universe/#78d648073d92>

Murray, A 2016, 10 Ways TNA Totally Screwed Themselves Over,  WhatCulture.com, 20 October, viewed 11 September 2017, < http://whatculture.com/wwe/10-ways-tna-totally-screwed-themselves-over&gt;

Raskin, L 2013, Rumble on the Rails: USA, Russia, and Iran Embrace Each Other, creativetimereports.org, 20 May, viewed 11 September 2017, <http://creativetimereports.org/2013/05/20/rumble-on-the-rails-usa-russia-and-iran-olympic-wrestling/&gt;

Rueter, S 2017, Let’s help name TNA’s owl mascot, cagesideseats.com, 11 March, viewed 11 September 2017, <https://www.cagesideseats.com/tna/2017/3/11/14893964/name-tna-impact-anthem-owl-mascot>

Smith, S 2016, Grappling with the future: The story of how Olympic wrestling was saved, NBCOlympics.com, 18 August, viewed 11 September 2017, < http://www.nbcolympics.com/news/grappling-future-oral-history-how-olympic-wrestling-was-saved&gt;

Shilbury, D, Westerbeek, H, Quick, S, Funk, D & Karg, H 2014, Strategic sport marketing, 4th ednAllen & Unwin, Crows Nest.

Neoliberalism, New Media & The Political Discourse

With the rise of convergence and social media culture the influence of mainstream media outlets in political discourse is greater than ever before. The public can now engage in live media, whilst simultaneously commentating with their peers, in a way that can influence politics like never before. With the application of theories from Harvey (2005) and Phelan (2014) this essay will explore the development of these changes since the second world war and provide insight on how they have been shaped by neoliberalism. This will be achieved by exploring three key areas. The first will explore briefly the history and use of propaganda and how it has developed since the second world war to modern times. The second will look at the rise of convergence and increased scrutiny of media influence and will briefly analyse the influence of Rupert Murdoch in the modern political landscapes. The third and final aspect of this essay will be to look specifically at the influence of neoliberalism on the media and explain its unique relationship with the public.

Throughout this essay certain specific terminology will be referenced frequently and, unless otherwise stated and appropriately referenced, should be considered with the following definitions in mind. As neoliberalism is a broad term, for the purpose of this essay, will be defined by Harvey (2005, p. 2) as “a theory of political economic practices that proposes mankind is best served by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills, characterized by free trade, strong private property rights and the free market, within an institutional framework created and preserved by the state”. When considering then its application with specific reference to the media the first understanding should be of Phelan (2012, p. 116) who believes that “Neoliberalism is articulated as the general name for the capitalist present… mainstream journalism is neoliberal because it is produced within a corporate media infrastructure governed by the ideology and priorities of neoliberal capitalism”. While these two definitions will form the basis of the discussion other secondary references will also be included and further clarification provided when necessary.

Over the course of history politics and the media have shared the public sphere. The emergence of the fourth estate, the term coined by Henry Fielding in the 1750’s acknowledging the existence of journalists as a collective (Bainbridge, Goc & Tynan 2011, p. 40), has given the media legitimacy within the realm of political discourse. While initially only responsible for providing press coverage and a public record the utilisation of mass media to further political agendas has been prevalent since the Napoleonic Wars (Hanley 2005), however, propaganda as it has become known today was revolutionised by the Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels during the Second World War (Diggs-Brown 2011, p. 49). From 1940 onwards the National Socialist regime were able to influence the greater German public with strategically developed film and print media. This media was engineered in such a way to create feelings of jingoism, that would aid the growth of nationalism and strengthen the hold of the regime over the nation (Kallis 2005). Though not the first, the use of mass media to distribute political messages and influence the public in Nazi Germany was the most prolific of its time, so much so that many approaches developed by Goebbels and his party are still utilised today.

Since the end of the second world war the use of propaganda has, arguably, become less sinister however it’s use has also become more prevalent. Considering the legacy of the likes of Goebbels, the term still holds many negative connotations though does still appear in political discourse. In the modern political landscape propaganda is often referred to by more subtle terms, such as spin (Bainbridge, Goc & Tynan 2011), and where Goebbels intended to stir strong feelings of empowered nationalism it is now a means of encouraging constituents to exercise their democratic rights in a way which benefits the party. A contemporary example of this in recent Australian politics was the ‘Children Overboard’ incident, where the Howard government in a push for re-election with policies of tighter border security (Head 2004), alleged that asylum seekers had threatened to throw children out of a boat to secure rescue and entry into Australia (Arlington 2004). While the Howard government were aware at the time that these claims may not have been true (McGrath 2004) they proceeded with making them public to attempt to influence voters. Ultimately, despite the claims later being found to be false (Arlington 2004) the election campaign was a success and the Howard government would go on to serve two more terms. Whether this came about as a direct result of the campaigns propaganda can only be speculated, however, given the political climate at the time it can certainly be attributed.

Considering the implications of the historical development of propaganda and the fourth estate it is easy to see how media scrutiny has developed since the early nineteen hundreds. With the rise of convergence, defined by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (2012, p.5) as, “…the merging of the previously distinct platforms by which information is communicated”, and the dawn of the social media age media scrutiny of political discourse is at an all-time high (Plaisance 2013). The ability for the common person to provide individual commentary to the masses through social media has seen the reliability and integrity of mainstream media called into question like never before; particularly around issues of global politics. This outlet essentially allows any individual to become a member of the journalists fourth estate, even calling into question the legitimacy of this title, now being proposed as the “fifth estate” (Bainbridge et. al 2011, p. 46). How different things might have been even for the Howard government if the children overboard affair had occurred in the age of social media and was subject to round the clock scrutiny from both local and international audiences. On the other side of this discussion, despite this heavy scrutiny, the ability for mass media outlets to share stories quickly over multiple platforms means that information can still be spread quickly and their agendas can be supplied to more people than ever before. As technology advances further already there has been issues raised over the ability to mine data and use geolocation to tailor distribution of political materials to influence individuals (Cadwalladr 2017). Not only is this form of convergence ethically questionable but it gives even greater powers to media owners to dictate what is consumed.

Distribution of mainstream media, despite these recent challenges, has still seen unprecedented amounts of influence in the political sphere in recent times. While part of this can be attributed to the media as a means of mass communication the role of media ownership and control cannot be understated. The most notable example of a media controller with great political influence is Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. From his historical support of the Australian Liberal Party (McKnight 2013) to the election of Donald Trump (Rutenberg 2017), there are few political happenings, national or international, that do not have the interest of Murdoch. Globalisation has seen Murdoch become not only one of the richest men in the media industry, but also one of the most influential. By keeping close control over what his interests say and do, actions which were never clearer than in 2003 when he personally wrote his 175 editors and told them to support the US invasion of Iraq (Bainbridge et. al 2011, p. 42), Murdoch has been able to manipulate large parts of the global mediasphere to carry out his personal agenda. Murdoch’s ruthlessly capitalist approach to business is one of the best examples of neoliberalism in the media and cannot under any circumstances be understated.

Considering these initial points of discussion it can be determined then that neoliberalism impacts upon the media to influence the perception of national interest. When looking at Harvey’s approach (2005) the media is essentially acting as a host body to promote the neoliberal agenda of the state. Regardless of the contributor, that is to say whether coming from a Murdoch tabloid or an individuals social media account, at the core of all political debate is the wellbeing of the state. During the second world war Goebbels and the Nazi ministry for propaganda worked hard to achieve a totalitarian nationalist state where the public believed strongly in what they were told by their mass media campaigns (Diggs-Brown 2011). While objectively different in their approach to the distribution of propaganda on behalf of the state the Howard government felt that they were the party to guide Australia through hard times post September 11, 2001 and thus looked for re-election by any means necessary. Despite their substantially different political alignments and ultimate end goals both parties utilised the media channels at their disposal in an attempt to influence national interest in a way that they saw was necessary to maximise their control over the state. Whether or not these approaches were ethical raises an entirely different discussion, however, the success of both parties is undeniable when looking at their successes historically. Without influencing perceived national interest this success would not have been possible.

Similarly elements of the neoliberal impact on the perception of national interest can be seen in the concentration of media ownership and convergent shift towards new media. All media outlets, regardless of ownership, are built with the sole intention of working in the national interest (von Dohnanyi 2003). The problem then comes when individuals prioritise capitalist gains over the fundamental right to free press and sharing of relevant, unbiased information. As per Phelan’s (2012) definition, “mainstream journalism is neoliberal because it is produced within a corporate media infrastructure”. The very fact that the fourth estate, and media as a whole, has developed from a means by which the common person could be kept informed on notable events into a tradable commodity shows how neoliberalism has shaped the industry over the last hundred years. This transformation of the fourth estate from an open source to a tradable commodity has forever changed the media landscape and created a permanent perception of national interest which matches the media owners agenda. Without substantial changes to international systems of government, or significant deprivatization, this perception will not be able to change without the medias permission.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of neoliberalism that can be applied to the media in relation to political discourse is the tightrope that it constantly treads between relative and absolute gains. “Neoliberal institutionalism assumes states focus primarily on their own absolute gains and are indifferent to the gains of others” (Powell 1991, p. 1303). The question of ethics has been raised throughout this essay, as is often the case when discussing neoliberalism (Sugarman 2015), and for good reason when it comes to absolute gains. The ultimate end goal of the media is to succeed in promoting its message. Whether that is to show support for a cause, to discredit another or to sway the mind of the public and, as mentioned in the previous paragraphs, impact on the perception of national interest mass media will always strive for an absolute gain. As seen in the analysis of both Goebbels and Howard, while vastly different political figures, the propaganda they chose to promote yielded absolute gains for both of their parties at the time while giving no consideration to any other consequences. Both parties did what they had to do to put themselves in a winning position, regardless of who else may have lost.

This would not always have been the case however; historically, going back to the original fourth estate, the absolute gains for the media would have also seen relative gains for the public as they operated in a time of objective journalism (Fox 2013) for the benefit of the public. Since the rise of globalisation has brought about convergence, and media has become a business, the absolute gains for the industry are now solely based on capitalist profits and little, if any, concern is given to the common man. An example of this, from the earlier case study, can be seen in Murdoch’s support of the Iraq invasion (Bainbridge et. al 2011). In this example, the absolute gains heralded for the individual, and his immediate political ties showed no thought or consideration for the wider public. Further evidence of this can be seen in the conflicts existence at the time of this essay being written some fourteen years later. Were a different approach taken to the management of politically sensitive media, as opposed to the neoliberal methodology of winning at all costs for the sake of the state and capitalist profit fair and objective journalism may once again return to forefront. Considering how new media has risen to prominence in the convergent mediasphere, and brought new scrutiny to mass media, this may eventually become a reality albeit one that will remain in the hands of the media elite.

Whether by definition of Harvey or Phelan, or any one of the other sources mentioned throughout, it can be seen how neoliberalism impacts the political aspects of the mediasphere. From the development of propaganda in the early twentieth century through to modern times, and the overriding agendas of concentrated media ownership, neoliberalism and the desire to use a public commodity for capitalist gains is evident throughout history. Although the recent challenges identified and discussed suggest that mass media can overcome the rise of the new media as society progresses and technology advances it is impossible to say whether or not this trend will continue. Considering the financial involvement and long term commitment to the industry, and the adaptability shown in recent times to embrace the shift towards new media, it is fair to assume that although outlets may change the need to spread information will continue long into the future.

 

 

References

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Australian Communications and Media Authority 2012, Broken Concepts, ACMA.gov.au, viewed 11 June 2017,<http://www.acma.gov.au/~/media/Office%20of%20the%20Chair/Information/pdf/ACMA_BrokenConcepts_Final_29Aug1%20pdf.pdf&gt;

Bainbridge, J, Goc, N & Tynan, L 2011, Media & Journalism, 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Victoria.

Cadwalladr, C 2017, ‘The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked’, The Guardian, 20 May, viewed 11 June 2017, <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy&gt;

Diggs-Brown, B 2011, Strategic Public Relations: An Audience-Focused Approach, Wadsworth Cengage Learning, Boston, MA.

Fox, C 2013, ‘Public Reason, Objectivity, and Journalism in Liberal Democratic Societies’, Res Publica, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 257-273.

Hanley, W 2005, The Genesis of Napoleonic Propaganda. Columbia University Press, New York, NY.

Harvey, D 2005, Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford University Press, New York, NY.

Head, M 2004, ‘Australia: Howard’s 2001 election lies return to haunt him’, wsws.org, 25 August, viewed 11 June 2017, <https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2004/08/howa-a25.html&gt;

Kallis, A 2005, Nazi Propaganda and the Second World War, Palgrave Macmillan UK, Basingstoke.

McGrath, C 2004, ‘Mike Scrafton speaks live about children overboard affair’, The World Today, 16 August, viewed 11 June 2017, <http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2004/s1177463.htm&gt; 

McKnight, D 2013, ‘Murdoch and his influence on Australian political life’, The Conversation, 7 August, viewed 11 June 2017, < http://theconversation.com/murdoch-and-his-influence-on-australian-political-life-16752&gt; 

Phelan, S 2014, Neoliberalism, Media and the Political, Palgrave Macmillan UK, Basingstoke.

Plaisance, P 2013, Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice, 2nd edn, SAGE Publications, USA

Powell, R 1991, ‘Absolute and Relative Gains in International Relations Theory’, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 85, No. 4, pp. 1303-1320.

Rutenberg, J 2017, ‘When a Pillar of the Fourth Estate Rests on a Trump-Murdoch Axis’, New York Times, 12 February, viewed 11 June 2017, <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/12/business/media/rupert-murdoch-donald-trump-news-corporation.html?_r=0&gt;

Sugarman, J 2015, ‘Neoliberalism and Psychological Ethics’, Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 103-116.

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From the Archive: Professional Wrestling for Amateurs – The Final Countdown

Exams are over! Holidays have started! What a time to be alive! And so as things return to normal it seems only fitting, on the theme of closure, that we bask in the final piece of the 6 part series from the archive! I feel like there should be some Green Day playing in the background – in fact, as a last hurrah to the Professional Wrestling for Amateurs series  press play on this and try not to tear up too much as we say goodbye.

Before we do that though lets go back together – yes I am coming with you this time – and take a look at what the whole point of this blog series was all about. Part one gave a detailed account of what it’s like to live as a fan of professional wrestling, the social stigma involved, and the sly comments and subtle digs you have to put up with on a regular basis (see recurring comment; “You do know that’s fake, right?”). From here we moved into Part two where we looked more at the physical side of things – using Mick Foley’s best selling book “Have A Nice Day” as a point of call, not only for evidence, but also as the point where I truly fell in love with the sport as a young child.

As May was world mental health month it seemed fitting that in Part three we touched on some of the confronting mental situations that workers in the industry are faced with regularly – most of which are overlooked by those of you who fail to see past the character into the person underneath. To get a better understanding of this we went out and got some first hand insight from someone who actually gets in the ring with Part four, which is still our most successful part to date, which was a sit down interview with O’Shay Edwards – who is easily my new favourite wrestler (and should be yours too) as he is taking the world by storm. Finally, in Part five, we looked at the growing sub-culture that has developed from the wrestling industry. The common themes that bring people together through wrestlers crossing the threshold within the mediasphere to becoming actors, wrestling approved and associated music, or just the overall sense of camaraderie that is shared between members of the broader wrestling community.

All of these topics were outlined and decided upon as, to date, there was no easily found and up to date source with similar information. The aim was to act as an educational tool for those who didn’t know – or as a point of reference for those who did – and as the series has unfolded I feel like I have legitimised everything that I set out to achieve. Hopefully you feel the same and, even if it is only a small titbit, something that I have said will remain with you long after you finish reading these words.

What started as an ambitious attempt to watch wrestling and pass it off as study when questioned by the wife has now turned into a nifty little blog that I have become more and more attached to and proud of as time goes on. For this reason – while this six part series is done – I will be sticking around to continue enlightening you with more of my quality insight which I am sure you are all growing to love (if you aren’t please try harder) and I look forward to looking back at this project as a collection of wrestling knowledge for everyone to enjoy for years to come.

Thank you for reading.


This piece was originally published on June 4th 2016 at http://botchworldorder.wordpress.com