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.

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

 Arlington, K 2004, ‘Children overboard the most despicable of lies: Hawke’, TheAge.com.au, 24 August, viewed 11 June 2017, <http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/08/24/1093246520431.html?from=storylhs&gt;

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.

von Dohnanyi, J 2003, ‘The Impact of Media Concentration on Professional Journalism’, OSCE.org, viewed 11 June 2017, <http://www.osce.org/fom/13870?download=true&gt;

The Internet – An ideal public sphere?

The aim of this post is to explore and discuss the concept of the Internet as an ideal public sphere – defined by Holub (1991, p.3) as, “…a realm in which individuals gather to participate in open discussions. Potentially, everyone has access to it. No one enters in discourse… with an advantage over another”. Over the years the interpretation has changed and, when considering the internet in the current converging media landscape,  a more appropriate, modern definition can be taken from Gimmler (2001, p. 22), “…(the public sphere is) an arena of political and social relations, a field where individual and collective identities both are expressed and become integrated”. To effectively discuss and critically analyse both sides of this argument this post will; discuss the Internet as a public sphere and how individuals have the ability to fairly and equally contribute, analyse globalisation and the impact of convergence on the individuals experience within this public sphere and explore the nature of individuals behaviour when participating in the public sphere. This analysis will be supported by various readings, most notably Australia’s Foray into Internet Censorship (Bambauer 2009), Media and Globalisation: Why the State Matters (Morris 2001) as well as the previously cited definitions from Holub and Gimmler and will seek to provide an informative and balanced response to the concept of the Internet as an ideal public sphere and to further expand on the ideas presented.

When considering the Internet as a public sphere on Holub’s (1991, p.3) terms it is, in theory, an ideal public sphere where individuals gather for open discussion. Each participant has the chance to engage actively, fairly and equally. In a nutshell this is what the Internet is all about and, at least on face value, it can be accepted as such. However when the surface is scratched it quickly becomes apparent that there is more complexity to the debate and that, like in most public spheres, the influence of power and politics rules over the power of the people. Like any place of social interaction there is a hierarchy that must be observed when utilising the Internet for communication. Moderators, be they state appointed government officials tasked with reviewing data usage for criminal activities (Bambauer 2009) or an overseer on a forum appointed by a developer, are constantly reviewing and remedying any manner of changes made to the internet. While an offensive post on a forum may not carry the same weight of penalty as an international terrorist plot the notion that one member of a society has the authority to dictate to another, with no real qualifications other than a state appointed title, shows already a level of inequality moving into the public sphere. When analysing the public sphere in this way then it almost becomes directly comparable to communism – whereby on paper everyone is equal and treated the same – until it comes into practice. To borrow a quote from Orwell (1945), “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” a fitting description of both the public sphere in general as well as the vast expanses of the Internet.

Perhaps a more appropriate example of participation without being able to participate within the mediasphere would be the rise of qualified radio broadcasters post World War One (Sterling 2012, p. 224). Despite having all the knowledge and skills required to operate a radio from their military training without the appropriate equipment to transmit they were incapable of participating in the broadcast culture of the time. As mentioned in previous articles this broadcast culture was a precursor to the participatory culture of modern times and the ability to create content and share it with others via radio is directly comparable to  bloggers and designers creating online content now. Based on this it can be assumed that, had everyone then had access to the radio waves in the same way the developed world has access to the Internet, participation rates would have been higher. Instead, much like the modern day broadcasters of the Internet, there was impediments and prejudices in between content creators and the public sphere. This shows that throughout history, even when there have been individuals more than capable of participating fairly and equally in the public sphere, the ingrained culture and self imposed hierarchy of our class society influences how they can and gives advantages to those who may not necessarily be deserving of them.

Further to the ability to participate equally and without prejudice on an individual level the convergent media landscape has further impacted upon the way the Internet can be viewed as an ideal public sphere. In the converging media landscape that is the Internet (Australian Communications and Media Authority 2012) the lasting effects of corporate globalisation can be seen everywhere. Paid advertising and product placement is rife throughout the World Wide Web and there are few websites that can be visited without a suggestion or a pop up trying to sell something. (Williams et. al. 2011). To say that the Internet has been affected by globalisation is only a half-truth – the Internet has done more than its fair share to help with Globalisation since the dawn of the new millennium (Morris 2001) – but regardless of this the corporate influence over the online world cannot be understated. Considering this it then becomes apparent that not all individuals coming together in the public sphere are doing so for open discussion with some preferring to exploit the ability to monetise the system and use it to generate profit. As soon as money enters the discussion the equality of individuals is compromised – separating them instead by class and their ability to pay – as opposed to giving them an open forum with equal voice.

As the Internet has slowly become saturated with offshoots of traditional mainstream broadcast and print media the online sector has shifted from an open world forum for information sharing (Jenkins 2006) to a viable marketplace where profits can not only be made but added to the already established stream of content coming from the media industry. This not only means more content for independent collaborators to compete with but also content tailored specifically for the interests and needs of the individual browser. GPS and other location services use individuals search histories and recorded interests to supply things like recommended search results, tailored advertising and product placement (Tentacle Inbound 2016). This not only furthers the advantage of those who are financially invested but also removes the possibility of an individual having an authentic browsing experience – complete without any prejudices – which should be the intention in an ideal public sphere.

The environment and the surroundings of individuals when using the Internet can only be accountable for so much. The behaviour of the individuals online, much like the behaviour of the individual in any public sphere, impacts not only their own experience but also the experiences of those around them. This can then have an adverse effect on how the Internet is viewed as an ideal public sphere. Unlike an ideal public sphere not everyone who accesses the Internet does so with the intention of participating in open discussion (Buckels, Trapnell & Paulhus 2014). By gathering together in groups and sharing a common cause for causing mischief and social unrest the individuals who partake in the public sphere in this manner go against the nature of allowing everyone to a fair and balanced discussion.

This is not to say that everyone who enters the public spheres discourse does so with the explicit intention of causing trouble, nor do they do it with sinister motivations, however it is a harsh reality that not everyone can co-exist harmoniously when interacting in a social environment (Buckels, Trapnell & Paulhus 2014). With the help of the Internet the sinister intentions of individuals can be projected further and with more impact than ever before. State controlled security and data retention may not be popular among the moral majority (Dempster 2015), not to mention the feelings held by some individuals towards the moderators of this, but the effectiveness of using this information to protect the greater society outweighs – in the majority of cases – the illusion of freedom of speech in which Internet users like to revel. It becomes a case then of what is better for the greater good and, given Gimmler’s (2001) opinion on political influence over the public sphere, it once again becomes a point of using the sphere to the advantage of the elite.

Through critical analysis and discussion of the concept of the Internet as an ideal public sphere it can be seen that there are strong points both for and against. Utilising the definitions of the scholars Holub and Gimmler it can be ascertained that on the surface, as stated by Holub, that the Internet satisfies the criteria presented as an ideal public sphere. Upon further analysis it becomes apparent then that, as raised by Gimmler, there are deeper motivations – be they personal or political – when exploring the public sphere and, approaching the discussion from this position, there are areas where the Internets discourse can be less than ideal. The key point of contention then becomes the application of not only these definitions, but the application of the term ‘ideal’ and the position taken by those who will take this discussion further into the future.

References

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

Bambauer, D 2009, ‘Filtering in Oz: Australia’s Foray into Internet Censorship’, Journal of International Law, vol. 31, no. 2.

British Broadcasting Corporation 2015, ‘Internet used by 3.2 billion people in 2015’, May 26, <http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-32884867>

Buckels, E, Trapnell, P and Paulhus, D 2014, ‘Trolls just want to have fun’. Personality and individual Differences, 67, pp.97-102.

Dempster , Q 2015, ‘Data retention and the end of Australians’ digital privacy’, August 29, <http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/data-retention-and-the-end-of-australians-digital-privacy-20150827-gj96kq.html>

Gimmler, A 2001, Deliberative democracy, the public sphere and the internet, Philosophy & Social Criticism, Vol. 27, Issue 4, p. 21-39.

Holub, R 1991, Jurgen Habermas: Critic in the Public Sphere, Routledge, New York, NY

Jenkins, H 2006, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, NYU Press, New York, NY

Morris, N 2001, Media and Globalization: Why the State Matters, Rowman & Littlefield, Maryland

Orwell, G 1945, Animal Farm, Harcourt, Brace and World, New York

Sterling, C 2012, ‘Radio Broadcasting’ in Simonson, Peck, Craig & Jackson (eds), The Handbook of Communication History, Taylor & Francis, New York: NY.

Tentacle Inbound 2016, ‘The Complex Web of Personalised Search’, <http://tentacleinbound.com/articles/personalized-search>

Williams, K, Petrosky, A, Hernandez, E & Page Jr, R 2011, ‘Product placement effectiveness: revisited and renewed’, Journal of Management and Marketing research, 7, p.1, < http://www.aabri.com/manuscripts/10712.pdf&gt;

 

Global Social Media: Case Study – China

Over the past few weeks I have started looking at social media and social interactions in a different light and already have found myself being more critical of its uses, Because of this, in theory, I will perhaps look at changing the way I approach the use of social media going forward.

This image is good for two reasons; one because I just said “in theory” and two because the subject explored this week is China – namely how the Chinese communist party controls censorship in the social media age. As far as the ideologies go I’m with Homer on this one. If executed correctly communism could be the best thing that ever happened to the world. The problem is the natural human instincts of greed and power – but these are topics of discussion for another day.

With regards to internet censorship, specifically social media, the Chinese government – much like some of their counterparts in the middle east and South America – have used their iron rule to not only censor popular western destinations like Facebook but they have avoided revolt and dissent amongst their people by appeasing them with virtually identically functioning homegrown products to fill the void. Giving the people what they want, keeping them happy, and keeping them thoroughly pinned down inside the four walls of the glorious regime. Amazingly there are roughly half a billion people using Chinese social media at any given time – that’s 1/15th of the worlds population (approximately).

china.jpg

China isn’t the only nation that censors what it’s people can see, ironically just about every ‘free’ western country has measures in place to chop and change what we see daily – the difference being that they don’t restrict things entirely. Strategic advertising and product placement is just as much apart of internet censorship in Australia as the blockage of Twitter is in China. Chinese people may not have ‘Google’ as we know it but they can probably make a search without their information being sold on to third parties to allow for geotagged results using their location to try and cater to them. From the outside we talk about this censorship and interference it would be interesting to see if the Chinese onine experience is more authentic than our own given that the content they have available to them has not been tainted.

Ultimately, as with most pseudo-politcal debates, the topic of censorship is always going to be subjective. What one person feels is an invasion of privacy another may see as a necessity to ensure intellectual and civil freedoms are upheld. Regardless of who is right or wrong the most important thing to remember is that someone, somewhere is watching you. To whoever that may be in this instance leave me a comment, yeah?

 

Activism or Slacktivism – Digital Communities in times of protest

The role  that social media and digital communities play in aiding activism & protesting has evolved rapidly with the rise of social media culture. Given the sheer enormity of the online world it is impossible not to see the benefits of utilising this medium – which is precisely why it has become the target of many a viral protesters campaign. An early example of this digital activism renaissance can be seen in the infamous Kony 2012 documentary which brought the medium of digital activism to the forefront.

While the digital community is the ideal way to spread a message to a mass audience it would be foolish to think that it can in anyway make a real difference without substantially backing from;

  • Accredited not for profit bodies
  • Government assistance
  • Substantial funding from independent backers

What it can do, however, is create the spark which could ignite any of these three powder kegs into beginning significant action.

Perhaps the biggest downfall of promoting activism in this way is the ‘social justice warrior’. A casual observing, nonchalant member of the digital community (or slacktivist) who feels that by ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ superfluous articles to their friends they are making a difference to society as a whole – when really they are doing nothing more than justifying their own social beliefs to themselves in a thinly veiled attempt to appear up to date on current affairs. This is not to discredit their intentions but the manner in which they are conveyed is often irrational and this can be detrimental to the cause that they are trying to promote. An example of this can be seen in the irony of Anti-Trump supporters protesting, and promoting violence against their opposition, for fear of said opposition acting in the way that they are themselves. An irony which seems to be lost on many of these individuals.

Using the digital community as a means to promote change for activists is a wonderful tool that, when used effectively can encourage change, however this needs to be done thoughtfully and insightfully to avoid damaging the causes in the process.