The Thing That People Get Wrong About Pauline Hanson

Love her or hate her, Pauline Hanson gave Australia one of its most iconic expressions. “Please explain?”


Since that interview which aired on the 13th October 1996, I have met plenty of people who, when the topic of Pauline Hanson gets brought up, or when someone says “please explain” to get clarification on something, other people will say something along the lines of “how dumb is she?”

I’ve been at parties or gatherings and had plenty of people comment on the stupidity of Ms Hanson and when they do, I ask them as Tracey Curro on 60 Minutes asked Pauline, “are you xenophobic?” Generally the person will then ask me “what does that mean?” I will simply tell them that that was the same question asked when the “please explain” response entered the Australian vernacular.

It is at this point in time, based on their opinion of Pauline Hanson‘s intelligence which is based on her response to that question, I cannot see them as being any more intelligent than her. Yes, I judge.. I like making friends like that.


Thank you Jon Stewart. “Boom!” is the word I was looking for.

Tracey Curro went on to explain to Pauline that;

“Xenophobia means a fear of all things foreign.”

According to the dictionary that Google uses when asked to define a word, xenophobia is given this meaning;

noun: xenophobia
  1. dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.
    “racism and xenophobia are steadily growing in Europe”
    synonyms: racism, racialism, racial hatred, ethnocentrism, ethnocentricity;

According to Wikipedia, when looking at some of those synonyms that are associated with the word, they may not be totally interchangable;

“The terms xenophobia and racism are sometimes confused and used interchangeably because people who share a national origin may also belong to the same race. Due to this, xenophobia is usually distinguished by opposition to foreign culture.”

I can remember when I learned the term. My older brother was a fan of the Australian rock band Spy vs Spy (often credited as V Spy V Spy so they wouldn’t be sued by Mad Magazine). Their second album was released in March 1988 and my brother picked up a copy pretty much straight away. I remember seeing the album cover (remember them?) laying on top of the stereo system in our music room down the back of our house, and being the inquisitive person that I am I had to run to the dictionary to look up the meaning of the word.

Xenophobia (Why?) is the third studio album by Australian rock band Spy vs Spy
Xenophobia (Why?) is the third studio album by Australian rock band Spy vs Spy

But not everyone is like me. Some people don’t care about words like I do. Some think the word “ironic” is interchangeable with “coincidence.”

“Oh, you’re going to see that concert too? How ironic is that?”

Seriously, I have heard that word misused way too many times. And then there’s the people who think that “irony” and “sarcasm” are the exact same thing, which they aren’t. You can have irony without it being sarcastic, but you can’t have sarcasm that doesn’t use irony. Sarcasm is bitter irony; using irony to mock or convey contempt for someone. Sarcasm is to irony what Dalmatians are the the species “dog.” It’s that simple case of all Dalmatians are dogs, but not all dogs are Dalmatians.

Is everyone expected to know every word though?

Pauline Hanson was 42 years old the day that the interview with the 60 Minutes Australia reporter took place. That’s the same age that I am now. Sure I knew the meaning of the word “xenophobia” when I was 14, but had that rock band not have released an album with that title, who knows, maybe I would be in my forties not knowing the meaning of that word.

Having a child who has brontophobia I know the meaning of that word. When I tell people I have a child with that phobia, many assume he has a fear of sauropod dinosaurs. Of course, that’s a preposterous notion. It is in fact the abnormal fear of thunder and lightning which is a common fear especially in young children, cats and dogs (including but limited to Dalmatians one may suggest).

No, my child is NOT scare of this extinct dinosaur. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
No, my child is NOT scared of this extinct dinosaur. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Whilst I am familiar with the term brontophobia, whilst researching the word I discovered that this phobia is also known as astraphobia, astrapophobia, keraunophobia, tonitrophobia, or nicaduranaphobia; but if someone had seen my kid freak out during a thunder storm and asked me if my kid was keraunophobic, I’m going to have to ask the question…

“Please explain?”

I have the benefit of wisdom and hindsight. Although, as I mentioned at the beginning, the term “please explain?” has become part of Australian culture with many people using it in a jocular manner when needing further information or explanation, it is the phrase itself that I believe lead to the notion that Pauline Hanson is stupid.

I put it to you that, had she have simply replied “I’m sorry, I don’t know what that word means…” then it would have been a whole different ball game. Her iconic “please explain?” response would not be her calling card or the thing that people bring up when they think of her.

I also put it to you that if Ms Curro had asked a more direct question, and one that I truly think that was implying; that being “are you racist?” then Pauline’s response after the meaning of xenophobia was given to her, that being “no, I don’t think I am…” would be something we could make the whole conversation about.

And although many people do call her out for being a racist, I think the truth of the matter is this; Pauline Hanson IS xenophobic. If we go back to the true meaning of xenophobia, and we do not interchange it with the word “racism,” then I do believe her whole opinion on Asians back in 1996, and of Muslims in 2016 is based on fear.

Xenophobia, like many phobias is an irrational fear. It is NOT a rational thing to be scared of someone because of the colour of their skin, their race (which is merely a social construct classifying human beings by phenotype, ancestry, or ethnicity), their culture, or their religious beliefs. And whilst xenophobia, homophobia, gynophobia, and androphobia – to name a few people related phobias – are all irrational fears, they are fears that we must try to eliminate from society.

As a wise man once said…

“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

The last sentence definitely rings true. Although I missed the show on Monday night, the ABC’s Q&A with the weekly trending hashtag of #qanda on Twitter, one of the topics this week was about Pauline Hanson and whether she represents “real” people (or real Australians to more accurate).

Q&A, for those who don’t know is a show on the government owned and operated television network, the ABC. It is a panel based show hosted by Tony Jones with the panellists being politicians (normally one from each of the two main parties per show), journalists, writers, well known activists, actors, sports people, high ranked religious figures, scientists, and other people in prominent positions of major companies or in the public service, generally picked to match the topics they are being discussed.

Questions are asked by members of the audience who have pre-submitted their questions in writing, or sent in via YouTube, email, or social media channels. The following transcript involves audience member Dion Pietrosanti, the host Tony Jones, and Penny Wong who is the Opposition Leader in the Senate and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. She was the first Asian-born (Malaysian-Chinese father and an Australian mother) member of an Australian Cabinet, and the first to be openly in a same-sex relationship.

Dion Pietrosanti
The role of a politician is to represent the people of Australia and Pauline Hanson was represented by the people to represent the people. Sorry, she was elected by the people. While I might not agree with everything that she says, penny Wong, how can you argue that she “peddles prejudice and fear” when her views coincide with 49% of Australians, including 40% whom identify themselves as Labor voters?


Tony jones
Okay, those figures are drawn from the essential poll.

Penny Wong
How can I argue that Pauline Hanson peddles prejudice and fear? Because I look at what she says.

(applause, cheering)

Penny Wong
And I remember the debate in the ‘90s, when we were the ones who were swamping Australia, and we were the ones who were going to make this a dreadful place.


Penny Wong
Yes, she is elected. You know, she has her seat in the senate. And she’s entitled to speak, but those of us who have very different views are also entitled to speak, and I would say this again – prejudice and fear will never build a community. They will only tear one apart. No country has ever made itself safer by attacking a particular ethnic minority.

To bring it back to what I set out to talk about in this post, let’s not ever assume that Pauline Hanson is stupid because of the infamous “please explain?” quote. Pauline Hanson, whilst one would probably not ever refer to her as a Rhodes Scholar, we can never write her off as being dumb by any means as, as Penny Wong said, Ms Hanson peddles prejudice and fear. For her cause, that being to get elected to parliament, that’s a smart thing for her to do.

Pauline Hanson peddles prejudice and fear of Asians and Muslims the same way Donald Trump does the same about blacks, Mexicans and Muslims.

Fear is not a good policy. Fear turns would be friends against each other. It turns Christians against Muslims, whites against blacks, women against men…

When I think about the fear that is being peddled by these would-be politicians I am reminded of one of the opening lines of the first inauguration speech of  the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt;

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”


Leave a Reply

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

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s