Why Do "Good People" Hate Asylum Seekers?

As the government sank to new lows in its treatment of asylum seekers this week, disappearing people and returning others fleeing persecution and torture to the countries they'd been escaping, the reactions of horror and disgust from caring Australians have been matched by vitriol and fury from the right. Right wingers and Liberal voters are flooding comment sections and the Facebook pages of groups such as the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

But why? Why do conservatives, RWers and Liberal voters - who would otherwise think of themselves as good, caring people - hate asylum seekers so much? Why do they feel the need to spew their venom on online sites dedicated to helping and supporting asylum seekers?

Because it's cognitive dissonance. They have to.

Conservatives, unable to acknowledge the government's abhorrent treatment of asylum seekers and still sleep at night, instead demonise the asylum seekers themselves and those who support them. They react with fury when called ignorant even though their position requires relying on distortions, half-truths and outright lies; they likewise deny being racist, despite that the government's response to undocumented arrivals is entirely and disproportionately focused on the brown people who arrive by boat rather than the white people who arrive on planes. They spout meaningless platitudes such as "we have to look after our own first" to prove their compassion when I'm sure none of them have marched in the streets against the punitive federal budget which will unfairly target the most disadvantaged in our society, making poverty worse; when the punitive measures towards asylum seekers cost far more than community processing ever would; when even if the issue of asylum seekers vanished overnight it would not suddenly free up funds for the struggling community sector, which is being starved by the same governments that promise to "stop the boats". (Incidentally, all my years of working in refuges for homeless women and young people, all my welfare studies, I've never actually met someone working at the coalface of welfare provision who supports these harsh anti-asylum measures). And they drone on and on about "deaths at sea", as though people who can't escape (or worse, are sent back to torture) are any less dead than those who drown.

And they sure do have a bizarre fetish for orderly queues.

But the right need to ignore the suffering of these people who come here seeking our help in order to maintain their views of themselves as just good people. If only they'd consider the alternative - to look at the facts and seek a more compassionate solution.

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