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Slow burn of realisation

by
March 2009, no. 309

Blind Conscience by Margot O’Neill

NewSouth, $34.95 pb, 286 pp

Slow burn of realisation

by
March 2009, no. 309

Moral panics, which Stanley Cohen, in Folk Devils and Moral Panics (1972), said involve any group of people who are defined as a threat to societal values and interests, were grist to John Howard’s mill during refugee debates. Applying the classic analysis, his governments were ‘moral entrepreneurs’ who employed scare tactics whenever a perceived threat arose. Asylum seekers and their supporters were ‘folk devils’, outsiders and deviants responsible for the problems placing our values and principles in jeopardy.

Stereotypes negate complexity, supplant individual attributes, and essentially dehumanise us. Are refugee advocates simply an amorphous group of naïve do-gooders, obstreperous students, and pungent radicals? In Blind Conscience, Margot O’Neill attempts to dismantle such typecasting by focusing on the ranks of a ‘new wave of refugee advocacy’, many of whom ‘abandoned holidays, nice restaurants, and weekend rest’, ‘became obsessed’ and sometimes ‘discovered a new purpose.’

Jonathon Otis reviews ‘Blind Conscience’ by Margot O’Neill

Blind Conscience

by Margot O’Neill

NewSouth, $34.95 pb, 286 pp

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