MH17 Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine: the birth of a meme

by Chris Zappone

Within hours of the MH17 being shot down, Australian prime minister Tony Abbott was speaking about the event in which 38 Australian * civilians died in the course of a civilian flight.

One line in particularly resonated – in part because you could apply it from Australia to Russia, as well as from Australia to China which has been active throwing its weight around with its neighbors. So it’s indicative of the overall geopolitical vibe of a time when larger countries seek to enforce their zone of influence, by force if necessary.

Abbott said this:

We want to avoid any situation where big countries are bullying small countries. We deplore any situation where countries do things just because they can. There should be peace, but there should be justice as well and this is the position that the Australian Government brings constantly to all of the councils of the world.

Much of the world has been in an ideological vacuum for years, as the BRICs growth, and a period of relative peace, lulled people into a belief that the values that underpinned democracy would eventually be embraced by authoritarian nations. Instead those authoritarian nations have been gained enough power, and feel free enough to use it, to undermine the values of democratic nations.

In addition to this meme about big countries’ bullying, there are the “rules-based order” and “rule of law” phrases – both of which got a big boost in the wording of Hillary Clinton’s Asia pivot speech. Since then, the Japanese have adopted them, as have other nations through Asia facing down an active Chinese military.

* Corrected to read 38 26 Nov 2014