The anti-18C brigade, whose grasp on free speech has always been shallow, strained to spin it in novel directions this week as they piled on a 26-year-old
On they piled: Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, Eric Abetz, Peter Dutton, George Christensen, Pauline Hanson and a cacophony of News Corp hacks including Andrew Bolt and Graham Richardson. We could go on and on, but you get the picture.
This brand of synthetic outrage is now part of the Anzac Day ritual. Self-appointed protectors of Australian values are on duty, ready to pounce on anyone who posts an opinion that expresses anything short of the most cloying sentimentality about our diggers.
Two years ago, it was Scott McIntyre’s turn. The SBS sports reporter issued a series of tweets, one of which said: “Remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by those ‘brave’ Anzacs in Egypt, Palestine and Japan.”
The then communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, puckered-up and denounced McIntyre, along with others from the values enforcement squad, Chris Kenny and Tim Wilson.
SBS was so spooked by the confected horror that they sacked the reporter who then had to sue the public broadcaster because they hadn’t sacked him according to law.
Abdel-Magied’s comment was pretty straightforward: “LEST WE FORGET (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine).” You’d really have to work overtime to extract an iota of offence from such a remark.
It was left to our favourite bloviators to do so. You simply can’t have two thoughts in your head on Anzac Day, specially if you’re on the payroll of a public institution. She should be sacked, not only from the ABC but from a DFAT advisory board. Taxpayers expect better, apparently.
Former prime minister Abbott trotted out his infantile “Team Australia” line while Graham Richardson said the ABC should put “Australia first”.
Quite apart from the refrain that the ABC is the enemy of the people, freedom of expression inevitably bubbled to the surface. The anti-18C brigade, whose grasp on free speech has always been shallow, strained to spin it in novel directions.
News Corp writer Andrew Bolt said the attack on Abdel-Magied is is not an assault on her freedom of speech, it’s a “debate”. To others it seems less of a debate more of a headless rant, that avoids actually debating anything and instead concentrates on demanding that Abdel-Magied be punished and taken off the public purse.
It’s sort of OK if an offence-giver like Yassmin is employed by a private corporation or self-employed, otherwise it’s “actually a misuse” of public funding, even when thoughts are expressed independently out of office hours.
Bolt has form with this high-pitched jingoism. In 2014, the then governor of Tasmania Peter Underwood, a former chief justice, told a Hobart Anzac Day gathering:
We should spend less time studying Simpson’s donkey and more time looking at why we were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long …
I venture to repeat the caution … against glorifying war with descriptions of the mythical tall, lean, bronzed and laconic Anzac, enthusiastically and unflinchingly carrying the torch of freedom in the face of murderous enemy fire.
That was too much for Bolt, and he demanded the governor’s head.
Last October, it was Professor Kate Warner’s turn to do the right thing and resign after she was critical of Pauline Hanson’s anti-Islamic views. If everyone obeyed Bolt’s calls to resign in disgrace, in all probability the only people standing would be Pauline Hanson, Peter Dutton, Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz.
Of course, Gillian Triggs, from the Human Rights Commission also endured her unfair share of bile while she was reporting on children in immigration detention.
Implicit in the attack on Abdel-Magied is the defence of Australia’s asylum seeker policies which mandate that people, for who we have a duty of care, are stranded indefinitely on wretched Pacific islands, enveloped in a cone of secrecy. It’s deemed especially unforgivable to ventilate this mistreatment on Anzac Day.
Lest we forget. And lest we forget the suffering of Syria and Palestine, tragedies for which reminders cannot be too frequent.
Maybe the reaction would have been different if Abdel-Magied had posted on Anzac Day something like: “Lest we forget – the Holocaust”.
Contrary to the dictates of the swivel-eyed zealots guarding our values, Anzac Day is the perfect occasion for introspection about the misery of war and the damage it inflicts on its participants and the civilians in its path.
The idea that the day should be apolitical when politicians have been basting themselves in it since 1916 is an absurdity. And while we’re about it we should be remembering the other flawed campaigns engineered by political manipulators and their useful idiots in the media – Iraq in particular.
If you like explosions of boring, ugly and misinformed posturing then the regular Anzac Day bash-a-thon is for you.