Last Tuesday, on Anzac Day, commentator Yassmin Abdel-Magied made the following Facebook status: “Lest. We. Forget. (Manus. Naura. Syria. Palestine.)”
A few hours later she deleted the bracketed bits and publicly apologised.
The next day the Daily Telegraph’s front page was an absurdly photoshopped image of Yassmin in front of a historic image of a World War I battle, accusing her fairly benign status of being a ‘vile anti-diggers remark’ and a ‘hateful slur.’ Fellow Murdoch publication the Australian led the charge in a campaign for her to be fired from various roles.
By the time of writing this article, Monday this week, Yassmin’s Lest We Forget status had over 10,000 comments on it, many of them viciously insulting.
In the name of defending Australia and Australian values over a perceived slight, Facebook users in their thousands expressed sentiments that aren’t appropriate to print here, but that called for her death in shockingly bloodthirsty ways, and a whole manner of other graphic threats.
You could make the argument that Anzac Day is not the time to express political views. You could also make the argument that Anzac Day is the perfect time to reflect on wars that are currently taking place, and the human consequences of those wars in the form of refugees and asylum seekers. Either way, it’s hard to make the argument that the appropriate response to a seven word, non-derogatory Facebook post is to form a bloodthirsty nation-wide online mob calling for a 26 year old to be fired, deported, or killed for expressing an opinion.
Yassmin’s status had nothing to do with the fact that she’s a black Muslim woman, but the majority of the hateful comments focused on these three characteristics. You could for forgiven for assuming that these commentators, including those in the media, don’t actually care too much about the diggers at all, but are using “defending their honour” as a thin pretext to bay for the blood of someone whose existence and voice they dislike for other reasons.
Of course, probably the best part about all of this is that the same people who are currently calling for Yassmin to be severely punished for speaking on an issue close to their hearts, are the same ones who start foaming at the mouth about “freedom of speech” and “political correctness gone mad” whenever their own views are publicly challenged.
Anzac Day is supposed to be a day of reflection, gratitude, and national pride. Instead, this Anzac Day I and many others felt nothing but shame to be Australian. The actions of some Australians towards Yassmin Abdel-Magied this year will do nothing besides turn a generation off the whole concept of Anzac Day, because it has become associated with a hateful, savage brand of nationalism whose behaviour constitutes the exact opposite of everything we love about this country and its people.
Thank god there are role models like Yassmin Abdel-Magied out there to counter the hatred of the loud few who choose Anzac Day, of all days, to embark on their ugly witch hunts.