Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Steering AWAY from a False Equivalency

The Popular Press Get the Wrong End of the Stick.

When I think of Australia, my age and space belie me.  Huge cans of Foster's beer.  Crocodile Dundee.  Dingoes eating babies.  Terrible Outback Steakhouse adverts.  

Yes; I know that that last one is not really Australian.

Today, the news out of Sydney is horrible.  An Iranian refugee, admitted to Australia in 1996 seeking asylum, took multiple hostages in a crowded Lindt cafe, holding them captive for several hours before finally killing two of them and himself being killed when police raided the store.

All this, a week before Christmas.

Australia, like many western countries, is currently doing a great deal of soul-searching about just how many and what sort of refugees to grant asylum to.  I live in France, and the EU is similarly beseiged by asylum-seekers.  Thousands are currently in a camp in Pas-de-Calais in the north of France; they don't want to stay in France, preferring the far more generous welfare benefits afforded in the United Kingdom, just a few dozen kilometres to the north.  The UK is not a full signatory to the Schengen agreement, and thus the refugees are not entitled to free entry from continental Europe.

The bloodshed is tragic here - two people are dead, after all, plus the terrorist himself.  The killer, a self-styled "cleric" and "sheikh" was named Man Haron Monis, and according to reports, was well-known to Australian police for a series of offences, including accusations of accessory to murder, sexual assault, and of sending malicious and threatening letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

In short, he's not exactly a sympathetic figure.

But aside from the feelings of disgust I feel about the senseless loss of life, I am truly puzzled by the reaction I am seeing in various quarters, including social media and the New York Times.  To wit, there is a significant set of stories about the "right reaction to terrorism" being displayed by Australia's citizenry.  The "IWillRideWithYou" hymnal.

According to news reports, during the stand-off, trending news lionised an apocryphal incident that took place on a Sydney public bus, wherein, an apparently Islamic woman, apparently out of fear of a backlash, removed her hijab - the scarf many Moslem women wear for religious purposes of modesty to cover their hair.  A fellow traveller assured the woman that she should replace her scarf, promising to ride along and protect her.

The indicent quickly became a meme, popularised in part by a professional writer and semi-professional activist called Tessa Kum. Kum blogs and 'tweets' frequently about the evils of the world - typically men, and specifically, white men.  White men are guilty of sexism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and a host of other modern sins.  

A quick look through her blog finds not a single mention of mention of the crimes committed by Islamic fundamentalists, let alone a condemnation.  I might have missed them, as she is quite prolific in churning out 10,000 word screeds.

Now, I stiuplate that all of the above - racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia - are all bad things.  They are to be condemned.  Blaming Moslems en masse for the horrific actions of an evil man is wrong.  Women on buses should not be the targets of threats or intimidation because of a terrorist act by someone whom they share no connection other than being co-religionists.  And it's great that non-Moslem Australians are willing to stand up for "the other."

But in this instance, are people like Kum not taking the wrong end of the stick?

Thus far, I have not seen a single report of a Moslem or a person of middle eastern origin who has been the victim of violence following this attack.  I've seen no news stories about a refugee beaten or a mosque burned.

The victims in Sydney are not Moslems.

They are two people named Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson.  They were not insulted or ridiculed in tweets (the apparent crime claimed by Kum and others).  They were shot and killed.  By Man Haron Monis.

They won't be harrassed by tweets, or badgered on Sydney buses.  They won't be coming home at all.

The victims are the dozens of people who were terrorised for hours by a gunman, welcomed to Australia as an asylum seeker.  They include a couple of pregnant women.  They include a Sydney policeman, hit in the face with shotgun pellets.

The REAL Victims in Sydney.
Will You "Ride with Them?"

The story in Sydney is not about the possibility of a "backlash" - whether real or imagined.  It is about the killing of two people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The western world has truly lost its mind when the prime fear becomes whether a particular group will be the victim of some mean tweets or social media posts.

Blogger Mark Steyn hit the nail squarely on the head in writing:
Sorry, but that doesn’t “restore my faith in humanity”. In fact, it makes me think humanity, or at any rate civilization, is doomed. The mythical “backlash” against Muslims is such a dreary staple of these stories that I might as well just rerun my shtick from a dozen or so backlashes back:
Stage Four: The backlash that never happens. Because apparently the really bad thing about actual dead Jews is that it might lead to dead non-Jews: “French Muslims Fear Backlash After Shooting.” Likewise, after Major Hasan’s mountain of dead infidels, “Shooting Raises Fears For Muslims In US Army.” Likewise, after the London Tube slaughter, “British Muslims Fear Repercussions After Tomorrow’s Train Bombing.” Oh, no, wait, that’s a parody, though it’s hard to tell.
Indeed. Usually the Muslims-fear-backlash crowd at least waits till the terrorist atrocity is over. In this case the desiccated multiculti saps launched the #I’llRideWithYou campaign even as the siege was still ongoing – while Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were still alive. Muslims are not the victims here. Ms Dawson and Mr Johnson are the victims. And yet the urge to usher Muslims into the victim chair and massage their tender sensibilities is now so reflexive the narcissists on Twitter don’t even have the good taste to wait till the siege is over and the corpse count is known. Far from a restoration of faith in humanity, it’s a glimpse of how advanced the sickness is.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is asking the the question polite people dare not ask:  WHY WAS THIS GUY NOT ON ANY OF THE APPROPRIATE LISTS:
How can someone who has had such a long and chequered history not be on the appropriate watch lists and how can someone like that be entirely at large in the community?

I would add, "why was he still in Australia to begin with?"

At some point, the people who lead our nations need to stop asking what is "good and fair" for refugees and others seeking to enter, and start asking what is right and fair for those already here.

There are many who believe that what will be remembered from Sydney will be #IWillRideWithYou as a reaction to an imagined backlash.

I hope it will be about two innocent people who were killed in part because our leaders forgot that their primary responsibility is to serve and protect their people from killers like this.

I hope we will remember Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, not Tessa Kum.

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