I am deeply saddened to announce that it is time to set the ‘days since News Corp breathlessly waged a smear campaign against a person of colour who said an innocuous sentence they didn’t like‘ counter back to zero. Milking the outrage of credulous racist boomers for every single click that its worth, News Corp’s nest of ideologue columnists and journalists has been prodded several times and pointed in the direction of activist Tarneen Onus-Williams.
Onus-Williams attracted the ire of Murdoch‘s goons over comments (pearl-clutchingly described by The Australian as “expletive-laden“) she made in a speech at Melbourne‘s Invasion Day march. Specifically, they took umbrage with the following section: “We have not organised this to change the date. We have organised this to abolish Australia Day because fuck Australia. Fuck Australia, I hope it fucking burns to the ground.”
Apparently not hugely familiar with the concept of metaphor, The Australian reported on the comments as a quite literal “[call] for Australia to be burnt to the ground“, despite a) how obviously it is not and b) a full-length interview with The Age the following day in which she patiently explained how language works:
It was a metaphor, not actually a statement to be taken literally. I just want everything, all the governments to fall apart, because our people are dying and nobody cares and the whole system needs to change. The leaders of this country continue to ignore and oppress us. I am sick of our people getting locked up and dying in custody, of our young people suiciding.
But, of course, those printing presses only keep churning as long as there’s someone to vilify that’s a colour that their readers don’t like, so we’ve seen a raft of headlines launched from under the News Corp banner in the last few days: “WAR activists ramp up calls to ‘burn this colony'”, “Aboriginal activist called a ‘hypocritical hater'”, “Burn baby burn – Oz inferno”, “Nation burning’s Tarneen’s onus bonus”, “Invasion Day activist criticised after controversial remarks”, “Call for Invasion Day rally organiser Tarneen Onus-Williams to be sacked from government body”, to name a few.
This pattern might seem familiar and, frankly, that’s because it is. Activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied was effectively forced to leave the country after News Corp published nearly a piece daily about her for months following a seven-word Facebook post she did on Anzac Day – stooping to such ridiculous lows as putting the fact that she posted a discount code for glasses on the front page of the paper. Writer Benjamin Law (who did incredible work highlighting conservative media’s insanely concocted campaign against Safe Schools in his Quarterly Essay) suffered the same treatment after every single columnist at News Corp refused to look up what ‘hate fuck’ means.
Obviously, as much as they are huge dipshits, these reporters and columnists are free to opine and editorialise as much as they like – democracy doesn’t work without free speech – but it is deeply unethical as a combined practice. Collectively they wield incredible power in their ability to turn public opinion, affect policy, and make it so it is nearly impossible for their targets to operate in private or public life.
It’s also deeply inconsistent with the values they purport to espouse. They position themselves as champions of free speech, but will direct all of their energies at utterly destroying anyone who says anything even mildly provocative – that is, of course, if it’s someone they don’t agree with.
Let’s take a look at the case of Milo Yiannopoulos. The tedious opportunistic dipshit was received warmly and enthusiastically by The Australian (“Milo Yiannopoulos is a threat to leaders of the outrage industry“, “Marvellous what a mischief Milo makes when he mocks the Left“) despite a deep and shitty history of saying things that are objectively indefensible.
Can you imagine how The Australian would react if, instead of referring to consensual sex with a word they found rude, Benjamin Law had unequivocally defended pedophilia on a podcast? He would be driven out of the country and, yet, Yiannopoulos was welcomed with open arms. If Yassmin Abdel-Magied had been filmed singing karaoke in a room full of people doing Nazi salutes, they would have, well, driven her out of the country even sooner – and yet Yiannopoulos is given an opinion piece.
The right-wing press loves to write fawningly over libertarian senator David Leyonhjelm, despite the fact that at a 2013 rally he said that he would be happy to let police “lie on the side of the road and bleed to death“, a comment far more explicit than anything any of their targets have said.
The Murdoch papers all came out staunchly in favour of repealing section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, believing people should be free to be as racist as they like. They all fought against any possibility that, following marriage equality, you could lose your job for discriminating against gay couples. And yet, when the perpetrator is a young person of colour with opinions they don’t like, they want them turfed out onto their ass.
The hashtag #IStandWithTarneen has taken off on Twitter, with people rightfully objecting to seeing her be given this treatment by outlets that are ignoring her message and focusing on tone policing it because the way she’s asking for justice isn’t quite polite enough for them.
Image: 7 News