PoliticsSocial issues

Peasants, raise your pitchforks: the end of Yassmin Abdel-Magied

tldr; Australia loves capitalism, commercial globalised media conglomerates, and Anzac Day.

By Isobel Armstrong.


In case you haven’t heard, Yassmin Abdel-Magied wrote a post on Anzac Day this year that rocked Australia to it’s crusty conservative core. Veterans turned in their graves, the widows cried, children screamed, stores were looted* (*slight exaggeration).

“Lest We Forget (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine …).”

The post was quickly deleted and apologised for, but the uproar was nothing short of alarming. Remember Yassmin, questioning the financial and cultural relevance of a century old failed military venture in the name of present day human rights violations is un-Australian. Her ABC program has today been cut.

Several white male public figures have questioned the hyperdrive Anzac phenomena before. James Brown, a former Australian Army officer and defence analyst, wrote an entire book on the subject. Brown writes that, “like a magic cloak, Anzac can be draped over a speech or policy to render it unimpeachable, significant and enduring.” To Brown, the intersection of politics and Anzac is most concerning- with each passing year, parties on both ends of the political spectrum one-up each other.

“The only reason the centenary of Anzac is considered a special, once-­in-­a-­lifetime experience is because we have imbued it with that meaning. To be sure, we often mark centuries as significant. But the struggle and sacrifice of our forebears at Gallipoli will not be any greater in 2015 than it is in 2014, or was in 1915. The centenary marks an epoch that we have chosen for ourselves. And we have chosen not to commemorate it with a respectful silence and quiet reflection. At the War Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park, inscribed words decree: ‘Let silent contemplation be your offering.’ Instead, Australians are embarking on a discordant, lengthy and exorbitant four­-year festival for the dead.”

It’s a competition: who can care the most? Who can be the most respectful? Who can donate the most money? In a blatant show of what Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would call blowing hard in the House of Representatives and sucking hard in the living rooms of Melbourne, each act forms part of a desperate bid to please the patriotic masses. The Anzac spirit is, well, just that. A ghost. I’m 21 years old, and I grew up attending dawn service every year in my small wheatbelt town in WA. I only found out, recently, what the military campaign actually was. Nobody bothered to explain it to me. It was something I didn’t think to google until this year. I just knew I was supposed to care.

And I do. Yassmin Abdel-Magied cares, too. Only, she wants you to care about the suffering of the present as well. And Brown wants you to care about the way soldiers deal with modern warfare- because the Anzac obsession does not allow that.

There is a stark contrast between how Abdel-Magied and Brown have been treated by the public. One cannot deny the intersection of misogyny, racism and Islamophobia in Abdel-Magied’s very public witch hunt. Some examples from this morning are tame in comparison to the the OG Yassmin-gate:


This is not at all unexpected, especially when you look at how actual established media outlets responded to the original post:


A stunning display of objectivity and journalistic integrity from The Daily Telegraph. Note the absolutely unrelated video regarding Sharia Law above.


What is truly compelling about the entire affair is the renewed war cry against the ABC.

Right wing editorial Quadrant recently featured a piece by editor Roger Franklin, who quite confidently stated that the bomb in Manchester would have been more effective if it detonated in the ABC studios of Sydney.

Prominent Australian feminist Clementine Ford phrased it well when she wrote:

I wonder how long it will take the same people who feverishly joined the condemnation of Yassmin to argue that Franklin is entitled to his free speech. Because of course, unlike ANZAC day which is sacrosanct and holy and must never have political commentary attached to it, a day in which children are murdered at a concert is the perfect time to muse on which left wing troublemakers would have made ‘more appropriate’ victims.”

Since 1983, around 50 worldwide media outlets have been whittled down to the present 2011 number of only six syndicates at the head of the entire media industry (GE, NewsCorp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS). Such is the illusion of choice.

Inevitably, these ever-growing conglomerates diminish editorial independence. They also present a first-rate opportunity for slanting the same information across a cornucopia of different platforms, as is the case of the News Corporation’s slant towards the Liberal Party in Australia. Newspapers, news programs and radio news broadcast are constrained to presenting an adversarial game of politics, in which mainstream political ideas are the only political ideas.

McChesney writes that, ultimately, the global commercial media system “is politically conservative, because the media giants are significant beneficiaries of the current social structure around the world, and any upheaval in property or social relations—particularly to the extent that it reduces the power of business—is not in their interest.”

The key term here is “significant beneficiaries of the current social structure”. These anonymous Facebook commenters are beneficiaries of the current social structure. Peter Dutton, who applauded the sacking, is a beneficiary of the current social structure. I, as a white college educated female, am a beneficiary of the current social structure. Yassmin Abdel-Magied is working to upheave social relations in her quest to make you look. Nauru is a business. Manus island is a business. Because Abdel-Magied’s work reduces the power of business, she is public enemy number one.

So, all in all, Australia loves capitalism, commercial globalised media conglomerates, and Anzac Day.
Anybody who says “I just don’t like her” should question why.

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