When I learned of the massacre at Christchurch, a city of which I am fond, I had an immediate sick feeling. Somehow I had expected something like this for a long time — a sort of retaliation for the senseless ISIS bombings in Europe and Bali. Sooner or later it was going to happen. Then came a second even sicker feeling when I learned that the perpetrator was an Australian. That’s all we need. There will be a response before long, and probably in our country. I’m not sure that I can be usefully alert; I am certainly alarmed.
I guess that there would have been hundreds of thousands of Australians who felt as I did that morning. And with those feelings have come an additional feeling of helplessness: there’s nothing I can do, I am a pawn on somebody else’s chess board, what will happen next ? And so on.
Enter Senator Fraser Anning, once a One Nation member before he was kicked out, then a member of Bob Katter’s group before he was kicked out, and now an Independent. He spoke about the Christchurch massacre in a way that seemed to have offended almost everybody, so it’s worth setting down what he actually said or wrote. While there is ample coverage of the reaction to Anning, it is hard to find out his exact words. I take it that the Sydney Morning Herald is accurate with its account. The first paragraph seems to have been an Annings tweet, while the rest is as the Herald set it out. I’ve separated it out into numbered paragraphs.
1. ‘”Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?”
2. “I wonder if there will be as much outrage from the left wing when the next Muslim terrorist attack occurs? Most likely silence and talk about lone wolf attacks, mental illness and no connection to Islam”, he added.
3. In a media release, he said, “whilst this kind of violent vigilantism can never be justified, what it highlights is the growing fear within our community, both in Australia and New Zealand, of the increasing Muslim presence.”
4. “The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”
Given the outrage that has followed these statements I must say I had expected something more striking. If there had been something of that kind I would have expected the paper to publish it. Let’s look at each of the paragraphs.
1. ‘The link between Muslim immigration and violence’ is not clear to me, and the Senator didn’t say what he thought the link actually was. I can’t see an obvious one.
2. ‘Outrage from the left wing’. Actually, the Coalition Prime Minister appeared as outraged as anyone on the left, I think. There is a tendency in the media and among commentators to diminish any link between ISIS violence and Islam. Though the Koran does have a few bloodthirsty passages in it, Australian and New Zealand Muslims seem intent on building a new life in our countries. And some at least of the ISIS attacks seem indeed to have been lone-wolf endeavours.
3. Here Senator Anning plainly condemns the attack in Christchurch, and says, correctly, I think, that there is a growing fear of the numbers and immigration of Muslims. I wish it weren’t so, but I think he’s right.
4. ‘The real cause’ of the massacre can’t be the immigration program in New Zealand, and there is no evidence that New Zealand harbours any Muslim fanatics. His assertion and argument to me are just plainly wrong.
What are to make of these four statements? I think that freedom of speech is the basic freedom that supports any democracy, and to me none of these numbered paragraphs is a plain threat to anyone, something that would bring in the law. So Senator Anning was entitled to say what he wrote, just as others were entitled to object to it. That he doesn’t seem either well-briefed or able to argue a case properly does not in any way make him unique in our Parliament.
The collective fury against him seems to me a sign of ‘virtue signalling’, a sort of distancing between the objector and the Senator, understandable enough in the case of Australian parliamentarians, but the tone of the fury is surely rather over the top. Much nastier things have been said by MPs and Senators about each other and about members of the public and their organisations. What is special here is the sheer scale of the massacre, the fact that the villain is an Australian, and the felt need to show our sympathy to our New Zealand friends and relatives. Senator Anning was not joining in the common feeling, and was writing something that went against the common feeling. So he is to be ostracised in Parliament. I think he’ll just shrug. Enough of Senator Anning. Now to Egg-boy.
Once again, we are seeing virtue-signalling in the way this 17-year-old has been made a hero. What occurred was plainly an assault, and from behind, which makes it worse. The boy may have been unaware that any unexpected blow to the scalp or skull brings out an anger/fight response on the part of the victim, which should be familiar to anyone who has delivered the blow to himself or herself — in my recent case the sharp edge of an open cupboard door.
Senator Anning’s response was a swing at his attacker. The boy then struck back, and was wrestled to the ground by one man with the assistance of another, not ‘the 30 bogans’ the boy referred to in a later comment. In my view he should have been charged with assault. He appears not to have been. Why not? Ask yourself what you would feel like if someone did that to you. The fact that the boy was objecting to what Senator Anning had written, or perhaps just to the Senator himself, does not excuse his behaviour.
The parents of the Grafton perpetrator went into seclusion, not even members of their close family allowed to speak to them on the telephone. My heart goes out to them. They will be asking themselves what they did wrong, yet the evidence so far is that he was ‘normal’ until his father died and he went overseas. I think that what has happened is even worse than to have to see your own child die. So far no one has unearthed a close confidant, though the police here and in New Zealand will do a good forensic job of exploring how, when and where he became ‘radicalised’. To repeat, someone was going to do this ‘payback’ massacre sooner or later. I just hope that we don’t experience copycat killings or more attacks on Christian churches, though I sometimes fear the worst.
To my New Zealand readers and friends, and I have quite a few, my deep sympathies are with you. The massacre has brought Australians and New Zealanders together in a positive way, and I hope that continues forever.