'I'd run her over': The deplorable treatment of Yassmin Abdel-Magied

‘I’d run her over’: The deplorable treatment of Yassmin Abdel-Magied

I’m struggling to keep up.

On Anzac Day, in just seven words, Yassmin Abdel-Magied attracted the ugly and vicious wrath of a great swathe of Australians.

“Lest we forget (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine)”, were the offending words.

The fact she retracted those words less than 24 hours didn’t matter. The fact she apologised didn’t matter. Her crime was unforgivable.

She was a traitor, insensitive and unworthy of employment and citizenship.

Her punishment came in the form of death threats and an unrelenting campaign by a national newspaper to have her sacked and undermined. It was pitiless and two months on it continues.

Recently the Sudanese-born Australian decided to leave our shores and relocate to London – in part to escape the vitriol.

This is a young woman of immeasurable talent. She is an engineer, an author, a presenter and a wunderkind. She is the type of citizen any self-respecting nation would be proud to count among its own.

And we have literally driven her away.

The bit I can’t follow is that those who have attacked her most relentlessly are those who ordinarily champion free speech the most passionately.

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They howl at the mere mention of having to conform with anything remotely PC. They hate the gender police and the race police. They hate anything designed to promote tolerance and acceptance.

They support their right to say whatever they please, whenever it pleases them.

And yet, on the other hand, when someone says something with which they disagree it is grounds for deportation. It is proof that citizen needs to go back to where ever they came from. Even when they come from Australia.

The rank hypocrisy of Yassmin’s treatment was brought into focus on Wednesday afternoon.

Speaking on 2GB with Chris Smith, the commentator Prue MacSween said:

“She says she’s betrayed by Australia and she didn’t feel safe in her own country. Actually she might be right there because if I’d seen her I’d have been tempted to run her over, mate.”

Unsurprisingly these comments swiftly drew the ire of many who heard it. In what context is the suggestion of running over a person you disagree with remotely acceptable?

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It’s not. It is simply vile. The 2GB host Chris Smith quickly issued an apology.

https://twitter.com/MarkDiStef/status/885010375950954497

It didn’t stem the deluge of messages through social media to MacSween.

Soon, and predictably, enough MacSween urged those around her to get a life and lighten up.

Presumably because only a humourless cow doesn’t find threatening to run over a young woman terribly funny?

Eventually Prue reached for the defence so often favoured by those who find themselves at the centre of controversy: Free Speech!

Isn’t it curious that for Prue, free speech is the reason she ought to be able to make the “jokes” she chooses, but Yassmin isn’t afforded the same opportunity to voice her own views?

It’s more than curious, though. It is racist and it is deeply hypocritical.

It reveals, not for the first time, that many proponents of free speech, particularly the most vocal advocates, aren’t invested in freedom per se. They are invested in securing the freedom of expression where the views accord with their own.

Over the weekend another commentator Rowan Dean made headlines courtesy of some astonishingly racist remarks.

He suggested the Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, whose job it is to promote racial diversity ought to follow Abdel-Magied’s lead and leave Australia if he didn’t like the way things are.

His crime was advocating for more diverse representation in the media and Dean unwittingly bolstered Soutphommasane’s point. So did MacSween.

It is evident we need greater diversity (not to mention tolerance and compassion) in the voices we hear from and yet the treatment of Abdel-Magied makes crystal clear it is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Who would sign up for speaking up when you listen to Yassmin? Who would put their hand up when you consider Yassmin is moving away because the hatred is too much?

The recent census revealed we are more culturally diverse than ever before, and yet we are also more racist than ever before.

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