Weekend In-Depth: The Poor Old ABC’s blindness on Martin Place.


Today on Weekend In-Depth we look back at the events surrounding the Martin Place siege in December 2014, and the ABC’s inability to call it for what it was:

The poor old ABC. Its multiple news outlets (online, radio, television), with its massive billion dollar budget annually (cut by a whisker recently), laboured for hours during the course of the Martin Place siege to find new and novel ways of avoiding giving vocalization to just about any word beginning with the letter ‘I’. In the end, it just couldn’t be done, and finally the word ‘Islam’ appeared in a sentence on ‘The Drum’ website, in connection with the events in Martin Place, as part of the heading to a piece by well known activist Ruby Hamad – ‘Sydney Siege: Confronting our Anti-Islam Backlash.’

For the ABC, it was all about a backlash, whereby the vast majority of Australian citizens would turn feral and ugly, to the extent that a woman in a hijab could not get on a train alone, but required a chaperone, and in which the Muslim community were the victims of unfettered racism. Such is the low esteem in which the ABC and its employees regard their fellow Australians – the same ones who contribute its budget via their taxes, and who are meant to be the recipients of its impartial and informed news making and broadcasting. So captive, however, is the ABC to inner city Green Left fantasies, that it cannot see the black flag staring it in the face, but must immediately turn every instance of Islamic terrorism into a commentary on the inherent racism of the uneducated bogans who populate the Australian suburbs.

imageSo what did the ABC, and its army of commentators and opinion writers, think was unfolding in the Lindt café? The gunman, Man Haron Monis, seemed to have no doubt whatsoever. He unfurled a black flag with Arabic writing on it, and had his hostages hold it to the window for the world to see. Debates commenced immediately about the translation of the script. ABC reporters flooded the airwaves and twittersphere with smug, almost cheerful, proclamations that this was not the ISIS jihadist flag. One thing we did know – it wasn’t a banner wishing passers-by a Merry Christmas, and it didn’t translate to ‘peace on earth and goodwill to all men.’ Aware that he had come to a gunfight with the wrong flag, probably through the aegis of the same smug reporting that was giving lectures to listening and watching citizens on the finer points of Arabic grammar, Monis sought to clarify things by demanding an ISIS flag and then forcing the hostages to record videos for various news outlets, confirming that this was indeed a terrorist attack. In fact, he could not have been more specific and clear, having hostages implore on his behalf – “please broadcast on all media that this is an attack on Australia by the Islamic State.”

Over at the ABC there was consternation. What could this mean? Could the events in Martin Place unfolding before them bear any similarity to other global instances of lone fanatics shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ as they committed some atrocity or attack? Could the common link be Buddhism, or were those Christian Scientists at it again? Had secular humanists ever been known to be this violent? Where were the Crusaders when you needed them? Oh for some good, old fashioned Medieval Christian violence one can almost hear ‘The Drum’ columnists cry as they sat poised at their keyboards, waiting to denounce the Catholic church.

As time passed, and the tragic events unfolded, it all then became increasingly clear. Man Moris was mentally unwell (of course he was, who would deny it). En route to Martin Place he must have inadvertently picked up a black flag with Arabic script on it, purely by chance. He had decided he was an ISIS fighter around the time the Daily Telegraph published its ‘death cult’ headline. That made it all News Corp’s fault. And for the main take out story, well, an anti-Islam ‘backlash’ would have to do, despite the fact one could not be found, and regardless of the fact that the ‘I’ll ride with you’ hashtag campaign was, inconveniently, exposed as a fraud, based on a fabrication, even more inconveniently, admitted to shortly afterwards by its originator. The backlash, triumphantly proclaimed by the delusional Ruby Hamad, and repeatedly tweeted and publicized by her publicity officers over at the ABC, could still not be found, however.

Not anywhere.

Not until a full week later in fact, when three men were arrested for brawling in Lakemba, and a policeman hurt his shoulder. The ABC pounced, breathlessly telling its readers that it had been ‘advised’ the incident involved ‘some anti-Islamic activists.’ Around the same time, someone in a country town added a sentence in chalk to a blackboard menu outside a pub saying ‘Sorry no Muslims.’ The backlash was confirmed, and the chalkboard menu was an ABC cause célèbre, receiving saturation coverage on multiple platforms. In the real world, when a Muslim bride arrived at the scene in Martin Place (apparently not chaperoned and strangely without an Anglo-Saxon Greens candidate to ride with her) to place her bridal flowers amongst the sea of floral tributes there, bystanders broke into appreciative applause.

Back at the ABC offices in Ultimo the conversation turned to the upcoming World Wildlife Fund cocktail party, yoga classes resumed, and the tofu was brought in… whilst perplexed journalists searched in vain for a way of attributing all of this to Tony Abbott.