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Waleed Aly: Guilty of the same crime?

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Soon after the tragedy in New Zealand, Senator Fraser Anning, now infamous target of the infamous ‘Égg Boy’, had suggested that the cause of such gruesome and cowardly act – was Muslim migration into New Zealand.

“Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?” Senator Anning had tweeted.

“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”, Anning had speculated.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quick in tweeting:

“The remarks by Senator Fraser Anning blaming the murderous attacks by a violent, right-wing, extremist terrorist in New Zealand on immigration are disgusting,” 

“Those views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian Parliament.”

We saw politicians of almost all profiles, from various parties came out in distancing themselves, and rightly so, from such repugnant, illogical and hurtful remarks.

But the biggest story of the last week has been The Project host Waleed Aly’s stirring and emotional editorial segment on these attacks.

And the commotion it caused in power corridors of Canberra with the Prime Minister’s office first reportedly blasting the program (complaining defamation) and then sending the PM to do a one-on-one interview with Waleed Aly himself.

Of course that set me thinking. An excerpt from what he said on the night:

…  I’m gutted and I’m scared and I feel overcome with utter hopelessness, the most dishonest thing, the most dishonest thing would be to say that I’m shocked. I’m simply not.

If we’re honest, we’ll know this has been coming.

… The thing that scared me most was when I started reading the manifesto that one of the apparent perpetrators of this attack published, not because it was deranged but because it was so familiar. Let me share some quotes with you to show you what I mean.

“The truth is that Islam is not like any other faith. It is the religious equivalent of fascism,” or, “The real cause of bloodshed is the migration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate in the first place.” Or, “As we read in Matthew 26:52: ‘All they that take the sword shall perish by the sword’. And those who follow a violent religion that causes them to murder us cannot be surprised when somebody takes them at their word and responds at kind.”

How do those words sound now? Now how do they sound when I tell you that they weren’t part of the manifesto? They were actually published today after this terrorist attack on Australian parliamentary letterhead. And I know they came from someone who I don’t particularly want to name at the moment, who all parties have denounced.

“… I also know a senior figure in our government once suggested we made a mistake as a country by letting in Lebanese Muslims in the 70s. And I know there are media reports going back eight years at a shadow cabinet meeting in which another senior politician suggested his party should use community concerns about Muslims in Australia failing to integrate as a political strategy. That person is now the most senior politician we have.

“So while I appreciate the words our leaders have said today, and in particular Scott Morrison’s comments and his preparedness to call this terrorism and the strength of his comments more generally, I have something to ask. Don’t change your tune now because the terrorism seems to be coming from a white supremacist.

“If you’ve been talking about being “tough on terrorism” for years in the communities that allegedly support it, show us how tough you are now.

As an Australian, I feel proud of Waleed Aly and the courage he showed. But I must admit, I did not clap at the end of it like many of his sycophantic colleagues and friends did.

For me, the occasion was too grave and not a theatre to offer applause. It demanded introspection, pondering over and questioning myself and my knowledge, wisdom and understanding FACTS and KNOWLEDGE of those FACTS.

And I did.

And after days of grappling with various thoughts and arguments, the churning of turbulent thoughts has thrown a question at me about Waleed Aly’s choice of precise timing of “outing of Scott Morrison’s alleged “suggested use of community concerns about Muslims in Australia failing to integrate as a political strategy”.

In other words, “suggested exploitation of anti-Muslim sentiments” as a political strategy.

In today’s 24/7 cycle of digital communication, the very precise timing of gaining knowledge of such an explosive piece of information and then the very precise timing of sharing it with your audiences, as a presenter, public figure, community member or all rolled into one – can deliver very different desired outcomes.

For me the big question is:

When did he first hear of those shadow cabinet meeting reports of 2010?

If Waleed knew of those reports earlier than the day of Christchurch tragedy, by outing them on the day and in the way he did, was he not trying to use ‘facts’ (if any) of those reports to gain maximum advantage? Or exploiting them using a (media) strategy?

Does that not make Waleed guilty of the same crime, he was accusing Morrison of?

Media reports of Twitterati’s reading of the body language of both Scott Morrison and Waleed Aly on camera and then trying to judge who was more truthful than the other – ignores the fact that anything on camera is stage-managed; protagonists are prepared, rehearsed and told what to do and what not to. If one looked more innocent than the other, well, it may very well be a ‘planned outmanoeuvring’.

In this age of ‘digital gimmickry’, truth is a ‘packaged lie’.                                        

                                                                       -DM

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