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Saturday, 26 September 2015

How social media can be a force for good

Yesterday morning when news of the anti-radicalisation kit the federal government had released into schools became public knowledge I had an idea for a blogpost but I had to go shopping for groceries and other things, so it wasn't until I had returned around midday that I got a chance to sit down to write it. By that time the #freekaren hashtag on Twitter had already started in a major way.

The hashtag trended all afternoon, becoming the number-one hashtag on Twitter in Australia for hour after hour as people across the country expressed their disbelief and frustration at the leadership of Tony Abbott, replaced just short of two weeks ago as prime minister by Malcolm Turnbull. It was extraordinary how ordinary people had taken a stand and the condemnation was almost universal. This is how social media can be a bulwark against government abuse. Against fascism. Against narrow partisan interests gaining excessive influence in society.

Some of the tweets were humorous, and some were outraged. Mostly they combined both tendencies, such as one by @sarahmiow who wrote "I've got a Joan Baez record in my Jane Goodall Foundation calico bag...I think I might BE Karen  #freekaren #auspol". Another, by @stellaspoons, went "I'm a Left-wing activist and alternative music fan for 30+ years. Married 24yrs, 2 kids, self-employed..I clearly need help! :-/ #FreeKaren" And then there was @dan_rowe12 who wrote "Listening to @triplej all day to accelerate my development as a violent extremist #freekaren #auspol" And then there were the memes, like this clever one from @joelrdodd:


There were also media analyses of the phenomenon of the government brochure being ripped into by the public on Twitter, such as this story by the Fairfax publication Daily Life. From overseas, the BBC got into the action with its own story on what was happening in Australia.

It was  a wonderful moment and I was deeply moved because proud of my fellow countrymen and -women. And my mind all on its own went back to the image of a recently-installed statue at the Sydney Cricket Ground rendering in bronze the figure of "Yabba", a famous heckler who had attended many matches at the ground. The statue is by Sydney artist Cathy Weiszmann. It represents something essential about Australians, who will not have their freedoms lightly taken away and who cannot abide pomposity or cant.


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