This week, an egg was cracked on the scalp of a uniformly disliked politician and made waves around the world. It got us thinking – is it a legitimate form of debate, or not?
Against: Alexandra Tselios, Publisher of The Big Smoke
It’s disappointing to know that Australia possesses politicians that are as unevolved as Fraser Anning, but within a democratic society, he exists and has the right to lead a political view.
For those who don’t research why they believe what they believe, it becomes difficult to maintain a fair debate or view them as critical thinkers. So, when I see a politician I view as inherently misguided (and harmful) as Anning get ‘egged’, I was torn. I understood why social media wanted to make the egg-thrower a national hero, yet I felt embarrassed that we applauded this type of behaviour. That is not to defend Anning, his views are indefensible.
In 2014, Julie Bishop endured an incident at Sydney University where students mobbed and spat at her. Sophie Mirabella and Julia Gillard faced similar protests (when a sandwich was thrown at the latter). I have always understood why students find these acts amusing (and as though they are leading change), but I am equally unsure why adults would applaud this behaviour. Especially considering these are teenagers who are trying to find their political voice, and maybe go viral in the process.
I’m frustrated by the hypocrisy of outrage. It depends on which politician is involved. Someone palatable (or widely liked) is seen as a victim facing a mob, but someone physically attacking a figure with views as unevolved as Fraser Anning, is seen as a hero. We laugh when MAGA-supporters are humiliated publicly and share the videos to all our friends, smirking at how ‘dumb these MAGA supporters are’, and then feel outraged when those we admire from the opposite side of the political coin are faced with the same.
If a liked politician said physically aggressive protesters are self-indulgent, we suggest they are wise. When Christopher Pyne says it (he did re: Julie Bishop incident), we suggest he is out of touch. When Barack Obama was faced with a protestor (and his crowd booed the protestor), Obama calmly said: “Don’t boo, vote.” It seems our outrage is reserved mostly for those who antagonise our political comfort, rather than see acts of protest which results in physical attacks as bad.
One reason why the egg throwing was generally considered okay is that debate is dead – no one is listening – this is how people need to be heard. If this is the case, we should all shut down our publications and hand over our political discourse to viral Youtube videos and ‘Lord of the Flies’ style community meetings.
Applauding this is a step towards losing the most crucial component of democracy, the ability to listen. Throwing an egg at someone is too easy. It’s a waste of an opportunity to meet face-to-face with those who ignite you. I believe too much in people, in critical thinkers, and in our country to give that up so easily.
Yes, throwing an egg as a politician is ‘Aussie’, and yes, Fraser Anning wrongly attacked the young man. Neither of them should be off the hook – and both should be held responsible for their actions.
As Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously said, “If you’re going to change things, you have to be with the people who hold the levers.” A statement which indicates where I believe passion and effort should be fuelled.
For: Mathew Mackie, Editor of The Big Smoke
It’s a rather pressing question, should our children cover our politicians in unfertilised poultry embryo as a means of legitimate protest? I don’t see why not.
In the dawn of the decade, Julia Gillard was egged and laughed it off. We could laugh then, but 2010 wasn’t subject to the same cooked climate that served this up. In 2019, the swole features of far-right extremism are barely kept in check by the see-through string singlet of free speech. Their gains have enabled a serious subtraction in the national discourse. Pauline Hanson returned to wear a burqa, Peter Dutton continually proves that the tin man had no need for a heart, and Fraser Anning (a man of 19 votes and no fucks) referenced the final solution in his maiden speech and was applauded for it.
These people represent us, but they certainly don’t represent us.
As for these certain people being targeted, the simple answer is that these people continue to talk absolute tripe. It’s not discourse, it’s divisive nonsense to make headlines. While I don’t think that Tasmanian DJ should have headbutted Tony Abbott, but I can certainly understand why he did it. It takes many subtle pushes before an average citizen risks jail time or criminal charges by literally taking the fight to an elected official.
Yes, it was just an egg, but the memes, the headlines and the money handed over to the teen (who has since donated to help the victims of Christchurch) illustrate the subtext: normal avenues of debate no longer work. It’s why everyone abandoned QandA, we grew tired of watching increasingly inflammatory planks waiting for their turn to talk.
Just last week, hours before the horrors of Christchurch, children all over the world skipped school to protest climate change. For weeks, the adults marginalised their peaceful protest through their positions of power, claiming that the kids were pawns in a game, or that they were naive and stupid, or that other grown-ups did most of the work for them. They weren’t interested in debate, they were just interested in smearing them. They weren’t even listening to what the debate was about, they were commenting on the conditions of their demonstration.
Sometimes talking doesn’t reach people. Sometimes what’s needed is something simple. Not too long ago, Brazil’s president became the latest elected official to have an egg thrust upon his person.
Brazil’s Bolsonaro just got egged now, too.
Thank you, egg kids. pic.twitter.com/af4xWTmMrn
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) March 18, 2019
We can call “assault”, or decry the scrambled youth of today, but instead of focusing on the egg, let’s focus on the chickenshit rhetoric that came first. Bolsonaro’s views on women (“I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it”), homosexuality (“I would be incapable of loving a homosexual son”), or the democratic system (“Elections won’t change anything in this country. It will only change on the day that we break out in (a) civil war here and do the job that the military regime didn’t do: killing 30,000. If some innocent people die, that’s fine. In every war, innocent people die.”) place him firmly in the sights of the nearest hen’s backside.
Is it protest? Maybe. Is it free speech?