My thoughts around Betina Arndt are surprisingly mixed.
Don’t get me wrong- I hold those who defend child molesters in complete contempt. I just wasn’t sure what the best way to respond to the Australia Day Council’s decision to seemingly elevate one of them instead.
Much like it’s poorly chosen date, the ‘honours’ awarded on Australia Day have become a divisive phenomenon in themselves. I asked a few years ago, who would actually want to be named Australian of the Year in light of the deluge of negativity recent recipients have received? So I’m a little reticent about being the one criticising a recipient this time around. Yet I am.
I also have some reservations about giving greater notoriety and exposure to someone who obviously courts it. I didn’t really know who Betina Arndt was until last week. I vaguely recognised the name from some sensationalist headlines of common conservative talking points in the Murdoch trash and had concluded I didn’t actually want to read anything she had written. The likely result of this furore is that Ms Arndt will be more loathed by many but will also have gained a greater loyalty from the most blinkered and morally flexible corners of the MRA movement, who will forgive anything of someone who attacks feminists.
I have no respect for Scott Morrison and his lack of action or leadership in the face of a national emergency is indefensible. However he is not single-handedly responsible for bringing on these catastrophic bushfires.
I need to stress that because it didn’t take long for the political sparks to start to fly once these fires took hold. It is said that truth is the first casualty of war and it was a similar story here. There have been some ridiculous claims made that would be laughable if the matter weren’t so serious. I was initially reluctant to write about the fires whilst people’s lives were still at risk but eventually decided actually we need to talk about them whilst the reality of their devastation is obvious to everyone. And with the maelstrom of spin, exaggeration and outright lies being thrown around right now- with due respect and genuine sorrow for all those whose lives were lost- I thought it important to put a few things in context.
To begin with, if you’re going to tell me climate change isn’t proven and that we have always had bushfires, stop there. If you believe that you know more than the global scientific community, then your peer group is made up of anti-vaccers and flat-Earthers. You should stick to chatting with them because I’m not writing this for you.
Is now the right time to talk about this?
Even beyond the crazed ramblings of Barnaby Joyce, there has been a lot said about the catastrophic bushfires that continue to ravage this country.
Borrowing from the NRA’s playbook of deflecting responsibility from the tragedies of gun violence, climate deniers are already arguing that apportioning responsibility is largely irrelevant right now because we need to focus on what needs to be done now (which would be a better argument if SmoKo actually looked like showing any leadership or initiative instead of asking us to ignore the devastation and enjoy the cricket).
And even though most of the same people making these arguments take approximately two minutes between hearing about a terrorist attack and tweeting something that attempts to link the tragedy to their xenophobic worldview, I still do take this question seriously.
Like many people I reflected on an amazing year as 2019 came to close. And at a personal level it truly had been a wonderful year full of incredible highlights, even if it also involved a fair bit of hard work.
But given the bushfire emergency gripping our country, it felt gauche, almost tone-deaf to be sharing my usual post of celebration and gratitude. At the same time that I reflected on everything fantastic that had happened for me and my little family this year, people were scared for their lives as fires raced closer. This made me pause and wonder if it was really necessary to share.
The first question I had to ask is whether 2019 was truly a year to be celebrating?