It has been an intense few weeks in the media cycle – there have been a series of violent crimes, tragic accidents, natural disasters (Nepal) and high profile international incidents (death penalty in Indonesia). For those watching/reading/tweeting or otherwise engaging with news media, it has been an emotionally demanding time; for those engaging with social media it all seems amplified.
The one unifying feature of all these events is that it has allowed society, or at least for the most part, to remember a very compassionate, supportive and community minded way of life and way of looking out for each other. In reacting to the very worst of humanity, many people have shown some of the very best.
At the same time, however, I have been left feeling somewhat bewildered by much of the public reaction (media/social media/other) to the execution of two Australians in Indonesia this week. Before I go on to explain my ideas, I do want to say right now that I am wholly and fully opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. I believe the justice system must focus on rehabilitation as a primary aim, and a just and fair punishment where necessary, or where rehabilitation has failed.
It follows then, that I am disappointed that the Indonesian government would execute anyone (Australians or otherwise), in much the same way that I am disappointed that any government, anywhere in the world would do this. And it happens. All. The. Time.
What would I want for Andrew Chan and Myran Sukamuran? Any just outcome that didn’t involve their death.
That said, I am also really disappointed in the reaction of a large portion of media and social media in Australia.
I am disappointed that main stream media outlets have used this sad event as an excuse to encourage anger and resentment towards Indonesia and Indonesians, revealing the very worst of Australian racism and xenophobia. If you want to know more about this, just look at the front page of any of the national news papers, especially tabloids, in the days following the execution.
I am disappointed in the outpouring of outrage about how disgraceful it is that Indonesia has breached human rights in so foul a manner by the same people who have no empathy for the plight of asylum seekers and apparently no shame about Australia’s inhumane and unyielding policies in this area. (I admit it, some of this is editorialising, in the sense that this is as witnessed around me. On the other hand, this paragraph applies to many members of the Federal Government, so I think the criticism stands.)
I am disappointed that in their haste to be outraged and fight the evil of “what Indonesia has done to some Australians,” a number of people seem to be glorifying the individuals involved. Can we remember for one moment that these were “ringleaders” of a drug smuggling group attempting to bring heroin into Australia. I’m not sure it’s ok to promote them as innocent victims of a cruel system. They didn’t deserve the death penalty, because no-one does. But beyond that? I think the sympathy thing is getting a little out of hand. Exhibit A: the fact that ACU has announced scholarships to honour them. Where are the scholarships for run of the mill local drug dealers ACU? That’s what I want to know.
Oh, that’s right, they’re nowhere. Because the media hasn’t made them “A Thing.” And they never will, because eventually sanity will be restored and we will all remember the terrible scourge that is the current drug problem all over this country.
I’m all for an emotionally literate society and I’m really keen on a world where people look out for each other and care about each other. Can we please just remember that not every emotion needs to be intensified by the unstoppable beast that is ‘public opinion.’ It’s ok to feel without becoming overzealous and losing touch with common sense. The world is complicated. We can feel empathy for people who have suffered something terrible without canonising them.
I’m just going to let twitter have the last say.