Monday, January 22, 2007

Australian Flag "Banned" As "Gang Colours"

Cancel The Big Day Out, Demands Prime Minister

The race riot at Cronulla Beach that gave birth to the whole flag "ban" controversy.

: It was the flag “ban” that actually wasn’t.

But it was.

Kind of.

If you tell someone "don't bring Australian flags to this music festival" or they will be confiscated, is that a ban, or a recommendation?

The promoter who decided it was too dangerous to allow Australian flags at his outdoor music festival, because he believed they had become akin to "gang colours", didn't use the word "ban", but the Prime Minister sure did.

So did every other political leader who get their face in front of a TV camera.

They couldn't help themselves.

The opportunity to shout "I love the Australian flag!" loud and proud was too irresistible.

So did the Australian tabloid media. They didn't bother with " " around the word 'banned'.

So were they then quoting their own interpretation of what the promoter actually said?

Ken West, the promoter of the Big Day Out music festival to be held tomorrow in Sydney, planned to stop people from bringing Australian flags into his day long gig.

He said he chose to do this because he was worried about the Australian flag being wielded by drunk Australians in a repeat of the Big Day Out in 2006, when a number of people with dark skin (Muslims in particular) were approached by drunk white Australians and told they had to "kiss" the flag and "pledge their allegiance".

Or they'd cop a smack in the mouth.

The nastiness in 2006 followed the Cronulla Riot a few weeks before (see below)

It didn't seem to matter to the thugs, of course, that they targeted fellow Australians, or (ridiculously) tourists.

It was ugly, and demented, and as unpatriotic as you can get.

Australia's the greatest multicultural nation on the planet and Big Day Out promoter Ken West felt he had a duty to the music fans who had paid over $130 for their tickets to not have to cop that kind of crap from racist little turds.

So he was planning to announce that he didn't want people to bring their Australian flags along to the gig.

But then a Sydney tabloid paper got hold of the story and went to town.

Cue, a day of patriotic near mass-hysteria.

Up until quite recently, the only time the Australian flag would come up in conversation in Australia was usually when a discussion began about why the British Union Jack should be removed, seeing as we're not supposed to be under the dominion of the British Empire anyway.

Now the Australian flag is a firecracker that can launch a nationwide debate that quickly reaches nearly hysterical limits.

The “ban” on the Australian flag at the Big Day Out has now been transformed into “a request” not to fly the nation’s flag at the festival.

Or was it always just a request?

Hey, why spoil an all-in media and public pile-on?Australian patriotism is becoming a bloodsport.

Perhaps the most unexpected result for Ken West of the Big Day Out was the massive display of national unity on the issue. There were barely a few dozen commenters across a ream of Australian online media who said the “ban” was a good idea or who felt it was necessary.

It was a great day to be an Australian. But it was hard to be too outraged. There was next to no-one calling for a ban on the flag. Virtually everyone was signing the same song of outraged defiance against...well, nobody really.

But it was also a great day to be a politician, and they tried to ignore the fact there wasn't a chorus of calls for the flag to be banned.

The ‘Ban The Flag? You Bastards!’ story was exactly the kind of no-consequences issue that politicians love to get caught up in. They have wet dreams about days like this.

Thanking Allah, Jesus, Jehovah, Yoda and all the Hindu gods for such a wonderful welcome back from his extended holiday, John Howard said : “The proposition that the display of the Australian flag should ever be banned anywhere in Australia is offensive and it will be to millions of Australians.”

Which he followed with his acute observation that, “”flags don’t have legs and arms…” (ahh, yeah) in reference to his claim that the Australian flag was not the reason why the Cronulla Riot happened.

Continuing with the Quotes Of Outraged Outrage…

NSW Premier Morris Iemma said : “If they pulled this on Independence Day in the US, imagine what would happen. It’s just ridiculous.”

Ridiculous? Yes. But so is making comparisons to July 4, Independence Day. An overwhelmingly patriotic American celebratory institution for the founding of a Republic for which we have no comparable day or date.

We don't even have a Bill of Rights to call our own. Something American readers of this blog have reacted to with a stunned horror in the past.

The Big Day Out media release today read (in part) :

In recent times, there has been an increased incidence of flags brandished inconsiderately and this has led to increased tension. Our only goal in discouraging this activity at the Big Day Out is to ensure that our patrons are not subjected to or inconvenienced by this behaviour. We have no problem with people being patriotic, and we certainly do not have a problem with people wearing or displaying what they feel is important. Regardless of how it has been interpreted, this is about audience safety and enjoyment.

Amen to that.

It's remarkable how passionate and disgusted the Prime Minister can get about something so trivial as a sheet of cloth with more cloth sewn onto it.

But is he passionate and outraged about the Iraq War?

Eh. Kinda.

Education? Health care? Climate change?

Eh, eh, and eh.

Like I said, flag-related controversy is perfect for a politician. It is essentially meaningless and has no real political fallout, particularly when there is next to no-one to debate against, or be outraged by.

They basically went to war against...a misinterpretation.

John Howard is going to make the most of the controversy, however. He is giving a speech on Australia Day where it's rumoured he will demand that immigrants who become Australian citizens must adopt "Australian values". Whatever the fuck they are.


Australian Flag "Banned" For Association With Racism And Violence - A "Symbol Of Hate"

Australia In The Sights Of Hysterical, Hate-Filled Extremists - Michelle Malkin Fans The Flames


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Yesterday's story :

Australia's flag has become so connected with the vicious race riot that broke out on Cronulla Beach in December, 2005, that it has now been "banned" from the country's biggest music festival.

Any person carrying an Australian flag trying to enter the Big Day Out Festival next week in Sydney will have it confiscated as representing "gang colours".

The producer of the Big Day Out concert, featuring Australian and international rock, pop, dance and hip hop acts, said he decided to ban the flag because of its connection with violence and racism.

The prime minster, John Howard, has called the ban an insult to all Australians as well as an insult to "the freedom" that the flag is supposed to represent.

Howard wants the whole gig cancelled.

Now who's being hysterical?

How exactly does the Australian flag represent "freedom" for Australians?

The flag has got a filthy great British Union Jack occupying the top right hand corner. Every time we see it, it reminds us that we're not truly free. Not in the way Americans are.

We are not a Republic, nor do we have a Bill of Rights. Our head of state is still Queen Elizabeth II. And when anybody starts a campaign to make Australia into a Republic, and sever ties with the British, and the Royal Family, mysterious donors pour millions into fighting against Australia becoming a Republic.

So much for "the freedoms" the Australian flag is supposed to represent.

The producer of the Big Day Out, Ken West, decided to bring in the ban of the flag because he believes Sydney has become "a hot bed of racism" (according to the Daily Telegraph)

West claims that during last year's Big Day Out, only weeks after the Cronulla Riot, gangs roamed through the crowd with Australian flags and demanded people pledge their allegiance. He said people at the gig felt intimidated and harassed.

During the
Cronulla Riot, in December, 2005, hundreds of mostly white Australians brandishing flags and also wearing them as capes, chanting "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!" savagely attacked any person they could find with brown skin, including young women and tourists from India and Pakistan.

Their fury was directed at Australian Muslims, and Lebanese people in particular, who they claimed had "occupied" Cronulla Beach and harassed "our women" for wearing bikinis. A lifeguard was beaten up by a couple of thugs in the weeks before the riot broke out.

It has a weird parallel to the current controversy, in that there were hordes of supposedly patriotic Australians shouting and singing their "love" for Australia, but there were few people who they could identify as "not being Australian." So they tried to lynch anybody they could find on the day who happened to have brown skin. Well, skin browner than theirs anyway.

More than 20 white males tried to kill a man sitting on a train at Cronulla station during the riot, and police and paramedics were punched, spat on, abused and pelted with beer bottles, bricks, fence palings and chunks of concrete as they tried to rescue those being attacked.

Australia Day is celebrated on January 26, a national holiday. January 26 is the date that Captain Philip reached Sydney Cove, in 1788, and founded the first English colony.

Many Aborigines, who have lived on the island for more than 60,000 years, don't recognise Australia Day. They hold ceremonies of mourning on January 26, the day they call 'Aboriginal Sovereignty Day, or 'Invasion Day'.

From the Daily Telegraph :

Prime Minister John Howard yesterday condemned the Big Day Out's decision to outlaw the Australian flag as an insult to the freedom it represents.

"The event organisers should not ram their peculiar political views down the throats of young Australians who are only interested in a good day out," an angry Mr Howard said yesterday.

The flag "ban" has provoked reactions of outrage and dismay across the vast spectrum of Australian communities, from the RSL to Islamic organisations :

Keysar Trad, a confidant of the Mufti Sheik Taj al-Din al-Hilaly and head of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said banning the flag was a ludicrous idea.

Mr Trad said the flag was just as much a symbol for Muslim Australians as it was for any other citizen. "Personally, I would like to educate people that the flag belongs to us all," he said.

A number of media reports providing background to this story have claimed that the Australian flag was "chosen by the people" back in 1900.

This is not true.

A competition was run through a number of Australian magazines in 1899 and 1900 inviting readers to submit their ideas for an Australian flag design to commemorate the Federation of Australia in 1901.

But the design chosen was not put to an official public vote, nor was it debated in Parliament.

The flag design also had to be submitted for approval to the King of England, who then took more than a year to get back to the newly federated nation, anxious to fly its own flag for the first time.

The design of the Australian flag has changed in significant ways since 1901.

More on that from 'Your New Reality' :

This is how an Australian flag looked like in 1901, the year of Federation.

The first prime minister of Australia, Edmund Barton, announced the above flag (with either red and blue backgrounds) was the winning design. There was plenty of controversy surrounding this decision, particularly because the people of this new Federation felt they had little say in how the final design was chosen.

Here's a magazine cover from the time announcing the winning design :

In 1953, after five decades of debate, a slightly altered version of the Australian flag was signed into law by the 1953 Flag Act. A seventh point was added to the main star, and the same blue hue as the British Union Jack flag (represented in the top right hand corner) became dominant.

A flag to represent Australian Aborigines was designed in 1971, and now flies alongside the 'Blue Ensign' flag (above) at a number of government offices and buildings.

"The black represents the Aboriginal people, the red the earth and their spiritual relationship to the land, and the yellow the sun, the giver of life." (link)

A people power push to change the 1953 version of the Australian flag to one that signifies reconciliation of England and European descendant-Australians with the Aborigines drifts in and out the public debate every few years.

This is one design for a new Australian flag that proved extremely popular.

History of Australia Day

Australian Father Gets Four Months In Jail For Burning The Australian Flag

Cronulla Riots - First Sentences Handed Down For Savage Attacks - One Month For Violent Bottle Assault, Four Months For Flag Burning