Sunday, January 21, 2007

Big Day Out says no to flags

Last year's Big Day Out saw some unpleasant undertones - coming shortly after the Cronulla riots, some festival goers draped themselves in the Australian flag and sent out some nasty vibes, as Popmatters reported at the time:

It's about this time that the guys from politically conscious hip-hop outfit Herd focused attention on an issue that had troubled me throughout the day. A considerable portion of the attendees had worn the Australian flag draped on them like a cape. Since the event is traditionally held in Sydney on Australia Day, this might not have been such an issue, but in the wake of the xenophobic Cronulla riots, where many participants were similarly attired, the gesture raises some questions. Ever politically aware, Herd weren't afraid to risk unpopularity with this segment of the audience.

In December 2005, Cronulla, Sydney, had been the scene of several racially-motivated incidents after trouble was stirred up by neo-nazis and white supremacists using SMS messages to pull crowds onto the streets.

Last week, the Australian Open Tennis matches were the scene of further racial clashes as Serbians, Greeks and Croats fought a pitched battle which the police helpfully described as "no incident."

Against this background, organisers of the Big Day Out have decided it might be better to ask festival-goers to tone down the rampant nationalism this time round.

Predictably, politicians are jumping all over the "ban":

[Parliamentary secretary for immigration Andrew Robb] said the flag was not the problem and should not be banned.

"If they have got a security problem, they need to deal with that, not with the flag. The flag is a symbol of unity," he told the Nine Network.

"To compare the flag to a gang colour I think is just outrageous, and totally unacceptable."

He said the flag ban needed to be overturned.

"It is critical as soon as possible that the organisers remove this condition or otherwise I think the concert should be cancelled," he said.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma said the organisers should allow the Australian flag.

"Our flag ought not to be used to be making political points like this. It is a still an outrageous decision and one that needs to be reversed and reversed immediately," Mr Iemma told Macquarie Radio.

"The flag is a symbol of national unity and pride."

Of course, as is so often the case, the story has been puffed-up by politicians looking to gain some purchase on the national stage. The flag hasn't actually been banned at all:

BDO organisers issued a statement early Monday saying the flag was not banned, but said they did not want concert-goers taking it into the event.

"We are not banning the Australian flag but are simply discouraging its use for anti-social purposes at the Big Day Out," the statement said.

Surely, of course, the politicos ought to have noticed that they're, essentially, on the same side as the BDO team - nobody wants to see the flag being used as symbol of harted and division. But there's more votes in pretending to be fighting an easy, if made-up, battle ("They have banned the flag because they hate Australia") than to actual confront some unpleasant truths and difficult challenges (those who wave the flag because they hate non-Australians).


Anonymous said...

Congratulations to all the red faced spluttering Ockers quoted for not using the phrase "political correctness gone mad". Interesting that one of them complained about a national flag being likened to a gang colour when of course that's exactly what it is.

Anonymous said...

And of course it was never actually compared to gang colours, Ken West said it was being used as gang colours at last years event. That's politicians and the media for you.

Rahmat imut said...

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