Thursday, January 16, 2014

A bit of perspective

I was around for the whole Aldi Tshirt fiasco the other week on Twitter, threw in a few tweets as you do, and did an interview on NITV about it too because Aaron Nagas, who was hosting the account I look after, @IndigenousX, wasn't available to take it.

The short story for those who missed it: someone tweeted a pic of the Aldi catalogue to @IndigenousX, Aaron retweeted it and commented on it, tweeted Aldi asking if they would remove it. Big W too. A bunch of other people threw in tweets too (by a 'bunch', I mean we are probably talking about a few dozen, maybe a hundred or two tops). They removed the shirts. Life continued unimpeded. Probably no individual spent more than an hour or so of their time in total tweeting about it.

The media got onto it, mostly because they see this stuff as controversial click bait. Stir the pot a bit before 'Australia Day'. Another opportunity to talk about how the left (which I do not identify as, nor the right for that matter) are just waiting around for stuff to get angry about... 

This is all pretty stock standard, and as someone who occasionally pops up on NITV, NIRS, or some radio station wherever I understand that this is just par for the course. Nothing I do is ever for the purpose of getting on TV, or on the radio but I know some of the stuff I say or do will eventually make it into some media thing somewhere and if it's gonna happen I'd rather it be me talking about it than someone else talking about me. Also, it helps promote IndigenousX, and to be blunt it helps me raise my profile a bit as well which doesn't hurt to do now and then. Helps keep a few more options open for me... I don't get to choose what makes it into the media though, I just have to try and ride the storm and hope it doesn't make whatever issue we are talking about too much worse, as media more often than not does whenever it comes to anything Indigenous.

I have for the most part given up on asking media to report about what I think they should report on. Except the few Indigenous journalists I know; I usually tell them when I see something that hasn't been reported on but should.

I didn't really pay much attention to any of the media about the Aldi shirt because quite frankly, who the hell cares what they say about it, and besides, I was actually there. Still, I thought it was awesome that Aaron was able to effect some real world change during his week as host. It is an amazingly empowering feeling to be able to affect change from something as simple as a twitter account, and I am very proud that IndigenousX is able to facilitate that occasionally for the people who generously volunteer their time to take control of the account.

It only lasted a day or so and it was all done, and that was a whole week ago now so I had pretty much forgotten about the whole thing until I saw a pic on Twitter with a quote from Warren Mundine chastising us over the issue. I tracked down the article and found the quote:

And quite frankly, it pissed me off immensely.

During that same week on Twitter Aaron talked about a huge range of issues, including the fact that he helped establish the Australian Indigenous Basketball Championships, Marriage equality, everyday racism, Climate Change, education as well as help raise awareness for many Indigenous Organisations/events by giving them a plug, and I myself was promoting a fundraising campaign trying to raise funds to print and distribute an independently made Elders Report into Indigenous Self Harm and Indigenous Youth Suicide (which to date has raised over $5000 in donations and zero media interest whatsoever). None of that is deemed media worthy, except of course for the Guardian who post interviews with our weekly hosts online (which is awesome because they don't write articles ABOUT our hosts, we came up with a list of questions together and we let the hosts answer them in their own words).

Unlike a group of Aboriginal people so small I could give them all a ride in my car at the same time, most of us don't have the PMs ear; we don't get to directly influence which Indigenous programs live or die; and we don't get to have our opinion pieces published in whatever paper we choose to publish them in whenever we feel like it.

We don't even always get asked to comment about stories that we personally instigate on Twitter (with a couple of exceptions as mentioned earlier).

We don't even get asked or notified when they publish our tweets.

If you want to get fired up about something, get fired up at the way the media misrepresent Aboriginal people and issues, and don't publicly chastise us over what the media choose to quote us on. It's twitter. People talk about what they are eating for lunch, post pics of sunsets and kittens, and talk about whatever else grabs their attention. You are very active on Twitter, or your approved account is at the very least. And you should know better. You know full well that the media avoid us like the plague when we do get fired up (which we do more often than not) about education, employment, incarceration, youth suicide, health, mental health, racism masked as patriotism, media misrepresentation, leadership, government advisory committees, and a whole range of other issues that matter far more than a dodgy T-shirt for sale. Most media only refer to us purely to generate the idea that all we get upset about is trivial matters. There was no 'Twitter storm' as reported, and Aaron handled himself like a champion throughout the whole ordeal, managed it as best he could, got a great outcome, and should be applauded for how competently he navigated it. Not contemptuously spat on from one of the less than a dozen Aboriginal people who can get any issue raised in the media whenever they want to, and maintain a strong voice within the media through to its conclusion.

We have nothing to influence change on a national level but our twitter accounts, our blogs, and the occasional online petition... And we are getting better and better at using them all the time. 

I don't doubt that media will continue to misrepresent what we talk about, and even the majority of media who are actually on our side will still dumb it down to a two dimensional interpretation of what is really being discussed. Not much we can do about that though, so whatever. As I mentioned, we aren't saying this stuff to get into the media, and we aren't thinking about how the media might choose to misrepresent us, or dumb down an issue as complex as the Australia Day vs Day of Mourning/Invasion Day/Survival Day issue by focusing on one tangible aspect which can be used to undermine opposition to choosing the 26th of January as our national day. Instead, we are usually thinking about nothing more than enjoying the opportunity to speak our own minds, and engaging with the amazing community of Indigenous and non-Indigenous tweeps that has formed around IndigenousX.

As far as I'm concerned if the media never mention my name again it will be doing me a favour. It impedes my ability to affect change far more often than it enhances it. But if they are going to, you better be certain I'll do what I can to have my voice heard and try to add some perspective. As will others. 

NB: Aaron did do one interview on 720 ABC Perth radio, which was awesome. Here 'tis