politics

MP Anne Aly was abused online for her 'offensive' act on Anzac Day. But it never happened.

The days since April 25 – Anzac Day – have been dominated by conversation about how one Muslim Australian, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, published an “offensive” Facebook status.

With just seven words, which attempted to use Anzac Day to highlight the plight of refugees, the engineer, presenter, and social commentator attracted the attention of people who labelled her “unAustralian,” “disrespectful,” and “disgraceful”.

In a slightly less mainstream corner, slightly to the right, another vocal Muslim Australian is also being attacked for her behaviour on Anzac Day. Labor MP Anne Aly has been called a “b**ch,” and told she’s “a liar like all Muslims” after she was accused of refusing to lay a wreath at the Anzac Day service in her electorate.

Just after 8.30pm on Tuesday, Kim Vuga, the founder of the Love Australia or Leave Party posted a story on Facebook claiming that local member Anne Aly didn’t participate in the wreath laying ceremony during the dawn service.

It wasn’t actually a story she had witnessed. She heard it from her friend ‘Gary’.

“What the hell are they doing in our country?” she asked, presumably referring to Muslim Australians.

Image via Facebook.
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Image via Facebook.

Comments on Vuga's post called Aly "another traitor," and a "goat for ISIS" (whatever that means). "Just shows where her loyalties lie," wrote another Facebook user.

Many of the words used about her are hateful and deeply upsetting.

Image via Facebook.
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Of course, Vuga's post was then picked up by other right-wing Facebook pages, where the story about Aly became more extreme, and the criticism even more vile.

But perhaps the most infuriating part of the entire spectacle was that the story itself wasn't actually true.

There were more than one dawn services in Aly's electorate of Cowan in Western Australia. Last year she attended one in Wanneroo, and this year, she attended one in Ballajura.

She wasn't even at the service she's been accused of disrespecting. 

For the last two days, Aly has received numerous attacks on her Facebook page, and likely far more via other channels. On Thursday, Buzzfeed published Anatomy of a fake news story: How a Muslim politician became a Facebook villian, which unpacked the deeply problematic series of events following Aly after Anzac Day.

Labor MP Anne Aly. Image via Getty.

The publication spoke to Aly, who said "It’s absolutely disgusting that the very people who are falsely claiming outrage are the same people who are disrespecting Anzac day for their own agenda".

They also spoke to Vuga, who denied any wrongdoing in publishing the false story about the labor politician. In a status on her party's Facebook page, Vuga wrote, "I stand by the facts that were presented to me by a Facebook friend having been present at the memorial in Anne Aly's electorate".

She then listed the 'facts' that were indeed true, such as: "FACT: MP Anne Aly didn’t lay a wreath at Wanneroo, as stated by Gary".

Vuga didn't happen to acknowledge the basic principle that one human being can't be in two places at once.

Image via Facebook.

She ended her status with the message, "perhaps BuzzFeed reporters time should be best served researching and following up on Muslim Activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied who uses one hand to collect taxpayers dollars while using the other hand to disrespect and dishonor our national heroes."

And that is the message that lies at the core of this entire spectacle.

Fake news doesn't emerge from thin air. It capitalises on our own prejudices and biases, which makes us more likely to believe a story is true.

Of course people were quick to assume that Anne Aly refused to honour the Anzacs - because they'd made up their mind earlier in the day that Muslim Australians don't have any respect for Australian culture or traditions. An idea that is not only entirely disproportionate to the actions of Yassmin Abdel-Magied, but fundamentally discriminatory.

Listen to Monique Bowley, Holly Wainwright and Jessie Stephens discuss Yassmin Abdel-Magied and Anzac Day on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues after audio. 

When basic logic failed Vuga, she appealed for the public to completely forget about the inaccurate and deeply unfair claims she made about Aly, and instead focus on another Muslim (they're all the same, really) who did something controversial.

It's a terrifying series of events, where emotions and personal beliefs are more highly valued than the truth.

And the results spread so far and so easily, it's impossible to keep up.

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