As if the the proverbial planets which were causing my frustrations somehow managed to align themselves even further, the hashtag activists decided to rear their repulsive heads. The #illridewithyou phenomena that gained global media attention deserves a special mention, although not for the reasons that made it an international social media trend in the first place. For those unfamiliar with this hashtag campaign, let me start by giving some background on it.

When Man Haron Monis took 17 hostages at the Lindt Café on December 15, the siege wasn’t even a few hours old when Australia’s moral and ethical betters decided to replace the legitimate victims of the attack with fabricated ones. The real victims (the hostages) were replaced with fake victims (Australia’s Muslim community) in one of the most contemptible displays of ignorance I have ever seen. Apparently, there was an impending backlash from Australian bigots who had their sights set on the Muslim community in retaliation for Monis’ actions.

Muslims who felt too intimidated to travel on public transport could now cast their fears aside and take solace in the safety and power of smug leftist elitism. The #illridewithyou hashtag was created to combat the nonexistent threat of mass violence toward Australia’s Muslim community by showing solidarity and support for the ‘real’ victims of this entire affair. Meanwhile, and obviously inconsequential to Australia’s high-horse vanquishers and moral guardians, 17 hostages were still being held against their will and at gunpoint by a madman. Two of these victims would not live through the ordeal.

Not surprisingly, there is much more to this story and the motivations of the people who began campaigning this empty gesture. So how did it all start? Well, during the initial hours of the siege, a woman by the name of Rachael Jacobs claimed she was sitting next to a Muslim woman on the train during her daily commute. By this stage, the siege had already gained national and international attention, and Islamist terrorism had now found a new place in Australia’s history books.

Jacobs claimed that the Muslim woman she was sitting next to began nervously removing her headscarf, no doubt doing so out of fear that hordes of Australian bigots would set upon her at any moment in retaliation for the terrorist’s actions. Jacobs detailed the events on her Facebook page, saying that she then “ran after her at the train stations…I said, ‘put it back on, I’ll walk with you.’ She started to cry and hugged me for about a minute, then walked off alone.”

Jacob’s Facebook status started to gain momentum, and it was subsequently picked up by an Australian blogger by the name of Tessa Kum. Kum saw Jacob’s post, which she claimed was her “breaking point.” In a later interview, Kum gave detail of how the hashtag was created. She said:

An Operator's Perspective on the Sydney Siege (Pt. 1)

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I sort of saw another tweet online indicating another woman’s act of kindness and I simply felt that there needed to be more of that in the world. She’d done a very simple thing—she had seen a distressed Muslim woman on a train take off her hijab and had approached that woman at the train station and simply said, “Put it back on, I’ll walk with you.” That broke my heart a little bit.

Jacob’s story subsequently led to Kum tweeting: “If you reg take the #373 bus b/w Coogee/MartinPl, wear religious attire, & don’t feel safe alone: I’ll ride with you. @ me for schedule.”

She then followed up with another tweet which said: “Maybe start a hashtag? What’s in #illridewithyou?”

At an initial glance, they certainly appear to be harmless, almost whimsical stories written by a couple of detached sycophants. The media were also committed to excluding any reporting which could potentially incite an Islamist backlash, so once they got wind of this perfect distraction, they appeared to put more effort into promoting this story than reporting on the real one. It would also appear that in their naïve and desperate attempts to mislead audiences, media outlets around the world failed to look beyond the hashtag itself and scrutinize its creator.

Sidney Siege

(Image Courtesy: NY Post)

Tessa Kum is not the moral and ethical heroine that this campaign would have led you to believe. She is an out-and-out racist whose hatred for white people is made undoubtedly clear in her incoherent ramblings posted on her blog. Her self-loathing writings are filled with anti-white sentiments and inflammatory racial insults. She segregates herself as a person of colour (PoC) or woman of colour (WoC), accusing white people of creating all of the world’s current problems.

To give you an example of this lowbrow’s incoherence, here are some excerpts from posts written by Tessa Kum’s “Silence Without: Bringing You the Views of Tessadom” blog:

This is our lives.

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None of us can take a break from not being white. You, white person, with all your supposed good intentions, will never let us. Either because you’re actively racist, racist but with too delicate an ego to ever do anything about your racism except cry about the mean PoC, or willing to remain silent and let us carry on without support.

You’ve already won. You won centuries ago when you left Europe and decided to crush the rest of the world. Conquer, colonise, crush. Centuries this has gone on. You have centuries of victory and triumph.

You’ve won again. You’ve succeeded in driving PoC from the scene. You succeeded in driving me and others from the internet. You’ve wrenched open schisms between PoC which will take years of hard work to heal, if they heal at all. We’re diverse, we’re not monolith. We’re divided, and you will always ensure that remains so.

What does this do to a person? How does all this shape the heart that endures it? From this I have learned about hate. Hate, like anger, is a poison for me, and so I’ve worked on myself hard to ensure I’m not attracted to the philosophies and perspectives of hate. But from this, from watching all of you, I am learning about hate.

My privilege is being born in and living in a western country with a decent income. My privilege is being ambiguous in my physicality; as it’s not easy to identify which ‘other’ I am, most people are hesitant to voice what they know to be racist-ass opinions around me. The discrimination and bigotry I experience is largely unconscious and insidious, and in fact not grounded in hate at all. I’m fortunate. Very fortunate.

I don’t feel hated as a WoC. Hate implies that the hater believes the target of their hate to have some sort of power or control. No. As a WoC I feel cheap. Not worth as much to you, white person, as your fellow white people.

I’m learning about hate because I am coming to hate you, white person. You have all the control, all the power, all the privilege, and there is nothing holding you accountable. I hate the double standards and hypocrisy you display, the rank dishonesty of your conduct. I hate that you can harm us, when we cannot harm you. I hate that you have actually impacted on careers, multiple and not even directly, with your hypocrisy. I hate that you’re so dominant in the publishing industry there’s very few venues I’d consider safe to even submit to now. I hate what you have done to PoC I don’t know. I hate what you have done to PoC I do know. I hate what you have done to me, and I was not involved.

The delusional and venomous writings of Kum are no secret; they are not hidden from the world on some secret blog or posted on a private social media account. A simple Google search of her name or the hashtag itself would have led any competent journalist to her website and her racist and hate-filled dialogue. The media, however, was so committed to ignoring the problem and searching for distractions that due diligence and proficiency were simply replaced with a bandwagon-driven ignorance. National and international media who latched onto the #illridewithyou fallacy inadvertently promoted a left-wing bigot whose incoherent and overtly racist ramblings would have had anyone else publicly shamed.

Let’s give it a try. For arguments sake, let’s take some of Kum’s work and replace every reference to white people with, say, Muslims, and vice versa:

None of us can take a break from not being Muslim. You, Muslim, with all your supposed good intentions, will never let us. Either because you’re actively racist, racist but with too delicate an ego to ever do anything about your racism except cry about the mean white person, or willing to remain silent and let us carry on without support.

I’m learning about hate because I am coming to hate you, Muslim. You have all the control, all the power, all the privilege, and there is nothing holding you accountable. I hate the double standards and hypocrisy you display, the rank dishonesty of your conduct. I hate that you can harm us, when we cannot harm you.

I hate what you have done to white people I don’t know. I hate what you have done to white people I do know. I hate what you have done to me, and I was not involved.

It is a sad state of affairs when the real version, the one which incites hatred against white people, is acceptable enough to provide the author with global media attention, yet the latter fictional version would, if penned by a real person, earn its author outright condemnation. The media did not seem to care though, as this story not only provided them with the distraction they so desperately needed, but also furthered their leftist narrative on the siege. Their ineptness and moral bankruptcy allowed this hashtag campaign to gain the attention that it did and, in so doing, unfairly demonized every Australian by falsely insinuating that Muslims were not safe traveling alone on public transport.

Sidney Siege

(Image Courtesy: National Post)

Australian political advisor and journalist Chris Kenny echoes a similar sentiment in one of the best articles I have read on this hashtag fallacy. Kenny was one of the initial few journalists who was happy to call a spade a spade, and provided the following comment on the hashtag campaign:

Nice thought. Except it was an empty response to an imaginary problem. And in the real world, at that time, innocent lives were in the balance. This was political correctness on steroids as people distanced themselves from a possible Islamophobic backlash to an act of Islamist violence still unfolding. We understand the lurch for an empathetic embrace but it ignored and demeaned the harsh reality.

No doubt across the nation most people would have been preoccupied with the fate of the hostages. But while social media is self-selecting and introspective, it also plays strongly into mainstream media. So we saw a grotesque turning away from the horrific plight of innocent people in real peril to focus on empathy for Muslims in our midst who faced no threat.

The Martin Place siege was a callous and life-threatening episode, and focusing on possible future personal abuse on public transport seemed a trite miscalculation. There would be time enough to deal with consequences—afterwards. And the suggestion that mainstream Australians would indulge in an Islamophobic backlash smacked of leftist self-loathing—with the awful implication that the heinous actions of a gunman were somehow linked to our bigotry.

Worse still, this melds into the narrative of Muslim victimhood. Islamist terrorists rely on such grievances; the woes of the Muslim world are blamed on the West and violence justified as a response to persecution (even when the ultimate aim is Islamic supremacy through a caliphate). In this respect (and clearly not deliberately), a social media campaign aimed at harmony echoed the Muslim victimhood claims being made in Martin Place.

In a security and ideological struggle set to last many decades, such arguments matter. When extremists target us because of our values, we ought to stand up for them rather than demean ourselves.

In this country, Muslims are not victims. By and large, our fellow citizens are inclusive and tolerant. And while, sadly, every society sees individuals and incidents of prejudice, few nations can match our plurality and harmony. We saw this unfold in Melbourne yesterday when a Muslim woman was heckled on a train but, of course, was defended by her fellow Australians. No hashtag required. We should talk up our robust tolerance, not undermine it.

Chris Kenny’s words reflect a journalistic standard of someone who is not afraid to offend a minority group by telling it how it is. Kenny is not malicious or subjective in his opinion, he merely provides a factual counterweight to the unfounded motives behind the fictional hashtag campaign.

Describing the campaign as fiction is not a biased insult, either. The epilogue to Rachel Jacob’s original story which led to Tessa Kum conceiving the #illridewithyou hashtag in the first place was that, unsurprisingly, her entire recollection was contrived to stroke her own ego. In a later interview with the Brisbane Times, Jacob’s admitted that she made the whole thing up:

Confession time. In my Facebook status, I editorialised. She wasn’t sitting next to me. She was a bit away, towards the other end of the carriage. Like most people she had been looking at her phone, then slowly started to unpin her scarf.

Tears sprang to my eyes and I was struck by feelings of anger, sadness and bitterness. It was in this mindset that I punched the first status update into my phone, hoping my friends would take a moment to think about the victims of the siege who were not in the cafe.

I spent the rest of the journey staring—rudely—at the back of her uncovered head. I wanted to talk to her, but had no idea what to say. Anything that came to mind seemed tokenistic and patronising. She might not even be Muslim or she could have just been warm! Besides, I was in the “quiet carriage” where even conversation is banned.

By sheer fluke, we got off at the same station, and some part of me decided saying something would be a good thing. Rather than quiz her about her choice of clothing, I thought if I simply offered to walk her to her destination, it might help.

It’s hard to describe the moment when humans, and complete strangers, have a conversation with no words. I wanted to tell her I was sorry for so many things—for overstepping the mark, for making assumptions about a complete stranger and for belonging to a culture where racism was part of her everyday experience. But none of those words came out, and our near silent encounter was over in a moment.

My second status was written as a heartbreaking postscript to my first. While the woman appeared to appreciate my gesture, we had both left defeated and deflated. What good is one small action against an avalanche of ignorance? Hours later, social media showed me good people can create their own avalanche of kindness.

As it turns out, and not surprisingly, the short-lived fame of Rachael Jacobs and Tessa Kum was based entirely on deceit and disinformation. These two parasites used the tragedy of the Sydney siege to further their own delusional and selfish agendas. Jacob’s fabricated her entire account, and the arrant racist Kum was subsequently propelled into the international spotlight for a hashtag which advocated tolerance and acceptance.

The media sprouted the prejudicial hashtag in favour of reporting the facts and, in doing so, unwittingly supported the critical precursor to most forms of terrorist violence. Every student of terrorism and counterterrorism studies understands that injustices and grievances, whether real or perceived, are the lifeblood which drives terrorist organisations. The damaging insinuation that Muslims could not ride safely on public transport can only serve as fuel to the extremist fire. It has undoubtedly provided them with further justification that their struggle and use of violence in Australia is not only warranted, but essential.

These grievances play an instrumental role in the mobilization of people in the name of terrorist causes. We can certainly thank the national and international media for playing such a role in furthering extremist ideological justification as part of the #illridewithyou hoax. If the media outlets who pushed this hashtag fallacy had an ounce of dignity, they would use the same energy to report Jacob’s admission that she made the whole story up and take Kum to task for being an outright racist—far from the tolerant and accepting person that her hashtag led people to believe. Being realistic though, one can only hope that they both follow the path of #kony2012 creator Jason Russell, and that their short-lived fame comes to an abrupt and equally shameful end as his naked, maniacal public meltdown.

(Featured Image Courtesy: NBC News)