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The Big Day Out

You know, I was curious as to why the Big Day Out, traditionally on Australia Day/Invasion Day in Sydney, was moved forward--

The concert [BDO] has already been brought forward 24 hours, to take place on Thursday, the eve of Australia's national day, to avoid any nationalistic overtones.

Event producer Ken West said he was concerned by the use of the flag by white mobs during race riots on Sydney's Cronulla Beach in December 2005, and by some fans at the Big Day Out concert a month later.

"The Australian flag was being used as gang colours," he was quoted by The Daily Telegraph newspaper as saying. "It was racism disguised as patriotism and I'm not going to tolerate it."

--But i'm not so sure about this one.

There were, yes, people wearing the Australian flag at the Big Day Out. They wore them as capes. They looked stupid in it. Really, really stupid. I think most of them took them off by midday, due to the heat, but maybe I just blocked it out because of the fashion pain. A lot of people had Australia flags painted on their faces. They too looked stupid if they were over the age of ten. But face painting can be found every-fucking-where in Australia on the 26th.

I didn't see one bit of real violence in the Big Day Out last year, and that took place a whole lot closer to the Cronulla Riots (which, lets be honest, aren't nearly as riot like as the media would like us to believe). Was there violence last year? Yeah, probably. I mean, it's a big event. There are thousands upon thousands of people there. Thousands of people who can buy beer, stand in the sun all day, and dance round like all fuck for twelve hours. The only thing that came close to violence were two guys wanting to get it on over a girl--and the Australian flag was curiously absent during this. It was also at eleven in the evening, at the end of the whole day, and the girl just chose her man and that was that. There was probably more violence, cause, hey, lots of people, but this whole gang colour thing? Not that I saw.

The Cronulla thing happened over a year ago, and as was revealed later, a lot of the people involved in it weren't from the area, and it was suggested that the organisers were not even from the country. As a whole, Sydney does well with racism. It isn't perfect, it isn't without incident, and a whole lot work still needs to be done, but it's not so fucked up that the organisers of an entirely unrelated event should change the day and ban flags.

I mean, I don't even support Australia Day. I fall into the Invasion Day camp group through for this. The British came in and took the country away from those who had, for thousands of years, lived here, and then proceeded to fuck them over. I don't want to be celebrating that. That needs to be properly addressed. But, fuck, even I think this whole moving the Big Day Out forward a day to avoid nationalistic overtones is just a little fucking ridiculous.

Even the BBC can't provide you with an image of violence at the Big Day Out.


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Jan. 22nd, 2007 10:42 am (UTC)
I disagree.

Firstly, last I heard the organisers were discouraging flag-wearing, not banning it.

They are no doubt basing their stance on more than one person's anecdotal recollection of last year's Sydney BDO (at least two, I'm guessing).

And is it really unreasonable to take such a stance against the gradual cooption of the flag for causes that should be practically antithetical to our whole notion of Australia?

The flag is a politically loaded entity, thanks to the controversial presence of the Union Jack. If our flag does become a de facto motif of racist nationalism it would be a sad thing. As it is when I walk down a suburban street and see an Australian flag planted in a front garden I already wonder things about that house's inhabitants.

To me it's funny that all these people are jumping in to protect the freedoms of mosh-lobster-cum-flag-hags by quashing the right of the BDO organisers to make political statements of their own. From the RSL to both federal leaders to Iemma. I will temper that by saying I think it's reasonable enough so long as it's a strongly worded suggestion, and not a ban, on the flag.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 10:53 am (UTC)
well, i got the impression that the flag would be picked up at the gates, like the hundreds of other things they stop from going in. the wording of the organiser certainly suggest it to me--and those gates are pretty prison guard like, so it wouldn't surprise me to see the flags turned away (though how many would come on a day that's not AD/ID i don't know).

as for the stance, where were the news reports last year about gangs at the BDO? i mean, seriously, if this was going on, why wasn't there reports of it? did i miss it? cause this has come outta nowhere to me, and while i'm willing to admit i could just have missed it--it's a big venue, lots of people--i require proof, because for me, the whole day had a really civil, easy going vibe to it. i don't doubt there was violence, but given the size...

anyhow, to me, this is just an unnecessary thing. they want to make statements, that's fine, but the reasoning presented isn't winning me over.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 12:28 pm (UTC)
"as for the stance, where were the news reports last year about gangs at the BDO? i mean, seriously, if this was going on, why wasn't there reports of it? did i miss it?"

Are you saying no news events of that scale usually pass you by? Or that if it wasn't reported, it obviously didn't happen? I wasn't there, but I've read more than one anecdotal account of some pretty nasty sounding stuff last year to match your recollections of harmless larrikinism.

"anyhow, to me, this is just an unnecessary thing."

To the best of my knowledge there's no ban. And if there were, I'm not sure why it would be much worse than stopping people bringing bottles of vodka into the unlicensed area. Compare and contrast: most people can drink responsibly, or even irresponsibly without ruining other people's lives, but there's still a rule to cover the few that simply can't do that. Such rules are a way of reducing the presence of catalysts for dickheadism.

"Just moron stuff" wouldn't come close to covering my response to the situation if some guy punched my face and called me un-Australian for not kissing his flag, and I don't believe that guy would necessarily come up with a genius plan that was equally annoying to others without said flag, much as he probably wouldn't muster the courage to smear his shit all over one of the portaloos without getting pretty damn loaded beforehand.

I'm in line with the sentiment of the organisers, although perhaps the practicality of their approach is to be questioned, in terms of whether it will have a positive or negative impact overall - it has the potential to further galvanise the people who would like to load the flag with odious political baggage.

So anyway, you've got your opinion, fine. But if your position on this is just default anti-PC garbage - "oh no the thought police are overreacting and trying to control us again", all disclaimers about Invasion Day aside - you're missing the point, and falling in line with poll-driven conservatives who are bound to implicitly condone the xenophobic part of the electorate. Not racists, mind you - just people who prefer white people.

The other idea I don't really follow is that not being a patriot limits the relevance of the flag. I'm definitely no more of a patriot than the next guy, although I do have enough perspective to recognise the upsides of the way we do things here relative to many other places, but the thing is I'd like to be a patriot, because I'd like to be proud of this place. So in my ideal world we'd have a flag that did symbolise something I gave a shit about, and in this less than ideal world I still care when our less than perfect flag drifts further away from my ideal.
Jan. 23rd, 2007 12:12 am (UTC)
Are you saying no news events of that scale usually pass you by? Or that if it wasn't reported, it obviously didn't happen? I wasn't there, but I've read more than one anecdotal account of some pretty nasty sounding stuff last year to match your recollections of harmless larrikinism.

well, usually, no, news events like this don't pass me by. sometimes they do, but i have a particular interest in race violence, and at the time of the BDO last year, i was finishing up a thesis on race, paying attention to the cronulla stuff, and generally keeping an eye out. there's always the chance it could have come and gone and i missed it, but seriously, every little bit of racism that could be milked by the news last year was on play in sydney around that time.

the ancedotal stuff i've read is not enough for it to be linked to the cronulla riots. thousands and thousands of people are at this thing: they drink, they take drugs, they do whatever. things are going to happen, but that doesn't necessarily mean it should be connected to outside events like the cronulla riots. this is the point i dislike about the reasoning. personally, i'm not much moved in the flag is banned or not--i'm more interested in the fact that they moved the whole event a day forward, on the grounds that they did not wish to have nationalistic overtones, which, frankly, existed for years before. and to do justify this, they're linking it to the cronulla riots, and a general 'racial unrest' in sydney (and perhaps australia in general), which no matter your stance on that, is not actually demonstrated with enough examples to justify the move. this is possibly because TBO is a pretty white event, from musicians to audience, but i got no real proof on that.

i don't actually know where you're coming from here, man. i haven't said that violence didn't happen, and i haven't said i think the flag should be allowed anywhere. i'm not real fussed either way on the flag itself. i think you've been caught in it, but whatever, that's your side of things. me, i just think the whole reasoning being offered is ridiculous and just feeds into the idea that racism is out of control in sydney. maybe the original post comes across as an oh, no, not the flag kinda deal, but that's not my deal.
Jan. 23rd, 2007 12:49 am (UTC)
Well, let's not get too down and dirty about it. This is my take:

On the one hand, there are some people who sound quite reasonable saying racist activity was occurring last year so measures are being taken. On the other there's you, also on the face of it sounding quite reasonable saying that this is a senseless overreaction.

On a third hand, there's a chorus of public figures saying sensible things like:
DEBNAM: "The message to the organisers has got to be straightforward: Embrace the Australian flag or move your event off State Government property"
Obviously they're just spewing poll-driven sound bites, and don't necessarily have any interest in the circumstances at all. Just your basic pro-flag thoughtless backlashing.

There are a couple of components to your argument that I think are a bit light-on. One is that because there weren't wide reports about racism / stupidity at last year's BDO it can't have been that important. I just don't buy that. The media outlets we have, and your personal experience, don't add up to a reliable channel of information. Sorry if it bugs you, but unless quite a few people are lying for no reason things did go on at last year's BDO that you weren't aware of. Whether or not they're being exaggerated is another matter.

The second is that because there hasn't been any link demonstrated between what did/didn't happen and Cronulla, there's no "racist movement" so we don't need to worry. When people speaking in support of the BDO organisers draw a parallel to Cronulla, they're getting a point across, not implying there's a grand shadow conspiracy. I don't imagine Sydney is a "racist city" or some crap like that, but Cronulla demonstrates that there are people in Sydney with the will who are looking for a way to express racist sentiments.

To my mind there's a similarity between this measure and measures to prevent football hooliganism. In both cases you've got a small minority of people who hold tickets to an event, with varying degrees of organisation and scariness, who want to behave antisocially, and who may or may not have political motives for doing so - hardcore hooliganism often being race-related.

It makes sense to me for the event organisers to try and nip this sort of thing in the bud. Just giving it a nod and a wink because it's not that bad could be dangerous, because fully-fledged hooliganism is very hard to deal with (requiring lists of repeat offenders, identity controls, ticketing controls, and extra security), and a real danger to ordinary ticket holders. You know, with people dying and stuff.

I can particularly understand the organisers' concern when you consider how much negative publicity they had to cope with the last time someone died at the BDO.

The organisers would have the deepest insight into what went on last year. If they think stuff happened that was objectionable politically, and that by holding the event on Australia Day they increase the risk of antisocial people ruining others' entertainment, I think they're qualified enough to make the call to move the day and discourage people from flag-wearing.

And I think in this case your objections are pretty much just a contrarian stab in the dark ... no offence meant of course :-)
Jan. 23rd, 2007 12:58 am (UTC)
One is that because there weren't wide reports about racism / stupidity at last year's BDO it can't have been that important. I just don't buy that.

that's not what i'm saying. i'm saying, 'where are they?' why arent they being dragged out. where's the evidence? if they're there, i want to see them. i can be wrong--i might've missed them entirely. but i want to see the evidence, otherwise, to me, it's just an overreaction.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 10:49 am (UTC)
The Big Day Out's pretty big.
Here's Danny Yau, well-known indie music type round Sydney, from the SMH letters a year or so ago:
As Bernard Zuel’s article mentions (”Manners maketh music’s big day out“, January 27), there were many flag bearers at the Big Day Out, but I don’t agree with Zuel that this was a positive statement of unity.

I saw lots of frightening behaviour, including flag wearers pushing into an ATM line, people berating them for being “unAustralian”, they claiming to be more Australian than any of us. One person was asking people to kiss the flag he was wearing, and people who refused got a punch in the face. The flag is not a fashion accessory, and you’re better than no one for wearing it as a T-shirt. When you start seeing flags, that’s when nationalism is getting out of control.

Danny Yau Belfield

I can only find that on my friend Shannon's blog, as SMH doesn't keep their letters archived properly online:
There's another letter quoted there, as well as some stuff about changing the flag which I... kinda sorta agree with but I'm not that interested in because I'm not that interested in flags and symbols of nations and stuff, as I'm as unpatriotic as an unpatriotic thing.

As to whether there'd be a repeat of any of this this year, well probably not, but never underestimate the power of the yob...
Jan. 22nd, 2007 10:58 am (UTC)
yeah, but you see that's just moron stuff. take away their flag and they'd be doing the same thing, mostly likely.

i dunno, man. to me it's all just outta control. people need to chill. i don't even like the flag, but this just seems to me to be an over reaction.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 11:01 am (UTC)
though, you know, that picture of the dude in the australian shirt... i could quite happily go on through my entire life in no such shirts and people existed ;)
Jan. 22nd, 2007 11:12 am (UTC)
Yeah well, quite!
I think that at least that January, the Australian flag catalysed a lot of Aussie yobs into being dickwads. As I said, dunno whether it would happen again this year, but honestly Johnny Howard and all the other pollies coming out and saying "RETRACT YOU UNAUSTRALIAN NASTIES", and Johnny saying something about he'd supporting having the festival closed down if they go on with it etc... I was going to post to my blog about it, but yeah in the end I was just "meh", making me a man of the generation after mine (assuming generations are about 10 years long).

By the way, finished 26Lies1Truth, enjoyed very much! Am going to post a review sometime, when I get my thoughts together and have a few moments to flick back through it. My comments would mainly be on the production/editing side of things - strange vertical positioning of punctuation (in a "why do small presses have to dick around with fonts and shit?" way), not-brilliant reproduction of the artwork, and some grammatical/punctuation stuff.
I loved the structural techniques you used, the way you made the format work for you and still told a great story, and the way you gradually made the fictionalisation of your life more obvious and brought everything that was written before into doubt.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 11:24 am (UTC)
well, yeah, last year the australian flag probably did make some morons even more moronic. but given the size of the venue and all, that there weren't any large scale incidents--at least to my knowledge--makes the whole thing of moving it a bit of an overreaction to me. ah well. howard's a loser and i don't want to get too close to agreeing with him--and i certainly don't with the shutting it down part.

that's cool on 26lies, man. glad you liked it. the art did suffer a bit on reproduction--it's a shame, since anna put a lot of work in. we hopefully fixed up those errors, though. but still, glad you dug the book despite those issues :)
Jan. 22nd, 2007 12:45 pm (UTC)
as oscar wilde said, "patriotism is the virtue of the vicious". and i agree with him. though i am a bit "meh" about the whole thing too, discouraging rampantly vicious ultra-nationalism cannot be a bad thing.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC)
I started a comment, but it grew and grew and eventually became a post: http://lyndahawryluk.livejournal.com/#item76048

I'm not in favour of flags, or of flag-banning, but I'm pretty sure the organisers didn't do this lightly, and I know if I was going to this year's BDO I'd prefer not to be accosted or confronted by yobbos loaded up with flags and grog and a flase sense of superiority.

Having said that, it's really been blown into a major event - well, until one of the Sheiks says something stupid and the Terror focuses on them again.
Jan. 23rd, 2007 12:59 am (UTC)
Jan. 23rd, 2007 08:58 am (UTC)

By the way, you didn't need to emphasise your lack of interest in the flag to me Ben; I knew where you were coming from. I spent yesterday reading the massive amounts of posts to the Terror Talkback and was pretty annoyed at how some people on their took the opportunity to make the issue into something more than it was...
Jan. 23rd, 2007 12:24 pm (UTC)
nah, i knew you got the flag thing.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 02:50 pm (UTC)
I agree. Beating bigots, or racists, or whatever is not a case of sidestepping them or trying to hide them.

I don't know if you followed the case of Celebrity Big Brother in the UK recently, which (somewhat fucking ridiculously) kept the headlines despite us generally fucking up countries around the middle east, et cetara, and was about the nations shock (!) at the fact that when we put a bunch of fuckwit chav celebrities in a house with an asian Bollywood star, a few crates of alcohol and nothing to do but sit around talking all day long, there were racist comments exchanged. I'm no rocket scientist, but didn't everyone expect that, as bad as it may be?

Quick, take Big Brother off the air so that we're no longer subject to the English masses' inherent racism...
Jan. 23rd, 2007 01:01 am (UTC)
yeah, i heard about the bollywood star thing. that sounded actually a bit nasty, actually, but i haven't seen or heard much of it, so i'll refrain from having an opinion there. though, you know, if they take big brother off tv... well, who'd weep?

not me :)
Jan. 23rd, 2007 08:56 am (UTC)
Being a bit of an interested party in the whole BB phenom, it strikes me that a) the 'controversy' came just as Celebrity BB was flailing badly in the ratings (I mean it was drowning, bigtime) and b) the comments were made by absolute drop-kick slappers who were placed in the house to provide exactly the type of comments they did.

I don't know whether this proves that the UK is a racist country or just that some of their z-list celebs are really, really dumb people...
Jan. 23rd, 2007 01:05 pm (UTC)
Truth in both, more than likely.

That was me in disguise above. Must've used the wrong browser.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 09:40 pm (UTC)
My take: flags are inherently gang colours. That's what they are for. They're for clearly designating "us", so we can go and wage war on "them", the people who rally under some other flag. In peace-time, they're for building up the fervour and group identity of "us" so we'll know who's side we're on next time there's a fight.

I'm not a big fan of flags. I have trouble seeing the line between flag-waving patriotism and nationalism, or between nationalism and blind prejudice.
Jan. 23rd, 2007 12:21 am (UTC)
the flag aspect of this isn't a huge deal for me, but... ah, fuck it. new post on the topic!
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