Victorian Bushfires stir compassion and conflict

Cross post for Global Voices: Victorian Bushfires stir compassion and conflict

The grim toll of the Victorian bushfires now has 201 confirmed deaths, including a volunteer firefighter, and 1834 homes destroyed. There have been moving, controversial, bizarre and even innovative responses in the blogosphere to the tragedy.

Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister, reflected popular reaction to news that some of the fires were deliberately lit by talking of “mass murder”. Following the charging of one man with arson causing death, Facebook groups emerged that published his address and other details that had been suppressed by court order. These have apparently now been removed by Facebook. One group has this message:

Brendan Sokaluk, you will pay. you will be found out. and you will suffer. and when that day comes, Australia will have another Public Holiday to celebrate.


These pages have stimulated an intense debate about issues such as the right to a fair trial. Some even fear that the lynch mob mentality and surrounding publicity may hinder the chances of a conviction. A warning: much of the comment on these sites is very disturbing for a whole range of reasons.


Kevin Rennie


One Response

  1. In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre, a memorial consisting of hokie stones was placed in a semi-circle in front of the Drillfield viewing stand on Campus, each with a name-label for a victim. Officially, there were thirty-two victims, and there were thirty-two memorial stones officially placed. Someone placed a thirty-third stone. Both that unofficial stone, and any mention of it, have once again been obliterated from the official memorial and official accounts; yet, that thirty-third stone was both the first and the last stone to be (dis)placed. What does the destruction of that third-third stone share in common with the creation of the other thirty-two?

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