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#FreeKaren - Australia Labels Outsiders as Radicals, Internet Rages

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The first thing you need to know about #FreeKaren is that Karen is neither in need of being freed, nor is she even a real person. She's a hypothetical character invented by the Aussie government as part of an 'Radicalisation Awareness Kit'. It's a booklet which covers different flavours of extremism and how to identify and address them. Fair enough, right? But then you get to Karen.


Karen, in the context of the story, leaves home, starts listening to what the booklet describes as 'alternative music' (which could be literally anything from Godspeed You! Black Emperor to Mos Def to the Bananarama soundtrack) and ends up getting arrested for sabotaging a forestry machine. Whatever way you spin it, it comes out looking as if they're suggesting that straying too far from established conformity turns you into some kind of dangerous extremist. Backlash? Backlash.




As if the merry-go-round that Australian politics has become wasn't rife enough for criticism already, a pretty big contingent of the Twitter-verse have jumped on this like an Italian union worker on a Goomba. Mostly they've made a point of the fact that this kind of thing, rather than stamping out radicalisation (a blanket statement in and of itself), it's just perpetuating it. More people still have been wondering aloud if this was a parting gift from recently ousted and almost universally despised PM Tony Abbott.





It's actually, most directly, the work of Minister for Justice Michael Keenan, who was appointed in that position by the Abbott administration, but he managed to keep his seat after the cabinet reshuffle which took place after Abbott was replaced by Malcolm Turnbull. Since the early responses, the #FreeKaren hashtag has started trending heavily across all of Australia, extending beyond the booklet to become a stick with which to mercilessly bludgeon basically the entire approach Keenan has taken to 'radicalisation'.




A few famous faces have even gotten in on the act, mostly politicians from opposing left-wing parties like the Greens, but Jessica Veronica (one of the two Veronicas, the ones that sing, anyway), posted about it, since their music could easily be classified as alternative. Many of the people involved in the sizeable lambasting even starting identifying as Karen, Spartacus style, but presumably with less risk of mass summary execution. The rest of the booklet was something of a goldmine for social media assault, as another section of it managed to misspell 'ideology'. This likely to carry on going round for a while, methinks.



Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF


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#FreeKaren - Australia Labels Outsiders as Radicals, Internet Rages Reviewed by Callum Davies on Monday, September 28, 2015 Rating: 5

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