Social media in Australia and beyond ignited over the recent detaining and aggressive questioning of much-loved Australian children's author Mem Fox by United States border authorities.
The 70-year-old Fox was held for an hour and 40 minutes and “interrogated” for 15 minutes in early February at Los Angeles airport on her way to the city of Milwaukee for a conference. The detention was apparently the result of a mistake over her visa by US Customs and Border Protection agents, not President Donald Trump's immigration policies.
When news broke on 25 February, the first responses on social media were disbelief and outrage:
— Lauren Kerstein (@LaurenKerstein) February 24, 2017
Jeez, moronic nasties are in charge in Trump's America. We should all do a Mem Fox and not visit https://t.co/cnFDn6TO8O
— Maralyn Parker (@MaralynParker) February 25, 2017
Mem recounted her “traumatic” experience and the treatment of others in an opinion piece for The Guardian:
In that moment I loathed America. I loathed the entire country. And it was my 117th visit to the country so I know that most people are very generous and warm-hearted. They have been wonderful to me over the years. I got over that hatred within a day or two. But this is not the way to win friends, to do this to someone who is Australian when we have supported them in every damn war. It’s absolutely outrageous.
She said when it came to the agents’ interactions with those detained, “everything was yelled, and everything was public”, and specifically detailed the treatment of an elderly Iranian woman in a wheelchair and a woman from Taiwan, both of whom didn't appear to speak English.
Mem said she received a written apology from US officials after she lodged a complaint with the United States embassy in Canberra. However, the apology didn't seem to quieten her supporters:
@USAembassyinOZ what an absolutely disgraceful way to treat an Australian legend, Mem Fox! Such disrespect! No excuse! Apology insufficient!
— Deborah Hogg (@DebHoggoz) February 25, 2017
America I was already furious at you but now you've made Mem Fox cry I think we're officially DONE FOREVER. https://t.co/35IDARxjwF
— Beck ~ Bottle Police (@bcgalore) February 25, 2017
Mem's books and characters became a recurring meme in online reactions, especially a certain green sheep:
— Jonathan Trevithick (@JonTrevithick) February 25, 2017
Other tweeps found their own humour in this unfortunate story:
First they came for the children's authors and I did not spea…
They came for the children's authors? https://t.co/tPkminAUs3
— Ern Malley (@GeoffShadbold) February 25, 2017
Sarah J. Schmitt spoke for many parents:
Oh, hell no. You don't mess with Mem Fox. My boys will fight you! https://t.co/Z6dYxfueMA
— Sarah J. Schmitt (@SJSchmitt) February 25, 2017
Fox's latest children's book, titled “I'm Australian, Too”, was particularly relevant given the experience:
— Jenny Darling & Assc (@AgentsJDA) February 25, 2017
In fact, Fox in her piece reflected on its deeper significance:
The irony! I had a copy of my new book “I’m Australian, Too” – it’s about immigration and welcoming people to live in a happy country.