A conservative Australian Federal parliamentarian has caused a stir in the wake of the fatal shooting of 17 people — including 14 students — at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. George Christensen’s original Facebook post defended gun owners and included a photo of him with a rifle.
He channeled Clint Eastwood’s character from the 1971 movie Dirty Harry in a comment on the post. A photo of him pointing a pistol had the caption, “You gotta ask yourself, do you feel lucky, greenie punks?” He changed it without apology to, “You gotta ask yourself, do you have a sense of humour, greenie punks?” before deleting it soon after following pressure from his own political party, The Nationals.
The Greens party referred the matter to State and Federal police. Queensland police have apparently dismissed the complaint while the Australian Federal Police are considering an investigation. Prominent lawyer and human rights advocate Julian Burnside spoke for many when he replied to Greens senator Nick McKimm’s tweet:
George Christensen has finally revealed his deepest flaws as a human being.
He debases any party he belongs to.
He does not deserve to be in parliament https://t.co/ohH4eoH7Zm
— Julian Burnside (@JulianBurnside) February 18, 2018
Others were just as scathing:
So the same week 17 innocent students were massacred in the US, @GChristensenMP chooses to post pictures of him firing a rifle, along with him firing a pistol with a veiled threat to kill greenies.
George Christensen is a real piece of crap. pic.twitter.com/OkXIMh4v9f
— Richard Tuffin 🌈 (@RichardTuffin) February 18, 2018
However, Christensen has supporters on social media who came to his defense. Daniel Edmonds responded in a post:
Thank you for standing up for the close to 2 million licensed gun owners of Australia. We are (by virtue of having passed the stringent tests to obtain a license), the most law abiding members of the community. It is patently absurd how much police time and resources are wasted policing literally the most law abiding members of the community.
A fellow member of parliament and the parliamentary friend of a shooting group, Ian Goodenough, defended Christensen but conceded that it was “an off-colour attempt at humour”.
That was too much for Marcellus Wallace:
Ian Goodenough comes out in defence of Georgie boy. He was just joking about shooting @Greens supporters, what's the problem?
Try going on a flight and having a “lighthearted joke” about a bomb. Shooting people is not a joking matter @GChristensenMP. #auspol #rnbreakfast
— Marcellus Wallace (@bdrinkwater) February 18, 2018
The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called it “very inappropriate”. The National party is part of his government coalition.
Firearms Owners United defended Christensen, preferring to attack the Greens, especially Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Is there a day that goes by without the Greens confecting outrage […]
The Greens taking the moral high ground about inciting violence. Ok then, Sarah.
No matter what your opinion on Christensen is, the act itself was harmless. Shooting a pistol in a controlled environment while making a movie reference as a gentle stab at his political rivals.
The same day Hanson-Young tweeted about a nasty and threatening email she received headed “Bullets’.
Cameron Blewett weighed the issues on his Linkedin feed:
Are we becoming too “sensitive”?
While there is no doubt that George Christensen's post was not appropriate, does it actually encourage cyberbullies?
If that is a “vile” post, the bar may be set too low. And as a consequence desensitises us to what actually is vile.
Peter O'Brien certainly thought so:
An offensive social media post. Wow. Form a Strike force. Leave no stone unturned. Place all the murder and rape investigations on hold. Let's get to the bottom of this. https://t.co/jwMVrywJh4
— Peter OBrien (@PeterOB24979769) February 18, 2018
On the other hand, Tom in Oz was not amused. He shared a cartoon by the Sydney Morning Herald’s John Shakespeare that was clearly not meant as a joke:
GEORGE CHRISTENSEN – DOPEY & DELUDED & DECEITFUL & DANGEROUS – A COMPLETE DRONGO!pic.twitter.com/GKvoD8KGf0
— TOM IN OZ (@SirThomasWynne) February 20, 2018