Making her return to national TV on December 21 on ABC TV’s Hard Chat segment, Yassmin Abdel-Magied didn’t get a soft landing from host Tom Gleeson.
First question: were her similar controversial posts on Anzac and Remembrance days (“Lest we forget. Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine”) just “attention-seeking”? Her reply: “I missed all the death threats. It gives you a sense of importance.”
Judging by that flash of feisty humour, fans of Abdel-Magied can stand down from their post of worrying about her in a year when her status as a fledgling media darling imploded.
She was so bewildered she said Australia is “like dating an abusive guy”. She moved for a while to London.
Her PR spokesperson told The New Daily she was travelling and hard to contact. Her trademark confidence was said to have vanished.
But Gleeson tells The New Daily the opposite seemed true when he welcomed Abdel-Magied to his set: “I think she feels emboldened by the experience. She’s going to be a lot stronger and tougher. Not many people in the Australian media have had to survive that.”
Just what Abdel-Magied, 26, survived is this: after waking up on April 25, she fired off as a Facebook post the seven words that changed her life. Then she turned off her phone.
By the time it blinked back, she was a pariah on social media, a cause celebre who had launched a “vile slur” against fallen Australian soldiers and by using Anzac Day to make a political point about refugees, became, as she put it, Australia’s “most publicly-hated Muslim.”
As videos of beheadings and rapes reportedly flooded her Twitter account, senior politicians called for her sacking from her part-time ABC TV role (she was removed in May) and an estimated 64,000 words were written about the controversy.
Abdel-Magied, an engineer and former Queensland Young Australian of the Year, apologised and deleted the “total tactical error” post, but the ensuing tide of public disapproval saw her seek psychological help and new horizons.
She said she felt “betrayed” by her country, but nine months on, she’s back on home turf with a seemingly lighter spirit. Certainly, for Gleeson, it wasn’t too soon to ask if on every Anzac Day, Australia should “have a minute’s silence for your career?”
As he tells The New Daily, she was nervous when she showed up for Hard Chat, but “she turned up to do the interview so she obviously likes publicity to some degree. She was in a good mood. She’s very confident and intelligent.”
From A-list stars to politicians and athletes, we’ve named the 13 Australians who made headlines and sparked conversations – both heated and admiring – across the nation in 2017. Some covered themselves in glory. Some created controversy. Some made reputations, others lost them. From the cricket arena to the same sex marriage battlefield, regardless of whether they were beloved or booed, their personal and professional wins and downfalls had us talking over dinner tables and media channels.