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Why hostages should be immune from criticism

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Fred Nile.

Just those two words are enough to cause a ripple of unease among most fair-minded people or, more recently, a collective eye-rolling.

“Oh, Fred – what’s he said now?”

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The good reverend is known for his controversial views on life.

In summary, he’s against homosexuality, the Greens and, a few years ago, called for a moratorium on Muslim immigration to Australia.

Now Fred’s gone on TV and radio, slamming male hostages who fled the Lindt Café during last month’s siege in inner-city Sydney.

Of course, one of the wonderful things about living in Australia is that such criticism is permitted, even when it is harsh and unjustified.

There’s been a lot written about free speech in the past week, and we should defend it. Even when it is ridiculous.

“Usually men try to protect the women but it looks like the men were trying to protect their own skins,” Nile said on Channel 7’s Sunrise program on Wednesday.

“Where were the men?

“The only man really there was the man with the gun.”

Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were killed in the siege at the Lindt cafe in Sydney's Martin Place on December 16.
Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were killed in the siege at the Lindt cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place on December 16.

But that sadly omits Lindt Cafe manager Tori Johnson, who was killed in the final moments of the siege and, from early accounts, put his life on the line for his fellow hostages.

While the immediate reaction is to condemn Nile, he raises an interesting point.

I must admit my impulse on seeing the men escape in the early afternoon (after it became clear they hadn’t been released) was one of concern for the people still inside.

After all, an already unstable gunman probably wouldn’t react well to the loss of any of his hostages, and may have taken it out on those inside.

But who is Fred Nile to criticise men more worried about never seeing their families again, or leaving them unprovided for, than the welfare of strangers?

Nile’s thoughts on what it means to be a man, like most of his views, are hopelessly outdated.

When we step out in public we enter into a social contract to not hurt or intimidate others, but surely that contract was broken the moment Man Haron Monis entered the café and started waving a gun about?

Anything the men did after that to preserve their own lives should be immune from criticism.

Nile’s argument that the men shouldn’t receive bravery awards perhaps has some credence – finding yourself in a terrible situation and doing your best to extricate yourself from it may not be bravery in the traditional sense.

But it took plenty of gumption to make a run for it, and there is absolutely no cause to criticise them.

No one knows how they’d react confronted with such horror. Regardless of how we feel about what unfolded in Martin Place, and the actions of the seven men, why have a go at them?

We should instead just be thankful it wasn’t us confronted with such an awful set of choices.

After surviving such a traumatic event, the men will be having a hard enough time getting their lives back on track without some windbag having a crack at them on national TV.

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