Waleed Aly’s #SendForgivenessViral Segment About Internet Outrage Has Divided The Internet

His call to stop "fuelling the outrage" at Sonia Kruger and Pauline Hanson has met some criticism.

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Last night on The Project, Waleed Aly discussed the two stories that have dominated the news cycle this week: Pauline Hanson being confused and racist on Q&A and Sonia Kruger being confused and racist on Today. The segment, written by Aly and Project producer Tom Whitty, condemned the public reaction to these figures and the anger at their blatantly anti-Muslim comments.

Aly’s argument was that the manner in which people react to these incidents actually makes thing worse, and that he hoped for a more measured response; to instead “send forgiveness viral” over outrage. “When we are presented with an outrageous opinion, we’re actually presented with two options,” he said. “Destruction or construction.” Destruction, he clarified, was reacting emotionally and with “little genuine critical thought” to neutralise the threat, and construction being to exercise empathy and unpack what is motivating bigoted behaviour.

The segment was filled with a lot of dramatic music, crowds of peaceful people walking and an animation of a Gravitron.

Although he was calling for restraint, Aly was careful to mention that he was “not saying you should be silent in the face of bigotry” but instead cautioned those who felt the yen to angrily tweet about these issues, to practice “radical generosity” and assume the best in people like Sonia Kruger. He emphasised that by making Sonia Kruger “feel unsafe” critics had only made things worse.

However there seemed to be a strong feeling on Twitter that the “send forgiveness viral” segment neglected the many nuanced discussions of Kruger’s anti-Muslim comments which did not resort to personal attacks — particularly as Kruger has shown no signs of apologising for her discriminatory remarks.

Waleed Aly’s monologues of this nature are usually considered a slam dunk, but it seems like this time many are wondering if he has oversimplified an issue that’s more complex than internet shaming, and if he’s actually advocating tone policing.

The segment does seem to put the onus back on the people being attacked to fix things and to be passive in the face of hate speech. It’s unsurprising that it has now contributed to a new “cycle of outrage” that Aly thinks is the very source of the problem. Eliminating the “pile-on” won’t necessarily eliminate the problem — and just to clarify, we realise that Junkee is complicit in this cycle. Perhaps the issue here is the definition of ‘outrage’ as abuse, when it could just as easily be the source of important and informative conversations. Stamping out all debate, even rational debate, doesn’t seem like a sound solution to the problem of fear.

“I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen outrage go viral. Wouldn’t it be amazing if just once, we could send forgiveness viral?” Aly concluded. “These are dark times, but the best thing to do is reach for a flashlight, and not start a fire.”