A dingo got my baby!
17 August 1980 saw the start of one of the longest running and confusing legal sagas Australia has seen. Certainly few other initially captivated the nation so wholly, and polarised people so completely.
Azaria Chamberlain was taken from her family tent by a dingo and killed.
For years though, that’s not really the story Australians went with. The media painted Lindy Chamberlain as the killer – she was certainly charged with the death and by the time it got to trial, her chances of a fair trial were fairly much nonexistent.
It took decades of fighting in the courts and coronial inquests for Lindy to be exonerated for the death of her daughter – in fact, the coroner’s final finding only occurred in August 2012.
It was an exercise in extreme horror for the family.
It was a sharp and pointed lesson to all Australians. Or, it should have been. And the lesson was simple:
Outrage is easy: facts are hard.
It’s easy to become swept up in outrage about current events. But regardless of what the eventual finding may be, it’s a thin line that’s walked when the facts aren’t wholly known, and are still to be investigated.
Social media exacerbates this situation. I’ll admit, despite my best intents I’ve occasionally leapt before I looked – but I rarely felt good about it afterwards. The last year or more I’ve made a determined effort to make sure I see all the facts before I come to a conclusion – and more importantly, all the facts before I cry havoc and let slip the dogs of moral turpitude. To do otherwise is to join an eLynch-mob.
The entire Azaria/Lindy Chamberlain situation should have become – and should still become, Australia’s moral yardstick on dealing with tricky situations, and particularly situations that require formal and rigorous legal investigation.
Everyone is entitled to an impartial and fair review of their actions – be it legal or otherwise. Lynch mobs – traditional or social or in any other form, no matter how justified we feel they may be at the time, can have disastrous consequences.
Just ask Lindy Chamberlain.