Lindy Chamberlain and mass hysteria
In 1980 a dingo or dingoes took Azaria Chamberlain from her tent at Uluru and killed her. In 2012 a coroner found that a dingo or dingoes had taken Azaria Chamberlain from her tent at Uluru and killed her.
A lot happened between those two dates. The first inquest supported the Chamberlains in their argument that a dingo had taken Azaria. It was highly critical of the police investigation.
Police continued because they were convinced of Lindy Chamberlain’s guilt. At a second inquest almost a year later ‘evidence’ was led to show that Azaria’s jumpsuit had a knife cut in the neck and there was a small adult hand print there. The evidence was from an expert in London commenting on an ultrasound photo of the jumpsuit.
Other evidence led was that the front seat of the Chamberlains’ car had foetal blood on it, blood which babies up to six months old have. Azaria was 9 weeks old. Lindy Chamberlain thus supposedly slit Azaria’s neck in the front seat of the car and hid the body, pretending later that a dingo had taken her baby.
It was shown later that foetal haemoglobin results can also be produced by mucus and milkshakes, both of which were realistic explanations for the positive return.
Lindy Chamberlain was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Her then husband, Michael, was found to be an accessory.
Lindy claimed that Azaria was wearing a jacket over the jumpsuit. It wasn’t found.
Then in 1986, 3 years after Lindy’s imprisonment, part of Azaria’s jacket was discovered in a dingo’s lair. Lindy was released immediately from prison and in 1988 all convictions against her were overturned.
In 1995, after campaigning by the Chamberlains and others, a coroner investigated Azaria’s disappearance but returned an ‘open verdict’ on her disappearance and death. Then this week, after further campaigning from the Chamberlains, another inquest found that Azaria had been taken by a dingo.
It was a great day for Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and Michael Chamberlain, vindicated at last after 32 years. Why then did this outrage occur?
Let’s be clear. Miscarriages of justice occur all the time, most often at the hands of zealous police who believe that the accused is guilty. But it is more than that.
Our justice system is built on injustice – the exploitation of the working class and the theft of the surplus value it creates by those who own the means of production, ie those who won the factories, mines, offices, machinery, and those who fight them for a share of the surplus value, the banks, the landlords and the state and so on. This band of hostile brothers get their share in the form of profits, interest, rent and taxes.
It means that the justice system is above all else a defence of the profit system, ie of property. And property is overwhelmingly owned by the ruling class. The top 20% of income earners own more than 60% of Australia’s wealth. The bottom 20% own less than 1%. And it is getting worse.
In Australia the 1788 invasion began a process of land theft and genocide against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Today, one of the consequences of that land theft and genocide is that Aborigines make up 27% of the number of full time prisoners across Australia yet they are only about 2% of the population.
Black deaths in custody are another consequence of the white man’s justice system. Despite only being 2% of the population, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders make up 18% of deaths in custody. This is higher than when the Deaths in Custody Royal Commission was set up.
Almost invariably no charges are laid against police or others over black deaths in custody.
But a justice system in which it is equally illegal for a rich man to sleep out rough every night as a poor man is not the only mechanism of control capital exerts over labour.
The propaganda of property and profit is everywhere. The system is made natural both through its very existence and the need for workers to sell their labour power to survive and through a range of ideological reinforcements.
An important element of this for capitalism is the centrality of the family. In reality the family and a woman’s role in society from the point of view of capital is to bring into being and raise the next generation of workers.
The family as it exists today is a fairly recent invention, one developed to suit the needs of capital. It took some time to impose this vision of a Mum and Dad and kids on the unruly elements of the working class and freshly minted workers from the peasantry.
Women are socialised through the ideology of the family to raise kids for little or no monetary reward. Capital gets its next generation on the cheap.
This wouldn’t happen without an ideology that glorified women’s role as nurturing and caring and as self-sacrificing for their children.
The possible murder of a very young child by its mother challenges those very precepts, those foundational ideas of capitlaism.
Lindy Chamberlain didn’t seem to fit the stereotype either. She was calm, not wrought openly with emotion. She must be guilty.
Throw in the fact the Chamberlains were devout members of the Seventh Day Adventists and you have a recipe for all sorts of rumour mongering. One for example that gained a lot of currency was that Azaria means sacrifice in the desert. It means God’s loved.
The media went hysterical. Now it might surprise you that a normally sane intelligent media could do this. After all, there have been no other examples in recent history of media hysteria have there?
Anyone remember the Aboriginal Tent Embassy demo this year? A riot was what the puppets of the press, the mendicants of the media, called it. All lies.
What about the mainstream media’s treatment of refugees? Four Corners and the sensationalist Captain Emad story comes to mind.
David Hicks? Mamdouh Habib? Julian Assange? Mohammed Haneef? Do those names sound familiar?
Anyone remember the Cronulla riots, egged on by sections of the media?
Women who challenge the stereotype are often painted in the media in very unflattering terms. Witness the useless fascination with Julia Gillard’s clothes, knitting, hair style, anything but her anti-worker policies.
The hysteria has a material base. Working class people respond to all this shit the media feed them.
Most Australians at the time thought Lindy Chamberlain was guilty. Some had doubts, but they were a minority.
Workers are alienated from the product of their own labour. One response to this loss of self is to both humanise the human capitalist relations. Another is to reclaim your own humanity not through class struggle but over-lordship.
I am a hard working Australian. Those lazy, nasty, illegal, rotten, anti-family [fill in appropriate adjective] refugees, Aborigines, poofters, feminists, commies [fill in appropriate hate figure noun] are no good. I am better than them.
So you have a society that creates expectations of women as carers and along comes a case in which the police argue a woman who appears cold and uncaring has killed a defenceless 9 week old baby. It challenges all the ideas about women and their role in society.
Bugger the fact that the forensic evidence was not worth a pinch of shit, or that there had been doing attacks in the area previously. No, Lindy Chamberlain was clearly guilty because she didn’t cry.
32 years later and the consequences are plain for all to see.
There can be no justice in an unjust society.
If there were, war criminals like George Bush and Barack Obama would be on trial now, with their Australian and British accomplices right beside them.
If there were justice, those who kill Aborigines in custody would be in prison. Those who steal their land would be deal with.
If there were justice, the media would report the truth.
If there were justice Lindy Chamberlain wouldn’t have spent 3 years in jail and taken 32 years to win this week’s victory.
Only overthrowing the current unjust economic, political and social system can create a just society.