You know a press release didn’t go down as planned when you’re forced to issue a second one to clarify the original – especially when that clarification relates to the Nazis.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has been forced to mop up a mess of its own making, after publishing material that appeared to downplay the evils of Nazism in a bizarre editorial spray ironically intended to defend the agency against accusations it has acted in an “immoral” and “rogue” fashion.
Authored by the Department’s Secretary Michael Pezzullo, the 25 paragraph release hit out at the Department’s critics, but ran into trouble after an awkwardly phrased sentence in the third paragraph, thanks to the use of the word “allegedly”.
“Recent comparisons of immigration detention centres to ‘gulags’; suggestions that detention involves a “public numbing and indifference” similar to that allegedly experienced in Nazi Germany; and persistent suggestions that detention facilities are places of ‘torture’ are highly offensive, unwarranted and plainly wrong – and yet they continue to be made in some quarters,” it said.
The release went on to reiterate the Department’s commitment to sending men, woman, and children currently in Australia for medical reasons back to Nauru, in defiance of the #LetThemStay campaign.
But after an outcry on social media over the use of the word “allegedly”, the Department was forced to issue a subsequent and equally aggressive follow up.
The second release blasted the media, and those who had interpreted the initial statment as questioning the severity of the Holocaust.
“Any insinuation the Department denies the atrocities committed in Nazi Germany are both ridiculous and baseless,” it said.
“This has been wilfully taken out of context and reflects deliberate attempts to distort this opinion editorial to create controversy,” the Department said, in a statement likely to help continue the controversy.
“The term ‘allegedly’ was used to counter claims of ‘public numbing and indifference’ towards state abuses in Nazi Germany and the link to immigration detention in Australia. We reject the comparison to immigration detention as offensive and question this being made as a blanket statement – an allegation hence ‘allegedly’ – to describe the attitude of the German population at large during that terrible time.”
Just when you thought the incident couldn’t get any weirder, the Department also decided to add yet another paragraph to the initial release, a heated postscript offering a historical and philosophical lesson on the nature of evil in the Third Reich.
The Department has been at war with the Australian media in recent times, with Pezzullo accusing journalists of engaging in “pamphleteering essentially of a political nature” at a recent Senate Estimates hearing.
The Department was forced to back away from a media release made in 2015 implying random visa checks would be taking place in Melbourne, provoking outrage and eventually drawing an apology from Pezzullo.
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