Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The change Australians saw in the public perception of Schapelle Corby was nothing short of miraculous.

When we first learned that Schapelle was accused of taking 4.1Kg of marijuana from Australia to Bali the Australian people replied with a resounding, “You gotta be kidding” – (see “The Truth about Aussie Gold”). All this changed when Matthew Moore wrote his ‘Bali is flooded with Australian marijuana’ article.

But what happened to change public opinion so dramatically? A fair sampling of the internet tells us that the biggest objection to Schapelle’s innocence is that she should have noticed the weight of the boogie-board bag and it’s 4kg increase.

Apart from the fact that a large percentage of those making this observation call her ‘Chapelle’ they seem to have missed the fact that Schapelle didn’t take the boogie board bag from the carousel to the customs desk. It was her brother James who dragged the boogie-board bag to the counter along with his own luggage because Schapelle was already overloaded. And, since no one moved the boogie-board bag by itself until they had reached the customs counter, no one noticed the additional weight.

In addition, her detractors failed to hear how Schapelle noticed something odd about her boogie-board bag moments before it was to be inspected. She put it onto the counter and unzipped it slightly only to see a green-filled bag and to smell the pungent aroma of marijuana. She closed the bag in a panic. Had Schapelle been guilty, she would not have opened the bag to begin with.

For those who say that Schapelle tried to prevent the customs officer from opening the bag, Schapelle denies this but unfortunately, like the CCTV footage from the other airports, the Bali airport camera footage also disappeared which takes coincidence to new levels. If Schapelle had done this however, it was because she had just opened the bag, had seen the marijuana and was in a panic. Surely, wouldn't concealing the marijuana be more realistic than trying to forcefully stop the man from opening the bag?

It is clear that these are not the reasons why so many people suddenly believed Schapelle to be guilty but rather the justifications for a belief they already have. It is true that many people out there tend to follow whatever the majority believes but after we sift through the superficiality we are left with the overpowering fact that a massive change occurred without any apparent reason.

Never before had the Australian public responded so unanimously to any one viewpoint and in this instance, it was Schapelle’s innocence. She made no attempt to conceal the marijuana. She had no criminal record. She worked in a fish and chip shop to save for her holiday. She had no money and no way of acquiring the marijuana but most of all, no one takes marijuana from Australia to Bali.

In fact, Schapelle didn’t just appear innocent, she appeared to be remarkably innocent and any reasonable person would expect our government to do something.

With radio DJs spewing racism and people suggesting that we should send in the troops to rescue Schapelle, we were on the brink of a political and diplomatic crisis. We expected our government to take action and many believed that they were working their magic behind closed doors while they urged the Australian public to maintain their calm.

However, what they did was quite unexpected and extremely clever. They did nothing.

Once Matthew Moore had written his lies Schapelle’s guilt became possible. At the same time both the internet and corporate/government intranets were flooded with pictures of Schapelle drunk at a party and rumours of her selling drugs in Queensland.

When the government did nothing people began to reason that perhaps our federal police knew something that they didn’t. Since our government did not respond to Schapelle’s appearance of innocence as much as we did perhaps Schapelle was really guilty.

By doing nothing our government changed public opinion because most people still believed that they put the Australian people above their own agendas and would never abandon an innocent citizen to a life in an Indonesian prison.

The more supporters spoke of how innocent she appeared the more people thought she just had to be guilty.

Your comments are welcome.