#FreeKaren Explained: The Fictional Environmentalist Accused Of Terrorism

25/09/2015 11:46 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Video by Tom Compagnoni

Karen needs your help. She's being held against her will. She's listening to Nirvana. She isn't a terrorist!

If you've been on Twitter this morning, you will have heard all about Karen under the trending Australian hashtag #FreeKaren.

But who is she?

Karen even has a Wikipedia listing, but what has she done and why is she being held against her will?

Karen is nobody. And everybody. She's a fictional crusader created in response to the Federal Government's Radicalisation Awareness Kit designed for school students, that paints environmental activism and the alternative music scene as a gateway to terrorism.

In the 32-page booklet is this case study on violent extremism about a girl named Karen who was on the right track until she listened to alternative music and moved to a forest camp:

Critics of the Radicalisation Awareness Kit are using Karen to show up some of the less helpful aspects of the booklet.

Australian Conservation Foundation acting campaigns director Jonathan La Nauze said Karen's story was ridiculous, but also deeply concerning.

"Like many, my initial reaction was one of mirth, but it actually started to sink in that this is a really awful, grossly misleading story told to potentially hundreds of thousands of school children and it's dangerous to our democracy," La Nauze said.

"If it wasn't for environmental activism in Australia, there's be oil rigs on the Great Barrier Reef, the Franklin Dam would have flooded some of the most pristine wilderness on the planet and farmers across country NSW would be powerless against gas operations.

"This isn't amusing, it's indoctrinating children to the idea that polluting is fine and standing up against it is wrong."

La Nauze is calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to withdraw the booklets from schools.

"I think it appears to be largely from the former prime minister who I believe was extremely anti environment.

"It is urgent that Malcolm Turnbull distance himself from this and withdraw the kits."

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