Thu 6 May 2010
Yesterday’s announcement of the sacking of Catherine Deveny from The Age came as no surprise to many of us who have loathed her particular brand of lowbrow vitriol that covers a wide spectrum – from class hatred and ‘hipster racism’ to attempts at humour around the sexual activities of an 11 year old girl. And yet the Twitters are alight with dissent over whether she should have been sacked for her tweeting at the Logies.
Others have already blogged on the issues around whether she should have been sacked for her tweets and questioned why more socially destructive and offensive columnists like Andrew Bolt haven’t been fired yet. The most compelling piece I’ve seen came from Jason Wilson over on New Matilda, who asks why she was hired in the first place. And surely those of us who dislike Deveny’s work would agree that she’s hardly the worst offender. The other trollumnists should be reined in as well, in the interest of a more civil society.
And so I have an idea.
In my meeting yesterday with Graeme Innes, Race Discrimination Commissioner and Disability Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission, we talked through the complaints process available to all Australians if they think something published is discriminatory on the basis of race, sex, age or disability.
For example, if you read one of Bolt’s columns (and I don’t recommend it, though to get this campaign going many of us might need to) and find it offensive, you can lodge a complaint with the AHRC. Even if you believe an ‘anonymous’ comment is racist, sexist, etc, you can make a complaint and the publisher is responsible for defending or denying.
You can then tweet what you find offensive and suggest others might complain if they too find the material offensive. So rather than all of us simply tweeting our outrage, we can take action.
The AHRC (or you could use your state Commission, such as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission) is required to investigate every complaint. Clearly, the system will look after itself – spurious complaints should not end up sacking somebody who is undeserving.
The important thing is that the AHRC and state commissions cannot act on racist comments in a column or the comments without an official complaint.
So it’s time to speak up!
Logically, if trollumnists start attracting as many complaints as they do rabid comments of agreement, they becomes liabilities for their employers, as Deveny did for hers it seems.
The trolls have had their day. It’s time we take away their oxygen.