11 May, 2010

My reply to Catherine Deveny

Catherine Deveny has written at the ABC's Unleashed site about her sacking from The Age.  I posted a reply, but if anyone would like to read it without wading through the 600 other comments, this is what I wrote:

Dear Catherine,
That was rather moving in places between the self-justification.  I think you're still missing a few points though.

You can't claim to be taken out of context on Twitter.  The whole point of Twitter is that there is no context.  You can't expect someone casually following the #logies tag to automatically know your back-story with Rove.  All they see is someone making what seems to be a really tasteless joke.  Personally, I didn't have a problem with the Bindi comment.  I saw where you were coming from with that but again, thousands following the tag wouldn't.  I can think of several other commentators who could have gotten away with it, since they don't already have such a history of trash talk.

As you said, "True sentiments are lost in Twitter."  If you knew that and chose to take your chances anyway, then you have to accept what happens next.  Freedom of expression doesn't mean immunity from blowback. If you'd chosen to show some contrition and admit that you'd made an error in judgement, I expect you'd still be on the payroll at The Age. If you choose to stand by it all, citing the "I'm edgy, me," defence - if you really think that's a fight worth fighting, worth losing a gig that thousands would give their left nipple for, then good luck to you.  I guess Miranda Devine chose differently.

There's nothing wrong with admitting you pushed the envelope too far and saying you're sorry.  Refusing to admit mistakes and blaming everyone else?  That's such a guy thing!

The other thing is, it's a bit rich to look for compassion a couple of weeks after calling soldiers greedy and racist.  I'm sorry you're heartbroken.  I imagine there would be a few diggers and their families who are heartbroken over what you said about them without knowing them.  But as you said at the time, fuck respect.  You get what you give.


  1. But don't you think it's off that somebody who gets paid to express her sometimes controversial opinions is fired for expressing her opinions? That's like Don Rickles getting fired because he insulted somebody.

  2. That's a fair question. I truly don't know what The Age's thinking was in employing her - and I'm not saying that in a pejorative way, I just don't know. I think the main reason she got into trouble was because she skips between comedian, commentator and shit-stirrer. It's not that these things don't mix, or indeed, compliment each other. Resorting to the most lowbrow means of expressing when rushed does not help. People seem to have forgotten the difference between being a larrakin and being an arsehole.

    I also think it's ridiculous of her to suggest that this in any way damages diversity and edginess in Australian publishing. That's insulting to all the other excellent writers who are out there.

  3. In response to Mia:

    Everyone (OK, except maybe sociopaths) has a built-in compass of what is right and wrong, and what is appropriate and inappropriate. Just because someone is paid to express their opinion doesn't mean they have the right to throw that compass out the window.

    Deveny is an intelligent woman. She knows what's appropriate and what's not. She simply chose to cross that line. A person in her position, no matter what they get PAID to do, has a responsibility that those of us not in the public eye don't have.

    It's not about Australia being a nanny state, or being over-sensitive. It's about a person in the public eye knowing when to say something and knowing when to keep her mouth shut. Making a joke about someone's dead wife is in extremely bad taste.

    And who does Deveny think she's fooling by this defence, after the fact: "They looked really sweet. I do hope that Tasma doesn't die and I hope that Rove doesn't die ... I absolutely meant it." She's trying to pass the tweet off as a sincere comment about her love for the couple and her hopes that they don't pass away any time soon. By that logic, she could have tweeted the same to any of her other friends who also attended the Logies. But she didn't, because it was only Rove's wife who died. The tweet was a direct reference to Belinda Emmett's death. She's only digging herself a deeper hole.

    What Deveny fails to realise is that crass, opinionated and inappropriate behaviour may be FUNNY, but it's certainly not becoming.

  4. I'm kind of torn on the issue. Deveny is challenging and controversial, and that's a good thing. Even within those parameters though, there is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Miranda Devine was absolutely right about trashing the brand, before she trashed her own. There are plenty of excellent columnists who can be challenging and edgy without being offensive. Marieke Hardy comes to mind as an example.

    I certainly don't think any of the Logies comments were a sacking offence. Any awards night is always going to prompt a bitch-fest. I thought the Rove comment was just juvenile. I did get the joke with the Bindi comment, but by then, I think that for The Age, it was the last straw after the ANZAC comments earlier.

    I agree about a moral compass. She knew she was being outrageous (and I don't mean that in a good way) to get attention. Well, she got it. People like Kyle Sandilands or Sam Newman (she is right to call the Footy Show 'pigs in suits') probably don't know any better, but what's her excuse?

    I disagree somewhat with your last point. I think you can get away with crassness if you're funny, but Deveny just isn't as funny as she thinks she is. Doing or saying things that nobody else would do in public isn't funny in and of itself. My personal rule is that it's okay to be crude as long as you're clever.

  5. Yes, I agree with you. I'm not sure it was a sacking offence either - if you're to take it as an isolated event. But when is anything ever completely isolated anymore? The fact is Deveny had crossed the line on previous occasions, and there are plenty of talented people ready to take her spot, who WILL respect the responsibilities that come with the position.

    I think it's a shame when people rely on bullying to get a laugh. Wil Anderson did the same thing. It's only my personal preference (some people enjoy crass and offensive humour), but I like to laugh to uplifting observances on life, not jokes that attempt to tear other people down.