August 7, 2014

Fuck Off - Why MC Had To Go

So Mike Carlton has been sacked resigned from his position at Fairfax.

I'm not going to comment on my feelings about that, though anyone who follows me on Twitter will know I did not exactly rent my clothes and tear my hair in lamentation.

I am aware that many of my fellow Fairfax columnists and other journos are dismayed at the precedent set by his sacking resignation. What goes on in correspondence between a columnist and a reader, they feel, should not bear any relevance to their work as a writer.

Well, I respectfully disagree.


I am a freelance writer, but write for Fairfax and other publications on a regular basis, and appear weekly on Channel 7. When I am interacting with people on social media, I represent myself, but I also, by proxy, represent the organisations that employ me.

These organisations choose to use my words and my image. They choose to use my 'brand'*. And so if my brand becomes something that they feel is discordant with their own brand, then I would expect my services to be terminated.

In other words, if I go around telling people to fuck off, if I go around hurling thinly veiled racial insults, if I am rude and disrespectful in my dealings with my readers, I would expect my brand to be compromised, and I would expect to make myself unemployable.

The thing is, every journalist and columnist in the world has experienced dissent and trolling. In the past month I've been accused of child bullying (because I criticized Bindi Irwin for telling girls how to dress), of being part of the Zionist Genocide Plot (because I expressed the view that posting images of dead children is disrespectful to grieving families), and of demonizing fathers (because I wrote a piece about a new campaign to highlight incest using Disney caricatures). Oh, and someone called me a zombie. I'm still not exactly sure why.

When I received these helpful pieces of feedback, there was just one thing I wanted to do. I wanted to tell those moronic correspondents to fuck the hell off.

But you know what? I didn't. Because a) it is isn't helpful, and it's not going to change their minds; b) I don't wish to lower myself to their level; and c) it's just rude. People are entitled to their opinions, even if those opinions are different to mine. And being rude to someone who is rude to me isn't going to help the situation one iota.

So in each and every case, I wrote the same message: "Thank you for your considered response to my opinion piece."

And if the person continued to abuse me, I used a very powerful little tool. I pressed 'block' and 'delete', and they were gone for my life.

I am far from perfect. I have allowed myself to engage in endless debates with people online when I really should have just exited quickly and stopped wasting my time. But I do try very hard to retain humour and courtesy. Because if we can't do that, then the horrible conflicts overseas that are not the responsibility of any person in this country are creeping into our own lives, and that would simply add to the tragedy.

*Yes, it's a wanky term, but you get my point..

39 comments:

  1. Best, most simple and sensible column about courtesy and professionalism ever. Big like.

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  2. While everyone is entitled to their opinions, I'm pretty sure you are not an actual zombie. That's not an opinion, it's a factual error. Secondly, I don't know why I'm writing this.

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  3. I would go so far as to say your opinions are sought because of the quality of your social interactions! You have shown time and again you can make your point with humour and never in a hurtful way. Go Kerri!

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  4. Lana (Sharpest Pencil)August 7, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    If Mickey Mouse were to tell kids at Disney Land to get fucked, we'd demand he be sacked not because of any other reason than it's not Disney policy to swear at children, just like we hope it's not SMH's policy to swear at readers

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  5. You shouldn't have to engage with abuse, but you should be expected to have an opinion and defend it reasonably. If you think everyone deserves the same response, that's just sad.

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  6. Choc Wars veteranAugust 7, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    I recall Malcolm Turnbull having a similar response to hate mail that comes through to him, something along the lines of "Thank you for sharing that, I hope it made you feel better."

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  7. Well kicking a colleague when his down says a good deal about your integrity. This is Australia not the US of Puritian A, and an honest "get fucked" is eloquent enough response to trolls. You do not represent your employer in your social media. We are not slaves yet.

    Frankly disgusted.

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  8. Rennie BearingtonAugust 7, 2014 at 5:00 PM

    I agree with most of Carlton's criticisms of Israel's treatment of Palestinian civilians but Israel really had nothing to do with the point this article is validly making - and so of course it was not mentioned. Regardless of what you thought of Carlton's position on Israel, he told readers to fuck off. Several times. Regardless of the subject matter of the argument, the SMH was entirely justified in asking Carlton to apologise/suspend him for telling readers to fuck off. And even if the publicly stated reasons were only an excuse to "bully him out the door" and the underlying motive was some pro-Israel conspiracy against him, he gave them WAY too valid an excuse.

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  9. Thanks Greg. I respectfully disagree. I don't think there is ever call for abusing someone who expresses an opinion. Including in this very comment. Best wishes, Kerri

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  10. I agree entirely. Of course we are all entitled to an opinion and defend it reasonably. I don't feel that hurling abuse at people who express their own opinion is reasonable or helpful.

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  11. Oooh, was it the Jewish Conspiracy?

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  12. Well, it has never actually been PROVEN that I am not an actual zombie....

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  13. Bullying by employers is rife today and it behoves none of us to condone it. We were once a nation of proud workers, and now adopt a craven posture, and when someone says enough is enough, then that deserves praise and support even if his views are not respected.


    Some solidarity goes a long way, I rile at this Americanization of work, the part-timing and freelancing does not encourage spinal growth, nor intestinal strength.

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  14. I'm a freelancer and my spine and intestines are pretty strong.... but noted.

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  15. What a head-in-the-sand immature response. Of course all the people railing against Carlton were Zoroastrians or something.

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  16. The idea of a Jewish Conspiracy is as plausible as Zoroastrians.
    Please be aware I will not tolerate anti-Semitism on my blog so any comments in that vein will be deleted.

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  17. he can't spell he's! he went to Uni?

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  18. I concur, Kerri. Even a veneer of civility is what separates us from...well, the barbarians. Great post. :)

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  19. He may have a laptop that will not type apostrophes like mine, after an incident with a water sprinkler. Never assume.

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  20. I have no excuse, I wrote "his" when I should have written "he is", I simply transposed two similar sounding expressions, it has nothing to do with spelling, which in my case can be bad enough. I am glad I gave you a little joy.

    Now tell me why it is a good thing a journalist is hassled out of job on such a flimsy excuse, when it is obviously his analysis that was the problem -- as if our news services did not repeat in unison on every issue like so many trained parrots?

    Is it good that our news services all follow the same script as dim echoes of Washington's world view? That we should accept the severe disproportion of force being applied to Gaza's collective punishment as if that was something fair and right that should be done without so much as dissenting voice in the media?

    There are bigger issues at stake in this incident than crowing the wisdom of power, or for that matter typos.

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  21. I have to say that I will miss Mike Carlton at the Herald because he is one of the few journalists who has been unafraid in his lampooning of the Abbott government. However, when I heard that he had told you to 'fuck off', Kerri, I realised he had overstepped the mark. I know that you are always courteous, even when you disagree with someone. I can only imagine a) the sheer volume of the hate mail he received caused him to 'lose it' b) he was pissed while tweeting - never a good idea. I would never offer an opinion on what is happening in Gaza because the issues are beyond most Australian's understanding and think he should have similarly refrained.

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  22. As you said above: 'So in each and every case, I wrote the same message: "Thank you for your considered response to my opinion piece."'


    A "get fucked" would at least be more honest; "best wishes" really? "Respectfully disagree", respect would require a response to what has been said, I do not detect any respect. The right to express opinion is overrated, it is free because opinions are worthless. Reasoned ideas they are worth something, they do not get much of a look-in in modern journalism.


    My comment was intended to be a simple expression of disgust, little more than hinting at more significant aspects of what has happened to journalism in this country, indeed throughout the Western world.


    I wish you would think in those terms where it really counts and give less lip service to good manners, which don't count for much outside personal contact.

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  23. Rennie BearingtonAugust 7, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    This is another side issue but ok. I'm with you on the proposition that the less tenure employees have (especially journalists) the less fearless and independent they will be. I Agree bullying in workplaces should not be condoned. And if Carlton had written an article decrying employer bullying or saying that he would be bullied he would probably have my support. As it was he called his readers who criticised him pissants and told them to fuck off. That kind of behaviour has consequences from even the least bullying employer.

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  24. I'm sure you wish I would think in different terms. But I believe that manners are important. I would far prefer to live in a world in which people treat each other with courtesy even if they disagree than to go around telling each other to fuck off. I disagree with your opinion. Would you like it if I just responded with 'Fuck off Greg'?

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  25. Yep, and thanks for making my point.


    Greg Schofield

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  26. Rennie this is a matter of perspective. He told a few people to "fuck off" when they attacked him. Is this a big deal in this country? Seriously it is nothing a mountain made out of mole hill for other reasons. That is the problem, and hence why we should be careful of taking mole hills in isolation, they are just small bumps -- being old I use to be in contact with real journalists during the 1970s, being told to "fuck off" was the least to expect for annoying one -- daintiness is not a virtue, good journalism is even if the writer is someone you would not give the time of day to.

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  27. Kerri I supported Rabin, and you seem to support his murderers. "Jewish conspiracy", an American conspiracy which Israel acts as willing pawn under an extreme right-wing government. why echo the views of US libertarians and conspiratorialists who talk of the tail waging the dog. Is that something that is spoken about here in Australia by anything but tiny little Nazi branchlets?

    The mindset with which you replied to Jaraparilla is one thing and your touted politeness seems to have departed as well.

    Why does Netanyahu's Isreal work with "Sunni" partners (they are not sunni, just thugs), and with the US train and supply ISIS, and why has ISIS turned up during the Gaza attack, attacking Lebanon? You are the journalist and should know damn well that Israel does not call the shots (the last time it tried Rabin was killed).

    Jaraparilla suggested no anti-Semitism, nor do I . Netanyahu and his crowd are just fascists.

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  28. No one should shed any tears for Mike Carlton. I guarantee he's already in negotiations with Al Jazeera or Russia Today. And publicly calling someone a "classic example of a Jewish bigot" is anti-Semitic.

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  29. Rennie BearingtonAugust 8, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    Yeah sorry I think telling your employer's customers to fuck off is still a big deal in Australia. And I'm glad for it. It's not daintiness it's basic human courtesy. And basic logic. In virtually any business in Australia an employee retaliating rudely to customers multiple times would be a fireable offence; even if that employee was a great employee.

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  30. Rennie we are or should be not slaves owned in every particle of our being by employers, rather we are hired to do a job a specific form of work. As a journalist not a Public Relations presenter of falsity.


    Journalists should be straight-forward, honest in terms of truth, good clear writers of what they have uncovered -- they don't have to be nice -- indeed they rarely can marry these two together,


    I was being coy when I said daintiness -- I mean subservience, and look at journalism today refashioning press releases, bowing to authority disgrace. I do not want stories written by PRers, I don't respect their trade and I do not respect their product.


    The customers of a news outlets is not individuals, they do not cue their for their daily news, but a mass of people who glean what they can through other agencies. They are the customers of others.


    It is the quality of the product that matters, not being nice to crackpots, idiots and clowns. Journalists would do better to stick to their trade and not become a cats paw to employers who after all if competent (and very few are) would be hiring on the basis of fearlessness and dedication.


    A journalist that slaves for their employer and their interests is no journalist at all that is incompatible to what people believe they are buying -- it is a cultural fraud.


    I think you have mixed two professions together, one a pander and the other a courageous search fro truth. Again I emphasize this is Australia not the USA, though increasingly it is hard to tell apart the amount of US news and sports that are broadcast. You are not owned by your employer, but do specified work for money -- if employers want souls, pay the money and make them managers for that is what they sell -- but not journalists for that is simply not doing their job.

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  31. Completely agree, Kerri. I bought the SMH this morning for the first time in years. Carton's twitter feed was a frenzy of hate and eff off was the least of it.

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  32. I don't think personal brand is wanky at all. I do get your point. Employees must be able to fit in with the organisations they represent. Some have said this is not America. Shame. Then we would have our own HBO where the likes of John Oliver and Bill Maher can say whatever the heck they want. That's their brand and their thing. Mabe Mike could get a job at NewsCorp ;-)?
    BTW, as a social media expert, you seem to have forgotten the first rule of social media, which is.......
    Don't feed the trolls!
    Now GregS, back under your bridge.

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  33. And Godwin's law is triggered. However, Kerri, lay off the Zoroastrians. I met a Zoroastrian once, fine chap. A refugee from Iran where they are persecuted horribly. Probably more likely to meet a Zoroastrian than a refugee these days. Sorry, off topic.

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