An atmosphere where a slide towards violence against women is enabled


Kyle Sandilands says it’s free speech and also that it’s quite all right and reasonable and why not? He explains carefully.

I’ll attack any journalist that attacks me that I think’s unfair.

Well what he means is, if a journalist says something about his show that he doesn’t like, he will not respond with an explanation of why she is wrong or a criticism of her reasoning, but rather, he will call her a fat slag, a fat bitter thing with a nothing job, and a piece of shit, and then he will tell her to watch her mouth or he’ll hunt her down. In other words he’ll say the most degrading things he can think of and then he’ll threaten her.

That’s not what free speech is for. That’s not what’s meant by “free speech.” A large man shouting insults and threats at a woman over the radio is not “free speech” except in the barest minimal sense that it is not quite against the law (although the threat quite possibly is). Some kinds of bullying are not illegal but they are or should be socially shunned.

John Birmingham of the SMH gets this.

…if blame lies anywhere for the faint, continuing stench on the airwaves wherever  this man opens his opens his mouth, it is not with him, but with the corporations that continue to support and employ him. Sandilands is not a  political orator, whose freedom to put forth odious opinions we must tolerate for the greater good. He is merely a bully employed in the service of profit by Austereo and occasionally by the TV networks. That is why it was so pleasing to see Holden pull their support for his show yesterday.

That’s exactly it: he’s a bully employed in the service of profit, because somehow it has been decided that bullying is edgy and hip and funny.

By seeking an audience for Sandilands, Austereo and the TV networks who very  occasionally call on his … er … talents, endorse the deeper message and dangerous stupidity of his public performances. What are these underlying attitudes?

Well, they seem to be based on a Hobbesian belief that the natural human condition is short, nasty and brutish, and that success comes not from being led  by the better angels of our nature, but from embracing as fully as possible a crude ugliness appealing to as large and degraded a mass audience as possible.

Part of this routine is an apparently shameless misogyny where any women who do not fawn and flutter at Sandilands’ approach, who dare to question or cross  him, are belittled and subject to thinly-veiled coercion – whether credible or  not. It would be interesting to ask him exactly what he meant when he threated to “hunt down” News Limited’s entertainment reporter Alison Stephenson.

More interesting, though, would be to seek from Austereo a figure for the income Sandilands generates for them with his noxious productions and what responsibility, if any, the radio network feels it should accept for the poisoning of the public mind it enables by giving him such an amplified voice. Because while Sandilands himself is a blowhard whose sins are entirely rhetorical, the continued exposure and promotion of those sins in the name of entertainment, and the service of profit, is a much greater wrongdoing. It creates an atmosphere where a slide towards violence against women, at least by some, is enabled.

QFT.

Comments

  1. says

    He is a vile mysogynist, using the schoolyard ‘but I was joking! Can’t you take a joke?’ as a way of wriggling out of consequences for his threats and bullying.

    I’d say he’s like a five-year-old, but the vast majority of five-year-olds are much nicer people to know.

  2. Fin says

    I disagree, slightly, with Birmingham’s opinion, largely because it is in some way exculpating of Sandilands’ actions. The point, I think, is not to stop those attitudes from being broadcast (although, that is a worthy side effect, and I really think it should happen), but rather to combat the attitudes that Sandilands expresses – not only in denouncing them, but also in being very forthright and convincing those who hold those attitudes that they are wrong.

    Birmingham’s position seems to be doing the first part (which I agree with), without much consideration to the second. It would be worse, I think, if those attitudes merely got suppressed without being dealt with more thoroughly, because then they would merely fester out of sight, and so the problem would largely remain.

    It is that suppression without education, I think, that is what a certain segment of the population think is meant by “political correctness”, which, ultimately, gives fuel to people like Sandilands crying “free speech” every time they say something loathsome.

  3. Chris Lawson says

    Fin, I didn’t read that message from Birmingham. It seemed to me that he was critical of Sandilands’ violent misogyny and the corporate support of such. I happen to agree with Birmingham that the corporate support is the worst part of it. I would also say that campaigning to undercut the sponsorship of popular radio hosts who air reprehensible views for commercial gain is part of making it generally socially unacceptable to spout violent misogynistic rhetoric.

    This is not an either/or situation. Making it clear that Sandilands’ comments are disgusting makes him lose advertisers. Losing advertisers reinforces the social opprobrium attached to Sandilands’ comments.

    When Sandilands claims free speech, it is not the fault of his critics. He’s the sort of arse who sees himself as the poor victim when he’s the one with power and he’s using it to punish others for their free expression. He’s just like the bully who punches another kid in the face and then runs to his father for protection when the kid fights back.

  4. Fin says

    Chris, my point was, that a lot of the criticism of this is focused at one remove from the main problem. It’s going “Let’s get him off the airwaves.” rather than “Let’s stop him from spouting this rubbish period.”

    The main problem isn’t that Kyle Sandilands is saying this stuff on a broadcast medium (although that is a problem – and I never said it wasn’t), the main problem is that Kyle Sandilands is saying this stuff, period. If he gets dumped from Austereo (which would be good), it only stops him broadcasting, it does not alter his reprehensible personality. It won’t convince him that its wrong, so there needs to be a one-two approach of getting him off the radio and convincing him that this shit just won’t do (which getting him off the radio will not do on its own).

    That’s all I’m saying, and I think that focusing the pressure on Austereo rather than Sandilands himself, is somewhat exculpating for him – because it implies that while, yes, his behaviour is reprehensible, the reprehensibility comes from it being broadcast, rather than, say, hidden behind closed doors.

    And finally, I wasn’t saying that his claiming free speech was the fault of his critics. The attitude comes from a mistaken understanding of what the critics are doing (or attempting to do), which needs to be corrected as well.

  5. says

    Well, it’s also a total misunderstanding of what is meant by “free speech” – it’s not as if the government is trying to stop him from saying these things. This is not a battle between an individual who wants to speak his mind and the might of the state (though the bit about hunting people down does, arguably, go into an area where the government has responsibility).

    I should also point out that Jackie O was egging him on, giggling approvingly at everything he said. I don’t think she should come out of this much better than Sandilands himself. I look forward to the day when our airwaves are free of both of them.

  6. Jurjen S. says

    Fin wrote:

    The main problem isn’t that Kyle Sandilands is saying this stuff on a broadcast medium (although that is a problem – and I never said it wasn’t), the main problem is that Kyle Sandilands is saying this stuff, period.

    Perhaps I’m approaching this from a peculiarly American perspective, but it strikes me that Sandilands has a right to spew whatever garbage he wants; what he does not have is a right to expect some radio station to broadcast said garbage nor to get paid for spewing it. As we like to say in the US, “freedom of the press doesn’t mean anyone is obliged to provide you with a press (or pay you to read the stuff you print).”

    That said, however, it does strike me that it would be more than reasonable that any media personality who invokes freedom of speech to justify why he should be allowed to broadcast his crap, should be legally obliged to have his engineer be replaced by a government-appointed individual who will be under explicit orders to permit studio guests, callers, etc. to have their full say and to ignore any instructions from the show’s host to cut their mics or otherwise interfere with their freedom of speech (and, if necessary, to cut off the host’s mic if he’s attempting to shout them down).

  7. Hertta says

    I should also point out that Jackie O was egging him on, giggling approvingly at everything he said. I don’t think she should come out of this much better than Sandilands himself.

    I agree. Even if someone doesn’t really take part in the personal attack or say the misogynistic things themselves, giggling and cheering and really just failing to condemn that kind of behavior when given the chance, is almost as bad. Wait… Who does that remind me of?

  8. Stacy says

    Sounds like he’s trying to be Howard Stern, who had a lot of the same sorts of complaints lodged at him when his radio show was at its most popular, back in the 90’s. (Stern too has a woman sidekick, Robin Quivers.)

    The thing is: Stern was terrific (can’t say if he still is; I haven’t listened to him in years). I know, YMMV, but for all his crudity (and he was extremely crude), Stern was often funny and occasionally insightful, and his pushing of the envelope of what could be said on the radio was worthwhile. He wasn’t a misogynist, though. He objectified women, but he didn’t hate them. (And he objectified himself too, and not in a flattering way, discussing his micropenis and his ugliness. He didn’t take a superior attitude toward women, but he didn’t censor the thought “I’d like to fuck you” when it occurred to him (and it occurred a lot).)

  9. roger says

    I’ll attack any journalist that attacks me that I think’s unfair.

    Did Sandilands actually say that? If so, is it unfair to call him an illiterate fool?

  10. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    He wasn’t a misogynist, though. He objectified women, but he didn’t hate them.

    In other words, he was indifferent enough to the effects of objectification that it didn’t stop him from doing it. The ultimate outcome is the same as if he were a misogynist: reinforcement of the patriarchal meme that women’s value lies solely in their appearance and fuckability. Pretty weak defense, if that’s what it was meant to be.

    The word misogynist means more than simple hatred of women. After all, most misogynists have mothers/girlfriends/wives that they do care about, after a fashion.

    As far as Sandilands goes, I don’t see why anyone would care about changing his personality. That a problem for him, his family and friends to worry about. The main problem for the listening public is that he gets paid to be a sexist asshole on air. So long as he’s prevented from expressing his assholery within your earshot, why should you care about what his personality is like?

  11. Nele says

    What is this strange language, in which Sandiland is talking? PhD in Shakespeare studies, yet I can’t parse the lingo. *sigh* I should sue my alma mater…

    Nele

  12. roger says

    I’ll attack any journalist that attacks me; that [attacking me] I think is unfair

    I’ll attack any journalist that attacks me [in a way] that I think is unfair

    The two most likely meanings, Nele. To be fair to Sandilands, it’s probably a transcription of speech, so it depends on emphasis and rhythm for its meaning.

  13. says

    Yes, that was my transcription [accurate – I replayed it to check] of what he said. He said it as opposed to writing it, so he gets some slack for impromptu speaking. Not for anything else, but for that.

  14. says

    Jurjen S –

    Perhaps I’m approaching this from a peculiarly American perspective, but it strikes me that Sandilands has a right to spew whatever garbage he wants; what he does not have is a right to expect some radio station to broadcast said garbage nor to get paid for spewing it.

    But even from an American perspective, I think, you’re putting it a little too broadly. One, Sandilands may have a legal right to spew most kinds of garbage, but that does not mean that the rest of us have to treat him as also having a moral right to do that. Two, he probably doesn’t have even a legal right to threaten people. That can be tricky – there was that guy in the UK who was exasperated by some airport delay and tweeted that he was going to blow them all up, or some such thing – obviously rhetorical fuming, but he got in trouble with the law. But a man threatening a particular woman…that was probably rhetoric too, but it’s several steps closer to what could be a real threat.

    I think a problem with the American perspective is that we too often conflate the legal right with the moral one, and they aren’t the same. It’s not against the law for the cool kids in high school to call the uncool kids fat smelly ugly losers, but morally it’s beneath contempt.

  15. Godless Heathen says

    I think a problem with the American perspective is that we too often conflate the legal right with the moral one, and they aren’t the same.

    THIS. It drives me nuts that Americans so often conflate legal and moral rights. Argh.

  16. Chris Lawson says

    I don’t think it’s just Americans. After all, we’ve just seen that exact same thinking from Australia’s own Kyle Sandilands.

  17. Jurjen S. says

    Ophelia wrote:

    One, Sandilands may have a legal right to spew most kinds of garbage, but that does not mean that the rest of us have to treat him as also having a moral right to do that.

    That’s a very good point, but it does entail that, in the immortal words of Justice Brandeis, “the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” At least, silence enforced by the state: Sandilands’ legal right to freedom of speech cannot and should not protect him from being, as you put it, “socially shunned.”

    Two, he probably doesn’t have even a legal right to threaten people.

    No, he doesn’t. In my opinion, the sentence “watch your mouth or I’ll hunt you down” unambiguously crossed the line of acceptable speech. I hunt (wild turkey), and I’m under no illusion that “hunting down” a living creature implies intent to inflict lethal trauma on it. However, that is a single sentence out of the whole rant, and I don’t want to make pronouncement about the rant in general that really only apply to that one sentence.

  18. Grace says

    “He objectified women, but he didn’t hate them.”

    I don’t think you understand the term objectification. It doesn’t mean seeing someone as sexy. It means you see them as a thing, not human, literally an object that exists solely for your use. I’m not sure how you can “objectify” yourself. That doesn’t make sense.

  19. Eh says

    Some kinds of bullying are not illegal but they are or should be socially shunned.

    That’s entirely true, and the only way to respond to crap like this.

    However,

    That’s not what free speech is for. That’s not what’s meant by “free speech.” A large man shouting insults and threats at a woman over the radio is not “free speech” except in the barest minimal sense that it is not quite against the law

    That is exactly wrong. That is free speech. “Free speech” doesn’t mean free access to airwaves, or newspapers, or the internet, or whatever. It means only one thing, which is that neither you nor the government is not permitted to use violence or the threat thereof to shut someone up (I’m leaving aside, for the moment, the question of the threat – if this can be reasonably considered a threat, then it is certainly punishable). That’s the beginning and the end of the definition of freedom of expression. You don’t to decide “what free speech is for”.

    The question of ‘rights’, in a political context, are only about what the government may not do to you.

    Ophelia, get’s it exactly right:

    One, Sandilands may have a legal right to spew most kinds of garbage, but that does not mean that the rest of us have to treat him as also having a moral right to do that.

    Quite right. He certainly has the right to behave like a bastard, and the rest of us have the right to petition his studio to have him fired, make sure he’s roundly denounced, boycotted etc.

  20. says

    #21 – but that’s what I said – I said it does mean free speech in the barest minimal sense that it is not quite against the law. But the term “free speech” is used to mean more than that, and I was saying it doesn’t fit into the…let’s call it “valorized” sense of free speech. The valorized free speech is public, political, substantive; it’s not just vulgar screaming and bullying. The latter is technically free speech in the sense that it’s legal but it’s not valorized free speech in the sense that it’s worth defending substantively.

    He certainly has the right to behave like a bastard, and the rest of us have the right to petition his studio to have him fired, make sure he’s roundly denounced, boycotted etc.

    No. That is, again, too broad – it drops the very distinction I was making. He has the legal right but he does not have the moral right. We shouldn’t be confused about that. (If he did have the moral right, we would not have the moral right to petition his employers to fire him.)

  21. Eh says

    But the term “free speech” is used to mean more than that, and I was saying it doesn’t fit into the…let’s call it “valorized” sense of free speech. The valorized free speech is public, political, substantive; it’s not just vulgar screaming and bullying. The latter is technically free speech in the sense that it’s legal but it’s not valorized free speech in the sense that it’s worth defending substantively.

    Sorry, but… sez who? I’ve read the classic defences of free speech, and they don’t specify that. And who decides what’s “public, political substantive” and what’s “just vulgar screaming and bullying”? You see, I get the distinct feeling that those definitions will tailor according to the person’s own views.

    No, no, no. Free speech means you can say what you want without fear of legal reprisal. Without fear of the use of physical force. That is the beginning and the end of it. That principle is noble in and of itself, and it is a noble thing to defend it, tout court. So I am not misunderstood: if it is a matter of naming and shaming this yahoo and getting social pressure on him and his backers, I would unhesitatingly support that. However, the instant there was any nonsense about trying to have him arrested or fined or censored by law, or any believable threats towards him, I would defend him and would be proud to do so. The principle itself is worth defending.

    (again, I’m leaving the question of whether or not his threat is believable or hot air out of the argument for the moment. If a threat is believable – say, a mafia boss ordering a hit, a KKK wizard inciting a lynching etc. – it should be punished just as badly as the crime itself. If it’s just so much hot air, and goodness knows there’s enough of that about, it shouldn’t)

    The reason I’m so insistent on this is the number of times I’ve seen the Great and the Good running like spanked puppies from real threats to freedom of speech because they’d decided it wasn’t the “valorised” type. Reprint the Danish cartoons in solidarity? Well, they were offensive and published in a right-wing danish newspaper. Object to the hounding of Oriana Fallaci? Her rhetoric is just a lot of bullying. Object to various laws on “hate speech”? Well, unless you’re a racist or a Nazi or something, you don’t have anything to fear.

    As regards the moral right, he certainly has the moral right to act this way, and we have the moral right – the moral responsibility, in fact – to pass judgement and act accordingly. He certainly behaves despicably, and should face the judgement of society about that.

  22. Eh says

    Just so I’m not misunderstood, I am 100% with you on raising hell about this guy or increasing the pressure and the heat and hopefully getting him to lose his job. However, I don’t like any guff about “that’s not what free speech is for”.

  23. says

    Apart from anything else, you’re agreeing with me, but going on arguing as if you weren’t. By saying “He certainly has the right to behave like a bastard, and the rest of us have the right to petition his studio to have him fired, make sure he’s roundly denounced, boycotted etc” you’re simply agreeing with me, so it’s pointless to call what I say “guff” when I’m saying exactly the same thing – except that I insist on “legal” for the first use of the word “right.” When you agree that we get to try to get him fired, you’re agreeing that he doesn’t have the right tout court.

  24. JeseC says

    I would also note that, even in the U.S., you do NOT have a right to say things like “I’m going to hunt you down.” Free speech does not cover threats. I’m not sure exactly where the line is, but I don’t think that you have to actually intend to act on the threat, merely to make a threat that could be deemed credible.

  25. Eh says

    I know I’m coming across like the world’s greatest nit-picker, and I’m sorry about that. I just think that precise definitions about this are important.

    When you agree that we get to try to get him fired, you’re agreeing that he doesn’t have the right

    Actually, not. Petitioning to get this guy off the air is not a violation of freedom of speech. I said before that you don’t have a right to a radio station or whatever (if it’s your property, you have a right to it, but you don’t have the right to have someone else give it to you).

    We are very much on the same page; that is why I wanted to be very clear about a narrow but deep difference here.

  26. says

    @ 28 (by the way, “Eh” is a really terrible nym, because it’s not usable in a reply), I have no objection to nit picking as such – to “nit picking” understood as precision about definitions – but just to picking the wrong nit. You’re not being more precise than I am, you’re being less so. You’re ignoring the distinction between legal right and moral right, and ignoring the fact that it’s what I’m talking about, in order to defend something that I already agree with. You’re insisting on using the word “right” without an adjective, which simply re-confuses what had been made clear.

    You’re also ignoring most of what I say in order to insist on something I already agree with. That’s not nit picking. It’s more like point missing.

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