The curious case of trolls and the Daily Telegraph

I wasn’t going to write about trolls. I don’t need to add my voice to the noise.

But then I saw that the Daily Telegraph is running a campaign against abuse on twitter, and that Ray Hadley is involved and well, once I stopped laughing…

… and laughing…

… I thought, what this IMHO of opinionated voices needs is one more opinionated voice. (Thanks to @enoughsnark for this excellent collective noun. Other great suggestions were a shockjock of opinionated voices (@bluntshovels), a Zemanek (@benpobjie), a talkback (@wombat1974) and a NewsLtd (@purserj). I like the last one a lot, but felt the collective noun needed to incorporate left and right voices.)

Now, leaving aside the fact that the Tele has confused trolling and cyber-bullying, it is this Ray Hadley who is campaigning against people saying abusive things:

Ray Hadley quotes from The Hamster Wheel video above:

“Thank you Julia you imbecile”

“The bloody stupid dangerous woman in the top job” (this was listener feedback that Hadley chose to read out, thereby giving it his approval. Most of us would see a nasty comment like that and bin it.)

“Our vitriolic bitter lying condescending arrogant facade of a prime minister” (listener feedback that Hadley chose to read out.)

“Take the gloves off Tony Abbott stop being Mr Nice Guy and rip and tear we need you” (listener feedback that Hadley chose to read out.)

(Thanks to Anne Summers for reminding me about this clip. I highly recommended checking out the x-rated version of her speech, Her rights at work: the political persecution of Australia’s first female Prime Minister.)

As far as I know, Hadley hasn’t apologised for his abusive comments – unlike NRL player Robbie Farah. Farah is also involved in the Daily Telegraph‘s campaign and it was pretty quickly revealed that there was some pot kettle black going on: he’d tweeted that the PM should get “a noose” for her birthday.

Farah apologised:

In the course of this I have been alerted to a ‘tweet’ I made last year in relation to the Prime Minister which was in hindsight clearly offensive.

At the time I did think about what I had done and removed the ‘tweet’ soon after posting it but that of course doesn’t repair the damage.

I make no excuse and offer my sincere apologies. I can only say that I have learnt a lot in recent days and I hope that everyone in the community can learn about the pain that we can cause through such comments.

Hopefully the whole situation will only serve to encourage everyone to think about what we are really saying before we hit the ‘send’ key.

I reckon this is a pretty good public apology. There’s no pathetic ‘I’m sorry IF anyone was offended’ – which we all know means ‘I’m not sorry and I haven’t bothered to think about why my comment hurt people’. Mind you, that Farah sent the tweet a year ago and is only apologising now makes me wonder if it’s because he was caught out being a hypocrite. But it could also be that it wasn’t until he was on the receiving end that he realised how much these nasty comments can hurt people. I hope it’s the latter, because I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt.

It’s important that we allow people to learn from their fuck-ups, because learning from fuck-ups is one of our best qualities. It’s clear from Farah’s follow-up tweet at the time, that “no one said anything about suicide” (explained in the noose link above), that he didn’t realise he was saying the Prime Minister should kill herself. That in his mind, giving someone a noose was somehow disconnected from what that noose should be used for. It’s like those idiots who call a woman a slut because she won’t have sex with them. Derrrrrr-brains.

The real power in Farah’s apology is in encouraging people to think about what they’re really saying. If he’d just said sorry, it would leave it open for the “political correctness gone mad/can’t people take a joke” crowd.

Anyway, back to the Daily Telegraph. Knowing that the moderators at dailytelegraph.com.au have published some pretty awful comments in the past, I went searching for examples so I could say, “Ha! Hypocrites!”. I looked for stories involving Lara Bingle, Julia Gillard, Gretel Killeen – women who are regularly abused by readers and are rewarded by having their comments published. And I found nothing. All the comments on these stories have disappeared.

So I looked more generally at political stories – particularly those involving the words “carbon tax” or “asylum seekers” – and found nothing. All the comments are gone. Now, it’s possible that dailytelegraph.com.au stopped paying moderators to publish comments a while ago and, not being a regular reader, I didn’t notice. And by turning off the comment function, it meant that all the comments vanished. It’s possible.

It’s also possible that when they decided on their #StopTheTrolls campaign, they’d figured they’d better make themselves look squeaky clean and get rid of the evidence that they’ve been happily publishing anonymous abusive comments for years. If that’s the case, then they should have the balls to acknowledge it.

12 responses to “The curious case of trolls and the Daily Telegraph

  1. Well, that *is* rather … interesting, isn’t it. I also am not a regular reader but I certainly saw comments on a Tele piece a matter of months ago, and they weren’t a model of civility and reason either. Sure, it’s possible that disabling comments for new pieces has made old comments go away too, but I have to say, I think column B is equally likely. Either way, it would behoove them to clear it up and stand by their decision.

  2. NWN, I think the closing of comments on Murdoch websites began around the time of the Bolt court decision/media inquiry announcement. Finally those lawyers who hadn’t run screaming from the scene seemed able to point out what online liability means. It does make me think though that this campaign is to stop those who they can’t shut up on their websites, good luck with that. I can see why Greg Sheridan doesn’t use Twitter though!

  3. Additional note: Not to say the toxic commentators have left the field. These days they hang out on Facebook, particularly on the ABC TV news posts. It seems pointless to complain to Facebook: as with efforts to combat online racism there, Facebook seems to be completely ignoring its own terms of use.

  4. Had missed that Daily Tele editing of history, so thanks NWN. Check the Pure Poison archives and comments for some crackers from old. (http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/category/daily-telegraph/).

    On the main point of your post, I agree that was a better apology than most – but still, the rampant misogynistic language direct at the PM is truely shocking. I didn’t think I could be shocked again, until I saw some of the …just awful stuff after her father died.

    That kind of language is making me look twice at people I know and people I meet.

    • I think I’ve become so used to “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” that I’m impressed by anyone who says “yep, I fucked up, and I’m sorry”.

      Bluntshovels, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  5. Yet more media double standards. Then again why do I expect transparency..or honesty..cue big sigh..btw I read today Kyle Sandilands is upset about about trolls..that made me laugh too.

  6. Disappointing analysis from Mediawatch tonight. Holmes firmly in the “ignore them and they will go away” camp, with a side helping of “you don’t have to use twitter”, along with some rather naive stuff about how only celebrities who use twitter to promote themselves get trolled. Given this issue didn’t appear overnight, a host whose job it is to be media savvy should have a broader understanding of the background to the issue.

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