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Raging against OUTRAGE

March 28, 2010

I’ve noticed recently that it isn’t enough for people to be concerned or upset about things any more. Now, largely thanks to that fine bastion of journalism that is the Herald Sun, people are getting OUTRAGED over everything from the state of public transport (fair enough) to comments made by comedians (go fuck yourselves). It seems we’re becoming an extremely angry society because we’re only getting OUTRAGED at things. But worse still, people are getting OUTRAGED when they shouldn’t be.

With the whole “Bindi Irwin is creepy” saga playing out in the media recently, I was reminded of the Andrew Olle lecture delivered by the great Sir Julian Morrow last year. In it, he discussed the importance of media independence and self-regulation (self-censorship in other words), and the role of the general public in reacting to “controversial” content. He discussed a “secondary audience”; that is, people who claimed to be offended after the content was aired: they saw it on ACA, YouTube, Twitter, or what have you.

Which brings me back to the comments made by Fiona O’Loughlin. Spicks & Specks is a reasonably well-rating show but I can guarantee that the vast majority of people calling talkback radio and writing in to the Herald Sun to complain about it did not see the original airing. They were part of Morrow’s secondary audience: they heard about it in the media and were offended (and were inspired to call Hinch about it). This audience is nothing more than a vocal, reactionary rabble who call for unnecessary things like apologies and axings.

Spicks & Specks is pre-recorded and therefore editors had to option to cut O’Loughlin’s joke. They didn’t, and neither should they have. O’Loughlin is making a joke and it is her opinion. Since when did anyone have to apologise for the opinions they held? Andrew Bolt would have nothing but a column listing his apologies for that week. It is fine for you to disagree with O’Loughlin or Bolt (and god knows I do) but to demand the axing of a show you didn’t watch in the first place (and are unlikely to in the future) is beyond ridiculous.

It has always been my view that if you are likely to be offended by a program, don’t watch it. It’s as simple as that. You have absolutely no right whatsoever to complain about “offensive” content because such content always comes with a disclaimer stating viewers may be offended, and content ratings for violence, sex and language are clear. Yet in spite of its notoriety for its supposedly offensive content, The Chaser continued to receive complaints about their show throughout its 3 year run. Is it a case of people not learning or do they simply have nothing else to do but complain?

At the end of the day, it is the viewers and not the programmers who are resposible for what they watch. Freedom of choice is the cornerstone of any liberal democracy and that applies to what you watch on TV as well.

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