Too many tweets make a twat: ANZAC version

By Lorenzo

SBS sports reporter Scott Mcintyre let loose with a series of anti-ANZAC tweets and then was promptly sacked by SBS for breaching their code of conduct. It is helpful to be clear about the issues involved.

(1) This is not a free speech issue. Scott Mcintyre is not being prosecuted for his tweets, and it would be outrageous if he was.

(2) No one has a right to publicly breach the code of conduct of one’s employer. “Right” here understood as “able to act without penalty”. Australian law is fairly clear on this.

(3) Tone and context matters. The issue is not the facts of Gallipoli or other relevant history (though his cause is not helped by some factual infelicities). Being sacked for stating facts (not received in confidence) would also be outrageous. Being sacked for gratuitously insulting large numbers of fellow citizens is a rather different matter. Showing oneself blind, indifferent or ignorant of context is also an issue; particularly for someone employed as a journalist.

For example:

The cultification of an imperialist invasion of a foreign nation that Australia had no quarrel with is against all ideals of modern society.

The Ottoman Empire was at war (due to a rather complicated series of interactions) with the British Empire, which we were very much a part of and thought ourselves to be. The Gallipoli invasion was perfectly reasonable under both international law and just law theory. Fairly clearly, Mcintyre was appealing to that sort of moral childishness where war is just “doubleplusungood“, but these things matter. (At the time of the invasion, said Ottoman Empire was responding to Russian advances in the Caucasus by beginning the Armenian genocide–along with the Assyrian and Pontic Greek genocides–building on a previous, and recent, history of massacre.)

Consider:

Wonder if the poorly-read, largely white, nationalist drinkers and gamblers pause today to consider the horror that all mankind suffered.

SBS relies significantly on tax-payer funding and still grapples with a lingering identity issue as “ethnic media”. It really does not need this sort of gratuitous undergraduate sneering.

As for:

Not forgetting that the largest single-day terrorist attacks in history were committed by this nation & their allies in Hiroshima & Nagasaki.

First, if he is referring to the death toll, actually the biggest Tokyo fire raid killed more people in a single night. Second, it was a purely American action: “this nation” had nothing to do with it except in the sense that it was done by an ally. Australian opinion at the time was overwhelmingly supportive, even grateful, since it meant that the War was over; but we were not then, and have never been since, a nuclear power. The nuclear bombings also likely saved a lot of lives, since the alternative of an invasion of Japan was, on the evidence available, going to kill a lot more people. Context matters, and it is the job of a journalist to understand that context matters.

Which goes back to it not being a free speech issue. If Scott Mcintyre was being hounded merely for having different opinions than others, then it would become a free speech issue. But that is not why he was sacked.

(4) Whether SBS’s response was proportionate is a reasonable question. Suspending Scott Mcintyre without pay would definitely have been a reasonable response. Sacking perhaps was too strong,* but one can understand why SBS did not want the issue hanging around during the Gallipoli centenary.

(5) The objections to “mythologising” history are mostly bunk. Progressives regularly mythologise history–notably indigenous history (Stolen Generations anyone? Secret Women’s Business?)–and, for that matter, current events (Israel-Palestine). It is what people with strong emotional connections to events do. The objections regarding the “ANZAC myth” are clearly far more about objecting to other people‘s mythologising. When it comes to the public space, the Virtuous are not sharing folk.

(6) PC is not about civility. This is perfectly obvious to anyone with their wits about them, but the way gratuitous insult is invisible when it was a PC-acceptable target is, yet again, in evidence. One can criticise or demur from the treatment of matters ANZAC without sneering, being misleading or getting one’s facts wrong. Which likely has the further advantage of not embarrassing one’s employer: they might even have a code of conduct to try and avoid precisely such.

(A slightly different take is here.)

 * Though that also depends on whether he is teachable (i.e. would learn from the experience).

 

[Cross-posted from Thinking-Out-Aloud.]

10 Comments

  1. Peter Hindrup
    Posted May 2, 2015 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    ‘One can criticise or demur from the treatment of matters ANZAC without sneering, being misleading or getting one’s facts wrong.’
    Then getting your facts right might help!
    ‘The Ottoman Empire was at war (due to a rather complicated series of interactions) with the British Empire,’

    Was it not the case that Britain was at war with the Ottoman Empire, ‘protecting vital interests?’

    ‘The nuclear bombings also likely saved a lot of lives, since the alternative of an invasion of Japan was, on the evidence available, going to kill a lot more people.’

    In fact the Japanese had for three days been making approaches on unconditional surrender’.

    The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved no lives. Truman claimed that the bombing of Hiroshima was for ‘revenge’.
    The bombing of Nagasaki was to compare the two similar but different nukes, and they were not going to let the opportunity to compare them go by.
    McIntyre was speaking no more than the truth. That cannot be a sackable offence, despite the angst it might cause some of the delusioned.

  2. Homer Paxton
    Posted May 2, 2015 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I have talked about this on my blog.

    your arguments for dismissal are lame.
    you cannot even address your second point.

    Scott is a football journalist specialising in Asia and thus knows straight from the horses mouth whether crimes occurred in Palestine, Egypt and Japan by SOME Aussie soldiers. I would find it strange if they were not given they happen in every war.

    A terrorist attack is an attack that actually causes terror in its population. something you do not seem to understand.
    This clearly happened and it worked .
    Japan surrender.

    you stil haven’t made clear why he needed to be sacked and you missed Turnbull intervening as well.

  3. Herding cats
    Posted May 2, 2015 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Not forgetting that the largest single-day terrorist attacks in history were committed by this nation & their allies in Hiroshima & Nagasaki.

    Crap. Which Nation? What Allies?

  4. Herding cats
    Posted May 2, 2015 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    OK, will backtrack a bit. Was , actually, alive in Australia when the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki events occurred. In my defense, had only six months breathing the air of this planet at that time … heh,

    Am also aware that 140 letter ‘twatter’ outbursts on the ‘internet’ are fraught with difficulty. Publish and beware.

  5. Herding cats
    Posted May 2, 2015 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Methinks it’s called “cop the flack”.

    If yer alive afterwards ……

  6. Herding cats
    Posted May 2, 2015 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    “cop the flack”, however, apparently means something entirely different from those who flew in Bomber Command – to something a “sports journalist” might say – in this day and age.

  7. Herding cats
    Posted May 2, 2015 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Was it not the case that Britain was at war with the Ottoman Empire, ‘protecting vital interests?’
    No, and yes – in the 1914-18 conflict.

    ‘The nuclear bombings also likely saved a lot of lives, since the alternative of an invasion of Japan was, on the evidence available, going to kill a lot more people.’

    You can’t conflate these two events.

  8. Herding cats
    Posted May 2, 2015 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Ooops. have re-read your post, laddie. Good one.

    The notion of the concept of ANZAC – always stirs emotions – for whatever they are worth.

    And yep, if there is a discussion – or ‘argument’ about the facts – am prepared to back off .. and research.

    Personally? Was one year too old for the lottery that would take me into the Vietnam conflict.. Fortunately, or unfortunately – was at university at that time, and researched the origins of that one. Decided that it wasn’t Australia’s problem. However, some of my ‘contemporaries’, these days view me as a wimp.,

  9. Zoe Brain
    Posted May 2, 2015 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Technically…. the A-bombings were acts of terrorism – the idea being to scare a recalcitrant opponent into surrender. The alternative being genocide, where you don’t try to persuade them, but exterminate them.

    See Clausewitz on this.

    Operation Starvation, had it been allowed to continue for a few years without any costly invasion, and along with air interdiction of food transport and production, would have reduced the population of Japan to a more manageable level, where organised resistance was impossible.

    As it was, starvation was a huge problem in post-war Japan, even with massive relief efforts in place. Those efforts did save 10 million from imminent starvation, but many of the 1 million civilian casualties – about 2% of the population – died after the war rather than during.

    While there were factions calling for peace, they were being dealt with the way that factions calling for an end to the war in China had always been dealt with for the last ten years. By assassination by the militarist fanatics. Remember, there was a clash, with casualties, just getting the recording of the Emperor’s message out to the studio.

    Had there been no face-saving excuse – “we were defeated by magic” – many of those who recognised defeat was inevitable would not have been able to support surrender.

    So the nukings were technically terrorism, just as Mr Mcintire is technically an animal that can talk, True, but highly misleading, and a phrase designed to maliciously mislead.

  10. Posted May 3, 2015 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I think you’ve argued well, though I began reading your essay with a different opinion!

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