Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Classist narcissist gets the arse

Catherine Deveny, in the course of 'standing by her Logies tweets' (and now that I've typed that out, excuse me while I go and have a hot bath) (razor blades optional but tempting), has said 'I'm edgy, I push the envelope.' Apparently this is the correct description of publicly humiliating an eleven-year-old child and making 'jokes' about a tragically early death. Because everyone knows that paedophilia and breast cancer are funny, right?

Sorry, Dev old bean, but my understanding is that if you're still using words like 'edgy' and 'push the envelope', both of which went out with big hair (well, maybe the year after), then clearly neither of those things is the case. 'Vile', on the other hand, is a word for which there will always be plenty of uses.

To me the most revealing thing about Deveny's remarks in that linked piece is her self-identification, in the course of her catastrophically inaccurate view of Twitter -- 'It's passing notes in class' -- as a naughty child.

The Deveny-defenders burbling on about freedom of speech don't seem to have grasped the equally important concept of taking responsibility for your own actions, or the principle of cause and effect. Deveny has, and has exercised, freedom of speech. Nobody is going to arrest or fine her. And the Age has its own freedoms, one of which is the freedom to employ whomever they choose.

As it happens, I agree that the Age shouldn't have sacked her, but my reasons are pragmatic: clearly she has a huge fan base, at least in Melbourne (I don't think anyone else cares very much), and in these parlous times for newspapers they should be hanging on to whatever makes money for them.

UPDATE: something I should have made clear in the original post: I do think that the various people (Meanjin editor Sophie Cunningham, theatre critic Alison Croggon, Crikey's Bernard Keane and several online others) arguing that there is a gender agenda in this sacking are definitely onto something. Kyle Sandilands, Andrew Bolt, Wil Anderson and Sam Newman, just to name an XY* media cross-section of comparable 'celebrities', would probably all have got a pay rise from their respective employers. On the other hand, none of them are employed by the Age, and in any case it wouldn't exonerate Deveny. But the wider point holds: we live in a culture that rewards men and punishes women for the same kinds of behaviour.

*the chromosomes, not the generations


librarygirl said...

I think her "fame" went to her head in recent times. Saw herself as powerful and untouchable. Foolish.

I also seriously wonder if there are some undisclosed health issues.

Patrick said...

"clearly she has a huge fan base"

But why, Pav? Why? She's a terrible writer and terrible thinker - the Miranda Devine of the (I hate lump her with my own identification but) left.

Good riddance to bad rubbish. If it heralds a purge of the fairfax op-eds, so much the better.

Legal Eagle said...

I only know two Melbourne friends who actually like Deveny and find her funny. And like librarygirl, I too wonder if there are health issues.

lisette said...

just what i think - her patronising smugness sets my teeth on edge. she has had a public tantrum today and is bad-mouthing the age, never a good look to trash your previous employer.. especially as there are not many alternative employers.

Anonymous said...

I push the envelope
The funny thing is, I have a cat that does that. It's really quite annoying. There I am, working away, when puss jumps up on the desk and starts pushing envelopes around. "Stop pushing the envelope, puss", I always say. Of course, she never listens.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Heh heh heh.

Fred said...

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, op-ed columns "are well written, or badly written. That is all"

cristy said...

I can't relate to Deveny's writing at all (and don't want to) and did wonder why she was employed as a columnist. However, the gender politics (and the utter inconsistency) of her condemnation and her subsequent sacking make me feel rather reluctant to support it in any way, shape or form... The whole thing makes me very uncomfortable.

As you put it so well:

"But the wider point holds: we live in a culture that rewards men and punishes women for the same kinds of behaviour."

Another Outspoken Female said...

I've read all her ANZAC day and Logies tweets to see what she really has said. To be honest, I don't give a stuff about the Logies, nor her and anyone else's tweets about it. Not watching TV, I didn't know who half the people were, so it's hard for me to comment about what she actually tweeted..

But more controversial are her tweets on 25th April. 90% of her ANZAC day tweets I agreed with, as they are things I have said myself (though most strongly as a 20 yo in 1984). She talked about how parades and medals glorify war, how the comfort women are not remembered, or the women in relationships with abusive men post war with PTSD etc. My favourite was "Politicians should only be allowed to wage wars they have to serve in themselves and send their children to fight in. In the front line." These are much more subversive than comments on the lives of stars or even the sexualisation of child stars. Oh and my great uncle was killed in WWI, my grandfather wounded in the same war and an uncle deeply traumatised by being sent as a young soldier to Hiroshima. And no, I personally don't "celebrate" ANZAC day.

Her stance an outspoken atheist, publicly questioning sacred cows like ANZAC day and being a feminist makes me admire for Catherine Deveny, even if she doesn't hit the mark 100% of the time. But she has been out of favour even withithe left for the last few months bringing her less social currency. Why? Is it because the "left" is moving towards the right like the rest of the nation. This I believe is the real reason she has lost her job as a columnist. Fairfax employed her to hook some lefty readers, now she's loosing them she isn't of value to Fairfax - and this has been brewing for longer than the last fortnight.

Though there are more worrying issues a foot. She wasn't paid to tweet - so beware all of you that tweet under your own name, in case your employer dislikes your beliefs.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

AOF, none of the points you make are reasons why I find Deveny unfunny, and the idea that only people who are moving to the right dislike her is I think missing the point about the reasons for that dislike. I agree with the broader points about ANZAC Day, but you don't mention the precise thing about those tweets that pissed me off royally, which was the personal attacks on the people who joined up and went off to get slaughtered. It's the same massive failure of empathy that prompted (and again I think you're missing the point I was trying to make here) public personal attacks of a particularly spiteful and mean-spirited kind on a child and on someone who was widowed in his 30s.

For me this isn't about ideology, or ANZAC Day, or the Logies. It's about one person, promoted in accordance with the Peter Principle beyond her level of competence (I think the Age was culpable in giving her the platform in the first place) being seemingly quite unable to see the cheap meanness of her own scattergun smartarse remarks. And if her politics were really what she claims them to be -- if she really did care about inequities of class and gender -- would she really spend half her time sneering at 'bogans' and the other half whining about the behaviour of other women's children?

Another Outspoken Female said...

Furthermore - is there an anti-feminist or purely misogynist agenda afoot? Reading comments on her site of which 1:10 are from her detractors, the comments range from the mild "This is an aggressive woman, She is abusive to children. This woman considers verbal violence is comedy. Never give this twit a job?" to the true meaning of vile and women hating - "Good riddance. I hope you get cunt cancer and die you horse faced fat fugly bitch."

Legal Eagle said...

PC, I agree - it's really about the fact that Deveny is more concerned to get a cheap laugh than anything else, and doesn't care about hurting other people's feelings, or apparently even think about them in any way. BTW, I don't see how she can be described as "left wing" when she delights in sneering at the lower classes. To me the central part of being left wing is empathy for others.

That certainly doesn't excuse the comments of people whom AOF cites (which are repulsive).

Another Outspoken Female said...

Kerryn, I posted before read your reply.

I'm not defending all her thoughts, words or actions but if it comes down to whether we like her comedy or not, taste is a personal thing.

I do hear what you are saying, I just suspect she's touched a nerve with some of her words. She makes most of us feel uncomfortable on a deeper level that's even more confronting than Sam Newman (because we thought of her as "one of our own" perhaps?).

I just think the level of demonization is out of proportion to the reason given for her being fired ie: the following two tweets
1. I so do hope Bindi Irwin gets laid
2. Rove and Tasma look so cute! I hope she doesn't die too

(and with a brother who died at the age of 33, I still found the second tweet inoffensive)

This is the reason she was sacked. If they sacked her because she just wasn't bringing in the readership any more and her columns were out of synch with her readers - that is fair enough. But my view is the whole things turning into a witch hunt.

PS: Patrick I laughed out loud at your comment "the Miranda Devine of the...left" Very funny and most likely accurate :)

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

AOL, dunno if you read the Update on my own post above but I have mentioned that and named a few of the people who picked it up earliest. And I certainly couldn't agree with you more about the vileness of the hatefest at her site(s), which seems to me a manifestation of the same kind of failure of empathy, just with less verbal dexterity.

It really just is not a pro/anti situation, so along with thousands of other people I find it frustrating to be lumped in with moronic misogynist commenters (you may not be doing this exactly, but many people are) jut because one is less than enthusiastic about Deveny's work and behaviour. There are many, many shades of grey here.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Lots of comment-crossing going on here so I think a blanket toelrance of apparent non sequiturs is in order. Have to file my copy and get to the physio ASAP, will get back to this this afternoon.

Ann ODyne said...

CD has embraced her 'inner bogan' too tightly in recent weeks, and I thought (as did library girl and eagle above) 'uh oh health issues'.

I will be relieved if Ms Irwin merely mates with her own species, and she is playing in The Big Kids Yard by being at the event, and in the media, and her Mom can handle her and it.

The big issue is that employers now think they can use an employee's Tweets as ammunition for sacking.
Take care everybody.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you completely here Kerryn and am relieved to be reading a nuanced view on this issue. As you say, so many shades of grey...

Just on The Age sacking her, the editor has stated publicly on several occasions that she had received many prior warnings - 'and chats' - about her behaviour on 'other media' and she refused to modify it. She wasn't sacked out of the blue after a couple of dodgy tweets. That is a naive assertion.

CD has no capacity whatsoever for self censorship (or so it seems to me) and I for one am grateful that she's been forced to shut up (maybe; fingers crossed). I am fascinated by how people get to that point where they believe every inane thought they have is interesting to others, even if it's expressed without wit or eloquence. Urgh.

Anthony said...

"The big issue is that employers now think they can use an employee's Tweets as ammunition for sacking."

As I said in an earlier comment that didn't seem to make it through moderation, the idea that a boss can sack an employee for what they do or say in their spare time on social media is alarming, and in some instances would actually run foul of the law.

(I made this comment in response to PC's original claim that the Age is free to hire who it likes: in fact, a whole lot of laws constrain that freedom, especially when it comes to sacking people)

But the point here is that Catherine Deveny is not an employee of the Age. She is on a commercial contract to supply a weekly column, and apparently it's a commercial contract that can be quite easily and quickly terminated by the Age, in response, say, to the behest of Messrs Bolt and others

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Sorry, Anthony, glad you got through this time. It wouldn't have been moderation (this site's not moderated except briefly and occasionally when I am having trouble with some troll) so it must have been some other interwebby glitch.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Oh and re Age hiring etc -- when I said that, I was taking it as a given that Deveny, like myself, was being hired on some kind of casual basis and therefore vulnerable to dismissal. I hear the hospitality industry is much worse. I take your point about pressure from Bolt et al but (even if we think we know why the Age did what it it did, and I'm not sure we do) that's a separate issue from what I'm talking about in the post, which is Deveny and her public utterances.

Another Outspoken Female said...

It is worth listening to the Jon Faine interview with the editor of The Age and his "chats" with CD.

On why CD is no longer an Age columnist Paul Ramage said “I think the combination of how she was positioning herself as a comedian and a commentator was not really in keeping with the sort of standards that I am trying to set for the paper”

CD's current comedy show is "God is bullshit".

The Age does not as yet have an official addendum to their code of conduct regarding social media.
Yet her comments outside of her published column " were widely perceived as being offensive”.

Does this qualify as being Dooced?

Just a thought.

TimT said...

Small world, the Melbourne media. On the day that Catherine Deveny was sacked we get Neil Mitchell on 3AW (which is now owned by Fairfax, though Mitchell sometimes writes for the Herald Sun) grumbling on-air about Deveny's tweets. Andrew Bolt (who writes for the Herald Sun papers, but who I've heard on one of 3AW's interstate equivalent radio stations) does a blog post about Deveny. The ABC is talking about the Deveny sacking all day. Oh, and Ben Pobjie, who writes for New Matilda and The Punch occasionally - and who I'd seen the night before - does a blog post in Deveny's defence.

In the Melbourne media world 6 degrees of separation shrinks down to something more like 1.5 degrees of separation...!

Barbara Temperton said...

Catherine who?

Anonymous said...

"'I'm edgy, I push the envelope.'"

It's a bit like having class - if you say you've got it, you haven't.

B Smith

Nigel said...

I agree with Barbara: Catherine Deveny who? I really do have no idea who the hell she is (I live in Canberra though am currently in Tassie for a month). And I'm pretty good with watching the news, listening to the news, reading the news. I guess this Catherine Deveny person isn't newsworthy, and perhaps that's a good thing, from what I'm reading on the blogs.

BUT we do expect men and women to do different things, and we tolerate and judge behaviour differently between the sexes. I thought the same when what's-her-name, that 16-year-old girl who's currently sailing solo around the world (the brave thing that she is), had her prang in the harbour just before she left. She was so publicly castigated for the accident - it was all 'oh what a silly little girl, why can't she just stay home and play with her Barbie?' If a young boy had had that prang in the harbour he would have been hailed as the bravest thing on the planet.

Now I think about it, maybe this Catherine Deveny person should try sailing solo around the world. Might give her something to think (tweet) about, or get something out of her system.

Emily said...

What has apalled me in the little I've heard and read is that somehow Bindi Irwin (age only 11) and her family now have to deal with the consequences of what was said and has been amplified on the public stage. Somehow because the child (and that is what she still is really)attended a media function she "deserves" in some way to be regaled with comments like this. Occasionally when I have a rush of blood to the head I'm all for banning some people from public comment. It is interesting that The Australian is giving Catherine Deveney space in its publications, which to my mind shows now how Bindi Irwin has become a non-person and merely a political pawn to be used as fodder for ego-boosting by CD and the Murdoch press and its paid loudmouths.

R.H. said...

Well done. Witty too.
You're right about different judgements for men, there are no slut men, only heroes. But any male commentator saying what Deveny did about an eleven-year-old girl would have fallen harder than she did. Sandilands copped a bigger furore for less, Newman with his reputation as a skirt chaser would be incinerated, and Bolt would never say it.
As for undisclosed health issues, being found insane (unfit to plead)gets you off the hook in every case, but you'll still lose your job.