I don’t think Miranda Devine should be sacked for her offensive tweet – but, unlike News Ltd commenters, that’s entirely consistent with the view I expressed last week on the Deveny sacking. Twitter feeds are not newspaper columns, and the whole point of opinion writers is that they’re pushing their own opinions, not those of the newspapers for which they write. I fundamentally disagree with Devine’s sanctimonious (and now amusingly hypocritical) claim, stated before she did just that herself, that sacking Deveny was fine because “not trashing the brand is more important than ever” – opinion writers represent themselves, not “the brand”.
That said, I think Devine’s tweet was clearly far MORE offensive than Deveny’s.
Just as the level of menace in their previous articles is completely disparate, the same applies to the tweets. Where Deveny’s previous columns have merely been childishly derisive of suburbanites, Devine’s have in contrast called for people with whose politics she doesn’t agree to be “hanging from lamp-posts”. And where Deveny made sarcastic but tasteless remarks about two celebrities, Devine maligned an entire community that presently is discriminated against – to a large extent because of bigoted attitudes like the one she displayed in her tweet (and which she’d endorsed in the article to which her interlocutor was originally objecting). Deveny went after the powerful and prominent; Devine went after the powerless and maligned.
Does any rational person think Deveny was actually calling for a child to be raped, as anonymous online commenters have charged? Seriously? In contrast, does anyone NOT think Devine was putting gay people down and suggesting that they’re perverted in her tweet?
They both crossed a line, but their choice of targets is fairly significant. This isn’t a right-left thing, either – Bindi Irwin and Rove McManus are not “leftist targets”, although obviously gays are targets for one particular subset of rightwingers. Instead, what makes the difference is that where one is a comedienne tastelessly having a go at well-paid figures in the media industry, the other is a professional journalist indulging in a nasty prejudice about a subjugated community – while she writes columns in a major newspaper smearing their campaign for equal rights.
I know which one I think is more disturbing and which does more damage.
UPDATE: Chris Deal has a breakdown on Punch – “To err is Deveny, to be a hypocrite Devine”:
To generalise that all gay men have sex with gerbils is nothing but homophobia. It’s a derogatory comment designed to deride not only the man Devine was “engaging in robust debate” with, but also the entire gay lifestyle, and exposes a nasty little nugget of what deeply held opinion Devine might really have about the gay community.
And, by the way, I’d have thought the “joke” of Deveny’s tweet about Rove was fairly obvious – it was the disconnect between what someone might think quietly to themselves, quite sympathetically (not because they want Rove’s wife to die, but because it occurs to them just how ridiculously cruel it would be if the Universe did that twice), and how badly it would be taken if said aloud. It’s a joke about saying things in bad taste. I don’t think it worked, obviously, but I doubt Rove or his family would have been “devastated” by it either.