Aug 7, 2014

Fairfax turns on Carlton as we increasingly shoot the messenger

Here and abroad, there's a pattern emerging where the harshest punishments are reserved for those who expose crimes rather than those who may have committed them, writes Overland editor Jeff Sparrow.

Jeff Sparrow

Writer, editor, broadcaster, and an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University.

A popular but polarising Fairfax columnist let go after an intemperate outburst on social media.

No, not Mike Carlton in 2014 but Catherine Deveny, back in 2010, dumped from The Age because of some off-colour tweets — and, more importantly, in the wake of a long-running campaign by the Right.

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16 thoughts on “Fairfax turns on Carlton as we increasingly shoot the messenger

  1. Russell

    So, Jeff… Provided you are anti-Abbott and anti-Isreal, anything is forgiven. Even swearing at your employer’s customers?

    Yes, happy to buy that bridge. And perhaps if I hack into your computer, take unauthorised data (your bank account), I could afford it?

    You have justified an illegal activity because the person (who has now been charged with a criminal offense) was out to “get” Tony Abbott’s daughter. Who can hardly be blamed for who her father is, can she?

    Jeff, I’m a bit astonished by the logic.

  2. rumtytum

    It’s this wishy-washy blandness that led me to cancel my subscription to the Silly Morning Herald. Like most things, journalism is now controlled by salesmen, not journalists, and salesmen don’t want to offend anybody who might conceivably become a customer. No wonder outfits like The Guardian are flocking in to fill the holes.

  3. Yclept

    the harshest punishments are reserved for those who expose or publicise crimes rather than those who may have committed them

    What elephant????

  4. Pamela

    JEFF- Absolutely on the money.
    Every story about the slaughter of Palestinians seemed iced with a criticism of Hamas as if to justify criticising Israel.

    Cant the facts just be the facts – do we have to mitigate to please all players.

    This in a week where 3 separate incidents took place in my small world which saw the Israeli PR machine silence critics.

    Where was the public argument that we can be Pro Jewish and ANTI Israeli government? Many of us are Pro Australian by ANTI ABBOTT+++++

    Mike Carleton is one of the honest brokers in an Australian media often finding itself embedded with politicians and power brokers.

  5. Alex

    Jeff, he didn’t lose his job, he resigned. Some of what you have said I agree with and some I disagree with but unfortunately I cannot be swayed by any of your arguments when you misrepresent such a basic fact.

    I can’t help but think that Mike Carlton kicked an enormous own goal because he wanted to have a dummy spit. I seem to remember he has form on this score

  6. Nicholas

    Russell, losing one’s cool after reading torrents of abusive emails, and using some swear words in snippy replies to trolls is a venial sin, not an offence worthy of suspension. It is very clear that the pressure piled on Fairfax to make an example of Mike Carlton came from people outraged by Carlton’s content about the Israel-Palestine conflict. That’s what really infuriated them. They are shedding crocodile tears about the f word appearing in email replies to trolls.

    It is a sad reflection on the timidity of a particular manager at Fairfax that a hysterical mob won.

    There is disturbing lack of resilience and robustness on the part of people who defend the Israeli Government’s policies. They want to wade into a highly emotive debate without having the basic emotional resilience to hear an opposing view without falling to pieces and calling for punishments. They should toughen up or opt out of the discussion.

  7. ross fliate

    Fourth-largest army in the world? Might I ask where that figure comes from or refers to? It might seem like I’m quibbling, but the ranking seems screwy.

  8. Dogs breakfast

    “Just where have we arrived, if it’s now beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse to write passionately against the fourth-largest army in the world deploying heavy weaponry on civilian neighbourhoods?”

    And why are are we in a hand-basket?

    Of course, as Ross points out, the entire point is moot as the Israeli army may not be the 4th biggest army, and therefore all criticism against the Israelis government response must be considered from the perspective that this side-issue is actuallya central point.

    There was a day where the SMH editors would have stood up for their reasonable responses. Their quivering and quavering apologies about the cartoon were equally snivelling, oh spare me the rationalisations for your righteous anger dear Israelis lobbyists.

    The SMH has lost its backbone, and as there is no backbone and no moral compass, what is the point of reading it any more?

  9. Bill Hilliger

    After all that’s said, at least Mike Carlton has a soul.

  10. Albion Harrison-Naish

    Great piece Jeff with some really important points. It’s important to point out however that the SMH, and increasingly Fairfax more generally, is not a progressive paper. I’ve been reading it for over 30 years now and it has always avowedly been a conservative paper. Now what with the move of most of the conservative media to the right wing fringes, Fairfax seems increasingly progressive. But they’re not. That’s not to say that they don’t have progressive writers or don’t ever push a progressive agenda, but reading through the paper the overall impression is of a very staid and conservative world view. I don’t mean to quibble, but I think on the left we too often just accept the frame presented by the loony right. Fairfax and the ABC being lefties and all that palava. It needs to be challenged, especially in pieces like this one. Anyhoo, sorry to sound ranty.

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