It’s been just over six months since I launched Surely Not. I initially did so after encouragement from friends who (for some odd reason) got a kick out of my fairly regular Facebook rants. The last thing I expected was for randoms to start reading and sharing my thoughts, but 6 months and over 40 articles/rants later – here we are. I can honestly say this piece is the hardest one I’ve had to write. Simply because I did not want to write it. The devastating passing of Stuart Kelly a fortnight ago is a tragedy beyond scale, there’s no two ways about it. In my opinion, I felt this tragedy was not a topic for discussion in the media or fodder for journalists. In this time, and for some time moving forward, the family needs privacy and space to grieve. It was out of respect for the family I refused numerous media requests for comment. Not to mention the fact that my comments – or anyone else’s – are meaningless and irrelevant in the wake of such a horrific event.
Unfortunately, a shocking piece published in Fairfax outlets around the country mere days after the tragedy and a pair of truly abhorrent articles in the Telegraph and Daily Mail have forced my hand. The feedback I’ve received since publication requires a response. As do the articles themselves. But that’s it. The death of a young man, and the grief of a family who has already been through so much is not material for an article. As such, I will not be commenting on the tragedy itself, other than to say my thoughts are with Stuart’s family and loved ones. Nobody should have to experience the loss they have once, let alone twice.
It’s been well documented I’ve had disagreements with a couple of members of the mainstream media – specifically a prominent Fairfax writer. My opinions regarding elements of the mainstream media have also been well documented. There are a number of journalists I hold in quite high regard, and others…. Not so much.
Sydney Morning Herald State Political Editor, Sean Nicholls, was one such journalist who I placed firmly in the former. Whilst I obviously didn’t agree with everything he published, I had a lot of respect for his work in general and was a huge fan of some of his investigative series. So much so, I even quoted him and his articles on multiple occasions. If I saw a new article of his had been published, I’d check it out immediately, regardless of whether he was presenting views I’d support or oppose. All of which makes his article last week all the more disappointing. I’m always happy to take on board criticism of what I do. But outright vitriol and hatemongering? That’s where I draw the line. Incidentally, I believed that was where Mr Nicholls would draw the line too. Apparently not.
The other two would not be in the same category. I don’t think as highly of the body of work put together by Daily Telegraph’s Caroline Marcus. I do occasionally enjoy some of her tirades against PC culture, but for the most part it just seems like she’s looking to get a rise out of people or generate clicks. As for Rachel Eddie, this was the first time I experienced the displeasure of reading her work. Needless to say, I won’t be in a rush to do so again.
For those yet to read the articles I’m referring to, you didn’t miss much. But in case you were keen to see what kicked off all this nonsense you can check out the Sean Nicholls piece here. Normally I wouldn’t want to help promote something of such low calibre, but let’s be honest – Fairfax needs the clicks – and despite the conduct of a couple, there are still plenty of great writers over there who I’ll always be happy to support. Ignoring the sanctimonious (not to mention, seemingly hypocritical) moralising, the content of the piece is nothing short of disgusting. Even looking past the fact this example of tabloid trash journalism wrongfully holds me responsible for the tragedy – the fact that Nicholls has decided to use this to further an agenda and attack opponents of a topic he appears to support is, in my opinion, quite unfortunate.
Regarding the claims of abuse being a contributing factor in this young mans untimely passing – for starters it is unbelievably disrespectful to speculate in such a manner. I can only imagine how tough the last few years would have been for this young man for any number of reasons. As for blaming myself for this, I reject these shameful accusations in no uncertain terms. Whilst I was certainly a vocal critic of the foundations activities and the role Ralph Kelly played in implementing damaging policy – at no point was it personal. My investigation actually commenced for completely different reasons. I wrote an article where I was critical of, well… everyone, and turned to the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation (who i had long supported) to find some examples of good work. At no point did I ever intend on causing a backlash, especially not anything like what the media claimed took place. But the reality is, regardless of what did or did not take place, unfortunately I have no control over how an unhinged individual may respond to reading something. Nobody does but them. This is a fact of life, and one I would imagine Nicholls, Marcus and Eddie would be well aware of. If there were any grubs out there who were inspired to direct abuse at the foundation or family after reading my articles, there was not a thing I could do about it other than strongly condemn their behaviour. Which I did, quite clearly.
When a memorial in Kings Cross for Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie was allegedly vandalised, the media were quick to speculate on the culprits. Without evidence, they again predictably attempted to cast blame on individuals who may have been inspired by my articles. The vandals were never caught or identified, but it did not matter to me who they were or why they did what they did. I was disgusted by their actions and publicly condemned them as well.
At the end of the day though, no matter how strongly acts are condemned, one has zero control over the actions of others. If the media speculation regarding Stuart’s passing has a shred of truth to it, obviously I condemn anyone who allegedly bullied him in the strongest possible manner. But as I said earlier, I won’t be disrespectfully speculating on causes or factors. Mental health is a deeply complicated issue, so speculate or make aspersions would be ignorant and unhelpful. To do so to further a narrative or attack another human being would be indecorous and odious.
The less said about Rachel Eddie’s “expose” in the Daily Mail, the better. Eddie seemed to take particular exception to my remarks on whether or not it was appropriate to have a young teenager made a spokesperson for alcohol related issues. She feels my observing that I did not feel it was fair or appropriate for a 16 year old to be burdened with such a role, given their age and life experience, was some kind of hateful rhetoric, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I would have thought anyone with common sense would realise that. Whilst my tone may have come across as condescending, that’s because I was trying to deflect from how strongly I really felt about it. I didn’t think it was fair on Stuart and I didn’t think it was right.
She also bemoans not being able to reach me for comment. Given how rude her email was I don’t know why she’s surprised about this. She also, bizarrely, wanted comment from my ex employer and was aggrieved when one wasn’t forthcoming. Naturally, Eddie deemed these snubs worthy of a place in her article. Is this seriously what passes for journalism these days?
Vapid, low-grade provocateur Marcus appears to be the kind of “writer” who is employed simply to have a strong, grating opinion on anything and everything. All in all it’s a hollow body of work so far. And unfortunately it isn’t entirely clear as to why anybody should respect or consider her opinion. Much like when she was the last person in the country to realise a “story” she was reporting on was actually a viral hoax, Marcus is again late to the party, and is merely echoing what has already been written by a far, far more credible and accomplished journalist. Although she did decide to add some completely false tidbits whilst appearing to demonstrate her inability to decipher a calendar. She also helpfully pointed out a grammatical error in one of my articles. Aside from what that behaviour generally suggests about ones character, such nit picking is pathetic when you see it on a Facebook argument, let alone a published article. Not to mention it’s a sure sign whoever has doing it has nothing intelligent left to say, if they ever even did.
I always find it laughable when Marcus gets on her high horse, but I especially do this time around. Perhaps Marcus needs to be reminded about the time she appeared to cruelly mocked the passing of former friend / social scene acquaintance Jessica Ainscough, aka the Wellness Warrior. Ms Ainscough tragically passed away on February 26th 2015. It’s unconfirmed whether or not the coffin had been lowered before Ms Marcus launched a savage attack on her now deceased acquaintance 9 days later. Not content with kicking the loved ones of Ms Aincsough while they were down once, she backed it up on March 21st with a cruel rant, seemingly mocking her former friend less than a month after her death, whilst comparing her to alleged fraud and “high-school dropout” Belle Gibson. She then goes onto accuse the deceased of sending countless others, including Ms Ainscough’s own mother, to early graves. This was especially tasteful –
“Gibson’s story is reminiscent of another celebrity blogger, Jessica Ainscough, aka The Wellness Warrior, who tragically (yet predictably) died of cancer on February 26 after building a lucrative business on the falsehood that she had “cured” herself by rejecting conventional medicine for the Gerson regimen, which involved drinking countless raw juices and having five coffee enemas a day.”
“It’s impossible to know just how many cancer patients Ainscough misled to early graves, though we do know her own mother, Sharyn, passed away from breast cancer in late 2013 after following her daughter’s lead and snubbing oncology in favour of quackery.”
When she isn’t launching attacks on recently deceased associates, Marcus casts her net far and wide. She seemingly has no qualms berating a rival media organisation for a typical story one minute, working for them the next.
She argues against individuals and celebrities right to privacy and puts her money where her mouth is by invading the privacy of hospital patients.
And when Jenny Leung was abused online by police officers she deserved it – according to Marcus.
So please, jump back on your high horse and tell me again, how I’m supposed to be a bully?!!?
Oh, and just for the record. If you’re going to try to dictate the cardinal sins of online behaviour, try to not be frequently committing them all yourself. I might actually write about these eight sins at a later date, but for now this one was my favourite!
To be fair to the Telegraph, I do want commend them for their recent articles related to mental health and depression, as it’s somewhat related here. This moving piece in particular should be read by all, and the journalists involved with assisting Mr Price in having his brave words published prove there are still some great people in the industry. Unlike many, I’d rather not condemn an entire industry over the actions of a few individuals.
The individuals though… Alongside all else, the conduct of these paid professionals is beyond hypocritical. I can only imagine the smugness felt as they sat atop their high horse accusing me of inciting hate. I don’t believe for a minute they would not have been aware of the hate and abuse he would be directly inciting. Needless to say, my email, website feedback sections, Surely Not Facebook and my own personal account have been flooded with vile messages from people who had just been directed my way by the attack launched by these outlets. At the time of publication, the first comment under the Marcus piece is the one you see below. And I believe these comments are moderated!
As I mentioned earlier, I’m all for a bit of robust criticism and I welcome opposing viewpoints. But the deluge of ignorant abuse hate and threats, directly inspired by these misleading articles is completely unacceptable. So spare me your moralising when one could argue these articles appear to have done the very thing they accuse me of doing, all whilst ignoring a multitude of potentially contributing factors that would not fit their attacks or their narrative. Whilst I obviously don’t expect media outlets to acknowledge any potential role they may have had in fuelling fires or possibly even exploiting this poor family, I did not expect the hypocrisy to be so profound.
Personally, I would place all three pieces in the category of gutter journalism. Never mind their refusal to acknowledge differing viewpoints or arguments, how on earth is a six month old article written by a no name blogger who at the time had a readership of 50 mates remotely newsworthy? I have no idea what any of them hope to achieve, other than a platform to cast scorn, incite hate and gain themselves a bunch of clicks courtesy of a provocative article with a click-baity headline? I wasted enough time reading these three “articles”, let alone writing about them, so it’s best I wrap things up here. I’ll let the vile, opportunistic writers do their thing, and get whatever it is they get out of it. No thought, time or effort deserved to be spent on them at all to begin with, so no more shall be. Instead, my thoughts will remain with Stuart’s family and loved ones. They’ve been through more than enough. One last thought, if at some point down the track the family and the foundation decide to advocate for mental health/depression issues, I’ll be the first one lining up to offer praise any efforts and book a table at a future fundraiser.
For those interested in learning more about mental health issues, I recommend a Facebook community set up by a good friend of mine who has been tackling depression head on – Our Depression Progression. The accompanying blog is found here and they have recently set up a Youtube channel to share videos and thoughts.
I also encourage you to check out and support Livin, an organisation who have been there for a friend and are doing great things for the community. As they say – “It ain’t weak to speak”.