Schools and communities world-wide are currently fighting a losing battle against bullying and cyberbullying. This week, in the Australian media we saw one of the reasons why bullying has now become so insidious in our society, and why anti-bullying programmes are not working.
On Tuesday, Australian ‘shock-jock’ Kyle Sandilands, launched a vile, threatening, bullying personal attack against journalist Alison Stephenson over her report about his show A Night With The Stars that premiered on Monday night. Stephenson was reporting on the lack of rating for the show.
Sandiland’s response to Stephenson included statements such as:”…Some fat slag, What a fat bitter thing you are… You’ve got a nothing job anyway…. You’re a piece of s—!”“Yeah, and your blouse. You haven’t got that much titty to be wearing that low cut a blouse”…Watch your mouth, girl, or I will hunt you down.”
Since Wednesday,over 23,000 people have expressed their anger at the attack via an online petition at Change.Org. The petition is appealing to the sponsors of Sandilands’ daily syndicated radio show to remove their advertising until he is removed. So far 40 sponsors have issued statements that they will be removing their advertising spend from the show, however not from the company, Austereo. Yesterday the company released a statement apologising, for his actions and today the Austereo released a statement saying that Sandilands will return to the airwaves this week before taking a break for the summer hiatus and return to the show next year.
I don’t know about you, but I feel outraged by this ‘glossing over’ of this incident, especially as a parent. If Sandilands was at school he would have been suspended or expelled for bullying over his outburst and threats. Parents would be incensed and would demand action.
How can we, as a nation of people propose to wholly support ‘Anti-Bullying’ programs and not be outraged by the acceptance of Sandiland’s use of power and position to launch such a personal, threatening, bullying attack on this journalist – not to her face, but hiding behind a microphone. Not unlike those who hide behind computer screens to issue just the same types of attacks on their peers.
In an ‘apology’ to Alison Stephenson, Sandilands said “If you took a personal offence to it Ali I’m sorry, but maybe you should think again before you start going (against) different people. If they say I can dish it out but I can’t take it, I never ever dish it out first. I only ever retaliate to someone else’s crazy allegations”. That is not an apology, that is a justification without any remorse or understanding of his actions - a typical bully response!
In blog post written by parenting expert Annie Fox, last year Broken kids are Breaking all of us she quotes an interview with Justin Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center …on the nature, extent, causes and consequences of cyberbullying amongst adolescents. Patchin says “teens who use their phones and computers to commit these acts of intentional cruelty genuinely do not realize that harm could come from it.” He went on to say that these kids “don’t see it as something wrong.” Rather, they think of what they’re doing as “fun or funny” and “not that big of a deal.”
Sandilands and his employer do not think that what he said was a big deal.. well guess what it is. It is a big deal to use derogatory language about somebody else; it is a big deal to use sexually demeaning comments in any forum anywhere; it is a big deal to threaten people. What Sandilands did was bullying and it is a big deal.
Whilst we continue to accept any form of bullying behaviour by ‘celebrities’ in our media and think of it as entertainment or perfectly OK in the quest for ratings, how on earth do we get the message across that bullying is wrong? We need to be able to say to our children – Bullying is unacceptable on any level - not, …”Well its OK to bully if you are paid lots of money for it, or if people think its funny!”
It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are or what you do, bullying is not acceptable and there are consequences. There are not rules for famous people and rules for everybody else. There comes a point in time when a line must be drawn in the sand. This is that line, and he stepped over it. Enough.
If you would like to make your voice heard I invite you to visit Change.org and be part of saying – Enough! And I look forward to hearing your thoughts.