A tale of two, no, make that three Aussies
First, via an Ambushy Predatory tweet, the case of Geoff Stephens, a UK based Australian whose feelings were hurt by colleagues making Australian jokes, as I blogged in passing last year.
An Australian community warden called Geoff Stephens suing his council employer because people keep saying things like “G’day, sport” to him and making kangaroo jokes.
Look, folks, this must stop. It is wholly inappropriate to call Mr Stephens “sport”. The correct term is “yer big sooky la-la” and must be used from now on.
Well, it seems that Geoff – be careful not to call him Geoff-o or anything else that might sound a bit Australian in case the poor guy can’t take it – must have lost because he’s now in the news again. Yes (said with a sense of depressing inevitability), he’s taking his case to Europe.
An Australian community warden who claimed he was racially abused by colleagues who constantly greeted him with ‘G’day Sport’ is taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Geoff Stephens, who has been in the UK for 27 years after coming over from Australia when he was 22 years old, claimed he suffered a barrage of abuse from co-workers for being Australian.
Anyone interested in how many times I’ve been called a pom? Anyone? No? Funny that, and maybe it’s because nobody, least of all me, thinks it’s that big a deal. With Western society having become so litigation prone I’d obviously be lying if I said it had never occurred to me to try to sue anyone over it, but I would be lying if I said it really bothered me and doubt I could do so with a straight face.
He claimed that the ‘racism’ and bullying’ he suffered at work ‘would eventually have killed him’ and that he constantly asked colleagues to stop making jokes about him being an Aussie.
Racism? Geoff, you idiot, Australian – except when referring to indigenous Australians – is no more a race than Islam is. I’d like to think that this is a subtle move to destroy the ability to play the race card by rendering it a bad joke with members of non-existent races making ludicrous claims about racism by people who look exactly like them, but sadly I suspect it’s just silliness.
He said that fellow wardens constantly greeted him with ‘G’day Sport’, ‘Is your girlfriend called Sheila?’ and made jokes about kangaroos and asked him to ‘Throw another shrimp on the barbie’.
Which is almost as lame as some of the attempts to mimic an English accent while I’m around. You know when David Cameron tried to do Julia Gillard?* Like that but even worse. My response has not been to run off crying for compo but to try to teach them how to do it properly using references to appropriate study material. This usually means films with Michael Caine in, and so if you happen to ever meet an Australian who, upon realising that you’re English, shouts “Dan’t throh those bladdy spears at me” you’ll know whose fault it is and how successful I haven’t been.
He said: ‘I’m totally disappointed with the tribunal outcome but am really hopeful about Europe.
‘The last few months have been a nightmare and my whole life has been turned upside down.
That’s because you’re from Austr… oh, forget it.
‘I have transcripts which prove they listened to my private conversations, including one with my doctor to see if I was telling the truth about my health.
‘I thought ‘Strewth’, and couldn’t believe it when I realised.
“Strewth”? Geoff, did you seriously just say that word? Come on, after spending more than half your life in Britain you must realise that that panders to every stereotype Brits hold about Australians. I think you should sue yourself for every penny you’ve got. I also think that you should, as they say here occasionally, harden the fuck up.
Something similar could be said about the unnamed police officer in this case from Plymouth (I think also via JuliaM).
A man abused a police officer from Australia saying: ‘We speak English in this country’.
Oh, that Wilde-ian West Country wit. The poor Aussie copper must have been mentally devastated, coming as he does from a country where everyone speaks, er, English as well.
Eoin McCarthy, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said police were called to a report of an incident in Wyndham Street East in Stonehouse.
He added officers questioned a group of men and wanted to search Morrison.
Mr McCarthy said: “The defendant was not particularly impressed by that, saying: ‘We speak English in this country’.
“The officer took offence in view of his nationality, which is Australian.”
The court heard Morrison continued to abuse the officer, despite being warned to stop.
Now it’s not said what the form of the continued abuse was and for all I know there was something arrestable at some stage (he ended up in court, after all), but it’s that penultimate line that got me. He took offence in view of his nationality. Aw, bless, although how this delicate soul was considered the right material for a job where being called a pig is an occupational hazard when he’s clearly so thin skinned that a pathetic gibe at his country of birth stung so much is quite beyond me. I’d have suggested a less confrontational line of work, such as a librarian. Yes, people could still take the piss but at least they’d have to do it in a whisper. On the other hand, if the officer wants to carry on with his chosen career I suggest he ponder the words of his fellow Aussie, Steve Hughes.
Finally, we have an example of an increasing trend that’s even more annoying than taking offence over trivialities – taking offence on behalf of a third party over trivialities that aren’t even aimed at you. In this instance the offended-on-behalf-of mob included half the media, and they really did make the whole thing look particularly ludicrous because far from being of a delicate flower like disposition the person at whom the comments were aimed is a serious contender for the title of Hardest Australian Alive, which he could put alongside his SAS beret, his Medal for Gallantry and his absolutely-shitting-you-not Victoria Cross.
Oh, and at more than six and a half feet tall he’s also fucking massive.
This is Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, who was awarded the VC for an incident in Afghanistan in 2010 in which his patrol was under fire from three machine gunners. Cpl Roberts-Smith deliberately left cover, killing at point blank range an enemy grenadier who got in the way, in order to draw fire away from his team, and since his patrol commander’s grenade only took out one of the machine gunners he stopped screwing around and killed the remaining pair himself. He must be pretty damn quick on his feet too because those three machine guns that stopped firing at his patrol in order to concentrate their fire on him managed to miss despite him being, as I think I mentioned, fucking massive.
That or the bullets were frightened of getting hurt when they bounced off him.
What can anyone possibly say about a guy like Ben Roberts-Smith that he’d need protecting from? That maybe he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer or much good at sex, apparently.
The co-host of Channel Ten program The Circle has publicly apologised for making a sexist and disrespectful comment about Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, saying she had never met the Australian war hero and “felt sick” at the angry backlash she had received after branding him brainless.
Yumi Stynes admitted she did not know much about Corporal Roberts-Smith when she commented on a photograph of the shirtless war hero in a swimming pool yesterday, saying: “He’s going to dive down to the bottom of the pool to see if his brain is there.”
Stynes’s guest, co-host and veteran journalist George Negus had then quipped: “I’m sure he’s a really good guy, nothing about poor old Ben. But that sort of bloke, and what if they’re not up to it in the sack?”
Another host questioned whether Negus was suggesting “that he could be a dud root”, to laughter from the audience.
Yes, the mind does indeed boggle. Offensive? This kind of thing is so lame that if it had hooves someone would shoot it behind a tarpaulin. I could shrug that off and I’m not worthy of standing in temporarily for one of Ben Robert-Smith’s lower legs. Addressing such witless and puerile remarks to such a highly decorated soldier is certainly tasteless and may be embarrassing for the rest of us to have heard or read, but whether it’s offensive to Ben Roberts-Smith is solely for Ben Roberts-Smith to decide. Nonetheless…
The Circle’s Facebook page was flooded with angry comments, while a relative of another decorated war veteran contacted The Age to call for the Stynes and Negus to be sacked.
Opposition defence personnel spokesman Stuart Robert condemned the comments made by Negus and Stynes.
Nothing quite like the faux outrage of an opposition politician to make me take something less seriously.
“The irony is that the freedom of speech these journalists exercise is a freedom neither of them have fought for -but which both enjoy.”
Wrong, Stu. I’d argue that we don’t actually have freedom of speech when there are things that simply may not be said, but also that anyone may fight for freedom of speech just by saying anything that someone disapproves of and refusing to be kowtowed into retracting it. Not that I’m suggesting Yumi Stynes and George Negus were doing anything so noble rather than just talking the kind of schoolyard bollocks which both of them, and Negus especially, should have outgrown. Still, the content of their comments is not the point. The point is that the only person who can say whether Cpl Roberts-Smith is offended is Ben Roberts-Smith himself. And, perhaps not all that surprisingly for the Hardest Living Thing in Australia (Counting Some of the Crocs), he wasn’t really.
Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith has dismissed sexist and disrespectful comments aimed at him by the Channel Ten program The Circle as “surprising” but not malicious.
Both personally apologised to Corporal Roberts-Smith for their comments before appearing on The Project to explain their actions.
Stynes said that she was “humbled” and “sorry” for her comments.
“I did speak to the winner of the Victoria Cross on the phone and said to him ‘look, I’m really about this’ and he was like ‘I’ve got a pretty thick skin’ and he kind of went ‘you know this stuff happens, you say stuff, don’t sweat it, let’s move on.’
She added that it was “uncool to make fun of him” yet she was “relieved” to speak with Corporal Roberts-Smith.
Negus, who also spoke with the decorated soldier, added: “It was very difficult to get him to accept my apology because he didn’t sound as though he thought I needed to make one.”
Perhaps because for some people not even sticks and stones, or bullets and grenades for that matter, seem able to break their bones. Some words might be able to hurt them, but for damned sure words like ‘brainless’ and ‘dud root’ won’t be among them. Most people are made of strong enough stuff to deal with that, and those like Roberts-Smith are made of sterner stuff still.
So if you want to make some remark about mad hair, guy-liner and 80s Goth/New Wave music I’d go right ahead, because the chances are that nest to nothing you can say or do to the guy is going to be significant enough to warrant much of his attention.
* I mean her accent, you dirty minded sods.