Exit, stage right, Ross Cameron. Sky TV has fired its second Outsiders host. This time the charge was racism and in the face of that charge the management of Sky crumbled faster than a gluten-free biscuit.
Thank God it was Donald Trump, and not Sky TV, who was ultimately responsible for shepherding Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court through a hostile press and the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee because faced with an orchestrated hatchet campaign it helps not to be an invertebrate.
Start with the charge of racism. It’s palpable nonsense and only remotely plausible if Mr Cameron’s words are 1) taken wholly out of context and then 2) interpreted by someone wholly without a sense of irony or the slightest ability to detect humour and self-mockery. You can read the whole exchange between Ross Cameron and his co-host (and editor of this magazine) Rowan Dean on Andrew Bolt’s blog.
The words that offended were ‘slanty eyed, yellow skinned Chinese’. In today’s puritanical and hyper-sensitive politically-correct world I think we can agree that this choice of phrase was either super naive or super brave.
But it clearly was in no way meant to diminish people of Chinese ancestry. If anything Cameron had come to praise them. First off, when you read the whole exchange the following becomes plain: 1) Cameron was defending China and its ancient and great civilisation; 2) Cameron went out of his way to praise the fact China had lifted some 700 million people out of poverty over the last 35 years; 3) Cameron’s respect for the average citizen of China was patently plain; and 4) Cameron was arguing that regular Chinese citizens want the sort of freedoms and other benefits that we in the West are lucky enough to take for granted – and so to make that last point more bluntly, picturesquely, and no doubt in his mind more humorously, he said ‘if you go to Disneyland in Shanghai on any typical morning of the week you will see 20,000 black-haired, slanty-eyed, yellow-skinned Chinese desperate to get into Disneyland’.
Let me nail my colours to the mast. That is not racism. Racism requires intent and a malign attitude to others based on inherited characteristics. It is not a strict liability offence nor one for which a subjective feeling of offence on the part of the hearer is wholly determinative. Racism requires the person charged with that failing to believe others are inferior. And that is patently and obviously untrue of Ross Cameron.
Frankly, I doubt many fair-minded Chinese listening to the exchange would have thought for a moment that Cameron was being racist. Would some of them have disliked the attempted humour? Sure. But so what? Lots of attempts at humour fail abysmally (trust me, I know this first-hand) and even annoy people. Heck, sometimes a failed joke annoys me. But that doesn’t mean I think such bone-headed misfires warrant the employment law equivalent of capital punishment. And nor should you.
And nor should Sky TV. After all, if we sell this pass it’s another nail in the coffin of a vigorous society committed to the thrust and parry of free speech – which is ironic given that Sky’s TV show The Outsiders was committed to just such a defence of free speech.
That said Sky was in an invidious position. There is a clear campaign going on right now to attack Sky and to go after any current affairs shows of theirs that do not pander to the accepted PC/ABC worldview.
More specifically, a well-organised and well-funded activist group called Sleeping Giants seems wholly committed to this ‘Get Sky’ cause and it was they who took Ross Cameron’s- words, packaged them up in that ‘out of context’ way, and then garnered support for the racism charge.
This activist group, Sleeping Giants, also attacks companies who advertise with Sky. It pressures them to drop their advertising in return for a nice quiet life. And therein lies the rub for Sky.
You see unlike our billion dollar a year behemoth of an ABC public broadcaster, Sky has to make money.
If lefty activists can convince companies not to advertise with Sky it has a major problem. So I don’t downplay the invidious position in which it found itself as the charge of ‘racism’ was being hurled around willy-nilly and as the attack was being re-focused onto the companies who buy advertising with Sky. You can be brave and virtuous all you want but if you haven’t got a business left in a few years that’s not much help.
So what to do, what to do, in a world in which advertisers panic at the hint of a suggestion of a whisper of some offence against political correctness and some attempt at making a point by using humour?
Well, let’s not pretend there is any easy answer to that. Because there isn’t. But here’s what I would point out.
Firstly, bullies do not respect weakness. These lefty activist groups are bullies through and through and if Sky thinks it can pay the Danegeld and things will be better down the road, then all I can say is that I respectfully disagree. Having gone to a very tough Toronto state school I can assure you that bullies respect toughness. That, in a way, is why Donald Trump is so hated. He never, ever, ever gives in to the lefty media bully self-righteous preachers.
Secondly, it would be nice if a few supposedly right-of-centre politicians decided they had some cojones and waded into these various attacks on free speech on the side of free speech and humour (even failed humour). God knows I’d vote for anyone who showed that sort of ticker. And it would only take a few politicians calling out the hypocrisy of such Sleeping Giant activist groups to start to turn things around.
Alas, our Liberal politicians (think, for example, one C. Pyne) are more likely to identify with your GetUp!s of the world as fellow travellers than to call them out.
And lastly, how about publicising advertisers who cave in to the pressure from the Sleeping Giants of the world? I’m pretty sure there are a fair few right-of-centre voters like me who, on being told an advertiser had pulled its custom from The Outsiders on Sky, would cease doing any business with such cowardly companies.
Meantime our thoughts go out to an unjustly-maligned Ross Cameron.
Perhaps he can take some comfort in the words of one Marcus Aurelius who once said: ‘How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life’.