During the week, a man named Andy Nolch was charged with vandalising the memorial to Eurydice Dixon, the young woman who was raped and murdered while walking home.
We were then treated to an explanation of his “reasons” for such an attack. It wasn’t “personal”, but an attempt to bring public attention to his views on vaccination, as well as being an attack on feminism. If you’re having trouble with working out why the man thought it was appropriate to deface a memorial to do this, you need to be aware that Ms Dixon’s alleged attacker is autistic. The conclusion Mr Nolch seems to have drawn is that the media were ignoring the obvious link to vaccination because as anyone with the good sense to know that the world is flat and the moon landing was a hoax, knows that vaccinations cause autism. The attack on feminism, however, is a little harder to understand.
In the interests of sensitivity, I’m not going to discuss the details of this in any more depth. Suffice to say, that while we may be tempted to organise a lynch mob for such a cruel, senseless act, we should else consider the likelihood that the man has some sort of mental illness. He pointed out in an interview that he had no diagnosed mental illness, but, hey, Don Burke has undiagnosed Asperger’s… Or rather, unprofessionally diagnosed Asperger’s, given that he himself has diagnosed it… So maybe we should give this man’s self-diagnosis the same credibility we gave to Burke’s… Maybe we should consider that the possibility that he could be mentally ill and that he may actually need some sort of professional help. Then again, he may just be a privileged arsehole. Whatever, it’s hard to tell from just reading about him and I think we should just leave it to the people dealing with what he’s done to come up with the best course of action without a running media commentary. And yes, I am aware that I’m about to question the amount of attention Nolch received, and while I’m also focusing on him, it’s hard to question the media’s choices without actually mentioning them.
What I find strange is that the media thought it worthwhile to publish his motivation. Let’s strip this to its basic facts and look at the media’s role:
- Man with strange ideas wants to get public attention to spread his message.
- Man commits act which shocks people.
- Man is then given the publicity he craves and a soapbox to broadcast his views. (The media also telling us that he has a podcast, as well as reporting what he had to say!)
Anyone see a pattern here? And I don’t just mean when they report the motivations behind terrorist attacks.
Now, I don’t know about you, but it strikes me that if I want to get a message out there… Let’s say, I want to draw attention to shocking prejudice that PHON supporters face when they talk to intelligent people, or I want to alert you to the dangers of drinking water… Or let’s say, I read “The Herald-Sun” today and I discovered that a full week after the opening of the safe injecting room in Richmond, there were still people injecting in alleyways, and I want to show people that it’s been a failure because we all thought that it’d only take a week for every druggie to find out about the centre and start using it.
Whatever my message, if I want to get it out there, it seems that the media is more interested in me if I do something offensive.
I don’t mean to suggest I’m perfect. I’m sure that I do have some faults even if none readily spring to mind because I’m male. However, I do tend to try and be polite, reasonable and thoughtful in my dealings with other people, even if they tell me that they think Donald Trump is a good bloke. Yet if I ring the media and tell them that I have a great idea and I’m very intelligent and it’s a cracker and I’d like some space in tomorrow’s paper because my idea would not only help to cure most known diseases but everyone would like it and I’d probably end up with the Nobel Peace Prize, they’d tell me to go away. On the other hand, if I said that I was planning to make a porno movie on the steps of the Shrine of Remembrance, they’d probably have a news crew there in a flash… if you’ll pardon the expression.
Which, of course, leads us to Senator David Leyonhjelm. After making a statement to Sarah Hanson-Young which has even been condemned by Tony Abbott, instead of shunning him, he gets to do a round of interviews. Not just on “The Outsiders” where his comments were deemed so inappropriate that the young female producer who copied them into the feed was suspended (honestly, where do this women get the idea that they can just write down what men say free of the consequences?), but on the ABC and various other places as well. At such a time, the media seems to gravitate towards the offensive, rather than saying, “Mm, let’s raise the tone a bit and interview an intelligent, well-respected politician who’s got some agenda worth discussing”… Well, there must be one or two, they can’t all be like the ones that pop on the daily news.
Whatever, it does suggest to me that if I want to actually increase the circulation of my ideas beyond the few thousand who are reading this, then I should take a leaf out of David Leyonhjelm’s book and find ways to offend people.
The trouble is that I can’t think of anything in that sweet spot between being bad enough to get you publicity but not so bad that you end up in jail. Once it was easy, but thanks to people like Andrew Bolt and Germaine Greer, you really have to think hard to make yourself stand out. And when you have aspiring politicians like Georgina Downer telling us that the IPA isn’t political, then not even being ridiculous is likely to work.
Nay, it’s just too hard these days. There’s too much competition for being outrageous – whether by crossing a socially acceptable line or by making a statement that’s so demonstrably false that people can talk of nothing else for the next few days.
Lucky I don’t actually have any ideas that would solve all the world’s ills. If I did, I might have forgotten it by the time I came up with something that’d grab the media’s attention.