I’ve been sitting at my computer for the past 20 minutes wondering what to say, or just how to say it. I don’t know where to start, or how to finish or how to actually articulate the impact of the shitfight surrounding what was once a local institution – Newcastle Mirage. Quite frankly I’m hurt, I’m upset, and like the rest of our community, I’m actually kind of outraged.
Firstly, for some context and for the sake of full disclosure, I worked for Newcastle Mirage for the better part of two years. I wrote for them because it was the voice for the underground creative community in Newcastle. For years, they pioneered for the ‘little guy’, the unknown voice, and really showcased the amazing artists, musicians, and small businesses that make our city great. The tagline on their own website reads: ‘Welcome to the home of inspiration and positive vibes…’ However, the recent actions of one of its founding members makes me want to forever distance myself from the publication and simply erase the time I spent working, writing, and helping to create great content.
Anyway, back to the shitfight. It all started with a Facebook post. A post that caused a vicious domino effect which has since resulted in the other founding member of the local zine to not only distance himself from the post in question but to publicly resign and sever ties with Newcastle Mirage entirely.
Briefly, the article(s) I’m referring to, suggest that there may be some merit to the whole #notallmen thing. The author refers to rape as a ‘hot topic’ and draws a long (long, long) bow between drink driving statistics and the question of whether it is, in fact, our fault for normalising the idea “that all men are perpetrators.” So in summary (according to the author), the more we talk about movements such as #metoo and #timesup the more likely we are to do more harm than good and simply demonise half the population. He also suggests that the folks behind the #notallmen movement may just be emotionally unintelligent individuals who have no idea how to express their feelings or support for the #metoo movement or the women in their lives.
The article obviously received fierce and unforgiving feedback. Locals and once-loyal readers immediately used the comments section to call out the complete lack of foresight and poor tone. Some also called out the author individually for using a public platform to discuss a very niche, controversial, and personal, point of view. As the days rolled on, the comments kept rolling in. They ranged from once-loyal readers (and friends) trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, to women offering advice on how to better approach the topic, with some even going as far as to invite the author to coffee to discuss the issue further. Some, who were unafraid to hold back, went for the jugular. But, in essence, all were calling for an apology.
When the next ‘glass half full’ piece was published a week later, the tagline read: ‘Is this man enough for you?’ Yes, you read that right.
Readers, onlookers, and everyone in between snapped. All the second article did was provide the author yet another platform to metaphorically scream ‘…this is MY weekly article’ (that is an actual quote from the article, I’m not making shit up here). Like this somehow gives him license to say whatever the f**k he wants, regardless of who he offends. He does apologise, if you could call it that. By apologise, I mean he mentions the word ‘sorry’ at the conclusion of the (frankly, quite nonsensical) piece. Because he is not apologising for his opinion or his actions or the insensitivity of the so-called ‘hot topic’ he decided to write about, without so much as a trigger warning. He simply says ‘I am sorry feelings were hurt that was never my intention’. *slow clap*
The whole thing was in extremely poor taste. It lacked sensitivity, clarity and continuity. The fact that this particular piece and subject matter also received the ‘glass half full’ treatment is beyond me and something that I will put down to a complete lack of understanding of an important societal issue, and a deliberate push towards possible individual self-destruction. But, what I also want to know is… where is the line?
Over the course of two weeks, the comments section on these blog articles turned vicious and personal, and commenters began to attack the author individually, as opposed to simply focusing on the piece and its message (or lack thereof). Various other aspects of the author’s life were drawn into the mix, and it was like watching lions rip something apart not for purpose, but for sport. Yes, he was out of line, yes, the article should never have been published, and, yes, he failed to actually apologise… but like I said, where is the line? Between calling out someone’s shitty behaviour (or their insensitive article) and responding in kind. With shitty behaviour. Is attacking someone personally for their (granted, ill-informed) opinions, really helping the situation or the cause? I definitely do not condone the content of the article, but I also don’t condone a social media pile-on. There’s enough treadmill politics in the world already.
With all of this in mind, personally I think that this is the fall of Newcastle Mirage, and those who say otherwise are failing to see the true impact and power of the written word. The whole organisation has exploded from the inside and burnt everything in sight and now all that’s really left is a pile of online archives and two gaping holes. One being the gaping hole in the Newcastle community left by something which was once a good thing in our town, and the other being the giant void which should have been filled with an apology. An apology to you, to me, to readers, and most importantly, to women.
Edit 9/7 2018: Two female writers from Newcastle Mirage have written a response to the initial controversy and it is well worth the read.