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Miranda Devine

May 9, 2010

Et tu Miranda?

What is it with Fairfax columnists making inappropriate comments on twitter this week? Firstly there was

What is it with Fairfax columnists making inappropriate comments on twitter this week? Firstly there was Catherine Deveny’s logie tweets, which resulted in her sacking, and then on the very day that Miranda Devine published an article warning that not trashing the brand is more important than ever she ended up in a slanging match with another twitter user.

Now ‘twitspits’ are hardly newsworthy, robust debate on twitter is par for the course as there is very little room for prevarication or lengthy explainations, however the tweet from Devine seems amazing in light of her urging caution in others. Twitter user @justinbarbour seems to have initiated things with the following tweet
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How did Miranda Devine respond to a critic?

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@justinbarbour unsurprisingly took offence and so began a string of tweeted demands for apologies from both parties. At some point Devine obviously had second thoughts about her ‘gerbil’ sledge and deleted it, prompting @justinbarbour to post a screenshot of the comment.
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But in addition to that twitpic, the whole conversation is still readable in the twitter search. When attention was drawn to what Devine had tweeted more than one person commented on the irony of Devine failing to heed her own advice.

It will be interesting to see what action, if any, Fairfax take over this twitspit. Devine and Deveny write, or wrote, for different mastheads, with different editors, the target of this offensive comment was a semi-anonymous twitter user rather than a high profile child star and jokes about bestiality and child sexual abuse aren’t on a par in popular consciousness. However, given the way that Deveny was hung out to dry, can this incident simply slip under the radar? Will we see radio presenters and columnists from other papers questioning Devine’s suitability as a columnist?

Devine herself noted that

Deveny never pretended to be what she wasn’t… She is a talent. But she has never claimed to be a journalist or have the slightest interest in news.

Will a journalist be held to the same standards as a comedian? It seems that the discussion about journalists and social media has a long way to go yet.

Update: The screen capture of the twitter search has been updated to place the tweets in order, and include the Direct Message from Miranda Devine to @justinbarbour.

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91 thoughts on “Et tu Miranda?

  1. quantize

    It is just you Gavin…not that I accept your rather bizzare interpretation of either event.

  2. GavinM

    I would have thought 2 adults trading insults, with one then taking a screen shot so he can go public and sook about it, is very different to an adult joking about an 11 year old having sex — but thats just me.

  3. mondo rock

    I’d say it shows she has zero understanding of gay culture or of the effects of the anti-gay prejudice that continues to pervade some sections of our society.

    I agree Gavin – the ‘gerbil’ comment is moronic but, more significantly, is unlikley to raise much more than a chuckle from most of the gay men I know. As far as I’m aware actual gerbil abuse is no more prevalent within gay society than it is for the straights, ergo insults based around it more commonly raise a shared laugh than an offended yelp.

    If she really wanted to get under the skin of a gay man (and I’m assuming that was her goal) she should have mocked them for the actual prejuduce they suffer. Nothing beats a casual “So . . . are you recognised under law as a my legal equal yet?”

    Well it gets a rise out of my gay friends anyway.

    As others have already speculated I doubt Miranda understands that the issues faced by gays get any more serious than figuring out where the next gerbil is coming from, ergo her lack of insult creativity.

  4. returnedman

    At least Deveny didn’t say it directly to her “targets” – in this case, it’s almost like a verbal assault (had it been spoken).

  5. shepherdmarilyn

    And a couple of weeks ago Penbo. declared that hoons should be crushed in their cars and then chided me for daring to suggest that the people who died in the HIP program were responsible for their own work practices.

    Apparently OK for Davo to sanction murder though.

  6. Holden Back

    Surely someone has run the Frankdevine’s Monster line up the flag pole before?

  7. observer00

    I would have thought she should be sacked purely on the basis of a lack of understanding of her employer’s business model. Fairfax distinguishes itself from its competitors in its appeal to an AB demographic doesn’t it? A large proportion of which market she grossly offended, and not very intelligently at that.

  8. Rich Uncle Skeleton

    It’s a wonderful insight into her thought process. She can try and rationalise her support against gay marriage but in the the end it comes down to bigotry.

    Predictably it hasn’t made a big splash in the tabloid press, I assume because she a) slandered gay people who have it coming anyway and b) “It’s just a joke you humourless lefties. Lighten up and stop being so politically correct. Sheesh. You guys will get worked up about anything.”

  9. GavinM

    “What does it say of her understanding of gay culture that this is the slight she selects in her attempt to do the most damage to his ego?”

    Hi Mondo,

    I’d say it shows she has zero understanding of gay culture or of the effects of the anti-gay prejudice that continues to pervade some sections of our society.

    Although, happily I think there is evidence that that prejudice is slowly being broken down — as shown by the recent poll results on the question of gay marriage.

  10. mondo rock

    I find this interesting purely for the (obviously speculative) conclusions that can be drawn about Devine’s attitude towards homosexuals.

    In my view you can tell a lot about someone from an unguarded moment of provocation – and Devine’s choice of slur when roused by the criticism of a gay man was interesting. In my opinion Miranda probably doesn’t have much of a personal problem with teh gays, largely because she stays away from their world and doesn’t interact with them, BUT in this case her undergraduate pride was pricked and she responded with what one assumes was an attempt to cause offense.

    Her decision to go with the “gays have sex with gerbils” meme is fascinating. What makes her think that this, of all the slurs that gay men must endure, will be the one most cutting to Barbour. What does it say of her understanding of gay culture that this is the slight she selects in her attempt to do the most damage to his ego?

  11. Bob Biggs

    @confessions 38 Why would anyone waste time defending Devine? It’s not like her job is in any danger.

  12. GavinM

    You all seem to be conveniently overlooking the ABC radio interview that Ramadge did with Jon Faine in which he stated that Deveny’s dismissal wasn’t based only on her Logies tweets.

    Nobody here knows what other issues were discussed between Deveny and Ramadge in the meetings they had prior to her dismissal, but presumably whatever was discussed had a bearing on the decision taken last week.

  13. confessions

    No comment then from the usual suspects who were quick out of the blocks to attack Deveny?

    To recap. Leftwing comedian makes offensive jokes about celebrities: OUTRAGE!!, and the end of civilisation as we know it according to the News Ltd neocons. Rightwing columnist invokes gay slurs to smear an actual persecuted minority: silence from those same self appointed guardians of our nation’s moral compass.


  14. fitter

    More amazing hypocrisy from Randa,considering the nature of her trollumn last week.
    I am more disturbed by her opinion pieces than outraged. Most of it is so blatantly blinkered and has the usual hate filled undertones, {removed the last part – Tobby}.

  15. quantize

    All this really only goes to prove what most people already know…scratch below the surface of a neo-con and you get something very ugly indeed.

  16. Bob Biggs

    I love Miranda Devine and I’ll be very, very sad if she loses her job over this (I don’t think it’s going to happen, though). My favourite columns are the ones where she suggests the less-fortunate should lift themselves up by their bootstraps while forgetting to mention that she got to where she was today thanks to her dad.

  17. confessions

    Not surprisingly, I agree with Jeremy’s take on this one.

    And just to be clear, homophobes and bigots often try to portray gay people (esp men) as hyper-sexed, willing to stick it anywhere and in anything, including animals – which incidentally is one of the arguments bigots come up with against marriage equality.

    The “rogering gerbils” remark must be viewed in this context, especially as it’s directed at a man defending gay rights and attacking Devine’s track record on marriage equality. Devine could of asked whether he was done doing anything, but instead chose to invoke bestiality and hyper-sexual behaviour because both are frequently used anti-gay slurs.

  18. dlew919

    Devine is an idiot. If anyone is solely responsible for trashing the Fairfax brand in Sydney it’s her. (She’s not solely responsible but she shoulders a big portion of the blame.) I think she should be sacked, and someone of intelligence (of any political persuasion) use that space. I might go back to reading the Sh*tty Moaning Herald were she and all the rest of them removed.

  19. quantize

    Wow that’s some spectacular wingnut filtration there Pedro…amazing anything that goes in comes out eat with a knife and fork i guess?

  20. Pedro


    I must say I am a bit taken aback and I don’t quite understand your targetting me for your vent on the Deveney issue.

    Over the past few days there have been many comments made here, both for and against her Twitter comments.

    The only person it is embarrassing for is you, who wandered up a bit too late and decided to lay into me.

  21. Pedro

    Thank you for the link, Tobby.

  22. Sancho

    I’m not a fan of Devine, but she didn’t hang hell on generations of soldiers and she didn’t hope an 11-year-old got fckd.

    When I first read Deveny’s comments about Bindi Irwin, my first thought was “Oh, no. Every literal-minded, irony-impaired suburbanite out there is going to think she’s serious”, and there we have it.

    It’s embarrassing (for Pedro) that I have to spell this out, but Deveny was commenting ironically on the fact that a child was paraded on public television in an overtly sexualised manner because corporate pedophilia sells to an ignorant audience.

    Well done, Pedro. You’ve faithfully defended the sexualisation of children.

  23. Tobias Ziegler

    Pedro – visit Google, and include in the search this term:

    And what Devine has done doesn’t have to be equivalent to Deveny for it to be worth commenting on and worth monitoring for reactions. For mine, I don’t think Devine meant the homophobic implication that some have taken from her tweet. I’d imagine she would say that since Barbour suggested she does something that she genuinely believes she doesn’t do (attacking gays), she responded by suggesting that he does something he obviously doesn’t (rogering gerbils).

    But that doesn’t mean her tweet wasn’t offensive and a baseless personal attack, and certainly doesn’t justify such an unprofessional response to criticism of her work. Given that there’s been plenty of talk about the risks of social media in the past week, there’s good reason to continue the conversation with this latest example. And since she involved herself in that conversation by passing judgment on Deveny, I am interested in what explanatrion she’ll offer for her own social media adventures this weekend.

  24. confessions

    Okay, so no evidence of commenters here posting homophobic comments.

    Can we now get back to Devine’s brain snap and hypocracy about her ‘advice’ to Deveny?!

  25. monkeywrench

    {Snip – Let’s keep it on topic – Dave}

  26. Pedro

    Monkey. That takes me to a Crikey-wide search. Not much use.

  27. monkeywrench

    Addendum: the PP admin interposed a post after I typed post 23: should read “Pedro @22”

  28. monkeywrench

    [email protected]
    Top right-hand corner of the page, {snip}

  29. Pedro

    Point me to the search facility and I will happily oblige.

  30. quantize

    If there were any intellect employed in ANY of Devine’s columns this incident would be be vaguely surprising…but the fact the world is big enough to house two additional fools who would actually come here and defend her, knowing full well Devine’s long record of scapegoating and hate mongering through political loathing (much less the patently silly attempt to compare to Deveny)…we’ll that’s something quite ‘special’ innit?

    {Snip – let’s discuss issues rather than personalities – Dave}

  31. confessions

    [I’ve seen people here on this very blog resort to using gay slurs.]

    Highly unlikely. Egs please.

  32. Pedro

    Dave, you can’t compare the two.

    I’m not a fan of Devine, but she didn’t hang hell on generations of soldiers and she didn’t hope an 11-year-old got fckd.

    I’ve seen people here on this very blog resort to using gay slurs. Your admit hasn’t banned them.

  33. Dave Gaukroger

    Pedro, I think it will be interesting to see what the reaction to this is, whether Devine’s lack of restraint is a sign of new barbarism according to our moral guardians. I also think that it’s pretty funny that this little outburst came the same day as her article talking about not tarnishing the brand.

  34. Pedro

    Dave. Given your reply to Generic, I’m not sure I understand why you even bothered with the post.

    Obviously you don’t believe the two are even remotely comparable, so… what?

    A bit of tit for tat? Like the way kids play?

  35. Dan Cass

    Why anyone would argue with Devine, online, in-print or otherwise, is beyond me.

    Aren’t there better things to do in life?

  36. confessions

    [I’m not sure where you’re seeing the outrage or people trying to get Devine sacked over this comment. ]

    If she wasn’t sacked for seemingly inciting violence against ‘greenies’ and appearing to crow over the dead in the Vic bushfires, she won’t be sacked for (now deleted) homophobic tweets.

    It’s the “trashing the brand” observation of hers that provides the most mirth.

  37. Dave Gaukroger

    Generic Person @ 12, I’m not sure where you’re seeing the outrage or people trying to get Devine sacked over this comment.

    On the contrary, most of the responses to this seem to be people laughing at the irony of Devine’s unguarded moment coming hot on the heels of her article chiding Deveny for a lack of restraint.

  38. Bill

    Thanks for the clarification of the timeline. If that was actually her first response, then it’s a different situation. Does anyone know if they have a history of sparring on Twitter?

  39. Generic Person

    Compared to the long list of Deveny idiocies, all the manufactured outrage against Devine is really all about the crazy left trying to get a conservative columnist sacked.

  40. monkeywrench

    As a side-ordure of greasy fries, here’s Penbo in The Punch today:
    It hasn’t been a great week for social media. [….] it is often hijacked by blowhards such as Deveny with nothing of value to say.
    This from the outstanding social commentator who recently gave us this:
    As a parent, it does seem sad that a future generation of child smokers will now be priced out of the market. And while the jury might still be out on the links between smoking and illness, the Government has clearly thrown its lot in with the “it certainly appears to be quite dangerous” crowd.
    Jeez, Davo mate, I’m pissing myself with laughter.

  41. monkeywrench

    Sadly, we know that journalists aren’t usually sacked for hypocrisy. If that was the case, we would be free of Bolt, Ackerman, Blair and Devine. Whilst this exchange doesn’t surprise me, I doubt whether Fairfax will seek her head for it. Pity.

  42. confessions

    This is completely OT, but from the original article in question Cam links to, Devine writes:

    [That was the marriage which formed the climax of the original Sex and the City blockbuster, keeping millions of romantically inclined women of a certain age on the edge of their seats until true love triumphed at last with a walk down the aisle – in Vivienne Westwood champagne silk, of course.]

    That is *not* correct. When Carrie eventually married Big they exchanged vows in a registry office and she was wearing an antique suit of no label at all. She wore the Vivienne Westwood number for the first wedding attempt where Big was a no show. And yes, I am a SATC addict. 😀

    More seriously, in that article is it clear that Devine thinks feminists are opposed to “monogamous marriage and families”, which shows her understanding of feminism is very limited indeed. So I’m not surprised to read her pathetic and offensive attempt to brush aside the very legitimate gay rights issue of marriage equality. MAde all the more offensive by her tweet above.

    And yes, she obviously needs to heed her own advice when having brain explosions of her own on twitter. Is the SMH editor as gutless as the one at The Age? Time will tell.

  43. thewetmale

    The question of whether Miranda was harangued or not is also a little bit moot. As Jason has pointed out before, she’s a well known trollumnist so she should really be prepared for and expect provocative outrage in response to her columns. If she can’t help but respond with this kind of a retort, perhaps you could say that she’s just not cut out for that job.

    Quite frankly i’m surprised by this, normally on twitter you can see her gloating at the comments that her columns attract, although perhaps she’s responded like this before but it’s just that no one has thought to keep a record of it until now. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if this was a true reflection of her opinions and views towards anyone who isn’t heterosexual, but that’s a guess based on what i’ve read in her columns and not any personal contact with her.

  44. Evie

    As Cam Smith pointed out she wasn’t ‘harangued’ at all – it took one critical comment of her column to make the initial offensive remark and they argued about it afterwards. Clearly she realised the implication of her comments and deleted them.

    As much as I find Deveny unfunny I don’t believe she should have been sacked although it will send a warning to those who tweet on the job and aren’t comedians about watching what they say in particular company, as would be the case with all non-celebrity employees with desk jobs. I just think it’s incredibly funny that Miranda stood by her sacking for ‘trashing the brand’ despite Deveny not having the same relationship to the newspaper as standard journalists, and then proceeded to make a comment that was even more off-colour in context. Hoist by her own petard, indeed.

  45. Jason Wilson

    Bill, I reckon equivalence is hard to measure, but I’ll say this – after all the sanctimony about the Fairfax brand in her column yesterday – when as far as I’m concerned her and Deveny have similar MOs – she resorted to a homophobic insult when she was under pressure. It’s possible to ignore provocations on Twitter – I do it all the time. She engaged in the argument of her own volition. The fact that she went there means she at least deserves a bit of fun at her expense. And if you read the thread on the #rogeringgerbils tag on Twitter, you’ll find people are taking the opportunity.

  46. Cam Smith

    Oops… I meant previous column. It is precious in its own way though.

  47. Cam Smith

    I think the way that the Twitter Search thing has presented the convo gives the misleading impression that Devine finally ‘snaps’ after much haranguing.

    In fact, she is barely provoked at all.

    The convo goes like this – – the third tweet from the bottom is the start of the conversation. It is presumably in response to her column about Catherine Deveny, but is a reference to a precious column about gay marriage that Justin is obviously still annoyed about:

    The convo then goes down to the bottom, whereupon Devine sent Justin this Direct Message:

    Then the convo starts from the top of the screenshot.

  48. Dave Gaukroger

    Bill, unfortunately the conversation thread in the twitter search isn’t in exact chronological order, but it does look to me like the very first two comments are the one’s I posted.

  49. Bill

    It was a stupid thing to say, but it’s a false equivalence to compare that to Deveny’s behaviour. Deveny’s posts were calculated (or clueless) attention seeking.
    Devine was responding, in the heat of the moment, to someone who had already been going at her for a while. I’ve done the same when people have been pestering me. Regardless of what you think of either’s position, this guy had come out of nowhere and got her riled up. Deveny doesn’t have that excuse.

    While it’s true that people should remember that Twitter is a public forum, not appropriate for private conversations or thoughts, people should also refrain from using it as a medium for demanding that others engage them in debate. By the look of that archive, respectful debate had gone out the window long before the gerbil comment and that wasn’t all Miranda’s doing.

  50. Sancho

    Devine won’t get any real trouble for it because hate speech coming from conservative writers is popularly regarded as taking a stand against political correctness, while uncomfortable comments from a Deveny are an unacceptable moral danger.

    Deveny’s sacking reinforced that, because Fairfax apparently agrees.