Dear Mr Holleran,
You might wonder why someone like me has persevered for so long in regards to trying to persuade you to get rid of Kyle Sandilands? I would like to try and explain why. If nothing more, surely you must realise that to spend as long as I do emailing people, contacting sponsors, rallying friends to the point of ad nauseum on my FaceBook and Twitter pages, surely you must realise that I feel passionate about this, that I have something to say.
You can write me off, and the other 35,000+ others who signed a Petition to get rid of Kyle as “losers”, “fanatics”, “Sad people with nothing else to do with their lives”…any excuse that works for you! But I am none of these things. I lead an incredibly busy and fulfilling life, and have never been one to do something like this before. I really have very little time to become so involved in such a campaign. And I am not a militant-type person, always on whatever soap-box happens to be the flavour of the month. So, surely, at the very least, you could give me the time to explain why I feel so passionately about this. I know I will probably not change your mind, (all the pity). But at least I can say I tried; that I tried to make a difference and that I got off the fence and took a stand!
I am a teacher. I have been teaching now for 30 or so years. My present school is in one of the lowest socio-economic areas of Australia. Daily, we need to contend with fights, bullying, threats, abuse, sexist language, stand-over tactics, etc I used to teach at a Private Boys’ College. I was there as Head Of English and held the position of Campus Director, as well, and taught there for over 20 years. Recently, an ex-colleague of mine and I counted up how many cases of suicide we could recall, over the years, of our ex-students, (this being after they had left school). We totalled at least 18 students, over a 20-plus year period. These were kids from the so-called “good families”, kids who were most likely to be seen to have a bright future ahead.
I remember every one of those boys, Mr Holleran. At the time, there was no indication that this might be how they would chose to end their lives. But afterwards, in most cases, I could determine a common thread running through their school days! They were often the more sensitive kids, (not the Sports ‘jocks’); often more introverted, and definitely the butt end of the bullying and taunting that goes on in a class room. The most common taunt a boy can use at another boy is “You’re fat”; “You’re Gay”, “I’m going to get you.” With anyone with a healthy self-esteem, these taunts would be water off a duck’s back to me. (Well, not sure about the treat to be “got’! Never nice to be threatened, is it?). But, to some, these really are horrible taunts that they live in fear of.
Mr Holleran, maybe you have never been bullied. I don’t know you. From my experience, those who condone bullying have either never been at the receiving end, so cannot possibly understand it. Or they have been so severely bullied themselves, that they seek refuge in becoming bullies themselves, or by condoning it, and so managed to save themselves in this way.
I can promise you, it happens every day in classrooms all over Australia, and it is not something we can ignore. As a consequence of my many years as a teacher, I became more involved in working with teachers to recognise and try and prevent suicide and other consequences of bullying. I have worked now in this capacity for many years.
The other side of the coin is the intimidation and threats that we, as teachers, also have to endure. Why should I, as a teacher, be told by a student, that he will ‘get me’, “hunt me down” ? Why should I, simply because I am doing my job in a calm, logical, non-threatening manner, be called a “Fat Slag”? Why should anyone in a position where they are requited to deal with people, be threatened in such a way? This happens day in and day out in many schools.
I wrote to Kyle Sandilands at one stage and politely invited him to witness what happens in a classroom. Needless to say, he didn’t even have the courtesy to respond. I send the same Challenge to you…you are welcome to come into my classroom and see exactly how a role model like Kyle Sandilands impacts upon the most vulnerable and impressionable in our society.
Of course I am not naïve enough to blame all of society’s ills on Mr Sandilands. But I do hold those who speak publicly in such a foul way, accountable to some degree. By allowing him a voice, you too must hold some of that accountability.
Some people have huge charisma and can sway impressionable people; for this very reason, their responsibility becomes a two-edged sword. They can entertain (the clever ones do) and eductate. But others just ride rough-shod over everyone they see as a threat to their own established place in their own perceived hierarchy. They should be held accountable by society for the immense power they wield. They own society some sense of responsibility, surely, for being given the opportunity to use the radio as their public forum. Of course, radio can be and should be entertaining. And provocative! It should encourage debate, challenge our perceptions, comfort-zones, etc. But surely not at the expense of other peoples’ sense of self-worth? In this, I believe Kyle Sandiland fails to live up to the responsibilities of being given “public voice”. I am not saying he should always be serious, and pc. But he surely should not abuse people simply because he perceives them as being weaker or different or lesser beings than he is. He should not abuse people for having a different perspective on life than he does. He should not threaten those who have a different viewpoint to his.
I also have great 'power' as a teacher. Imagine if I used my 'power' to intimidate and bully: society would give me short shrift. Imagine if I used my classroom as my own personal soapbox to down-cry everything in society that I hate? People would surely criticise me very vocally...and so they should! Some of us are in positions where it becomes very easy for us to manipulate people's viewpoints, by using our own forums to put forward our personal viewpoints. This doesn't mean that we should! I am responsible for moulding young minds. And so is Kyle Sandilands! He has a social responsibility, in amongst all the entertainment, to model society’s norms.
I think you were stated, when the ACMA’s ruling came out, that decency was hard to define. It really isn’t! I am sure you do not derive all your entertainment from listening to the likes of misogyny, threats, put-downs, jokes at the expense of others. I cannot believe a man in your position would! So…why do you condone the rest of society having to be affected by this horrible behaviour?
I must say I am so tired of those saying “Well, if you don’t like it, turn it off.” I do, of course. And, to be honest, I am sure you do too. I am sure you do not get your daily entertainment by listening to Mr Sandiland’s brand of ‘humour’. I am sure you would not want your own children listening solely to Mr Sandiland. You are an educated man! You can make these choices. Unfortunately, there are many out there who do not, can not make these educated choices. Are you so far removed from society that you are not aware that these people are out there? I cannot believe that!
So Kyle Sandilands becomes their spokesperson, the one who ‘gives the finger’ to the rest of society, the one who can ‘tell it like it is’ (because they themselves are so disenfranchised and powerless; they live vacuously through Kyle ‘sticking the boot in’). They listen to him; they emulate his way of talking, his anger, his misogyny (affected or not, I really don’t know).
And so they spread the rot!
I am NOT a wowser; I am not someone who is all ‘pc’ and can never have a joke. I can laugh at many ‘unacceptable’ things, most certainly within the privacy of my own group of friends.
However, what is simply not acceptable is when someone like Kyle Sandilands continually gains mileage and self-elevation through belittling, threatening language publicly!
I do not believe that “Free Speech” entitles anyone to say what they want to in public. If Kyle has so much trouble disguising his apparent hatred and disrespect for society, I think he should find another venue or medium!
I can only ask you to reflect, in good conscience, on this.
Removing Kyle Sandilands won’t undo all the woes of the world. But it will surely help the one or two, or several, or hundreds who are told daily that they will be ‘hunted down’ simply for having an opinion, simply for being different; simply for being of a perceived ‘lesser’ gender, race, ability, or what ever Kyle Sandilands thinks is less important than his own highly-inflated self-importance!
With respect, and in good conscience, I remain