Middle-Class Social Media User Claims Satirical Skit “Deeply Offensive To Homeless People”

This has to be an example of ‘outrage culture’ at its very best.

Following a skit by comedian Tom Gleeson on the 26 August episode of the ABC’s “The Weekly with Charlie Pickering”, which ostensibly satirised attitudes towards the homeless both here and overseas, there was apparently yet more social media ‘outrage’.

It should be noted that Gleeson’s skit satirized attitudes towards the homeless, not homeless people themselves. Clearly,  satirical comedy on free-to-air television still has more than its quota of idiots with no concept of satire tuning in. More’s the pity.

““That skit was deeply offensive to homeless people,” said one angry person on Twitter”… according to a news.com.au article.

“…said one angry person on Twitter”? WTF? I’ve seen and heard anger before. Of all the things I can imagine being screamed hysterically or emanating from a shaking red face, all twitching and contorted with rage, hissing through gritted teeth and with little bits of spit coming out, the statement “that skit was deeply offensive to homeless people” isn’t one of them. But I digress.

So this one supposedly ‘angry’ person… what do we know about them? As usual where social media ‘outrage’ is concerned, not very much. But it’s fun trying to imagine!

WeeklyHomelessFor starters, who’d actually say something like this? Would they be more likely to be a girl or a guy? I think a guy. Probably late-20s or very early-30s. A big beard, maybe? Masses of heavily product-laden hair with a side-parting sharp enough to cut your hand on, perhaps? Caramel or dark blue skinny chinos, possibly rolled at the cuffs? Big hiking boots? Maybe a red tartan flanno? Funky spectacles that could well be more decorative than prescription? Like most hipsters, I imagine our complainant to basically be the love child of Ned Kelly and the Monty Python lumberjack.

So there he is, tucked up all warm and dry in his comfortable home, probably stretched out on a nice squishy sofa, warm drink on the table opposite, belly still full from the meal he consumed an hour ago, watching “The Weekly with Charlie Pickering”, via Foxtel, on his 65″ Sony Bravia Ultra HD 3D TV. As he watches, the division of his fortnightly pay for monthly bills, social activities, his next O/S jaunt and his growing mortgage deposit is floating about vaguely in the back of his mind; he also reminds himself that he needs to fill the SUV with 98-RON Premium fuel on his way to the office in the morning.

In among all that, our totally not-homeless person somehow managed to focus for long enough to get angry about this one three-minute satirical sketch. So angry, in fact, that he took to a social media app on his smartphone to claim that it was “deeply offensive to homeless people”… oh fuck off, you massive wanker!

OK, so even if our angry outrager isn’t anything like the way my cynical imagination constructed him, the fact remains that he’s either had a sense of humour by-pass or has no concept whatsoever of irony or satire – either of which only makes me wonder why he was watching “The Weekly with Charlie Pickering” in the first place.

Homeless, are you? Know any homeless people, do you? Sat at least one homeless person down, in the comfort of your home, and had them watch the sketch, before asking their opinion of it, did you? If the answer to all three questions is “no” – which I suspect it might be – then just fuck off!

When will people stop getting outraged on behalf of other people they obviously don’t know and clearly know nothing about? It’s just not necessary for the well-heeled and comfortably middle-class to make assumptions about how the lower echelons of society might possibly feel about stuff! It’s even less necessary when their outrage is entirely due to their own flawed understanding of what they witnessed, rather than anything that was genuinely and intentionally offensive. They only make themselves look like faux-outrage wankers which, I’m pretty certain, does nothing to help the homeless in the end.

Here’s a novel idea: instead of all the stupid, pointless outrage on social media, perhaps our man could get off his arse, leave his comfortable home and do something tangible for all the homeless folk he believes were so deeply offended by something the majority of them would never have even seen, rather than merely jumping to their defence on fucking Twitter.

On the list of things that are utterly unlikely to ever happen, I wonder how highly our outrager would rate that idea?

Bad Money After Good?

FeesChargesWe’ve all heard the thing about not throwing good money after bad, but what about not throwing bad money after good? And what if there’s no choice?

There’s little doubting the ease and efficiency inherent in online shopping. Whether groceries, car insurance, bank accounts, clothes, music, homewares, collectibles or items of a more personal or intimate nature, there’s virtually no end to the list of what we can get our grubby little mitts on, having expended little more effort than a couple of swipes, taps, touches or clicks and all from the comfort of just about anywhere.

There can be just as little doubting the perceived risks and obvious downsides of online shopping: deliveries tampered with or lost, personal or financial details compromised, wrong items or wrong sizes received – and even if it’s not really the case, exchanges by mail always seem a whole lot less convenient than just walking back into a shop.

But none of these is the most insidious element of online shopping. That title goes to fees.

Fees are often the most mysterious, vague and difficult to justify ingredient of the entire online purchase process and the worst one of all is the ubiquitous “service/delivery fee”. Precisely what a “service/delivery fee” is actually for is something I’ve never really understood, particularly given that many online purchase processes are now almost entirely automated and with only a smattering of human involvement, if any at all.

So what kind of “service/delivery fee” should I reasonably expect to be charged if nothing’s actually being physically delivered to me, nor has any service been provided other than what was needed to complete the transaction? How does this so-called “service/delivery fee” stack up in the context of, for example, shopping online for tickets to a show or concert? A brief Q&A paints a pretty clear picture:

  • Q: Can I always elect to buy tickets online? A: Yes, almost without exception.
  • Q: Do I always expect to pay a fee to have said tickets issued to me? A: Again, yes, almost without exception.
  • Q: Can I always elect to receive my tickets via email or some other digital means? A: No.
  • Q: Should I expect to pay somewhere between “less than for a paper ticket” and “nothing at all” for an online or digital ticket delivery option? A: Unless I wish to brook disappointment, it’s probably best not to entertain such lofty expectations.

And if the last two points seem a bit difficult to believe, look no further than the image below – proof, if any were needed, that it’s still entirely possible to buy tickets online without the option of online delivery. It’s a tad difficult to fathom in 2015.ServiceDeliveryFee

But even when a so-called eTicket option is offered, at best it might see a marginal reduction of the “service/delivery fee”, though often all delivery options – physical or not – attract exactly the same fee. The deeper you dig, the clearer the inequity becomes.

For example, can I buy show tickets online and choose not to have any ticket of any kind issued to me in any way? No, of course I can’t. Obviously I need something to show at the venue on the night if I actually want to get in. So if there’s no way of me attending the event for which I’m purchasing the ticket without said ticket, how can Ticketek and Ticketmaster justify charging a fee to give it to me? For my transaction to be considered complete, receiving my ticket clearly isn’t optional, so I’m left scratching my head. This just doesn’t add up.

These days, most organisations have diverted their customers online for practically everything, ostensibly in a bid to reduce overheads and other costs. Anachronistically, however, the Ticketmasters and Ticketeks of the world seem content to continue preying on the public’s insatiable appetite for entertainment, while offering almost no incentive for showgoers to avoid overhead-laden purchase options.

Maybe it’s time our friendly ticket vendors started naming their “Service/Delivery Fee” for what it really is – a convenience fee.

Quite how any service provider (without its tongue firmly planted in its cheek) can justify charging $8 for a PDF document that’s automatically generated and sent by email without any human intervention is, at best, a mystery and, at worst, a clear example of how the event ticketing industry continues to thumb its corporate nose at every single one of its customers.

Let’s not forget that Ticketek and Ticketmaster have already been taken to task multiple times about this stuff. Between 2009 and 2012 both were heavily and loudly criticised by consumer media for excessive fees, lack of information and for complex and non-transparent pricing. Ticketek was also fined $2.5 million by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for “misusing its market power”. Yet both organisations flourish, despite continuing to show such obvious contempt for their customers.

By way of comparison, $8 also gets me a physical copy of a glossy monthly magazine, printed, bound and distributed monthly to newsagents all over the country; or an adult-sized fast food meal, made to order by human hands; or a peak rail fare for the 160km journey from Sydney to Newcastle; or four-and-a-half loaves of supermarket-brand bread or about five-and-a-half litres of E10 petrol… you get the picture. 

So what it comes down to is that I use my internet connection and my data to purchase my ticket, then have to pay the same amount I’d spend on a magazine, some bad food, a long train ride, enough bread to make 100 sandwiches, or a splash of petrol just so I can download a picture of my eTicket using my mobile phone or print the thing out on my paper using my printer ink… something still isn’t adding up here!

Imagine going into a shop, paying for what you want and then being charged an additional fee for the shop assistant to actually hand over your goods? Or paying for a flight and being charged extra for a seat, despite it being mandatory to be allocated a seat and to be seated at specific times during any given flight. Surely, both of these are utterly ludicrous and could never actually happen… right? But neither of them is so very different to being charged for a ticket that, one way or another, you must be given.

I mean, even the banks manage to get around it by only charging ATM fees for using other banks’ machines. Even the banks! Even the former public enemy #1 where hidden and/or exorbitant fees were concerned! Eventually they saw (or were shown) the light and transactions like ATM withdrawals now have a significant edge over transactions like online ticket purchases for one key reason: the banks allow us to make a conscious choice to either accept fees or avoid them. 

Banks and their customers have hardly looked back ever since the current arrangement came into being; meanwhile, for some reason the near duopoly of Ticketek and Ticketmaster still don’t seem to feel their customers need any choice at all.

But don’t get me wrong – while they may not yet be charging us extra for a seat, the airlines are just as bad, if not worse, than event ticketers. More often than not, airlines are hands down the worst offenders where it comes to hidden costs, unclear fees, whopping great surcharges and a lack of choice. At least some of them now offer customers a way to avoid surcharges for online purchases by offering a fee-free alternative, although given it relies on a bank-to-bank transfer from a debit account, it isn’t the answer for all travellers.

Recently I was sucked in by Jetstar’s ‘Take A Friend for FREE’ promotion. $105 for not one, but two tickets all the way to the other end of the country – how could I resist? Having flown Jetstar many times, I knew precisely what trickery to expect from their online booking process – too many clicks, endless counter-intuitive screens, and text dressed up to look like a standard choice when in fact it’s a pre-selected extra-cost option – for my convenience, you understand. It’s all right there, hidden in plain sight.

To see what I’d potentially be up for if I hadn’t been prepared or wasn’t paying attention, I walked through the full online booking form without avoiding any of the optional bits they up-sold, nor removing anything they’d added in or turned on for my convenience: 2 flights, a Service/Booking Fee, a $17.50 fee (!) for paying with a MasterCard, a ‘Max’ bundle for two people, 20kg of checked baggage per person there and back, SMS itineraries, Jetstar Club membership for two, a pre-purchased meal for two both ways, an in-flight purchase voucher per person both ways, a per person entertainment card both ways, a per person pre-selected seat per flight, Travel Insurance for two people, pre-purchase airport parking (costing more than the alleged price of the flight) and a fee to “Hold This Fare” for 96 hours… all for the grand total of $1,221.70!

$1,221.70 for a $105 flight.

All the asterisks and small print in the world won’t make a purposefully deceptive online process any clearer. Nor do they justify forcing prospective customers to concentrate way harder than they should have to, just to ensure they don’t pay for anything they don’t need.

The good news doesn’t end there, either. If you let Jetstar known that you accidentally selected the wrong date (probably while you were focussed on avoiding all that other crap) they’ll allow you to change it… then charge you $80 for the privilege, plus any difference between the price you paid at the time and the current price for the same fare. Even if you let them know within 60 minutes of making the booking and even if that booking’s for a flight that’s more than four months away, they’ll still hit you up for another $80, just so someone in their call centre – who openly acknowledges that it’s an awful fee to have to impose but that their system doesn’t allow them not to – can press a couple of buttons to change the date to the following week. 

If I was requesting such a change the day before the erroneously booked flight, I might expect to be charged something. But four months in advance and less than an hour after I accidentally took that one seat on that one flight out of circulation? It’s not like Jetstar will struggle to re-sell that seat (to someone else who doesn’t realize they just paid for the privilege of choosing a seat they didn’t know they were choosing), is it? It’s just another massive airline piss-take.

And while we’re on the topic – a $17.50 fee for using Mastercard… WTF? Merchants (i.e. Jetstar) are generally charged around 0.4% of the transaction value by the scheme (i.e. Mastercard) to process payments. In the case of my $105 ticket plus $8.50 booking fee and no other optional extras whatsoever despite Jetstar’s best efforts, the scheme fee levied against Jetstar would’ve been less than 50 cents. So what, exactly, is the other $17 for, Jetstar? Go on, put some spin on your 4,000% mark-up, I’m dying to hear the explanation!

Of course, it’s all our own fault in the end. As long as we keep buying tickets and flights online and keep copping these outrageous fees and charges without question, they’ll just keep charging them, won’t they? In the age of ‘user pays’, we’ve become our own worst enemy.

Why Outrage Culture Is Stifling Marriage Equality Debate

MarriageEqualityHello. My name’s Matt and I’m a ranty old man. I’m also gay. Not making a big statement there, but it’s worth reiterating given the issue we’re about to look at.

I’ve probably always had a bit of a rebellious streak about me. I don’t care for the zombie-like drudgery of 9-to-5 culture. I don’t care for things being done for the sake of doing them. I’ve never much cared for pointless or self-appointed authority and I’ve never liked being told what to do, not by anyone.

If there’s one thing I hate even more than being told what to do, it’s being told what I can’t do. I get particularly riled by instructions that serve no clear purpose, or which effectively constitute legalised discrimination.

I don’t much care for relationships either. The idea of being legally and emotionally entangled with one person for the rest of eternity fills me with abject horror. Once marriage equality finally comes to pass, you’re more likely to find me hitching up my skirts and heading for the hills at the merest suggestion of nuptials.

But choosing not to enter into the solemn bonds of the sanctity of marriage is an entirely different proposition to not having the choice to enter into them at all.

Tell me it can’t happen because it’s physically or scientifically impossible and I’ll walk away from the whole thing as something that would be illogical to expend energy and emotion on. Tell me it can’t happen because it doesn’t fit with some fundamentally misunderstood and selectively remembered “traditional definition” and you’ll have a fight on your hands.

Bottom line: the only people who will ever be directly and materially impacted by the passing or defeating of a marriage equality bill are gay couples who want to marry. Stuff their family and friends! Sure they know the couple and they want to see them happy, yada yada yada… that’s all well and good, but none of it makes the situation theirs. The couples themselves are the only ones missing out. The way the outraged generation have inserted themselves into every orifice of this debate – as with so many others – has only muddied the waters of something that should be criminally simple.

So no more debate, please! It’s way past the point of having become counter-productive.

As if the endless debate hasn’t been damaging enough, the outraged generation  – in tandem with the media’s predisposition to all things ‘equality’ – is now unashamedly shutting down proponents of traditional marriage. That’s definitely no good thing. While it may appear that marriage equality is the topic of the moment for supporters, for those who never had a strong opinion either way, or for anyone open-minded enough to have revised their position, that doesn’t mean it really is, nor that everyone feels the same way.

Just as it would be unacceptable to cajole everyone into having the same beliefs on any other issue, it’s equally unacceptable to turn supporters of traditional marriage into social pariahs. Imagine the uproar if the shoe were on the other collective foot and it was the marriage equality lobbyists being summarily silenced – oh, the online outrage that would ensue! Even now, I can see all the melodramatic hashtags representing all the things that most hashtag users would never actually say in real life.

Let’s call a spade a spade: anyone with any significant concern about homosexuality is thinking far more about intimate acts between consenting adults than they’re willing to admit. But I’ll never ask them anything about what happens in their bedrooms, so I don’t expect them to be concerned about what happens in mine. I don’t define anyone by the where, when, who and how often of their sex life, just as I don’t expect anyone else to define me by the same narrow criteria.

At any rate, this debate isn’t about sex, so the viewpoints of anyone whose position** is rooted** in sex are entirely irrelevant. And that’s not me contradicting what I just said, either, it’s simply my position on theirs. They’ve as much right to their points of view as I have to dismiss them. I don’t attempt to silence them and I don’t vehemently argue against them. I simply dismiss them, in my own way, as respectfully as I can.

Because, as a gay man, realistically I can’t give a damn what supporters of traditional marriage think about marriage equality. That they support traditional marriage tells me all I need to know and that’s an end to it. Any finer points and qualifying comments are moot at best. Equally, we don’t need the topic debated to within an inch of its life by those who espouse the virtues of equality by quoting report after report, case study after case study and an endless list of ‘real world examples’ that support why marriage equality must be embraced as a good thing.

I don’t necessarily want the whole world to think marriage equality is a good thing. I don’t necessarily want the opposite either but, more importantly, I don’t want to live in a world where everyone thinks the same thing as everyone else. And I don’t want to live in a world where public opinion is not just influenced but determined by journalists and social media. I want to live in a world where it’s still OK that some people prefer dogs to cats, some prefer Samsung to Apple, some prefer Vegemite to Peanut Butter and some prefer Holden to Ford. I want to live in a world where it’s OK for some boys to prefer marrying boys than girls and some girls to prefer marrying girls than boys. Choice is a good thing. Acceptance is even better.

But let’s keep one critical point in mind with all of this: just because a marriage equality bill passes doesn’t mean automatic acceptance. It doesn’t mean that discrimination will end. Legalising something isn’t synonymous with everything becoming all rainbows, flowers and sunshine.

Today, worldwide, minority groups of all descriptions are discriminated against; many Australians are still, by and large, racist – or at least xenophobic; our indigenous population is still widely discriminated against; some Australians are ageist; some don’t like people of a different colour or religion; granting Australian women and indigenous people the legal right to vote had to go to a referendum; gays and lesbians broke the law every time they had sex until as recently as the mid-1980s; otherly-abled Australians are often discriminated against in a variety of ways; Australian women still apparently struggle for equal pay; indigenous Australians are still in debate with the federal government about how – or even if – they should be represented in the Constitution. Discriminating against anyone on any of these bases is already illegal, but the illegality of the act does nothing to quell the emotion behind it. Prejudice is driven by emotion, not logic, and discrimination and prejudice are everywhere.

Ultimately, some people just don’t like homosexuals, for whatever reason, nor the idea of homosexuals polluting the ‘traditional definition’ of marriage. A marriage equality bill isn’t going to change that. You can’t make people think, feel or believe something they don’t. Passing something into law isn’t a magic potion.

But like anything else that suffers from overexposure, people will eventually switch off – and overexposed is absolutely what the marriage equality issue has become. It needs to be resolved far sooner than the Abbott Government is currently saying it will be. It needs support from as many people as are willing to raise their hand in its support. But the one thing it absolutely doesn’t need is any more debate.



** double entendre not initially intended, but warmly embraced and enthusiastically acknowledged!