When Marieke Hardy – writer / creator of ABC comedy series Laid and former breakfast presenter on ABC radio station TripleJ, amongst many other strings to her media bow – updated her blog on Tuesday, she promoted it via Twitter with these words…
I name and shame my ‘anonymous’ internet bully. Liberating business! Join me!
This tweet was then re-tweeted more than 100 times, which caused her blog site to be throttled to such an extent that anyone visiting on Wednesday night got only a “site quota exceeded” message. Then there was a new blog from Hardy Thursday entitled “Too much traffic equals blog meltdown equals…”. It’s contents were simply…
Enough oxygen. It’s a sign from the baby Jebus.
In Hardy’s site-crashingly-popular – and now pulled – blog she named and posted a photograph of a man she says has “had a bee in his bonnet about me for over five years”. She went on to describe how this man posted anonymous comments on her old blog, and then started up his own blog “seemingly with the singular purpose of letting people know what a tedious harpy I was”.
Upon reading the blog in question, we couldn’t help but agree with Hardy that the posts featured there are “rambling” and “poisonous”. They also seem to us to be written by someone with A LOT of problems, mainly about women expressing their sexuality. He may have some valid points in there somewhere about cronyism in the media, but it’s unlikely you’d want to wade through all the bile to find them.
Hardy says she was prompted to name and shame this man by the #mencallmethings campaign, which has been a much-discussed online in recent days and originated from two articles published in New Statesman and The Guardian last week. As these articles rightly point out, female writers, bloggers and opinion-givers receive an unjustifiable amount of personally abusive and sexually threatening comments from men online. A number of women writers have come out with shocking stories and spoken of how comments of this nature have made them want to give up writing. Clearly this is not a good situation, whatever you think of the work of the likes of Marieke Hardy.
What we question, though, is Hardy’s decision to name and shame this particular man. If she was at the point where she had evidence that it was him – and she says she’s known for months – could she not have gone to the police or lawyers? Did the #mencallmethings campaign just make her snap after years of anger, and then pull the piece when sense (or possibly wise counsel)* caught up with her? And what of this from her original blog:
Since discovering his identity I think any real potency behind [his] hate blogs has dissipated completely. He just seems like a fairly sad man who should probably find another hobby.
If that’s what she really thinks then why write the piece at all?
This is a difficult, complex topic. You have a well-connected but lacklustre writer who writes largely about herself and her sex life, whose work has attracted years of unjustifiable, sexist abuse from an anonymous man. The man in question has a couple of decent points to make, but seems only to be able to make them via the aforementioned unjustifiable, sexist abuse. And finally, there’s the legal system, which has proven time and time again to be incapable of dealing with sexual abuse of women without making those women victims suffer again and again for it. You can see why a victim might take the law into their own hands, but enlisting your online followers in this fight hardly seems fair.
As for why we in particular care… well, Hardy – in her guise as television writer – seems to have found a niche as a comedy writer with Laid. And as we’ve mentioned in the past, at the moment there’s a bit of a pushback from the comedy community against social media in general. This is an extreme and very personal example of it, but it’s an example nonetheless: someone’s gone online to rail against a comedian they don’t like, and the comedian’s swung back.
While we’d be the first to suggest Hardy’s writing isn’t all that funny – look up our posts on Laid and you’ll see we already have – in one way it’s easy to see why she’s been lumped in with actual comedians: like many of the best comedians, her work is intensely personal. For one, you can’t imagine anyone else writing much of her column work, though that’s mostly because pretty much all of it is about herself and her somewhat cultivated quirks (she loves Bob Ellis! she doesn’t mind getting her gear off!).
More than just about anyone working in Australian comedy at the moment, the focus of Marieke Hardy’s work is Marieke Hardy. She’s put a lot of time and effort into cultivating and promoting her “sexy / quirky / smart” image (there aren’t a lot of other comedians in this country putting out topless promotional photos of themselves), and we’re hardly the first or the only critics to suggest that lead character Roo in Laid was a very thinly disguised version of Hardy’s public persona. And as is often the case, when someone – in this case, someone who’s writing takes a deeply unpleasant tone – wants to take a swing at a comedian who talks about their personal life, their personal life is what they attack.
None of this in any way excuses anyone making a personal attack on her. We do think it’s worth pointing out that if someone’s entire act is based around “LOOK AT ME!!” right down to publishing a collection of stories about their relationships with a drawing of them on the cover (as shown here), then it’s even more important than usual to keep the focus on the work, not the person who created it. Those who dislike Hardy’s work should bear that in mind. She does have over 50,000 twitter followers she can sic on you, for one.
*Or perhaps the author of the Hardy-hating blog was telling the truth when he claimed (the day after Hardy’s post) that he in fact wasn’t the person Hardy named. Supposedly he’d used his top-level I.T. skills to shift blame / her attention onto an innocent third party, who he then suggested could cash in big by suing Hardy over her post.
Coda: It seems that Hardy’s brief attack worked: the blogger she targeted has announced he’ll be closing his blog down in a few weeks. He still claims to not be the person Hardy named & shamed though.
I had a look at the guy’s blog and it’s pretty bad, whoever it is.
I think one of the worst things about abuse like this is the way it can lock writers into a defensive pattern. People like this have give Marieke Hardy a handy creepy-sexist-dickhead-shaped box into which they can place anyone that doesn’t like her work and dismiss any criticism.
You can see writers who start out relatively normal but get a few too many horrible comments and start taking them too much to heart. You can start to believe that all the people who disagree with you look like that. You end up directing all of your writing at arguing with people who are insane and sounding almost as insane as them. That seems to be a part of what’s driven Catherine Deveny on her journey from mildly annoying to boderline incoherent. There’s a weird mindset where your friends who think the same as you do all tell you your brilliant and a bunch of horrible people tell you they hate you, and both kinds of feedback are equally welcome and start to be equally sought when you write.
Hardy really is a bad writer, but all this guy’s achieved is to let her and her friends go on believing that the only people who think that are scary serial killers who can’t spell. We haters need to stay focused on the work.
To those on the receiving end: I know it’s easy for me to say it and I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to read a torrent of abuse every time you put fingers to keys, but please try to ignore the crazies. Focus on engaging with your real audience who actually read what you’re saying and think about it. Some of us still don’t like you but at least you have a chance to change our minds.
I disagree that Hardy’s campaign against this guy “hardly seems fair” as you say, especially as you have pointed out that various methods – including the legal system ones – of dealing with him are probably not effective.
If nothing else, her campaign shows this person that she has backup – lots of backup.
This group support can show him that he is not abusing a lone woman, but one with friends and therefore he should be careful about his abuse, which might escalate to something more.
Perhaps you too should keep your commentary to Hardy’s work, rather than her innocuous methods of dealing with harassment. After all, what ever stuff she deals him online he can always turn off the computer and tuck himself into bed knowing that he will not suffer the risk of sexual or other physical assault from her. This is not something that can always be said of people who harass female writers.
If you re-read our post, you’ll see that Hardy’s work – that is, her posting a public message on her public blog that she uses to promote herself and her work – is the only aspect of her “dealing with harassment” we discussed. You’ll also note that we had nothing positive at all to say about the person harassing her, describing his work repeatedly as “unjustifiable, sexist abuse”.
As this seems to be currently the subject of legal action – according to Crikey.com, “The target of an online shaming by ABC star Marieke Hardy has initiated legal action” – rest assured we won’t be discussing it further.
Hardy has since been forced to pay $13,000 in an out-of-court settlement in an anti-defamation case brought by the man she “named and shamed”.
I guess the hate-blogger wasn’t lying when he said he wasn’t the guy she named.
This whole situation is deeply odd. Presumably we’ll never know the real story behind why she thought it was someone who – according to some reports at least – hadn’t even moved to Australia when the hate blog started up.
There’s a bit more detail in this article (though keep in mind while reading it that if you’re the one having to pay out in a defamation case, you’re not usually referred to as “the victim”)