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Welcome to the Glasshouse, where even Tim Minchin is afraid

By Sonia Bowditch - posted Monday, 24 June 2019

The bible says 'Let him who is without sin cast the first stone'. Starting things off with a bible quote is not very popular, I know. Just ask Disney, who removed any trace of Christianity from their latest film Tolkein, even though the author's works, most notably Lord of the Rings, were heavily inspired by his faith.

I guess Disney must know that Christianity is an 'unwoke' topic for discussion in the social media glasshouse. I guess Disney didn't want any stones flung at them. For make no mistake, in this age of online sharing, we are all living in one big glasshouse and stones are being flung aplenty.

And it doesn't matter who you are, if you've said or done anything on the scale of remotely off-taste to glaringly stupid, you'll be raked over the coals for it. Even if it was when you were young and silly. There's no escaping.


But punishing people for online misdemeanours is fraught with danger. We tell our children not to worry if they do something stupid, either online or in real life. We worry about suicide. We tell them 'one mistake does not define you'. But this is no longer true. Expose yourself in the glasshouse and your life can be ruined.

Here's just a sample of what's happening in the glasshouse these days:

Famous people make an 'off' comment and are attacked by the twitterati, like Meryl Streep, who dared to suggest that 'we hurt our boys by using the term toxic masculinity.' Her comment was written off, with many a patronising feminist admonishing that she was plain wrong or so dumb that she didn't understand what the term meant.

Students have their university places rescinded due to racist or sexist comments they have made online, sometimes years ago, most notably Kyle Kashuv from Harvard(in addition to another ten students previously who were found to have posted offensive content in a private Facebook chat). In the current Kashuv case, social media talk is all about enforcing the notion that we should teach our children to be careful with their digital footprint. The sad truth here is that while kids have always experimented with ideas through conversation, saying things to each other that the general public may consider vile, those conversations are now indelibly available in print form and are being used against them. Furthermore, in relation to Kashuv, there was supposedly an '"online mob" that pressured Harvard into rescinding his acceptance.'

Comedians make tasteless jokes, risking a shattering of their careers. English comedian Jo Brand is being investigated by police after she joked about throwing battery acid over politicians. Sure, it's pretty violent and perhaps not funny, but still, police?

Awards are renamed because today's keyboard juries decree that the namesakes no longer pass the moral test (Laura Ingalls Wilder, Barry Humphries).


Cities are re-naming streets based on the public opinion of some, who declare that the men after whom the streets are named are not worthy; their history is too grubby. In Canberra alone, two such cases are likely to proceed: Haig Park, named after British Army Commander Douglas Haig. Some maintain he commanded admirably over great WWI victories, but the complainants maintain that too many (Australian) lives were lost under his command. William Slim Drive, named after our 13th Governor General, a decorated soldier but posthumously accused of sexual abuse. Both men have their champions and detractors, but pressure from the latter looks like it will have its desired effect.

Of course, when it comes to serious crime, those found guilty should be punished, no matter the time frame. That is why, for example, California ended its statute of limitations on rape after the Bill Cosby revelations. And it's vital that we remember the crimes of the past, hence why we don't seek to ban certain historical texts from circulation, such as Hitler's Mein Kampf. But these days, people are strung up for much less serious crimes and are being 'cancelled' by society for expressing the wrong opinion or suggesting there may be another way to interrogate a mainstream view.

We can't expect people to have spotless histories. If anything, we should be more lenient because things are so out in the open in this internet age. In this era of over sharing, we need to be more forgiving, not less. And we should be able to express ourselves without the fear of shame and social exile.

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About the Author

Sonia is a Canberra-based freelance writer who likes to pitch her thoughts on society and culture in Australia. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the ANU and a Masters in Writing from Swinburne. Her website is

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