IT’S not surprising that The Sydney Morning Herald finally moved to discipline its Saturday columnist Mike Carlton. What’s surprising is that it took so long to do so.
Yesterday Carlton told the Crikey website that he was the victim of a co-ordinated campaign to oust him from the SMH by the Jewish lobby. He also claimed that he finally “hit back” on “half-a-dozen” occasions and “told people to get f. ked” only after receiving endless abuse following his column on Israel and Gaza, which was published on July 26.
Clearly Carlton is in denial. He was not sacked on account of his column critical of Israel, which was illustrated by an anti-Semitic cartoon, concerning which the SMHgrudgingly apologised last Monday. Not at all.
Carlton advised Crikey that “a man called Sean Aylmer moved against” him. Carlton seems unaware that Aylmer is the former editor-in-chief of the SMH who was promoted to the position of group director, business media last year. Aylmer decided to suspend Carlton for a period of four to six weeks because of the manner in which he responded to his readers in his capacity as an SMH columnist. The SMH’s current editor-in-chief, Darren Goodsir, supported this decision.
Some of Carlton’s tweets and emails were published in The Australian yesterday. They include Carlton’s reference to a reader as a “Jewish bigot” and telling others to “f. k off” and “piss off”.
Carlton has been abusing his readers for years — a fact that is documented in my Media Watch Dog blog. For example, in August 2012 a reader wrote to Carlton criticising an attack he made on Liberal MP Dennis Jensen. whom Carlton ridiculed due to his South African background. Carlton responded in schoolboy German, telling his reader to “kiss my arse” and describing him as a “f. kwit”.
In September last year Carlton got into another row with a couple of his readers. His response was the familiar “So f. k off the two of you”. Last week, Carlton referred to the comedian Austen Tayshus as a “ridiculous turd”.
Previously he had mocked journalist Miranda Devine by suggesting she enjoyed group sex with NSW police. Apparently Carlton believes that such writing is clever and witty. It’s just abuse.
The editorial team at the SMH has been aware of Carlton’s indiscretions for years.
Last November I specifically warned Goodsir that the SMH had a problem with Carlton, who was allowed to abuse Coalition voters, business figures, religious believers, parents who send their children to private schools, supporters of the right of Israel to exist within secure borders and more besides.
I said to Goodsir it was odd that the SMH allowed a highly paid columnist to rage at those who bought and advertised in the SMH.
Goodsir seemed unaware of the problem and ignorant of how Carlton interacted with his readers by tweets and email. Finally this week Aylmer decided to suspend Carlton. But Carlton spat the dummy and resigned. He was indulged for far too long.