Media inciting violence against cyclists?

The BTA board member Steven McKiernan takes issue with the way newspapers tolerate violent comments against cyclists. Similar comments would be racist, and probably illegal, if they were applied to minority groups.

The letter follows:

From: steven mckiernan
To: newtona@perthnow.newsltd.com.au
Subject: Reportage of cycling in Sunday Times, Perth Now.
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2009 17:29:55 +0800
CC: alison.xamon@mp.wa.gov.au; chris.tallentire@mp.wa.gov.au; mediawatch@your.abc.net.au; bta_wa@hotmail.com; kend.travers@mp.gov.au; simon.o’brien@mp.wa.gov.au; roger.cook@mp.wa.gov.au

Allen
The story I wish to take issue is this:

http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,26260069-948,00.html

Sure the person who allegedly did this assault deserves some form of public approbation.
Thugs everywhere deserve bad press and strong criminal sanction, bus drivers deserve protection from assault and the public need to know that physical violence or the threat of violence is not condoned.

Unfortunately PerthNow is offering an anonymous site to make further threats of violence, and PerthNow could easily be accused of inciting such threats.  In this case the journalist Rhys Haynes did a very good balanced report of the incident, yet the response is so far beyond the original story, that it has turned into a general whinge against users of sustainable transport and cycling in general.

However, the comments on your website Perth Now lead me to believe that you are sanctioning violence against one sector of the community based upon a lifestyle choice by permitting threats of violence to exist in the comments section in this website article.  Previous mentions of cyclist bad behaviour results in another wave of dog-whistling redneck reaction where the actions of one person are used as justification for running legitimate road users off the road by virtue of “might is right”.

Imagine if someone wrote they hated all asians, or aborigines or gay people, or air conditioning salesmen and justified using a deadly weapon wielded with intent to injure? Would News Corporation publish those views?

We have legislation to prevent people and sanction people if they make threats to injure or to vilify based on a range of grounds.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the comments:

“they deserve to get run over riding illegally” – Posted by: Old Hairy Ears of Inner Eastern 8:28am today Comment 4 of 75

“At least these idiot cyclists would make a good speed-hump for a bus” -Robin Graves of Karrakatta 10:14am today Comment 9 of 75

“Come to far off the verge and into my path and you can expect a wing mirror or front bumper too push you aside,” – Posted by: ??? of … 1:57pm today Comment 53 of 75

“Who else wants to open the passenger door when you drive past them on the road I know I do” – Posted by: I have an opinion of 1:58pm today Comment 54 of 75

“Next time the 64 year old might use you for a speed bump…heres hoping.” – Posted by: MitchoCaliante of Canningvale 2:57pm today Comment 68 of 75

“I’m ITCHING to open the car door nearest these cyclists when they come whizzing past, too close and too arrogant.” – Posted by: MW of Western Suburbs, Perth 2:58pm today Comment 69 of 75

http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/comment/publication
2. These terms and conditions are subject to change at the sole discretion of News.

Clearly these comments go through moderation by someone at PerthNow before publication.
I would like to know why threats of violence to a section of the community are permitted by the management of PerthNow. What is to be achieved by such an approach?

Even when a cyclist is deliberately (or negligently) run down by a car driver, the comments section inevitably descends into vilification and again threats of violence.

Examples can be found in the following articles:

1 http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/comments/0,21590,24016093-2761,00.html

2 http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/comments/0,21590,24841836-2761,00.html

3 http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/comments/0,21590,23787491-2761,00.html

4 http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/comments/0,21590,25120185-5017006,00.html

Its stupid beyond belief and should not be tolerated by your organisation.

Allen, come and talk with us.

Steven McKiernan

Board Member Bicycle Transportation Alliance of WA Inc.

http://btawa.org.au/

About Heinrich

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