In the same way that two wrongs make a right, the answer to being offended is, of course, to be even more offensive.
Australia's most-read tabloid showed its true colours again last week when it reported on some objectionable comments made on morning chat show The Circle. Co-host Yumi Stynes and guest George Negus made some regrettable cracks about Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, a soldier awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in Afghanistan. Based on his musclebound physique, they implied that he was a meathead and lacking in the bedroom. Cue outrage, strangely out of proportion to the number of people who actually watch The Circle, stoked largely by the Herald-Sun and it's associated News Limited papers. Stynes and Negus duly apologised.
At this point I should also mention that Yumi Stynes has a Japanese mother (she's one of the most prominent people of Asian background on Australian TV). Why is this relevant? Well, actually it's not relevant at all. Although someone at the Herald Sun thought it worth bringing up anyway, as the story was referenced on the front page (pictured below). See if you can spot the racism:
Don't get me wrong; the comments about Corporal Roberts-Smith were classless and uncalled for. I personally don't see why Stynes and Negus would think such a line of conversation was a good idea, even on a program on which light-hearted banter is a prominent feature. But equally, it's hard to see why anyone would think repeating a derogatory Asian stereotype from a bygone era is the appropriate response from any media outlet.
If you're not so sure what "me so sorry" is referencing, here's an example of The Simpsons referencing it:
Except The Simpsons' writers obviously know that it's not actually funny. Whoever writes headlines for the Herald Sun clearly didn't get the memo, and thinks it's hilarious.
To put it in perspective, it was only a couple of weeks ago that ESPN in the US sacked someone for coming up with this headline:
So, cue the massive outrage at the Herald Sun's similar racial insensitivity?
Er, nope. Next to nothing.
Now, I haven't even mentioned yet the ugly nature of the social media frenzy that has been stirring around the program, particularly towards Stynes. Here's an example:
Of course, those are worse than the Herald Sun, but the Herald Sun is supposed to hold to a slightly higher standard than random douchebags on social media.
I understand people taking offense, but there is something really odd about THAT many people taking THAT much offense about comments that, while certainly mean-spirited, were clearly meant in jest, and were about one individual (Roberts-Smith) who most people knew nothing about a week ago.
And while Negus has received plenty of ill-will for his role in all this, it is notable that he seems to have escaped the very worst of it. That has been reserved for Stynes, who clearly deserves it for being (a) female, (b) Asian, and (c) a successful single mother.
Clearly the people making comments like those captured above are not overly sensitive souls who take objection to crude banter on morning television. So why is their rage so palpable?
I take it as a sign that subconsciously, many people feel like the concept of white Australian traditional masculinity is under threat, and has been for a while, and so its defenders are lashing out at someone that represents something strange and different. This is not to say that a certain level of anger at the comments made on The Circle is not justified. Just that a good deal of that anger is about punishing someone who "forgot her place" and dared to poke fun at someone who symbolizes the power of white male masculinity.
For some more context, try these three very good articles:
Why the abuse of Yumi Stynes must stop (covers the sexism angle)
Misplaced outrage: abuse and the army
Exclusive: George Negus isn't Satan