Inappropriate comment by soldiers on social media

Racist, sexist or otherwise stupid comments by some soldiers on social media are unacceptable morally and professionally counter-productive.

Friday, 02 March 2012
Letter to The Canberra Times
(not published)

Michael McCarthy (Letters, March 2) misrepresents the Australia Defence Association position.

As for the handful of Youtube videos last March, the ADA again notes that such racist and sexist comments are not only wrong in themselves but also counter-productive.

In a conflict Australia is fighting against Islamist extremism, both domestically and overseas, only an unprofessional idiot provides our enemies with propaganda. If they are in the ADF those responsible should be punished — as occurred in the past.

However, based on the reports of numerous independent inquiries, the ADA remains confident that only a tiny minority of defence force personnel are involved, and that such misbehaviour is not widespread, systemic or a result of a supposedly perverted institutional culture.

Moreover, the media and indeed the general public need to accept some responsibility too. First, for continually rushing to judgement about the ADF despite all the independent evidence.

Second, the frequent sensationalist and inaccurate media coverage about, and low levels of public awareness of, defence issues contribute by provoking a reaction and often an over-reaction.

The vast majority of detailed comments by soldiers on social media, including this latest site, are not sexist or racist.*

They are instead expressions, however inchoate at times, of growing outrage.

They reflect considerable professional frustration about unrealistic ideas and outright myths commonly held by the public about defence matters, and the repeated failure of the mainstream media and some public commentators to cover such issues comprehensively, accurately or fairly.

[*Note: Subsequent investigations by the Department of Defence by mid March 2012 found that on the social media discussion site concerned, which claimed membership by 1300 former and serving members of the Royal Australian Regiment, and among thousands of comments, only 30 were inappropriate (even less were offensive) and only one of these inappropriate comments was by a serving ADF member. He is now subject to disciplinary action.]

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