Culture

Lockouts, Fuckwits, Frenzied Media, And The Accidental Power Of A Tweet

Strangers were shaming me for leading a movement I wasn't really a part of. Another symptom of the overhyped media that led to the lockout laws in the first place.

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Yesterday morning, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell announced a set of new laws for Sydney’s pubs and clubs to abide by. Brought in to target “alcohol-fuelled violence”, these laws include a new 1:30AM lockout across many venues in the CBD, and a ban on selling alcohol after 3am.

Knowing how much this would affect not just me but everyone I work with at Goodgod Small Club, and my countless other friends who work as DJs, club promoters or in hospitality, I quickly opened Twitter and Facebook to find that everything I wanted to yell had already been yelled 500 times. I threw some of the better responses a favourite or a like, and called a few friends to discuss how badly these new laws would affect us. Three discussions later, and every social media feed I had open had a million new posts from friends outraged at the Premier’s decision — not just because of the effects it would have on their lifestyles, but because of how alienated by the system they felt. Why hadn’t anybody who represented their voice been consulted before the decision was made?

Earlier in the week I read an article by David Penberthy. Two lines from this article stuck with me:

It appears to be mandatory to describe the random, mindless violence we have seen in pubs and on footpaths around the nation as “alcohol-fuelled” violence. I hate this term.

A more appropriate term would be scumbag-fuelled violence, as the focus on alcohol lets the scumbags off the hook.

With what he said in mind, I blessed the internet with a trio of zingers.

 

 

The extent of my wit now out in the webosphere, I continued my day, absolutely not checking my phone every 30 seconds for favourites, retweets and likes.

At 10pm a friend let me know that my face was on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald website. Underneath the heading ‘Thousand sign petition against ‘draconian’ drink laws’, I was the first name referenced in an article focused on the reactions of ‘young partygoers’. My ‘Don’t Be A Fuckwit’ campaign tweet was written as if the paper had called me for a quote and that was what I had decided to give them, which I absolutely saw the funny side to, so I shared the article right away.

100 likes later, and I realised that I might soon need to clarify that I wasn’t actually a part of the movement who had started a petition against the new laws, nor had I ever used the word ‘draconian’ in my lifetime.

I called my Dad to let him know that in tomorrow’s paper his son had been quoted saying the word ‘fuckwit’, and went to bed.

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I woke up the next morning to an insane amount of notifications on my phone. Who needs an alarm when you know you have a social media shitstorm to address?

The comments on my personal Facebook page were all positive — a given, considering that 80% of my friends are involved in the music industry in some way. But it was another story over on the SMH Facebook page, where people were singling me out as the poster boy for an entire campaign against the Premier’s new laws. Some people pointed out the flaws in my “Don’t Be A Fuckwit” campaign, while others pointed out the flaws in my face.

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Later that day I realised that my own Facebook page was open for the entire universe to see and comment on, after a handful of strangers did exactly that, telling me that they were laughing heartily at anyone complaining about the new laws (my response: “Don’t be a fuckwit”), and making me realise why those privacy settings exist. Back at the SMH Facebook page, a lovely woman commented that “After viewing Mr Levins FB I note that he is reading the comments left and is less than happy with some of them. My advice Mr Levins is if you don’t want people to comment on your views then don’t talk to journalists.”

What was funny about the whole ordeal is that all I had done was put up a few zingers on Twitter. Nobody had contacted me to comment on the new laws and I hadn’t offered anything resembling an opinion online beyond said zingers. People I didn’t know were either praising me or shaming me (mostly the latter) for leading a movement that I wasn’t really a part of. It was a weird reminder of the overhyped media frenzy that lead to these new laws being pushed upon us.

The Sydney Morning Herald story was updated today, making it much clearer that all the opinions within were taken directly from social media (although ‘draconian’ still haunts my paragraph), and a few excellent articles have been published elsewhere that show a much more level headed take on the reactions from those affected by the new laws.

My good friends and co-workers Jimmy, Hana and Adam put together this piece for Faster Louder, which speaks out against the proposed laws while highlighting what a unique and special place Goodgod Small Club is:

Goodgod was started to provide an answer to the problems with Sydney’s nightlife culture. Barry O’Farrell’s laws don’t just fail to address these issues, but their broad, one-size-fits-all nature also pose a serious threat to solutions like us. They compromise our ability to deliver on our ethos of creating an iconic Sydney club, where music is celebrated and music lovers can enthusiastically party in a welcoming and safe environment.

I was interviewed for this article on artsHub, alongside some other kool figures from Sydney’s nightlife, which features comparisons to Melbourne’s recent failed lock in laws, official statistics that show the decline of non-domestic assaults in Sydney, and me saying: “Some of my favourite memories in the last decade have happened at 4am in the morning.”

I’m sure that in the next few weeks I’ll put together a more succinct response to the proposed laws, especially as they become less ‘proposed’ and more ‘career-ending’. Who knows, maybe my ‘Don’t Be A Fuckwit’ campaign will actually take off, hopefully with Sam Kekovich as its spokesperson. I just hope everyone outside of the scene affected by these new laws thinks about the music and culture that will be lost before they join in congratulating the government for making a rash decision that won’t actually stop any violence.

My thoughts go out to the families of the two boys who were killed as a result of an angry attack, and while I sincerely hope no further attacks occur, these new laws are not the right way to go about making a change.

This is an edited and updated version of a post at yolevins.com

Andrew Levins is the head chef and co-owner of The Dip at Goodgod Small Club in Sydney, and a prominent club DJ, radio host and music event promoter. In 2007 he co-founded Heaps Decent, an arts organisation working with young people and emerging artists from marginalised and disadvantaged communities. 2012 saw the release of his first cookbook, Diner. Tweet him @levdawg

Feature image by Daniel McKinley