The Beer Garden Principle of Online Discussions


Dear the Internet,

I, like most of the world, am on social media. And I, like anyone who expresses an opinion and is on social media, have people feeling the need to tell me, a complete stranger, without any prompting, just how stupid I am.

My standard response is straightforward: blockity-block-block.

And I know that part of it is because of the format of Twitter. That’s because it’s the modern equivalent of people yelling out of bus windows: it’s possible to say something meaningful, I guess, but much easier just to tell someone they suck.

And because I have a largely-public-ish Facebook page there are sometimes people who feel that they’re welcome to hove in and have their ill-spelled and/or aggressively stupid say, for reasons I can’t fathom.

And those people get blocked, obviously, because they are loud, obnoxious bullies.

“B-b-but Andrew,” you might theoretically reply, “what about the precious freedom of speech! You’re denying them their all-important right to insult complete strangers in public! Do you want Australia to be North Nazi Russia Korea, commie?”

So, in order that I might have a handy link that I can send to jerks before blocking them – and hey, thanks for reading, jerks! – allow me to outline what I’d like to call the Beer Garden Principle of Online Discussions, which is based on years of meticulous research carried out in our nation’s pubs.

And it goes like this:

If I’m sitting at a table with friends in a public beer garden and having a conversation, and someone comes over and says “excuse me, couldn’t help overhearing what you were talking about, mind if I join you?” then they will generally be welcome.

If, however, they barge in and start screaming insults into my friends’ faces, I have zero problem immediately getting the bouncers to turf them out.

I feel this is a good model for online discussions, and also for life in general – not least because hanging with friends in beer gardens is time well spent.

You have an opinion that relates to a discussion and you wish to raise it respectfully in the interests of deepening a conversation? Excellent! You want to call me a fucktard, or change the subject to your own scared crackpot theories? Off you fuck, there’s a good little solider.

I encourage you to use this The Beer Garden Principle in your own lives. Free and open debate is a good thing; abuse is not. Disagreement is useful; threats are not. You don’t owe anyone your time or your attention, in beer gardens or on Twitter. Your time, your choice.

And for those reading this after stamping their angry little feet about something or other and finding themselves blocked, I made you this:

kitty fee fees

Let the healing begin!

Yours ever,


The first week of the new column, and other things

Let’s have a little look-see at the way the week’s panned out.

Morning, the Internet.

I may work from home these days, but at least I'm maintaining the stringent strata-based filing system that has historically made my desks so easily identifiable.

Former officemates will be relieved to note that I’m maintaining the stringent strata-based filing system that has historically made my desks so easily identifiable. Also, that Eagulls CD is really good.

Well, it’s been a week of the column at the Sydney Morning Herald’s site (and the affiliated national mastheads, about which I’m terribly excited). It’s a heck of a feeling to be writing for the SMH – and gotta say, it’s been very, very, VERY nice not having to get up at 5am to do so.

If you’ve missed said columns thus far, they went a little bit like this:

Sunday 21: Yeah, racist attacks may not be the best anti-terror strategy

Monday 22: John Howard was right, says John Howard

Tuesday 23: Will Palmer United become Palmer Untied?

Wednesday 24: Scott Morrison’s Holiday in Cambodia

Thursday 25: ASIO to hide your freedom so the baddies can’t get it

and all my stuff is gathered here.

Also, it was very sad to hear that the King’s Tribune has ceased publishing: another source of independent journalism vanished. The last thing I wrote for them was my review of treasurer Joe Hockey’s biography Not Your Average Joe. Spoiler: it was not positive.

There’s quite a few SMH pieces out there, but also I had a chat with Jimmy Barnes for the Guardian, and reviewed the excellent new Sounds Like Sunset album for Mess+Noise.

In other news, there’s a fair whack of my stuff in the next issue of Time Out Sydney, including a feature about the surprising rise of country music in the city, and this week I’ve been pumping out stories for Voyeur and Australian Guitar that will be printed in the coming months and make it look like I’m sort of writin’ machine.

Next week will have the launch of my new column at TheVine, entitled Here’s The Thing, which will be like my longer 10 Things entries where I’d get completely sidetracked and go deep into the history of an issue. I’ll no doubt be making a song and dance about it on Twitter and stuff, so feel free to follow me if you don’t already.

Speaking of which: I won’t bother you too often because I treat Twitter less like a communication medium and more like a bus window out of which I occasionally yell. So if you’re planning on having a Twitter war with me, apologies in advance: I generally don’t bother. It’s a great medium for insults but terrible for proper discussions, so maybe screed it up on my Facebook instead.

And now, back to the word mines. See you at the SMH on Sunday evening, friends.

Yours ever,