THE BLOG

Bullying in 'The X Factor' NZ

18/03/2015 13:06 GMT | Updated 17/05/2015 10:12 BST

If you don't live in New Zealand then this may have passed you by, but there has recently been a bit of controversy surrounding our version of The X Factor.

I don't mean some manufactured drama between contestants, I mean some honest to goodness controversy that has spilled over until people who have never before watched the show (that would be me) suddenly want to meet the management team and shake them warmly by the hand.

The details are pretty simple: Two of the judges took it upon themselves to launch into a very public and very personal tirade against the appearance of one of the contestants. They used words like "disgusting" and called him Norman Bates for having the temerity to dress in a suit, thereby "copying" Willy Moon's very "unique" style. I literally do not have enough air quotes to keep going with the sheer ridiculousness of this entire scenario.

The amazing thing is that isn't even the punchline to this story, the real news is what happened next.

77,500 people signed a petition to have these judges removed, and with viewing figures averaging 350,000 that's a pretty impressive strike rate. There are politicians who would kill for that kind of engagement.

Riding on the swell of public opinion, the reaction from TV bosses was swift and it was deafening in its condemnation: Both judges were sacked less than 24 hours later.

The message had been clearly given: New Zealand doesn't like bullies.

And not that I'm someone to shy away from awkward conversations with my children but today I'm grateful that I live in a country that has the cojones to make that ststement; perhaps a country that learned about the impact of bullying the hard way with the suicide of Charlotte Dawson, but that learned it nonetheless.

I spent an hour of my life (that I will never get back) reading the Twitter feed of one of the judges and as strange as it sounds, I suggest you do the same.

Social media provides an instant, mostly unfiltered, outlet for us to share our experiences and view on the world but once it's out there, once the bird has flown, it becomes something very different: It becomes the narrative of our life.

Take a look over your Twitter feed and judge it as the sum of its parts. Then ask yourself, is this the story I want to tell?

I don't aim that at you, the person reading this, I aim it at the people who started this SNAFU.

This whole sorry mess has become a cautionary tale in my household: I have no doubt that in the course of their lives, my children will meet people who are entitled and arrogant and I hope that when the day comes they too will react with a bravery and dignity far greater than their attacker deserves.

As for Natalia and Willy; well their actions have nothing to do with "passionate opinions" and everything to do with an inflated sense of importance. Slamming everyone except the people who directly benefit you has a name ... and it's an ugly one.