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Michael Byrnes quoted in the Australian Financial Review — 5 September 2019
Michael Byrnes quoted in article “Hitler parody sacking sparks new free speech debate” featured in the Australian Financial Review today. Article by David Marin-Guzman.
Michael Byrnes quoted as saying “I don’t want in any way to downplay or trivialise how offensive it is to compare someone to Hitler or others involved to Nazi Germany,” Mr Byrnes said.
“But [the Downfall meme] is often not necessarily equating the particular people [it satirises] with Hitler or Nazi Germany. It’s really leveraging off the very hysterical, over-the-top reaction that is portrayed in that particular scene.”
He said it appeared neither the sacked employee nor the commission considered how this broader cultural context might distinguish the video from other instances where Nazi or Hitler references were involved.
With the rise of social media and memes in employment cases, Mr Byrnes said it was more important than ever that lawyers and the commission understood cultural context.
“Things that might seem offensive to someone unaware on first blush might be modified when they have a deeper understanding of the cultural context of how they’re used or deployed.”