A radio personality returned to the air this week after time out to recover from an unfortunate incident arising from a social disability before now not previously categorised – he is, I have concluded from the incident and his lack of remorse, ‘civically challenged’.

Kyle in the car

The ‘civically challenged’ person is so self-absorbed or insensitive as to be oblivious to the social and cultural impact of his or others’ egotistical or crass behaviour.

He or she behaves in a way that weakens civic virtue and sensibility. A pattern of such behaviour can desensitise others to the harm being done, normalising what in a moment of shared reflection would obviously be deemed unedifying at best. 

The basic condition is compounded by an instinctive defensiveness that, when the offensive behaviour is highlighted and there is the risk of embarrassment or shame, allows him to dismiss critics as humourless and priggish and ‘politically correct’, rendering self-reflection, therefore, as unnecessary.

Of course, it is not just the disc jockey who thinks morning radio is better for broadcasting a masturbation competition, or dismisses an unexpected disclosure by a child of sexual abuse as one of possibly many sexual experiences, or who commends concentration camp life as a weight loss option, that I have in mind in establishing this new category of social deficit.

I am thinking also of the egotists who keep our Police and accident and emergency units busy as a result of their regular drunken binges and unquestioningly assume the cost of their ‘fun’ should be borne by the public, or the attention seeker who wears a FCUK t-shirt to the supermarket, or the foul-mouthed parent at the football match who put his coprolalian outbursts down to passion for the game.

There is also a form of ‘civically challenged’ character that is essentially one of passivity.

It was recently expressed in the mindless betrayal of a bashed off-duty police woman left lying in her blood whilst people journeyed on their way to work – our very own Kitty Genovese experience.

The civically challenged, of course, sometimes hold positions of power and influence in business and professional life.

They can be seen in the TV producers who pass off Big Brother voyeurism or slogans like ‘bring back the biff’ as harmless popular culture.

They can also be seen in the bonus fixated businessmen who have recently destroyed the life savings of so many.

The condition at its worst has recently been portrayed in the self-absorbed character of Professor John Halder, played by Viggo Mortensen, in the film Good.

I do not put the idiocy and offensiveness of the on-air comments of our now returned morning DJ, of course, in the same category as the ultimate betrayal of morality and personal responsibility by the character Halder.

They do, I think though, sit at one end of the spectrum of the character type I want us now to describe as ‘civically challenged’.

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    • Wayne says:

      07:00am | 28/09/09

      ‘civically challenged’??? The man is a complete fool and you have done no one no good by reminding us that this individual is still around.
      Thing is though, you could have just as easily been describing a number of our current politicians? If it’s ok for them to carry on like complete twits then why not your average punter?

    • harry says:

      07:30am | 28/09/09

      Kyle and a lot of others are only following the examples set by our nations leaders.

    • Stephen Pickells says:

      08:09am | 28/09/09

      I have a funny feeling that you are referring to that crazy shock jock, Kyle Sandilands.
      The irony in his latest on air faux pas, is that Kyle could probably afford to lose a few kilos himself. Although as a colleague pointed out, he would still be a fat-head.
      A question on last week’s Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? asked for the name of a venomous warm blooded mammal that lives on Australia’s east coast. I immediately thought of Sandilands, but then I wasn’t sure if he is actually warm blooded or not.

    • Des says:

      08:13am | 28/09/09

      The reason why the ‘civically challenged’ survive, even thrive, is because the vast bulk of ordinary everyday people are just too civil to do what is needed to remove them. That is, get up and tell the “Kyles” of the world to go take a leap. To tell them there behaviour is unacceptable and they are operating beyond a level which is entertaining, informative, interesting or frankly, of any value to themselves, their society, their employer or the profession to which they belong. It is one thing to be a ‘larrikin’, as the are usually likable and lovable.  It is quite another to persistently breach normative standards of decency in the guise of entertainment.  That is simply idiotic. The ‘Kyles’ are not entertaining, they are excruciating.  It is no justification to argue that someone who happens to be in the public arena who behaves in a boorish, brutal or bothersome way ought to be tolerated or their behavior accepted. In fact, we should expect higher standards from them because they are in a privileged position, with ascribed status and capacity to influence the civic minded masses.  I cannot fathom why the radio station that employs ‘the petulant one’ does so.  Soberly, they appear to be part of the problem too when they ought to be the solution.  The average punter looks at this ‘Kyle’ situation and sees a bleeding idiot being paid enormous sums of money to behave crudely and concludes;  well, maybe I am the one who is out of touch,  and quietly goes on their way being ‘civil’.  Perhaps the only way forward is for the ‘civil’, to challenge the ‘bover boy of breakfast radio’ by boycotting the station and its sponsors. That way the civil can behave civilly but deliver a message that is very loud and effective. Even a radio executive would understand that no listeners means no sponsors and eventually that would mean no ‘Kyles’,thank you.  That equation is a no brainer and no brains ought to be something a radio executive at Kyle’s station ought to be able to relate too, surely. As for Wayne’s politicians behaving like ‘a Kyle’ we are fortunate that we can express an opinion about them and their standards every three years or so. Can’t wait, frankly.  In the interim, I will be as civil as I can be on a Monday morning and refrain from listening to radio at all. Rather, I will enjoy excellent print journalism as exemplified by Chris Gardiner’s article.

    • Grant says:

      09:08am | 28/09/09

      Civically challenged, society is breaking down, moral panic ensues, lock your doors the end is nigh.

      Get a grip, in Australia we are living in a virtual utopia, crime rates have been steadily going down.

      This fear and moral outrage can influence public sentiment and affects the thoughts and behavior of the public that includes the perception that there is degradation of society’s morals and a general societal breakdown.  This can have damaging effects on a community’s well being.

    • Stephen Pickells says:

      09:12am | 28/09/09

      I’m totally in favour of boycotting Kyle’s show. Not from a sense of moral outrage, but because it’s boring to listen to. Unfortunately, as long as the bogans out there keep tuning in, Kyle gets the ratings and Austereo keeps employing him.

    • lenny j says:

      09:27am | 28/09/09

      I dont listen to Kyle, I find I dont fit the fairly ordinary bogan demographic that his radio show apparently aims at. He is rude, self absorbed and fairly ignorant about what constitutes manners and civility. He is not very funny and I did not enjoy his ‘pretend Simon Cowley’ performance’ on that talent show a while back.

      No excuses Kyle, you are only doing whatever you can to lift your own ratings and boorish, rude, selfish and ignorant behaviour is always just that.
      Why does this sort of non-entertainment attract such big money?

      BTW, where is the other half of the pair. Is Jacqui O just the dumb blond puppet to Kyle’s awful alter ego? What has she got to say? Does she rate the same money as the man with the big mouth?

    • I says:

      09:31am | 28/09/09

      He’s not back on-air on 2dayFM until 7 Oct.

    • Eric yors says:

      09:33am | 28/09/09

      “Civically Challenged” - how very ‘PC’ - why not call it for what it is and simply state that the bloke is a boring, crude insensitive idiot who happens to be lucky enough to have stumbled across a station devoid of their broadcasting responsibilities, only intent on maximising a buck & pretending that it’s not their problem that one of their people has crossed the line. The thing that I don’t understand is that, as has been previously stated elsewhere, the average age of his audience is around 11 or 12 years old, what on earth are major corporations doing advertising with the station - oops, forgot - the ratings seem to be inordinately high. Are we lacking in good role models and in instilling acceptable standards early in life so that we don’t create an audience that appreciates midless drivell ? Either way a good start would be to get this moron off the air and replace him with somebody who is genuinely interesting and entertaining.

    • Graeme says:

      09:34am | 28/09/09

      Sandilands is a character that should only exist in his own imagination. I find it totally ludicrous that people even acknowledge his existence let alone employ him in the public eye. The potential talent on Australian Idol should never have been subjected to such a talentless, unintelligent, porcine, boring exponent of self gratification.
      Idol is now a better place, keep him off the radio, keep him out of the public eye and make the world a better place

    • vic says:

      09:46am | 28/09/09

      Civically challenged? Call it like it is. He’s a self centred pratt who needs his teeth smacked in.

    • Timbo says:

      09:48am | 28/09/09

      I think the term you may be looking for is “narcissist” instead of “civically challenged” - everyone and everything else exists to prop up their emotional needs. They give absolutely nothing back, except to get more emotion and energy for themselves. The worst part is that they actually dont understand the impact they have the rest of the world, and so find it very hard to change or even accept the fact that they made mistakes. That’s why you see people like this who keep making the same major faux pas over and over and over again.

    • Stephen says:

      09:52am | 28/09/09

      Des reckons “the reason why the ‘civically challenged’ survive, even thrive, is because the vast bulk of ordinary everyday people are just too civil to do what is needed to remove them”

      I think it might actually be the opposite - the vast majority of ordinary everyday people are civically challenged themselves

    • Heléna says:

      10:25am | 28/09/09

      *yawn* another diatribe about Kyle! - watch him, don’t watch him - I don’t care anymore - can we stop talking about him?

    • TimT says:

      10:40am | 28/09/09

      The inability to say things plainly and honestly could be seen as another sign of the death of our civility. Is Kyle ‘civically challenged’? Perhaps ‘jackass, idiot, fool, a___hole, numbskull’ or any of a number of other terms would suit him better.

      Do us all a favour and stop treating Kyle’s actions as if they were symptoms of a medical syndrome. They’re moral failings, not symptoms.

    • Steve S says:

      11:07am | 28/09/09

      Not a moment before time and in fact, hugely belatedly, Big Brother was shut down and programmes of similar genre have been de-commissioned or are heading down the same path.  Interesting to see that movies containing sex scenes are failing to sell at the box-office at the same rate as those family oriented movies and there has been disappointment expressed regarding Packed to the Rafters seemingly becoming obsessed with sex and all that surrounds it.  Thus it seems only appropriate that talentless, humourless people like Kyle who make a habit of putting others down to somehow be remotely funny, be extinguished.  It’s no wonder that stations like 2GB have won the ratings ad nauseam because sincerely or otherwise, the announcers (despite their large egos) provide their audience with a modicum of respect .

    • Chris Gardiner says:

      11:36am | 28/09/09

      Friends, my thoughts on a character type - the civically challenged - were triggered by someone telling me Kyle was returning to air, but he merely epitomises the issue and I was more interested in the broader phenomenon (hence the other examples I used and not thus far commented on in the thread), especially after reflecting on the meaning of the Halder character in the movie Good - rent it out if you haven’t seen it. The cold indifference to a bashing victim at a bus stop (the off-duty police officer I mention) concerns me as much as the mindlessness of a DJ.

      I know this is a moral issue not a medical one - it’s why I refer to character type. And I could resort to simple derogatory language, but to do so would be to join those I am criticising. The term ‘civically challenged’ was meant to link what might otherwise be simply seen as “boorish” or naricissistic behavior with its social and cultural - civic - impact. It was meant to be pointed, but did risk appearing to be itself politically correct.

      So it’s less about whether we should boycott a DJ and more about how we tackle the community propensity for tolerance of this character type, and to challenge our naivete about its effect. I suspect to do so requires public conversation. And this is not about ‘moral panic’ but more about encouraging prudent corrective action.

    • lantana says:

      11:48am | 28/09/09

      I refuse to give any more publicity to———————, and I suggest we all leave him to rot in silence, instead of doing exactly what his carefully scripted stunts are designed to produce.

    • JA says:

      12:09pm | 28/09/09

      Hmmm… this article is not so much about Kyle himself, he is just being highlighted as an example of the civically challeneged persona/attitude that is being fed/watered/rewarded/encouraged by a significant proportion of popular culture.  ‘Attitude’ is considered humourous, as is laughing at others’ misfortunes, or ‘taking the piss’ at people we dont quite understand.  It’s unfortunate that popular culture is disproportinately driven by sponsorship dollars or reader/viewer/listenership.  As I’ve stated before, free speech is indeed a wonderful opportunity, but without any vital values-based grounding, it becomes too often abused in the public realm. Ralph magazine, our abuse of alcohol, and our mainstream love of the superficial and the gory are other examples These things exert cultural influence Is it not time to ask where we are all headed as a culture? Advertisers, TV programmers, Kyle, artists, parents and, in fact, all others who have influence, please take note.

    • Witch Hunt says:

      12:36pm | 28/09/09

      vic says:09:46am | 28/09/09

      Civically challenged? Call it like it is. He’s a self centred pratt who needs his teeth smacked in.

      Doesn’t that describe Alan Jones as well?

    • EG says:

      01:19pm | 28/09/09

      Chris’s point is well made - the problem is not so much the instance of a broadcaster who’s lost the plot but much deeper in a moral code that is sometimes lacking or even missing and an audience that responds to antics not worth spending the effort on, whilst being numb to other issues. If we really want to bring about positive change then we need to create an ethos where the banal, the insulting, gratuitous sexualisation and the like are not given air and where an attitude of responsibility accompanies the freedoms we enjoy. If people stop responding and turn the dial (our ultimate weapon) then pretty soon the Kyles of this world will drop off the radar (hopefully) and we might get some better quality radio/tv (and yes, Jones fits in there as well, but he’s smarter than Kyle in gauging where the mythical line is)

    • James says:

      02:59pm | 28/09/09

      He is as stupid and insulting as those fools on chasers war and should go the same way.  I personally hope he is taken on by the yanks…...they deserve each other….

    • regina says:

      03:05pm | 28/09/09

      kyle sandlilands is civically challenged?

      um .. over-analyse much?

    • Stephen Pickells says:

      03:10pm | 28/09/09

      Well said Chris Gardiner (in your later post). Yes I agree ther are others out there who fit the descriptopn of civically (let’s say neurologically) challenged. But the fact is that I have a particular loathing for Sandilands, and as long as websites such as this one allow me to make posts that insult the moron without subjecting me to the danger of a libel suit (because everything I say about him is true) then I will continue to stick the boot into his (fat) arse.

    • Pierre says:

      03:17pm | 28/09/09

      Chris, you’re spot on. It’s the me me and only me personality type. They only do good deeds as a front for an underlying motive otherwise they would scold an old lady crossing the road. Any ‘Kyle’ comment on the fallout is usually agressive at the start and compliant at the end just to shut people up before engaging another thoughtless stunt. He’s just aggro at humanity after being called a fat lump as a child.
      Any company seeking to advertise on 2dayFM should wake up. All it takes is one article noting which companies…watch em run…

    • Pester Reason says:

      05:41pm | 28/09/09

      I love Kyle and I cant wait for him to be back.  He should come back to Idol too.

    • Blaise Noble says:

      06:59pm | 28/09/09

      I do love how quick you all have been to criticise Mr Sandilands. (Does not hypocrisy have an alluring palate?)
      Whilst I don’t care for his show/celebrity myself, I am able to see that he’s not an insensitive jackass (as has been suggested) - he is simply human.

      First off , all humour is born from ‘tragedy’ - faults and misfortunes we have discovered throughout our existence. His comments on the concentration camps should only be seen, as he intended them, as an observation on someones’ physical appearance - which every single person does. The joke did not, and does not, imply he advocates/defends the actions of those who ran the camps - nor was it a malignant statement about, or defamation of, Judaism. His ‘dismissal of unexpected disclosure, by a child, of sexual abuse’ was due to the childs’ mother; she knew the situation and failed to inform the broadcasters.
      I cannot say, undoubtedly, that the issue would not have been raised still, had they been properly informed - but I think even Mr Sandilands would have had more tact discussing sexual abuse of a child in that situation.

      Secondly, @Chris Gardiner, (imo) equating verbal abuse to physical abuse is a seriously misguided practise. Indeed I do not condone the use of either, but I am of the mind that an insult is only an insult if you believe it to be demeaning - a lot of that comes from being comfortable with who I am, and knowing that no matter how I differ from those who ‘insult’ me, I am no less/more important than they are. I feel that if you take no offense from what is said the power is shifted, from them, to you. I do realise, however, that this is a lot easier said than done - and as I said, it is my opinion.

      Statements such as “...self centred pratt who needs his teeth smacked in.” and “....allow me to make posts that insult the moron without subjecting me to the danger of a libel suit….” reinforce the argument that the ‘offenders’ are not the only ones who need to adjust their moral compass.

    • Blaise Noble says:

      08:10pm | 28/09/09

      Apologies Chris, I misread that section of your comment.
      So, you can probably scratch that second point I made - as, although I still feel it’s valid, it is irrelevant.

    • mike j says:

      10:56am | 29/09/09

      1) Kyle is a jerk, that’s his shtick. I think he’s a wanker too, but evidently there is a market for wankers.
      2) Kyle’s tendency to dismiss his critics as humourless, priggish and PC isn’t helped by the fact that many of his critics ARE humourless, priggish and PC.
      3) He didn’t ‘commend’ concentration camps as a weight loss option, he just said they would work. And they would.
      4) Drunken binges are fun.
      5) Many people don’t get changed to go to the supermarket, or analyse what they’re wearing before they go.
      6) Big Brother was enormously popular with teens and young adults.
      7) ‘The biff’ was enormously popular with all demographics.

      Now, aren’t you missing bingo or something?


    • jimbo says:

      11:06am | 29/09/09

      Still on about him? you guys must have a personal vendetta, I think he has been called enough names in the media to start legal action

    • Douglas says:

      01:08pm | 29/09/09

      Let him say what he wants when he gets back on air. Where’s the next chk chk boom girl or Corey party boy or something….I’m bored.

    • Douglas says:

      01:10pm | 29/09/09

      Let him say what he wants when he gets back on air. Where’s the next chk chk boom girl or Corey party boy or something….I’m bored.

    • Kristy says:

      01:53pm | 29/09/09

      Just FYI, FCUK is actually an abbreviation of the clothing company French Connection UK. Therefore, while it may look offensive to some (and no doubt that’s the reason they use it on their clothing) it’s actually just the same as someone wearing a t-shirt with Nike or Billabong across the front.

    • JA says:

      02:48pm | 29/09/09

      Kristy, there’s little denying that FCUK is using shock value to promote itself.  I agree with Chris about this, it’s the sort of marketing dreamed up by 15 year old boys with still-developing brains and little understanding of the world or their actions.  Unfortunately there are too many twits like this with marketing/promtotional power in today’s mainstream culture


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