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Through The Looking Glass
Out of curiosity and since they are electorally influential to the point of being Kingmakers, I decided to listen to what the Shock Jocks were saying about the Budget and what their listeners thought, so I tuned into Steve Price 2UE on Wed 13th May from 10:45 to midday.

It was an entertaining 75 minutes in a gut-wrenchingly disgusting kind of way.

How To Miss The Point

The Four Corners report on NRL player behaviour ‘Code Of Silence’ .
Price’s take on this story was staggering. Ignoring the central issue of the Four Corners report which was the NRL footy culture of intimidating women into non-consensual sex, Price chose as the major issue of concern the effect of the Four Corners report on the career of Matthew Johns.

Moreover, it appeared to me that Price was insinuating that the girl assualted by Johns’ teammates got what she deserved. i.e. non-consensual sexual assault by four Rugby League players while eight others looked on, enjoying the humiliation and degredation poured out on the victim.

Price had a couple of interviews and several listener calls on the issue while I was listening. The first interview was with Channel 9’s Ken Sutcliffe who talked mostly about whether or not Johns would lose his job at Channel 9.

The second interview occurred at approx. 11:20 and contained some very noxious insinuations that the girl deserved it.

Price was happy to let these comments pass without challenge. The interviewee appeared to be known to Price, I didn’t catch his name but I’m pretty sure it was ‘entertainment reporter’ Peter Ford, because he was expressing outrage that Four Corners reporter Sarah Ferguson had described ‘our’ (i.e. Price and his) comments on the Johns incident as being ‘predatory’, which comments occur in the interview ‘Something Disturbing In The Code’ between Peter Ford and 2UE’s John Stanley of 12th May, currently on 2UE’s Home Page

Here’s what I wrote to Price:

The interview you just did approx. 11:20 Wed 13th May on the Johns group sex story was ludicrously biased.

Yes, the girl should not have gone to their room since she had a boyfriend. Yes, she must have expected and even perhaps consented to sex with the two players.

The reason why she is traumatised and which you and your interviewer did not mention was that she did not consent to sex with the additional four players nor to the six additional others who came in just to watch.

Your failure and that of your interviewee to recognise or even mention the non-consensual nature of the sex with the four players and the presence of the eight others watching (in this interview at least) may be why your interviews on the subject can be construed as encouraging sexual predation.

Price responded:

Barra – I spent 3 hours yesterday talking about this case and mentioned more than once the awful nature of that girl’s experience. What you were listening to at 11.30 was a talkback caller not an interview…not sure what your problem is SP

Awful But Not Undeserved

The girl’s experience was indeed awful.
But Price did not say it was undeserved, at least while I was listening.

My problem is that at no time today did Price say that the sex acts perpetrated after the initial two were non-consensual.

The focus of Price’s comments and those of his interviewees, not challenged by Price were:

1) Matthew Johns is being unfairly treated in that only he is being punished, not any of the other 11 also involved (A red herring – only Johns has a media career to lose. Of the others only one other is still in football. Furthermore, the victim identified Johns as having a leading role in the assault.)
2) The girl made a mistake and was morally deficient in going with Johns and the other player, especially since she had a boyfriend (A reasonable point)
3) The girl must have expected and consented to have sex with at least one of the players that she accompanied to the hotel room.(A reasonable point)
4) The incident wasn’t considered wrong enough to punish in 2002. (A reasonable point)
5) The girl wants to wreck the lives of the players involved. (Inferring she is mentally unstable and hence that her account of the Johns group incident is unrealiable)
6) Girls go nutty around sports stars. (Inferring she deserved or asked for the treatment he received)

The problem is what Price left out:

1) The girl did not consent to four players having sex with her while eight others were in the room.
2) Nor did she consent to the ‘watching’ players standing around her bed performing acts of self-abuse o rubbing their pensises on her face (which happened) while a string of others sexually penetrated her.
3) Even if she consented to one or two that does not permit the additional four or the eight watching.
4) The girl had her eyes closed while the assaults were taking place just wishing it would finish.
5) The assault lasted two hours and only finished when the players relesed her. She was intimidated nto submission by the physical strength and number of the players.

It is true that Price made or permitted the following comments that could be construed as sympathetic to the girl:

a) He ‘feels sorry’ for her because she is suicidal
b) She ‘didn’t go in with all them guys’
c) He permitted without challenge a comment from Sutcliffe that what Johns did was ‘morally wrong’
d) She ‘shouldn’t have felt frightened’. i.e. the fact she was frightened pointed to something amiss in the encounter.

But the overall effect of Price’s comments and interviews *today* was to insinuate that she deserved it.

Price did not say he feels sorry for her because she was sexually abused by twelve men, just sorry for its effect on her.

Making Martyrs Of The Perpetrators

Price said something like ‘What I find very disturbing about the case is that she wants to wreck the lives of those involved.’This to me is an inference she is mentally unstable and hence unreliable in her accounts of the abuse. The vengeful intention of the girl in giving her story is at best a sub-plot. Price uses it to switch outrage from the players’ actions to the girl’s actions.

Price’s assertions that he is sorry for the girl are limited to her current medical/psychological condition e.g. that she is suicidal. This neatly bypasses the central ethical issue involved which is that what happened to her was not consensual.

Steve Price today was far more interested in sub-plots than the main event. Those sub-plots have the intention of minimizing or excusing the non-consensual acts perpetrated on her. The non-consensual acts are the central issue and what deserves most attention. The sub-plots of course merit discussion but not at the expense of excusing non-consensual gang bangs.

Just saying ‘a caller said it’ (in fact it was Peter Ford, a reporter and Price regular on ‘entertainment’) does not excuse Price’s responsibility as a broadcaster to bring the full picture, or any propensity to use his interviewees as stalking horses for personal views especially on grevious issues such as non-consensual gang bangs.

Blind To The Issue

The following day, Price revisited the issue this time saying ‘let’s examine the wider effect of this report on NRL’. Interviewing Ken Sutcliffe again, this time in company with Sydney Morning Herald reporter Jacqueline Magnay, Price asked Sutcliffe what the main issue of concern in the Four Corners report was. Sutcliffe answered and Price agreed that it was ‘Group Sex’. Magnay said ‘Sorry, I disagree. The issue is consent and violence toward women.’. Price and Sutcliffe were silent. It would appear the thought had never occurred to them.

It would seem that Price is prejudicially blind to issues of violence toward women or ‘consent’ gained through intimidation at least where this interesects Rugby League. Price loves Rugby League and sees the Four Corners report as constituting a threat to the game which may cripple its popularity. Behind this, violence to women is nearly irrelevant.

Ostrich Time
Price’s initial ‘editorial’ on the issue, with which he opened his Monday morning program described the Four Corners report as ‘cobbled together’ from ‘two reports over seven years’, strongly inferring that incidents such as the Cronulla Sharks Christchurch encounter are isolated and that the Four Corners report was a witchhunt and not justified. Price therefore denies and ignores what any impartial observer of Rugby League knows (and as Magnay stated) that intimidation and trapping of women into non-consensual gang bangs is an entrenched part of the depraved culture of NRL footballers and has been for a long time.

If Price was smart he would welcome these revelations as an opportunity to clean up the game and flush out this repulsive behaviour. He would prefer, however, to stick his hands in the sand, to cast aspersions on the victims and Four Corners, make martyrs of the perpetrators deny the truth and in so doing maintain NRL as a haven for those who sexually assault women.

Price Spruiking The Interests Of Private Medical Insurance

Also in that 75 minutes, Price conducted an interview with Michael Armitage, Chief Executive, Australian Health Insurance Association.

Armitage and Price carried on like two sides of the same mouth in this interview being highly critical of Swan/Rudd for reducing the scope of the Private Medical Insurance rebate.

Price and Armitage dwelt on the fact that this action breaks an election promise.
They stressed many times it affects EVERYONE because
a) Private Health Cover premiums will rise as a result of people dropping out of health funds
b) The ‘beleaguered (Price)’ Public Health System will be additionally burdened

They dwelt on those likely to drop out
a) Young people earning approx. 80k
b) Older people as they have lower incomes

In my opinion Price concentrated on the elderly here as it takes the shine off their pension increases, the most unambiguous ‘winner’ item in the Budget.

Both Armitage and Price said, accurately, the additional cost to those losing the full rebate is 42%, not 30%.

On its own this interview was mostly just a dig at Swan/Rudd. What followed made it’s partisan nature clearer

Later in his show Price interviewed Steve James from CommSec on the sharemarket reaction to the Budget. James reported a generally positive reaction from Business with a particular leap in the fortunes of the HealthCare Sector.

You see, the Budget increased the overall funding for Medicare (which Price did not mention when interviewing Armitage) and so companies like Ramsay Health etc. can expect to be more profitable.

Needless to say Price did not express surprise or even comment that Swan’s supposed horror attack on health was construed as good news for the HealthCare sector by the sharemarket. That was in direct contradiction to his lovefest with Michael Armitage, a kick-Rudd-in-the-guts duet which Price said ‘cut through the spin’ of the Rudd government.

So Swan/Rudd have compensated the Public Sector for an expected additional burden resulting from drop-out from private health funds as a result of decreasing the rebate on private health insurance. There will not be an additional unfunded burden as Price implied.

In fact the 2009-2010 Healthcare budget contains a record $64 billion healthcare agreement with the states and territories – to provide record levels of funding for public hospitals and reduce pressure on emergency departments and includes specific new spending of more than $1 bn on Cancer treatment. I could go on.

Why Price should be giving Armitage’s Australian Health Insurance Association free kicks on his program is a matter of speculation. Probably it’s just a convenient vehicle for a partisan attack on Swan and Rudd.

Update 14th May:

Listening to Malcolm Turnbull’s Budget In Reply speech it was striking that Price/Armitage’s objections to Rudd/Swan’s means test of the Private Health Care rebate were identical.

Quite plainly the Libs have leaked this part of Turnbull’s speech to Armitage/Price to warm up the electorate to the Libs argument.

Price is utterly partisan. He is willing servant of the Liberal Party. Any political comment of his should be regarded as being written and authorised M. Turnbull Parliament House, Canberra.

Here is Turnbull verbatim:

Australians know that and that is why in the lead up to the last election the Prime Minister was asked time and time again whether he would change the private health insurance rebate.

Again and again he and his shadow health minister said they would not.

Never was an election promise given more emphatically and then broken so brazenly.

Every Australian knows that the cost of public health is growing as are the waiting lists for public hospitals.

Every Australian knows that as our population ages the need for more self reliance in the provision of health services becomes greater.

This broken promise will be a direct hit on the family budget of at least 1.7 million Australians and indirectly will result in higher premiums for all Australians – including those on very low incomes.

And it is just the beginning – the thin edge of the wedge.

And as private health insurance costs go up, more pressure is put on public hospitals.

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  1. […] my view, media commentators such as Miranda Devine and Steve Price of 2UE who are fans of Rugby League are missing a golden opportunity to save the game they love. League […]

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