Leading article Australia

Trial by #metoo media

13 January 2018

9:00 AM

13 January 2018

9:00 AM

The Golden Globe awards have come and gone, with Hollywood emblackening itself and making self-righteous declarations against sexual harassment and worse in the entertainment industry. The hashtag #metoo rules, as men who are accused of using their positions of power and privilege to exploit, for personal sexual gratification, women depending on them for their careers, are dragged, one by one, into the light. Starting with the odious ogre Harvey Weinstein, the outings rumble on in the US, Britain and, of course Australia.

ABC and Fairfax, and investigative journalists including Kate McClymont and Tracey Spicer are pursuing offensive, male sexual harassers in public life. First it was the exposé of faded TV personality Don Burke. Last month, Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle stood aside because of serious allegations by a female alderman, reported in great detail by the Age. This week, Gold Logie winner Craig McLachlan was outed by Fairfax/ABC about allegations by several actresses of misconduct during a Rocky Horror Show run several years ago.

The women going public have shown great personal courage in doing so. The allegations about each of these men are very ugly, and no doubt the media lawyers went over each allegation very carefully before publication. Fairfax columnist Clementine Ford, who knows a bit about publicly shaming people, wrote ‘The women who have broken their silence on Mr McLachlan (and Don Burke before him) are to be commended, not put on trial in the court of public opinion’. Unfortunately, in insisting the accusers’ word should be accepted without question Ms Ford forgets that’s not how the justice system works and that, however grave and despicable the alleged offences or misconduct, each accused public figure deserves their day in court.  Given some of the allegations involving Mr McLachlan have been referred to police, the possibility of these defendants getting a fair hearing – and convictions if charges are laid – is getting slimmer with each news story.

As it is, however, the media – not just Fairfax and the ABC – seem eager to be judge, jury and executioner. Perhaps it’s from collective guilt that blind eyes were turned to appalling harassment and abuse for so long, but personal and corporate remorse doesn’t justify journalists and media organisations taking matters into their own hands. The alleged conduct by the accused men must not, cannot, be condoned, but due legal process must be observed – not trial by media.

More broadly, the outbreak of post-Weinstein #metoo-ism in Australia and around the Western world is both a cause and effect of a decisive tipping of the gender balance in recent years. Influential and ambitious women are as mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. For all recorded history men, the traditional hunter-gatherer warriors, have been the dominant gender, but now the gentler sex is gentle no more, indiscriminately blasting white middle-aged and elderly men from their bastions of power in politics, business and culture.

As the gender power shift continues, the steady flow of women reaching the top in business, politics and entertainment soon will become a flood.  Women in positions of great power and authority will not be novelties like Julia Gillard, but the norm and that’s not a bad thing. But will sexual harassment stop because women are on top? No. Despite Ms Ford and fellow #metoo-ers’ apparent belief that only men are capable of sexual harassment and worse, the absolute power of a person over others, abusing their power through immoral and abhorrent lewd behaviour, will continue in the brave new world. It’s just that guilty abusers will be women as well as men.

England are Rooted

The 2017-18 Ashes series is over.  While England struggled valiantly under Joe Root (who on the final day of the Sydney Test was himself Rooted by a gastro bug), Australia prevailed by working together as a team; the four top bowlers sharing the honours evenly, the Marsh brothers confounding their critics, and Tim Paine a revelation. Everyone contributed, but the achievement of Steve Smith as a consistent big run machine, ace slips catcher and leading by example is special.

In the only form of cricket that truly matters, Test cricket, this was a champion Test team rather than a team of champions. Working together to a plan, they demolished the Old Enemy.

Their example can to applied to Mr Turnbull and his struggling government even if, as with big hitter Glenn Maxwell, the current political captain doesn’t want one particular outstanding batsman on his Cabinet team.

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