Today's Sydney Morning Herald has an article by Miranda Divine, drawn to my attention by a reader, on the NRL scandal (for my overseas readers, be prepared to be scandalized - some years ago a married football player had sex with a very young woman while away on a match, with a dozen of his mates looking on with their pants off), arguing that the whole thing is a beat up by those who want to attack the concept of masculinity.
Give me a break!
I'm all in favour of asserting proper gender roles, and recovering the idea of manliness. But I can't see how a group of rugby players indulging in group sex can possibly be upheld as an example of such an ideal!
Quite the contrary, as Annabel Crabb suggested a few days back in the same newspaper. Indeed, her comments have some resonance in the context of the clerical abuse scandal, so are worth taking a look at.
Do the perpetrators get it yet?
Commenting on the media coverage, she says:
"How intriguing it is to watch an insulated community, whose members have been behaving a certain way in private for many years, struggle with the realisation that most people view that behaviour as deplorable."
She goes on to point out the analogy in Britain with the MP expense claims scandal, but I think the insight similarly has wider resonances:
"At Westminster, the atmosphere is rife with tears and cheques, as politicians publicly repent of their avarice and deliver stricken personal apologies to the cameras.
In their eyes, you can see something similar to what we saw this week from Matthew Johns: desperate remorse, tinged with bafflement.
"But everybody was doing it," you can almost hear them wail to themselves, although of course they are too well briefed to claim that excuse in public."
Playing the emotions
She goes on:
"One group was guilty of scamming, the other of "bunning"....
But the behaviour pattern is rivetingly similar.
The psychology of groups; always a fertile area.
In a quiet way, the psychology of individuals was worth watching this week in Canberra, too.
Politics is full of carefully calibrated emotion.
There are times at which politicians publicly smother their anger and annoyance.
Think Kevin Rudd on Thursday, as he clapped on a hard hat and grinned for the cameras holding a shovel with Nathan Rees, a man on whom the Prime Minister would almost certainly prefer to use the shovel quite differently.
And there are times at which politicians amplify their anger.
Think the Ruddbot's recent press conference on people smuggling, his human speech simulator going at warp speed to come up with vocabulary of sufficient outrage.
The result was a sort of quasi-human gargle of wrath: "They represent the absolute scum of the earth … they should rot in jail and, in my own view, rot in hell …""
Manliness or homosexuality?
In an earlier piece Ms Crabb goes through what happened in the NRL case and has this to say about it:
"Let's say it out loud: it's the gayest thing ever.
And these are the same blokes who can't wait to climb into dresses for stunts on The Footy Show. Don't think we're not putting two and two together.
So come on, chaps.
If you want to get together and celebrate your oiled, toned bodies in the celebrated Greek tradition, then go ahead.
Just leave the ladies out of it, will you, and do us all a favour?"
Well actually, as Catholics we'd rather they didn't do it all. But I think she has called it for what it is, and Miranda Divine is just way offbeam.
Ms Divine's complaint is that while the initial criticism of the player concerned may have been justified, subsequent reactions, such as banning League players from visiting schools aren't. The problem is that, just as in the Church, the wider ramifications of the story haven't been adequately tackled as yet. None of the players involved except Johns have actually come forward for example.
Is there an element of media beatup about the whole thing? Of course there is. Does the attack on team sport fit in with the feminist agenda? Perhaps. Are some of the alleged victims just out to destroy the Code/Church? Sure looks like it.
But there is an underlying reality about all this stuff. The Rugby League code, like the Church, needs to get its act together and deal with the problem seriously. Or continue to take the consequences.