And I haven’t got the time, to try and change your mind…

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Anyone who works in public relations will eventually have to deal with the notion of ethics. There is a school of thought in public relations that essentially things are moving beyond our industry, that we can no longer put out fires. There’s a school of thought that we no longer have the influence or knowledge of social media to control a message – that we’re essentially prisoners of time, playing a waiting game until someone else errs more spectacularly. That we’re earning our money simply through waiting things out, through letting a short public attention span get distracted by a new topic, a new selective morality. In an era where nothing sticks, where yesterdays scandals are todays ennui. So ethically, we’re being paid for time management, that the power for the rehabilitation of reprehensible humans or the reclamation of negative imagery isn’t in our hands anymore. How does it sit with you to see a flawed human being back in a position of power because they have “strong opinions” or “they are a leading expert commentator” – that their redemption is fundamentally flawed, that they didn’t redeem themselves through actions, but the simple notion of “forgive and forget”. Do you even care? If you haven’t ever questioned your ethics in PR, you haven’t worked in the industry…to me, the horrific realisation that you haven’t actually done anything for your client but hide them a bit is pretty depressing to be honest…

In the blokey blokes world of Melbourne AFL football, public relations do their bit to help you forgive and forget, but in truth, forgiveness for an indiscretion is doled out on one very intangible measure: the “good bloke” o-meter. Being a good bloke is a strange mythical quality – it doesn’t necessarily require any acts of charity, any acts of chivalry or any morality. It doesn’t require fidelity, and it doesn’t require kindness or thought out actions. It requires you to be good at football and have a fine line in stories about footy trips in 1987. Bonus points may be awarded for unqualified things such as getting the drinks in, letting other players tape your face up or put a shaving cream pie in your face or put you in a tumble drier with a rueful “you got me!” smile, or telling a team-mate how to block that difficult girlfriends calls on a new phone. It won’t stand for sleeping with a team-mates wife, but it will let you back in once everyone in the circle decides that it was really her fault anyway. It’s an exclusionary inner circle that shares the same nightclubs, the same holiday yachts, the same VIP areas, the same canapes, that passes the microphone to each other in Grand Final week to tell the same stories from different perspective. It’s participants are well aware that in this world, there but for the grace of god go I, so I best not play the moral card, lest it come back to me. Head down, say nothing, tell us another out about playing on Gaz…

As a result of this unquantifiable moral assessment (strictly enforced by footballers, the inner circle of McGuires, Newmans and Brayshaws and a code of ethics) crimes are overlooked in favour of continuous redemption. Jason Akermanis is ostracised from the AFL media community for essentially being a terrible team-mate prone to saying stupid things (ie being a “bad bloke”), while Wayne Carey continues to find redemption after redemption in the football media world in spite of actual, real crimes and domestic violence in his past that is swept under the carpet because he’s a good bloke. We’ve discussed before the ground work laid by Eddie McGuire on EMT when he with a dismissive wave of his hand that Wayne (as a guest) wasn’t “there to talk about the past!”, before immediately delving into drawing on Careys experience as a footballer (again, the ultimate free Melburnian pass) to discuss Collingwoods forward woes and explain how he would fix them. Now Carey is “redeemed”, waxing lyrical to his Triple M acolytes, taking cashies to discuss the glory days and pontificating on moral issues on Talking Footy. Insight is his apparent ticket to redemption, the swaggering King reborn because of strong opinions and the free pass that being a male footballer with certain friendships can give you. This is just accepted, and if you question it, well, did YOU kick 7 goals against Geelong in the wet in 1997? No? Well shut up then! Duck has the microphone…

Over time, Careys role in football media has become somehow accepted, almost passively. There was a lack of critical thought in the mainstream media when Carey fronted the White Ribbon night, when Carey was quoted in the age stating where the sledging line was. All can be dismissed simply because (Eddie McGuire hand wave) “we aren’t here to talk about the past” and Carey has “strong opinions” about whether Geelong can win the flag. It’s a mystifying lack of journalistic accountability, but in the end, maybe not that mystifying. Why rock the boat, why question? Much easier to impugn Patrick Dangerfield for dressing up or Tom Bugg for an instagram post than ask questions about why Wayne Carey is in charge of morality. And lest we think somehow that Careys role in the media is being passively accepted, it’s now being painted as a downright positive. Step forward Sam Duncan in the Age, who passed off a blog post as a journalistic article, who’s assertion that he had forgiven James Hird and you should too would be a self righteous self important claim even without writing the following without irony and consideration.

“The AFL is a forgiving industry. After all, we all make mistakes, but few are so big that you can’t be welcomed back into the fold.

Wayne Carey’s name was once mud. After a string of off-field indiscretions, nobody wanted a bar of him. Now he’s a leading expert commentator on Channel 7 and Triple M and a columnist for The Age. He’s now one of the leading voices in the game.

It’s what the AFL does. If you do the crime, do the time, and then they’ll help you get back on your feet.”

The problem with Duncans assertion is two fold – firstly, he says this like it’s a positive. Setting aside Hird for the moment, the simple assertion of Careys redemption is fundamentally depressing and disgusting. Duncan states this like it’s a positive thing, that the encircling of wings around Carey and other fallen stars is a good thing, when it actually perpetuates the blokey bloke stereotype of the football media, the notion of an inner circle and an outer circle. Secondly, it’s a horrendous assertion that imagines Carey is fundamentally beloved because of his microphone technique and that no one out there is uncomfortable (there’s that word again) with his presence. That no one feels extreme discomfort when he speaks, is exalted, is allowed to airlessly guffaw on Triple M or call out player behaviour like nothing in his past makes that hypocritical. If Duncan is correct, then the public revulsion for a particular act is simply and casually ignored, that figures can never be “hated”, that insularity will always prevail. As long as his mythical AFL redemption is offered up, everything is fine. What domestic violence incident? What street fight? Listen love, the blokes are talking…

The notion that past actions are no barrier to redemption no matter what it is – drugs, domestic violence, offensive language, casual sexism dressed up as jokes etc – is forgiven by time and the act of being a footballer with access to a system that props you up. Duncan believes that it’s a positive that nothing more than the passage of time and public disinterest in foibles after their initial passing is a positive, something to exalt. It, frankly, isn’t. If Duncan genuinely believes using a system of who you know and a billion dollar sporting industry to prop you up after every indescretion (current players have the luxury of course of redemption through “kicking a bag”) is a positive and an example of human forgiveness, he’s brutally, insultingly wrong. It’s an example of nothing more than hoping the public are absorbed enough in something else to not question while the Careys of the world simply sit out enough time to be welcomed back. Duncan provides nothing else to disprove it, just a few sentences about how he’s a great commentator and time has passed. There’s no other evidence provided. His horrendous article proves not a single thing else…

The notion of a redemption just because you were good at football and some powerful friends just decided enough time had passed, that should always be challenged, every single damned time it comes up…

THAT show…

Of course, that old guard of old Melburnia was on hand to proudly present to the world the all new Footy Show, the hottest, hippest show of 1996. As if to prove nothing else had changed, the much trumpeted opening skit featured Eddie McGuire as Braveheart, as if time had stood stock still. Next week, the cast will presumably participate in a Friends parody or spoof John Howard. Digress. The participatory joy of the Herald Sun in promoting the show was beyond my comprehension, as the paper breathlessly promoted Sam and Eddie’s “bromance” like they were the New Idea, and offered up tickets to the show. As if to emphasise the sheer exclusionary nature of the show however, there were rumours Bec Maddern was going to become the shows “barrel girl”, a Livinia Nixon type spinning the wheel and keeping her lippy shiny. While not Becs biggest fan (I’ll get to that one day) this notion was so fundamentally depressing (and it may still happen) that it took away any notion I had to watch the show. Seeing the old guard so unquestioningly crowbarred into national prominence with glee and happiness and the notion that unleashing Sam to speak his mind was somehow what was wanted in 2017 was bewildering to me. Each to their own of course, but there’s still not a comedy show for me when it comes to football. We discussed before The Footy Show isn’t a show that you can “turn off!” like it’s critics proclaim you should do. It takes great pride in finding you to round on you if you don’t like it. It’s not a show that can just be ignored. It’s last cling to relevance took up so much airtime, that yes, it really did feel like the old days…

Now, to be honest, we discussed in the last blog post I have nothing to draw on around the Footy Shows “glorious” past, there’s no nostalgic warming glow to my participation in the show. A montage of the shows most hilarious moments would induce a shrug, it’s not for me. Already, most of us that find it’s humour questionable – the isolatory bullying of the different is at the core of the shows humour after all, and when it’s your turn to cop it, you have to laugh or else you are against the show – are portrayed as humourless, clueless shrews who don’t understand Sams genius. One of the highlights in the montage that was gleefully replayed showed Bill Brownless having his face taped up with sellotape, having long ago accepted being a jovial punching bag for cash. He gets it! The bind the Footy Show finds itself in it relies on controversy, appealing to the Tony Abbot challengers of political correctness, and those diehards who can’t quite understand why that uppity woman in the middle has to interrupt the flow of Sam and Eddie, for much of its success. It’s quite the bind – to truly succeed, they need to be as retro as possible, even in the case of the jokes. We presume Sam is being wound up as we speak, ready to unleash…can hardly wait…

Mind you, this was also a week where Mahatma Coate, Greg Ritchies Pakistani impersonating blackfaced “character” seamlessly slipped into a pre match function before the Adelaide showdown between the Crows and the Power to partake in some gems about Pakistani flight attendants and women on broomsticks. David Koch, president of Port Adelaide and best friends with a cash cow, reportedly “had no problem” with the material, finding the one about how some cab drivers don’t use deodorant to be particularly hilarious. He’s saying what we all think! So unpacking football clubs sense of humour runs directly into that “humourless shrew” argument, the “why can’t people just have A LAUGH!” notion. Presumably letting Ritchie/Coate “off the leash” and allowing him to challenge political correctness leads to hilarious outcomes. And even if Ritchie went too far, presumably having done the crime, after a period, he’d be welcomed back into the fold…after all, that’s a positive isn’t it…

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