Day 274: ‘Wrongful Death by Media’ 2018

Day 274

Friday 30 March 2018 01:56

Wrongful Death by Media

A few observations by Philip Powers

In Australia the big news for days is not about what’s happening around the world in terms of poverty, politics or corruption. Strike that, it is about corruption. Local corruption. Oh! And it is about politics. Just not governmental politics. Well, at least, it’s not about poverty. Oh, but it happened in a country stricken with poverty. In fact, it happened in a country where poverty is everywhere, a lot of it because of white people’s decades of discriminating against (white supremacy) and subjugating (repression of) black people. And it’s not about Australian poverty, or the fact that three players have lost their wages for nine months or twelve months. As hard as it hits Cameron Bancroft in the wallet, it won’t hit David Warner or Steve Smith as hard. They’re not poor. So, not a terrible financial hardship. But what about emotionally and psychologically?

It’s about cricket.

Darren Lehmann has been quoted in the media expressing justifiable concern about the mental health of the three Australian cricketers hung out to dry. Guilty or not, they have been hung out to dry.

What they’re facing is more than living out the terms of their suspension, or the fact that the sponsor (Magellan Financial Group) of Cricket Australia didn’t stand by the five, six, seven or eight good players in the team, and abandoned them: It’s about surviving mental and emotionally when they’ve probably only ever dreamed of representing Australian in cricket and not thought too far ahead of that dream. For a dream to become a reality is an extraordinary achievement. For that reality to then become an internationally disgraced reality is something I believe is greater than most other disgraced – generally – ‘good’ people get to experience.

People who are internationally disgraced for cheating are on a list probably headed by Lance Armstrong. Other athletes, Olympians, have been stripped of their medals. The disgrace of being famous, having an affair, cheating on your wife, and being less than faithful to your family, rates high on the list of news in Australia, but probably passed a lot of people by in almost every other country.

They used to joke, in Australia when I was a kid, that the responsibility of being captain of the Australian cricket team is more important to Australia than being Prime Minister.

That joke became a reality as events unfolded, piece by piece, over the last five or six days.

There is evidence in the media about politicians finding it difficult to live with the scrutiny and judgment of reporters and journalists. Mark Latham didn’t cope well at one point. Another candidate, Liberal, John Brogden (“The minute I took that call, I knew I had to kill myself”) was suicidal after he knew he was the centre of a scandal, about to be published. Media scrutiny is difficult to survive even when you have years of political experience in using words to say something other than what you mean or what you’re saying, or just simply behave badly.

Darren Lehmann has the correct message at this point in time, with the 12-month ban on Smith and Warner. People need to care about their mental health. And Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. And Matt Lauer. And anyone who has been found-out and humiliated in front of one person or millions.

Not everyone wants to be forgiven for their sins or even believe that there is even a need to be forgiven for their wrongdoing. Sitting on their personal wealth of millions of dollars, I don’t know what Weinstein and Spacey are thinking about the accusations or what they think about how they are now regarded by the world. But I think that it is reasonable to assume that they’re not doing so well.

Darren Lehmann is quoted as saying about his cricketers, “They’re good young men, they’ve made a mistake.”

And then he resigned: “It’s the right time to step away… I’m ultimately responsible for the culture of the team… Despite telling media yesterday that I’m not resigning, after reviewing Steve Smith’s and Cameron Bancroft’s hurting it’s only fair I make this decision… This will allow Cricket Australia to complete a full review into the culture of the team and allow them to implement changes to regain the trust of the Australian public. This is the right thing for Australian cricket.”

In the spirit of the meaning of everything that Good Friday represents and the penalty that Jesus paid for the sins of Mankind, if Steve Smith, David Warner or Cameron Bancroft are asking for forgiveness, then it should be given them in the spirit of Christ’s sacrifice. But not just because it’s Easter. It’s for everyone because of Easter!

For anyone who asks forgiveness for cheating, lying and being deceitful, Christ died for them all. For the members of the media who immediately came out and called for the beheading of Steve Smith as Australian captain before there was hardly any evidence against him, they should ask themselves if they’re asking public figures to be held accountable to an extent that they wouldn’t hold themselves to be held, privately. The answer is probably that at some point they lied to someone or cheated on their partner or cheated in an exam or submitted an income tax return that wasn’t truthful.

It’s not as if I’m saying there shouldn’t be a penalty for cheating. Everyone – even those who don’t believe in sin, or in a God that requires that a person’s sin be acknowledged and rectified – believes that Steve Smith and David Warner need to pay a penalty and suffer for what they did.

Suffering, what they’re doing right now, and will for many months, was not enough for most Australians, because they wanted a penalty imposed in addition to these men’s – and their family’s personal suffering – and Cricket Australia didn’t disappointment: a swift and public condemnation of two of the most talented Australians who have ever lived. Justice has been seen to have been done.

As for a trial? They got about the same trial as the Romans gave Jesus before condemning him to death. Of course, television cameras captured Bancroft committing his sins whereas only tens of thousands of people caught Jesus committing his (perceived) sins, ‘live’.