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SMH tech writer snagged in Johns group sex storm

You’d think a technology reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper would be aware of the perils of airing his private views on very public internet forums.

Apparently not. Sydney Morning Herald geek-in-residence Asher Moses found himself in deep trouble last night after he broadcasted his take on the Matthew Johns “group sex” scandal via social networking site Twitter.

At around 7pm, Moses, having just witnessed Johns’ squirm-inducing 22-minute interview with Tracy Grimshaw on A Current Affair, posted his considered assessment of ‘Clare’, the then 19-year-old at the centre of the controversy that looks to have ended Johns’ media career.

ashermoses: So Matthew Johns’ career is over because a slutty groupy [sic] had consensual group sex with him and his teammates 7 yrs ago and now regrets it?

The offending tweet was quickly retweeted by several of Moses’ 796 followers, who rather than acquiescing silently, unleashed the online equivalent of the Ten Plagues:

@ashermoses Sooo … you think that apart from doing something morally wrong, you think he … didn’t do anything wrong? Right. Of course.

@ashermoses You’re right! What with a journalist NOW calling her a ‘slutty groupy’, why wouldn’t cops believe an entire NRL rugby team?

@ashermoses How’s this for an opinion — you don’t think its a problem for a group of people to coerce another person into s-x.

@ashermoses is ‘one of those types’. Always a bit sad to lose another one.

But instead of standing by his comment, Moses quickly deleted it, possibly unaware that in the Twittersphere, the digital imprint is permanent.

He then went on the defensive:

ashermoses: I regretted the choice of words but I still think johns is being unfairly treated.

ashermoses: Ok, shouldn’t have put it in those terms. But I think both made their own decisions.

ashermoses: I just think Johns is being crucified when cops haven’t charged him with anything. Morally, I think he was in the wrong.

On the question of rape, Moses expressed his deep seated faith in the Antipodean criminal justice system:

ashermoses: if she was coerced he would have been charged 7 yrs ago … if the cops charged Johns with rape I wouldn’t have this opinion.

After the Twitterstorm died down last night, some other Twitterers raised the question of why Moses should be able to retract his comments, when the same opportunity isn’t available to posters on either the SMH blog to which Moses contributes, or the hard copy of the paper.

To which Moses responded:

ashermoses: Twitter isn’t SMH.

Contrast that with what Moses said himself in this SMH feature written in response to the Fake Stephen Conroy scandal: “Making seemingly private comments on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter is now a sackable offence for some professions,” he wrote.

Crikey contacted Moses for comment but he didn’t respond before deadline.

3
  • 1
    SharonR
    Posted Friday, 15 May 2009 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    His comments appear to me to be entirely correct. Is there anything there that isn’t 100% truth?

    Matthew Johns engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with a female of legal age. He did nothing Illegal. The police statement has clearly stated it was entirely consensual (not partially - entirely)

    As far as ‘group sex’ being immoral - that’s entirely subjective, and personally I don’t think it’s immoral as well. It’s commonly practised, and to be honest I consider it highly SEXIST to imply that a woman isn’t allowed to consent to act our her own sexual wishes.

  • 2
    Dan Warne
    Posted Sunday, 17 May 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Asher’s choice of words in the original tweet was undoubtedly ill-considered, but I see his basic point: that nobody has claimed it was rape, and Johns is being treated almost as if he committed a criminal offence.

    Frankly, there was much less outrage when it was discovered that a 14 year old girl had been working at a brothel part-owned by Labor MP Neville Hilton.

    Although Hilton was eventually found guilty of a criminal offence in relation to the underage person working in the brothel, media coverage focused on the underage sex worker rather than the fact that a federal member of parliament was running a brothel, because running a brothel is legal.

    So it strikes me as an interesting contrast that Johns has been hung out to dry based on a moral issue, when there has been no suggestion of illegality. I think this is the point Asher was trying to make.

    Note, I personally think football players who think it’s OK to have group sex with random women should act more responsibly — it’s abhorrent behaviour. But group sex is part of society, and it’s not something society outlaws unless it’s not consensual, which is the point I think Asher was trying to make.

  • 3
    Mary Kozlovski
    Posted Sunday, 17 May 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    You’re saying that Moses’ “choice of words” was “ill-considered” as though all that matters is that Moses slipped up and said something inappropriate for a journalist to say in a public forum. As though when he thought of ‘Clare’ as a ‘slutty groupy’ he should have rolled the words around in his mouth and cooked up something more palatable.

    Firstly, just because no one is charged with a criminal offence, does not mean that no criminal offence occurred.

    Secondly, it’s not about whether the choice of words is ‘ill-considered’ or not, it’s about the kind of attitude behind a comment like that. Why is the assumption that the woman is a slut? Why is the assumption that it’s her fault? The idea that someone would jump to such a conclusion is astonishing.

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