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Mussels off the menu on the ABC

Yet Crikey suspects many media consumers, especially those who rely on the broadcast media for news, would be utterly confused about exactly why Peter Slipper resigned from the speaker’s chair.

It was a series of vulgar text messages from Peter Slipper — including one comparing  female genitalia to shell-less mussels — that eventually forced him out of the speaker’s chair.

Yet Crikey suspects many media consumers, especially those who rely on the broadcast media for news, would be utterly confused about exactly why the speaker has resigned. The mussels remark, first reported by The Australian Financial Review last Thursday, dominated parliament yesterday and is repeated in print today by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian.

The TV networks, however, have been far less forthcoming. In Channel Nine’s lead story 6pm news story last night, press gallery veteran Laurie Oakes said the remarks were “too disgusting for broadcast”. ABC political correspondent Mark Simkin, whose 7pm report was accompanied by a blurred graphic of a text message, also gave the remarks a wide berth.

As a rule, ABC online has referred only to Slipper’s “offensive language to describe female genitalia”. Lateline, which airs at at 10.30pm, also made no mention of the “m word” last night — even though host Emma Alberici conducted a 15-minute interview with Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek about the messages.

We’d be interested to know what Crikey readers think.

Do ABC viewers have a right to know what Slipper said in his texts and why he was forced from his post? Or are the remarks simply too unpalatable to broadcast? Have you heard the remarks repeated on radio or TV? We’ll follow up the issue tomorrow. 

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  • 1
    Thomas Nugent
    Posted Wednesday, 10 October 2012 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    So, a gay person finds vaginas disgusting…

    How can comparing female genitals to a mussel be misogynistic?

    Misogynist: Hatred or dislike of women.

    As in, the gender… not the genitals.

    By the logic used here, is every homosexual man a misogynist?

  • 2
    Darinn
    Posted Wednesday, 10 October 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Good point Thomas, Yes it should be discussed where possible. Even the ‘f’ and ‘c’ words make it to news with *** where applicable. Why not here? Odd indeed…..

  • 3
    Richard Milroy
    Posted Wednesday, 10 October 2012 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Interesting that “mussel” in French (moule) is a fairly mild slang term for vagina. Don’t really know why the ABC can’t print what he said. It’s pretty offensive ok, but not that bad in the scheme of things, particularly since it was intended to be private. Many people make offensive remarks in private.

  • 4
    mattholden
    Posted Wednesday, 10 October 2012 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    You would have to be living under a rock with a crystal set stuck on the ABC to not have heard it somewhere … so I doubt ABC listeners/viewers are actually missing out on the fun. Thomas and Darrin: if you don’t get why it’s misogynistic – the genitals are a metonym for the gender, that’s why. And I’m allowed to say ‘metonym’, because this is Crikey, not The Daily Telegraph.

  • 5
    David Stinson
    Posted Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    When first hearing the comments were ‘too disgusting to broadcast’ I was intrigued. When learning they simply referred to a mollusc comparison I was surprised. Poor taste, but what was all the fuss about? Storm in a teacup.

  • 6
    schaffer bill
    Posted Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    The most interesting thing about this is the hypocrisy of Liberals who think Alan Jones should be insulated from critical reaction to a public speech while pursuing the former speaker for comments made in private text messages. Unless they are of the ‘detonate the device now’ type, I don’t think text messages should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny at all, however stupid or offensive.

  • 7
    Chris_B
    Posted Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t read the text message but the analogy may not be all that inaccurate if this photo is representative http://bit.ly/PoVxVf

    What strikes me, however, is the new meaning I now construe when I hear the phrase “Could I have a word in your shell-like?”

  • 8
    David Heslin
    Posted Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know about you guys, but I’m thoroughly disgusted. Not by Slipper’s private text messages, mind you — the man’s gay, he’s allowed to dislike vaginas — but by the fact that he was made to resign over them. It was completely contemptible of Abbott to raise this motion, and equally disappointing that Windsor and Oakeshott pushed the ex-speaker out of the aeroplane because of it.

    Let’s get one thing straight: unless Australia has suddenly morphed into an Orwellian state in which thought-crime is to be policed, I MUST be allowed to say whatever I damn well please in private conversation, whether that involve the c-word, m-word or comparison of sexual organs to any creature on God’s green earth, so long as it is not threatening, belittling or harassing to the direct recipient. I DO NOT believe that it should be the right of the opposition leader of Australia to call for my resignation from whatever position I might hold, however lofty, due to my conduct in private conversation. That is completely beyond the pale.

    I’m quite serious here. If you don’t support the right to be a juvenile, misogynist idiot in private conversation without being hounded from your job because of it, you don’t believe in freedom of speech. Actually, you barely even believe in a free society at all. If you still think that Peter Slipper did the right thing by resigning and that Tony Abbott did the right thing by tabling a motion to that effect, do us all a favour and take a hike to North Korea. This is not the sort of society I want to live in.

  • 9
    Holden Back
    Posted Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Thomas Nugent, you clearly don’t like shellfish.

    You won’t have to survey the raunchier shores of lesbian poetry for very long to find woman-centric bivalve-positive imagery.

  • 10
    Buddy
    Posted Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    As a woman and a gay woman, I was not particularly weirded out by the texts… He’s a gay man and he doesn’t like vaginas. uh Huh! That the msm don’t want to mention that but will quite happily allow comments that I find deeply offensive to go to air… As in ditch the witch, blaming women when they are the victims of rape or sexual assault.. Etc.. that’s offensive. Slipper had a private text conversation with someone he thought he could trust, his mistake. I’ve never however heard him mutter anything in public that I have found offensive.

  • 11
    Hunt Ian
    Posted Sunday, 14 October 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Lewd (raunchier) and juvenile the words may be but Slipper’s wife might dispute that he’s “gay”. He might be bisexual and he might be excessively familiar with a staffer. There is no clear evidence I have seen that he persistently pressed Ashby to have sex with him or that he used his power as Ashby’s employer to pressure him to have sex with him. So we can’t assume that his remark implied hatred of women (just as Tony Abbott’s wife disagrees, it may be Slipper’s wife would disagree). So why the storm? To wedge Julia Gillard? To dispose of Slipper, even if the judge comes back with a dismissal of the harassment case against him? The storm has of course made Slipper unfit to be speaker. There are many occupations where the same storm would not make one unfit for office, but speaker of the house is not one of them.

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