Crikey: Re. “SMH tech writer snagged in Johns group s-x storm” (14 May, item 19). Last Thursday Crikey attributed the following quotes to Sydney Morning Herald technology reporter Asher Moses:

“CES keynote live stream means journos can get coked up in their hotel room instead of putting pants on.

“Hey, I never said it was *me* getting coked up in a hotel room. You think I can afford cocaine on a Fairfax salary?”

These quotes emanated from a fake Asher Moses Twitter account and were not made by the real Asher Moses. Crikey regrets the error.

The Matthew Johns affair:

Katherine Stuart writes: Re. “Code of silence: the murky mix of stars, s-x and sports writers” (Friday, item 1). Get real Charlie Happell! Rugby league is brutal and gladiatorial, he implies, because that’s what it apparently still takes to survive in “the working man’s culture” in Australia. Although I was appalled to hear the New Zealander’s story and witness the retelling of the devastation it had caused in her young life, what’s truly appalling is the acceptability and apparent excuseability of such behaviour in the wider community at any level.

As evidenced by Happell’s dichotomising that:

…the players who make it to the elite level are very tough, macho, unreconstructed blokes. That’s not to say they’re all blockheads, because they’re not, but neither do many of them get manicures, have their poodles shampooed or their kaftans dry-cleaned. Nor do they have a hissy-fit when they can’t find their blow-dryer.

There’s an implicit admiration here for the “tough, macho, unreconstructed bloke”, not to mention homophobia…It’s a great pity that team sport in this country, with all its health benefits to our increasingly obese population, and the social benefits of learning how to work together in a team, gets reduced at the elite level to this kind of ridiculous dichotomising.

Where do the men you’d like to see as the responsible fathers of the next generation fit into this picture? No wonder younger people are turning away from getting involved. It doesn’t have to be like that either. But that would take getting real about what is and having the will to change it.

David Hardie writes: It is not rocket science to say that the slowest thing to change in any organisation is the intrinsic culture, be it an NRL club, the CWA or the Catholic Church or Macquarie Bank. Even if the NRL manages to change the culture within the clubs by doing things like getting rid of the “if it happens on tour it stays on tour” and “we’ll handle it in-house” mentalities, they will not be able to change the situation where there will be venues in almost every capitol city, on almost any night of the week, where professional sportsmen (and let’s not limit this to NRL) will be able to find a line of women willing to offer them s-x even before they even leave the venue. It is naive to think that the sporting governing bodies can launch some sort of inquisition to change this culture when faced with that powerful an influence that is outside of their control.

Guy Rundle writes: Re. “Group s-x: not that there’s anything wrong with that” (Friday, item 20). I always enjoy opinion pieces by people like Michael Winkler, who label themselves “freelance journalists” and then sneer about the “paid commentariat”. Michael was getting hot and bothered about suggestions of homoeroticism in rugby, made by both myself in Crikey and Annabelle Crabb in the SMH.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed Michael, but both I and the divine Ms Crabb have a brief to write stuff which is, just ever so slightly, taking the complete piss. When you have big boofy blokes in blazers sobbing on the Footy Show about “Matthew’s pain”, it’s difficult not to feel that you’re watching a Punchbowl Amateur Theatre Company production of The Boys In The Band, and too funny to let pass up.

In fact, I have no real idea how many of the blokes in the room would rather be f-cking each other, rather than the groupie on the bed.

Victor Little writes: Michael Winkler raised an array of interesting points in his Friday article, but what I most enjoyed was the slap he delivered to Annabel Crabb’s SMH piece, “Group Sex and Bunning: It’s All Greek to Me”. Her column had a nice dramatic tension to it — it built and built, nudge upon wink, until finally it climaxed in allowing her to shout at these macho boofheads: “What a bunch of fags!!”

Perhaps if she followed up on her own sniggering reference, and looked into the ancient Greeks’ approach to sexuality — with their important recognition of the dangers of calling on the god Dionysus — she might manage to transcend her own adolescent, narrow-minded position.

Paul Gilchrist writes: Alex Clarkin (Friday, comments) makes some very good points about informed choice and alcohol in that crowded hotel room in New Zealand. But he believes that there would be nothing wrong with group s-x if it is “consensual”. (By the way, “consensual s-x” is the most multi-layered pun I’ve heard for a long time.). Can I offer the alternative view that group s-x is wrong, and in this case, “yes means no”… The assumption behind this is that s-x can be reduced to aerobic exercise without any expression of emotional commitment and, dare I say, love between the people involved.

Let’s be honest and drop all the male fantasies, there will always be deception, misunderstanding and false assumptions in the group frolic, which will inevitably lead to people being hurt. Not just in the Matthew Johns case, but in all cases.

Also, in a group, it is certain that someone will be cheating on an existing relationship, and everyone involved is aiding the cheating. Let’s be honest. Go for a run or swim to get your aerobic exercise and keep s-x for loving relationships. That’s not prudery — that is the path to happiness.

Jenny Morris writes: I have to object to two of Alex Clarkin’s comments on the Matthew Johns saga. First, Alex writes: “whatever people want to do in their own time, be it with other people, kitchen appliances or domestic animals, is up to them, provided everyone involved is cool and able to make an informed choice about what is going on.” J

ust how does Alex propose people get consent from a domestic animal? Alex, this is bestiality, illegal in Australia.

Second, Alex writes that “people will continue to drink, get drunk, behave like animals…” Despite the Bundy ads, I haven’t seen animals drinking at my local, and animals are generally much better behaved than humans.

Check your thinking Alex, or at least your writing. One or the other or both are wrong and/or lazy.

The economy:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “So which is it, recession or recovery?” (Friday, item 8). Bernard Keane is entitled to ask about the conflicting “advice” from many “experts” regarding the global financial crisis. These include a swag of “got it wrong” types who might well be better off using their personal horoscopes. The cause of this financial mess is mind boggling clear — too much debt. Too many institutions lending too much to too many who could not afford to repay.

And then creating a gaggle of empty box “derivatives” to on sell the debt to someone else. Well what do we do to fix this? Firstly we need to forgive the debt. That’s been done because most of it will never be recovered. Secondly we need to discipline the market through regulation so unsustainable debt will not repeat itself. But that’s not happened, anywhere.

We will not go further into recession if we actually fix things up but then we will have a sustainable but very slow recovery.

NAPLAN testing:

A Hobart teacher writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Friday, item 6). When reading Tips and Rumours, the paragraph on NAPLAN testing caught my attention. I‘m a state school primary teacher of year 5s in Hobart who has just administered the test. The results of these tests from the state schools are frequently used by the media to BASH state teachers for their poor classroom — practice, teaching, etc.

League tables as they have become known, are used to show a school’s success based solely on these results without consideration of socio make up of the school’s students. Not once have I seen the results of private schools – Catholic or Independent published along side the State School results.

It’s time for private schools who receive large amounts of public money to be placed under the spot light along with state schools … Cheating aside! Wouldn’t it make for interesting reading? As receivers of public money private schools need to be more open and transparent. We State teachers are sick of having to cop all the criticism while Private schools are exempt.

Would Crikey be prepared to follow this situation up?

Planet Janet:

Michael James, from a planet of his own, writes: Re. “Rundle’s Friday drive-bys: Planet Janet re-orbits and the last word on The Monthly” (Friday, item 24). This is off-subject but every time Guy Rundle refers to Planet Janet, I cannot help but drift off into a reverie of 60’s utopianism. Yep, about as far from Janet A. as one could get, and probably some kind of Freudian response to the menace conjured by her rantings.

For those non-boomers or non-fans of Van Morrison (i.e. deeply uncool people), Janet Planet was the hippie-chick artist-poet who briefly was Morrison’s muse and wife, circa Moondance and Tupelo Honey — almost exactly 40 years ago. That’s her on the album cover-art of Tupelo Honey, with long hair billowing, sitting bareback on the horse with Morrison holding the reins, in the redwood forest in an almost parodic return-to-nature scene.

She wrote the liner notes too. This was after Astral Weeks and they were living as semi-recluses in rural Marin County (George Lucas territory, north of the Golden Gate Bridge) and maybe for a brief moment Morrison had found his Walden Pond or Dove Cottage. Of course it couldn’t last and perhaps we have her most to thank, not for those sweeter albums during their idyll, but for the post-divorce darker and transcendent music of Saint Dominic’s Preview (IMO, his greatest, even better than Astral Weeks).

Anyway after a few milliseconds of said reverie, I judderingly return to the present. And then the images inspired by Planet Janet are more like those “welcome-to-the-real-world” scorched-earth scenes in The Matrix after Neo has swallowed the red pill … and a faint wave of nausea and vertigo pass through me. I am glad that Van had that peaceful interlude because five minutes of Janet Planet is of more worth more than a lifetime of Planet Janet.

Guy, is there a coloured pill that can snap me out of Planet Janet darkness? Or one that we can spike JA’s drink so she turns into Janet Planet?

Mark Steyn:

David Long writes: Re. “Rundle’s Friday drive-bys: Planet Janet re-orbits and the last word on The Monthly” (Friday, item 24). Amused to read Guy “We Warn the Czar” Rundle’s clear delight at the apparent eclipse of Bushist demagogue Mark Steyn as a “global content provider” because he now writes for US titles propped up by Moonies, Pennsylvanian tycoons and, shock, horror, the Angeleno middle class of southern California.

Rarely given to using one word when ten will do, Rundle clearly believes his own literary talents are woefully under-appreciated by the Great Mastheads of the World; the New Yorkers, Atlantics et al.

Churlish then to point out, perhaps, that most of Rundle’s output these days, including his spray at Steyn, is published in a gadfly emailed purveyor of gossip, scandal and titbits produced out of Melbourne and often described — flatteringly or otherwise — as “Australia’s Drudge Report”.

Poor Guy.


“John Butters” writes: Re. “Newspapers stabilise but magazines terminal” (Friday, item 22). Glenn Dyer might like to remember that the Fairfax/Rural Press stable includes the Canberra Times, and while it might be easier simply to cover the SMAGE, the CT has extensive reach, and delivers news and opinion to many of Australia’s political news makers and opinion formers.

Much as it might be an inconvenience to those domiciled in Victoria and New South Wales, Canberra is the nation’s capital, and the newspapers read there do count. Perhaps as well as those outlying outposts of Australiastan like Darwin and Adelaide, the CT could be included in his review of circulation.

Unless of course Crikey doesn’t have much readership in Canberra…

Peter Fray

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