Monday, July 03, 2006

Ten pulls [Big] Brother after MP scalding

No, it’s not my prediction of tomorrow’s headline: it’s from last week, after the axeing of “Big Brother - Adults Only”.

Whenever stories of this kind arise, one’s suss-ometer needs to be set to “high”. Stranger things have happened than publicity stunts being engineered as ratings and/or ancillary revenue boosters. I feel confident that the “Adults Only” axeing was not such a stunt, but am less comfortable about the latest brouhaha.

What is beyond dispute is that if the censorious politicians do get their way here (and assuming that the whole thing is not a cynical stunt), most of the ground work will have been laid by others, in particular: (i) ostensibly pro-female campaigners acting in concert on Internet forums (particularly the official “Big Brother” one), and (ii) the expert opinion of Catharine Lumby (often spelt Catherine Lumby).

These two factors explain the 12 hour or so delay between the incident and the show’s producers evicting the offending duo (the delay was actually longer, but a long-pre-arranged band coming on-set set back the natural timetable).

Only a concerted campaign (one that, in the time available, couldn’t have happened anywhere but the Net) could explain how some grainy night-vision footage, narrowcast to a presumably-tiny (at 4:30 a.m.) Internet subscription audience, could so quickly get “big” enough to require Catharine Lumby’s urgent adjudication. (Unlike the consensus at LP, I think the overall speed here is telling, rather than any slowness). (NOTE (in case you are unfamiliar with the background): the young woman who the incident was done to did not initiate the complaint; obviously if she had, then the Internet harpie (= motivated by homophobia, which I’ll explain in another post) brigade would have been superfluous, and my reservations about "speed" would be redundant.)

Then we get to the clinching role played by Catharine Lumby, Associate Prof in Media Studies at Sydney University. My guess is that she (along with the NSW Rape Crisis Centre (doesn’t Qld have one?)) was contacted late morning or early afternoon on Saturday.

Her urgent opinion was sought on just one thing: whether less than a minute (I’m guessing) of grainy footage showed sexual assault, or just hijinks, or whatever. From what I’ve read, Lumby was expected to make her decision on the footage alone, without context, and without even interviewing the parties, especially the woman at the centre.

Predictably, her opinion was thus:

Ms Lumby said yesterday she told the producers the male housemates had crossed the line: "[t]here is a complete difference between sexual behaviour and sexual assault." (same URL)

Well derr (on the "theory"). Her "applied" call may yet be proved correct (i.e. not just based on what evidence she had available to her to make an on-the-spot (or very nearly so) decision). But then again she may not; i.e. it will turn out that she has made an error of judgment.

Given that Lumby has plenty of form as a pathetic boomer shill, I’d rate her supposedly expert opinion on absolutely anything as worth jack shit.


If you want to see what actually happened, look at the video stream of the "incident".
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