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The age of indignation


The Jazz Age, also known as the Roaring Twenties, was marked by a strong cultural movement toward Jazz music, dances and clothing styles that were considered risqué by previous generations.

A definite cultural shift occurred that is most often attributed to the blending of African-American traditions and Caucasian middle-class ideals and new found freedoms.

The Great War had been and gone, bringing an end to many old social conventions, leaving the way wide open for new ones to be developed. It was a heady time to be alive. “There was never a better time…?”

Almost a century later few could argue we are far removed from such gaiety and in fact deeply mired in what I call ‘the age of indignation’.

It’s unfair we live in these times of Miley Cyrus, Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian and ISIS.

Terror is continually in our news and public sentiment is divided on social issues like race, refugees, religion and even marriage.

Social commentators are on tenterhooks regarding what they feel they can and can’t say, for even the most banal of quips these days can be regarded with full blown hostility.

More so however, this age will be defined not by the events around us, but our reactions to them.

Everything seems to offend.

Many call it political correctness gone mad. To me, it’s far more simply explained as people gone mad.

It’s not like the rules changed overnight and suddenly it’s wrong to smack the office girls on the behind as they pass by. These changes have been fine tuning for a generation or two (or three) by now and it’s only the dinosaurs (hello Sam Newman) who have yet to evolve to the way things now are.

Journey with me, if you will, through the murky world of political correctness as I attempt to demonstrate why it should simply be called correctness.

I must warn you however that we are going to venture into some dark places and explore ideals and beliefs that may leave you aghast.

I purposely bought myself a pair of glasses just so I could take them off in stunned amazement at the absurdity of what was occurring.

Last Thursday, here in Australia, accused match-fixer Eddie Hayson called a media conference to set the record straight about his links to the current rugby league match-fixing scandal.

The phrases ‘Match fixing’ and ‘Hayson’ are synonymous with each other here in New South Wales and if you doubt me just go and type ‘NRL Match-Fixing’ into any search engine and see what name pops up first. I’ll wait.

Well Eddie Hayson seemed to have grown tired of such accusations and decided to hire a fancy room (Premier Bob Askin’s old office in fact) and called on the considerable powers of celebrity publicist, Max Markson, and held a press conference to…well, I’m not sure?

The conference itself was described as “like watching 6 cats play with a mouse”, except the cats were more interested in watching the mouse than destroying it.

The renowned professional gambler attempted to paint himself as nothing more than a misunderstood knockabout Aussie who loves a beer and a bet (but) also happened to provide “free sex” to footballers and jockeys at the brothel he once owned.

This is the Eddie Hayson of the Kieran Foran and ‘Buzz’ Rothfield T.A.B account sagas. The same Eddie Hayson who holidays with colourful Manly player Brett Stewart and owes millions to people perhaps even less scrupulous than himself.

They say where there’s smoke there’s fire. Well, it wouldn’t be unfair to say Eddie Hayson is smoke.

It was an excruciating hour as Hayson dug himself further and further into a hole, all on live television, and still wonderfully available on most social media sites.

One particular journalist on this matter, the respected Andrew Webster, couldn’t just watch the farce without offering the public an all too rare insight behind the scenes and expose Hayson for what he truly is.

Webster tells us, “On Saturday, at 6.18am, I received a text message from Hayson that exposes the man. Hayson’s text, in full, said this: “Your [sic] just a weak homosexual aren’t you. No balls to write the Wayne Bennett story but happy to write about the match fixing story which is destroying innocent lives of several people and everyone knows it has not happened. That’s what a coward you are and by the way all the players don’t want you anywhere near the dressing rooms every [sic] again looking at them getting changed and that’s them saying that not me and should look at different career as rugby league and homosexuality don’t mix. Your [sic] just a weak suck. Cheers.”

Now the Wayne Bennett story, in brief because it’s not our business, is that he separated from his wife of 42 years. Good story huh? Well that’s the story Hayson believed of more interest to the sporting public than match fixing.

We aren’t buying it.

Webster expresses that, as an opinion writer, he expects to be attacked on occasion. “Hayson’s gutless missive” however “jumps right over” the barrier of what is or isn’t fair.

Webster tells us “Most turn their back on nasty homophobia and pretend it didn’t happen. Don’t give the grub who said it any more oxygen. I’d prefer to call it out. I’m not ashamed of my sexuality, although the shame of living in the closet until I was 26 certainly took its toll on my mental health. It still does. That shame breaks something inside of you and it impacts on many areas of your life. In particular, your failed relationships with others.”

Webster, who writes about Rubgy league and was naturally aware of Hayson for years, decided a number of years ago “to lose Eddie’s number. He would phone and pester me for information, paranoid about whatever (my) colleague Kate McClymont was writing, what others were saying. He’d try to tip me into stories but in the end he was just a pest. The thought of being associated with Eddie Hayson, let alone being his mouthpiece, churned the stomach.”

Hayson’s press conference failed miserably. “Instead of clearing the air, he only made the situation harder to read.” We know last June, NSW Police started investigating matches involving Manly and two weeks ago established Strike Force Nuralda to look deeper into the matter. Hayson’s name once again is smoke in this investigation.

Webster tells us, “I have a great relationship with most players. The NRL and several clubs, the Bulldogs in particular, have been superb about sending a message out against homophobia. Paul Langmack’s efforts in organising the NRL float at Mardi Gras earlier this year while he fought throat cancer was one of the bravest things I’ve seen.”

Rugby League is at it’s best when reporters like Andrew Webster give us such insights behind the curtain and at it’s worst when these insights expose the Haysons of this world sticking their fingers in the pie.

That’s two charades exposed and now to move onto the most staggering story of this week (and many others.) Buckle up. This week we saw American University, Penn State, honour long time (and recently deceased) football coach Joe Paterno.

Multiple times throughout the first half of last weekend’s football game between the (Penn State) Nittany Lions and Temple, video footage was shown honouring Paterno. A number of tributes and monuments constructed by Penn State fans preceded and followed the festivities.

Paterno was the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions from 1966 to 2011. Paterno was the most victorious coach in NCAA FBS history. He gave the Campus and town an identity it was extremely proud of for the best part of a half century.

His career however ended with dismissal when in November 2011 an investigation into child abuse showed Paterno had knowingly harbored serial child rapist Jerry Sandusky on his coaching staff for 33 years.

Harboured a serial child rapist for decades, yet here he is honoured barely five years later. Can you believe it?

American journalist Mile Wise tells us, ‘former players and tens of thousands of fans paid homage to the late Joe Paterno on the 50th anniversary of his first game as head coach. Paterno… gave his college town a national identity as a football powerhouse before we found out his real legacy: enabler of a convicted pedophile who raped boys over at least four decades.

(Jerry) Sandusky used his Second Mile Charity for at-risk and underprivileged youth to groom his victims. He did not discriminate. Black, brown and white kids were molested, their economic status creating another layer of vulnerability. Many of these boys were orphaned. They didn’t merely come from broken families; they had no family.’

‘Four Octobers ago’, Wise relates, ‘I stood in a single-file line outside a small county courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania waiting to get into the courtroom where Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, would be sentenced to 30-60 years in prison for the sexual abuse of 10 boys.

The college president would resign. The athletic director would resign. And the head coach was fired in disgrace.’

They all knew. Wise knows the trauma of abuse all too well having been victim some 40 years ago when he was sodomised by a trusted uncle.

Wise eventually confronted this uncle, writing him a letter some 20 years after he was raped. In it, he wrote, “While you are family, some people do things in families to not be part of that family anymore. And for me, you have crossed this line.”

He never got a reply. Most victims of child sexual abuse never gain acknowledgment from their molesters.

The case can’t be clearer. Joe Paterno knew. He knew and he did nothing. He knew in 2001 and 1998 and, because of unsealed court documents, we learned this summer that he also knew as far back as 1976.

“Leaders of men do not deserve to be commemorated if they cannot protect children. Taking the good parts of a man’s life and celebrating them, paying homage for all the character-building he did for his players, disrespects and demeans the boys who became men after they were abused by Sandusky, especially the ones whom Paterno knew about.

The people who stood to honour Paterno may have meant no harm. But to Sandusky’s victims, to all victims of child sexual abuse, pining for Penn State’s past is the opposite of love.”

Wise concludes, “It’s not up to the Penn State community – the unaffected fan in the stadium’s third row – to decide how Paterno’s legacy should be treated. It’s not up to his widow, Sue Paterno, who persuaded the university to have this weekend. It’s up to the men who were molested. They get to decide.”

Joe Paterno negotiated a $5.5 million exit during his testimony regarding the case and was granted $3 million at the end of the 2011 season if he agreed it would be his last.

Interest-free loans totaling $350,000 that the university had made to Mr. Paterno over the years would be forgiven as part of his retirement package.

He would also have the use of the university’s private plane and a luxury box at Beaver Stadium for him and his family to use over the next 25 years.

What a slap on the wrist.

You can blame fans for this mildest of punishments. For in the end, the board of trustees, bombarded with hate mail and threatened with a defamation lawsuit by Mr. Paterno’s family, gave the family virtually everything it wanted.

Documents show that the board even tossed in some extras that the family demanded, like the use of specialised hydrotherapy massage equipment for Mr. Paterno’s wife at the university’s Lasch Building, where Mr. Sandusky had molested a number of his victims.

No one at the time wanted to hear about how said hero might have ruined a child’s life, so they smeared the victims and anyone who was giving the victims’ charges any credence.

It was classic trickle down intimidation and it enabled last weekend’s celebrations. Someone pass the bucket.

Yes, these are truly the days of indignation folks, for there is a lot to be indignant about. Don’t believe the hype about political correctness gone mad, for as these stories show, it’s only people who are mad.

It therefore becomes our responsibility to stand firm on what is and isn’t ‘a fair cop.’ Once achieved, bring on the roar 2020’s!