As Rob Idol explains, Mitchell Pearce’s actions are his own, but we are also to blame for popularising them.
I, like many of you I’m sure, have done some downright stupid shit in my life. Fortunately, most of the consequences born from it were merely embarrassment on my part and significant banter ammunition for those witnessed it.
Luckily for me, those that have witnessed my various indiscretions have only witnessed them because they were present. As I’m no great concern to the majority of the world, should I repeat any of my past mistakes in public, they would have to be epically disturbing, or vastly hilarious, to gain any level of real publicity.
There are those, however, who unfortunately don’t enjoy the same protection.
There are countless examples to choose from, but none more recently controversial than Sydney Roosters halfback, Mitchell Pearce.
While Pearce has had a number of indiscretions become public fodder, the most recent, and most disturbing, involves a video of him intoxicated, simulating sex with a dog and making lewd advances on a woman.
Before I go any further, I have to make it very clear that I find his behaviour absolutely abhorrent. There is no excuse for it – not even his scripted public admission that he has a serious problem with alcohol.
That being said, the very public nature of his downfall is far from okay. Someone not known to him, inside a private residence, allegedly filmed the video. Further to that, the video wasn’t provided to the police to allow an investigation to occur with the same discretion that we are all entitled to; rather, it was given (and allegedly sold) to Channel Nine.
These days, it’s fair to say that an expectation of privacy for any of us is naïve at best. Those in the public eye are now at the point where it is ludicrous to assume that anything, even things that occur in the privacy of their own home or relationship, will not end up in the public sphere.
So what makes them different from us? Why is their right to privacy any less important than our own? The simple answer, is, unfortunately, money. The release of controversial footage or photos of those with a public profile is rarely done in the interests of society; it is done to satiate our strange professional obsession with schadenfreude, lining our hearts and the pockets of the media organisations that deliver the misfortune of others. This was highlighted in no small way by the revelations of text messages from those involved suggesting that they were “Thinking about selling it (the footage) to the Daily Mail to end his career.”
In the case of Pearce, it could also be argued that the breach of his privacy was in fact illegal.
He has had previous indiscretions in public, replete with video. In this case, however, the act occurred in a private residence. The filming took place without Pearce’s knowledge in an environment in which he had a legal expectation to privacy. He gave no consent, and was arguably not in a state to be able to give it. It cannot be argued that the release of the footage was in the public interest. Quite simply, Pearce’s legal right to privacy was irrevocably breached.
For someone like Pearce, the consequences of that breach are disastrous. He has all but lost his job and his career. Not because he is unable to perform his duties, but because the public release of his indiscretion looks bad for his employer, the league in which he plays, and makes for a very difficult conversation with the thousands of children that idolise him. Like it or not, sportspeople in this country are immediately assumed to be role models, despite any individual suitability for the role, and any behaviour not befitting the title is usually a one-way ticket out.
The fact remains, that had his privacy not been breached, he would still have his employment, no children would have witnessed the public downfall of their role model and he would be allowed to deal with his demons in private; an inherent right that we should all be afforded.
We need to start holding those accountable that are responsible for these types of breaches.
The alleged cinematographer has a moral and possibly legal case to answer, not just for releasing the footage, but also for allegedly profiting from it. It is Channel Nine, however, that have the biggest case to answer.
Every time a media outlet broadcasts private footage like this, paid for or not, they are sending a clear message: ethics be damned, if you’ve got some juicy footage of someone with a public profile, send it our way and watch our ratings skyrocket. They are quite happy to gleefully watch the destruction of someone’s career and life, if it will help their bottom line. Morality apparently has no place when there is profit to be made.
They do, however, answer to an even higher power. Us.
The reason that footage like this equates to profit is because we eat it up. We love watching the successful fall; we love it even more if it’s accompanied by popcorn.
As I sat there watching this scandal unfold, I couldn’t help but wonder what would my life be like if every stupid thing I’d ever done was suddenly broadcast for the world to see. And the idea made me want to vomit.
What Mitchell Pearce did is repugnant, but he doesn’t deserve to have his life and career destroyed because of it. Particularly when that destruction serves no purpose but to continue the disgusting pursuit of controversy in the name of “entertainment.”