Where There is Smoke…

Last week, I knew that I wanted to write my blog entry about Mick Malthouse, Paul Licuria and Stephen Milne. It took me a long time, though, to work out how I might approach such a task, especially as the entry was due to be put online a week after the infamous incident at the Docklands. For in the meantime, everyone in Victoria had commented on it. I had to find the way that I would approach the same story while still making my piece unique.

Looking for inspiration, I read anything about Malthouse and Milne that I could find online. This research led me directly to the angle I wanted to use for this week’s piece, even before I worked out the angle which I decided to use for last week’s piece.

The idea started to spring forth while I was reading about the Malthouse-Milne incident on Club Troppo. At the end of Nicholas Gruen’s blog entry on the incident, a bloke who goes by the pseudonym of Yobbo said: “Milne called Licuria a homo (he is)…he called Malthouse a ‘grey-headed old cunt’ (he is).”

What fascinates about the Internet is the way that seemingly anonymous people have no issues with writing comments like these online. While I have no basis for such a theory, it is hard to believe that if he was actually faced with Malthouse or Licuria in real life, Yobbo would say the same things to their respective faces.

Of course, I’ve only been blogging for a couple of months and I’ve already criticised Eddie Maguire, Mick Malthouse, Gerard Whateley, Danny Ferry and the Board of the Melbourne Rebels. However, the difference between my approach and that of folk like Yobbo is that I would have no problems sitting down with Eddie, Mick and co and stating my case. In fact, I’d love the opportunity.

Yobbo’s response caused me to begin what turned into a case study of sorts on Stephen Milne, one of those sportspeople who opposition fans often love to hate.

The vitriol surrounding Milne online is astounding. Known for his sledging, Milne and teammate Leigh Montagna were accused of the sexual assault of a woman in 2004. They vehemently denied the accusation, and the charges were dropped as there was insufficient evidence for the Director of Public Prosecutions to proceed with the case.

However, a search for Stephen Milne (or Steven Milne) on Facebook shows that AFL supporters certainly haven’t dropped their charges. Consider a quick count of the “Hate-groups” regarding Milne online, with their number of members in brackets:

  • I HATE Stephen Milne (139)
  • I hate Stephen Milne (143)
  • I Hate Stephen Milne!!!!!! (85)
  • I hate Steven Milne group (115)
  • I Hate StepHen Milne ( with a passion ) (246)
  • We Hate Stephen Milne Club (116)
  • Stephen Milne Haters (201)
  • Stephen Milne is a Wanker (115)
  • Stephen Milne is a douche bag (766)
  • Stephen Milne – YUK!!! (66)
  • Stephen Milne Belongs Under a Bus (163)
  • I want to punch Stephen Milne in the face (145)
  • No need to apologize mick, we all wanna call stephen milne a F*KN rapist!! (101)
  • Stephen Milne~Gets cheap kicks and rapes mint chicks (21)
  • Alan Didak and Stephen Milne are wankers (303)

The incredible thing about Facebook, of course, is that most people who sign up for these groups and make comments on their walls aren’t anonymous at all.

For instance, it can easily be reported that on April 18 in the ‘I HATE STEPHEN MILNE’ group – a public page…seriously, it’s well worth checking out the link for yourself – Phillip Busuttil of Melbourne, a man who has a romantic wedding photo as his profile picture for clear identification, said “You little rapist prick, should be in jail anyway the little fucker. I would pay someone my yearly wage to go and run through the prick and take him out!!” During the previous week, Amy Cumming called Milne a “piece of shit rapist cunt,” James Burton-Scott said he “just wanted to say i h8 steven milne with a passion” and Christine Virgona – another with a wedding photo – said “why would milne and montagna pay out the woman if they had done nothing wrong, they would have sued her for defamation, where there is smoke there is fire. :)”

People who choose to comment on Facebook rather than a more traditional messageboard show that they are not at all concerned with a lack of anonymity in regards to comments like these. Anyone can see the names, photos and hometowns of many of Milne’s detractors. However, the questions remain. Just how many of these people would actually say such comments to Milne himself if they had the opportunity? Why do people regard such comments – some of which are clearly defamatory – to be acceptable? Is this just a way for fans to bond, or do these people actually want Milne and his family to read the comments?

Two years ago, the mother of an anonymous footballer who was suffering from depression made public the fact that she thought that Internet fan forums were damaging the mental health of AFL players.

As a teacher, all of this reminds me of the concerns of 21st Century parents regarding the ‘cyber-bullying’ phenomenon. Students are shown films like this as part of widespread campaigns to help decrease the prevalance of and ease the damage of online persecution.

Some school kids no longer have a safe haven from bullying. The taunts follow them home, and are present in cyberspace whether or not the victim is online at any given moment.

But it’s not just school kids.

It’s often been said that sportspeople “know what they’re signing up for” when they embark upon a professional career. Here’s hoping that the draftees of tomorrow are truly prepared. That they are ready, willing and able to cope with the online hate – accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – which, unfortunately, appears imminent.

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1 Response to Where There is Smoke…

  1. Liz says:

    Ha! I feel like a real idiot now!!!

    I worry about the prevalence of cyber-bullying as a future issue for the kids, and already wonder about how best to manage access to social media and other net material in a fair and sensible way (now that I think about it, this is an issue for me as well as the kids!). Having the boys set up the trip blog has led to some interesting discussions with J about the public nature of that forum (leading to deletion of a question to his BF about whether their new teacher is ‘better’ than the previous one, for example!). While I’m addicted to FB I’m also horrified and depressed by a great deal of its content. How outrageous for sportspeople to have to cope with stuff like this.

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