Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Navy sex scandal story still simmering

Sailors seeking sex. Outlandish! Unheard of! Disgusting! Animals! Or so went the lurid tale of sailors on board HMAS Success running a sex-conquest competition with a cash prize for the seaman who bedded the greatest number of female crew mates. The story was big in the news, went international and was, of course, much discussed in the blogosphere. There were precious few facts to go on, the shortage encouraging wild speculation.

Conservative corporate (Newscorp) commentator Andrew Bolt thought the "scandal" much ado about not much:

"How many of these women actually slept with the bounty hunters?

"None, I’d bet. In which case, why all this fuss?"

Liberals -- progressives being something less than pro-military -- were aghast, however. This was no mere boys-will-be-boys story. One Australian blogger identified a deep rooted problem within the Royal Australian Navy's "institutional culture", this akin to sportsmen having sex with groupies:

"The problem here is that it appears some male seamen regarded their female counterparts as potential conquests, and that raises questions about attitudes toward and treatment of women in the Navy. Arguably, this is similar to the issue arising from certain high-profile sportsmen being involved in group sex or other activities that, regardless of whether they were consensual and irrespective of the fact that nothing criminal took place, involved treating women as objects in a sexual game."

Another left-wing blogger thought it irrelevant that no actual sex was known to have taken place. "The problem was the lack of professionalism and respect" inherent in the competition itself. As if it is unprofessional and disrespectful for a man, on spying an attractive female workmate, to say to a friend, "I bet I can have sex with her". Money changing hands in such a situation would never happen. Really.

It now seems the whole affair was a beat-up:

"The navy knew within days that claims crewmen ran a competition on how many female sailors they could sleep with were false, but did nothing to set the record straight," the Federal Opposition claims.

"The three men said to have run the competition were removed from supply ship HMAS Success in Singapore in May because of the allegations, and have not been posted back to sea since.

"Opposition defence spokesman David Johnson said last night the navy's treatment of the men was ''shoddy'' and their careers may have been irreparably damaged."

How did this non-story turn into a media frenzy in the first place? Since readers = dollars, playing the story up made perfect sense. Sex scandals sell so let's go for it. Even in pre-internet times the story would have generated lots of interest. But the internet did add a new dimension to the saga: people could discuss the story online. The mainstream media, bloggers and online commenters must have invested literally millions of hours in writing about the scandal that wasn't. That's fine for those who got paid for their efforts but what about the unpaid commenters? Do they feel duped? Did they have nothing better to do with their time than to discuss what turns out to be a non-event?

We all know that lots of people are spending lots of time online. Estimates are staggering:

"It has been announced that the billionth game of Halo 3 has been played on Xbox Live, that means roughly one game has been played for every six people on the planet. In terms of time spent, if each game lasted 30 minutes, it’s over 64,000 years of playing time."

That figure may not be totally accurate but it works out to be a huge chunk of time no matter what. Gamers investing their leisure time in online activities is one thing, blog commenters, many online via a work computer, investing their employers' time in totally unproductive effort must be costing all of us dearly. Not only that, try to imagine the electricity wasted and greenhouse gas emissions generated by online activity associated with just the Navy-sex-scandal-that-wasn't.

Come on lefties, do the right thing; help save the planet by staying offline. Al Gore will love you for it.


WARNING! Readers of RWDB are participating in the vast fascist conspiracy to control the internet. Suspected it, didn't you?


Update: Claims that the sailors were "railroaded" have been picked up by various Australian news outlets. Good. It remains to be seen if the liberal bloggers mentioned above will recant – if past form is any guide it's unlikely.


Anonymous gavinatkins said...

I am deeply offended not to have been included as a loony right wing blogger. Clearly I need to lift my game.

9:27 AM  

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