Monday, 7 March 2011

violence is not an adequate response

surely i'm not the only one who had never heard of benji marshall until his appearing in the news for allegedly [just for you, graeme] assaulting someone outside a macdonalds in sydney. normally, this is not the kind of thing i'm remotely interested in, but mr marshall is claiming that he was provoked through the use of racial slurs being hurled at him.

while mr marshall is being defended by some, while others think he needs to develop a better response to such a situation, one of the worst pieces i've read would have to be this one by steve deane:

That Kiwis captain Benji Marshall would put himself in a position to end up in a punch-up at McDonald's at 3am a week before the NRL season begins is a major surprise.

seriously? "put himself in a position"?? mr marshall isn't actually the victim here, although he is allegedly the victim of verbal abuse. he should not put in himself in a position to be abused? presumably this means he should not go out anywhere where he might come across a racist. i wonder how one could be sure of finding such a place. mr deane no doubt means that he just shouldn't go out. he certainly shouldn't go out onto a field of play, because from what i've heard, there's a lot of racist sledging that happens in sports matches, and he wouldn't want to put himself in a position to end up in a punch-up, right?

surely the proposition that anyone should be able to go anywhere at any time without being subjected to racial harassment is not a difficult or unreasonable one. it can't be so difficult to understand that mr marshall didn't put himself in any kind of position. it was the people who allegedly abused him who are fully responsible for their actions and who should be held responsible for them.

having said that, i don't actually have any time for mr marshall's response, being to allegedly punch someone in the face. i don't accept mr devlin's views (linked to above) that:

In the world where us boys live, Benji Marshall "being baited by a group of up to 10 people (allegedly) calling him a black cee and telling him to eff off back to NZ" would appear to have simply introduced some drunk thug to an age-old masculine concept called "got what you deserved".

If you'd prefer an attitude a little less caveman, then BM was acting in self-defence, protecting himself (and probably his friends) from a bunch of bullying cowards in circumstances that could've so easily spiralled into something way more serious.

this kind attitude really worries me. we already see a relatively large amount of (off-field) violence from male sportspeople. often this violence is targetted against women, and often we see the victim being blamed for provoking the violence against her. i totally agreed with the move in nz to remove provocation as a defence for violence, and i don't believe it's any kind of excuse here.

it could be said that the violent culture around support, and especially around various codes of rugby, provoked the racial outburst. plenty has been written about the need to have a strong, aggressive attitude in top-level competitive sport. image is crucial and the image cultivated by many in these sports is a tough and confrontational one.

i totally understand the dynamics of racism and bigotry. i know how it can wear a person down, when they have to suffer countless small incidents. i appreciate that tolerance levels can be stretched, and at some point a person will snap. there is a power structure around mr marshall which makes it almost impossible for him to deal effectively with racism within his sports code, on the field and in the locker room. trying to expose that culture and hold racists to account comes with significant consequences and could lead to him having to leave the sport if he persisited. i understand the feelings of powerlessness which would lead to him having a violent response in a particular situation where he did actually have some power to respond.

but the fact is that violence from our top-level athletes is too often excused, and not dealt with seriously. to excuse it in this case makes it so much easier to excuse it in others. to say that violence in this case is ok is to undermine other non-violent responses. it also encourages violence as a reasonable response to verbal abuse, which can only lead to an escalation in violence over the longer term.

mr marshall should not have to suffer racial abuse. the answer to that lies outside of his hands. until the leadership in his sports code takes a much stronger stance, until society and societal structures take a much stronger stance, it is very difficult for mr marshall to change the environment in which he lives as an individual. but it does need to be changed, both for the racism and the violence.

to deal with the latter, it is right that mr marshall be charged and if found guilty, face the consequences of his action. the question then remains: how to effectively deal with racial abuse and hold those who dish it out accountable for their actions? it needs to happen at all levels, within the sport and outside of it.


Hugh said...

I don't know the details of this incident - I not only hadn't ever heard of whoever this guy is, the incident also escaped me. But I think there's a possibility that this actually was self defense - that he either was being attacked, or genuinely and reasonably believed he was about to be attacked. If that's the case then his violence, while obviously not to be celebrated, is something it's hard to criticise him for.

stargazer said...

i haven't seen any evidence of him actually being attacked in any of the news reports. he hasn't claimed anything more than verbal abuse in any of the articles i've read. if something different comes out in the court case, then i'll accept that. but until then, i can only go by what has been reported so i stand by what i've written.

Hugh said...

Often it takes a little while for the truth to come out in these sorts of issues. Racism can be a powerful force to make people silent, as I'm sure I don't need to tell you! But really I wasn't calling for you to not stand by what you've written, I was just mentioning it as another possibility.

Boganette said...

I'm amazed people haven't heard of Benji Marshall.

Benji has been playing league (incredibly, incredibly well) since he was 16. He made his debut with the Tigers at 18 while going to school. In the 2005 grand final he scored a try that is still talked about as one of the best ever in a grand final. And the Tigers won. He's also captain of the Kiwis and led us to victory in the 2008 World Cup and the Four Nations last year. So he's an amazingly talented young man who has always been treated special (because he is) and I imagine that has had an impact on things. Whether that means he's targeted by thugs or whether he's become one because he has been born with (and nurtured) the amazing talent he has - who knows? Frankly the NRL (and also in IRB) needs to do more to ensure players are looked after and taught how to deal with situations like this without resorting to violence.

But seriously - Benji is an amazing player. I honestly can't understand how people don't know who he is. Do you like turn off the TV as soon as anything sport-related comes on? I mean he's CAPTAIN of the Kiwis. Really, if you're going to comment on Benji you should do it in the context of knowing who he is in terms of his role in league. The difference between him and another NZ NRL player is like the difference between Elvis and the guy who busks on Cuba St. The level of success he has had impacts on this situation he is in.

Also, in terms of Steve Deane's comment - I'm pretty sure he meant that Benji should not have been out at 3am a week before the NRL season begins because he has games to focus on and the beginning of the season should take priority over going out with friends. He believes (as do lots of other people) that Benji shouldn't be out on the piss or out that late when he needs to win games and be fit and healthy etc. And that leads to a different tangent about how players should conduct themselves ahead of games. People who take league seriously don't like this shit because they only care about Benji winning games. And if he gets arrested or beaten up or whatever that impacts on that. That's all it is. They could care less about him being a victim or anyone else being a victim.

For what it's worth I don't watch league (not since the rapes began). It's just that all my friends do so I hear these arguments over and over again and I used to watch it heaps.

Psycho Milt said...

Do you like turn off the TV as soon as anything sport-related comes on?

Well... yeah, basically. I blame school sports, myself.

stargazer said...

well boganette, there's actually a whole lot to unpick in your comments.

let me start with access to viewing sports games. i don't subscribe to sky and can't imagine a time when i will. i object to having to pay to view sports that should be free-to-air, especially if a nz national team is playing. however, this makes a lot of sports inaccessible to me. it makes sports inaccessable to all those on lower incomes, and i think has quite an impact at a societal level in terms of participation in sports. people get inspired to be involved by watching sports matches.

having said that, even if live rugby (any code) was available to me, i wouldn't watch it. it doesn't interest me. it's not like i haven't tried - i've even attended a live match where the chiefs were playing somebody and it didn't create any love of the sport in me. i love to watch tennis, world cup soccer, volley ball, badminton, table tennis, gymnastics.

i get the local paper but never read the sports pages - it's mostly rugby type coverage and i'm not interested. i don't watch tv news because mostly it isn't news, it's just entertainment. so i don't see the sports news.

i also have issues with sport becoming professional and profit driven, and definitely have issues with sports betting and the corruption that inspires. i've read a lot of stuff about how games get rigged, how individual players are targetted from a young age. i hate how sports are treated by some as something almost sacred, when watching a sports game is no different to watching a movie. they are both different types of entertainment.

all of these reasons are why i don't know who benji marshall is. i don't think it's particularly surprising - lots of people are actually not interested in watching sports, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

as to your points in response to the rest of your post, i totally agree. the players are a commodity, and the only concern for their welfare is in relation to how it might impact their performance. i think the whole structure and the institutions around sports need to be part of the solution when it comes to dealing with racism and violence.

Moz said...

boganette, to add to stargazer's point, not all of us even have a TV, let alone sit aimlessly in front of it on the off chance that something worth watching turns up. I do watch some TV, but either online or via downloading. So I watch particular programs that I choose in advance, and only those. I read some of a newspaper, but not the sports section. So I too had no idea who the guy was, or why he'd feel that hitting people is the only way he can respond to verbal abuse.

Hugh said...

I honestly can't understand how people don't know who he is. Do you like turn off the TV as soon as anything sport-related comes on?

Yep, pretty much.

Boganette said...

Thanks Stargazer. You are right. I was showing my privilege there. Apologies. And to you Moz.

Without taking away from what you said - and I agree (I should have checked my privilege) I do think though - if you're going to write about a sportperson you should Google them. Because I do think the Benji Marshall stuff needs context. And Moz, that doesn't mean I think he should be able to hit people. I don't. And I've never said I did. If we're talking about sport and looking for answers around the violent culture of sport you need to be looking up this stuff and coming to it at least knowing the basics: Like who Benji is in terms of league and NZ sport. Because the way he is being treated - both positive and negative coverage - is based around what he means to NZ & Aust sport.

Thanks for setting me straight.

Anonymous said...


Does anyone know what's happening around New Zealand today (International Womens Day 8th March)?

It seems like nothing much is going on at all unfortunately. I've heard of a few events around Australia (and the rest of the world), but none in New Zealand. I hoped there would be something going on in Auckland City at least.

I'm taping the 6pm news tonight in the (rather small) hope that something will be mentioned about International Women's Day events either in NZ or around the world.

McFlock said...

The thing about verbal abuse is that it can, in some circumstances, be regarded as a "pre-assault indicator".

The key will be the video footage - if mr racist was blocking Marshall's path of escape (easy to do in a crowd) and escalating the abuse Marshall might be able to reasonably plead self defense.
If Marshall was some distance away at the taxi rank about to leave in a cab, then ran back and thumped the guy - not quite so legally defensible.

That's what the courts are for.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stargazer said...

anon, please repost your comment using a consistent handle, as requested in our comments policy and detailed in the writing above the comments box. it would also be useful if you could provide a source for your assertion.

stargazer said...

boganette, in response to your last comment, i did read a few stories on the incident as well as a few opinion pieces before writing my post. i've linked to a couple of them. but i didn't read into mr marshall's full history.

i'd be interested, from your point of view, why his particular history in this sport would make him any different from any other top-level sportsperson when it comes to a case of assault.

i forgot to address your earlier comment re steve deane. i read the piece quite carefully, and i don't think mr deane made any reference to the fact that mr marshall shouldn't have been out that late because he had a game on. it was purely made (twice in the article) of mr marshall putting himself in a position where he might be a victim of verbal abuse. that's purely victim-blaming in my book, and failing to put the responsibility of harassment where it belongs ie with the harasser.

@amelia, there were 3 different events in hamilton today: a breakfast organised by zonta, a 5 hour event at the university organised by nz ethnic social services, and a 2 hour event in garden place focusing on poverty featuring a range of women speakers. not sure where you're from nor what was happening in your area.

Boganette said...

Benji Marshall's position and stance within league makes a difference because a huge amount of the uproar about this is based on Who He Is. He is the face of the NRL. So comments of frustration about why he was out at 3am a week before the NRL season kicks off are based on the fact that he IS the NRL right now. He's their most high-profile player right now with sponsorship and endorsement deals and he's been put out there as a role model in terms of league. You have to understand he's a superhero right now in league. I'm not victim-blaming. I'm saying that a lot of what people (like Steve Deane and others) are saying needs to be viewed in the context of Benji being such an important part of the NRL. When sports commentators say things like "he shouldn't have been there" they're saying that based on who he is. It might be OK for another player to be out at 3am but it's not OK for Benji to do that - regardless of whether the night ends in arrests or racist taunts or assault or just a fun night out. Even aside from the fact that his focus should be on the game - it's based on the fact that he is paid to head the NRL 2011 season. And he's captain of the Kiwis (our national league team). Frustration about Benji being involved in a fight (no matter what the cause of the fight) is based around the fact that he has a huge amount of people who rely on his ability to do his job correctly. He's not doing it correctly if he gets arrested. I'm not saying this is a good situation. I'm just pointing out that this is how it works in league (and other sports too particularly rugby). This all comes down to the fact that players like Benji should be better prepared for their roles. They need to know how to deal with these situations without becoming violent and they also need to deal with the fact that becoming the face of the NRL comes with unfortunate consequences like becoming a target by assholes. Yes, the assholes are responsible. Of course. But they need to be better equipped to deal with said assholes.

In terms of Deane - I read only your para summerising what he said. Based on that - like everyone else who follows league even a tiny bit - I'm surprised Benji was out at 3am a week before the NRL season begins. If Deane said Benji shouldn't ever 'put himself in a position' where he gets taunted by racists then that's fucked up. And totally wrong. And in my opinion a completely different thing to saying that he shouldn't have been out at 3am a week before a game.

Boganette said...

For what it's worth - I was born in Queensland and I grew up in Sydney. And based on that - I totally believe he was attacked by racists. To say being out at 3am was the reason why he was attacked by racists is absurd. It wouldn't matter where or what time of day it was. It's Australia.

Boganette said...

Sorry - to keep commenting (I meant to say this on my last comment)

It's for that reason that this comment you made: "until society and societal structures take a much stronger stance, it is very difficult for mr marshall to change the environment in which he lives as an individual. but it does need to be changed, both for the racism and the violence." - Is so, so, so, so important.

Anonymous said...

From memory I think I said that Benji Marshall was the victim of an assault, and was justified in his response as he was most likely acting in self-defence as he had a fear for his safety and that of his friend…. Well If I were his lawyer that’s what I’d tell him. Anyway a surprisingly similar thing happened to me a few years back when I lived in oz.….. Late one night I was at a burger joint, when one guy out of a group of three guys started seriously abusing myself and a girlfriend. The group of guys were between me and the exit door, so I punched the abusive guy in the face and run out with my friend. Anyway I was tracked down by the cops a day or two later arrested charged and released on bail to appear in court. The judge dismissed the charge on the grounds that I had a reasonable fear for my safety and that of my friend as I was being verbally abused in a very aggressive manner and I had no means of exiting the building without walking past the group of guys. Interestingly verbal abuse can be considered assault, if the victim of the abuse has a reasonable fear of being harmed. This is something that is often lost on the police.
From what I’ve heard about Benji Marshall is that he is the type of guy who you’d willingly let look after your dear old granny, and he’d be only too happy to do so. Not at all the type of guy who goes out looking for a fight. There are a lot of wankers out there who after a few beers late at night are only too happy to start a fight. Sometimes the best course of action is to get the first punch in, failure to do so can lead to a beating especially, if there are more of them then there are of you.


V said...

Boganette said:
"But seriously - Benji is an amazing player. I honestly can't understand how people don't know who he is."

How to respond to this?
I can't understand how you can't understand how I don't know who he is.

I guess I'll give you a little background about myself to aid your understanding:
I read The Hobbit when I was 5 and became obsessed with Tolkien right after that. I also found Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy Books (which you probably don't know exist, just as I was ignorant of Benji Wosname).
Consequently, I became a giant fantasy nerd from a very early age. While I liked sport, the 'sporty' people were the ones who persecuted and bashed my face in at school for being a nerd. As such, I have a nearly pathological hatred of mainstream sports (especially rugby).

On top of that, I simply change the channel when sports comes on TV. I read news on the internet and simply don't click on the sports pages, because I have zero interest in them.
I bet you don't comb google for news on robotics and AI development and would probably look at me like I was from Mars if I said "I can't believe you don't know what the Turing Test is!"

It doesn't make me stupid or ignorant or oblivious if I don't know who Benji Wosname is; which is what your comment implies.
Though it does say a lot about your OWN ignorance.

V said...

"So comments of frustration about why he was out at 3am a week before the NRL season kicks off are based on the fact that he IS the NRL right now."

"When sports commentators say things like "he shouldn't have been there" they're saying that based on who he is. It might be OK for another player to be out at 3am but it's not OK for Benji to do that"

I'm sorry, but I totally missed the part where this is relevant to me and why I should give a fuck in any shape or form.
Especially when rugby is a breeding ground for misogyny, homophobia, pack rape, lad culture, violence, corruption and a whole host of other problematic behaviours largely entrenched around male privilege.
Please school me as to why the NRL is so goddamned important and what it is doing to better the world we live in and why Benji is therefore patron saint of this goodness?

Boganette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Boganette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stargazer said...

sorry boganette, for some reason it was thrown into spam & i've rescued it. we wouldn't remove your comment without telling you, unless it was spectacularly abusive or harassing in nature.

Boganette said...

No worries Stargazer. Can I just point out - because I think it has been lost, due to my earlier comments: This is a great post. And I agree with what you've said and I'm really glad you wrote this post.

V said...

I like how you apologised at the start, then proceeded to insult at the end.

BTW, I've yet to hear of gangs of nerds beating up rugby players; so I guess the shades of grey escape me - probably due to the beatings I've received. Perhaps a particularly savage right hook to the head took out my 'shades of grey' cortex?

Boganette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stargazer said...

V, i think the point is that "nerds" and "sportsfans/players" are not mutually exclusive group. i'm truly sorry that you have had to suffer violence of any kind, from anyone & i guess that's the nub of my original post: that we need some serious measures at all levels of sports to deal with it.

boganette, thanx so much for your last comment. from your earlier one, i've found this a little troubling:

He's their most high-profile player right now with sponsorship and endorsement deals and he's been put out there as a role model in terms of league. You have to understand he's a superhero right now in league.

as you say later on in the same comment, this really isn't a good situation. one player shouldn't have to bear responsiblity for cleaning up the image of the game. all players have that responsibility - not just of improving image, but actually of behaving better, not being racist, not being misogynist, not being violent etc etc. but most importantly, leadership on this issues rest with the coaches, the selectors, the organisers and administrators. it is because all these people tolerate and excuse the behaviour of the players, and in fact indulge in exactly the same behaviours themselves in many cases, that the culture doesn't change.

basically, if they put all the responsibility on one star player, they're setting themselves up to fail. the responsibility has to sit across the board and at all levels.

Boganette said...

I totally agree Stargazer. And that's the massive problem with this whole thing. It's why the NRL has to change - the whole culture around league HAS to change. And I hope it does. But I'm not hopeful unfortunately. And that's a shame. I feel saddened because as a young kid who loved league and now can't watch it. And I wouldn't want my kids to look up to league players.

Hugh said...


It doesn't really address your main point but I just wanted to give a quick shout out to the Fighting Fantasy books - the fact that my school library stocked them was one of the best things about the school.

V said...

Boganette; No.

You didn't apologise, then disagree - you apologised, disagreed, then insulted me. You made an ad hominem attack right at the end of your post.
Please go and re-read, as I have no intention of tilting at your strawmen.

Just as you have no interest in my anecdotes about school, I couldn't give a quick wank in a janitor's closet about your school anecdotes, regardless of how bloody or bruised they were.
(How I love returning favours!)

Lastly, I'm certainly not trying to paint you as an idiot jock. I don't think you're an idiot, OR a jock. But I think you're ignorant about a lot of things and shoot your mouth off without thinking or considering intersections of privilege and oppression.

As I'm (apparently) a close minded hypocrite, there's really no point in ever responding to or addressing my posts ever again, as close minded hypocrites cannot change (by virtue of their closed minds).
Doing so after identifying me as a close minded idiot would only be an exercise in waving your virtual dick around and trying to score points for your ego.

(P.S. calling someone a close minded hypocrite is also an ad hom attack, in case you were not aware)

V said...


Thought you might like this ^_^

Boganette said...

V - Considering that I expressly pointed out that I hadn't checked my privilege earlier - and apologised for that fact and thanked people for pointing that out to me, and yet you still felt the need to attack me, yes, I feel completely confident in calling you a close-minded hypocrite.

Boganette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stargazer said...

ok, V & boganette, i'd like you to take your personal arguments off this to some place else. any further comments that don't address the substance of the post will be deleted.


Moz said...

Boganette, I'm sorry you're getting kicked around. I agree that it's good that stargazer actually found out who the guy was before writing the article, but I think it's also perfectly reasonable for people like me to say "what, who?" and react entirely to the "supposed role model beats up racists" part of it.
If the sport has a problem with a cult of violence they need to address that before they let their players out in public. As an example the gang rapists in Sydney had that issue and reacted by hiring minders for their morons until the worst of the media fixation dissipated, but also by really hammering it into the morons not to do such blatantly stupid stunts. But that was rugby league again, so perhaps the sport as a whole hasn't actually learned.
My suspicion is that the idiot was faced with a choice like "call the cops to help him out and get seen as a sissy" and "be a tough guy", so he chose the latter. I agree that either course of action was going to lead to a media field day, but I think the PR benefits of calling the cops are incalculable. It would help to address the cult of violence, for starters.
I could play word games and say he's not necessarily stupid, he's just someone with a record of doing stupid things, but I can't be bothered. He's an idiot.

V said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stargazer said...

V, boganette has her own blog, and you can take it up with her there.

moz, i don't think name-calling is in any way useful. from what i've read, mr marshall had a pretty good reputation and history up until this incident. and besides that, it tends to ignore the structural and cultural factors that had an impact on this incidents and the many others that have involved other players. not to say that he isn't responsible for his actions and shouldn't be held to account (bedcasue i think he should be) but the ultimate solution to this kind of thing lies way beyond an individual.

he's not an idiot though he could have handled the situation better. but there is also the fact that he shouldn't have to handle this kind of situation at all.

V said...

I shouldn't be surprised that a blog which refuses to identify transphobes also deletes posts which point out ableist behaviour.
Rock on, The Hand Mirror.

Boganette said...

I don't think the NRL cares about the culture of violence surrounding the game. I think they proved that with their appalling actions around the gang rapes that have continued to be perpertrated by players for years now. I think they only care about money and they care about this because Benji makes them money. I too think it's good the police were called. I think now is the time for the NRL to really step up and send a message about violence by players. Regardless of whether Benji was verbally attacked - if police find him guilty of assault he should be banned for the rest of the season. That would well and truly send shockwaves through the league community. I worry (and obviously this is pure conjecture) that Benji has been "brought up" to believe he can get away with anything because he's a star and the NRL *needs* him. What if he thought he could throw a punch and get away with it? And then the question asked I suppose is - has he already gotten away with it? Since he hasn't been suspended pending an investigation.

**I have removed earlier comments because they had nothing to do with the post.

stargazer said...

V I'm going to let that comment stand just because i want to point out te complete nonsense that it is. the blog authors do not "refuse to identify transphobes", there has been nothing of that sort here. it is your own personal disagreement with one of our commentors, and i'm not going to allow any more of it here.

now, any further comments from you that are off-topic will be deleted.

Maia said...

I have moved a response to V's point into the appropriate thread, and suggest that any further discussion happen there.

Hugh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stargazer said...

thanx maia.

nznative said...

I wonder if the drug booze was involved by either party in the alleged assult by Benji ........

Just as it seems to be in all the cases of pack rape, violence against women and others, trashing of motels and general brawling that league and union rugby players get up to ............

Not an excuse but a common bloody theme.

I stopped watching the league when the aussie competition was called the 'Winfield cup', and they kept dropping and banning players for testing positive for cannabis .

I watch the odd international of league because the game is better and the players more skilled than rugby union.

Benji Marshall is a special talent and its a shame that he's become part of our violence problem.