Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Why Did Police Suddenly Change Their Mind About Investigating Bondi Brawl By Packer And Gyngell?

Australia's richest man and the CEO of a top-rating TV channel shame themselves

By Darryl Mason

UPDATE: Australia's richest man James Packer and Channel 9 boss David Gyngell want their ugly Bondi Bash to go away, fade from view, but it won't. As an example of how international this story now is, Taiwanese animators have immortalised the brutal street violence and police investigation:

For someone trying to maintain casino licences in Asia, and score new ones, this is about the worst headline you could get on the BBC, short of being accused of murder:

Headlines and opinion pieces in Asian business media are unanimously negative about James Packer, it doesn't seem to matter that he may not have started the fight. Anti-casino campaigners couldn't have dreamed of a better way to attack Packer's character and ability to control himself.

Police investigations are underway in Sydney, and the pressure is on.

Previously, May 6:

Last night, police were not going to investigate the brutal street brawl between Australia's richest man James Packer and Channel 9 boss David Gyngell. The following screengrab is of a NSW Police message to a Twitter account that tweets on media issues, there were a number of others who asked why police had not launched an investigation and police responded with the same tweet:

NSW Police: "As we have not received any reports regarding this specific incident there is no current investigation,"

It seemed odd that after all the media and police campaigns to stop Sydney street violence, they weren't going to do anything about two men violently smashing the shit out of each other on a Bondi street on a Sunday morning, an event captured on cameras, and blasted across the media.

But procedures are procedures.

Someone had to call it in.

So what happened overnight?

Australians on Twitter learned that the street brawl had to be officially reported to police, Bondi police station's phone number appeared on Twitter and people started calling in reports, and tweeting reports, of the street fight to Bondi police and the official NSW Police Twitter account. The disgust from a handful was palpable. Why should these two get away with it? Why shouldn't they have to live by the same laws as the rest of us?

This morning, while Ray Hadley on 2GB, Karl Stefanovic on The Today Show, and virtually every other friend or associate of Packer and Gyngell in the Australia media tried to dismiss and talk down the seriousness of this street violence - "just two mates biffing" "just a bit of slap and tickle" - police dramatically announced they were investigating the incident and went out and started doorknocking in Bondi,

Some media commentators could hardly disguise their disbelief. But the police said last night they weren't investigating!

Yeah, that was last night.

I know all this because I was following Twitter accounts that were talking about it, and posting under #PackerGyngell. There was anger, people expressing disgust that Packer and Gyngell "were going to get away with it:". Should rich people brawling in Bondi be treated differently to suburban kids fighting in the streets of Penrith or Kings Cross? Most of what was posted was true. So they took action, and began encouraging each other to report the Bondi street fight. I saw a whole series of such reactions unfold on Twitter late last night, and early this morning, and it was remarkable.

This was the real power of Twitter in action. People saw what they believed was an injustice, they learned what they had to do to try and set it right and they moved into action.

And by 9am, with police officially investigating, suddenly the media couldn't pretend this street brawling wasn't a big deal and the whole thrust of coverage changed. Well, some of it. Panelists on morning breakfast shows, including formerly avid campaigners against street violence, were still cracking jokes and trying to convince viewers Packer and Gyngell's Bondi Brawl was "no big deal."

But it was clear, once police began investigating, and once the possible repercussions for Packer and Gyngell's business interests, and their jobs, started to be examined, the Bondi Brawl began to look very, very serious indeed. And it was serious, it is serious. The tweeters were right. If it was Aboriginal youth videod brawling on a Bondi street, or Muslim teenagers, radio shock jocks would have demanded their community leaders denounce their appalling behaviour.

If the same media personalities who shed tears on TV over coward punches and ugly street violence earlier this year weren't shocked and disgusted by these two men punching each other out in broad daylight, then, seriously, what the hell was the whole anti-street violence campaign about?

But be sure of this one thing - if people on Twitter hadn't rallied and taken action to make sure even James Packer and David Gyngell are dealt with by police the same as the rest of us, and have to live by the same laws, their media pals, and employees, who were talking down this brutal act of street violence and pretending it was meaningless and "no big deal" would have won, and no police investigation would have begun today. Or at least, it would have been far less likely to have begun.

The prominent media identities who used to determine what events the mass public should be outraged about, and which events should be quickly forgotten, would have beaten down any and all opposition to calls for police action this morning. We probably would have seen Packer and Gyngell's political mates hitting the airwaves to hose down any public anger.

The script would have been shaped and set. Those demanding something had to be done about an ugly, offensive street brawl, by two men who should know better, would have been dismissed as "whingers" and "haters" and "jealous of rich people" and all the other garbage lines used to try and steer people without power and influence from making sure those with power and influence have to play by the same rules.

This story has a long way left to run, and serious implications for both men seem to be piling up by the minute. But there are only two people to blame for what is now happening to James Packer and David Gyngell, themselves.

They did what they did, and now they have to live with the results of their actions.

Just like you and I have to.

A detailed timeline of the Bondi Brawl and its repercussions will be posted here later tonight