They really can't stand it when a brother gets his. You gotta be 10 times better, faultless and silent – then you get a pass for a moment. https://t.co/UVdKCpKljt
— Senator Briggs (@Briggs) August 12, 2019
The Australian media machine has found its newest target: NBA star Ben Simmons.
It started with suggestions from Simmons on Instagram that he was racially profiled and denied access to Crown Casino in Melbourne. Simmons claims his friend, who is white, was allowed in. Since then, almost everything Simmons has done on his tour of Australia has been scrutinised by certain corners of the media.
In the past few days alone, we’ve seen an onslaught of criticism of Simmons from conservative media, clearly aggrieved that he would ever suggest there was a problem with racism in Australia. Everyone’s favourite Alan Jones went so far as to tell Simmons – an Australian citizen – to “go back” to America.
Australia’s richest athlete snubbed Sydney fans by sneaking out the back door of a paid event on Sunday. Broadcaster Alan Jones has unloaded on Ben Simmons, telling the NBA star to just leave Australia. https://t.co/wSyYhbhikN
— The Daily Telegraph (@dailytelegraph) August 12, 2019
The Sunday Footy Show also dedicated a charming rant segment telling him to leave:
"Gee whiz I'm sick of Ben Simmons!"
— Sunday Footy Show (@SunFootyShow) August 11, 2019
And Steve Price directed his ire at both Simmons and his sister for standing up for him:
Liv Simmons launched a scathing attack on those critical of her brother's story, calling Australia "racist" and "biased".https://t.co/aYrY3IhVZd
— 2GB 873 (@2GB873) August 8, 2019
This is all familiar to us. It’s part of a media machine which has a great deal of experience in instigating hate, and well-practiced at aggressively pushing back against accusations of racism. It’s a machine that lives and breathes on the culture wars, desperate for the latest tall poppy to shoot down, or the latest minority to Put Back In Their Place.
It’s the machine which relentlessly targeted Adam Goodes. It’s the machine that has already, shamelessly, pushed Young Australian of the Year Yassmin Abdel-Magied out of the country. It is the same machine which howls that we have an ‘African crime epidemic’ blighting our cities – an allegation so paper-thin that even our politicians, desperate to push it, somehow forget.
The machine talks about Ben Simmons’ wealth and his lifestyle and it pulls together stories about children desperately wanting autographs and not getting what they want. Because Ben Simmons is bad now, right?
The machine criticises Simmons for putting on a paid basketball clinic. He should know better. Give back to your country of birth, dammit, and shut up while you do it for free. Never mind that he routinely invites underprivileged kids to the camps. Never mind that there’s an enormous industry built up on famous athletes showing up at sport camps – not just Ben Simmons himself.
Ben’s family gifted us a ticket and my son has been on a high ever since. So unbelievably grateful. pic.twitter.com/QZZNNzgB9X
— Kelly Exeter (@kellyexeter) August 11, 2019
Of course, it’s the same machine that savages a black Australian basketballer for earning millions that will turn around in an instant to give you an Inside Look Into Megastar Chris Hemsworth’s Multi-Million Dollar Byron Bay Mansion.
Ben Simmons is a multimillionaire athlete. The man is a celebrity. What does he have to gain from making up a story about racism? He’s grown up watching other people of colour get torn down by the machine. I’m sure he’s not surprised by what’s been heading his way the last seven days.
It’s tall poppy syndrome, alright. It’s racism, too. And it’s hatred first and foremost.
We love being told what to hate because it keeps us from reminding ourselves of what we should actually be focusing on: huge organisations dictating our beliefs, our media, our understanding of the world. Governments, left and right, being overpaid, underworked, and calling for more money. Offices full of men on the 46th floor deciding that they have to cut costs, and those cuts must come from the bottom first. Men in Canberra desperately waving their hands – pointing wherever you’ll look – to keep your mind off the fact that they haven’t done anything.
Repeatedly, we listen to people of colour call out racism and racial profiling, desperately looking for an ally. Repeatedly, the machine tells them to Get Over It, to Move On, to Stop Being Sensitive, and – most importantly – to Stop Playing The Race Card.
But @BenSimmons25 we can’t have the uncomfortable conversation unless you are willing to be honest with all the details. You chose to pull out the race card and it’s far from clear if that was warranted. Did you refuse,at any point, to show your ID? https://t.co/Ql44s7hi7x
— Peter Ford (@mrpford) August 6, 2019
And when the machine is finally caught out, pushed on its heels in a corner with nowhere else to go, facing international attention or a longwinded avalanche of support, it is always a forced apology, one that comes days or weeks or years after it should have, and one that the victims are always pressured to accept and move on from quickly.
We are stuck in a roundabout and no one wants to get off. The victimised want justice, and the accused want absolution. Neither will back down because neither feels they should.
There’s a method to the madness and it runs the same every time. The only thing we can say in its favour is that it’s totally predictable.