We need to talk about Steve

Steve Price Van BadhamAfter watching Steve Price block Van Badham’s attempts to speak about the cultural problem of disrespect to women, in what could have been a training video to teach people exactly what disrespect to women looks like, I was angry. It wasn’t just that Steve was being rude and aggressive, interrupting Van while it was her turn to speak. It wasn’t just that he used the oh-so-typical-sexist description of Van as ‘hysterical’, attempting to put her back in her place, to tell the silly woman to shut up. I am used to seeing privileged-middle-aged-white-men treating women like this, including me, all the time. No, the thing that made me most angry is that this behaviour is Steve’s bread-and-butter. This is what he gets paid to do. He is a shock jock. The ruder he is, the more controversial, the more unpleasant, belittling and unapologetic he is, the more he succeeds in his career. That made me angry, not just at Steve, but at our whole society, which not only normalises Steve’s behaviour, but incentivises him to keep it up.

If we lived in a fair and respectful society, the Steves of the world wouldn’t be paid to be nasty and rude. When we bring up our children to have good manners, to treat girls and boys as equals, to show other people, even those we disagree with, respect, and then they grow up to see the Steves of the world being paid huge sums of money to be the opposite of all these things, what standards are we setting as acceptable in our society? What behaviour are we ‘normalising’ for the media audience? What are we telling everyone watching that it’s ok to do to others?

The more shocking Steve is, the more likely he is to move up the shock-jock career ladder. The more controversial, the more likely he is to get a regular seat on TV shows like The Project and ABC’s Q and A. These shows, and other similar programs, such as ABC’s The Drum and Insiders, justify having Steves on their shows in the pursuit of balance. Steve represents the ‘right wing’ perspective. It’s not clear who is balancing out the ‘left wing’ perspective; is anyone who doesn’t yell at others and generally be insolent, grumpy and disparaging about everyone else automatically count as left wing? As I saw pointed out on Twitter recently, to really balance out the Steves, or the right-wing representatives from shady-paid-to-think-tank-organisations such as the IPA, you would need a representative from the Socialist Alliance or even the Communist Party to balance out the extreme views espoused by these so-called commentators. How often do the media have a communist on a panel, or even a self-proclaimed socialist? Very rarely as far as I can tell, and when they do have one (Van identifies as a socialist), they get hectored to the point of silence by the Steves of the world and the producers think this is fantastic entertainment. Is this balance? Is this fair?

Even if you accept this shallow procedural formulaic tick-the-box token-rude-right-winger on every panel, what do the Steves of the world show us about the way ‘right wing’ representatives are allowed to behave? I often hear the argument that the Pauline Hansons, Steve Prices, Andrew Bolts, Alan Jones, Tim Wilsons, Piers Akermans, Cory Bernardis, Miranda Devines, Paul Murrays, Gerard Hendersons and all the other myriad representatives of ‘the right’ should be given a platform to share their nasty perspectives of the world so that more reasonable people can pull them up on their views, and we can have mature conversations about what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in our society. But Steve Price’s attack on Van Badham, which shut down her ability to express her very valid argument, is a perfect example of why, in practice, these right wingers always get away with doing nothing other than offending people, denigrating, refusing to be polite, refusing to back down when they’re quite obviously wrong, interrupting, never listening and generally personifying troll-like behaviour at every opportunity. And what do they get for this behaviour? Another seat on another television show or another column in a newspaper, or a highly lucrative job on a television or talk-back radio show. And what does society learn? That this behaviour is acceptable and the representatives of the ‘right’ can behave however they want because, you know, that’s just how they are. Really?

I’m personally sick of it. I’m sick of media organisations favouring this rudeness over rational, the bullying over fair, the shouting and nastiness over considered and eloquent. The media have fed the normalisation of behaviour which has led our society to assume that to be ‘right wing’ means you automatically get away with being a horrible person, but to be ‘left wing’ means you automatically have to put up with people being horrible to you, and this is just the way the world works. The more horrible you are as a right-winger, the more valued you are in the media. The more colourful, the more lucrative. It’s blatantly ridiculous.

This situation is never going to change until we have some standard of what is considered acceptable behaviour and there are negative consequences, rather than incentives, for behaving this way. I enjoyed watching The Project hosts Carrie Bickmore and Waleed Aly criticising Steve Price’s attack on Van Badham. In this interview, Steve admitted he didn’t care if the word ‘hysterical’ is deeply-sexist; he is going to keep using it anyway because, like a four year old, or Donald Trump, ‘he tells it like it is’. But the result of this interview is nothing unless it finished with one of the hosts saying ‘do you know what Steve? We’re not going to give you a platform to be rude to people anymore. We’re better than this and we don’t think it is good television to let you offend people from a privileged position on a national prime-time television show. We won’t have you on our panel anymore’. Only when this starts happening will the Steves get the message about the standards of acceptable behaviour in our society. It’s all very well for there to be public backlash, and for advertisers to withdraw sponsorship due to controversy, which I applaud. But Alan Jones still has his job. Sam Newman still has his job. Cory Bernardi still gets a spot on the Liberal senate ticket. What on earth will it take for these people to be told enough is enough? You can have a debate, sure. But there is absolutely no excuse for rudeness, put-downs, discrimination, sexism, personal-mockery and bullying. We don’t want our children behaving like this; it’s time we stopped accepting and promoting public figures who won’t live up to this standard

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7 Comments on “We need to talk about Steve”

  1. GusW says:

    I watched Price on Q@A and his comments and temperament were over the top . If you look at the panel the left were out numbered by the right 3 to 2 . This is the format week in week out . They are over represented and their views very much against normal , rational debate . I am over this continual attack on people who may have a more centralist / left view . However in regard to Price / Van that topic is not even political … What it is … Is that the Prices’ of this world would like nothing better then a general return to the 1950’s … Woman down trodden , bare foot , pregnant , pinney on … Make dinner for Steve to come home put his feet up , light his pipe and be waited on hand and feet . He should take his mates , McGuire , Newman , Bernardi et al and go and live in a closed enclave of sexist individuals …. I want much better for my daughters , grand daughters .., in fact for everyone’s daughters .
    The men in power across the world are really a pathetic bunch of under achievers . Look at the current bunch in the Federal Govt …… Need I say anymore . More power to our Ladies .

  2. Being a tad older than price I felt like belting him with a stock whip when he interrupted Van, what a pig, Do people in whichever city he is popular enjoy him being an arsehole to everyone who rings him, why bother? This bloke is a legend in his own lunchtime, a wart on Australian radio and a great reason to watch TV. If my daughter ever bought a pig like that home for me to meet, I’d kick his arse down the 13 steps it takes to get up to my lounge room.

  3. Conread says:

    The format of Q&A should change to ‘alternate weeks’: left wingers/progressives one week, right wingers the next. Then I could watch it some of the time, and save my ire.

  4. Old Man from the Sea says:

    I watch it on Facebook and what Price said didn’t surprise me in the least. Why because when on the Project on channel Ten when he first join the panel I gave the Project the flick as Price was praising up his best mate Tony Abbott. Price is wasted space when it comes to political commentary.

  5. I did not see it because I don’t watch much television any more. Why? Because so many programs, not just current affairs programs, are full of this sort of nastiness. Television seems full of people with bad attitudes, reality shows where people watch to see bitchiness and back stabbing. Renovating shows are not about renovating, they are about the fighting between teams. Talent shows are about rival judges. Survivor teaches that to win you must destroy the opposition not that working as a team is better. I do wonder what values children will grow up with when so many people like this type of thing on television.

  6. Kathy says:

    Spot on Victoria. Have you forwarded your thoughts to the Project team? They have sufficient clout these days that they could set their own agenda (or maybe I’m being naive!) and raise broadcasting standards. It certainly would be consistent with Waleed Aly’s recent pronouncements. I grit my teeth when Insiders have either of the Hendersons on the panel – Nikka Savva little better.

  7. Solmas says:

    If I remember correctly she interrupted him, at times quite rudely, as much as he did her. I think the only difference was the use of the word “hysterical” which provided a handle to hang outrage on. Apart from that they were pretty similar – outspoken, opinionated, but not necessarily with much to say worth listening to.


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