After RadioLive talkback hosts Willie Jackson and John Tamihere belittled a caller "Amy" who was targeted by the Roast Busters, Wellington-based blogger Giovanni Tiso immediately contacted RadioLive advertisers to express his concerns. The results were remarkably effective: the advertisers pulled their sponsorship of Willie & JT's segment, the two talkback hosts were put on gardening leave, and debates on rape culture and freedom of speech were sparked. Night-time RadioLive hosts Andrew Fagan and Karyn Hay argued over it so much that Fagan was made to walk all the way to the studio and eat humble pie.
This isn't the first time advertisers have pulled out in response to live broadcast controversies in NZ. Paul Holmes' 'cheeky darkie' remarks prompted Mistubishi to pull its sponsorship - even without encouragement from citizens.
Rape culture is nothing new, but the advent of social media - particularly with the gloating of the Roast Busters about their acts on Facebook - has thrown it straight in our faces. To throw petrol on the fire, the Roast Busters were found to be well-connected, with one of them being the son of a well-known actor, and another happening to be the son of a police officer. The initial reluctance of the police to investigate only fuelled further suspicions, in wake of the Maryville and Steubenville rape trials which have been dogged by corruption, nepotism, and victim blaming. The police claimed the girls involved didn't come forward, when actually they did, or if they didn't, then they were too intimidated to come forward. Contrasts have drawn with the rapid zeal displayed by the police with the raids on Kim Dotcom and the Urewera 16.
Victim blaming in particular has popped up with the Roast Busters controversy. Not long after the 2000 Sydney gang rapes, the then Grand Mufti of Australia, Sheik al-Hilaly, controversially remarked:
"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred."
Some have seen fit to similarly play the uncovered meat card with the Roast Busters. CK Stead garnered criticism from Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton when he complained about "collective hysteria" over the Roast Busters. On RadioNZ's The Panel, Don Donovan rubbed it in by blaming scanty dress sense for rape culture. Retired NZ Herald columnist and professional curmudgeon Garth George basically blamed the over-sexualisation of society. Still others think the Roast Busters are just boys being boys - or, more accurately, "young, dumb and full of cum" - and that it's all just a normal rite of passage. Memo to the victim-blamers: clothes or pornography don't cause rape. Rapists cause rape. If skimpy clothes caused rape, then burqa-clad women in the Middle East and habit-clad nuns in papal societies would be free from violence and sexual assault. Which is far from the case.
Meanwhile, the normally vocal Sensible Sentencing Trust was surprisingly not very vocal about the controversy, despite overwhelming disapproval of the Roast Busters on its Facebook page - maybe no one's been sentenced yet? Maybe the Roast Busters don't fit the SST's favoured stereotype of a crim?
Professional curmudgeon Karl du Fresne wisely avoided victim blaming, but still resorted to the hoary old lynch mob card, believing that Tiso's success in convincing advertisers to boycott Willie & JT was a chilling effect on free speech.
In particular with regards to du Fresne, what Tiso did was hardly censorship, just good old civil disobedience. It's not like Willie & JT are being shipped off to Guantanamo Bay, or the RadioLive studios being stormed by gun-toting Ministry of Truth goons. That Tiso managed to convince advertisers to exercise a legit business decision that the Shock Doctrine Set have a problem with, is all the more amusing. It seems the real reason why the Shock Doctrinists lump acts of civil disobedience like Tiso's in with censorship, is because they know it gets results. Just not the results they like.