I HAD the interesting idea put to me that the media were acting as "vigilantes" with regards to the Roastbusters crew.
The crew, who boasted on Facebook about stupefying underage girls with drink and then having sex with them, now have their names and photographs broadcasted and printed nationally. Thanks to media, they are now exposed to ridicule, humiliation, death threats and abuse. Vigilantism is when a community takes action when the police appear powerless or slow to act.
The thing is, it is not remotely appropriate for the police to act beyond the law. Every day, there are professional judgement calls by the police on whether they have a realistic case, based on a complaint.
From a police point of view, there should be no difference between an upset girl making a complaint in Masterton after a night out, and an upset Auckland girl making a complaint in a situation that has exploded into day-by-day media coverage and national outrage. The role of the police is to uphold the law.
The "threshold" is the same. After all the hype, a case still has to face the demands of a court and a judge who is above media coverage. The media's role is different. Regardless of police action, the media is there to demonstrate the moral compass of a community, and allow a community a chance to articulate when a situation is not acceptable.
The "weight" of that moral outrage, published by TV and print, can bring about change.
It is true that, in order for the media to represent a right-thinking community, it first has to act in a righteous manner. It has to make the judgement, on behalf of the community, that something is wrong, and start getting a story. And it may not be basic reportage. The media will slant a story, sensationalise it. Especially if it involves sex. My view is: if we are reporting the truth on a societal wrong-doing, then that is a righteous action.
Vigilantes might argue the same criteria, of course. But their actions are absolute and are almost always criminal. The media has the prerogative to expose the truth and give the community a chance to reflect. And believe me, this is just one in a multitude of ways society should be reflecting on our attitudes towards women and sex.