Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Baffled by Andy Muirhead's motivations

Former ABC host Andy Muirhead has been found guilty of accessing child pornography. Obviously there is, and will continue to be, a lot of condemnation of this guy, much of it entirely justified. It goes without saying that what he has admitted to doing is deeply revolting and wrong on so many levels.

Still, you've got to feel sorry for him, too. His defence lawyer said "his fall from grace had been significant and it was unlikely Muirhead would ever work in his chosen industry again".

That's certainly true. And he will probably find getting any kind of professional work difficult. This conviction will haunt him for the rest of his days -- and not just work-wise. Anyone who knows him now or is yet to meet him will be aware of the case and it will colour their judgement of him.

I find the whole thing baffling in a couple of ways. There's the general incomprehension of wondering how anyone could become compelled to view this material, and so much of it. That's the first thing.

Everybody knows that viewing child porn is a criminal offence, and that if you do it you'll eventually be caught. So why do such people keep going, and not seek help?

There's another mystery: Why would someone in such a high profile position do it? Muirhead must have known that his getting caught would garner a lot of publicity, which would be sure to increase his humiliation.

Not sure if he had any training as a journalist, since he was a presenter who started his media career by doing comedy, of all things. But he was working for the bloody ABC for years! He had to have accumulated some media nous, and be more aware than most of legal issues, etc.

So why did he do what he did? I can only suspect that he had some kind of strange Freudian desire to spectacularly ruin his own career and personal life. As to the genesis of that, I have no idea whatsoever ...

UPDATE: I've closed comments because I can't really see what else can be added to this discussion. (Also, one person getting increasingly abusive.)

41 comments:

  1. I met Andy Muirhead in 2007 at an ABC social function through a good friend who was also a host for ABC radio.

    In a room full of high profile, successful presenters I found him baffling. He struck me as inarticulate, strangely stifled, socially incompetent and oddly remote from everyone.

    As I was seated next to him at dinner I tried to initiate conversation a number of times, but he shut me down every time. Either by ignoring me or giving yes and no answers. However I found there to be something popmpous about Muirhead, he clearly revelled in being a well known presenter as I watched him cooly sign autographs to members of the public who approached our table during the evening and fawned over him, He showed an unmistakeable thrill at being recognised yet made smug and belittling asides at the expense of his fans.

    Later on the group took a stroll through the gardens of the lovely country estate in which they were staying and Muirhead wandered away by himself, even after being asked by many of the group to stay. Later I commented to my friend what a strange person I found him to be. She said many of the other ABC presenters found him odd and were a little uncomfortable around him.

    When news broke of Muirhead's obvious obsession with child porn I should have been shocked and suprised, yet I wasn't. His antisocial behaviour, feelings of superiority, inability to engage with others and obivious detachment were signs that Muirhead was unwell.

    I must say I am rather glad he didn't want to talk to me in the end.

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    1. Thanks very much for including this interesting anecdote. It sheds light on his character. He strikes me as being a very sad and lonely figure indeed.

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    2. You seriously need to shut up.

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    3. If you're not interested in Matt's views then why are you reading his blog? I think that his views and responses have been quite measured.

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    4. thanks for the antedote to the person who had dinner with him, doesn't surprise me at all, he has always given me the creeps and as I said in an earlier reply he obviously loves public adulation. No pity at all, just a very passing it's sad to see someone sabotage their life so spectacularly. He sounds like a narcissist and to them people are pawns to control= sadistic child porn. karma is a bitch, but just. Suck it up andy!

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    5. The "shut up" response was to the person who met Andy once in 2007 - in exactly the sort of scenario where he always felt most uncomfortable - and thinks they are in a position to judge.

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    6. "I must say I am rather glad he didn't want to talk to me in the end."

      I dare say he shares your pleasure!

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  2. I used to watch Collectors religiously and always found Andy to be charming. I imagined he would be a very sweet and decent man and was shocked to hear of the accusations against him, which I imagined would be dropped entirely or at worst resolved more or less in his favour.

    Having now caught some of his stand-up comedy I can see my view of him as 'pure' was naive, but I do feel his treatment is unjustly cruel.

    Child pornography is harmfully perverse, but should one man pay such a high price for it before the nation?

    Victims of child sexual abuse would rightly be sensitive on all matters here, but if he downloaded thousands of files in an automated fashion, as 'torrenting' software is mentioned in the case, how many were actually viewed? Was he even genuinely 'gratified' by what he saw?

    It would be fair and appropriate for such a damaging case to be reported absolutely in context, not just bare facts, if it is to be public.

    How many Australians were arrested, charged, taken to task for or suspected of accessing child pornography in the last year? What is their motivation? If it is so horrid, why is it ok for it to be alluded to in (Seth MacFarlane's cartoon) Family Guy during prime time? I have heard teenagers on public transport discuss child pornography as if it were funny.

    If it is true that some victims of abuse repeat their abusers' crimes through subconsciously-motivated behaviours, or that an individual can have a perverse and harmful interest genuinely without adequate insight, I think it is too much to destroy their lives in the pursuit of demonstrating what is right and wrong.

    Also, it seems the police have gone for the low hanging fruit that provides the maximum short-term bang for their buck. Surely if it was pornography available on a NETWORK and Andy was followed for a year there were others downloading too.

    The ABC also deserves a special mention for firing Andy Muirhead, obliterating any presumption of innocence before his being proved guilty, and getting the mob off to an early start.

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    1. he was 'file sharing' and its done from a torrent site...it's a sneaky way to avoid detection. and why are the cops getting the bad image over this. He lived in the public eye so had to take the consequences of that. Child porn is not harmless and everyone on this blog who is making this out to be so are supporting an industry that perpetrates some of the worst crimes on humanity! There is no grey area in child abuse. So what if he got caught and is doing it hard. What are those kids lives like? Is it ok to watch a rape even if you don't rape?

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    2. Is it OK to watch beheadings even if you don't kill people yourself? Real-life violent footage is all over the internet, and there are people around who seek it out. Why aren't they currently being hunted down by international police rings?

      It's not as simple as that, of course, but it certainly puts a hole in many of the responses offered here.

      Child pornography ought to be illegal on a production level; no doubt whatsoever about that. On the other hand, the viewers ought to receive the counselling and monitoring services they desperately need, not a trip through the court system.

      I think we need to cut through the taboos and ask ourselves: is the current paradigm actually preventing child abuse, or just pushing it further underground?

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  3. Shy and aloof do not a monster make.

    I know Andy personally and he is indeed shy. It can come across as aloof and many have perceived him that way, but he is actually a very kind, generous and thoughtful person. While he was at the ABC he was under a lot of pressure and coping with a ridiculous workload (breakfast radio and Collectors). Even we noticed a change in him as he became withdrawn. We had no idea how else that was affecting him.

    None of this excuses his actions, but he deserves the right to try and redeem himself. He has spent the last two years in limbo working hard to rebuild the trust of his friends and family. He doesn't expect anyone to compromise themselves to support him, but many are, because, they, like me, know he is a good person who has made grave errors in judgment, but deserves the chance to have some kind of life after sentencing.

    The legal system will punish him as they see fit and he has lost everything since the charges were laid. He has paid a hefty price for looking at illegal images and he is accepting the consequences.

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    1. 'you noticed a change'...I think you are looking at the wrong reason why...maybe there was A LOT more going on than just his workload and I'm not going to feel sorry for someone on a massive income who needs constant public verification. Some of us just work hard for little pay, are under s'loads of stress and don't use it as an excuse for reprehensible behaviour. Being too ambitious for your own good is no reason to feel sorry for anyone. He gets no leniency for being a super star. He has committed a serious crime and he shouldn't be let off because he's andy muirhead.

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  4. I also know Andy and the family personally and agree with the comment above. Like many people in the public eye, their individual personas and the persona they have on film are different. Andy is a warm, friendly and kind person. To judge him by a one off social interaction at an event just goes to demonstrate the ignorance of many people.

    He makes no excuse for his actions and has and will continue to pay the price for what he has done.

    To take the point of a previous comment, downloading vs committing the actual act (like another recent high profile Tasmanian) are two very different things.

    Also remember, the media have only told us the prosecutions version of events. There was a whole day of trial and only a smidgen of the defense's case has been written about in the media. None of us know what was going on for him at the time.

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    1. As someone who also knows Andy - the fact that since the charges have been laid he has met a beautiful and supportive partner who sees him for who he is, not what he's done (good and bad) speaks volumes about his character.

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    2. a great foil and pancea for the ego. This is so of the classic remark that people who are in denial. His public image is everything OF COURSE he has a girlfriend. He'll be doing charity work next.

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    3. A girlfriend who worked very hard to convince him that he deserved a happy normal life in the future just like the rest of us. She's not a silly girl and wouldn't be in this position if she thought there was any associated risk.

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  5. No matter how you look at it, its a child sex offence and this makes him a 'child sex offender' likely to fit into the following category:
    Regressed – Typically has relationships with adults, but a stressor causes them to seek children as a substitute. I.e.viewing sexually explicit image of children.

    Either way the behaviour is reprehensible. For child sex offenders to maintain non-offending, genuine opportunity to reform is vital in addition to reducing social isolation. Unfortunately he is not alone in offending. Many offenders remain relatively anonymous in comparison.

    Its easier to see offenders as evil and view the person in a black and white manner. I've worked professionally with a number of sex offenders, luckily for the children of the world these people are not 100% bad so reform is possible. Its a horrible horrible subject, whether sympathy for such people is deserving, is a matter for debate. However, our understanding will lead to a safer community.

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    1. Thank you...a voice of reason. not many others seem to recognise the obvious facts.

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  6. I met Andy during the Comedy Festival a number of years back and found him warm and friendly. He was happy to chat to us after his show (the friend I was with is also from Sale - Andy's home town).

    Obviously after a one-off meeting I can't claim to know him or understand what motivated his actions.

    I feels very sad for his parnter, family and friends at this time.

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  7. "So why do such people keep going, and not seek help?"

    That's the point you can't get help, if you seek help you will be admitting to and convicted of an offence.

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    1. They should do the rest of us a favour and go KILL THEMSELVES.

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    2. Why don't you? What a horrible attitude.

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    3. Spot on. Perhaps somebody should ask the West Australian state government what happened to the SafeCare programme. The community will be paying for the Liberals' stupidity on that front for decades.

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  8. "The things that I saw on my computer were vile and disgusting. The people depicted in those images were real people with the right to safe and happy lives."
    I have to say that this quote leaves me doubting Muirhead's remorse.
    The people in those images were not people. They were children.
    Couldn't he find guts enough to admit that?

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    1. Andy has admitted everything. I think you are reading far too much into one word contained in a letter that was very difficult for Andy to write. I also know Andy personally and I think it's pretty lame for you to doubt his remorse when all of us close to him, who love him dearly, are more than well aware of how ashamed and remorseful he is.

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    2. Agreed. To the person who gave their personal anecdote of Andy - as someone who has spent a considerable amount of time with Andy - he is very shy, but kind, generous, intelligent and considerate. Our dear boy has suffered enough.

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    3. Children aren't people? What an idiotic thing to write; still, I suppose, reflective of the current moral hysteria.

      I hope Muirhead receives a relatively lenient sentence. Hopefully, in time, we'll find more progressive methods of dealing with crimes such as these.

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    4. It is child pornography; child abuse; child sex crime - not people pornography; people abuse or people sex crime.

      People is a minimising, distancing and generic word.

      The paedophiles in the images are "real people" too. By not making a distinction it would seem that Muirhead believes child sex offenders also have the "right to safe and happy lives." Which actually makes a lot of sense.

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    5. Again, I believe you are reading far too much into one word.

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    6. "People is a minimising, distancing and generic word."

      Really? I get that it's less emotive and manipulative — "Won't somebody think of the people", alas, fails to arouse much in the way of mass hand-wringing — but it's also kind of accurate. Children ARE people; if you want to be specific, people who have not yet reached a stage of intellectual or physical maturity. They are not a distinct organism.

      For me, the word 'people' is MORE humanising, not less so; but that's neither here nor there. Once you start rejecting neutral terms used in accurate contexts, you start to betray an alarmingly skewed view of the world.

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  9. Ashamed and remorseful because he was caught. His "suffering" can not be compared to that of one of the many children featured in the images he downloaded. It is people like Andy who create a demand for this abuse of children.

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    1. I agree. What would have happened if he hadn't been caught.

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    2. No, his plea was changed once the prosecution actually looked at the evidence per his request and advised him THIS YEAR that he accessed 12,000 images - not the 40,000 they were originally accusing him of accessing. Please get your facts straight. It is widely known that he was always going to plead guilty to what he had done, but not to something he hadn't.

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  10. It’s interesting to note that the apparent friends and supporters who have posted here have chosen to do so anonymously.

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    1. Interesting that you have too. I'm doing so because Andy has asked all of us not to speak out in his defence - but I can't help myself. I was in public court with him and I would take a bullet for him.

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    2. He has no defence. His "curiosity" creates and supports a vile, nasty and soul-destroying industry. As long as there is someone viewing these images there will be disgusting child exploitation to support that demand. He is very lucky to have your support, but he has commited a horrible crime and must pay the price. His suffering will not even come close to the suffering of those innocent young children. And yes, I have met him, he is kind and polite, but that doesn't change this terrible crime, nor does it save the children.

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  11. I don't "know" Andy but l was fortunate enough to meet him on several occasions. The "portrait" l had of him was of a shy man who seemed generous and kind. I was shocked at the allegations and his admission and l have no understanding of why he and others do that. In no way do l condone or understand it. I do though see a man who by his own actions has ruined his life and who will live with what he did for the rest of his life. I'm not going to judge him or others. I do feel compassion for him. He is fortunate to have friends who will stand by him and l wish they would pass on to him that not all are against him. His future will be different but can still be meaningful.Andy,be strong.

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    1. Thank you, Anonymous. I will indeed pass your message on to Andy. Your observations of him are absolutely correct - he is a very kind and generous person. Good people can do the wrong thing sometimes too.

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  12. "It’s interesting to note that the apparent friends and supporters who have posted here have chosen to do so anonymously."

    WELL SAID.

    Looks like Anonymous is having a LOT OF conversations with him/herself.

    Pure conjecture and the person who gave the once off encounter account is just as much as to be believed (or disbelieved) as all these pandering ANONYMOUS anonymous's.

    I came here after I googled the name Andy Muirhead after reading an account on the Herald. The psychologist who said he looked just because of stress was clearly bought, what a sick society offering such bull 'expert' testimony for a price. She is just as bad as the offenders.

    And as to the Anonymous's of this Board - not everyone is as naive as you think. If you really want to defend him "because you can't help yourself, you poor souls" - then NAME yourself.

    Then maybe you would have a little credibility, other than that, shut up. We can all read the news ourself without your fake accounts of his "kindness".

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    1. Well, thanks for your contribution, er... what was your name again?

      Just quietly, I think the prevalence of anonymous responses here is more a reflection of people's inability to work Matt's confusing blog comment system than a general desire to remain hidden. Although the latter would be somewhat understandable, given the controversial nature of the subject.

      I've chosen to comment under my real name because a) I believe strongly in my convictions on this issue, b) I don't have a high-profile career to lose, c) I'm sufficiently naive to presume that my house isn't going to be firebombed and d) I've managed to wrangle the difficult 'Reply as' minefield.

      Otherwise, I'm happy to read the supportive comments of Andy's friends and loved ones whether they choose to publish their real name or not. Mainly, it assists in humanising a person who wider society wishes to wash its hands of — but also, it's nice to know that human friendship can withstand the most trying circumstances.

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  13. a sensitive subject that requires thoughtful considered commentary...............it would help if the web master banned the use of unecessary expletives............that may help to lift the general tone of comment. For those of you who like severe polarity in your discussion......see you all later, I won't be checking out this web site again

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