Arrest of “teen party host” highlights stupidity of law

Photograph of male youths with pixelated faces

Yesterday a Melbourne teenager was charged with creating a public nuisance and producing child pornography. Reuters tells us he “became a controversial media star after a wild party at his parents’ house became a near riot, forcing police to call in a helicopter and the dog squad”. Hands up if you think you know his name.

Now, keep your hands up if you’re completely bloody sure you know his name.

OK, hands down.

Yet again we see how Australia’s laws have failed to adapt to the Internet age.

Everybody and their dog, globally, has been reporting the rise to fame of glamorous Melbourne socialite Corey Worthington Delaney. I’ve written two essays already [1, 2], and this third one probably won’t be the last. My friends at Crikey published The Corey Timeline yesterday (republished by Peter Black too, if the Crikey original is behind their paywall).

Now, under Victorian law, as in many other democracies, the media cannot identify minors charged with criminal offences. Nor can they identify who’s brought before the children’s court. Fair enough. Once upon a time we all agreed that youthful indiscretions shouldn’t mar our reputation for life.

So now we have the ludicrous situation where National Nine News and The Age and everyone else is talking about “a 16-year-old boy” as if we haven’t noticed a flood of media reports about a specific, named 16yo who — in an amazing coincidence — held a wild party on the weekend where the police were called, including a helicopter and the dog squad.

Happens all the time. Could well be someone else.

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The Madness of Corey Worthington Delaney

Photograph of Corey Worthington from Channel 7

The Corey Worthington Delaney story symbolises everything that’s bad about our mainstream media.

They simplify everything into a simple binary questions of good versus bad. They give this attention-seeking waste of carbon atoms exactly what he wants: the oxygen of media attention. And they get basic facts wrong just to make a catchy headline.

OK, I’m giving him oxygen too. And I’ll be honest, I’m revelling in the glory of such a moron becoming Australia’s new global representative. But here’s what I don’t like about it.

First, Corey doesn’t face a $20,000 bill. That’s just a number being kicked around indicating the cost of the police operation to shut down his elegant soirĂ©e.

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Corey Delaney, freedom fighter (for the right to party)

Photograph of Corey Worthington from Channel 9

I’m pretty sure I know why my story about “protecting kids on the Internet” was bumped from Crikey today. How can I possibly compete with a newsmaker like Corey Worthington Delaney (pictured)? And how can I possibly compete with Crikey‘s comprehensive coverage of this new Australian success story?

It’s not so much about protecting kids from the Internet, but protecting the Internet (and us!) from Corey.

Any promoter would be pleased with a turnout of 500 for a simple house party with no outlays, just an invite sent out on MySpace. But then a helicopter arrived on the scene, some police cars got damaged, Mr and Mrs Delaney found out, the neighbours were p-ssed off and the Police Commissioner called a press conference.

It looked like Corey was set to be devoured by a salivating news pack. The sixteen-year-old came with shades, a naked friend running down the street, a pink doona doubling as sarong, and the quote “I can’t remember. I was just off my head”.

Crikey lists much of the good media coverage — including a talkback caller who somehow managed to blame John Howard. For me, though, the highlights are The 7.30 Report‘s serious piece (including child psychologist and police youth worker), and A Current Affair‘s Leila McKinnon doing the extended interview (where they get his name wrong).

The irony is, today the Victorian claim their tougher new powers to target rowdy behaviour around Melbourne nightspots have been a great success.

[Update 16 January 2005: I’ve changed Corey’s surname from “Delaney” to “Worthington”. Apparently Delaney is his parents’ surname but not his. Or something.]