Wednesday 23 March 2011

Sky Sports magazine hails rapist Mike Tyson as a 'legend'

I’ve got Sky TV and every couple of months we automatically receive a listings magazine, plus Sky Sports magazine. In the February/March 2011 issue of Sky Sports magazine is a long and loving interview with rapist Mike Tyson (jail time: a super flyweight 3.5 years). He is named on the cover. He is named on the contents page, ‘The Legend: Mike Tyson’, with a picture of him holding a pigeon in his fist and kissing it so that its beak is shut tight between his lips. The three page feature starts on page 48, red-tabbed THE LEGEND at the top, and the headline quote is, ‘I’m extreme in whatever I do.’ The strapline underneath says, ‘He was the great heavyweight champion who became his own worst enemy. Now Iron Mike [the nickname is in bold] says he’s the happiest he’s ever been. We met him to find out why…’

The article is by a staff journalist, Claire Bloomfield, whose fawning write-up does not mention Tyson’s rape conviction or previous interviews in which he has said that he likes to ‘totally dominate’ women. The piece begins, ‘One of the last times you saw Mike Tyson was probably in hit comedy The Hangover …Yet Iron Mike’s enduring appeal means that he crops up in less starry surroundings too’, like his successful speaking tour, The Baddest Man on the Planet. I would contest this title: rape and brutalisation by men is mainstream and, to give Tyson some comfort, I do not think he is the worst perpetrator. He should be reassured that there are many men worldwide who have raped and beaten more women, children and other men than he has.

On tour, writes Bloomfield, Tyson ‘meets his people and answers questions about his extraordinary career.’ She also mentions his recent trip to Mecca, as though he is some kind of peace pilgrim or Deepak Chopra/the Dalai Lama, only with a rape conviction and face tattoos. Bloomfield notes with plangent sentimentality, ‘Such is the life he now leads, a far cry from his destructive final years in boxing when his life spiralled out of control.’

I feel disgust at the leeway, leniency, generosity and euphemisms here. They cover the reality of what Tyson has done. Out of all the sportsmen in the world, the ones who don’t rape, the ones who aren’t violent, this magazine chooses not only to acknowledge but cravenly to celebrate and lionise one who does, and in the most abject, glowing terms.  Bloomfield continues, ‘Tyson wants you to know he’s not the person he once was’ as ‘his darkest hours are behind him.’ Whatever darkness Tyson has experienced, it is as bright as the sun compared to what his victims have gone through. Mike Tyson, Iron Mike to his fans, Rapist Mike to the few people who care about his victims, is not ‘his own worst enemy’. He is women’s worst enemy.

When Tyson has not beaten and raped women for free, for the sheer enjoyment of it, he has beaten men for money. Bloomfield reminisces about Tyson’s heavyweight heyday, when he was ‘burning with a charisma not seen since.’ Perhaps it was this charisma which led to him being permitted to serve just three and a half years for rape.

Let me now just throw my abject disbelief onto the page and punch it until it begs for mercy or passes out from the pain (not that I’ll stop then). Bloomfield’s article exists in a morally inverse world in which rapists are victims, committing rape is something terrible that happens to a great man, rape victims don’t exist and a perpetrator’s existential pains (translation: his excuses, whingeing, projections, denial and petty grievances) are the basis of a heroic myth about recovery from devastation. But it is rape survivors who must recover from devastation.

Tyson is full of self pity, as though he has been unfairly treated: ‘If I won the Nobel Peace Prize I am still gonna be a scumbag to America.’ There is no likelihood of Tyson winning the Nobel Peace Prize as he has never worked towards world peace. I do not care if he feels like a sad little lost childlike soul on the inside; everyone feels that way at times. But not everyone is violent or a rapist. Tyson himself alludes to his raping: ‘Because this guy made a bad mistake in his life, does that mean it overrides everything he’ll ever do in life?’ Yes Michael, rape does mean that. One rape victim is one too many.

Tyson talks as though Fate has done something bad to him. But he is not a victim. He is a perpetrator. On his tours he connects with ‘a crowd of people that have pain, so I want to share mine with them and let them know that everything is gonna be alright.’ When a rape survivor truthfully reveals the pain of being hurt physically, psychically, psychologically and spiritually they are told they are lying to hurt men’s public standing. When a rapist lies about how he hurts existentially he is believed, forgiven and rewarded. Still, Tyson is right about one thing: everything will be all right for him, as it is for the overwhelming majority of all rapists and domestic abusers. They can look forward to enjoying the favourable odds of a virtually nonexistent conviction rate, notoriously low sentencing and the guarantee of financial, cultural, legal and career support from abuse-condoning people afterwards.

Tyson says, with risible piety, ‘I want to establish a healthy relationship with my family. I want my wife to realise that I’m not ever going to cheat on her. When we dated years ago, I admit, I cheated on her all the time.’ If I were in a relationship with Tyson I wouldn’t worry so much about infidelity, I’d worry about being beaten up and raped.

Tyson speaks like someone whose human rights have been violated and who will be in recovery for the rest of his life. He speaks as though he has had to use every ounce of inner strength to rebuild himself after a cataclysmic act of destruction, hatred and sabotage. He speaks as though he has had to overcome people’s unjust disbelief, mistrust, social stigma. But these are the things a rape survivor goes through.

A rape survivor feels alone but Mike Tyson is surrounded by cronies. He says, ‘when I’m overseas I enjoy the celebrity status’ and mentions countries including Turkey where ‘the president or the prime minister comes to meet me at the airport or at my hotel.’ There is an international community of powerful men who want to give him a great life, because they think he is a great man. His supporters include major players in film and TV, men with women colleagues, partners, daughters, sisters, friends, mothers.

Out of 3.5 billion men in the world, it was rapist Mike Tyson who was offered a role by Todd Phillips, the director of The Hangover. Another man, James Toback, made a sympathetic documentary about him (just like director Steven Soderbergh made a sympathetic documentary about rapist Roman Polanski). Tyson’s next project is an American TV series called Taking on Tyson, about pigeon racing. He will also be in the upcoming series of Entourage, the sequel to The Hangover and Men in Black 3. The producers of these shows are making a specific choice to help a rapist by actively enabling him to reinvent himself as a light entertainment figure. Who is helping his victims? Under-funded local counselling and medical services? Understaffed phone helplines? Do his victims live, like Tyson does, in a sympathetic, helpful, wealthy, well-connected world of wholly credulous employers, friends, family, society and media?

Amongst many other events and media slots Tyson has appeared at the SXSW festival promoting a video game modelled on his likeness, been interviewed on the Ellen DeGeneres show, been on Dancing with the Stars and featured in a spoof music video with Bobby Brown, the singer famous for beating up Whitney Houson in much the same way that today's hot young singer Chris Brown is famous for beating up Rihanna. The media coverage of all these events has been positive. The Daily Mail did not refer to Tyson's raping, just his 'controversial private life' and CBS News calls him 'a boxing legend' as do most other journalists. 

The directors, producers, crew, participants and actors in The Hangover, Taking on Tyson, Men in Black 3, Entourage and all his other projects, events and media outlets hate women. If they didn’t, they would refuse to work with Mike Tyson because he is a rapist. Instead, they reward him. They are making an explicit demonstration of their partiality by overtly helping the career, profile and bank balance of a man who’s committed one of the most common and destructive acts of hatred in the world. Men and women who refuse to boycott men who abuse women hate women. Men and women who actively praise and compensate men who abuse women hate women down to the last dregs in their stomachs.

No doubt violent men and their many fans say that ‘people’ deserve a second chance. I agree. The survivors of violence deserve a second chance to live their lives free from the threat of brutality.

The editor of Sky Sports magazine is Ryan Herman and the director of BSkyB Publications is Robert Tansey. They can be written to at BSkyB Publications Ltd, Grant Way, Isleworth, Middlesex TW7 5QD. A note on page 4 of the magazine says, ‘Sky Sports Magazine has the largest circulation of any sports magazine in the world.’

UPDATE: Within 90 minutes of this article being up, the deniers and apologists are already out. Someone named Wyn Lewis, finding the link to this article on my Facebook page, has left a comment saying this: I think you mean "rape". I have barred the user and the comment has been deleted, although I have kept the email alerting me to the comment and quoting it.