The fact Bryant brutally murdered 35 innocent people and injured a further 23 with semi-automatic weapons made it explicitly clear that Bryant was not a ‘good bloke’.
Had he turned the guns on his own family? That may well have been different. Perhaps, in that scenario, somehow the good bloke label might still have fit.
On Friday police in Western Australia confirmed that seven dead bodies had been found at a Margaret River property in a suspected murder-suicide. After a triple zero call just after 5am that morning police arrived on the scene and discovered four children and three adults had been shot, making it the deadliest mass shooting since Martin Bryant’s Port Arthur massacre.
— ABC News (@abcnews) May 11, 2018
The deceased were identified as Peter and Cynda Miles, their 35 year old daughter Katrina and her four children, all of whom lived on the 30 acre hobby farm.
By Saturday it was being reported that Peter, a 61 year old who taught at the local high school, was the alleged shooter.
On Sunday, Aaron Cockman, Peter Miles’s former son-in-law and the father of the four children, told the gathered media he was “certain” Peter had murdered his family and then called triple 0 before killing himself.
The police have said they are not looking for anyone in connection to the deaths.
— ABC News (@abcnews) May 13, 2018
In many realms of life, it is true that there is far more grey than there are discrete instances of black and white.
Murdering six members of your family, however, is not a scenario in which shades of grey apply.
If Peter Miles had walked into the high school where he works and shot six people dead, there would be no grey area. He would be labelled a violent serial killer.
If Peter Miles had walked into a shopping centre, or onto a bus, with a bomb strapped to his chest and blew himself and six others up, there would be no grey area. He would be labelled a terrorist.
In these situations it is impossible to imagine anyone reaching for a label like ‘good bloke’ or ‘loving family man’ to describe him.
It is impossible to imagine anyone in those situations proffering a sympathetic explanation for perpetrating that type of violence, because there is no sympathetic argument for slaying six people.
In most instances brutally murdering anyone categorically and permanently exempts an individual from being remembered as anything other than a murderer.
Except, apparently, when the victims are your own relatives. A case in point: on Saturday Peter Miles got the ‘good bloke’ treatment.
As ABC TV presenter Juanita Phillips pointed out, Miles was labelled a ‘good bloke’ in the headline above one article despite the fact no one actually said he was a good bloke anywhere in the report.
The “good bloke” descriptor in domestic murder cases is so automatic the headline writer used it even though nobody in the story actually described him that way. pic.twitter.com/BZW0xCDnSF
— Juanita Phillips (@Juanita_Phillip) May 13, 2018
Why? It’s not the first time we have seen this.
In April of 2017 Greg Floyd got the good bloke treatment after chasing his partner and four children from their home into their neighbours house. His children escaped to the streets but their mother didn’t and after killing her he killed himself. What made this “loving dad” snap, we were asked to consider.
Last year, when a “good bloke” murdered his partner in Wangaratta, I wrote this piece for @WomensAgenda. It appears we have another “good bloke” who just murdered his family in WA. The “good bloke” headline is, sadly, predictable. https://t.co/jmVeJ08t7j
— Kristine Ziwica (@KZiwica) May 13, 2018
Soo too when Geoff Hunt murdered his wife and three children at their home in Wagga Wagga in 2014 before shooting himself.
In what other instance is it remotely likely that less than 24 hours after a violent crime is committed and reported, is an alleged perpetrator viewed sympathetically through the prism of being an otherwise upstanding citizen who merely suffered a lapse of judgement?
In what other crime are we, as a matter of course, asked to consider ‘what made him snap’ as if there is any set of circumstances that validate a mass murder?
The only realm where this applies is when a man murders his family and it is alarmingly telling. It exposes the default position that these sorts of crimes are less horrific, and more comprehensible, than others. They are not. ‘Good blokes’ don’t murder their families. Full stop. The best of blokes relinquish any entitlement to the label upon murdering their wife, their children, their partner or any other person.
Good blokes and murder are mutually exclusive and there is nothing grey in between.
Support is available for those who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800; beyondblue 1300 224 636.
If you or someone you know is impacted by family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au
In an emergency, call 000.