Friday, May 27, 2005

Murdering the Dead

In a couple of extraordinary twists post-Graham Kennedy's demise:

Derryn Hinch claimed Kennedy died from an AIDS-related disease.

Swift response came from Kennedy's long-time friend Noeline Brown, who called into Hinch's program to categorically deny the allegation. "Many of my friends have died from AIDS but my friend, and Australia's friend, Graham Kennedy did not die from AIDS," she told Hinch.

"Believe me, he did not have it and I can get many people from the nursing home to refute what you're saying."

More damning to Hinch, however, is that his claims are now directly contradicted by a medical certificate made public yesterday stating Kennedy did not carry the disease and furthering Brown's argument that HIV would have been reported on his death certificate as a notifiable disease.

Hinch, unsurprisingly, is remaining stubbornly unrepentant, claiming an interview today with one of Kennedy's lovers will vindicate him.

I feel obliged to condemn Hinch here, but also come to his defence.

First the condemnation: It's indicative of a man's oversized ego when the response to his allegations essentially being totally disproved is: "When I die, say anything about me, as long as it's true -- I've lived by the adage that all history owes the dead is the truth." WTF? You're publically broadcasting unfounded and most likely untrue allegations about the HIV status of a recently-deceased icon, based on flimsy evidence, and you're giving us self-righteous moralising about the obligation of truth?

Now the defence: Hinch's actions here are inexcusable, but what I find more telling were some of the outraged responses of his listeners when he first aired the allegations.

"You are a skidmark on the jocks of Melbourne society."

"Why didn't you give the guy some respect and let him die with dignity you dirty dog?"

"You filthy bucket of swill, you ought to have your tongue ripped out by the roots."

Are people so offended because of Hinch's sloppy journalism here, or are they still so repulsed by people contracting and dying from HIV/AIDS that to accuse somebody of doing so is a personal affront to them? If Hinch had falsely claimed Kennedy died from any other illness or disease than this one, would the abuse have been so acerbic?

I might be naive here, but I don't believe Hinch's primary motivation was homophobia. I think he actually believes his own delusions of "telling the truth", even if he is going about it all the wrong way and not giving us any truth that cannot be quickly and conclusively discredited.

Hinch's own words hint at reverence, even in a back-handed sort of way:

"(Kennedy) was a complex character. Undoubtedly the most successful performer ever on Australian TV...The Master of the rehearsed ad lib. One of the hardest workers in the industry....At the peak of his fame, he was paranoid that his awesome audience would discover that that he was gay...This was at a time when if the word got out you were a poofter, it would destroy your career..."

True words, and certainly Frank Packer's unhealthy obsession with catching out the "poofter" validates this, although realistically, Packer as the avaricious fiend he was would not have sacked the man who brought in so much revenue for his station.

But: Hinch's "outing" of Kennedy is crap. Graeme Blundell's biography did not overlook this "secret" and as with other well-known gay and lesbian celebrities, even though they might not officially be out doesn't mean we don't all know about it. Think Toby Allen, Jackie Woodburne or Ian Thorpe for starters (OK, I threw that last one in for fun. Yeah, he's straight. Honestly.)

I haven't read the Blundell biography from cover to cover yet but I have read snippets relating to Kennedy's sexuality, and they would seem to indicate that, if anything, Kennedy was asexual, or just not that interested in sex with either men or women. A bunch of opportunistic "ex-lovers" might come out to contradict this, including the man Hinch will be interviewing today, but ultimately it's something we'll never really know.

There's no doubt, however, that his was a queer sexuality, an integral part of his character that fed into his subversive humour and made him enough of an outsider to be the brilliant satirist he was.

As Rodney Croome argues: "The saddest thing about the current furore is that it shows how little Australian public life has progressed since Kennedy first took the mickey out of it fifty years ago." The reactions of Hinch's listeners would certainly confirm this is the case. What's sad is that Australia will never replicate another Kennedy to take the mickey as entertainingly as Kennedy did.

We will, however, have an endless production line of Derryn Hinches to be hypocritical crusaders for "truth", to push buttons and intentionally or otherwise tap into the latent homophobia of so many Australians.


At 29/5/05 2:18 am, Blogger Nic White said...

Hinch is just looking for attention. "OMG look at me, Im telling you something you already knew, and now Im going to tell you something else completely stupid!"


At 7/5/06 11:22 pm, Blogger jay2006 said...

Actually, I'm pretty sure that Hinch is a poofter himself, either that or hes a complete narrow-minded, anti-gay, homophobe!

At 7/5/06 11:23 pm, Blogger jay2006 said...

Someone should murder him for murdering the dead

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