Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Jonestown Massacre

SX column for the week, followed by a few additional thoughts.

Jonestown, Chris Masters’ unauthorised biography of shock-jock Alan Jones, is nothing if not much-anticipated, in Sydney at least.

Its profile rose considerably after being dumped by the ABC, the original publisher, amid accusations of the right-wing culture warriors currently stacked on the ABC board doing ‘one of their own’ a favour. Nevertheless, it quickly found a new publisher, and now seems destined to be a big money-spinner for Allen & Unwin and a lost opportunity for the public broadcaster.

But questions are already being asked as to the quality, and indeed relevance, of the so-called ‘tell-all’ biography. Masters argues that Jones’ well-known but little-publicised homosexuality informs his bitter, aggressively right-wing radio persona, and indeed his interaction generally with politicians and other power-players – or, as journalist David Marr argues, Jones’ ‘strange character, his love of secretness (sic)’.

On the other side, however, commentators sympathetic to Jones are arguing that this is little more than a hatchet job, a left-wing conspiracy (aren’t they all?) to smear the name of a well-known right figure through innuendo, particularly with regard to his interaction with underage boys via his previous career as a teacher. Conservative Melbourne columnist Andrew Bolt has suggested that, were the same implications made about Justice Michael Kirby, for example, there would be an outcry of homophobia as there was (rightly) in 2002 following Bill Heffernan’s false allegations.

Having not yet read Jonestown, it’s difficult to judge where the truth of Masters’ agenda lies. However, one line from the Sydney Morning Herald’s exclusive extract caught my attention, in which Masters argues that Jones’ favour can be bought through little more ‘than a fawning letter…delivered by a handsome envoy’. Certainly, such writing does reek of innuendo rather than established fact. Hopefully, the rest of the book has a little more grounding in demonstrative research.

I can’t pretend I’m not keen to read this book, and maybe this is a case of schadenfreude. In some ways it does feel karmic that a man who’s made his obscenely wealthy career through accusations, misinformation and personal vendettas, often about or against targets who cannot defend themselves, may finally be getting some of his own back. And I don’t buy the defence that, for a shock-jock, Jones has a history of being surprisingly silent on the issue of queer people and issues and therefore cannot be considered a genuine hypocrite. Silence is still inexcusable, especially from a man who clearly has the ear of our Prime Minister and could have done far more to draw attention to discrimination against same-sex couples in federal law.

But I’m reserving judgment about whether or not I think it’s appropriate for Masters to have ‘outed’ Jones until I read Jonestown from cover to cover. We must remember that whether or not we – and indeed Jones himself – like it, he is a gay man, and it would be dangerous for us, in our alacrity, to cheer on yet another possible example of paedophilia being confused with homosexuality.


Overall, I've generally considered Alan Jones to be a rather tragic figure. I wonder if he could be a better man were he genuinely comfortable with his sexuality - that perhaps the career he's carved out of espousing hatred and xenophobia is manifest of his own self-loathing?

I have no expectations that gay men should automatically be left-leaning, any more than I expect women to automatically be some form of feminist. Having said that, however, in my experience I have seldom come across a gay man who identifies as right-wing, or conservative*, who also strikes me as being a happy or contented person. Those I have met or know of are rarely, if ever, in a successful, long-term relationship with another man (and far as I know, Jones certainly isn't), which I'm not saying is necessary for true fulfilment in life, but I do think that sometimes, they can get so carried away riding the anti-gay bandwagon to impress the other gentlemen in the cigar room, that they do start to genuinely believe they don't deserve a partner/relationship, or that they should only seek meaning and reward through aspects of their lives other than the romantic.

(*As I view it - to illustrate: votes for Liberal Party but despises Howard and desperately waits for Costello to take over and Petro Georgiou to become Immigration Minister = centre or right-leaning; votes for Liberal Party and admires Howard and the effect he's had on Australia = right-wing.)

Maybe I need to meet more of these men to get a truer picture - go to Fruits in Suits or something. But I do believe Masters is not without cause to identify, at least in some context, Jones' homosexuality, as it strikes me as naive to argue this has nothing to do with the man he is today and what has fuelled his drive over the years.

What I don't support is any on-the-sly innuendo about Jones being a paedophile, as would seem to be evident in Masters' book. If he has concrete evidence that this is the case, fine, produce it; otherwise, let's not join in any whisper game. We oppose it being played around Kirby, and we should oppose it around any gay man, even the ones we don't like.

UPDATE: One final thought: Trawling through the various back-slappers on Bolt's blog site (which I won't dignify by linking), someone asks the question: Why should someone feel proud to be gay? Straight people don't feel proud to be straight. They don't march about it, wave flags about it etc.

The simple answer: A straight person has not been raised to feel ashamed about, or repulsed by, or even terrified of, their heterosexuality. With complete respect to all my straight friends and family I love: The world is their march. Of course they don't need to wave a flag - it would be lost instantaneously in the sea of straight flag-waving that goes on every day - in their legalised marriages, in their ability to be openly affectionate in public without fear of reprisal, in the children they raise who aren't bullied for who they are, and the parents who still welcome them into their family homes at Christmas time.

What seems to be forgotten in all this debate around Alan Jones is what an empowering and liberating experience it is to realise that queer is not wrong, unnatural or the end of one's life. For those of us who at some point in our lives have felt that we are freaks, convinced ourselves that we are destined for a life of misery, sickness and isolation - because that's all we deserve - to leave behind that place of horror forever and, to badly paraphrase a cheese-ball slogan, Choose Future, is completely deserving of pride and affirmation.

Maybe Jones is simply still hiding in that dark place. This is bigger than bullshit left/right political dichotomies. It's about each and every fag and dyke who's stepped out from the shadows telling the world that they can never go back.

And that is a fucking wonderful thing.


At 24/10/06 1:49 pm, Blogger Jacob said...

Call me naive, but I had no idea that he was actually gay. I thought it was one of those left wing smear campaigns of which Jones speaks so frequently. In any case, I can't really understand why his sexuality is used as a tool to denigrate him as a political analyst. Sure it's strange an' all that he's gay AND a conservative, but I'm thinking along the same lines as you that it might just be another way to align homosexuality with paedophilia.

Still, I might be hypocritical anyway and pick up a copy.

At 24/10/06 4:13 pm, Blogger Lisa said...

Jones' favour can be bought through little more 'than a fawning letter... delivered by a handsome envoy'

Big deal. For how many powerful men is it true to say that their favour could be bought by little more than a fawning letter delivered by a gorgeous young feminine envoy? It hardly makes a man a paedophile. Just a man who lusts after hot young things.

On the paragraph beginning I have no expectations that gay men should...

I'm no psych major, but it seems you're describing a textbook case of self-loathing finding an outlet. Is it really that simple? It would explain why he's not keen on publicity about his homosexuality.

At 24/10/06 10:54 pm, Blogger Andrew said...

The book is a biography, so Bolt saying how bad it is to write about Jones sexuality is silly.

Who did not know he was gay? He was outed years ago when the cottageing thing happened.

Did someone say he was a political analyst. Right wing activist I would say.

I can't recall him ever doing a homophobic rant, so that is to his credit.

Pedophile, no underage stuff even suggested. Look at the laws.

Cash for comment, he proved what we Mlebourne radio listeners always thought, and we are thankful the we are above that.

At 25/10/06 10:46 pm, Blogger "AK" Adam said...

This is all a very NSW thing. I had no idea that Jones was gay; I have never heard his show either.

Clearly the pollies reckon Jones has the ear of some important demographic, whether it be 'burbanites or the grannies. Nonetheless, I can undertand why he doesn't trumpet the gay thing to either of those sets of listeners.

Gay conservatives are a bit of a marginalised group: certainly many conservatives are anti-gay, and the gay left regard us as modern-day kulak class-enemies. As Andrew Bolt has said, this sort of "wink", "wink" boys-school stuff would never have happened to a gay lefty, but then, nobody would be interested in a book about a gay lefty.

Imagine a David Marr biography -- all shrill moral righteousness and shocking choice of shirts -- it would be straight to the bargain bin!

At 26/10/06 9:13 am, Blogger Sam said...

It is a NSW thing, but Bolta obvious considers it an important enough national issue to rave about in his Melbourne newspaper.

I also understand why Jones doesn't trumpet his sexuality with his audience, but I don't agree with it. Imagine how much more tolerant people might be if their beloved radio guru - and a lot of people do base their opinions on what Alan Jones tells them - were highlighting every day that being a big fag is nothing to be ashamed about or hide after all, using himself as a tangible example.

I'm sorry you feel marginalised as a gay conservative Adam. Personally, I've always thought the queer umbrella is large enough to incorporate gay conservatives - although I draw the line at those I've met who sing the praises of Pell, Ratzinger, Muehlenberg etc. To me, that's just masochism.

I'd love to read a bio of David Marr. Pompous or not, I still think he's an excellent writer.

At 26/10/06 9:22 pm, Anonymous kate said...

I find it amazing that people would expect a biography to completely ignore a person's sexuality. Would they ignore a bloke's wife and kids? Would they ignore that Baronness Thatcher was married to Dennis? That John has Jeanette? Sure it's not their whole life, or their public career (which is what warrants the bio) but relationships, or a lack of them, is an important part of what makes people tick.

At 30/10/06 3:01 pm, Anonymous Stephen said...

I agree with you about the David Marr biography it would be a good read. his biography of Patrick White is remarkably perceptive and incisive.
I think that Masters did a good job of explaining his rationale for the sexuality stuff on Late night Live on Thursday 26th which you can listen to on the ABC website

At 8/11/06 4:27 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just finished the book. It has left me with a more sympathetic view of Jones - not that I had an opinion of him anyway, since I'm not interested in football and nor do I live in Sydney.

But the homosexual false outrage is a red herring. The book is an indictment on media and politics. Our democracy is dysfunctional.

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