Are Alan Jones’s s-xual preferences a matter of public interest?

On Saturday, The Sydney Morning Herald published the first extract from Chris Masters’s controversial Jonestown. And the paper chose to lead with what it evidently saw as the juiciest angle: Alan Jones’s “struggle with his s-xuality”.

Masters writes:

Over time I thought of Alan Jones as leading seven lives — not one of them his own. Read on and you will meet them all. There is the blokey, foul-mouthed ex-football coach; the courtly, non-swearing charmer of older women; the farmer’s (miner’s/union official’s/teacher’s) son; the thwarted prime minister; the ombudsman of Struggle Street; the Oxford orator; and the hidden homos-xual, forever hunting for love among the twentysomethings.

The masking of his homos-xuality is a defining feature of the Jones persona. Jones’s apparent self-belief that, on the one hand, he is damaged and, on the other hand, special, goes a long way to explaining an unusual personality. It informs consistently curious behaviour, his private self frequently intruding on the public self.

Jones is unlikely to ever mount a legal challenge of Masters’ assertions, which would result in the public airing of large loads of dirty laundry. And it’s clear that he isn’t interested in discussing his s-xuality publicly. So is the issue of sufficient public interest to overcome Jones’s reticence?

We take the matter of people’s privacy seriously, says Stacy Farrar, editor of The Sydney Star Observer. “Some people don’t wish to be open about their s-xuality for a number of reasons, and we respect that.” That said, “in the case of a public figure who has actively worked against gay and lesbian rights — and I’m not saying Alan Jones fits into this category necessarily — we think public interest outweighs that particular person’s right to privacy.”

As for the issue of Jones’s s-xuality, it’s a fairly ho-hum one according to Farrar. “His homos-xuality has been widely known, in the gay community at least, for years.. and I personally think that it would be silly and overly squeamish to not at least mention Jones’s s-xuality in a comprehensive study of his life.”

Of greater concern, she says, is the “implication Masters seemed to make in the extract published in Saturday’s Herald, that Jones’s homos-xuality was in some way connected to his interest in teenage athletes. In leaving the reader to make that connection, Masters unfortunately buys into the myth that ties male homosexuality with pedophilia, which doesn’t do anyone any favours.”

These worries aside, perhaps the book “might help the wider community recognise that the gay ‘community’, like the Liberal party, is truly a broad tent,” says Farrar.

Speaking of broad tents, it’s interesting to see who’s also in the camp of commentators questioning Jonestown‘s portrayal of homosexuality.

Andrew Bolt, never a mincer of words, fired up about the issue over the weekend. Masters’ decision “not just to out Alan Jones but to link the man’s alleged homosexuality to pedophilia” is “vomitous”, says Bolt on his blog. And those who “excuse what Masters has done (with ABC money) are endorsing the most homophobic public lynching I have seen in my life”.

Peter Fray

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