Hey ho, it’s another story about frickin’ Kyle Sandilands. Forget Steve ‘Fiskal’ Fielding’s “learning disability”. I’m beginning to think Sandilands has his own disability — a degenerative weakening of the brain-to-mouth barrier that stops most people from saying dumb and offensive things before they’ve thought them through. Perhaps we could call it “dysconsideratia”.
The Kyle and Jackie O Show has only been back on air for three weeks after the pair’s last sin-binning. Now that Sandilands’ big mouth has got him into trouble yet again, it’s been irritating to see so much moral outrage expended on a guy whose job it is to make people pay attention to him.
Magda Szubanski had the right idea when she told The 7PM Project:
It’s been a bit of a beat-up and I kind of got dragged into something that is neither here nor there to me. I couldn’t care less about what Kyle says about me, it’s his opinion, he’s entitled to it, the second part about concentration camps was clearly in poor taste but, other than that, whatever.
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Yes, he’s abhorrent, but in the past he’s been really good at it. The Kyle and Jackie O Show is about being “edgy”. By this, I mean that it’s calibrated to create an atmosphere of barely controlled mayhem, where just about anything might happen and social norms only exist to be challenged or violated. The very idea of a delay button goes against the spirit of the show.
Still, what happens on-air is of only marginal interest to Austereo — the broadcasting network’s chief, Peter Harvie, has previously admitted he doesn’t even listen to Kyle and Jackie O. As I wrote in The Enthusiast, the commercial broadcasting industry thinks purely in economic terms of “attention” and “the deal”.
Austereo hired Kyle Sandilands to cane his rivals, pull in sponsorship dollars and cross-promote the show in other media — and he’s delivered spectacularly. The Kyle and Jackie O Show won the last ratings survey, was nominated for a swag of industry-voted awards, and, hell, we’re all talking about Sandilands again.
Conversely, commercial radio just isn’t interested in what the public think, unless the public are in the position to intervene in its economic logics by boycotting its programs and cross-promotions, and lobbying its sponsors.
But this time, Sandilands invoked Godwin’s Law — he mentioned concentration camps. And perhaps this will be his fatal step.
Internet lawyer Mike Godwin coined this maxim in 1990 to describe the way online discussions invariably degenerate once someone invokes Hitler, Nazis or their actions. In internet culture, the law applies especially to spurious references to Nazism, intended only to shock or colonise a moral high ground. It’s generally interpreted that anyone who brings up the Nazis has automatically “lost” whatever debate they were engaged in.
Sandilands’ direct quote was:
You put her in a concentration camp, and you watch the weight fall off.
Now of course concentration camps aren’t a Nazi invention; the British popularised the term during the Boer War. But most people associate them with the Nazi death camps of WWII, and that’s how Sandilands’s comments have been widely interpreted. Many media outlets pointed out for good measure that Szubanski’s family is from Poland, where the most notorious camps were located.
But rather than get suckered into more outrage about Kyle, Jackie O, and the broadcasting executives whose dirty work they do, we should shrug and say that anyone who resorts to a cheap Holocaust reference is getting a little lazy in their envelope-pushing. Coupled with a cheap fat joke, it shows Sandilands’s “edge” growing decidedly blunt.
In The Sydney Morning Herald, Sue Javes made an interesting observation: the only thing that could kill The Kyle and Jackie O Show was Kyle’s loss of confidence. Without the audacity that was Sandilands’s trademark and his key professional skill, the show is toothless.
And I think we’ve seen that now. Sorry Kyle, it’s Godwin’s Law. The minute you invoke the Nazis, your salad days as a shock jock are over.
Mel Campbell is editor and publisher in chief of The Enthusiast.