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TV & Radio

Oct 3, 2012

Jones is a twit, regardless of who he sleeps with

In many of the critical pieces about Alan Jones this week, there's been a strong focus on his sexuality. Why can't we just examine his actions?


John Birmingham is the kind of writer for whom we are most often very, very grateful. He is never more conspicuously decent than when detonating hypocrisy as he did in this 2010 piece on former NSW minister David Campbell.

Here, the target was the Seven Network whose “revelation” Campbell had visited a gay venue ended in the minister’s resignation and an awful lot of prurient tut-tutting. Birmingham called Today Tonight’s intrusion a “gay bashing assault” and wondered that any journalist would stoop to parking outside a sauna when, really, Macquarie Street produced much more scandal per square foot than any all-male bathhouse.

His point, more or less, was that Campbell would now always be remembered as a “closeted” gay and never really held to account for his several years of questionable service. For this stubborn refusal not to assess Campbell either as a “gay” or a “closeted gay”, Birmingham again proved his worth as the nation’s most reliable provider of no-bullshit erudition.

It was odd, then, to view Birmingham’s take on Alan Jones yesterday and read the advice that the broadcaster should “bend over” and take censure “like a man”. I found it so odd, in fact, that I was moved to contact Birmingham, currently on holiday, and ask why a sodomy reference had appeared.

Birmingham disagreed that the “bend over” reference, now deleted by Fairfax editors, necessarily evoked Jones’ much-discussed sexual practice. “I use a lot of strong, sexually loaded imagery when I write,” Birmingham wrote via email. “Imagery that is offensive to the conservative sensibilities of some and the progressive ideals of others.”

While it it is true that Birmingham is a bawdy contrarian, it is also true that many fag jokes have been made in social and conventional media since news of Jones’ newest idiocy broke on Sunday. Birmingham says that it perhaps this climate that led to the cut. Derryn Hinch, for example, called Jones a “vicious, nasty old queen” on the 3AW website and Catherine Deveny has upchucked an imperial gallon or two of bile to Twitter.

We can’t be sure why so many have taken to sniggering about bottom sex so incessantly. Particularly not when Jones has done things that are far more questionable, and possibly litigable, than engaging in sex acts with his own gender.  David Penberthy managed to excoriate the man utterly without a single reference to trousers. Others, however, cannot resist the temptation to mention Jones’ proclivities. The fag jokes, in fact, have become so copious, one wonders if these comics haven’t been storing them up for a special occasion.

We can forgive Birmingham his smut, then; the man has something of a reasonable explanation. Others, however, do not have a decent rationale for why gay sex is suddenly laughable when it is practised by someone of whom we do not approve. What they have, instead, is fairly crappy rationales that seem to include “He’s an arsehole, therefore I am prepared to suspend my usual tolerance for homosexual acts” and the slightly more sophisticated brand of pop-psychology we may see here.

In this piece by self-professed former journalist “Mr Denmore”, we learn that it is acceptable to discuss Jones’ sexuality because this is a “classic case of the ageing homosexual who uses ultra-conservative politics to build a base in the culture that alienated him as a youth.”  That is, it is not at all unseemly but is, in fact, our obligation to examine Jones’ sexuality because it explains his awful behaviour.

While it might seem earnest, the assumption that Jones is sexually self-loathing is actually very nasty. Further, the idea that he exists in a “closet” is pure speculation. More to the point, what closet? Every time we bay for someone to come out of this construction, we bolster its importance.

If we agree that we do not wish to reside in a world that defines people in the terms of their sexual orientation, we really mustn’t demand that people define their sexual orientation.

And, if we agree that Alan Jones is a twit, we absolutely must not demand an “outing” of him, either. It is the least of our concern and, in fact, just the “Hypocrisy of the Left” fuel he needs for another odious rant.

As Birmingham said in his piece on Campbell, it is not our work to “follow them into their bedrooms and wait for a juicy pants down moment before leaping out screaming, ‘Gotcha’!”


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37 thoughts on “Jones is a twit, regardless of who he sleeps with

  1. Sancho

    I disagree.

    It’s cheap to use lame “bend over” jokes in reference to Jones, but this presents us with a chance to have a discussion about gay misogyny.

    The notion that gay men can be as vicious toward women as some straight men are seems to make a lot of progressives uncomfortable, but that doesn’t help anyone to understand the motivations and values of the people involved.

  2. random78

    Quite right, Jones’ sexuality is totally his own business and not relevant to his job or any other job I can think of.
    I don’t care about his personal life; I only care about the grubby mind he exhibits in his broadcasting and public comments, so choose never listen to him. I’m happy that the ugliness of his mind has been ‘outed’. However the attempt by some to link his behaviour to his sexuality has no basis in fact, and by extension becomes an alarming attack on homosexual behavour in general. Which, in case some forget, is a basic human right in Australia.

  3. random78

    Sancho, I don’t understand the need for a term like ‘gay misogyny’ of ‘straight misogyny’. Why don’t we just say that we all have the capacity for vicousness. Why this interminable need to label people as ‘other’ in contexts where it is irrelevant?

  4. fredex

    I agree Helen, in fact I posted my disagreement with the otherwise worthy Mr D at his blog under the name ‘fred’.
    And to Mr D’s credit he has changed his mind somewhat, see his last comment after another ‘Helen’, made much the same point as you make here [or are you the Helen at Mr D’s site, if so well said?]

  5. Misha Ketchell

    Wonderful and thoughtful piece Helen. I agree with every word, including your view that Birmingham should be forgiven his smut this time around. (He’s on a warning.) But for everyone else it’s shameful.

  6. Sebben

    FWIW, I think the term Birmo used could be applied to Jones, no matter what his bedroom proclivities.

  7. (the other) HR Nicholls

    The comments are nasty and cynical and I don’t like it either, but I think it’s a symptom of frustration – does anybody REALLY think Alan Jones will face lasting censure from a radio station which he’s a significant shareholder in? Of course you don’t. So his festival of bile will carry on regardless, and so his critics are reduced to playing the man, as Jones has done himself so many times before.

  8. Mr Denmore

    Helen’s right. I’m sorry. It was a bad choice of words. And this debate is distracting us from the real issue, which is that 2GB employs a business model based on exploiting the basest fear, ignorance and prejudice of the community, many of them old and fearful anyway. Consider me corrected.

  9. Damien

    AJ’s sexuality is his own business – but he’s so unforgiving of others and so quick to brand anyone he disagrees with as a fool, the response is understandable.

  10. Venise Alstergren

    HELEN RAZER: I find your pseudo-psycological rant a little disturbing. To keep in with the political correctness of today one would have to cleanse all written material of any descriptive words. Hopefully this homogenisation of the English language fails to further penetrate public discussion. If you saw a one-legged man doing over the little old lady at the dry-cleaning shop would your report to the police fail to mention the culprit had only one leg? After all, there can’t be many one-legged criminals running around.

    Anyone reading “Jonestown” knows the man is gay-indeed, what of it? However, if people describe his gayness as an effort to describe what sort of a person this miserable old man is, equally, what of it?

    Where you run completely off the rails is when you criticise John Birmingham for the comment “bend over” and take censure “like a man”. There’s no way that I would have read this to mean a reference to male homosexuality. Alan Jones is the person who always refers to himself as being manly. {Which is a dead give away as to his own character.} Birmingham was spot on the money using the “like a man” line.

    Using your guide lines we should cleanse the works of Shakespeare. His offensive descriptions are clearly intolerable. Let us, you and I, decide to stage Othello. Won’t the audience have fun trying to work out the plot line when the part is played as a white man? Of course, it would render the part of Iago to be somewhat opaque, but hey, political correctness is far more important than blöödy good drama, is it not?

    Alan Jones has created his own identity, yet the rest of us have to play by a different set of rules? Give over.

  11. Andybob

    For me its Jones’ hypocrisy regarding gay marriage that brings his sexuality into play. He has not admitted his homosexuality, nor has he supported gay marriage or spoken out against those who oppose it. He is obviously uncomfortable with his sexuality being discussed, but is quite happy to make the most odious slurs against others. In those circumstances I see nothing wrong with pointing out,as repeatedly as he uses repetition against others, that he is throwing stones from a glass house (thankyou Chopper).

  12. Venise Alstergren

    PS: Para two. In an effort to describe.

  13. Sancho

    Random (#3), I think Jones is a good case study in regard to assumptions about gay men, in particular the assumption that the gay community is wholly supportive of feminism and left-wing politics. In that sense it’s relevant to note Jones’ homosexuality.

    The friendly stereotypes of gay men deserve to be challenged just as much as the hateful ones.

    The other reason it’s significant is because the audience he appeals to has shown a willingness to dismiss people and arguments solely on the basis of sexuality, so it highlights a gross hypocrisy.

  14. Merve

    He is the worlds biggest critic, he hates women, he attacks people for anything, then he sits back and expects his sexuality to not be an issue. It is not an issue, it is his own business, but his expectation that he is going to benefit from what is a left wing initiative to legalise homosexuality, when his hero Tony Abbot who is never given a hard question, who is given an easy ride at every appearance, the demands that his part vote down gay marriage, is amazing. Snide jokes at his expense, I don’t agree with them. I would love to hear him discuss this issue one day on the radio with his audience.

  15. klewso

    Then there’s the way Abbott will use some gays one way for the politics – and then others another?

  16. Chris Johnson

    Alan Jones’ sexual proclivities have zilch to do with his professional and public persona. That only gives him a cop out for being little more than a propagandist with an average career path who stumbled onto a well-paid soapbox – radio. Hundreds of Alan Jones’ gather in Sydney’s Domain and London’s Hyde Park to rant, rave, debate and discuss the world’s absurdities. They’ve done it for decades – it’s called open-air talk-back. While Jones goes hammer and tongs on right-wing politics weekdays from behind a mike with added pizzazz from influential props – on Sundays in the Domain it’s the down market version of 2GB’s business model at Speakers Corner. Really, Is Jones all that different from those eccentric colourful characters like Bea Miles, John Webster and Sydney’s neo-Nazi ‘The Skull’, who just like Jones were impassioned speakers with something to say and could do it under wet cement? Alan Jones’ donation of a chaff bag jacket for appearing at a Liberal fundraiser oddly has a parallel too. It’s with Bea Miles. She used to quote Shakespeare to pay for bumming lifts with taxi drivers.

  17. Pedantic, Balwyn

    AJ hides his sexuality because the demographic he most appeals to is notoriously homophobic; he is merely protecting his own commercial interests.

    Most balanced commentators view this tactic as both hypocritical as well as reflective of the gutless character of the man. It can be hardly surprising if the odd snide remark is passed however juvenile or asinine.

    if AJ had any intestinal fortitude he would be open about his persuasions and use his skills to support t5he gay community.

  18. Miranda Straight

    I’m glad you called this one, but I find it bizarre you say “Particularly not when Jones has done things that are far more questionable, and possibly litigable, than engaging in sex acts with his own gender. ” The grammar suggest sex acts with one’s own gender are some way questionable. Odd statement, I thought.

  19. Gerry Hatrick, OAP

    Surely when the majority of people see Jones as Australia’s only gay homophobe – it’s not surprising to see it come up here and there?
    Same thing with Gina Rinehart fat jokes – there’s a negative tone when describing either gayness or fatness which is inherit in society, and taking the moral high ground when this shit comes up can be quite difficult.

    It’s not as if people said that, say, Jones’ parents died of shame because he stayed in the closet and failed to pursue rights for homosexual people?

  20. whoknows

    One could believe, given the right’s view on gay / marriage that Jones has had an unstoppable need to ‘prove’ he is still worthy by being one of their most vocal defenders.

    That aside he has, irrespective of anything else, exposed his decaying values and stooped lower than one thought possible to attempt to slur a woman in the aftermath of grief. it was a hideous crime against any decency that he would screech about for weeks, had it been aimed at him.

    If he is the mouthpiece of Liberal values, Abbott must be either deciding to move on and pretend it has passed, or excommunicate Jones forever.

  21. Matt Johnston

    Raz, its probably because AJ’s sexually has been a taboo subject for years and he along with his listeners know that if its an open discussion his rating will drop ten fold and he is out of a job.

  22. David McAlister

    Well said Helen R. Perhaps it was Cory Bernardi’s recent little outburst that makes the sexuality of conservatives relevant to public debate: after all, taking support from people whose sexuality you have equated with the slippery slope to bestiality might seem a bit rich to some.

  23. Michael

    I’ve been a Crikey subscriber for 5 years and have never read gross, inhumane comments like this before.
    I suspect what that says is that the mainly baby boomer commentators have reached a time in their lives where nothing but hatred & vitriol satisfies their need for acknowledgement of their dwindling influence. As Labor back room gal/s would say “they’re a dying generation who will soon be gone, patience my pretties.”

  24. Karen

    Helen, AJ has not “outed” himself to his ultra conservative audience. Indeed, when he was “outed” in the ’90’s, I believe, he went into hiding until the dust settled. He and his audience continue to pretend that he’s straight, which leads the wider community, fairly I believe, to speculate that he is an unhappy hypocritical l*ar who is ashamed of his orientation. Thus, it his hypocrisy and his willingness to pander to the prejudices of his audience (which includes homosexuality) and from whom he seeks to make a living that is being seen as offensive and that has become the butt of jokes (excuse the pun).

  25. Pius Ott

    While I agree with you that his sexual orientation has nothing to do with this latest offensive rubbish he’s spewed out, and should not even be mentioned, I was actually pleasantly surprised by how few times it has come up. Maybe I’m just not reading the same comments as you do. But yes, whenever I do hear anyone bringing up his sexuality for a cheap joke I do twitch. Not just because it’s uncalled for and beside the debate, but also because it gives him ammunition to portray himself as being the real victim here. Something that he’s already well on the way of doing.

  26. david hare

    Helen I am a homosexual man and only a few years younger than Jones.
    I am obliged to agree with Hinch’s call that Jones is a “vicious old queen” becuase that is exactly what he is.

    Don’t mess around with the rights of those of us who revile people who happen to also be homosexual, to call a spade a spade. “Mr Devebey’s” alalysis of Jones’ ultra right wing rigor mortis is also a fair observation to my eyes, as one who has seen so many older gay men turn feral as age and mortality approach. Maybe it’s a generational thing but whatever it is it is a particularly unpleasnat aspect of homosexual reality. What you are trying to do is to censor all of us including other gay men from calling Jones out, and suggesting some background. It’s you who are presuming what can and can’t be said. You are very very wrong, morally.

  27. Oscar Jones

    Spot on Helen. I will however forgive Birmingham this time as he is everything you as a write.
    I have been quite shocked at the references to Alan Jones’ private life no matter what it involves (and I know nothing of it).
    No-one should have been subjected to the incident in London as he was: British police were notorious at that time for arresting innocents and hoping they would quietly plead guilty. To his credit, Jones faced the matter in the full glare of publicity and it was shown to be wrong.

    I hated his style of talkback then and I hate it now. But that’s all. Not his personal life. It belongs to him and is none of our business.

  28. Yuval Legendtofski

    The thing is Jones will always emerge the winner, it’s the way modern media-induced fascism works.

    Wise arses like Drew Bolt will just point out at how ‘hateful and homophobic’ the ‘left’ media are, and will score a victory against ‘gay bashing’ one of their boys
    and how fascist the lefty-Marxists are.

  29. Aliar Jones

    As a liberal i have no qualms about saying I don’t care less about his sexuality, but his misogyny is inexcusable.

  30. Mi Ja

    I agree whole heartedly – who cares about Jones’s sexuality. Completely irrelevant. The bloke is a twit.

  31. justin cotton

    Disgusted by people supposedly of a liberal bent, apparently condoning homophobia. There is no evidence of Jones himself being anti gay. Agree totally with Helen, but as a gay man I’m appalled by someone here saying it is hard to take the moral high ground over homophobic comment. So we denounce villification by in turn villifying someone for being gay? Nice one

  32. Mack the Knife

    I don’t have a problem with Alan being gay but I do have a problem with his sleazy activity when in London he was arrested for improper conduct in a public toilet.

    I’ve known many gays in my life and all were classier than this guy.

  33. justin cotton

    And some of your best friends are gay right Mack? A lot of gay men are on grindr, are you going to condemn that? In fact Jones confronted a homophobic prosecution that was never proven in court.

  34. justin cotton

    “Where you run completely off the rails is when you criticise John Birmingham for the comment “bend over” and take censure “like a man”. There’s no way that I would have read this to mean a reference to male homosexuality.”

    Oh please, this poster must really think we came down in the last shower. I am sick and tired of this covert or casual prejudice (nudge nudge, wink wink), as displyaed by the comedian’s comments. And another poster tries to link gay men to “misogyny” generally. I could counter by saying some of the most bigoted people toward gay men have been women, which is true, but that would cause an uproar.

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