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’!”

Peter Fray

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