As the media storm builds around veteran shock jock Alan Jones, who is now facing numerous allegations of grooming and sexual assault, Alex Vickery-Howe points out that Jones built his career by being nothing more than a monster.
My late grandmother used to listen to Jeremy Cordeaux on the ‘wireless’ – I love that she still called it the ‘wireless’ well into the 1990s – and repeat his opinion pieces to the rest of the family. I was too young to know much about Jeremy, but I know that he made my grandmother more anxious and suspicious. The world was out to get her. Crime was rampant. Nobody could be trusted.
Now that I’m older, I can see why letting that man into the homes of vulnerable people is a stupid idea. Recently, Jeremy bemoaned the ‘talentless programmers’ in the radio industry. While he may have a point about the cookie cutter approach to hiring comedians, all of whom sound broadly the same on my drive home, I would rather spend an hour with Kyle and Jackie O shit-talking Rove McManus than two minutes with a professional fearmonger like Jeremy.
In the wake of the Brittany Higgins scandal, Jeremy became a proud, public rape apologist. I’m not suggesting that Bruce Lehrmann is guilty – we have courts to determine that, as Lisa Wilkinson has finally discovered – but coming out and saying Higgins is a ‘silly little girl who got drunk’ is one of those especially egregious, marvellously moronic statements that probably should colour someone’s career and legacy.
And, since I’ve consumed too much coffee and seem to be enjoying my alliteration this morning, referring to Cordeaux as a simpering slimeball, a mendacious misogynist and a half-cocked halfwit all feels suitably cleansing and cathartic. It’s an opinion, you can’t sue me for it, folks. But here’s the thing….
I didn’t need to know Jeremy Cordeaux was a rape apologist to know he was a monster. His profile over several decades kept his horrible views in the public eye (or, to be accurate, public ear). Views such as bemoaning women doing ‘men’s work’ and women being responsible for sexual harassment due to their choice of clothing. “Women,” according to the ‘common sense’ of Cordeaux, “have just gotta realise that men are predators.”
This isn’t someone I want in my grandmother’s sitting room. The same can be said for Alan Jones.
It’s come to light this month that Jones has been accused of sexual assault by multiple young men, some under his employ and others who went to Jones for mentorship and advice… only to find him naked under a dressing gown instead.
The rumours of groping and soliciting have followed Jones throughout his life, including being charged with outraging public decency at a London toilet in the 1980s. I, along with many others, have alluded to this in the past. Actors I know have spoken to me about his behaviour. Drunken anecdotes do not – must not – result in criminal convictions. All historical charges of this nature against Jones have been dropped. Nevertheless, the popular narrative reinforced by these recent allegations is that he dismisses and demeans the straight young women and beelines for the fluid young men.
Among consenting adults this is – of course – perfectly fine, as the denial of sexuality is what leads to pain and suffering for right-wing politicians and social commentators globally. Much heartache could be avoided if these issues lost their stigma. The closeting of celebrity men sits beside the celibacy vows of the Catholic church as among the most damaging and unnatural contemporary social practices. Research suggests that the priggish denial of sexual variability by conservatives actually leads to predation and sexual assault.
In short, nobody should attack Alan Jones for being gay or bisexual. This bit is worth saying.
When there is a significant power differential and consent is not given, however, it slips into something ugly and cruel. There is the further allegation that some of these alleged victims were schoolchildren at the time of the assaults, and that is – again, of course – utterly reprehensible, grotesque, horrifying and illegal. This bit shouldn’t need to be said, but I’m saying it anyway.
There is a trend – particularly in far-right conspiracy circles – towards accusing every political opponent of being a molester or a paedophile. The most bizarre example of this phenomenon is the #pizzagate nonsense in the US. The CliffsNotes version is that idiots on the internet decided that leaked emails from the Democratic Party (thanks to disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner and the penis that brought Clinton down… but that’s another story) referred to a sophisticated, albeit non-existent, child pornography operation located in the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, Washington D.C.
According to said idiots, the words ‘cheese pizza’ in the leaked emails were code for ‘child porn’… rather than, you know, overworked political staffers discussing their dinner plans. There are still babbling Trumpkins floating through the X hellscape who insist that there are children in peril inside Comet, and online ‘influencers’ who built their profiles on the back of this ludicrous slander.
The ‘misinformation’ – I’m being charitable with that word, bullshit is more apt – culminated in a crazed gunman busting into the pizza parlour to ‘rescue’ children trapped in the basement, despite the building not actually having a basement. My favourite quote from that debacle is the perpetrator, Edgar Maddison Welch – damn lucky his pathetic dumbassery didn’t get him shot – being carried away in a police car with priceless parting words: ‘The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent.’
What. A. Dingus.
Thus, when there are similar accusations made against a notorious right-wing shock jock, it is sensible to keep #pizzagate in mind. We don’t know the truth yet. The intel hasn’t been tested.
For that reason, I don’t think there is any imperative to write another article condemning this alleged behaviour. It may play out in the courts, as these matters should, but public opinion is no accurate measure of evidence or justice. Instead, I’m contextualising these allegations for the exact same reason that I’m reflecting on Jeremy Cordeaux.
We already know Alan Jones is a monster. Come on, we know it.
This is the monster who lit the matches for the Cronulla riots. This is the monster who indulged in cash for comment. This is the monster – the spineless, unctuous, oily monster – who claimed Julia Gillard’s father died of shame and somehow thought that was a funny thing to say at a public event. He’s also the monster who got churlish when the grieving Prime Minister – surprise, surprise – didn’t accept his pissweak apology.
If it took these allegations to make you doubt the integrity of Alan Jones, you clearly haven’t been paying attention to the sour bile that has been passing his jowls for years and years, and years.
In reference to the passing of brilliant Barry Humphries and the memorial service at the Opera House, I recently raised the question of the art vs. the artist, and how an audience weighs up their individual political or ideological perspective against that of the public figures whose work we enjoy. This can be tricky to navigate.
Alan Jones makes it easy. Alan Jones has no talent. His ‘art’ is… being nasty on radio. That’s it. That’s his CV. Well, that and blackface. He’s not exactly setting the world on fire with his tepid rendition of ‘Love Changes Everything’ (gimme Tim Curry singing ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ every day of the week). So, what’s the public loss here if these allegations prove factual? More importantly, what was the public value of his nastiness in the first place?
Shock jocks leave people in darkness. That’s all they do. The most that can be said in their favour – and I know I’m grasping here – is that shock jocks welcome real people into their tête-à-tête. The left refuses to extend an invitation beyond the bubbles we’ve built. We keep our own counsel… often to our detriment, and delusion.
But those people who do tune in to Jones, Cordeaux and their ilk – people like my grandmother – often emerge more damaged from such exposure. While shock jocks may legitimately claim that sore words alone don’t start conflicts and that false, stupid, even incendiary words are free speech, you have to wonder what the point is. What is the desired outcome if not division and hatred?
I do believe in free speech. People have every right, in a democratic society, to be bigots, blowhards and imbeciles. I’ve always said that the price they pay is being told by smarter, more eloquent, and better-read people exactly how dumb they are… repeatedly. That’s how a healthy democracy works. The best ideas win.
Yet, as the shadow of He Who Must Not Be Named looms, once more, over the White House, and Peter Dutton redefines ‘racism’ to suit his personal experience, I wonder if calling a monster a monster is, in itself, an art worth cultivating? I’m not an advocate for cancel culture – it’s childish and it doesn’t work – but surely it shouldn’t take a legal event this appalling and this horrific for our nation to collectively say… ‘Hmm, maybe the guy who said Scott Morrison should shove a sock down Jacinda Ardern’s throat isn’t such a gem after all?’
As The Shovel has hilariously pointed out, Jones is likely to respond to all of this via defamation proceedings, leaving himself open to further public scrutiny. Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I find it exceedingly unlikely that peering closer at his life will make him look saintly, or turn his venom to treacle. He’d be much wiser to do the one thing he has proven incapable of doing…
Keep those slimy jowls shut, Alan.
For the rest of us, a little introspection might be in order. How has Australian society cultivated hatred, packaged it, promoted it, and planted it along a pathway to celebrity? How was it possible for multiple institutions to believe Alan Jones could be a coach, a ‘mentor’ or a leader of any kind? Don’t get me started on Sky News pretending he was a journalist.
Also… what the hell was he doing in the cast of Annie?
These questions will dominate mastheads into the new year, and commentators from all sides will weigh in to condemn, to defend, or – like me – simply wonder how we got here.
We will doubtlessly learn more about Jones, about his accusers, and about the circumstances of these alleged assaults. We will learn about the schools and the clubs that employed and shielded him, about the colleagues who enabled him, and about the parents who – somehow – believed he would be a suitable, even sought-after, guide and guru for their children.
I don’t even know how the latter could have been conceivable. We all saw the monster at work. He told us who he was every time he infected the airwaves.
Perhaps there is actually only one question that underpins this story, the question that stands regardless of whether or not Jones is found guilty of these accusations: What does it say about us that this talentless bully set the agenda for so long?
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