Brown Study

Brown study

20 October 2018

9:00 AM

20 October 2018

9:00 AM

Alan Jones was wrong to apologise for his interview as part of the Sydney Opera House fracas. Once you apologise for your conduct in any aspect of public life, you lose your authority. You also let down your own supporters. Much better to stick out whatever temporary embarrassment you might have suffered and, as Donald Trump has shown many times, go on the offensive. It works. And there was also a public interest in Jones’ not apologising, which is that apologising just gives the left-wing, mainstream elitist media, with its hit-list of hate objects and unacceptable opinions a victory. When it gets a victory, boy, does it trade on it! Having won a victory, it knows it can bludgeon future apologies from Jones or anyone else who incurs its wrath or departs from accepted truths and also that it can use this power to stifle contrary opinions whenever it wants to.

The other reason why Jones should not have apologised is that he had nothing to apologise for. He conducted a vigorous, tough interview which is what he is paid to do and why so many people listen to him. They are bored by the anodyne interview that is standard fare these days in most media outlets and they obviously value Jones’ method of exposing hypocrisy, forcing answers and not putting up with evasive replies, especially from politicians. There should be more of it, not less. The only test of this approach is whether people listen to it – and they do.

But it is said that he interrupted his interviewee, the fragile CEO of the Opera House, Louise Herron. Heaven forbid! Next they will be saying there is gambling at the casino. Jones is not the first or the last to interrupt and his genre is the interrupting, aggressive interview. Rigorous interviews, warts and all, are the life blood of free speech and democracy and although Jones’ encounters are not the same polite discussion that some people would prefer, as if he were interviewing the royal family, he conducts them in his own way and that is far more important. Also, so far as I know, there is no law yet that says you must go on Jones’ show: if you don’t like the heat, stay out of the studio.

But the thing that really irritates me about this complaint of interruption is that it is so monstrously hypocritical. Particularly is this so on the ABC, which has revelled in attacking Alan Jones, mainly because he is so successful. Its political interviewers are past masters at interruption. Jon Faine, in particular, simply cannot abide a contrary opinion or anyone being given the chance to express it and he lambasts anyone foolish enough on go on his program, interrupting them continually and then delivering a sermon on how wrong they are and how right he is. We are not allowed to criticise Leigh Sales, of course, because she is an official saint, but she is also a perpetual interrupter and her interviews are a series of assertions, which is why she gets little or nothing from interviews and certainly nothing that carries over the next day into the news.

Some ABC people do not interrupt and that should be said; but many do, and in doing so they are rude and intrusive and go into policy announcements and axe-grinding assertions that are well outside the proper role of an interviewer. About the only ABC program where interviewers do not interrupt is the ghastly Sami Shah program on early morning radio in Melbourne and that is because no-one worth interrupting goes on the show. No such criticism is made of left-wing, interrupting interviewers as they have made of Jones, and in language far more intemperate than he has ever used. But the real criticism of Jones, whether they know it or not, is that he is just not one of them. He is an outsider, which is why he is successful and why his ratings are higher than all the others.

The reason they have attacked him is that Jones is on the officially unacceptable side of the substantive issue: should the Opera House be used for advertising the Everest horse race? The official, luvvie position is ‘no’: it is an intrusion of private money into public property. Here again the hypocrisy is monumental : in Melbourne, we have a Labor government acting like vandals, destroying Federation Square and handing it over to the Apple company on a long term lease and on secret terms to house its corporate headquarters. Both the light show on the Opera House sails and the Federation Square sell-off are an entirely unjustified theft of public property for private profit. But the media hypocrites who criticise Jones for supporting the former, are strangely mute in raising any suggestion that the latter might also deserve censure, as it does.

Jones’ critics should be reminded that free speech, the vigorous exchange of ideas and minority opinions, is only of value when you fight for free speech of opinions you do not like, by people you also might not like and in a style that is not the polite one you think you would adopt yourself. When Alan Jones becomes polite, I will stop listening to him. I would rather be provoked than bored.

Over to foreign affairs: it is good that the Morrison government is looking at renouncing the Iran nuclear deal, and moving our embassy to Jerusalem, which is long overdue. But why does it need an inquiry? Surely the government can make up its own mind – and today. We have too many inquiries and royal commissions and we should now realise we do not need inquiries into issues of basic belief like religious freedom – and Israel. The Morrison government will be as doomed as Turnbull’s if it does not do something. It knows what to do, just do it!

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