Triple Ignorance

By 11 August, 2012Personal Blog

Imagine this: a radio shock jock does some humourous talkback, and the jokes progress to an anti-gay slur. The cyberspace reaction builds in momentum, and in a moment of arrogance, the DJ responds to a tweet with something like “if you don’t like my program, then don’t listen”. After about 36 hours, the station issues an unreserved apology on its web site. But instead of “thanks for dealing with this”, the apology triggers a further spate of anti-gay jokes, as if to say, “why are you apologizing? we found the original joke so funny, we will add to it!”. Whatever uproar the original joke caused would be multiplied tenfold. Does this represent prevailing attitudes to gays? Is this what people really think?

Now, let’s switch to what really happened. Instead of an anti-gay joke, the breakfast program of Australia’s youth radio station, Triple J had an on-air game to link two things together: Hitler and a wind-farm; presenter Tom Ballard suggested “fan-forced ovens”. After some initial arrogance, the station and the presenter have apologized. Ballard is himself proudly gay, and surely ought to know that gays were just one of several minority groups murdered by the Nazi regime, but clearly that didn’t make the Holocaust a “no-go zone”. Let’s hope he and other staff at “our ABC” get the history lesson they clearly missed.

But what of all the listeners – our youth and therefore the future of our country? Their reaction on the station’s Facebook page has me and many others quite flabbergasted. The litany of Nazi and antisemitic jokes shows what listeners really think – that jokes like these are actually acceptable.

Let’s go back to the thought experiment. What if the target of the jokes were gays, blacks, Muslims, Asians, asylum seekers, or people with depression? What if the subject was another genocide that took place in modern history like Rwanda or Chechnya? How about a competition to find a link between wind farms and Pol Pot or Stalin? Humour with any of these subjects on national radio would receive instant condemnation. But would the subsequent apology provoke a reaction of more offensive jokes?

This reeks of a double standard. The bleeding heart, left-wing, politically correct folks will bend over backwards to protect every minority group in the world (just listen to Triple J’s Hack program to get an idea of what is important to young people), but it’s open slather on the Jews. It was years ago. Move on. This is Australia, not Europe. You’ve taken it out of context. They didn’t mean to offend you. What about freedom of speech? Forget about it. Water off a duck’s back.

As usual, I’m left with lots of questions. What of political correctness? Have many young people had enough of it because it has gone too far? If they have, is there a better way to teach an appropriate level of sensitivity to others? Or can nothing ever be taken seriously?

What does it say about Holocaust education? Given the fact that the world considers Jewish blood to be cheap, maybe the message is wrong? Should kids should be taught more about all the other minorities who were persecuted and murdered by Hitler (oh, and in addition to the gays, gypsies and mentally ill, six million Jews were killed)? Instead of a Holocaust museum in Los Angeles, it’s the very generic “Museum of Tolerance”. Or perhaps Gen Xs and Ys who have never known war or tragedy cannot begin to fathom the magnitude of a tragedy like the Holocaust?

I’ve been listening to Triple J for many years; I don’t like the commercial stations with their fast-talking DJs, lots of ads and short playlists. Listening helps keep me in touch with young people today, and the young person within me. Switching off is not the answer. But a response like I’ve seen scares me. We (as a nation) are doing something wrong if this response is typical of the values of our next generation.

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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    Great post. Unfortunately what you have just highlighted is a prevailing attitude towards. Jews that has been nurtured by the self hating left wing and secular Jews who can not cope with religious Othodoxy. They want to change Judaism, wipe out centuries of tradition and Halacha and live by their own 'modern' rules. They will blame orthodoxy for their stuffed up lives and seek to undermine and ridicule the basic principles of life and integrity which Judaism stands on.
    We are all being brain washed by slick marketing campaigns that do not touch on the human elements of compassion and principles.

  • Anonymous says:

    Perhaps, as a Lubavitcher you shouldn't be listening to triple J and/or the type of music and values it has to offfer and show case in the first place? Trying to establish a genuine connection with someone or a group doesn't mean adopting their values, music preferences etc. Quite the contrary actually…

  • admin says:

    Here is the response from the ABC to my formal complaint:

    Dear Mr Werdiger

    Thank you for your email concerning triple j Breakfast presenter Tom Ballard’s comments made on Thursday 9 August during a segment with co-presenter Alex Dyson and guest comedian Alan Brough.

    As your correspondence raised concerns of offensive content, your email was referred to Audience and Consumer Affairs for consideration and response. The unit is separate and independent from ABC program areas and is responsible for investigating complaints alleging a broadcast or publication was in contravention of the ABC's editorial standards. In light of your concerns, we have reviewed the broadcast and assessed it against the ABC’s editorial requirements for Harm and Offence, as outlined in section 7.1 of the ABC’s Editorial Policies: http://www.abc.net.au/corp/pubs/edpols.htm. In the interests of procedural fairness, we have also sought and considered material from ABC Radio.

    The ABC’s editorial standard (section 7.1) for Harm and Offence states that “Content that is likely to cause harm or offence must be justified by the editorial context.”

    In this case, although the joke was not complete before Mr Ballard’s guest and co-presenter intervened to stop him, it was clear that he was going to reference the gas chambers of the Holocaust in a joke. This was undoubtedly highly offensive to any survivors of the Holocaust, their families and many other people who may have been listening, and was not justifiable in the context. Unfortunately any mitigating effect of the other presenters intervening was undone by Mr Ballard initially defending his actions on Twitter.

    Mr Ballard, however, realised he made an error of judgement and on the afternoon of Thursday 9 August an apology was published on Facebook and Twitter. Mr Ballard made an on air apology on the Breakfast program on Monday 13 August.

    Additional apologies have also been issued online at http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/musicnews/s3565105.htm and on Tom and Alex’s Facebook page: “I'm very sorry that on my breakfast radio program, I offended and upset a lot of people. That's not what I like doing; I like making people laugh and I like making people happy. I never set out to vindictively offend or belittle anyone or any group with my comedy, that’s not what I’m about. I sincerely apologise that’s how I came across in this instance. (Tom)”

    The triple j breakfast team have been counselled by network management, and presenter Tom Ballard has been specifically reminded of his obligations under the ABC’s Editorial Policies, particularly in relation to Harm and Offence. ABC Radio apologises sincerely and unreservedly for this lapse in standards.

    Accordingly, Audience and Consumer Affairs conclude that the broadcast was not in keeping with the ABC’s editorial standards for Harm and Offence.

    Thank you for taking the time to write; your feedback is appreciated. Should you be dissatisfied with this response to your complaint, you may be able to pursue your complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, http://www.acma.gov.au .

    Yours sincerely

    Mark Maley
    Audience & Consumer Affairs

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