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.