Henry Rollins story takes off

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Henry Rollins says he was reported to the Australian government’s National Security hotline for reading a book about jihad. Is this for real?

On Thursday the Daily Telegraph reported that "US rocker and writer Henry Rollins was reported to the National Security hotline during his recent Australian tour because of a book he was reading on flight to Brisbane." By Monday the New York Post‘s Page Six had the story along with some new quotes:

"Days later I received an e-mail from a woman who I guess figured out who I was and found me," Rollins told PAGE SIX after his spoken- word show at Town Hall the other night. "I had been named a person of interest. Basically, they get calls like this every five minutes, and I’m probably on the who cares list, in that they’ll probably let me into the country again.

UPI International picked up the story along with some of the Page Six material:

Punk rocker, pontificator and IFC TV star Henry Rollins is being investigated in Australia for his choice of reading material.

Rollins told Monday’s New York Post a passenger seated near him on a flight to Brisbane, Australia, was disturbed because he was reading Ahmed Rashid’s best seller, "Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia."

The passenger notified the Australian government, which in turn notified Rollins that he was now considered "a person of interest," Rollins said.

On his own web site (Thursday 16) Rollins reported that:

Apparently my whining about getting called in on the airplane in Australia made news here and there and now MSNBC wants me to do something with them next week. I am champing at the bit with anticipation. No I’m not. I am excited about doing my radio show live this coming Tuesday night. That’s going to be great.

As I said in an earlier post the big news in this story isn’t that some nervous flyer would ring the National Security Hotline to report a passenger reading about militant Islam — the world is full of not very bright people who get anxious around big men with tattoos. No, what’s much more interesting is the idea that someone working on the government’s hotline has been passing on confidential information. Last month Rollins reported that he received a letter which said:

The person who sat next to you on the flight from New Zealand does not agree with your politics or choice of reading and so nominated you as a possible threat. As they were too cowardly or stupid to leave their details I can’t call them to discuss their idiocy with them.

Even cowardly stupid people have a legitimate expectation of privacy when they call a government hotline. It shouldn’t matter whether their worries are bizarre or ridiculous.

It seems to me that it’s still too early to tell what’s really going on here. It’s possible the letter is some kind of joke. I’m waiting for the story to blow back to Australia.

Update: MTV has some new material from Rollins — "The next time I get out to Australia — that is, if they let me in — I am going to talk about that guy in every interview I do. And it will get to him. It’s a small country, in that there aren’t a lot of people there and most of the country’s just sand and flies. So it will get to him."

Update 2: The Australian media have picked up the story again. Here it is in the Sydney Morning Herald and Seven News.

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derrida derider
derrida derider
15 years ago

If I’m accused of something I’d want to be confronted with it. And if there is no good reason not to (eg ongoing investigation) then I should be informed of it. If it’s as reported the public servant did the right thing, bugger the law.

It’s not as though the accuser was personally identified so in this case the privacy argument is piss weak anyway. And I reckon people who do cowardly stupid acts with the potential to harm others should face some sanction – anonymous denunciations to the state have a vile history.

I’m glad to hear there are some people in the national security state who haven’t entirely lost their moral compass or their commonsense.

Francis Xavier Holden
15 years ago

About time somebody stopped Rollins from peddling his tired old schtick as “fresh and punk”.

Now if only Howard could find a way to shut up Bono and Geldof I’d wholeheartedly support mandatory reporting to the National Security hotline even.

Shaun
15 years ago

I’ve never heard Henry do his spoken word schtick but the Rollins Band albums of the past few years have been quite good. Maybe less talking and more…errr…that almost singing stuff of his with the loud guitars.

Don Arthur
Don Arthur
15 years ago

I saw Rollins do a spoken word show when he came through Canberra a while back. Sure he’s getting older, and sure you get the same old stories about the first time he saw the Ramones etc… but it’s Rollins and it was brilliant.

Did anyone catch the Don Letts doco ‘Punk: Attitude’ on SBS the other day?

Francis Xavier Holden
15 years ago

don – I recorded it on my hard drive off digital tv tuner card. I haven’t watched it at all. I haven’t tried to burn a show to DVD yet. I’m told it isn’t simple. If i work it out I’m happy to send you a copy. For research / teaching/ fair comment purposes.

Kim
Kim
15 years ago

No, FXH is right. Rollins’ spoken word schtick is a complete waste of money and time. Went once in 99. Will never go back. And he was younger then than he is now.

Don Arthur
Don Arthur
15 years ago

FXH – My other half managed to borrow a copy off a friend at work. It’s funny watching this stuff now. I also saw that DVD that comes with the 25th Anniversary edition of the DK’s Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

If I was 17 and watching these ‘punk legends’ being interviewed for the first time I’d think most of them were wrinkly old nerds… except maybe for Poly Styrene (Marion Elliot).

Francis Xavier Holden
15 years ago

From Rollins:

“Tell them twice. If your boss is looking for something to do, you can tell him I suggest he go f— himself. Baghdad’s safer than my hometown and your PM is a sissy.”

Looking for a good reason not to go see him?

I’m waiting to hear from Henry how his schtick is going down in the clubs and bars in safe but non sissy Baghdad.

Nabakov
Nabakov
15 years ago

Whether this story is true or not, or just rather enhanced, one thing that strikes me is how someone proud enough of his prose to take it on tour unaccompanied is such a poor letter writer.

If I got the kind of letter he says he got and made my response public, I’d try and come up with something a bit more cogent and biting than “go fuck himself.” “your PM is a sissy”, etc, etc. Yeah well, I reckon you throw like a girlyman Henry.

I’ve never been much interested in Rollins anyway and this does nothing to make me enthused about any spoken word tour.