Margaret Simons on Jonestown

Great piece by Margaret in today’s Crikey.

Last Tuesday Crikey published an editorial criticising Chris Masters’s Jonestown for the way in which it “outed” Alan Jones and treated its subject matter with “breathless, censorious innuendo.” It took my breath away.

It wasn’t only the cheek of Crikey accusing the country’s leading investigative journalist a man who has done more than anyone at Crikey to keep public life clean of having missed the lead that made me uneasy. It was that hardly anyone including me had had a chance to read the whole book, and yet the debate was raging based only on the extracts published in The Sydney Morning Herald on the weekend.

Those extracts selected by Fairfax have done the book and the community a disservice. If you read them, then you have read almost all the quasi-s-xual material in the book, which is 453 pages long not including footnotes and index. If you have read nothing else, then you don’t know what the book is about.

Yet because the s-xy bits came out first, the debate has been hijacked by the issue of whether Masters should have “outed” Jones, and whether he did it in a justifiable way.

These are important and difficult issues, and I will return to them. I am not completely on Masters’s side.

But outing is not by a country mile the most important thing in the book. James Packer is wrong when he says the book lacks substance. David Flint is also wrong, or at least misleadingly selective, when he implies in today’s Australian that the book rests on anonymous sources and is entirely to do with s-xuality.

Masters’s work is clearly based on dozens of interviews with people directly involved in events, and almost every assertion is footnoted. (In a nice twist, one of the sources credited frequently is an earlier interview with Jones by Gerard Henderson who has been one of Masters’s critics.) Most significant, Masters has had a huge “leak” of Jones’s correspondence with politicians.

So what else is in the book? What should we be debating? Here are a few of the well supported, meticulously researched assertions.

Jones’s intervention was instrumental in getting the NSW Police Commissioner, Peter Ryan, sacked, and blighting the career of Assistant Commissioner Clive Small who was, Masters says, “better at catching crooks” than ingratiating himself with Jones. As a result, the program to tackle serious corruption in the NSW police force was largely derailed, and the mentally unstable Timothy Priest elevated to the status of martyr, hero and authority on policing matters.

Jones took on the role of publicist for the convicted murderer Andrew Kalajzich, forcing two public inquiries into his conviction, at a cost of about $5 million, when there was no evidentiary basis to doubt the conviction. At the time, Jones was using research paid for by Kalajzich, although he denied having discussions with the defence team.

Both political parties in New South Wales have regularly run policy past Jones before adopting it, and his influence has distorted policy and public life on numerous levels.

Jones has been paid, not only to advocate the interests of his commercial sponsors, but also to remain silent on development matters that might otherwise have been justifiably controversial.

Jones’ influence has blighted, and in some cases ended, the careers of many public servants whose advice went against the course he was urging on politicians.

Jones has repeatedly lied about his past, from exaggerating his academic qualifications to falsifying his birth date.

All this before we even touch on the findings of the cash-for-comment inquiry, which were already in the public eye, and which established Jones as a liar.

The book is not a single headline which is presumably why the s-x got such a run. Rather it is a portrait not only of Jones but also of his city. Masters says: “Alan Jones was Sydney and Sydney was Jonestown: brazen, extrovert, smug and amoral.” It is a well supported conclusion. Masters’s previous best known work was The Moonlight State which was a picture of the undertow of life in Queensland. This is an equivalent work the undertow of our most populous city, and therefore to some extent of the nation. What does it say about us that a man already so publicly discredited still holds such influence?

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Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

That you should live in Melbourne….

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“Those extracts

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

you are having yourself on whyisitso.

You are no better than the people you are criticise.
Even the extracts did not even imply that.

Take a hard good look at yourself. You are viewing everyone through your bluerinse glasses

Amused
Amused
15 years ago

I am waiting for christopher pearson, gerard henderson and the devine miranda, to address the actual and documented examples of lying, bullying, misuse of power and corrupt conduct in the ‘cash for comment saga. Well I think I will be waiting for a while. Still, it’s good that traditional values like loyalty to mates, aka ‘pick and stick’ as gloria says, are still in vogue, in the places where it matters. Excuse me while I puke.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

You’re in a very small minority Nicholas.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“the closeness and claustrophobic nature of Jones’ relations with boys”

Your words Nicholas.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

Extract from “Jonestown”:

“By 1973, Alan’s impassioned support for some and lack of empathy for others became too great an issue to be ignored. There were continued late-night excursions to Jones’ room. Chris Simkin was often in the room with Alan Jones until late at night. “I was in there for hours. The door was never locked.” Simkin says they used to watch the Ernie Sigley Show on television.

Scott Walker, another constant visitor: “If you had muscle strain he would insist on strapping your legs. He would take you into the shower and tell you to take your clothes off. I was shattered with awkwardness. It was weird and uncomfortable and seemed voyeuristic.”

Housemate Brian Porter says: “I never saw a breach of fiduciary duty. I never saw evidence of predatory behaviour. But he was manipulative and voyeuristic. He would love watching athletes on television and film. He saw the beauty of the human form in full flight. He loved the strength, the freshness and the vitality of boys.”

Disquiet about Jones’ attachment to some boys grew during a term break when one of the masters found a letter, written by Alan Jones, to a boy that had been left behind in a classroom desk. In it Alan spoke of thinking about the boy late at night, expressing his love. While love letters to boys were hardly appropriate, neither were they regarded as smoking gun evidence of misbehaviour.

The innocent explanation was that Jones’ letters were Byronesque exhortations of love and inspiration. Jones has spoken of his belief that males should not feel ashamed of expressing love for one another. “You mean so much to me,” one boy remembers him saying when Jones drove him home. The English teacher often made a feature of his sensitivity, telling boys he was too affected by human suffering to teach history.

Nevertheless, the discovery of the correspondence was one more reason to be shot of Jones. The majority of the housemasters penned a letter of their own. Addressed to Headmaster Stanley Kurrle, the letter spoke emphatically of concern about Jones’ influence and control over some boys, describing it as “bad, very bad”. To these masters Jones had become a baleful presence, to one an Alcibiades, a charismatic and devious peddler of loyalty.

The question of when, even whether, the letter actually arrived on Kurrle’s desk is disputed or lost to memory. Kurrle is unsure about the letter, well remembered by others, including one who refused to sign it. Peter Spencer, who also lived in Broughton House, defended Jones and was not alone in seeing his colleague as subject to victimisation and jealousy. Part of Spencer’s support for Jones stemmed from a recognition that the law and understood values of the day lagged behind social reality.”

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

I appreciate you providing evidence for my case whyisitso.

Case closed your honour

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

Jason’s really got you figured out, Homer. You’re as dense as the jungles of Borneo!

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

Don’t use weasel words, Nicholas. Inappropriately indeed. Why don’t you just come out with it, you know the “p” word?

“Should they leave it out”?

Malicious gossip is malicious gossip, Nicholas, attributed or not. We all hear plenty of malicious gossip from time to time, without rushing into print. Even if concerns people we hate.

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

No it isn’t when there is a clear consistent line of behaviour.
Kings, manly rugby team, Wallabies.
Strange how that isn’t paedophilia?

Jones takes on favourites because he is attracted to them. No problem there .It happens in life to all of us.
What Masters documents with names given is how Jones turns on former favourites with a fierce force.
No-one knows why this happens.

Whyisitso your mind is simply in the gutter and you are a parody of those you criticise.

A paedophile does not leave an unlocked door nor let other people know he has other people in the room.

Moreover Parents would not merely want to change schools they would want indeed would belt the living daylights out of that person.

Amused
Amused
15 years ago

WIIS,
Just substitute ‘girls’ for the boys in this instance and then ask yourself what the reaction would or should have been, if someone other than a rich and well connected person had done the same thing, and it had been reported some time later?

The reality is that the behaviour was inappropriate, and showed at the very least, a distinct lack of judgement. I do not suppose he actually ‘did’ anything at all to the boys, because if he had, we would be hearing about it now. What I took from the description was an example of Jones’ clear belief that rules of restraint and appropriate behaviour don’t apply to him, whereas everybody else who is subject to his scrutiny from the bully pit he occupies, must simply put up with whatever he dishes out.

An interest in youths is not necessarily paedophilia, and if the youth is over the age of consent it is not illegal either. The question and the issue here, is the appropriateness of Jones’ behavior in circumstances where he was in a position of trust-trust he owed to the boys in his care (in loco parentis), to the parents of the boys, and to the school as a whole. To the extent that the episodes described show that he cared little for these ethical matters, he deserves all the opprobrium that anyone else in similar circumstances would cop.
To argue that these episodes, which clearly have been reported to Masters by the boys concerned, should not be reported because some ignoramus like yourself might suppose he was having sex with the boys, says far more about you than it does about Masters. Jones’ behaviour simply speaks for itself as far as I am concerned. In these kinds of matters, I am rarely, if ever, amused.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“The question and the issue here, is the appropriateness of Jones’ behavior in circumstances where he was in a position of trust-trust he owed to the boys in his care (in loco parentis), to the parents of the boys, and to the school as a whole. To the extent that the episodes described show that he cared little for these ethical matters.”

What ethical matter are you referring to? I assume you mean paedophilia. What other interpretation is there for this quote from you comment? You are alleging he intended or actually did something unethical. Perhaps you could nominate what breach of ethics you are getting at. “Inappropriate” is a meaningless weasel word, used by people who are too fearful of using frank language.

It appears to me that what you and Nicholas and Homer are saying is that Masters is alleging paedophilia and that the allegation is OK by you.

You comment descends into personal abuse (of me) Amused. Not that would worry you or Nicholas when the commenter being abused is on the other side of your ideological fence. What is amusing is that this blog holds itself out to be on a higher quality plain than say Catallaxy, where this sort of abuse is to be expected from commenters like Birdy (who I understand is banned here because of his “robust” style).

Straight out hypocrisy.

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

Whyisitso I have completely denied that.

perhaps writing english was the wrong language if so I am sorry about that.

You and you only have raised that issue.

Master’s raises Jones playing favourites with teenagers and then men he likes.

If anything Master’s is alleging platonic love never sexual.

For petes sakes it was opening known what he was doing at Kings.
Do you think people would let that happen if it was untoward.

He is exceedingly generous with favourites and completely bananas with those who are not.

end of story

Amused
Amused
15 years ago

WIIS,
If you still think I am referring to paedophillia when I write about ‘ethical lapses’ on Jones’ part in abusing the trust of his position, you either cannot read, or are willfully misinterpreting what I said, because you prefer idiotic ideological labels to actually reading the argument. In either case, you betray an inability to come to grips with arguments you disagree with.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

I’m still trying to understand exactly what behaviour on Jones’ part you consider unethical, Amused. You appear to think that anyone would understand what you mean when you speak in code. If you’re not accusing him of paedophilia, what then are you accusing him of? What did he do that amounted to “an abuse of trust” in your view?

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

just off the top of my head.

cash for comment, plagiarism,
humiliating teenagers in his employ…..

Pippa Kay
15 years ago

Jones took on the role of publicist for the convicted murderer Andrew Kalajzich, forcing two public inquiries into his conviction, at a cost of about $5 million, when there was no evidentiary basis to doubt the conviction. At the time, Jones was using research paid for by Kalajzich, although he denied having discussions with the defence team.

Chris Masters is completely wrong on this. Kalajzich did not fund Alan Jones’ broadcasts in any way.

Tim Barton was employed by the Andrew Kalajzich to oversee the work being done by his legal team in preparation for the 475 Inquiry, and he was recommended by Alan Jones as an honest lawyer. He had been living in England before coming back to Australia and needed a job. Tim Barton has written about this in The Australian.

Later, much later, when Andrew Kalajzich had lost his money and was unable to pay his lawyers, Tim Barton was employed by Alan Jones.

Andrew Kalajzich writes about this on his website: http://www.kalajzich.com/jonestown.html