Actions have consequences. Just kidding.
Case study #1: Kyle Sandilands
In July 2009, Sandilands, the extremely well-paid co-host of The Kyle and Jackie O Show on Sydney radio station 2Day FM, had a mother and daughter on the show one morning as part of a “lie detector” segment.
The 14-year-old girl was strapped to a polygraph machine and asked questions by her mother. The girl responded to one question with these words:
“I’ve already told you the story about this, and don’t look at me and smile because it’s not funny. Oh, OK, I got raped when I was 12 years old.”
The full context is important for judging what Sandilands said next:
“Right, and is that the only sexual experience you’ve had?”
If your head doesn’t explode at that, the problem is you. No debate.
There was an uproar; the station suspended the program, and Sandilands was dropped by the Ten Network from the judging panel of talent show Australian Idol.
Sandilands was only off-air for a few weeks before being reinstated. Shortly afterwards he was suspended again, this time for saying on-air that comedian Magda Szubanski could lose weight more quickly if “you put her in a concentration camp”.
Whether these were his worst atrocities in a long career of almost uninterrupted broadcasting (in 2013 he and Jackie O defected to rival station KIIS FM, where they continue to rate and be paid highly) is subjective. There’s a long list from which to choose, including calling an Australian Idol contestant a “mong”, referring to people with disability as “spastics” and “retards” or, just recently, saying that monkeypox is a “big gay disease floating around” and that he wasn’t “letting any gays near” his newborn son to protect him.
None of this has slowed Sandilands down, in either his approach or his success.
After a long hiatus, Australian Idol is coming back, and the producers have announced that one of the judges for the revamped show will be none other than Kyle Sandilands. Full circle, completed.
Case study #2: Alan Jones
This week’s episode of the ABC’s Q+A program, currently in what appears to be the last throes of terminal decline, looked at racism, with the Hawthorn AFL club scandal under the spotlight. One of the panel members, selected presumably on the basis of relevance, was Alan Jones.
Interesting choice. Jones, of course, is a legendarily successful broadcaster and social commentator — a high priest of conservatism to his followers, an expensively dressed Sandilands with better grammar to his detractors.
Jones’ career has too many lowlights to catalogue, but of particular significance is his role in the Cronulla race riots of 2005.
On his top-rating 2GB show, Jones said this about “Lebanese males” in the Australian community, who he called “vermin” and “mongrels”:
“They simply rape, pillage and plunder a nation that’s taken them in.”
Jones was particularly animated about rumoured tensions between locals and “Lebanese youths” on Cronulla beach, encouraging heated discussion on his talkback show. When one caller commented that she had heard “really derogatory” remarks aimed at people of Middle Eastern ethnicity, Jones said “we don’t have Anglo-Saxon kids out there raping women in Western Sydney”.
Another caller suggested that bikie gangs should be taken down to Cronulla to deal with “Lebanese thugs”, which Jones endorsed.
After the riots, Jones was taken to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and found to have breached the ACMA Code of Conduct in that his comments “were likely to encourage violence or brutality and to vilify people of Lebanese and Middle Eastern backgrounds on the basis of ethnicity”.
In later, separate proceedings, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal found that Jones had “incited hatred, serious contempt and severe ridicule of Lebanese Muslims”, and he was fined $10,000.
None of this impacted Jones’ career. It was only the literal dying-off of his rusted-on audience that eventually took him off-air in 2020, with his gig on Sky News following at the end of 2021.
Australian Idol and, presumably, the ABC would say that they are giving these gigs to Sandilands and Jones because there’s still an audience for what they wish to say. Free speech, diversity of opinions and all that. Fair enough, it’s not the media’s fault that racism and bigotry have such resilient popularity, nor that humans love to watch a car crash in slow motion. From that perspective, these men are just the talking-head equivalents of Jackass.
Still, it does cause one to ponder what, exactly, a white man has to do in this country to prove that the myth of cancel culture really exists. Or, at least, that it ever has a possibility of applying to them. Bearing in mind that the serial offences against taste and decency of these two outliers, Sandilands and Jones, are anything but victimless.
Apparently, the evidence comprehensively suggests, they can only keep falling up.
Is cancel culture real? And if it is, why are men like Sandilands and Jones seemingly immune? Let us know your thoughts by writing to email@example.com. Please include your full name to be considered for publication. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.