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August 26th 2016 print

Tony Thomas

At the ABC, Pantsdown and Proud of It

As Pauline Hanson's return to Canberra became clear, the national broadcaster whipped up a faux 'news' story to promote its favourite academic drag queen's sexist denigration of One Nation's leader. The complaints department says this is a fair use of taxpayer money

“I will call out misogyny wherever I see it”
–  Julia Gillard, defending the mussel-averse Peter Slipper in Parliament by attacking Tony Abbott

pantsdownThe ABC complaints department chief, Denise Musto,  thought it was OK for the ABC to depict The Australian’s Chris Kenny raping a dog  under the caption “Chris ‘Dog Fucker’ Kenny”.[1]  No surprise, perhaps, to learn she also thinks it’s fine for the ABC to fawn on an LGBTI activist  Simon Hunt (left), the drag queen and academic who satirizes Pauline Hanson as “Pauline Pantsdown”. No surprise, either, that Hunt has been a University of New South Wales media lecturer for 15 years. [2]

On July 3, a day after the election, the ABC TV News website ran a story by ABC reporter Kristian Silva: “Election 2016: Will Pauline Pantsdown return after Pauline Hanson’s success in the Senate?”

Silva’s story was an industrial-strength beat-up that speculated  Hunt might or might not resurrect his Pauline Pantsdown sexual satires of Hanson, circa 1997-2000. [3]    These had involved the ABC itself heavily promoting two songs, Back Door Man and I Don’t Like It, which Hunt created by splicing Hanson voice clips. Based on Hunt’s non-response to the question, Silva and the ABC were able to post , and revel in, side-by-side pics of Hanson and her drag-queen simulacrum along with a YouTube of Hunt and I Don’t Like It.[4]

I complained to the ABC on July 4  as follows:

Baseless sexual innuendo about a woman politician by ABC news staff
:  This photo montage falsely implies that Ms Pauline Hanson is promiscuous or in other ways operates with “pants down”. There is no basis whatsoever for such a smear and for such disrespect to a female.

Could you please let me know what are the ABC guidelines on respectful treatment of females, especially avoidance of gratuitous references to sexual behaviour (in this case, also false). Can you also tell me whether the pic montage above complies with such ABC guidelines, and if not, what remedy you intend, and whether the ABC will make a public apology to this female politician.

On August 25 the ABC’s Musto replied, after apologizing for the delay:

High profile public figures such as politicians are frequently the target of satire.   As explained in the ABC News online story, in the late 1990s the satirical character Pauline Pantsdown achieved some popularity with the release of two satirical songs about Pauline Hanson.  There was some speculation in the Australian media on whether Simon Hunt, a media lecturer and LGBTI activist who created ‘Pauline Pantsdown’, would reprise the satirical character following Ms Hanson’s successful return to Canberra.

Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied that the image was not in contravention of ABC editorial standards.  There was news value to this story, ABC News Online readers would recognise the satirical nature of image, and many would remember the character ‘Pauline Pantsdown’: they would not interpret the name of this character as  being a direct comment on the Ms Hanson’s sexual behaviour as you suggest. Nonetheless, please be assured that your concerns are noted.

Musto is arguing that the non-story had legitimate news value, that it was only satire, and “Pantsdown” has no sexual connotation (much as the assassin’s shout of  “Allahu Akhbar!” has no religious connotation).[5]

Musto’s boss and ABC supremo, Michelle Guthrie, is also a public figure, as is, say, ex-GG Quentin Bryce AC, ex-PM Julia Gillard and Labor MP Penny Wong. If it’s ABC-newsworthy for a drag queen to parody (or even  to consider parodying) Hanson as “Pauline Pantsdown”, is it also  ABC-newsworthy  if I, as an LGBTI activist, made up popular parodies about “Michelle Pantsdown”, “Quentin Pantsdown”, “Julia Pantsdown” and “Penny Pantsdown”?

Musto is being disingenuous to talk of “some speculation in the Australian media” about a return of the Pantsdown character, since the ABC’s July 3 story ran barely 24 hours after Hanson’s re-election was knowable. If there was indeed “some speculation” about a Pantsdown redux, Musto notably failed to provide a link that might support her bald assertion. Without that evidence, one is left with the suspicion that the ABC was whipping up the speculation to cue other media outlets. If so, it worked. The very next day, July 4, the SMH repeated the ABC’s non-story, of course with drag-queen pics and a YouTube link to the Simon Hunt, er, song.

The ABC’s love-in with Simon Hunt goes back all of two decades. ABC Triple-J repeatedly aired the Back Door Man parody of Hanson over 11 days, until Hanson successfully obtained an injunction in Brisbane on September 1, 1997 pending a defamation suit. She was then MHR for Oxley.

Here’s some of the  ABC-promoted snippets from Back Door Man quoted in the judicial findings:

Backdoor, clean up our own back door. We need to get behind and we’ll do trade with you. I still work and I worked the other night. I’m rostered on I think for next week. Now a gentleman came up and told me he said that other people don’t receive, they’ve got to accept it here inside… Yes it’s a little bit country of course… I’m a backdoor man for the Klu Klux Klan with a very horrendous plan. I’m a very caring potato.  [A ‘potato’ is gay argot for a receiving male partner, according to Hanson’s lawyers]… You must come out and be one of us. As long as children come across,
 I’m a happy person.

Justice Ambrose commented,

There’s a political overtone to the whole exercise which seems to denigrate her personally by making assertions as to her sexual preference and her abnormal sexual attraction with respect to children and so on…I can’t imagine anybody listening to that production would not conclude that the assertion was that Pauline Hanson was a paedophile … or that she was a homosexual and rejoiced in the fact… I can’t imagine that one can avoid liability for injury to reputation… by simply prefacing it by saying, `Well, this is satirical, don’t take this seriously,’ and then playing it over and over and over again.

The ABC then spent more taxpayer funds appealing, only to lose again on September 28, 1998.

Chief Justice De Jersey  (now Queensland’s Governor) said,

Before the Chamber Judge, [Hanson] contended that the broadcast material gave rise to imputations that she is a homosexual, a prostitute, involved in unnatural sexual practices, associated with the Ku Klux Klan, a man and/or a transvestite and involved in or party to sexual activities with children. The [ABC] essentially contended that the material amounted merely to vulgar abuse and was not defamatory.

Interesting, that the ABC condoned and defended its “vulgar abuse” of politicians it dislikes. That abuse involved gratuitous sexual  aspersions as bad or worse than any taunts thrown at Julia Gillard by foul-mouthed bloggers. Remember, this is the taxpayer-funded ABC airing the sexual abuse, not some nutter on the internet.

De Jersey J continued,

These were grossly offensive imputations relating to the sexual orientation and preference of a Member of Parliament and her performance which the appellant in no degree supports as accurate and which were paraded as part of an apparently fairly mindless effort at cheap denigration.

But maybe Simon Hunt is some sort of comedic/literary giant whose output, though edgy, is worth the ABC’s sustained and dedicated attention? Here’s some material from Hunt’s own “Pauline Pantsdown story” listed among his academic credentials. This item is described as, wait for it, “an essay for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation”[6] to help it produce a documentary feature on himself.[7] The documentary was not completed. (Lately, Hunt has been working  on social media campaigns against homophobia):

At one night, I did a guest performance with [name redacted] of the organisers.  After getting ‘out of it’, she pretended to ‘fuck’ me with a dildo. I then ‘woke up’, pulled a dildo out of my mushroom, and ‘fucked’ her. This was all fully-clothed (albeit in drag), pantomime sex. The next year, she became one of my sound students at the College Of Fine Arts, and played a video of the performance as part of her work. The sight of the lecturer, in full little-girl drag, pretending to fuck one of the female students up the arse with a dildo, proved a little too much for one of the mature-age students, but it led to a vigorous class discussion.”

As for Back Door Man, Hunt says Triple-J listeners voted it No. 92 on the “Hottest 100 [Songs] of all time”, an instance of faint praise.[8]

Hunt is particularly proud that 8-14 year-old-children enjoyed Back Door Man, to the evident satisfaction of their teachers.

Time and time again, school teachers and parents would tell me that their kids knew all the words to the song. I hadn’t counted on the nursery- rhyme factor — I had also become some sort of alternative Ronald McDonald for the 8-14 year olds.

In all seriousness, Hunt repeatedly compares Hanson with Hitler, but generously concedes that Hanson has not so far advocated use of gas ovens.[9] Hunt continues to castigate Hanson for her anti-Islamic views. He seems unaware that sharia-minded Islamists like to throw gays off high buildings.

Hanson has suffered other forms of  misogynist abuse. On March 15, 2009, while she was in her final week’s campaign as an independent for the Queensland state election, News Corp’s Sunday Telegraph, together with four other Murdoch tabloids, published nude photographs purporting to be of Hanson in 1975. The papers paid a paparazzo $15,000 for them. Hanson’s election bid was defeated amid taunts and mockery, but the pictures of “Hanson” were manifestly fakes. In May, Sunday Telegraph editor Neil Breen published a signed, three-paragraph apology to her saying, “We have learnt a valuable lesson”. She obtained an out of court settlement.

 

Tony Thomas’s new book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here .



[1] Musto: “We note that the editorial purpose was comic and intended to satirise Mr Kenny’s criticism of the ABC, in particular his view given in the immediate aftermath of the election result that the Corporation’s funding should be reviewed.”

[2] “Since 2000 he has been working as a full-time lecturer at UNSW Art & Design, developing undergraduate and postgraduate Digital Media degrees while continuing to work as a sound designer and composer. His research interests are focused on global visions of sound practice that extend beyond traditional eurocentric visions to incorporate other centres of practice.”

[3] The author of the ABC’s non-story on Pantsdown, Kristian Silva, is also comfortable with vulgarity, retweeting another ABC reporter about some police scandal, “What a bunch of power-tripping jerk offs.”Silva, judging by his tweets, also has a fixation about Cardinal Pell as an alleged child-abuser.

[4] “I Don’t Like It” was recently incorporated into a permanent exhibition at the Museum of Australian Democracy at ‘old Parliament House’, Canberra.

[5] ABC guidelines include that  “regardless of justification, it’s important to be aware of the power and 6 effect of discriminatory language. Even if there’s a reason to include it in our content,
doing so can normalise it, convey that it’s acceptable, or bring it to the attention of
audience members who might not have been familiar with it.”

[6] Journal Articles: Hunt SD, 2000, ‘I`m a Back Door Man: An Essay for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’, Perfect Beat: the Pacific journal of research into contemporary music and popular culture, pp. 34 – 44

[7] Hunt happens to be the son of former NSW Supreme Court judge and defamation expert David Hunt.

[8] According to the ABC’s Silva, Hunt “shot to fame in the 1990s” on the strength of the two songs. Silva sets his “fame” bar quite low.

[9]  Hunt: “While there are some differences between the politics of Adolf Hitler and Pauline Hanson — the latter has, for example, yet to present a comprehensive economic program — the two politicians share two areas of major focus…”

Comments [17]

  1. en passant says:

    Tony,
    Shame on you for listening or watching their ABC at all!

    But don’t worry, Senator Mitch Fifield will soon be all over this and will defund their ABC once it starts criticizing Mal the Munificent.

    Alternatively, Pauline & Co. could vote down the ABC budget and the superannuation grab from the thrifty productive people so that there is no longer enough to pay Pollie Waffler Pensions.

    I have a dream ….

  2. Jody says:

    Actually, I found it offensive when the ABC aired a so-called ‘comedy’ called “At Home With Julia” during the Gillard government’s tenure. Not only was this personally insulting to the PM it also brought the office of the Prime Minister into disrepute. All for the sake of a laugh. Well, I never laughed because I found it shocking to see ‘Julia’ copulating with Tim under the Australian flag which was wholly demeaning to our first female PM and emasculating to the image of the ‘first bloke’. This went FAR BEYOND mere satire, which is historically clever, witty and powerful. “At Home with Julia” was none of those things, apart from misogynistic, sexist and humiliating to a female. I wonder why there weren’t people running with their pants on fire (cough) to the Discrimination Commissioner. I would have done so but I was busy living in Vienna at the time.

    ABC – shorthand for “Absolutely Bullying and Craven”.

    • David Barnes says:

      Lately I thought it was shorthand for Aboriginal Broadcasting Commission

      • psstevo says:

        Really? I am convinced that, given its predilection for bizarre ‘climate’and ‘marriage equality’ stories, they were actually the Australian Propaganda Commission. Maybe just ‘Pravda Nyet’ would be more appropriate? Whatever, the reality is that their ABC has well and truly reached its useby date.

    • Lawrie Ayres says:

      I watched a Youtube of Jerry Seinfield on the Olympics recently. He is a genuinely funny man; no smut, no foul language, no denigration of others. No one on the ABC comes close to being funny although they think themselves hilarious. Being a comedian on the ABC is similar to rotten artists getting a grant because no-one in their right mind would buy their work. It is time the ABC was no more and it could quite easily be done; simply give it less taxpayer funding.

    • ianl says:

      > ” … I was busy living in Vienna at the time”

      The Ottomans were finally stopped at the Gates of Vienna in 1683 after a battle described as the bloodiest ever fought up to that time.

      How are the Austrians doing now, do you think ? Will the ABC tell us ?

    • Ninderthana says:

      Jody,

      I agree that we should be respectful of our Prime Minster and I too was not too impressed with the way PM Julia Gillard was treated in this taxpayer funded show.

      However, I am interested to know why you think that it is misogynist, sexist, and humiliating to a female to show Julia Gillard having sex under an Australian flag but it is not misandrist, sexist, and humiliating to a male to Julia Gillard’s partner having sex under an Australian flag?

      • Warty says:

        I wouldn’t presume to answer for Jody, so I won’t; but nobody depicted John Howard having sex under an Australian flag, nor Tony Abbot. It’s a little early, so Malcolm Turnbull may be given the opportunity. The main point is that it doesn’t matter, really, who the PM is, as a principal Aussie representative, your representative, they ought to be brought into disrepute at the hands of a hack actor. I don’t think a PM or a GG should be ridiculed in such a fashion.

  3. Bwana Neusi says:

    I find it absolutely disgusting that on the one hand we have QUT students persecuted by the HRC for questioning a racist segregation, whilst on the other hand we have the ABC dishing out gratuitously offensive material aimed at one of our Federal Senators.
    Where is our Prime Minister to defend the standing of our Parliamentarians, or does he covertly condone his ABC’s actions?

  4. padraic says:

    What passes for humour in ABC made shows has always been pretty crude and unsophisticated – a tad above the toilet humour of the under 5s in the schoolyard during playtime. Try Hal Roach or some of the traditional English humour with its play on words and double entendre.

    • Doubting Thomas says:

      I’m old enough to remember “traditional English humour”, as retailed by the ABC and others, from circa late 1940s. While not for one split second trying to defend the sewer that the modern ABC has become, both culturally and politically, “traditional English humour” back in the day was for the most part not even a tiny tad above the toilet humour of the under 5s. It was the very model of toilet humour which has been poorly imitated by an almost unbroken chain of Australian wannabe comedians ever since. The Brits at least had the advantage of originality.

  5. I hope that the Senate Cross Bench and Coalition will combine to begin the Budget Repair job by cutting funds to the ABC.

  6. Ian MacDougall says:

    We have in this country today at least two strands in the political Right: 1. The Neanderthals, perhaps best seen in whatever glory by Joh Bjelke-Petersen and his departed regime in Queensland and 2. the Sophisticates, as represented by Malcolm Turnbull and Co. Tony Abbott (“got rid of the carbon tax, got rid of the mining tax, and No to everything else”) clearly belongs with Abetz, Bernardi and the other Neanderthals.
    The ABC earned itself the permanent hostility of the Right, but particularly of the Neanderthals, by exposing via Four Corners (The Moonlight State) the sordid rorting being passed off as government by Bjelke-Petersen’s Bible-thumping, wolves-in-sheeps’-clothing primeval Queensland regime. Chris Masters, who produced that historic episode, has to go down in history in the long list of the nation’s heroes.
    The commercial channels are too compromised by pressure from advertisers to rock the boat other than very gently. The ABC for that reason is a national treasure, and has to be preserved against all attempts at external assault and internal subversion.
    Now I have to confess that what passes for ‘humour’ these days on the ABC is for me pretty much a total turnoff. I do like Micallef and Charlie Pickering; though the former works a bit too hard at times at trying to be funny.
    It would not surprise me at all to learn that there had been some dark conspiracy in the bowels of the Coalition to encourage the likes of ‘Pauline Pantsdown’ to generate ‘humour’ as they saw fit in order to increase the political acceptability of defunding the ABC to the point at which selling off what might be left of it will seem to most politicians to be the most obvious course to take: particularly if the broadcast reach is limited to homosexuals, transsexuals, bisexuals, LGBTQRSTUVW types and the rest.
    The ABC as an independent investigator must be retained, despite such assaults.

    • Ian, why do people on the left, like yourself, insist on using abusive and derogatory terms/names instead of politely pointing out what facts/aspects of an opponents arguments that you disagree with? Your first sentence contained the term ‘Neanderthals’, why? Is it because you have no facts? Or is it that your education did not teach you the value of reasoned debate and good manners? Or is it just typical normal leftist behaviour? Tell us why a socialist like MT is one of the ‘sophisticates’ but Tony Abbott and the conservatives are always ‘neanderthals’? And then tell us why being a ‘sophisticate’ is so much better/honourable/ethical?
      Despite your gushing praise the ABC [Antipodes Bolshevik Collective - my little bit a name calling] has never been an ‘independent investigator’, it has always been a partisan political player. The corruption that was exposed and reported on so enthusiastically in the ‘Moonlight State’ was minimal when compared to that which occurred in NSW involving Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi etc. and the totally uncivilised behaviour of the CMFEU and other unions in the TURC. The ABC reporting/coverage of both these matters was minimal at best and verged on being apologetic to those involved.
      The same ABC bias has been seen when reporting on child abuse allegations. Cardinal Pell was/is subjected to a vicious witch hunt for minor incidents beyond his knowledge or control that happened over 30 years ago, while very recent [and still ongoing] child abuse in remote aboriginal communities and in sections of the Islamic community [i.e. FGM] are ignored. I am an atheist and even I think what Pell has been subjected to by the ABC is unconscionable and I grossly resent being FORCED to pay for it via my taxes. You, Ian, at least VOLUNTARILY pay your subs to QUADRANT.
      Lastly, you indulged in cheap shots at JohBP and his ‘bible thumping’. Joh was my parent’s local member. They opposed some of his measures but still voted for Joh because his brand of ‘agrarian socialism’ was less harmful to society and civilisation than the ‘revolutionary socialism’ espoused by Joh’s opponents. Joh also built far more infrastructure with far less corruption and waste than has any subsequent premier. Despite Joh being supposedly so ‘corrupt’ according to the ABC the only ‘political’ criminal charges resulting from the whole Moonlight State Royal Commission was that two of Joh’s ministers had rorted their expenses. Minor stuff when compared to the child sex convictions of Keith Wright and Darcy of the Qld ALP. Guess which received the biggest coverage by the ABC by a long way?

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        denandsel:
        Google and take it from there. I did it and got about 151,000 results (in 0.81 seconds).

        The corruption that was exposed and reported on so enthusiastically in the ‘Moonlight State’ was minimal when compared to that which occurred in NSW involving Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi etc. and the totally uncivilised behaviour of the CMFEU and other unions in the TURC.

        I carry no brief for the (allegedly, remember allegedly) corrupt NSW ALP. But Obeid and Co are amateurs, and not in the same class as the ‘dark forces’ cockroaches who were prised out of the woodwork in Queensland by the Fitzgerald Inquiry and what flowed from it. As it was summed up in WP:

        The Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct (the Fitzgerald Inquiry) (1987–1989) into Queensland Police corruption was a judicial inquiry presided over by Tony Fitzgerald QC. The inquiry resulted in the deposition of a premier, two by-elections, the jailing of three former ministers and a police commissioner who was jailed and lost his knighthood. It also led indirectly to the end of the National Party of Australia’s 32-year run as the governing political party in Queensland.

        See http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/years-after-historic-fitzgerald-inquiry-dark-forces-return-to-queensland/story-e6frg6n6-1225753599393
        Also http://www.ccc.qld.gov.au/about-the-ccc/the-fitzgerald-inquiry
        Also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitzgerald_Inquiry

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          Ian MacDougall
          Your comment is awaiting moderation.
          August 29, 2016 at 10:50 pm
          denandsel:
          Google and take it from there. I did it and got about 151,000 results (in 0.81 seconds).

          The corruption that was exposed and reported on so enthusiastically in the ‘Moonlight State’ was minimal when compared to that which occurred in NSW involving Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi etc. and the totally uncivilised behaviour of the CMFEU and other unions in the TURC.

          I carry no brief for the (allegedly, remember allegedly) corrupt NSW ALP. But Obeid and Co are amateurs, and not in the same class as the ‘dark forces’ cockroaches who were prised out of the woodwork in Queensland by the Fitzgerald Inquiry and what flowed from it. As it was summed up in WP:

          The Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct (the Fitzgerald Inquiry) (1987–1989) into Queensland Police corruption was a judicial inquiry presided over by Tony Fitzgerald QC. The inquiry resulted in the deposition of a premier, two by-elections, the jailing of three former ministers and a police commissioner who was jailed and lost his knighthood. It also led indirectly to the end of the National Party of Australia’s 32-year run as the governing political party in Queensland.

          See http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/years-after-historic-fitzgerald-inquiry-dark-forces-return-to-queensland/story-e6frg6n6-1225753599393
          Also http://www.ccc.qld.gov.au/about-the-ccc/the-fitzgerald-inquiry
          Also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitzgerald_Inquiry

  7. Rob Ellison says:

    Pauline Pantsdown is clearly not intended to be Pauline Hanson but a character who encapsulates perceptions of Hanson’s regressive views on gays. Perceptions that don’t seem at all true in an act that is not remotely funny. But if critiquing it you need to start with a valid interpretation.