Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Keysar Trad: my victory over Alan Jones

Keysar Trad: my victory over Alan Jones

Keysar Trad writes:


Yesterday’s tribunal decision ordering 2GB and Alan Jones to apologise and pay damages for hate-comments in 2005 is a victory for all minorities.

As the ABC reported this morning, Alan Jones and his employer 2GB have been ordered to pay $10,000 in damages and apologise on air to me after I made a complaint to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal in New South Wales over a series of radio broadcasts.

The tribunal also ordered the second respondent (2GB) to conduct "a critical review of its policies and practices on racial vilification and the training provided for employees including all 'on-air' personnel with a view to determining whether they are adequate to ensure compliance with the racial vilification provisions contained in the Act."

This was an expensive, time-consuming and stressful victory. However, the complaint had to be made because years of efforts at engagement with talk-back radio and Jones in particular produced only temporary results that would fade away very quickly after each of the few meetings we had.

The string of comments uttered by Jones in April 05 included the following:

"These mongrels."

"Lebanese males in their vast numbers not only hate our country and heritage."

"They have no connection to us."

"They simply rape, pillage and plunder a nation that's taken them in."

"What did we do as a nation to have this vermin infest our shores?"

"Tell me we don't have a national security problem in the making."

"Take the gloves off, and make life a collective hell for these bastards and their followers ..."

It took approximately two years at the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW and a further two-and-a-half years at the Administrative Decisions Tribunal to get a decision that virtually means that such comments are not acceptable to be broadcast in Australian society.

While this is a victory, a conclusion that arrives four-and-a-half years after the incident is a slow conclusion indeed, its slowness meant that the respondents continued with comments such as the following in the week preceding the Cronulla riots, which were reproduced by Media Watch in February 2006:

"Middle Eastern Grubs"

"My suggestion is to invite one of the biker gangs to be present in numbers at Cronulla railway station when these Lebanese thugs arrive, it would be worth the price of admission to watch these cowards scurry back onto the train for the return trip to their lairs ... Australians old and new shouldn’t have to put up with this scum."

And the following exchange:

Jones: Yeah, good on you John.

John: Now, ah, my grandfather was an old digger and he used to say to me when we were growing up "Listen, shoot one, the rest will run!"

Jones: (laughs)

John: Right?

Jones: (still laughing)

This case has taken a great toll on me and my family over the past four-and-a-half years. The comments that went to air at 2GB motivated some people in the community to help partly fund the tribunal action, I had to borrow some and use my own finances, a third each or thereabouts in order to get an adjudication. My children understand that I preferred to fund this action instead of their university studies in order to protect Australian society against divisiveness and vilification.

While some of the comments quoted above were said to be comments made by listeners, either by phone or email, Jones still chose to broadcast them and a minority of Australian society became victimised while the majority were being told that they are the victim. This is indeed a tragic irony, that needs to be stemmed by our legislature. Otherwise, it can create fears, tensions and Cronulla-style riots and, God forbid, pogroms and worse.

The damages awarded by the tribunal, when they are eventually paid, will go directly to a Muslim Women’s Respite centre as promised all along.

The apology, if it is not appealed, will eventually come, either through agreement or by order of the tribunal, and the review will hopefully improve the standards of broadcasts to eliminate vilification.

This whole costly exercise could have been avoided soon after the broadcasts with a sincere apology. I hope that this decision will give heart to all Australians, especially the long-suffering Muslim Australians.

End of article, below are the interesting paragraphs from the tribunal findings:

“that the broadcasts had the tendency or capacity to incite hatred or serious contempt for Lebanese Muslims and Lebanese men” (Para 65).

The Tribunal was also critical of Mr. Jones failure to appear at any point of the proceedings (para 152 “It is worthy of note that Mr Jones himself gave no evidence at the hearing and no explanation of his absence has been tendered. In a case of this kind it would have been reasonable to expect that he would have given evidence. It is, therefore, reasonable to draw a conclusion that his evidence would not have been of assistance either to him or to 2GB had he done so.”)

“Rather than dispassionately analysing the evidence and commenting on it, Mr Jones appears to have been induced or stimulated by his own preconceptions to place highly exaggerated and distorted interpretations on the few objective facts apparently known to him.” (para 209)

“211 Although Mr Jones was long on commentary he was, in fact, short on debate. In relation to the Schedule A broadcast, he canvassed or broadcast no views other than those that agreed with his. Yet, as we have pointed out above, there were significant flaws in his larger argument that Lebanese Muslims were a national security threat. This in our view went far beyond the bounds of reasonable commentary.

212 Third, it is difficult to imagine circumstances in which it is reasonable for a commentator in a society ruled by law, either directly or indirectly to endorse, or imply endorsement of, violent solutions to social issues or problems. In his discussion with ‘Usel” about the “Lebanese bad boys” in Hickson Rd, ‘Usel’ told Mr Jones that he and others could track down the “hoons” and deal with them. Mr Jones’s response was not one of express endorsement – he was somewhat cautious and commented that the police could not find them and that they had their hands tied – but he gave ‘Usel’ an encouraging farewell: “Good on you, Usel. Great call. You keep in touch with us, hey. Thank your for ringing. We appreciate your sentiments.”

213 While Mr Jones did not expressly adopt the vigilante solution proposed by ‘Usel’, neither did he condemn it. Rather he gave ‘Usel’ to believe that such an approach was a welcome one. Although ‘Usel’s’ proposition was obvious nonsense, Mr Jones’s support implied a partiality for a vigilante solution to the problem.”

“219 Although at times, especially on 29 April, Mr Jones gave the impression that he had intended no harm to the Lebanese Muslim community, for much of the time he gave the opposite impression. Having listened to the broadcasts and having read the transcripts, the overwhelming impression Mr Jones’s broadcasts left was that much of his material was imprudent, incautious, inflammatory and motivated by prejudice against those whom he apparently believed to be a threat to a culture to which he is very much attached.

“220 In our view, Mr Jones was both highly offensive and reckless in repeating to his audience in the Schedule A broadcast his correspondent’s view that and later adopting and repeating these views as his own:

… Lebanese males in their vast numbers not only hate our country but our heritage… They've got no connection to us. They simply rape, pillage and plunder a nation that's taken them in. No-one who's written to me could believe what they saw. Without exception, you asked what did we do as a nation to have this vermin infect us like this…

And don't start saying we don't have a national security problem. So much for the government and the police commissioner saying, "We've delivered safer streets." What we've seen this week both at the Bankstown town hall with that sick Muslim sheik and now with these hoons is a graphic example of the extent of social failure amongst us.”

“222 Until 29 April, we see no evidence that Mr Jones took any action to minimise the damage done to the Lebanese Muslim community. On the contrary, until that day, whenever an opportunity arose to broaden his attack from individuals such as Sheik Faiz Mohammed, Mr Trad or some “car hoons” to encompass the Lebanese Muslim community as a whole, Mr Jones took it himself to make generalisations or else endorsed those offered to him by his listeners and correspondents.”

“223 His comments about “Lebanese males in their vast numbers” hating Australia and raping, pillaging and plundering the country, about a “national security” crisis, and about the undermining of Australian culture by “vermin” were reckless hyperbole calculated to agitate and excite his audience without providing them with much in the way of solid information.

224 The respondents in our view have not discharged the onus of establishing that Schedule A broadcast was either reasonable or made in good faith. Accordingly the defence contained in s 20C(2)(c) in not available.”

“172 Fourth, Mr Jones’s technique in conducting interviews with, and reading correspondence received from, those listeners whose views he agrees with has both an encouraging and a stimulating effect. There appears to be a stimulatory effect working in both directions — Mr Jones feeds ideas to listeners who then call in and repeat back his own ideas. Occasionally, as the transcripts show, he picks up ideas from his listeners and correspondents and feeds them back into the discussion, generating further feedback the other way. In short, his very technique lends itself to incitement. That is, he stimulates, urges and agitates his listeners and correspondents with his emotive editorials and, unsurprisingly, often receives as feedback highly inflamed and inflammatory comment more or less echoing his provocative commentary. Numerous examples can be found in the extracts above and the transcripts in the appendix.

173 Fifth, the tone used by Mr Jones during his broadcasts to which we have listened is critical to our analysis. Throughout the broadcast period when speaking about the subjects relevant to the present matter, his tone combined, often simultaneously, elements of urgency, anxiety, anger, aggression and contempt. This was the case with the Schedule A broadcast. As pointed out by the respondents, it is not unusual for Mr Jones to also approach less controversial topics with vigour. That Mr Jones may use tone and expression to emphasise his views and persuade his audience about other topics does not detract from their power when used in respect of the Schedule A broadcast.

174 Sixth, in respect of the Schedule A broadcast the ordinary listener would have been left with no doubt that Mr Jones endorsed the views of his correspondent. Using his correspondent’s heavily-loaded, highly emotive language, and backing it with his own indubitable authority, Mr Jones conveyed to his audience that he perceived the Lebanese Muslim community and Lebanese males as a threat — “a national security problem in the making”. It is difficult to think of a metaphor more calculated to arouse fear and loathing in a listener’s mind than to endorse a letter describing Lebanese Muslims (as Mr Jones insisted they were) as “vermin” who “in their vast numbers” were raping, pillaging and plundering the generous land that had offered them succour. One of the most contemptuous forms of commentary on another person or group is to describe them in sub-human terms, such as likening them to insects, vermin or animals. Although he did not initiate the use of the term “vermin”, Mr Jones implicitly endorsed it by reading his correspondent’s letter approvingly. On 28 April, in his introduction to his interview with Mr Jeff Schuberg, the transcript shows that he adopted the term himself to describe the “car hoons”. From an objective point of view, it could only be regarded as an incitement to listeners to hate and hold the Lebanese Muslim community and Lebanese males in serious contempt.”

“178 In respect of the Schedule A broadcast we find that not only did it convey the impression that Mr Jones held the Lebanese Muslim community and Lebanese males in deep contempt but also was capable of inciting the ordinary reasonable listener to feel serious contempt for both groups.”

239 Mr Trad said that he couldn’t believe that “public discourse had descended to such a level of calling human beings vermin ... rapists and pillagers…that they a security problem in the making”. He claims that he “felt terrible” on hearing the Schedule A broadcast. We accept that claim. It is plain from his evidence that it was not only the Schedule A broadcast which caused Mr Trad distress, however this does not detract from the fact that he was also distressed by that broadcast.”

“49 Mr Jones also misrepresented Mr Trad. At one point during the broadcast he replayed a lengthy excerpt from Sheik Faiz Mohammed’s speech, commented “Well, the man’s plainly ill” and then asserted, “I spoke to Keysar Trad from the Lebanese Muslim Association and he had his usual go at defending the indefensible.” As the full interview with Mr Trad excerpted above shows, Mr Trad did not seek to defend Sheik Faiz Mohammed but sought to deflect Mr Jones from unfairly holding the whole Muslim community to account for the Sheik’s conduct.”

The full transcript can be found at:

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