COMMENT: Newstalk’s undying support for George Hook is unconscionable 6 months ago

COMMENT: Newstalk’s undying support for George Hook is unconscionable

They say old dogs can’t learn new tricks...

But just like Ol’ Yeller when he went rabid, George Hook is proving them all wrong.

On Friday, Newstalk host Hook weighed in on the proposed deportation of a 9-year-old boy who has lived in Ireland since he was born.

"With trolly numbers at world record levels, Minister @SimonHarrisTD is worried -- about a Chinese boy!!" Hook opened, after Harris tweeted about Eric Zhi Ying Xue on Thursday.

"If this unfortunate child was Irish he could not be deported. The law was changed without a dissenting voice on Twitter", Hook went on. That referendum — as any current affairs radio host with decades of experience would know — was held in 2004. Two years before Twitter was invented. Forgive me, I know it's expecting a lot that the leaders of our public discussions should know what they're talking about.

Because of course, if that's in the job description, George Hook wouldn't be there at all, would he? What expertise can George Hook bring to bear on any discussion? What is he to us besides an inflated rugby pundit? A wheezing Sky Box salesman?

Fuck all. And once he’s gone, that’s all he’ll ever have been. A dissenting voice against the country’s conscience time and again. What a way to be remembered.

Never a voice that has dissented out of conscientious objection or genuine concern, mind. Only from arrogance, and brutishness and the guarantee that people will listen if you say something awful. He has sought to cheapen, and lower, and poison the public debate for years and years across a whole manner of topics.

But George Hook himself is not the sickness. He’s just a symptom. Irish media is utterly banjaxed at its core, and the result of this dysfunction is lengthy, successful careers for people like Hook who have no business being allowed to hold a megaphone, much less given their own radio slot and a grand salary to boot.

It was just last year that it seemed as though Hooky had finally pushed the bosses at Newstalk too far. Speaking about a rape case, Hook asked: “But is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger? The real issues nowadays and increasingly is the question of the personal responsibility that young girls are taking for their own safety".

Newstalk took him off air for about three months and gave his job to Ciara Kelly.

When it came time for Hook to return, he was reduced to a meagre Saturday afternoon slot. Not so much a slap on the wrist as a tussle of his thinning hair. Run along you little scamp.

The message was loud and clear. George Hook could be publicly criticised by other high profile figures at his own news station, like Chris Donoghue. Newstalk, who offered no comment when contacted about his tweets on Friday, could be threatened with resignations like that of Dil Wickremasinghe. They could be handed a petition signed by many of their own employees calling for action and it wasn’t enough. George Hook simply had to stay on the air. We, as a country, cannot function without the valuable things he has to say.

George Hook has called for the execution of Chelsea Manning.

George Hook has presented the false argument that HPV vaccinations are dangerous.

George Hook has repeatedly stirred fear over the “migrant crisis” despite Ireland’s catastrophically weak efforts to even take in refugees.

George Hook has asked if a woman can be blamed for her own rape.

George Hook, for reasons that pass understanding, has said that General Franco was his favourite dictator. Is this standard practice for our radio hosts? God knows none of them are perfect but at least the others don’t casually express their admiration for Benito Mussolini and then skip off into the sunset. If I want to "make it" in broadcasting should I start reading up on Idi Amin?

And now, George Hook, still employed by Newstalk, is running riot (albeit on Twitter) on the deportation of a 9-year-old boy, born in Ireland, who has never lived anywhere but Ireland. Not that that matters. Anybody in support of deporting any child for any reason needs to get their head checked, and I mean that.

In his tweets, Hook refused to do Eric Xhi Ying Zue the most basic decency of calling him by his name. Just “the Chinese boy” — twice, even when called out on it.

I can only imagine the heads that went into hands for all the young professionals working at Newstalk, trying to keep their dignity, constantly having to deal with this guy's nonsense.

But the problem is not George Hook. Or at least... it's not just George Hook. There are iterations of George Hook in every newspaper. At every news channel. At every radio station. Well-paid, well-fed mouths that RTÉ and Newstalk and the rest of them haul onto every discussion show and every public debate rather than scan the country for voices that could add actual insight. Like Agent Smiths, appearing everywhere and contaminating everything.

Travellers? Cyclists? Trans rights? #MeToo? Direct provision? Bring on the rent-a-mouth radio hosts and let's hear what they have to say in their infinite wisdom. Hearing from an expert would only waste valuable brain cells that we all need for yelling, or calling Joe Duffy, or typing an angry, poorly phrased, ill-informed comment on the internet.

The problem is that the media that prioritises shocking outbursts over thoughtful conversation. It gluts itself on antiquated ideas from voices we’ve heard a million times before, who have grown no wiser with their age — only more volatile. Less secure. More dangerous.

After Hook's latest tirade, the best we can hope for is that he doesn't get promoted.