In Jonestown: The Power and Myth of Alan Jones, Chris Masters has a curious way of attempting to prove a point. For example, he tells the reader that "more than one wife of a former boarding-school boy has been known to wonder about the origin of her husband's habit of sleeping with his hands crossed over his genitals".
This fear of the predator, he says, explains why some fathers might have been concerned when, on a school football tour, Alan Jones sent a boy out to buy toothpaste for him. Or that he would disappear from social functions with two of the boys - and the team's soiled football gear - to find the nearest laundrette.
This approach permeates Jonestown, an unprecedented intrusion into a public figure's private life. Masters would know that the media's ethical codes only allow this in exceptional circumstances, where this is clearly in the public interest. British defence minister John Profumo's affair with Christine Keeler was one, but only because she was also involved with the Soviet naval attache.
Through a bizarre new genre, the psychosexual biography, Masters claims to have found the silver bullet that allows him to delve, with impunity, into Jones's private life.
He says Jones's constant flaying of the rich and powerful is no public service. Instead, this results from his repression of his sexuality, aggravated by a definable personality disorder, a kind of schizophrenia. This repression leads to pain, which Jones alleviates through the "on-air" button, which acts as a self-medicating device. He came to this role as "a virus in search of a host". (I am not making this up.)
Masters ignores the fact that boys and young men were once subject to a most rigorous discipline. Fathers, teachers, coaches, and non-commissioned officers tended to be stern and serious. Their style today would provoke a flood of complaints of harassment or bullying. They expected obedience, not because of their repressed sexuality or some personality disorder, but because that was the way things were.
Some boys would perform better and were closer to their masters, who were then open to the accusation of favouritism. But when Jones follows this tradition, our soi-disant psychologist finds only psychosexual dysfunction. Even when Jones is spectacularly successful, Masters finds, against all the evidence, that he is ill-disciplined and his research poor.
This psychoanalysis is as useless - and as dangerous - as an appendectomy performed by a lawyer. Employing this to circumvent core journalistic ethics is worse than the most blatant form of tax evasion. If Jonestown lowers media standards, even the momentarily newsworthy may now find that a psychosexual investigative journalist will publish not only fact but also rumour, hearsay and yes, falsehood, about their private life from their earliest years.
As US author Kitty Kelley has demonstrated, the prurient are interested in everything, except good manners and works, lifelong monogamy or the missionary position. Not many will be able to stand up to this as well as Jones has these four long years.
It is ironical that Masters claims Jones does not have the journalist's grounding in identifying fact and essaying balance: Masters himself struggles in both areas. There are far too many unattributed assertions, too much gossip and too many gratuitous comments.
Balance seems to be present where a defamation lawyer might counsel it, but not always where responsible journalism requires it. For example, he relies on an unfavourable valedictory at Sydney's King's School that first saw the light of day on Four Corners: I understand the headmaster cannot recall it. But he ignores the favourable one in the school journal. He says that lawyer Tim Barton worked for Jones before being involved on the Kalajzich case. Why did he not mention Barton's express denial made directly to him?
His "proof" of Jones's sexuality stoops at times to the level you would expect from a carload of hooligans roaring down Oxford Street. We are told of occasions when Jones wore a pink shirt, once with a powder-blue jacket; when he wore flared pants and an orange cravat; and how infuriated he was when given pink tissues. You can almost feel Masters nudging you.