What can we say about George Hook?
Well, let’s jump straight in. Has he been, as one newspaper quotes “unfairly hounded off the air”? I don’t think so, however, I do feel the whole affair was dealt with badly. He should have been suspended immediately. His comments were insensitive and provocative. Maybe Newstalk thought it would blow over? Maybe they thought it would slip by the PC police? Either way, they left it too late to do the right thing. As a result key sponsors ran and bad press left them in a dire situation. In my opinion, they then had no choice but to remove him. Temporarily or not.
But when happens then? Do you fire over him over his comments? Someone who’s been with the radio station since their inception. Do you give him a second chance (secretly pull him aside and tell him “what he can and can’t say”, their words), hoping he’ll learn from this hairy mistake? Hoping the apology, which felt as though it was written for him, will have sunk in somewhere. Or do you move him to the weekend slot and pray to the Lord above this will all blow over?
They went with option C. He’s been removed from that all important weekday slot and, from December, he’ll be back droning on from the weekends.
I’ll admit, while I’m not a fan of his talk show, I was a fan of his punditry. Back in the day, I thoroughly enjoyed watching him and the boys club of McGurk, Pope and O’Shea. It was usually the latter two against Hook, with McGurk playing the jovial mediator. But it soon became clear (maybe later for me than others) that while Hook bluffed and blasted his way through the match review, it was all he was capable of doing. Never a constructive comment did he have to give. Many a time he was forced to eat his words, which of course made for entertaining television. But when you were looking for informed commentary, it was clear this man was completely out of his depth. And out of touch.
Hook has always been let sway with verbose, unruly, aggravating, narrow minded commentary. It’s his thing, so they say. And one of the things that attracted Newstalk to him originally. He’s a big man with a big personality. But this is not rugby commentary. We’re not talking about men with thick necks who bash each other about on the pitch. Who usually can handle a one sided, gruff comment from the backwards facing Hook. We’re talking about sexual assault. We’re talking about women and girls who face the fear of not being believed. Who face the fear of being shamed. Who face the fear of never recovering from their ordeal.
Yes Hook opened a conversation that sadly needed to happen in Ireland 2017. Bravo! But before we laud him too much for this, let’s remember that wasn’t his intention. He wasn’t aiming to educate the people of Ireland on their misogynistic views of victims of sexual assault. He didn’t dole out his crass remarks in the hope that a conversation would be sparked on how we speak about victims. How we continue to name and shame them for their actions, with very little reflection on the attacker. It was his morose opinion he was sharing. An opinion he is entitled to have but it just feels wrong when he’s a presenter on high profile radio show.
While I have tried to give High Noon a chance over the years, I’ve regularly switched off in frustration and anger at what I feel is his ignorance. I would stop for a second and ask myself why this reputable news station had this man on their flaghship show. Who were they targeting? I honestly couldn’t answer. However, I have realised over the past few weeks, something, which I had long forgotten. That we loved this guy. We all were like, ah Hookie, with your silly comments and your unsophisticated way of viewing the world. You’re a hoot.
Now, I know everyone is entitled to their opinion. In a time of PC overload, it is easy to get caught up and forget this. There are some journalists I don’t read because I don’t agree with their view on certain issues. However, a piece of advice I once learnt from a fellow journalist, was to read dissenting views to help keep an open mind. There’s always something to learn. And I am keen that we don’t become an homogenous society with no colour or flair.
All that said, there’s a difference between having a view point on, let’s say, whether we should pay water taxes and how women should be responsible for their actions in sexual assault cases. (Sure, Hook couldn’t understand why this woman would want to go home with a man she has just met). Education is key to both. Being informed and learning how to inform is central. You may personally believe you shouldn’t pay water taxes because you think our government is blindly stealing from the poor to give to the rich. But without facts or proof your personal opinion is just that. An opinion. It’s dangerous to pass it off as anything else. And this is where I feel Hook has been allowed to roam. For years I might add. Into that dangerous territory where, without being checked, his opinion adds to the limited views we’re trying to dispel. I know some think he can just be taken aside and told what he can and cannot say, but he’s not a child being scolded for not thinking clearly. He’s a grown man, with a family and life experience. And to be honest, he should know better. If he’s going to be the lead voice on a commentary show, he should make it his business to be informed. To ask questions, to inquire, to be inquisitive of course. But he has a duty to present unbiased and informed commentary.
Even writing this article, I’ve felt a duty to not malign George Hook or Newstalk. People make mistakes. People deserve second chances. But people also have a responsibility for their actions. And while Hook has been given a second chance, you do wonder, this time, has he just gone too far?