Lord Hook-Hook, voice of the ‘permanently offended’
George Hook, the spluttering mouthpiece of powerful but paranoid older men, falls silent
'Any visitor to this country could be forgiven for thinking they were listening to satire.'
George Hook is always at his most unintentionally hilarious when speaking from his loftiest soapbox. Last month, following the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s decision not to censure The Late Late Show for allowing the Rubberbandits to joke about the Eucharist, Lord Hook-Hook pumped out his breast and boomed support for Ireland’s perennially oppressed Christian majority.
“Let it be heard from this time and place that the next time the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has a complaint about this programme and this presenter that I might offend Muslims, migrants . . .”
After a lot of damp spluttering about “some outfit called the Rubber Bands”, he assured us that he would continue to assert his “own personal views”. It ended with him suggesting we may soon find Christians excluded from the professions for daring to preach “love thy neighbour”.
Any visitor to this country could be forgiven for thinking they were listening to satire. In case you missed it, that “let it be heard . . .” offers an unmistakable echo of “let the word go forth from this time and place” in John F Kennedy’s inaugural address. The late president urged Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you”.
Lord Hook-Hook imagined an Ireland in which Christians aren’t allowed to be doctors. The vainglory could only have been more pronounced if he had told us he would fight the BAI on the beaches.
Comedy is heightened by the peculiar Hookian delivery that takes in weird pauses between syllables as if the speaker is simultaneously trying to do a really hard sum in his enormous head. It was pathetic. But it did give the impression that he could not be cowed.
Oh dear. When, after being pilloried for suggesting that a rape victim bear some responsibility for her attack, Lord Hook-Hook delivered an apology to his listeners, the rhetorical flourishes were kept to a minimum. The case was sufficiently serious for he or his minders to forgo the disingenuous “I’m sorry if some were offended” approach and actually address the offence.
There was something of the muddy-kneed boy sent next door to apologise for putting his football through the neighbour’s greenhouse. But the words were unambiguous. He had ceased momentarily to be the Lord Hook-Hook he pretends to be.
The former rugby guru is sometimes compared to right-wing US broadcasters such as Rush Limbaugh or Alex Jones. He is, however, neither so fluent as the former nor so unhinged as the latter.
One could imagine Limbaugh or Jones delivering a less side-splitting version of Lord Hook-Hook’s BAI speech, but, for the most part, our version adopts the clubbable, permanently bemused manner of the golf-club bore who fears youthful conspiracies at every corner.
He refers to his wife as “the lovely Ingrid”. He likes to make admiring comments about that Pamela Anderson off the telly.
Such people usually cause irritation to only their friends and family. If disseminated on national radio, their views can, however, be positively dangerous.
Hook’s comments about rape may have discouraged women from reporting attacks. His undermining of the HPV jab may have caused parents to forgo that safe, effective protection against cervical cancer. (Odd how women suffer in both cases. Isn’t it?)
“I refuse to be labelled a scaremonger because I dare ask questions about the safety of HPV vaccine,” he tweeted.
As I pointed out at the time, this is akin to the approach taken by Eric Cartman in an episode of South Park. “Is Wendy using your lunch money to buy heroin? Probably not, but how can we know?” Eric bellowed.
The supposedly innocent question introduces a dangerous argument. George used the same approach in an infamous conversation with Ivana Bacik when he wondered if an “implied consent” to sex existed within steady relationships.
Lord Hook-Hook doesn’t seem to care what we think. “I don’t like interviewing Ivana Bacik,” he snorted. (You’ll remember that Ivana is a woman.)
“It is a badge of honour to upset The Irish Times,” he tweeted at me following the column on HPV.
He has, before this awkward week that culminated in his suspension from Newstalk, been bolstered by the knowledge that legions of permanently offended, older white men nod along enthusiastically to every paranoid musing.
They regard any effort to encourage toleration as “political correctness”. This week, they argued online that “we all know George was right” and that anyone who pretends otherwise is a needy snowflake.
Despite being the most powerful societal demographic, they believe themselves to be under permanent attack from uppity minorities and ungrateful “ladies”.
Lord Hook-Hook is their (now silenced) leader.