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Driving through Northern NSW today, I switched on the radio, surfed the AM band looking for the ABC and chanced upon the unmistakable cadence of John Laws. I was amazed he was still on the radio. Here’s how it went:

The Ignominious Lalal Tax

Laws: Rolf. What’s on your mind ?
Rolf: John, Islam specifically states that anyone who is not Islam is an infidel and should be beheaded.
Me: Awesome start!
Laws: Yes, I know. But look Rolf, The Bible has beheadings in it too. An eye for an eye and all that.

Within seconds the conversation had entered the realm of hyper-reality. The Koran does not say that infidels should be beheaded. That punishment is reserved for Apostates and for opposing forces during Jihad. And The Bible has no beheadings anywhere. Rolf and John were like two galaxies of ignorance locked in mutual inspiralling orbit. Fascinated and aghast I wondered what horrible energy would be emitted when they finally collided. I dialled up the volume a little more.

Rolf: And Islams have put a Lalal Tax on our food. How can they do that ? Can we take them to the High Court ?
Laws: Eh ?
Me: Stalemate. Laws found Rolf incomprehensible.
Rolf. Lalal. How can Islams do it to us ?
Laws: Oh. Ha. You mean Halal. Rolf, Halal.
Rolf: Yes, Lalal. Halal.
Laws: Well the Tax Officials have decided there can be such a Tax. It’s no different to the Heart Foundation Tick Of Approval. I think we’ve demolished your arguments, Rolf.

Wow. Does Laws really think the ATO have permitted Muslims to levy a tax on Australian food ? This was fantastic. I settled in behind the wheel and dialled up the volume a little more.

Rolf: Are you an Islam, John ?
Me: !!!!!
Laws: Er… No.
Rolf: Then you have to be…
Laws: Beheaded. I know. Thanks for your call, Rolf. [Dumps Rolf]
Laws: Heh, heh. Rolf is a good old bloke, but Lalal !? What can you say heh heh.

I had overestimated the energies of Rolf. Laws had simply consumed Rolf whole and regurgitated him as a mockable titbit.

Pauline Hanson

Laws: Next caller is Anthony. What’s on your mind, Anthony ?
Anthony: Aw, G’day John. I saw Pauline Hanson speak at The Commercial Hotel in Inverell last night. She’s tidy.
Me:  Pauline Hanson! I had hit the Mother Lode !
Laws: Oh yes! She’s a great bird! What did Pauline talk about ?
Anthony: Oh. Er…like…er…cutting immigration and common-sense things like that…and…er…lots of things. I bought her a VB.
Me:  Could this get any better ???
Laws: Oh well. Pauline is a great bird, but she’s a bit extreme on some things you know.
Anthony: She’s got the body of a twenty year-old.
Laws: YES! YES! I KNOW !! SHE’S A GREAT BIRD !!!
Me: Now screaming with laughter I narrowly avoided a head-on with a 26-wheeler Semi. I punched the station co-ordinates into permanent memory.
Laws: [Panting Softly] …but a bit extreme at times. Thanks, Anthony.

Rolf Reprise. Frank Cops A Blast.

Laws: Got a text here from Geoff of Glenn Innes ‘Just went to the supermarket and asked for Lalal Food. [pause] They said they didn’t have any so I informed them I would take their supermarket to the High Court.’
[pause] Heheh Rolf What have you started ? Lalal. Hehehe.

Laws: Now, Frank, stop texting me will you ? You’re just a nark. Malcolm Turnbull’s tax havens and the Panama Papers are COMPLETELY UNRELATED.
[Laws then played a sudden one-second highly amplified blast from his show’s theme music. It cut like a buzz-saw. The effect was curiously psychedelic.]

Laws: Besides which Michael Pascoe from The Australian, a good man, was just with me yesterday saying Malcolm has done NOTHING ILLEGAL.
[Another psychedelic blast]

Me: Confirmation Bias (CB) is the sine qua non of Talkback Radio epistemology as Laws brilliantly demonstrates in just two sentences above. Note how CB also bonds Laws with his audience as they absorb the legitimacy of understanding truth through pre-existing bias and also discover just who can be trusted [The Australian and News Ltd] and who should not be trusted [Frank and other critics of the LNP / Malcolm Turnbull]. This is how Talkback hosts train their audiences how (not) to think. And thus also why Scott Morrison thought that being The Minister for 2GB was worth bragging rights in the LNP Party Room.

Laws: Keep your texts coming 1300-654-813. Steve says ‘Shorten should get out of Canberra, do a pub crawl with Barnaby Joyce and meet some real people for a change. Then maybe he’d have some idea on how to run the country’. That’s good advice, Steve.

Me: My mind reeled at the thought of what kind of manifesto for Australia would emerge from the collective unconscious of the drunken, sexist racists strewn across Joyce’s rural electorate...

Laws: And keep sending the emails to me at THE.FORTRESS@LAWS.COM.AU

Me: …not a particularly welcoming one apparently.

Laws: But always the best way is the phone. Yes, Barry. What’s on your mind ?

Barry: Fruit Bats. They bloody stink. The Quirindi Bicentennial Park is full of them. They foul the ground and strip the trees. They’re just flaming Flying Rats !

Laws: And they’re protected! Yes I know. Look you can’t kill them. But how about blasting off a few shells from a 12-gauge ? The sound should disperse them.
Barry: Yeah, well, I can smell them from the car.
Laws: I recommend a box of 12-gauge. Always worked at our place.

Me: Barry then told a good joke about an Irish bag-snatcher. He’s in the line-up with six other guys, jumps forward and says ‘Yes. That’s her!’ 🙂

Laws: Imagine if you said that about a Muslim ! Thanks Barry. That’s a beauty ! Enjoy your day and get somewhere away from the smell.

Me: Would the Midday News report the apprehension of some maniac in Quirindi Bicentennial Park blasting into the air with a gross of shotgun cartridges ? Crying children ? A SWAT team ?

Local Warming

But I was warming to Laws. The program was a community. They understood and liked each other. They told jokes. It was kind of…nice. And Laws was able to hold nuanced views on Muslims and Immigration. I was feeling reasonably at home in the asylum.

Laws: Jasper. What’s on your mind ?
Jasper: (Lisping heavily) Hewwo John. I have two suggestions for you.
Laws: [Suspicious Pause] Are these suggestions I would enjoy, Jasper ?
Jasper: [Sounding like Christopher Pyne]. Oh yes! I think so !
Laws: [Understandably Cautious] Go on.
Jasper: I am still cowwecting all your Solo Vocal Albums and could you pwease pway more of your own songs on your pwogram pwease ?
Laws: [Brightening Considerably] Oh yes. Sure !
Jasper: And you should visit the Slim Dusty Museum in Kwempsey. I have just been two times. Do you wike it ?
Laws: SLIM. A Great Australian. Do we have anything, Commander-In-Chief ??

With cyborg-like speed, Laws’s producer locates and cues a Slim Dusty track which appears to be entitled G’Day G’Day. In a career spanning seventy years and ninety-seven albums this Slim Dusty Classic is lyrically and musically identical to the first song Dusty penned as a four-year old. Laws can be heard singing and humming along off-mike.

Dusty: …G’Day G’Day G’Day G’Day Ten to one an Aussie will say G’Day G’Day.G’Day G’Day G’Day G’Day Ten to one an Aussie will say G’Day.
Laws: Ah. I’ve always said that song should be our National Anthem.
Me: At least the words will be easy to remember
Laws: It just makes you feel good, doesn’t it !?
Me: I have to agree. It does 🙂

You know what ? I think John Laws broadcasting in rural Australia is a force for good. He is more educated than his audience but relates to them very well. His views on Muslims and Immigration are more nuanced than his listeners and he can thus act as a brake on their more reactionary and bigoted tendencies. He’s a bridge to reason.

But for now, as Paul Kelly said in his [OK maybe not] classic Australian track, Bradman,

Now shadows grow longer and there’s so much more yet to be told
But we’re not getting any younger, so let the part tell the whole

John Laws – I was glad I was there.

You made my morning.

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