Red Symons Racist? Probably not. Controversial? Hell, yes.

This week, former guitarist and ‘Hey, hey, it’s Saturday’ regular, Red Symons came under fire for “What’s the deal with Asians?” podcast interview on ABC’s Radio National with Beverley Wang, who is Canadian of Taiwanese descent. I didn’t hear the interview (an Andrew O’Keeffe trick, ha!), but from what I read here, it seemed nothing more than satire.

I agree with Andrew Bolt in that calling Wang “yellow” was quite crass and unnecessary. Then again, Symons is well – known for controversy and crassness. I grew up watching him on “Hey, Hey It’s Saturday” back in the early 1990’s. He was a panellist on “Red Faces”, a skit where Symons and other panellists ‘judged’ performances. Red Symons was the ‘bad guy’, well and truly. And some people thought Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson and Kyle Sandilands were bad on Australian Idol! Sheesh!

Back in the 1970’s, Symons was one of the guitarists in Melbourne – based band, Skyhooks. They were controversial. They caused such a stir that in 1974 due to their provocative lyrics that fours songs from their debut album ‘Living in the ’70’s’ were banned from commercial airplay.

Skyhooks' 1990 'Latest and Greatest'
Skyhooks’ 1990 ‘Latest and Greatest which features two songs that were banned from airplay in 1974.

 

Did they mean any harm? Probably not. It was just satire. Biting satire, offensive satire, but none the less, satire.

With this particular interview, I get race, migration and in particular, boat people are sensitive topics, especially given the ongoing controversy of Nauru and Manus Island, plus the ongoing debate of our refugee intake.  Since then, Symons has apologised and the ABC has deleted the interview from its website.

I hope this is as far as it goes. I do think as a society we do need to be careful, both of what we expect from artists, but I do think it’s important that everyone in the public eye or with a wide platform (myself included), need to be careful not to cause harm to the people we talk/ write/ joke about. It’s a real balancing act.

Did you hear the podcast? Did you think it was offensive? 

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