‘How do I love thee, Ge­orge, gi­ant among men?

Irish Independent - - NEWS - – MARTINA DEVLIN,

HOW I wish those shal­low at­ten­tion-seek­ers would leave Ge­orge Hook alone. A fem­i­nist to his fin­ger­tips, he has pi­o­neered treat­ing women with re­spect and equal­ity since his first day in New­stalk.

Hook is in­ca­pable of be­lit­tling, ob­jec­ti­fy­ing or dis­parag­ing women. Let other broadcasters in­dulge in locker-room hu­mour or dou­ble en­ten­dres if they must. Let them ig­nore women or talk down to them. Such be­hav­iour is not in his DNA.

Take Hook’s un­flag­gingly re­spect­ful at­ti­tude to Pamela An­der­son, about whom he tweets oc­ca­sion­ally be­cause he ad­mires her cam­paign to ban wild an­i­mal acts from cir­cuses.

When he posts ob­ser­va­tions about her, he does so in a spirit of gen­eros­ity, shar­ing his plat­form to di­rect some help­ful pub­lic­ity her way. “Happy birth­day to my beloved Pamela An­der­son – her bra size and her age are now the same,” is one ex­am­ple.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, he’ll give a pro­file-rais­ing shout-out via Twit­ter to other women he feels are un­fairly over­looked: “Dolly Par­ton’s breasts are big­ger than Pamela An­der­son’s – con­firmed by G Hook on per­sonal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Clearly, Hook stands ex­posed as some­one with un­stint­ing appreciation for women.

Fur­ther­more, this gi­ant among men has per­fected the art of mak­ing pithy re­marks that min­gle wit and in­sight (trainee broadcasters please note). I, for one, am grate­ful for his wis­dom.

Some say he should have been taken off air years ago, be­cause the undi­luted gra­cious­ness we’re ac­cus­tomed to hear­ing from him gets a tiny bit sac­cha­rine. Hu­man na­ture be­ing what it is, au­di­ences like the odd scathing, un­re­con­structed or just plain mean comment from a broad­caster.

But Hook is hav­ing none of that. If he has a per­son­al­ity flaw, it’s his in­sis­tence on be­ing as nice as pie. Call it his pro­fes­sional trade­mark.

Those who lack his pro­gres­sive sen­si­bil­i­ties de­nounce him as a snowflake, hu­mour­less lib­eral and po­lit­i­cally cor­rect junkie. Sticks and stones, Hook. Your en­light­ened per­sona puts you in a league of your own in Ir­ish broad­cast­ing.

Now, what fol­lows is not crit­i­cism. Far from it, be­cause my ad­mi­ra­tion is deep-rooted. In­deed, if Hook could be per­suaded to run for pub­lic of­fice, as he has some­times hinted he might, I’d count it an hon­our to be a vol­un­teer worker on his elec­tion cam­paign.

How­ever, some­times I wish he was a blunt speaker in­stead of tip­toe­ing round a sub­ject. It can be dif­fi­cult to gauge his views. In com­mon with many of his fans, I like to be guided by the con­struc­tive, re­flec­tive, el­der states­man ob­ser­va­tions he shares when will­ing to risk an opinion. But of­ten he chooses to be cir­cum­spect.

All the same, I ac­cept that when he holds back, it’s be­cause of his pro­found re­spect for peo­ple’s sen­si­tiv­i­ties. It’s ap­par­ent that he sim­ply can’t bear the idea of hurt­ing a lis­tener’s feelings. You can feel the pulse of his pain on the rare oc­ca­sion when it hap­pens.

What else do I love about Hook? His readi­ness to share his per­sonal post is re­fresh­ing – I felt so close to him that time when he tweeted a hol­i­day post­card from Greece show­ing two naked, sandy fe­male bot­toms.

Then there’s his ‘here come the girls’ slot on the show, when he does a hi­lar­i­ous troglodyte act, sham of course, and his women guests pre­tend to be amused. What larks.

Mod­est by na­ture, Hook dis­likes the lime­light or any­thing that draws at­ten­tion to him­self. I’d go so far as to call him the po­lar op­po­site of those nar­cis­sists em­ployed by cer­tain other sta­tions.

It strikes me he en­tered the broad­cast­ing world from a sense of duty to share his in­tu­itive un­der­stand­ing of life, the uni­verse, and why he eats gra­nola for break­fast (I switched from toast be­cause of him). En­tirely laud­able. He per­forms a pub­lic ser­vice, in fact.

Hook wouldn’t dream of stoop­ing to de­lib­er­ately con­tro­ver­sial re­marks to pitch­fork lis­ten­ers out of their com­pla­cency, thereby ratch­et­ing up rat­ings. I mean, driv­ing for­ward pub­lic de­bate. Nor would he try to source guests of that cal­i­bre.

I sup­pose that’s why his show is my safe space – a happy place. I know when I tune in I won’t be ex­posed to any di­nosaur ram­blings, men’s club an­tics, de­lib­er­ate cage-rat­tling, or ar­chaic view­points mas­querad­ing as fear­less bait­ing of the thought po­lice.

Hook would never say any­thing ig­no­rant, in­sen­si­tive, boor­ish, big­oted, crass, in­sult­ing, sex­ist or – heaven for­bid – sleazy. If any­thing, he can tend to­wards the prud­ish. Down­right pu­ri­tan­i­cal, at times.

Men ought to use him as a role model for how to in­ter­act with the op­po­site gen­der. Un­sure if a comment is ap­pro­pri­ate? Sim­ply ask your­self whether you hear it on air as a Hook­ism. Only re­marks in the best pos­si­ble taste make the cut.

If you’ve been pay­ing at­ten­tion, you prob­a­bly re­alise that Hook has a line he’d never cross: pass­ing per­sonal re­marks about a woman’s shape. Con­se­quently, I was mys­ti­fied a cou­ple of years ago when he read out on ra­dio some ex­tracts from an erotic novel he’d been labour­ing over, ref­er­enc­ing a char­ac­ter’s “won­drous orbs” and “dou­ble D” ac­cou­trements.

Part of what I es­teem in him is his grasp of lan­guage, used with rapier pre­ci­sion so that words mean ex­actly what he in­tends. He’ ll never lay him­self open to ac­cu­sa­tions of ver­bal clum­si­ness...

Ini­tially, I pre­sumed he did it for a dare, or char­ity. Later, I ra­tio­nalised it had to be some joker im­i­tat­ing the dis­tinc­tive Hook growl be­cause he’d rip out his tongue be­fore sex­u­al­is­ing a woman. Did I men­tion he’s a fam­ily man?

He’s like a cool teacher and friend com­bined. His life tips ought to be col­lected into a self-help guide. “Went to bed early with my Pamela An­der­son col­lec­tion and avoided the ut­ter bore­dom of the great­est Su­per Bowl ever.” See? An early night, with read­ing ma­te­rial. No sounder ad­vice to pass a broad­caster’s lips.

Part of what I es­teem in him is his grasp of lan­guage, used with rapier pre­ci­sion so that words mean ex­actly what he in­tends. He’ll never lay him­self open to ac­cu­sa­tions of ver­bal clum­si­ness, spout­ing off in a stream of con­scious­ness that could be mis­con­strued.

Hook’s logic is fa­mous for be­ing lu­cid, well bal­anced and flaw­lessly as­sem­bled. I ex­pect he’ll be in­vited to teach classes in broad­cast­ing af­ter he un­clips his mi­cro­phone, as New­stalk tells us has now done – whether tem­po­rar­ily or for good re­mains to be seen.

Per­son­ally, I’d to­tally un­der­stand if he felt, af­ter re­cent events, that he needs a lovely long rest be­fore re­turn­ing to the air­waves. About a decade away should do nicely.

Ge­orge Hook has an ‘un­flag­gingly re­spect­ful at­ti­tude to Pamela An­der­son’

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