“Although in civil society man surrenders some of the advantages that belong to the state of nature, he gains in return far greater ones.”

Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

It is not by chance that journalists, broadcasters, media presenters and public figures are always subject to high public expectation, decent demeanours and ethical codes. For these are the people, whose words, acts and images, make up part of the daily consumption of other people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds and cultivation of different (quite possibly conflicting) ideologies. So that, if they cross beyond the ethical line, make provocative speech and gesture, and lure people out of their comfort zone, odds are certain people will react angrily to it, bringing threat to national security—at least, this has been the pretext given to sustain the rightful use of Internal Security Act (ISA) in Malaysia.

Jon Gaunt, “The voice of ordinary folk”

Jon Gaunt (The Independent 2008)

Jon Gaunt (The Independent 2008)

However, some people apparently do not buy into this kind of reasoning. Jon Gaunt, a TalkSport presenter, is one such example. Plunkett (2008) reports that Gaunt has, in a radio show, called a London councillor a “Nazi” and an “ignorant pig”.

The many complaints that TalkSport radio received clearly show that intertextuality is at work here. Intertextuality happens when “audiences try to make sense of the signal by references to its relation to other texts” (Schirato & Yell 1997, p. 110). The pre-requisite is, there must be a semiotic landscape, in which are stored the relevant requirements, histories and values of societies and cultures, that makes possible the sense-making process (Kress and van Leeuwen 2006, p. 35).

Nazi Parade (WII in Color 2008)

Nazi Parade (WII in Color 2008)

Similarly, the word “Nazi” would not have conveyed any meaning in this context, unless the audiences were like Gaunt, who knows the history of Nazis, the crimes they committed, their anti-Semitic views and Darwinistic expedient on child selection, so that they can borrow the relevant texts to help make sense of this word’s implication.

For people who know his background, they might be able to understand why Gaunt had reacted in such way over the councillor’s statement that defends the plan of banning smokers from fostering children. But to have carried it to that extent in a debate, Gaunt has betrayed his professional codes of ethics.

On the journalistic notion of fairness, Tanner et al. (2005) hold, “presenting information fairly can be a matter of language. The choice of particular words, or the tone of stories, can distort and be unfair.” This should apply in the context of debate as well. I am always of the belief that debate is a part of the process of seeking for clues to truth, and that the parties involved should always share a reciprocal notion that they are actually helping each other out. So why is the need for such personal attack?

But the irony is: we are talking about a man who has won the Sony Radio Academy Awards in the news broadcast category, who has five times confronted the Broadcasting Standards Commissions, and who dismisses journalistic ethics with “either say I’m the future of British radio or slag me off” (Brown & Deans 2001).

That said, I cannot help but to ask: What has happened to the media?


Brown & Deans 2001, ‘Local Hero’, Guardian, 7 May. Retrieved, 12 November, from


Kress, G 1997, Visual and verbal mode of representation in electronically mediated communication: the potential of new forms of text, Page to screen: taking literacy into electronic era, Allen & Unwin, St. Leornards, N.S.W, pp. 53-79.

Plunkett, J 2008, ‘TalkSport suspended Jon Gaunt for “Nazi” jibe’, Guardian, 11 November. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from


Schirato, T & Yell, S 1996, Framing context, Communication and cultural literacy: an introduction, Allen & Unwin, St. Leornards, N.S.W, pp. 90-117.

Tanner, S, Philips, G, Smyth, C & Tapsall, S, Journalism ethics at work, Pearson Edu, Australia.