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Hating Alan Jones

  • 10 October 2012

Who are we going to hate now? This was the question asked by columnist Catherine Deveny in The Age after the 2007 election, when Kevin Rudd replaced John Howard as Australia's prime minister. Deveny effusively endorsed Rudd (how could she have known that this shiny-new leader would himself become the focus of a nasty coup just a few years later?) but Howard's electoral loss had left a void that needed to be filled.

'If only Tony Abbott became Liberal leader. I can't really hate Malcolm Turnbull yet, I just like laughing at him in the same way I would laugh at a dog with a bucket on its head,' she lamented.

And one could almost detect the wistfulness in her voice as she reflected on the exit from public life of such a potent hate-object as Howard: 'I have to admit thinking last week that if [he] lost ... I would drive up to Bennelong with a bunch of garlic and a stake to finish him off. But now he's been decimated I don't feel like that. I actually feel a bit sorry for him.'

Five years later, there is no shortage of people to hate, and no dearth of haters either: their numbers have been swelled by robust and easily accessible social media platforms, one of the most significant technological developments in the fomenting of public opinion and social revolution.

And so Alan Jones, who made offensive comments about Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her father, is receiving his just desserts: columnists and commentators on internet forums are vilifying him with much the same brutality as he has seen fit to dish out to people during his many years as Sydney's most influential shock jock; petitioners have effected astounding change, effectively forcing retailers to remove their adverts from Jones' show or face consumer boycotts of their products.

There is a convivial atmosphere of unity and people power in cyberspace, on the airwaves and TV screens. But there's something strange going on here, for the voices shouting down Jones are almost certainly not those of his listeners; the people most offended by his actions, it seems, are those who have never tuned in to his show. They are trying to influence a platform with which they are not engaged,