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Only rationality will destroy Alan Jones' joint


Management of Sydney radio station 2GB announced on Sunday that it was removing advertising from the Alan Jones breakfast program for an indefinite period, at a cost to the station of $80,000 per day.

The action was unprecedented. It followed social media pressure on advertisers to boycott the program after Jones violated the unwritten code of common decency in remarks he made about the prime minister's late father at a university student function.

Jones' apology was unconvincing, and many people remain appalled. It is a testament to the relatively new phenomenon of social media that it is able to empower ordinary people to bring Jones and 2GB management to heel when government broadcasting regulation cannot. 

It is perhaps an example of the 'people power' that is more usually thought of in the context of overthrowing unpopular political regimes such as occurred in the Arab Spring. 

However we need to remember that what has happened in the aftermath of the Arab Spring has shown us that people power can create more problems than it solves. The people are manipulated by other powerful groups, or their action may precipitate a power vacuum. As a result, many who supported the revolution may wish for a return to the dictatorship they loathed.

People power can also become mob rule, which is a long way from its democratic aspirations. Mob rule is tyranny of the majority and the rule of passion over reason. The rights of small people with less audible voices are not taken into consideration in the way they are with properly functioning laws and regulations. 

That is why it is better to work within the regulatory system. People power is a last resort that is justified only if the regulatory authority is unable to fix the problem.

In the case of broadcaster Kyle Sandilands, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has demonstrated its impotence, despite the restrictions it placed on 2DAY-FM's licence. There is no indication that Sandilands has reformed, in the sense of becoming contrite. Nor is it likely that the ACMA can change Jones.

With regard to advertisers on Jones' program, the social media organisers have outsmarted 2GB's Macquarie Radio Network management. But it is unlikely that the collective rage against Jones' behaviour will be sustained, respectable, and ultimately effective, unless the passion is accompanied by reasoned argument. If not, it could even vindicate Jones and 2GB management's claims of 'cyber bullying'.

It is encouraging that there are signs of reason in the Facebook groups spearheading the campaign. 'Sack Alan Jones' organisers Nic Lochner and Vinay Orekondy responded in a cool headed manner to 2GB management's decision to cancel advertising on the program: 'This campaign has constantly called for civility and decency in public debate — it will continue to do so — and we have gone to great strides to ensure that discourse is conducted appropriately.'

Similarly, the 'call to arms' of the group Destroy the Joint is 'Keep Calm and Destroy the Joint'. 

Calm is not exactly reasoned argument, but it helps to create the necessary disposition. It is important that such groups do not simply destroy the careers of rogue broadcasters, but also work to improve the regulatory system that allows them to flourish.

Another media pressure group, Friends of the ABC, appeals to a different constituency but has always maintained a good balance between activism and contributing to the shaping of public policy through activities such as the preparation of submissions to inquiries. GetUp! covers a range of issues, and is similarly involved in providing policy input. 

Forcing 2GB to cancel the advertising was a spectacular victory but the social media groups should not expect more capitulation from station management or Jones, especially if their action is not accompanied by developed rationale. Moreover it may look as if Jones is being bullied, as he claims, and the public could feel sorry for him.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.


Topic tags: Michael Mullins, Alan Jones, Kyle Sandilands, Destroy the Joint, Sack Alan Jones, 2GB, Russell Tate



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Existing comments

I would find Eureka Street more credible if it also featured articles condemning the likes of Catherine Deveny. In another artilce Trent posted a commented that noted it is most likely the conservatives who are criticised when they act or speak inappropriately. Catherine Deveny tweeted a most vile sexual comment in relation to Tony and Margie Abbott over the weekend. She is a high profile figure, who often appears on the ABC. Why is she not called to account? Where is the outrage over her foul-mouthed rantings?

John Ryan | 09 October 2012  

If by "the public" you mean his band of followers who can be heard hurrahing his statements each day then we are dealing with a minority of uninformed/nonreflective listeners. To say he was cyber bullied stretches reality a tad given the cruel nature of his statements. Those who objected to Jones' diatribe were able to object in a civil way through social media led by several very thoughtful and calm individuals who expressed the concern well. I am in the twilight years of my life and was able to express my disgust along with so many of my friends who felt the same. I felt powerful in the doing.

GAJ | 09 October 2012  

Developing the rationale needed in our nation to provide for 'media with integrity, not with attitude' can only be achieved if all players are given the task by the parliaments in a public and national debate, wider than the limited public inquiry we have had last year. I have no time for shock jocks in any media. In the 1990's in NSW there was a law and order State election. The main parties outbid one another on Sydney radio shock jock programmes to get tough on criminals. Andrew Tregurtha, in his early twenties, serving his time for, if I remember correctly, two murders of homosexuals, including the Sydney based Greek Consul, committed suicide in jail soon after the election. His case had been directly targeted by the shock jocks during the campaign. What emerged later was that Andrew had been a victim of sexual abuse since the age of six, it started in a Catholic School at the hands of a Christian Brother. Only in jail had he found the protection he deserved and the nurturing needed by anyone to realise upon their humanity. Shock jocks were hell bent on depriving him of that. He was left without hope.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 09 October 2012  

I recall the day by day vilification and mockery of John Howard as 'eeeevil'. It was very personal. To this date I have not heard one apology for these ad hominem attacks which considered his background, his faith and family fair game. And how about the attacks on Tony Abbott? Very personal and very unfair.No hint of an apology in sight. Jones apologised fair and square. For some an apology will never be enough. Many indigenous people did not find Rudd's 'sorry' enough either - I can understand that. The very making of an apology does not 'solve' and issue - but at the very least it indicates a recognition in the person of something that should not have been done. As for Jones it is conveniently forgotten that he is at times the sole champion of the underdog. When the people of Kurnell had the desalination plant rumble and disturb their lives, Jones was the only person to go and bat for them, to protect them. As the ordinary people there - they love him for that - and they come from Labor territory. Jones is a champion of the victims of coal seam gas mining in Queensland - where people have had their farms and livelihoods destroyed because they have no control over who mines under their land.No one in the Labor or Liberal govt there has wanted to touch it - but Jones has to the immense gratitude of the people there. He brings many issues into the spotlight as no one else can and many are eternally grateful for his help. Yes, he's a choleric character, yes he gets carried away, yes he gets genuinely outraged at things and of course he can cross the line. But he apologised. And his record as defender of the underdog - and yes, that is what he is - remains. Many of those with no voice, were heard because of him.

Skye | 09 October 2012  

If there was a perception of Alan Jones emerging from this debacle as the one being "bullied" it would indeed be one of those Twilight Zone moments! Having signed Nic Lochner's online petition, I am following this story with great interest. Shock jocks, Kyle Sandilands and Alan Jones in particular, make their living by being obnoxious, no two ways about it. The ideal solution would be for ACMA to have a few additional teeth, canines in particular, to rein these people in. The phone hacking scandal in the UK has shown just how much damage can be inflicted on people when media is allowed to run to its own, primarily money-making and/or political, agenda. Another effective tool to rein in the shock jocks is simply not to listen to them.

Pam | 09 October 2012  

Michael, it isn't likely that those who have a distaste for Jones' reductio ad hominem style are going to engage in it themselves, nor is it likely that they would join any groups that would.

Anne | 09 October 2012  

"It is better to work within the regulatory system. People power is a last resort that is justified only if the regulatory authority is unable to fix the problem."******************* People power does not necessarily mean a rising up of large organised numbers. Steady pressure by individuals can sometimes be effective, if prople consistently protest against inappropriate conduct. And this is true even when the regulatory authority CAN fix the problem, but just doesn't.

Robert Liddy | 09 October 2012  

Thanx for the article, full of common sense. Many years ago I decided that Alan Jones did not meet my standards of "common decency" that you mention here. If enough people followed this 'rule' and switched him off, he'd very soon be gone, permanently [and peacefully]. That is the real potential of People Power! Try it on Karl also.

jaymz | 09 October 2012  

The rantings of many others have so often gone unnoticed. The amount of time given to AJ smacks of political gain - or the hope of a lift in the stocks of the ALP. To all those who condemn Tony Abbott, you really do not know him at all - as we do not really know Julia. The personal commentary is driven by either the left or the right depending on political persuasion. It is appalling all around and we deserve far better in this country. Some people should not speak if they cannot speak with decency and without the use of profanity. That they then place themselves above the shock jocks of this world is very questionable indeed!!!

Frank | 09 October 2012  

"unless the passion is accompanied by reasoned argument." ********************************** This seems to imply that passion is good. Not so long ago it was claimed "Greed is good". lately on Q&A it was proposed that "Lust is good". Before working through all the 7 Deadly Sins, we should remember another slogan, "Don't get mad - Get even." And recall that "Feelings can be good servants, but make bad masters." Once feelings are aroused they tend to take on a momentum of their own, and lead to unwanted consequences, so perhaps we should advocate not accompaning the feelings with reason, but replacing the feelings with reason.

Robert Liddy | 09 October 2012  

Michael, I usually enjoy your articles but am disappointed by this one. Was it rushed? Were you asked to write something but your heart was not in it? I would have expected a more rounded, well analysed piece. I support the groups outraged by Mr Jones' vitriol and am pleased to see that he is getting a little of what he dishes out to others. However I consider there are many aspects to this debate. Your article fails to discuss many at all. Very disappointing Eureka Street.

Carol | 09 October 2012  

Well here's my reasoned argument, expressed many times via social media: As a Woolworths shareholder I am disgusted, that a senior Woolworths executive (Simon Berger), who has the position of "community and government relations manager", was involved in a cruel and tasteless stunt aimed at the leader of the government with which he is meant to be managing company relations. Clearly his activity was in conflict with his highly paid position, and to the detriment of shareholders like me.

Mike H | 09 October 2012  

SKYE, the reason Alan Jones is an advocate for the anti-coal seam gas movement in Queensland is because he has family/property ties on the Darling Downs - himself being from the area around Dalby - where some of his listeners come from, and has been forced into siding with them to save face.

AURELIUS | 09 October 2012  

Reasoned argument and the call for decency and restraint in public discourse is certainly the right way to go; and as Skye and John point out, ought to apply to everyone. The public outrage in this case is about heart speaking to heart;the hearts of people - whether they be supporters of Julia Gillard or not - were pierced by the unwarranted disrespect shown to a fellow human being in the first stages of raw grief, by cruel remarks about her dead father. To kick a person when they are down is pretty low; to deliberately add pain to another's grief is very low indeed.

Pirrial Clift | 09 October 2012  

Just imagine: would demagogues, dictators have ruled Germany and Italy 80 years ago if the people had the sort of access to information and digital technology and could express their views and act together as citizens have done through social media in this instant? What a wonderful new tool for a robust democracy, as long as real identities and not mickey mouse signs the messages of support.

frederika steen | 09 October 2012  

Well said. God forbid that Jones benefits from a Pyrrhic victory – a definite risk unless objections to vicious commentary by the likes of Alan Jones are cool-headed and ongoing. Jones is entitled to his opinion; that the latter happens to be grotesque is an unambiguous demonstration of a very nasty turn of mind unbecoming to anyone claiming to be “civilized”. Jones and his ilk provide for their listeners, atavistic, simplistic “solutions” to complex problems. Surely the response to Jones’ latest outpouring of bile is a loud and clear message to our political leaders that they need to rise above argument ad hominem and to address the issues using clearly-argued evidence, not political spin or misogynistic diatribes.

Patricia R | 09 October 2012  

Skye, I also intensely dislike(d) personal attacks on politicians of any persuasion, and no-one could deny that Alan Jones has occasionally used his influence to support causes he believes in. And certainly, politicians need to listen to those in society who feel and who are, disempowered (vide the rise of Pauline Hanson). However, that is no defence for Jones’ vitriol. His so-called apology to the PM showed clearly that Jones believes himself to be above the normal rules of common decency. A true and heart-felt apology does not attempt to excuse the offending act. Jones' subsequent claims of victimisation are risible; as Malcolm Turnbull has pointed out, he is finally getting a taste of his own medicine and he doesn’t like it.

Patricia R | 09 October 2012  

Skye - Alan Jones has a microphone and an entire commercial radio network at his disposal to air his repeatedly offensive and inflammatory rhetoric. He has the ear and sympathies of, not only Tony Abbott, but a large segment of the wealthy and powerful conservative establishment, who are quite happy to have him as their attack-dog, "Chatham House rules" insitu, of course. How does this qualify him for "underdog" status?

Michelle Goldsmith | 09 October 2012  

I'm disappointed in this article! use of "reasoned argument"???When have the likes of Alan Jones and his followers have ever listened to "reasoned arguments"? Never! If you saw Media Watch, where Holmes played the number of times that shock Jock talked of "killing the PM" (or words to that effect) you can conclude: they haven't, and never will. Unless there is another way to stop them saying these barbarites for at least a few days/weeks, I don't think you can ever stop these type of people. So, let's make an effort to 'crack the whip' on and off, to keep them in their place, until they start again. Anyone has any better ideas?? We can't transplant them to Mars or Pluto. They came from here, from within our society. So, we have to deal with them.

Nathalie | 09 October 2012  

Are "shock jocks" more aptly called mercenary toxic shock jocks? What are Jones' core values? You know, the ones that we send troops to fight for in other peoples' countries...the values he would die in a ditch for, wave a flag for etc. His influence and power only underlines the leadership vacuum in our Parliament.Good to see some community leaders speaking out and to hear the voices of some of the electorate. But in "discussions" with people like Jones, they talk over rational argument and opposite views; they rant and steal the time and oxygen... overpower with long sentences that have no end!

Frederika Steen | 09 October 2012  

Malcolm Turnbull's instant rebuke of Alan Jones at the time stands in stark contrast to Tony Abbott's pathetic public corrections. It points to one of the secrets of Turnbull's popularity for Liberal leadership over Abbott: Turnbull is a civil human being.That's why the party faithful will vote for Turnbull in preference to Abbott, for the simple reason that he knows what is decent. The polls indicate that Turnbull is much preferred and that is one of the main reasons.

COMMON DECENCY | 09 October 2012  

You speak as if there should be more ongoing action against Alan Jones for his remarks. I believe the point has been made by the action so far. Notice has been served on those in the media and elsewhere that there is a penalty to pay for inappropriate remarks. No more needs to be done. However, I do wonder if the degree of the outrage was genuine or was some of it orchestrated and fueled by political masters of spin. We will probably never know.

Tony Burnell | 09 October 2012  

I don't see why E.S. bloggers should be so appalled by Jones's remark. He said that Gillard's late father died of shame. That pales into insignificance against E.S.'s own verdict on Tony Abbott - that he has "no moral core". Alan Jones apologised. What did E.S. do? Republished its slur against Abbott in a "best of 2011"!!! Talk about selective, manufactured outrage.

HH | 09 October 2012  

Alan Jones is now at the age where various now-departed members of my family became cranky, and irrational. They (my relatives) were subsequently diagnosed with various terminal cancers.

Perhaps it is time for Mr Jones to retire and enjoy his remaining years.

David Arthur | 09 October 2012  

The 'die of shame' comment was spiteful and insensitive, and Tony Abbott's repeat of the phrase to describe the Government today was disgraceful. I found the death-wish comments ('chaff bag') and the like more offensive and disturbing. But finally, with an insult that people can relate to (we've all lost loved ones) the PM is finally receiving a degree of empathy sadly lacking in relation to Jones' previous statements.

Moira | 09 October 2012  

"Destroy the joint" for me is inflammatory, as was Alan Jones' comments. However I do not believe that one works through a conflict situation by also being inflammatory. Two wrongs don't make things right or equal. I wonder if the organisers of 'destroy the joint' website could use their creativity in a way that would call each of us to be respectful of the other in what we say and how we behave. I think this is a dangerous path to walk down - are the organisers of 'destroy the joint' blameless in all they think and do. All of us make mistakes...have they not made any???? And if they have has someone else built a website calling for 'destroy'!

Margaret Mithen | 10 October 2012  

HH you have not sourced your reference to 'E.S.'s own verdict on Tony Abbott - that he has "no moral core"', so we can't follow it up, but perhaps you'd like to tell us why you disagree with such a conclusion.

Ginger Meggs | 11 October 2012  

GM: I see no reason to think Tony Abbott, as opposed to Gillard, etc, lacks a moral core. Notwithstanding Dr Ormerod's consternation, Tony Abbott would not directly attack innocent human lives, in utero or otherwise, in a Machiavellian pursuit of political power. As opposed to many MPs on his side and, needless to say, on the other side of the House. If you have evidence that Mr Abbott would vote otherwise, please inform us. If you're right, I'll come out against him on that score, as I will on anyone who's not pro-life.

HH | 11 October 2012  

HH, who mentioned Machiavelli? Why don't you provide a link to the source to which you referred and with which you disagree? There's a lot more to morality than being what you label 'pro-life'.

Ginger Meggs | 12 October 2012  

In reference to Alan Jones ongoing disgraceful behavior: Common Decency is right: Malcolm Turnbull should be Opposition Leader. I'm a Labor voter, and would not change my vote, but I would accept with respect, Turnbull's leadership. A decent, gracious, intelligent, man, who, yes, has made mistakes, but learned from them. This particular nasty Jones issue would by now have passed, appropriately, and graciously had our leaders been PM Gillard and Turnbull. To my mind, Abbott and Jones and his ilk are in the same camp.

Louw | 12 October 2012  

I fully agree with the comments made by JOHN RYAN.

John Tobin | 12 October 2012  

Yes, we have a voice. Alan Jones has abused the freedom of speech law. And yet we're called the bullies. The mob rule? Anyone else in any other work place with those remarks would have fired. His contempt for women shows a,lack of intelliguence. Any company supporting these views needs to recruit their marketing managers. Alan Jones,opinions about women are disgraceful and dusgusting. He might as well wear a white hooded robe and scream ku Klux Klan. It's not a good idea to have a,mad man on radio who disrupts community welfare. When does it stop? Do we need to begin a civil action against the radio station 2GB for supporting financially hatred towards wonen. Alan Jones wishes we were put in bags in the ocean to.hopefully die. How is,this allowed on radio. Are they all ku Klux klan members?

helena | 14 October 2012  

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