Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Keeping Up With The Jones

Keeping up with the Jones story has been almost impossible in the last 48 hours. Just when you think you know what's going on, something else happens, and much of it is just plain ridiculous. The irony is that this blog post will be obselete before I've finished writing it.

Jones started yesterday fired up, defiant, ready to stand his ground against the baseless attacks born of jealousy and spite.
RT @latikambourke Shock jock Alan Jones says he is ‘astounded’ by the ‘hatred and jealousy’ shown in the aftermath of his PM’s Dad’s died of shame comment.
With that out of the way, it was business as usual:
From his previously secret position as Marine Biologist specialising is Climate Change and it's impact on tropical reefs, Alan Jones railed against the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Professor Jones, a graduate of the Far Right University of the Closed Mind, claimed this morning that "research on shrinking fish populations and rising ocean temperatures is a joke".

I may have taken a few liberties there, but hey, it works for Australia's number one talkback broadcaster, doesn't it?

Tony Abbott addressing Alan Jones' disciples
Meanwhile, advertisers are dumping Alan Jones in a display which puts his recent comments into a commercial perspective, makes Kyle Sandilands look like an amateur, and makes his conservative audience blush. At last count, over 40 businesses had cancelled their advertising during Alan Jones' show, pulled their advertising from 2GB, or had their online ads removed from the 2GB website. The damage to MRN’s cashflow is estimated at $80,000 per day. Yesterday, Macquarie Radio's shares fell 6%, reducing their market capitalisation by about $3milllion.

The businesses that have walked away from Jones have the support of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, too.  I would not have called Mr Jones "deluded" on air, but Kevin Rudd did, and I can't find it within myself to disagree.

In fact, many politicians have chosen to weigh in on the issue of whether or not Mr Jones' comment about Prime Minister Gillard's death is acceptable, and indeed, whether the insult was political or personal in nature. It was, of course, a vicious personal assault on Ms Gillard and her family, yet the motivation was also political, and the fallout even moreso. From the initial, apolitical response on Twitter from former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, at 6:57am, Sunday...

RT @TurnbullMalcolm Alan Jones' comments about the late John Gillard were cruel and offensive. He should apologise to the PM and her family.
...things turned ugly, quickly, particularly if you are Alan Jones. Suddenly, both sides of politics had turned on Australia's most shocking Shock Jock. Throughout the day, politicians, commentators, journalists and members of the public expressed their disgust. In fact, if Mr Jones could, I'm sure he'd shove the whole affair in a chaff bag and dump it far, far out to sea. Liberal Party Elder Statesman and former PM Malcolm Fraser has this to say about Jones', who had failed to secure pre-selection five times for the Liberal Party:

RT @MalcolmFraser That is just an absolute disgrace. No one should be allowed to say that regardless of who you are or who it's about.
Kevin Rudd, Australia's most followed politician on Twitter, had his say:

RT @KRuddMP: Alan Jones’ comments are lowest of the low. Abbott must dismiss Jones from Liberal Party now & ban him from future Liberal events. KRudd
Even Jones's most loyal buddies conceded that he'd gone too far. Andrew Bolt weighed in early with comments on his blog:

“Those who were there and are quoted in the article deny hearing any such comment, but if it was indeed said it was very cruel, very wrong,"

“UPDATE: No, the tape confirms it. The remark is shameful. I wish the few Young Liberals who laughed in apparent surprise or scorn had booed or otherwise protested instead. Alan Jones is a colleague, and I've long valued his courage. But this is very wrong."
Jones made the decision to man up. Instead of a media statement and a personal, handwritten apology to the Prime Minister, Jones' ego took over, just as it did when he chastised Ms Gillard for being late for an interview. He decided to front a 45 minute media conference in which he almost apologised to Ms Gillard, ranted that it was all Labor's fault, and boasted that his advertisers weren't about to leave him.

Jazz Hands
It's a media conference he should never have attempted. The apology was weak, rudely impersonal and insincere. On 2GB, Mr Jones gets away with his unique view of the world because he's shouting at an audience that believes his distorted perspective. In front of a real-world media mob, the shouting, the insults, the natty pocket kerchief and the jazz-hands only emphasise the gap between his reality and ours.

Ms Gillard, the target of the initial attack, is not prepared to speak with Mr Jones; according to Mr Jones few supporters, her refusal is petty. The fact is, she's not talking at all, about anything.

Several hours after Mr Turnbull’s condemnation, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott made a wishy-washy two line statement, considered by everyone to be inadequate:

''Alan's remarks regarding the PM were completely out of line. It's good that he's recognised this and apologised for them."
And then it the whole disastrous (for Jones) chapter became less of a controlled bonfire being fed by a few malicious leftie trolls, and more like a raging-bushfire heading for his house. Facebook campaigns, hashtags, petitions, accusations, boycotts, polls, promises, denials.
One Shock Jock said something disgraceful, and it consumed the country for days.

Attorney General Nicola Roxon was amongst the first to suggest that it was Tony Abbott's fault that Alan Jones is dragging the tone of Australian political discussion into the gutter, and making personal attacks acceptable. Ms Roxon may be right, but it was the wrong response at the wrong time. The issue was not political…until it was. She also suggested that it was time for 2GB to take Jones off air. Anthony Albanese followed up with a press conference of his own, and fell into line behind Ms Roxon, and a collective sigh wafted through the suburbs: Rise above it, for god’s sake!

Tony Abbott waited to see which way the wind was blowing before committing himself yesterday to a full throated condemnation of Alan Jones putrid comment:

"What Alan Jones said was wrong, unacceptable, and offensive. I was shocked and dismayed."
The rest of Abbott's presser was more about how mean the Government is for blaming poor Tony for everything, and about how he always tries to keep himself nice, focus on policy and avoid personal nastiness.

Insert your favourite Pot Calling Kettle Black cliche here...except that in this one instance, he is correct. Tony Abbott has driven a spiteful, negative and personal campaign against the PM for two years, but we all know that the only person who runs Alan Jones' mouth is Alan Jones. Let's not blame anyone except Jones for this.

Was that good for you?

It had been a debate about civility, about holding grudges, about the expectation of privacy. These are concepts worthy of discussion over a bottle of decent red. By yesterday evening, we had Leigh Sales interviewing a bewildering John Laws about his former colleague. It’s bizarre, must-see television.

Now there's talk boycotting the advertisers that boycott Jones, and of rallies to support Mr Jones' god-given right to free speech. I don't know that anyone is trying to censor his opinions, as batshit-crazy as they might be. I think most of us would be happy if he’d just show some respect. He doesn’t have to like Ms Gillard, but he should respect the office of Prime Minister. Similarly, as noted American Senator and thinker Daniel Patrick Moynihan said,

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
It's not about left and right, Gillard and Abbott. It's still about the casual callousness with which Jones mocked the death of a woman's father, and it’s about this being the latest in a series of scandals for this one man: the London loo, the plagiarism, Cash for Comment, climate change denial, the chaff bag, destroying the joint, and now this.
Neil Mitchell summed it up nicely on Twitter:

RT @3AWNeilMitchell Talk about trashing the brand. Jones the insensitive gorilla and Laws looked like a Dickensian buffoon. Help!
While there are very few ways in which I would want to emulate Mr Jones, perhaps constructing my own reality might just be one of least for a while. I think I'd leave the rules of science as they are, and tinker with the rules of broadcasting instead.

1 comment:

  1. Who are we talking about? I'm doing my best to consign him to a forgotten history!