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talkback radio+conservatism « Previous | |Next »
July 13, 2007

In the past decade talkback radio has become a powerful conservative political force in Australia with Stan Zemanek, Alan Jones and John Laws in Sydney and Bob Francis in Adelaide spearheading the one nation conservative movement. By giving voice to conservative instincts reacting to the effects of globalization talkback radio has helped to polarize, and deeply divide Australia.

John Ruddick argues that Zemanek's success was largely due to Paul Keating and the conservative hostility he attracted.It was the Labor Party heartland of western Sydney that tuned in in droves. Ruddick says:

By the mid-1990s, many blue-collar, socially conservative Australians who had voted Labor all their life were being turned off by the ALP. After having overwhelmingly supported Bob Hawke in the four elections from 1983 to 1990, they had serious doubts about his successor. Keating's agenda of multiculturalism, reconciliation, the politicians' republic, family reunion schemes and unfair dismissal laws appealed to the intellectual establishment. But rusted-on Labor voters were becoming unstuck .... when they heard someone spell out loudly and clearly why Keating was wrong on Mabo, or an apology to rampant welfarism, or his Asia-first foreign policy, they loved it. And so they went to the ballot box in 1996 and voted Liberal for the first time.

Zemanek could be heard in other parts of Australia, and he was especially popular in Brisbane and rural Queensland. When Howard won in 1996, it was western Sydney and Queensland that delivered a substantial proportion of his majority.

Ruddick says that where Limbaugh helped convert the Reagan Democrats into lifelong Republicans, Zemanek played matchmaker for Howard and his battlers. By helping to convert masses of Labor voters into Liberal voters, he played a pivotal role in Howard's success.

Ruddick also acknowledges that Zemanek was also instrumental in the nation's cultural realignment:

It is now possible to debunk many myths central to our view of society, once popular among enlightened Australians: that is to say, people who accept the assumptions of The Sydney Morning Herald and ABC world view. These include the following long-held beliefs: that welfarism and the perpetuation of tribal beliefs are the best way of achieving Aboriginal dignity; that separation and divorce do not harm children; that there is no downside to an excess of multiculturalism; and that there was secret women's business on Hindmarsh Island. During the Keating era, disagreeing with any of these shibboleths led to vicious criticism in certain circles. This is no longer the case.

Ruddick concludes by saying that Zemanek may have been crude and perhaps even rude at times, but he nonetheless helped to dramatically change the public culture of the country for the better.

Better? Why so? More freedom of speech? More freedom of speech in the form of dogwhistle politics? Greater expression of one nation conservatism that lead to the culture wars conducted by the Murdoch Press? A more polarized Australia? Is this better? How does that make things better?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:03 PM | | Comments (7)
Comments

Comments

I tried to listen to Stan a few years back. I think he was on 4bc. To be honest he swore that much that I switched him off and never heard him again. I don't know whether he stopped swearing when he became popular or not.
I don't know Bob Francis but I suggest the other 3 are just "A Current Affair" for the airwaves. Crap with Ads!

Crap with Ads--nice.But the equation is Crap with Ads + political power.

yes quite right nan

Les,
I've rarely listened to the corrupt (Jones and Laws) conservative talk back shock jocks other than what I read about them. Two points.

Firstly, these law and order media conservatives have used their media power to polarize Australia and to stir up the bigotry and prejudices of one nation conservatism.That bigotry and prejudice, which legimates racism , is then represented as the common sense of the people courageously fighting the enemy within.

Secondly, I have caught bits of Stan Zemanek, and I have heard him infuriate listeners by calling them "numb nuts", "dickhead trendies" and the like.This is the broadcast equivalent of bear-baiting — entertaining for everyone except the bear but cruel and, really, gratuitous.

Yes the commercial media in this country has evolved into Infotainment. Where bums on seats are more important that Truth and Fair play.
I only listen to talk back on the ABC to avoid Redneck conversations.

Les,
If there is an unravelling of the political bloc of 1996, then there is a gap opening up between (a) the core beliefs of the right-wing movement and their media allies and (b) the vast majority of Australia citizens.

The unravelling would mean that the gap is broadening vast and growing, as it extends to most issues of political significance.

So the defining beliefs of the conservative movement (which are frequently synonymous with the conventional wisdom of the Canberra Press Gallery media) and held to be synonymous with the common sense of the people will increasingly be confined to a less than majority section of the Australian citizenry.

I wouldn't call Laws a conservative at all. He sucks up to just about anybody - and likes to see himself as being all-important. He'll always drop names on air, and talk about how he's "had dinner" with pollies on both sides.

The others are def conservative, but surely they're just filling a niche in the market? There are those that listen because they agree, and others because they love to be outraged.