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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

going negative « Previous | |Next »
October 1, 2012

Conservative shock jocks such as Alan Jones function as a battering ram for the Coalition and the conservative movement. They have routinely used political communication in the form of the tactic of personal attacks on Gillard that have been vicious, confrontational and continuous. Theirs is an anything goes model of politics premised on political political warfare as opposed to political governing.

These attacks are designed to both cause harm and to incite anger, outrage and resentment amongst economically working-class, socially conservative, older people. The Australian version of the Tea Party movement see this bile as a no-holds-barred, rough and tumble politics. They thrive on extreme rhetoric and dismiss the disgust that their over-the-top-comments cause as an example of the hypocrisy of their political opponents.


The vitriol of the political discourse of the shock jocks crowds out the policy debate and argument in the public sphere of deliberative democracy, and it is an illustration of the degradation of Australia's political processes. Political incivility and polarization is now the norm, and the animosities it has engendered continue to deepen the political enmity in a highly partisan political climate.

The partisans are not interested in any resolution of policy issues. It is about power and the negativity rhetoric to humiliate political opponents is used to achieve that power. Going negative “works” in terms of turning elections and drawing devoted radio and television audiences even if it undermines the liberal ethos of rational and informed decision making. The democratic public spaces for reasoned discussions on matters of public importance are shrinking.

People have turned off by the political outrage carnival, even if they still tune in to their favorite sideshows whilst the reputation of Parliament has never been lower. Are we reaching the point when there is a shift to a restoration of at least some civility brakes on political discourse, in at least some contexts? Many would see a call for more civility as the regulation of the form of political speech and a denial of free speech.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:46 PM | | Comments (36)


The partisan animosity undermines liberalism's premise of a free marketplace of ideas that promotes truth

some would argue that the implied right of political speech in the Constitution is a speaker protection, even when the speaker may be vulgar, disgusting, intentionally distorting another’s ideas or impugning his or her reputation, wildly mistaken, or capable of drowning out others’ speech.

"some would argue that the implied right of political speech in the Constitution is a speaker protection"

The media regulator allowed Alan Jones to get away with his role in inciting violence during the Cronulla riots in 2005, even though his words words were seen to provoke an imminent disruption or physical violence often are incendiary and uncivil.

Alan Jone's attacks on Gillard in the media can be seen as scandalous attacks, and they raise concerns about the limits of the freedom of expression in Australia.

The freedom of some to speak may compromise the freedom of others.

"the vitriol of the political discourse of the shock jocks crowds out the policy debate and argument in the public sphere of deliberative democracy,"

The liberal privileging of reason over rants and facts over nonsense has been seriously undermined.

"The democratic public spaces for reasoned discussions on matters of public importance are shrinking. "

Much is in current Australia politics is wearyingly uncivil, hyperbolic, and divisive. The lack of civility, the cruelty and the emphasis on party affiliation and partisanship is excessive.

However, for the shock jocks politics is power and that decency and civility is a mere facade or illusion. For them and their audience democracies are simply a mechanism for organizing a struggle for power between competing interests; democratic politics is a war by other means.

the shock jocks erosion of our common political currency that is necessary to forge democratic solutions to problems is not evidence of healthy dissent--as they claim.

It is an indication of the damage to the foundations of liberal democracy. So their needs to be some substantive and structural limits on political discourse.

Unregulated speech with political content does not necessarily produce “more speech,” better insights based on “truth” or “reason,” a well-functioning “marketplace of ideas,” or other positive consequences.

Lies and grossly misleading assertions by politicians, political candidates and
journalists are problematic.

Freedom to insult others in terms that are disgusting, outrageous, blasphemous, overtly and undeniably racist, or damaging in ways that prompt severe psychological distress and even suicide is also problematic.

The media has shifted away from civility, arguments and reasons to a “trash culture" that relies on amusement and entertainment. They earn more money that way.

An example of uncivil political speech is speech that is excessively ad hominem, demonizes political opponents, and relies on globalizing attacks on their character rather than their ideas and conduct.

Alan Jones's comment about Julia Gillard, that she should be shoved into a chaff bag and thrown out to sea, is an example.

"The liberal privileging of reason over rants and facts over nonsense has been seriously undermined."

Alan Jones is an example of conservatism and science rejection (re climate change) along with the Murdoch newspapers.

In the history of the world... has there been any group more victimised and oppressed than today's middle-aged, working, anglo-Australian, Christian male?

Jones is their champion!

Gillard Labor should just cut Jones adrift---have nothing to do with his radio show. His political influence is declining as his conservative audience gets older and smaller. Call his bluff and ignore his daily bombast and deceptions.

And... on queue... Jones... a popular, well-known broadcaster on commercial radio, today claims he is being victimised and set upon... by those who would silence him. Ahhhh... the oppression continues...

It's easy to over-state the significance of this kind of rhetorical thuggishness. Yes it says a lot about the characters of the people who indulge in it but really it's just an in-group ritual. It entertains and amuses the already-committed but I suspect has minimal impact on anyone else (apart in this instance from reinforcing their conviction that Jones is a pathological misogynist).

Anyone familiar with the history of journalism in the English-speaking world will know this kind of vitriolic commentary is neither new nor unusual. Just read a bit about John Norton and 'The Truth' if you don't know what I mean. People like Jones are models of courteous discourse by comparison. I'm not defending it for a moment but I doubt it influences political attitudes in the community.

Ken_L says" I suspect [this kind of rhetorical thuggishness] has minimal impact on anyone else"

Jones' audience does not comprise many swinging voters. He is preaching to the angry and the converted.

no doubt his white oldie audience will swallow his line that the current attacks on him are not the result of his own harmful comments about Gillard to a LIberal Party function, but are the hateful campaign run by his persecutors--his enemies.

Coalition MPs Abetz, Bishop, Mirabella, Joyce, Hunt, Downer and Tony Abbott have (lightly) reproached Jones for his original comments about Gillard, but have defended him with their counter-attacks on the ALP.

They are trying to make this into a partisan issue.

Alan Jones does talk nonsense on climate change.

His position is that the notion of global warming is a "hoax” and “witchcraft”; that wind farms constitute a major health risk; and that the carbon tax would “bankrupt the nation”.

Jones concede that he should be seen as an entertainer rather than a journalist, and therefore exempt from any expectation of factual accuracy.

His form of entertainment is that of being a clown in a media circus. Clowns do whatever it takes - however ridiculous - to earn applause and an easy dollar.

It's bizarre that a man who is arguably the biggest, most influential loudmouth in the country could convince his audience that HE is under threat of being silenced.

It's truly "through the looking-glass" stuff....

'it's truly "through the looking-glass" stuff....'

the listeners of sqwarkback radio have a paranoid mentality. Jones is seen to standing up for Australia against the communists who are destroying Australia. They are horrified by what is happening to Australia with the communists in power.

Jones is the only one standing up to the destroyers. The rest of the media are all left wing. People are so frightened by the Reds in Canberra that they are hiding their life savings under their beds. Despite their fear they will not be broken by the fifth columnists and left wing thugs. They will fight to their last breathe.

In the pre-Gillard/Abbott period I would have agreed with Ken, that Jones has minimal impact on public opinion, although he's always held more sway with politicians than his reach could possibly justify.

Since we've had Gillard vs Abbott the combination of a female PM and Abbott-brand thuggery has changed the nature of political debate. It's become (even more) detached from reality and misogynistic.

Howard deliberately tapped into racism and validated it. Abbott doesn't want to be associated with misogyny, but it's a palpable part of his nature that has arguably validated the beliefs and behaviours of people like Jones.

He's whining now about Labor trying to associate him with Jones, abuse and violence, but the imagery of him standing on stage with Jones and all those nasty signs about Gillard clinched that association long ago.

The funny part of this cartoon is that if Alan was sitting on his money he would look much much bigger.
So there is some theatre to do and the carnival moves on.

Paul says "the listeners of sqwarkback radio have a paranoid mentality. "

just like the US populist conservatives

About that paranoid mentality which Jones has captured...

To paraphrase Voltaire, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities". So true...

Cory Bernardi, the SA Liberal Senator, is the archetype of a modern US-style conservative. From astroturf to God, in attitude and technique, he is the whole Tea Party package. It's the conservative core of the Liberal party.

Two things come to mind.
First the decoupling of rhetoric from any basis in reality. "Gillard is bad". Why? No reason, that's sufficient exclusively on the basis that Jones said so. Forget the notion of evidence, the little sadist said it, it must be right.
That's constructive discourse?
Second, that perceptive post from Lynn that shows why Jones has cried wolf once too often.
However, an after thought. Ken L's comment doesn't really work for me because we have a virtual hung parliament and a heap of marginal seats due for contesting next election.
It may be true that Jones doesn't have the same clout now as he had back in the mid nineties, but a few dozen votes in a few seats could decide a close election and in that case, the credibility of the ilk of Jones and co can come into play.

In The Australian Janet Albrechtson says that Jones is one of the country's most effective commentators, relentlessly holding the Gillard minority government to account.

Jones is well known for his fact-twisting distortions, dubious assertions and deceptions.

Albrechtson doesn't address that.

Alan will be happy that you are all talking about him. He likes that sort of thing....and wearing dresses.

Jones is a horse or March fly, which carries diseases that poisons the liberal civic tradition and Australian public life.

If what bothers him is politicians dishonesty, why does he never criticise Abbott?
Otherwise, we have to reconsider John Laws remark that he is a "sophisticated" practitioner of "hypocrisy".
Just as well it's only politicians and Labor politicians at that, who tell fibs?
Certainly never "cash for comments" media propagandists who never justify their "all crap no substances" assertions aimed at pushing a despicable political agenda.

I dont see much difference in what alan jones says and what we say as bloggers. Only that his voice is heard by more.

Odd... I don't recall anyone on this site claiming that a particular group was vermin or rapists. Or commenting on the death of a loved one...

There tends to be lots of ranting in the lollipop media (blogs) similar to radio trash.

So by "we" you mean the great unwashed of cyberspace. Well... yeah, there's certainly a lot of us... and probably lots of ranting as well.