October 8, 2012
Alan Jones, the 2GB shockjock, is rather upset at the campaign in the social media against his comments about Julia Gillard. The campaign against hate speech aimed to pressure advertisers to 'boycott' the Alan Jones Breakfast Show. It has has been so successful that Macquarie Radio Network has indefinitely suspended all advertising on his 2GB breakfast show after a week of sustained pressure.
Alan Jones, the shock jock bullyboy par excellence, is outraged. The management of 2GB is furious. They say that they are the victims of ''21st century censorship, via cyber-bullying''. This fits in with Jones argument that it is the backlash against his comments which is at fault. In claiming that it is his own freedom of expression which is under attack he ignores the way he and the other shock jocks have consistently trashed the liberal ethos of civility in public debate.
Jones says that Australians:
do not have the right to interfere with that freedom of choice, or should not. And they don’t have the right, or should not, have the right to attempt cyberbullying of people who listen to this program or advertise on it ... These false petitions are anything but civilised. The hypocrisy is breathtaking .... If this is not illegal, it ought to be. As I said, if it happened anywhere else in society, this kind of bullying or harassment or intimidation or threatening conduct, the police would be called in.
Jones adds that the decision taken not to advertise had one purpose: to give innocent, hard-working people employing advertisers a break from cyber-terrorism, a break from bullying, a break from harassment.
It's about time the right wing shock jocks were made accountable for their attack dog mode of public speech, given the failure of the toothless media regulator---the Australian Communications and Media Authority, whose job it is to investigate alleged breaches of broadcast regulation, to call the vitriol for what it is. Remember Jone's inciting the Cronulla violence in 2005? It is still being resolved.
Jones and his grumpy old supporters, in trying to frame the issue as one of free speech being trammeled on by a lynch mob, look very defensive and anti-democracy. The campaign against Jones is yet another indication of the tremors taking place in the mediascape. The tremors are not just the global print media crisis in the face of the digital revolution resulting in cutting pay and reducing editorial staff because of a serious drop in revenue.
The traditional power relationships, which have been locked in for so long, are beginning to melt. Social media is providing the tools for people to organize to use them to make the shock jocks accountable for what they say in the public sphere on their syndicated radio program. More broadly, if the vacuum being left by the collapse of newspapers is resulting in the increased influence of social media, then it is also being filled by the PR industry's spin and misinformation.