08 October 2012


There are times when you have to wonder about the self-awareness - or egregious narcissism - of some public figures.

In a post yesterday I noted that the Macquarie Radio Network, host to 'cash for comments' shockjock Alan Jones, had wrapped itself in the flag after belated criticism that Jones had gone too far.

Unsurprisingly Jones has adopted the same stance, recurrently referring to "cyber-bullying" and "cyber-terrorism" before going on to complain that
if it happened anywhere else in society, this kind of bullying or harassment or intimidation or threatening conduct, the police would be called in. If it happened at a rugby league grand final, if it happened at a restaurant, or a picture theatre, this behaviour would not be condoned
He seems to have rather missed the point.

He's gained notoriety - and apparently a fortune - from invective that expresses his misogyny and his political bias. He has behaved, in my opinion, as a bully. He's denigrated a range of women. It's all very personal and it's unsurprising to read reports that he characterised a Mercedes-Benz executive as a "gutless wonder" after the company asked for the return of Jones' sponsored car.

Are we to give him a special licence for hatred and personal abuse ("Ditch The Witch", Lebanese Muslim men are "vermin" who "infest our shores" and "rape and pillage our nation", Women are "destroying the joint") merely because he has access to a microphone and a willingness to push boundaries? Liebling critiqued US rhetoric about freedom of the press by commenting that the freedom was enjoyed by those who own a press (and have the money for the associated lawyers). To use the words of one of my students, Jones should take a spoonful of cement and harden up rather than emoting about victimisation by bullies or complaining that criticism of him "drips with hatred". (His suggestion that women should be placed in a chaff bag and dumped out at sea is, apparently, not hateful.)

What is saddening about the latest 'Jones Affair' is that attention has focused on the spleen, bile and grudging apology by the shock jock. There has been little sustained discussion of the behaviour of his audience at the Sydney University Liberal Club and little of community expectations about political discourse. The Affair continues to feed Jones' narcissism rathetr than enrich public understanding of questions such as the borders between public and private life or the responsibility of people have access to a microphone and a very permissive network. We should be considering responses to Jones' comments in relation to documents such as the Finkelstein Report and disagreements about visas for figures such as Geert Wilders or Taji Mustafa of Hizb ut-Tahrir.