Alan Jones is no stranger to controversy. Foot in mouth disease is a common affliction for the Sydney radio talkback host, but so far the ailment hasn’t proven fatal for the guy who seems to have nine lives. His most recent indiscretion, stupid, offensive, drongo-like comments made at a recent Sydney University Liberal Club function where Jones was guest speaker. These comments as you will have already heard, said that the Prime Minister’s father “died of shame” because of his daughters’ lies.
The offensive part of the equation is of course the use of the recent death of Julia Gillard’s father. It is often said in political discourse that if you make comments about a politician you leave the family out of it. That is certainly the only way to go and you certainly never, not even when it’s your worst political enemy, never ever use the death of a family member to make fun of or even make a political point, it’s common decency.
The “lying” part of the equation is fair game, but not when used in the same sentence or the same breath as the death of a family member of any politician or even any person you are talking to or about. Surprise, surprise though, all politicians lie- Labor, Liberal, Nationals, Greens, Independents, that’s politics even though we hope against all hope that it doesn’t have to be that way. But in talkback radio you’ll generally only ever hear about the lies of one side of politics, that’s the nature of the beast.
On Sunday, when everyone was going about their weekend activities, Alan Jones decided he would come out and apologise, but apologise he did not. Instead we had close to an hour of a speech, followed by questions which felt more like “sorry I was caught” rather than “sorry, I was a bit of an arse to the Prime Minister and I apologise.”
The largely compliant media in attendance at the Sunday media conference sat there and allowed Jones to drown out his “apology” with more attacks on the Prime Minister and her government, fair game in the normal course of politics, but not when you are supposed to be showing contrition. What was needed was an unqualified apology, no nonsense, instead we got 98% rubbish and two percent “well I was stupid.”
When the events came to light, social media went into a spin, with people quick to air their displeasure at the incredibly wrong comments uttered by Alan Jones at the function. That escalated fast, as it has a tendency to do on social media, into a viral campaign urging both listeners and sponsors to boycott the station that airs his program, 2GB as well as those radio stations that syndicate his program.
One of the loudest proponents of the hashtag #boycott2GB was outspoken political and social commentator and comedian Catherine Deveny, whose own comments in the past have caused mass offense among those on the opposite side of the political spectrum and even to a former employer. In no way should this legitimise or draw away from the truly despicable comments made by Jones. However, the involvement of Deveny drew some of the attention away from Alan Jones’ words and unfortunately in the minds of some, would have legitimised the comments of Jones.
At the very least it was a distraction from the cause and abject hypocrisy from Ms Deveny who is more than capable of giving it to public and political players. The point is, nobody, not Jones nor Deveny should say such horrible things about other people. Both will no doubt continue to do so.
Despite this, the campaign at least as far as targetting sponsors and advertisers on the program and calling for them to withdraw financial support, has continued to gain traction and support. Also, some stations that syndicate the program have today decided to drop future broadcast of the show.
Mercedes Benz, Challenger, Lexus Parramatta, Freedom Furniture and Woolworths have pulled sponsorship or advertising from the program since yesterday’s insincere apology. It seems unlikely that sponsors withdrawing will lead to Mr Jones being taken off the air. Keep in mind the similar example of Kyle Sandilands, no stranger to heinous comments, who’s still on the radio talking trashy rubbish, even if ACMA’s restrictions have made the show slightly less absurd.
So far there’s been no luck and there is unlikely to be any hope that 2GB will sack the broadcaster, nor should he be sacked, forced or feel the need to resign. Also, he owns part of the commercial radio station and is their most popular host so it would prove very difficult, though not impossible to show him the door.
The only other hope, and it is a vain one, is that enough people decide to tune out from tomorrow when Alan Jones returns to the airwaves after the long weekend. Most of his audience are rusted on who wouldn’t tune out for just about any sum of money that could be imagined. There too will always be a market for the majority of his comments which are not controversial.
In the most unusual phenomenon, there will also be a number of people, no fan of Alan Jones and what he has to say, who will continue to tune into the program for the simple purpose of being able to bag the guy when he says something they don’t like. The funny thing is that they are contributing to keeping him on air.
It’s unlikely that Alan Jones’ program will collapse. He won’t lose all the sponsors of the show and there’s even a strong likelihood that the sponsors lost will be replaced. The social media campaign, as successful as it has been in garnering numbers to both get Jones off air and get sponsors to cancel commercial deals, will most likely amount to nothing.
Oh, and that non-apology will remain in perpetuity one of the worst attempts at saying sorry in the history of Australia. People will be dusting off the archives in 100 years and it will have pride of place among the absurd.
The good thing is that Alan Jones has another opportunity to apologise on air tomorrow. But do you think he will take it? Don’t hold your breath.