The tsunami of support mobilised by cyber activists within the past fortnight, in the Alan Jones versus Julia Gillard misogynist and sexism jousting tournament, has established an Australian precedent in people power. With citizens standing up and exercising free speech en masse through the utilisation of online social media platforms, to voice their opinions against powerful media interests.
Never in Australian history has so much influence been welded by so many ordinary members of the Australian public, who collectively as a nation have broadcast their democratic ideals and disquiet about a matter of such intense political and media debate.
During a Young Liberals Sydney function on the 30th of September 2012, Alan Jones made ill-considered comments about Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Mr Jones stated to the audience that Ms Gillard’s recently deceased father “died of shame” as a result of her consistent “lies”.
A journalist who attended the Young Liberal’s event secretly captured the conversation on his smart phone and published the story in the mainstream media in the following days.
The ensuing public backlash against Mr Jones and his employer the Macquarie Radio Network 2GB was extraordinary.
A young left wing student and Change.org activist teamed with a journalism lecturer to launch a social media campaign calling on members of the public to boycott businesses who advertised with the 2GB radio station. They sourced the stations advertiser’s contact details from the radio station’s website and distributed this information to their followers on Facebook, Twitter and through their blogsites.
Left wing Australian activists “Destroy the Joint” campaign picture
The universal condemnation that followed the leaking of Alan Jones “dying of shame” comments about Mr Gillard resulted in sections of the Australian public “revolting” and expressing their raw, unedited views online through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Due to the significant consumer backlash against 2GB’s breakfast show with Mr Jones, radio executives were forced to run The Alan Jones show without advertisements. On the 7th of October 2012, Macquarie Radio Network Chairman Russell Tate ceased all sponsorships on the 2GB radio broadcast with Mr Jones citing; “21st century censorship, via cyber-bullying”.
This threat of significant reputational damage and loss of business of the radio shows sponsors, established a new benchmark in mobilised people power dictating corporate action.
The following day Mr Jones claimed on his 2GB radio show 2GB that he had been a victim of “cyber- harassment…cyber-bullying and cyber-terrorism.”
Mr Jones comments were ridiculed as he himself has developed a reputation for his ruthless radio and email based agenda campaigns against certain individuals and organisations.
The key question that remains is how credible and authentic is the social media campaign that was waged against Alan Jones, his radio station 2GB and their corresponding sponsors.
Little social commentary has canvassed the fact that characters such as Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse signed onto the vitriolic social media campaigns to “Destroy the joint.” In the future greater attention needs to focussed on the true objectives and genuine supporters of such social media activities.
Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbot weighed into the heated debate stating that he did believe that Mr Jones had indeed been a target of the campaign. He elaborated by saying “I think there are a lot of people who are looking for every possible opportunity to victimise and demonise people who they don’t agree with politically.”
On the same Monday, Federal Opposition Communications spokesperson, while attending an Alfred Deakin lecture at Melbourne University, publicly supported internet freedom and discussed the power of social media. Mr Turnbull is quoted as responding to the question concerning the backlash against 2GB and their sponsors saying that “Alan Jones got a taste of his own medicine.”
Mr Turnbull further elaborated his thoughts on the issue stating that Mr Jones had sought “to lead people’s revolts for many years. …this was indeed a popular revolt against vicious and destructive public discourse. …thousands of tweets…had a marked impact on his advertisers.”
He also claimed that given the transpiration of recent events, showed that people power was infinitely more persuasive than old media to hold rogue individuals and corporations to account. And as such Mr Turnbull suggested that the proposed Australian government and ACMA regulation of the media was less effective than the online people power platforms and therefore redundant and unnecessary.
Mr Turnbull encapsulated the nation’s mood perfectly by stating “The phenomenon is that thousands of people that hitherto had no voice….they were treated with contempt by the mainstream media, now they have their own megaphone.”
Former ALP cabinet minister Lindsay Tanners’ appearance on the ABC’s Q and A show on Monday evening echoed Mr Turnbull’s comments, saying “he finds it hard to get distressed about Alan Jones getting a taste of his own medicine.”
Additional comments by Mr Turnbull suggests that social media platforms gives individuals an opportunity to mobilise support in much the same fashion as a David and Goliath battle.
Mr Turnbull added “Power to the people… by the use by thousands of citizens afforded by them of the technology of social media… Such social media platforms can be harnessed in an effort to fight back against media bullies.”
Mr Turnbull postulated that through the collective mobilised actions of people through megaphone democracy will result in much greater positive outcomes for society than through the efforts of media regulators.
Cementing his argument Mr Turnbull remarked that it would be highly unlikely that the media regulator, the ACMA would have found a breach against Alan Jones comments of Ms Gillard’s father “dying of shame”. Previously they failed to find any breach of the code when Mr Jones encouraged listeners to “throw Ms Gillard out to sea in a chaff bag”.
Absolute hypocrisy was realised on the 9th of October when it was revealed that Ms Gillard and her Cabinet for many months supported controversial Speaker Peter Slipper, for his role in sending misogynist and sexist texts detailing distasteful comments about woman.
Common decency prevailed later that evening when Mr Slipper walked the high moral road by resigning with dignity from the Chair Spokesperson role, over his sexist and misogynist comments.
The level of political discourse within the Federal Parliament took a debased tone on the 10th of October when Ms Gillard emotionally attacked Tony Abbot, claiming he was a misogynist.
Later that evening Opposition Deputy Leader Ms Bishop claims that Australian woman “expected more of Ms Gillard.”
This point was highlighted that evening when a comedian Allan Billison attending a Labor Party CFME union fundraising event, made an offensive sexist joke about Tony Abbott’s female Chief of Staff (COS) Ms Credlin. Despite being present Ms Gillard and her ministers failed to respond to the sexist comments until the next day.
One outcome that stands out in this sordid tale is that of Julia Gillard’s hysterical tirade of abuse directed at Tony Abbott in Parliament in the past week, a situation that has showcased Ms Gillard at her worst. During the episode she presented to Australian voters as an unhinged and emotionally unbalanced individual.
Ms Gillard’s undignified performance, bullying tone, serial flip flopping and rampant hypocrisy has managed to totally destroy her credibility with male voters, single mothers and educated females.
In every other Australian workplace bullying is outlawed, in Victoria bullying is illegal. So why does the ALP continue to support Ms Gillard’s disgraceful behaviour?
The following day several ALP ministers and members of the “handbag hit squad” including Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan condemned and apologised for the sexist joke made about Mr Abbott’s COS at the previous evenings’ ALP union event.
On Friday the 13th of October Malcolm Turnbull detailed both an ominous and arousing response to the Jones versus Gillard series of events on the National Radio Conference saying that the power of social media in the Jones matter is both “inspiring and horrifying”.