Alan Jones, feminism and Australian politics

By Legal Eagle

Radio personality Alan Jones has been in trouble again, this time because he made some insensitive comments about the recent death of the father of Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Sydney University’s Liberal Club President’s Dinner. Jones suggested Gillard’s father ‘died of shame’ as a result of the lies his daughter had told the Australian public. Jones has since apologised to the Prime Minister, in a rather half-hearted way. Subsequently advertisers have been leaving Jones’ radio station, 2GB, in droves after pressure from a concerted campaign by a variety of social media groups (such as feminist group Destroy the Joint) such that the radio station has now chosen to run Jones’ show ad-free.

I started drafting this post days ago, but I have been resisting writing on the Jones issue. Part of my reason for not continuing with the post was that I don’t think much of Jones, and I felt that to talk about him is to is to give him credence. To be honest, as a Melbourner, I never really knew much about Jones until the Cronulla riots. And what I heard then didn’t impress me. It’s not that Jones is right-wing. I have friends who are right-wing and friends who are left-wing, and obviously enough, I blog with persons of a variety of political stripes. I don’t mind whether or not a person disagrees with me politically as long as they treat me civilly and with respect. What I dislike about Jones is this: he is an uncivil demagogue who plays on the fears of ordinary people. So I do not feel particularly sympathetic towards him. Jones should be able to accept the same hand that he deals others on a frequent basis. His complaint that he is being bullied seems more than a little hypocritical given that his radio schtick involves unpleasant and bullying comments about others. As Malcolm Turnbull said the other night in his Alfred Deakin lecture:

”Mr Jones has sought to lead ‘people’s revolts’ for many years. But this was indeed a popular revolt against vicious and destructive public discourse … It is difficult not to believe that he is getting a dose of his own medicine …

”Mr Jones has complained that he has been the victim of social media bullying, saying 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 …

”But Mr Jones believes his association with certain products will encourage people to buy them … If other people take the view that an association with Mr Jones will lead them not to buy those products, why are they not able to tell the advertiser of their view and encourage others to do the same?”

(Turnbull’s speech is interesting and rather good, by the way: it raises broader issues about liberty, freedom, privacy and internet — I recommend you have a read — he raises issues, among other things, about online indiscretions being indelible, and the risks and benefits associated with this).

Jones has a right to say what he did. I’m not suggesting that he should be regulated by law or censored (that way lies danger). But I also think that others in our society have an equal right to find what he said unpleasant and inappropriate, and to say that they do not like it and other things he has said. Moreover, the attempt in this case to resolve political issues via the marketplace is not new or unusual, and if I were an advertiser who was going to be tainted by association with Jones, I’d rather know about it than not.

I’d also suggest that both Jones and his listeners should think about Rabbi Hillel’s Silver Rule: “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” In short: what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Once you start being rude and uncivil to others, they feel at liberty to be rude and uncivil towards you, hence the passion with which some of Jones’ critics have pursued him. Mind you, SL noted on Facebook that Jones is lucky that he is being pursued by lefties because, by and large allegations as to his sexuality have not been used against him (and nor should people do so).

SL also made the point that perhaps the net effect of social media and online scrutiny will be that public figures will have to be more civil if they want to avoid this kind of backlash, and has noted to me privately, ‘the era of the anonymous city is over, and politeness codes will be back with a vengeance. That can be a good or bad thing, because I can well imagine social media being used as the electronic equivalent of a scold’s bridle, the stocks or the Roman practice of infamia.’ As an illustration of the effect of online scrutiny and criticism, the MC of the Liberal Club President’s Dinner, Simon Berger, had to resign from his position with Woolworths because he supplied a jacket made out of a chaff bag which Jones signed on the evening on the dinner. The chaff bag jacket was a reference to Jones’ frequent comments in his show that Gillard should be tied in a chaff bag and thrown out to sea. I feel sorry for Berger, notwithstanding the silly chaff bag stunt, because although he’s participated in all this, he’s done so in his private capacity, and he’s the one who has lost his job, not Jones. I have a terrible suspicion that Jones may be as indestructible as a cockroach in a nuclear winter. If the Cash for Comment scandal didn’t ruin him, I’m not sure what else will.

Pragmatically, however, I think there’s a broader issue. Taking a step back: why does Jones appeal to listeners? As Nick Cater noted in an article in The Australian the other day, many of the listeners who phoned into Jones’ show regarded him as the one person who listens to their concerns:

…More than a quarter expressed gratitude for his role as public defender: “Thank you for fighting for us,” said Catherine; “You’re the hope of the side, mate,” said John.

You see, I think Jones’ appeal is all about fear. More precisely, Jones listens to the fears of his listeners, and that is why many are so very loyal to him. I suspect that there are a certain group of people who have fears about a variety of issues in modern society, and who feel that their fears are brushed off by mainstream politicians (particularly, perhaps, by the incumbent Labor government). But Jones listens to them sympathetically. He agrees with them. At times, when convenient, he fans the fears. Many of these people would have probably been part of Labor’s traditional voting base, but became John Howard’s “battlers” because they felt that Labor no longer represented them.

Anne Summers’ speech (vanilla version) on misogyny and criticism of women in politics is revealing. I agree with Summers that some criticisms of Gillard are sexist (has a male politician ever been criticised for the size of his bum? for the jackets he wears? been accused of being “deliberately barren”? called a “cow”?) And I also believe that some of Jones’ on-air comments display a deep misogyny. Saying that Gillard should be put in a chaff bag is rude and childish, but not misogynist. However, in August this year, Jones told listeners, “She (the Prime Minister) said that we know societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating. Women are destroying the joint – Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly.” This infers he doesn’t like women to have political power or to participate in political process. I am on record as saying that I thought Christine Nixon’s evidence in the Bushfires Royal Commission was appalling — and I am also on record as saying that, although I was a fan of Gillard in the past, I’m disappointed about a number of things she and her government have done. But my problem with the performance of these women is not that they are women per se, whereas Jones’ comments suggest that his problem with them is simply that they are women, and that women should not participate in the Australian political process because they destroy our society. Well, he’s entitled to say that if he wants, but that is patently a misogynistic point of view.

But I am not sure that I agree with all of Summers’ speech. I noted the part of her speech where she gave examples of unpleasant criticisms of Gillard, which she said demonstrated that ‘the contempt for the prime minister has leached out of the political domain and into the daily lives of ordinary Australians’:

  • A few weeks ago in Darwin my friend was picked up from her hotel by a cab. The taxi driver said to her, totally out of the blue: “How could you be staying at the same hotel as the lying c**t”. Apparently Julia Gillard had stayed at the same hotel the week before when she was in Darwin to welcome the Indonesian president. The taxi driver continued: “Someone should have shot her while she was here. Everyone wants to do it.”
  • In July in Sydney a stallholder in the flower market at Flemington apologised to a friend of mine who was buying some flowers for having to add GST “for Julia”; he then followed it by saying “we’ve got to get rid of the bitch”.
  • Another friend told me about an encounter his mother, whom he describes as “quietly spoken and conservative-looking”, had at a medical office in Albury when she went to submit a form for her latest MRI. The man behind the counter said to her, unprovoked: “I’ll send it off to the red-haired bitch”.

Prima facie, there’s a gendered aspect to the criticisms Summers repeats above. The critics were all men, and described Gillard, a woman, in derogatory terms which were also gendered (referring to female dogs and female genitalia). Therefore it may be tempting to write off the criticisms as simple sexism which has been fanned by demagogues such as Jones. Where charismatic media demagogues are concerned I have observed a tendency to assume that anyone who expresses a similar opinion as merely a sheep following the party line without thought. I think this may be true of some, but I also think that the reality is somewhat more complex than this. Presenters such as Jones are successful precisely because they manage to channel and vocalise a sentiment which already exists in some sections of the community. If they did not reflect certain pre-existing sentiments within the community, they would not be so popular. Of course, that being said, by making such views public, the views in question are given social confirmation, and more readers, listeners or watchers may come to also participate in those views or in that section of the community. Public opinion and the opinions of the demagogue feed each other. But just because someone has a superficially similar opinion to Jones does not necessarily mean that the person has listened to Jones or been influenced by him. I have noted a tendency among Sydneysiders to overstate Jones’ influence. My Sydney-based grandparents have been ranting about him since my teenage years, but for many years I had no clue who this guy was. Clearly Jones has influence in Sydney and beyond, but it shouldn’t be over-estimated.

Returning to the three men whose criticisms Summers repeats, I suggest that it is dangerous for the Labor to simply brush off the criticisms of Gillard by these men as “sexist”, and that the Left should be wary of such superficial analyses. What should be done in these instances is to ask these men why they are so very unhappy and angry with Gillard, and what the source of their anger is. Now, it may be that perhaps these men are sexist, and that they simply hate Gillard because she’s a woman. But it also may be that their anger has more concrete and genuine bases which relate to fears of societal instability. Perhaps (to pick an example) they voted for Labor on the strength of Gillard’s assurance that her government was not going to introduce a carbon tax, and they would not have voted for her had they known that she was going to do so. Perhaps they are now afraid of the financial impact of the carbon tax on their families and feel personally duped and enraged. I don’t know whether this is the case: this is pure supposition on my part. But my point is that no one else knows why these men said what they did either. I think it’s a mistake to simply write off the reaction of these men as sexist without probing deeper to see if there is some genuine basis for the criticisms beyond pure sexism.

I should also note that one of the things which has rendered this saga so very toxic has been the underlying political landscape with the Federal minority Labor government struggling in the polls. To be honest, I think no one in this saga comes out lily white. On the one hand, Labor has said that Jones’ commentary is symptomatic of a broader misogyny regarding Julia Gillard. And as I already noted, Anne Summers has made a similar argument. Thus, when Jones’ comments were reported, Labor immediately attempted to link Jones’ comments with Tony Abbott, the LNP Opposition leader, who emerges in polls as being substantially less appealing to female voters. Female Labor Parliamentarians have long said Abbott has a problem with women in authority, which prompted Abbott’s wife and daughters to face the press last week and deny this. The Opposition has complained that Labor did not attack former Labor speechwriter Bob Ellis for his unpleasant comments about Gillard’s father’s death, and it has also protested that persons associated with Labor have made comments in the past about LNP members which are equally as unpleasant as Jones’, so there is an element of hypocrisy about all of this. And, despite the accusations of misogyny against former Speaker Peter Slipper detailed below, Abbott has said he will happily accept Slipper’s vote in his favour.

But the sad reality is that both parties are prepared to let unpleasant comments and worse go past the keeper if it advances their political fortunes. Remember that when Jones was found by ACMA to have incited violence towards Lebanese and Middle Eastern Australians, both John Howard and Kevin Rudd said that they’d continue to support Jones and appear on his show.

The immediate plot has thickened even further yesterday when the Opposition sought to oust the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Slipper from his position. Slipper is a former LNP Member of Parliament who accepted the minority Labor government’s offer to sit as Speaker so that the Labor Party’s position was less precarious. Slipper is now being sued by a former staffer for sexual harassment, and, as part of that trial, a variety of lewd text messages allegedly sent from Slipper to Ashby concerning women’s genitalia and other matters were tendered in court yesterday. Abbott said that Slipper was unfit to sit as Speaker because of his lewd behaviour towards women and his misogyny, but the motion to remove Slipper failed by one vote (69 to 70). When speaking about Labor’s continuing support of Slipper, Abbott said the Labor Government “should already have died of shame”. (One must wonder whether this apparent reference to Jones’ earlier insult was intentional, or merely an instance of foolish foot in mouth disease? Abbott claims it was unintentional. Whether intentional or unintentional, it illustrates why I continue to have concerns about the prospect of Abbott being Prime Minister.) Gillard responded furiously to Abbott by saying that it was inappropriate for him to lecture her on misogyny: “I say to the Leader of the Opposition I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man [Abbott]. I will not. And the Government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever.” She also said, “Well can I indicate to the Leader of the Opposition the Government is not dying of shame, my father did not die of shame. What the Leader of the Opposition should be ashamed of is his performance in this Parliament and the sexism he brings with it.” Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that I’m a rather cynical person, but I have to say that, when I initially watched the speech, I saw it primarily in functional terms as a tactic to distract from the fact that Labor has remained in power by supporting two individuals, Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson, against whom very serious allegations had been made. This is also how the professional political commentators generally saw it as well. But, as these two pieces note, this is not how many other people saw it; and Gillard’s speech seems to have resonated with many. I’d say that Abbott is not regarded with respect by many progressive middle-class, educated women (and some men), if my Facebook feed yesterday was any indication; they see Abbott as an unpleasant bully, and were delighted to see Gillard put him in his place. Apparently the speech has also received positive international attention. Fortunately for all, perhaps, Slipper has since tearfully resigned from the position of Speaker and will sit on the cross bench as an independent.

Nonetheless, Overland blog had an important and pithy reminder for all those cheering Gillard’s speech:

If winning or losing in politics was merely a matter of who had the best one-liners to throw along with their stones, then Gillard won yesterday hands down. But politics is not simply about whip-smart wisecracks and cutting speeches. It’s about policies and practices, legislation and social organisation.

Yesterday, the Gillard government also passed welfare reforms through the Senate that will cut single parent payments between $56 and $140 a week. This is a measure that will disproportionately affect women, and particularly those in the sectors of society that the Labor Party is traditionally supposed to represent. And yet, when the heavily debated reforms finally came to a vote in the Senate, only the Greens and Independents Madigan and Xenophon voted against it.

It’s been said before but it bears repeating: standing up for women’s rights is not just about calling sexism for what it is. It’s about agitating for specific change. It’s about making concrete demands of society and of the government. So if this is feminism that Gillard is representing in parliament, then I want to know, whose feminism is it? I don’t care how many sharp speeches she makes: her government is making life for some of the most vulnerable women in Australia even harder than it already is, and I want no part in it.

Very nicely said.

My fear is this: that the net result of all of this will not be the decline of Jones, but instead an increasing polarisation in Australian society where a certain alienated group of people (the  Jones “battlers”) feels that another group of people in society (the educated, middle-class “elite”) gangs up on them, fails to listen to their fears, and polices who they can listen to on the radio. I feel like both major political parties are feeding off and exacerbating this polarisation so that they can get the votes of each sector of society (Labor from the anti-Jones groups, Liberals from the pro-Jones groups) but that this polarisation is to the net detriment of Australia. I would suggest also that assuming people who listen to Jones are stupid, sexist, ignorant and racist is not a good idea either. Of course it is true that some listeners may exhibit those characteristics. But there may also be genuine bases for certain fears which may be overlooked if you simply write people off as ‘sexist’ and the like without probing more deeply to see what the basis for the fear really is. And surely, if one takes Labor’s traditional background into account, then they should be concerned not only to listen to the concerns of middle-class educated persons such as myself, but also others who are less educated and less privileged, up to and including Jones’ “battlers”. Genuine fears or criticisms which should be at least given some consideration risk being overlooked, simply because they may be expressed in infelicitous terms. Moreover, the best way to change people’s minds is not to tell them they are stupid, but to listen to their fears, and work out whether any part of those fears which may have a basis, and attempt to allay any of those fears which are based on a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge.

The way things are going, my ultimate fear is that we will again see something like One Nation or another form of extremism rise in this country. When you don’t let people have an outlet to speak their fears (whether it be about carbon tax or refugees or whatever) those fears fester, and become ugly. Ideas exposed to the light of day become disinfected. Now, personally, I don’t think Jones is a healthy outlet for those fears (he tends to exacerbate fears rather than speak the voice of reason, and he closes down callers who attempt to inject some sense into the debate, as the transcript of the show which was found to incite the Cronulla riots shows). But the more I think about it, the more I think that any attempt to close Jones down for good may be dangerous and may backfire. It may actually concrete his appeal among his select audience. His audience will think, “Look at the middle class left-wing elites ganging up on him; they are trying to close down our spokesperson, and close down our voices.” The goal is to lessen Jones’ demagogic appeal, not to produce the paradoxical outcome of increasing it and widening gulfs in our society. Thus, I’d advise people who wish to unseat Jones altogether to beware unintended consequences, tread carefully, and remember the Streisand effect (i.e. that attempting to suppress certain information may lead to increased exposure as people flock to see what all the fuss is about).

I think all parties should back away from this kind of polarising, ugly debate. All parties should attempt to resist and reject commentators who make cheap jibing shots at the other side as a way of advancing political dialogue. (Yes, I include the Catherine Devenys of the world with the Alan Joneses here. I am on record as disliking Catherine Deveny‘s approach almost as much as Alan Jones’.) I want our Federal Parliament to consider the issues that matter in a civil and respectful manner. I want our politicians to get on with actually governing our country for the good of all people, and I want them to truly represent those they govern by listening to all sides of the story, not just those who agree with them.


  1. Posted October 11, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, kvd, for clarifying why I never listen to talkback radio (it’s for music, as far as I’m concerned).

    In fact, I don’t even listen to BBC Radio 4 over here…

  2. kvd
    Posted October 11, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] – Hmmm, hummn, yes I see what you mean, and I tend to agree, but you see, the important thing is that no Prime Minister should lie to the public, and be allowed to get away with it.

    Rinse and repeat.

  3. kvd
    Posted October 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    SL you obviously do less driving than I do, or enjoy mindless music more than I do. Or maybe it’s the wallowing in the filth that I prefer – who knows or cares? But the important thing is that no Prime Minister should lie to the public.

  4. Mel
    Posted October 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    But on a more serious note, I guess I agree with most if not all of the core feminist program – abortion on demand, generous statutory p/maternity leave, a ban on sex discrimination and so on.

    However I’ve been seriously repulsed by the behaviour of uber-feminist activists such as those on the internet. Here’s Mindy, who occasionally pleasures us with a visit, in an OP at Hoyden About Town:

    “Men are at more risk of violence. Sort of if you squint a bit. Yes, men are more at risk of violence from other men. How about you guys stop hitting each other and trying to prove who has a bigger dick? Get out the rulers and get on with it.” (my emph.)

    Can anyone explain to me how toxic crap like this differs from Alan Jones’ style nastiness?

  5. John H.
    Posted October 11, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, kvd, for clarifying why I never listen to talkback radi

    I don’t listen to Radio National anymore SL but some of the more specialised talkback programs can be good value.

  6. Posted October 11, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    [email protected], I agree that there’s not much difference and that ‘toxic crap’ can be found in all corners of politics, regardless of the merit of the particular point of view.

    You make an interesting point @32 about how incentives don’t work if they aren’t aligned with capacity and opportunity. Figureheads such as radio shock jocks or prominent bloggers provide the opportunity for people to revel in the ‘toxic crap’. However I wonder to what extent such emotional partisanism is a necessary incentive to get people involved in important political issues that might otherwise struggle to attract sufficient attention. There might be issues with the format and execution of Q&A, but at least the show has exposed its demographic to the experience of interactive politics.

  7. TerjeP
    Posted October 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Desipis. I think I’ve got it now!

    “poisonous culture” ~ bad phrase to use, sign of being vitriolic.

    “toxic crap” ~ okay to use. Presumably because it ends with the poo word.

    Any more of this subtle rules of decorum you can help with?

  8. Posted October 11, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    I was using quotes for the reason that I was referring to the same concept as Mel but not necessarily adopting the phrase as a description of the concept that I’d use. But yes, I’ll say it’s probably not the best term to use. There’s also the issue that I’m generally trying to focus on the comments, rather than the people in my criticism. I think it in part goes back to the post and points being missed. When people try to emphasise their emotion or perhaps group identity, they are causing their quite valid points to be lost in the language.

  9. Jolly
    Posted October 11, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    @ Check Ling ..”Gillard has made quite a few mistakes. Sure, she is not as robust and politically astute as we had hoped..” You must be joking, mate!
    Gillard is the most conniving, calculating, scheming and back-stabing politician in Australian history. She is as tough as they come and what is most amazing is that she is also playing the gender card. What I’d call ‘having the cake and eating it’ Remember her steel nature comes from the coal mines of Wales. She is a tough cookie, alright. Jones is a a bully who delights in dishing out but can’t take it himself. C Deveny is delusional and abusive with not an iota of good manners. Abbott and Gillard deserve each other. Meanwhile who is managing the country? Hmmm … we are paying these politicians to entertain us in Parliament. The only people I truly feel sorry for are the Aboriginal people. After having robbed them of their land,culture, language and dignity, we (White Australia) have now turned on each other. What a sad mob.

  10. TerjeP
    Posted October 12, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    You must really hate football.

  11. Chek Ling
    Posted October 12, 2012 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Dear Jolly, our dominant attitude towards the Aboriginal peoples until the recent decade or two is a good example of how the White Australia culture has developed. Never mind two hundred years of oppression, the killing for revenge, convenience or sport (Inga Clendinnen), we blamed it all on them for not willing or unable to do what we do so well for ourselves. That is we only see what is convenient to us.

    The remains of the White Australia mentality is still discernible from time to time. Charlie Teo (a brain surgeon of some note) drew a lot of animosity, albeit largely from certain social strata, from his Australia Day address. But Mao’s last dancer earns demi-cult hero adulation. The Chinese are okay if they provide some cultural exoticness, but not criticism of the white hand that has given them a place in this country.
    The Australian today reveals that the conservative high court judges had helped the working class never-quite-made-it-to-the-gentry Kerr to dismiss Whitlam. Twenty years on the born to rule mentality is still with blokes like Abbott and Jones. Mungo McCullum wrote in the Monthy that this business of “character” not befitting that of Prime Ministership started in 1994 when Latham began to knock over Howard in the polls initially. It was then that the muck racking on Latham started. The same tactic has been used to try to derail Gillard.
    That our political leaders are what they are says a lot about our culture. Look at some of the younger ones, Sophie M for instance.

    It seems too many of us have the addiction to bond with the winning mob, just like the million voters who bonded with Pauline Hanson. (Made Hanson quite well off, though only a small shadow of what we offer up to Jones.)

  12. TerjeP
    Posted October 13, 2012 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    The only times I have found myself truly passionate about football was at a game of soccer where one of my kids was playing. I can get tribal only blood loyalty is involved. And with out some bond of loyalty to one of the teams I don’t think you can properly enjoy the spectacle.

  13. stackja
    Posted October 13, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Mel: “the Taliban” this name-calling again.

  14. marks
    Posted October 13, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Terjep @ 27 “…You may not agree with them but you know where they stand….” about A Jones and A Bolt.

    I used to lurk and occasionally comment on Bolt’s blog.

    Sometimes I agreed with him, and sometimes not. However, the reason I have not bothered to keep up with whatever he was saying is precisely because I know where he stands. What he says is entirely predictable, unchanging, and never having to admit error. Therefore going there is like experiencing one’s own ‘Groundhog Day’.

    It seems to me that the dictum: If they agree with me, they are superfluous, and if they disagree with me, they are pernicious, applies to Bolt, Jones and all the rusted on. (Apologies to Abbe Sieyes)

  15. Chris
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile who is managing the country? Hmmm … we are paying these politicians to entertain us in Parliament.

    As usual its the public service who keep things running reasonably smoothly regardless of what the government are doing.

    LE – I think the only reason the ALP are calling a truce is because of the very badly timed joke at the CFMEU dinner. If that hadn’t occurred they’d still be going hard on Abbott.

  16. Will
    Posted October 16, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    A thoughtful post, thank you. I just want to comment on one thing.

    Personally, I think you bend over backwards a little too far in trying to imagine that there might be nuggets of respectable protest in clearly disproportionate and arbitrary levels of vitriol and inventive cited above. We can certainly make allowances for people to be a bit inarticulate or perhaps lacking the proper vocabulary to adequately express their ideas. But that only works up to a point. Beyond that point, applying a charitable principle to insert nuance and respectability where none can be found is just a kind of bad faith.

    Sociologists and psychologists are best placed to address these issues of parsing inchoate and emergent alienation into something tractable and meaningful. So let’s leave that to them and there’s lot’s of studies on the reactionary side of political cognition.

    Also, I don’t think most people who reject talk radio as an unserious reactionary backwater, as I do, really assume the listeners really lack agency or originating grievances. Obviously there is a symbiotic relationship there, and, of course, even assuming a lot of oblique framing and amplifying heat, that still involves tapping into existing feelings. I don’t think anyone would deny something like that.

    The point isn’t that these people are just stupid – but more that they have inhabited this universe for a long time and succumbed to a kind of epistemic closure whereby they join crescendos of outrage that really aren’t comprehensible to people outside their own epistemic bubble. It makes perfect, proportionate sense in the bubble but nowhere else.

    As for the carbon tax, certainly people are entitled to make noise and clamour about major broken promise and what it means to their understanding of the bonds of trust between leaders and the polity. However, the reality of the chronology of events does not support that reading of a promise, reliance, vote and then betrayal.

    A few points:
    -Almost all Jones listeners are Liberal and National voters;
    -Maybe once they were blue-collar Labor, but that has dubious relevance here;
    -The promise was made right before the election in a paper;
    -The promise has made simultaneous to a promise to implement a carbon price;
    -Most of the publicity of the promise occurred in the aftermath of the election;

    All of that strongly suggests that outrage was tied to promotion and post-facto framing by the conservative media, not person reliance and a feeling of betrayal.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Skepticlawyer » ‘Manners cost nothing’ on October 19, 2012 at 5:05 am

    […] delivered with eyebrow arched, and often over the rim of a teacup) by various recent events: Alan Jones undone by someone recording an ill-mannered comment and then broadcasting it, the sacking of Reddit […]

  2. […] is no stranger to the need to apologise: he recently had to apologise for comments in relation to Julia Gillard’s deceased […]

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