The woke lynch mob has been busy recently, ramping up their perennial crusade to blackball centre-right voices in the media. For the past fortnight, the target has been their white whale: Veteran broadcaster Alan Jones.
Jones came under fire for a spray against Jacinda Ardern which was, effectively, a mangling of the old advice to ‘put a sock in it’. His words were poorly chosen, and Jones has since apologised. It should be noted as well that Jacinda Ardern not only accepted his apology, but did so graciously. Whatever you think of Ardern’s politics – and I am personally no fan – as a statesman she is a class act.
All other things being equal, that would have been the end of the matter. But when it comes to conservative commentators, the rules are different. Howls of righteous outrage ensue — and continue long after the original incident has been forgotten.
The Greens’ Adam Bandt moved in for the kill, launching a ‘petition’ that declared that ‘Alan Jones has no place on Australian radio’ and called on 2GB management to sack him. At the time of writing, Bandt’s apparent data-harvesting exercise has gathered a puny 16,800 ‘signatures’. For those playing along at home, that amounts to about a third of Bandt’s own primary vote in the seat of Melbourne at this year’s election, and far less than the approximately 500,000 Australians who tune into Alan Jones’ radio show every week.
Naturally, the left-wing commentariat chimed in. The ABC’s Virginia Trioli took to Twitter, musing that the problem with Jones was that he was ‘something akin to an anarchist’, using his ‘privilege and power to make people afraid, cynical and distrusting of democratic institutions such as governments, courts, schools and public servants’.
In other words, according to Trioli it’s not that public institutions are out of step with the community, rather it’s Australians who are too stupid to realise that a bloke on AM radio is manipulating them into being ‘afraid, cynical and distrusting’ of the warm embrace of the state.
More to the point, if there really is ‘privilege and power’ in Australian broadcasting, it is vested in the taxpayer-funded, omnipresent media juggernaut that is the ABC. Alan Jones’ voice relies on advertising revenue and the goodwill of people voluntarily tuning in. Trioli derives hers from other people’s money obtained by force of law.
Now, of course, Trioli obviously has the right to criticise Alan Jones – silly and hypocritical as those criticisms may have been. Similarly, the lily-livered companies that pulled advertising from Jones’ show were within their commercial rights to do so, and would be far from the first big corporates to engage in such asinine virtue-signalling.
But we should be concerned about the marauding band of militant leftists seeking to hound every dissenting voice off the air. And we should be deeply worried about parliamentarians like Adam Bandt using his taxpayer-funded platform to dictate the editorial decisions of a private media organisation.
And while Alan Jones may not be everyone’s cup of tea, in a free society there is a simple mechanism for that: Don’t listen to him.
But of course, it’s not about that. It isn’t enough that the left has the option of not listening to Jones, they need to prevent the rest of us from doing so.
And that’s the rub. It’s not even really about Alan Jones himself, it’s about his listeners, about the Australian mainstream that the left can’t bring itself to understand, let alone appeal to. For the likes of Bandt and Trioli, the large and growing audience for centre-right analysis and opinion is just a basket of deplorables which polite society should treat with a thinly-veiled disdain.
Above all, this is about the left’s frustration that despite their best efforts – and in the ABC’s case, over a billion dollars in annual public funding – people are still voting with their feet and flocking to commentators who espouse common sense, limited government, fundamental freedoms and the dignity of the individual. Identity politics, climate hysteria, Trump-related conspiracy theories and the rest of the guff churned out by other outlets just doesn’t rate.
It’s a lot easier to shut someone up than win an argument on the issues, and self-proclaimed ‘progressives’ would obviously prefer that Scott Morrison’s quiet Australians stayed quiet. But unfortunately for them, in Alan Jones there is one voice that will not go quietly.
Gideon Rozner is Director of Policy at the Institute of Public Affairs.
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