Jonestown v. the Beltway

There’s a bit of a contrast in the reaction to radio shock jock Don Imus’ racist slurs in the US and the ACMA verdict on Alan Jones’ Cronulla broadcasts.

Imus has been pulled from MSNBC, and advertisers have deserted him while pols like Obama have called for his sacking, with only the awful Joe Lieberman vehement in support. [Lots more on Imus from Pam at Pandagon.] Update: Imus has been fired.

What do we get from our political leaders?

Political leaders, by comparison, have so far fallen over themselves to support Jones. John Howard would not comment directly on the remarks that ACMA had found breached the commercial radio broadcasters’ code, but reiterated yesterday: “I don’t believe that he (Jones) is an agent of prejudice and discrimination in the community, that some have implied,” he told journalists in Canberra in a clear slight of ACMA’s report. Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd was less effusive. His comments, while not defending Jones, acknowledged his importance.

“There are individual observations by Mr Jones which I may radically and violently disagree with. That also goes to other broadcasting outlets as well. But in a free country we have a free media,” Rudd said yesterday.

“My job as someone trying to project their views to the rest of the Australian people is to use the nation’s media as it is presented to me.”

Helen Coonan followed the PM by describing Jones as an outstanding broadcaster who had made an “indelible” mark on the industry.

She also refused to support ACMA or its chairman, Chris Chapman, after an attack by Jones and Singleton.

Frankly that’s pathetic. And Rudd’s comments are disgraceful. We’re not stuck with the media we have rather than the media we want unless pollies lean over backwards to condone repulsive behaviour, and ignore it when it’s called as such according to the law of the land. And how meaningful is that law?

It is more likely that the network will be relying on ACMA to look for a mutually acceptable compromise, especially when Coonan, Howard and even Rudd made it clear they don’t regard the breaches as a hanging offence.

That could take the form of a suitably bland, meaningless apology or a fine that would not trouble the network or Jones’ considerable cash flow. The only collateral damage would be to Jones’ considerable ego, but then that has shown a remarkable capacity to recover.

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Posted in Ethics, media, politics, Race
55 comments on “Jonestown v. the Beltway
  1. Christine Keeler says:

    I have to admit that I didn’t quite get the immediate racist slant on Imus’ statement about “nappy headed hos” (other than suggesting that a perfectly nice, intelligent and respectable women’s college basketball team engaged in the sort of behaviour more associated with evangelical preachers and US senators), but the ABT findings on Jones were crap.

    His comments not racist? Of course they were, in the ugliest possible way.

    As for Howard, just more dogwhistle politics. Crikey yesterday carried a highly perceptive story (i.e I agree with it) basically suggesting that the NSW ALP has decided that Jones simply isn’t worth the trouble because his audience are all crotchety old pricks who will never change their vote anyway. I agree (see, Crikey really is most perceptive).

    Now, combine JHo’s usual puppy calls with Maxine McKew’s observations about the actual, inyerface reality of multicuturalsim who gives a flying fuck about cricket rugby league you say? Australians in places like, um, oh, let’s see, Bennelong for instance http://blogs.news.com.au/news/blogocracy/index.php/news/:

    Thursday night shopping on Rowe Street, Eastwood, in the heart of the federal electorate of Bennelong, is a lively slice of modern Sydney. The voices jostling to be heard on Rowe Street are as likely to be talking in Cantonese, Mandarin or Korean as they are in English.

    The Eastwood Public School, which dominates half the street, conducts Chinese language and singing classes on Saturday mornings.

    This is a near perfect snapshot of how the country is changing. The monoculturalism that John Howard would recall from his early days as a parliamentarian more than 30 years ago has collapsed.

    The upshot is I think we should a pay heed to Cossie’s ponderings about inter-generational change, i.e Howard’s getting on and his world view is past it’s use by date; and the same for Jones and his audience.

  2. Christine Keeler says:

    … the upshot being that, while no one’s prepared to mention it, JHo’s going to retire next term regardless, everyone knows it, so why stick with a bunch of pointless mediocrities like Cossie, Downer, Vale, Nelson and co?

  3. j_p_z says:

    “Imus has been pulled from MSNBC, and advertisers have deserted him while pols like Obama have called for his sacking…”

    I’ve always thought Imus was both a bore and a boor (and in light of this, it seems, maybe even a Boer too!), and if his sponsors want to boot him, then that’s just the free market at work, and not a free speech issue per se. But for Obama, a presidential candidate, to call for his sacking (I wasn’t aware of that) is a rather ugly development, as it raises the specter of government interference in speech, and from the highest levels, no less. Granted Obama has a right to express his personal displeasure over the thing like anybody else, but to abuse his position in such a way does not speak well of him or of a mature sense of politics. If I was a clever operator like, say, oh, let’s say Karl Rove for instance, I’d use this to make Obama look almost as bad as Imus.

  4. Christine Keeler says:

    But for Obama, a presidential candidate, to call for his sacking (I wasn’t aware of that) is a rather ugly development, as it raises the specter of government interference in speech, and from the highest levels, no less.

    You’re making too much out of it. “Ugly”? Surely this is the sort of thing candidates do as a matter of course when positioning themselves. Nothing more than a fairly mainstream personal opinion (one held by the sponsors as it turns out).

    He hasn’t actually called for ‘limits on freedom’, unlike some preznits: http://www.rtmark.com/old/more/articles/bushdallas0522bush1bushsite.htm

    Go Hillary!

  5. Nabakov says:

    If I was a clever operator like, say, oh, let’s say Karl Rove for instance,

    I think the mojo has rather gone away there now.

    Which sorta bounces back into the free market observation about Imus. Yes the market and the political climes are a changing and if a self-professed professional media dude like him can’t read which way the wind is blowing, then he deserves to be dangled in the breeze. And he won’t be alone shortly. A new Kondratiev wave is swelling up but this one won’t be like the others.

    I also hear you about Obama. The one thing politicians striving to seize the centralist position should never never ever do is demand media censorship. It’s one of the basic immutable laws of politics as practiced now – never piss off people with audiences bigger than your direct mailing list.

    Of course once Imus is definitely down and out, then Obama should join everyone else in putting the boot in. But in more in sorrow than anger. And more in gleeful bitchy payback than either. But only once the varmit has stopped squirmed.

  6. Phil says:

    Absolutely not good enough, but then again what would you expect from the snivelling creeps who populate Govt in this country. They have a friend in Jones.

    And Rudd? I wrote an e-mail, I’m sure he’ll listen((sarcasm)).

  7. The ACMA appear to have given Jones little more than a slap on the wrist with their findings. David Flint & co. can complain long and loud about the supposed blow to ‘freedom of speech’ effected by the ACMA, but the findings and recommendations appear to be symbolic than practical.

    Perhaps Rudd need not tread so carefully in his attempts not to offend the rabid blue-rinse fans of Alan Jones – after all, how many of these people are likely to vote Labour in any case? Jones and Singleton will be in the trenches some time soon, slinging mud at Chapman (and Rudd, for that matter) and singing from the Liberal’s hymn sheet irrespective of Rudd’s sycophancy.

  8. Another Kim says:

    Don Imus has now been fired by CBS.

  9. Katz says:

    Could you imagine Jones’s sponsors puliing their ads voluntarily from his program? What a joke.

    I imagine that Jones’s sponsors form a fair representation of some of the biggest businesses in Australia. And I therefore imagine that at present these sponsors see it to be in their commercial interests to continue to act as enablers of Alan Jones.

    Could it be that the people who find Alan Jones to be an ugly fistula in the national rectum are so deficient in commercial clout that there decision to withdraw patronage of those businesses can be laughed off as an idle threat?

    Could it be that Jones’s commercial sponsors are so wedded to Jones’s vision splendid of an Australia permanently frozen in the 1950s that they are prepared to wear the consequences of an erosion of their profit line?

    Could it be that the folk who claim they dislike Jones are too lazy to do anything useful to maketheir sentiments manifest?

    Is it time for Jones’s commercial sponsors to be taught a lesson in commercial reality?

  10. Phil says:

    Yep, compare and contrast the response by sponsors and networks to the Imus thing. The responses by our collective leadership to the Jones slap on the limp wrist is pathetic.

  11. Chris says:

    Perhaps Rudd need not tread so carefully in his attempts not to offend the rabid blue-rinse fans of Alan Jones – after all, how many of these people are likely to vote Labour in any case?

    Not many according to a poll that the Australia Institute conducted last year. It found that Jones listeners are nearly twice as likely as average Australians to vote for the Coalition. It also found that 70% of them are over 50 and that 1/3 are over 65.

  12. Andrew E says:

    Just once, I’d like to see a politician of moderate views decide: nah, there is no point going on Jones, there’s nobody in his audience I need to speak to and he’s a rude little bastard, so stuff him. There’d be a bit of abuse (if Jones went overboard you could collect; winning defo suits isn’t necessarily something he’s good at, apparently), but if you could stand strong it’d be worth being the iceberg that took him apart.

  13. Anthony says:

    It’s interesting that most newspapers, and Kim and commentators on this thread, characterise Imus’s comment about ‘nappy headed hos’ as a ‘racist’ slur, which seems to suggest it’s otherwise OK to call women ‘hos’ – or at least some women, if not this particular Rutgers basketball team.

  14. Guy says:

    Yeah, Rudd’s comments could have been stronger but he was obviously also conscious of keeping his head down at a time when he is under fire on another front.

    In contrast, I think Howard’s and Coonan’s comments were disgraceful and obviously partisan – Rudd’s comments may have been weak but I don’t agree that they were “disgraceful”.

  15. tigtog says:

    Anthony, good call. Imus’ comments were sexist as well as racist. What a revolting specimen.

  16. Another Kim says:

    Anthony, I believe that the women the slur was directed at took the insult both ways. There are white and black women on that team.

    One amusing side point.

    Every accuser who contributed to Imus’s well deserved farewell has put just as egregious insults out there in the public forum.

    Let’s see how this particular dust cloud settles.

  17. funkypaws says:

    What really disgusts me is the blatant double standard – if any muslim were to come out and say something even half as inflammatory Howard and Co. would be all over them for making threats to Australia’s way of life, being un-Australian, not deserving to even lick the shoes of the nice Australians who let them live here dammit! Not only that, but each and every muslim would be held responsible and told that those nasty views must be “weeded out” of the community to demonstrate loyalty. We’ve seen it happen every time Sheik Hillali opens his mouth (and then proceeds to put his foot straight in, admittedly).

    When I have finished putting my 2 cents in here, I will be going to the 2GB website to take note of the sponsors and writing to them to let them know what I think of companies who support Alan Jones, as per Katz’s suggestion. It would be great to see what would happen if a lot of people did that.

  18. The Editor says:

    Hansonism lives on.

  19. Christine Keeler says:

    Don Imus has now been fired by CBS.

    BUt it won’t stop them inviting creeps like Coultergeist and Malkin onto their morning shows.

  20. It will be interesting to see how this episode plays out with some parts of the electorate. If it has an impact at all, it might not necessarily be in Howard’s favour.
    I suspect that there are plenty of Liberal voters in the supposed ‘blue-ribbon’ seats (think Kooyong, or Wentworth) who are not necessarily in love with the likes of Jones. I would suspect that there would also be plenty of MPs on both sides of politics who are principled people, who condemn Jones. They just do it very quietly. Or, in Coonan’s case, they don’t do it at all.
    Writing to or boycotting sponsors isn’t a bad idea, but I wonder what Jones would have to do for his corporate backers to withdraw their support. Possibly more than a bit of race-baiting, as long as his ratings are up.

  21. Another Kim says:

    Hate speech is hate speech.

    Right, left or otherwise.

    Condemn it equally or not at all.

  22. Kim says:

    Too right, AK.

    Here’s a link on the Imus sacking:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18072804/

  23. Another Kim says:

    I’m a bit afraid someone will think I’m your evil twin.

  24. Katz says:

    Writing to or boycotting sponsors isn’t a bad idea, but I wonder what Jones would have to do for his corporate backers to withdraw their support. Possibly more than a bit of race-baiting, as long as his ratings are up.

    All Jones has to do is to annoy enough of his sponsors’ customers sufficiently for those customers to explain to the sponsors that they (the customers) will be taking their custom elsewhere unless they reconsider the nature of their commercial relationship with Alan Jones.

    Here is a template:

    Marketing Manager

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I wish to express my deep concern that your company sees fit to sponsor Radio 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones.

    Mr Jones’ opinions are offensive and harmful to public peace.

    Unless you publically announce acceptable conditions that Mr Jones must fulfil to continue to receive your sponsorship, or unless you withdraw your sponsorship of Mr Jones, I shall refuse to purchase your products

    Yours sincerely

  25. Vee says:

    Rudd’s comments were perfect. It is not his job to moralise.

  26. Calculus says:

    It is very illuminating that one result of the ACMA verdict re Alan Jones is that Jones and John Singleton seem happy to tell the rest of us how Australia really works. It seems that as soon as someone in a powerful position does something to help you out you are forever indebted to them – morals and ethics be damned.

  27. Amanda says:

    Watching Anderson Cooper on CNN — Tom Delay is making Al Sharpton look like the voice of calming reason which is quite a feat for mine.

    Anderson is live outside the New Jersey governor’s mansion when the parties are meeting. OMG! What! Will! Happen!

  28. Another Kim says:

    Just another reason, Amanda, to not leap to conclusions about US politics.

  29. zoot says:

    Alan Jones has made an indelible mark on broadcasting during his long and outstanding career

    And our dog made an indelible mark on our carpet during its long and outstanding career

  30. Ken Scott says:

    Here at the office a vicious argument has broken out, with accounts holding to the view that Alan Jones sobriquet of the Parrot originated with Roy and HG – the Parrot screeched from the sidelines as rugby coach…

    Us outside staff, reckon it came from Stuart Littlemore, who as host of Media Watch called Jones the Parrot because of his penchant for lifting stuff from other sources.

    Can we have a definitve adjudication on this most pressing issue of our time?

  31. BearCave says:

    There seem to be two contexts in which you can study this issue.

    One is the context of “free speech”, the other is “public relations”.

    Ed from The Australian claims that this ACMA ruling is “An incitement to squash free speech’:

    “The history of Pauline Hanson’s rise and demise is that unpopular views are best vented than left suppressed. There are also clear inconsistencies in the ACMA ruling that call into question whether the organisation would be better served with representation from the Press Council or others with more direct experience in broadcasting and publication.

    (Like, perhaps the ACMA need the help of experienced people like Ed from The Australian) 🙂

    While The Age in Melbourne seems to provide a contrary view about the consequences of “relations between various publics”.

    Writes Michelle Grattan:

    “Modern politicians live in awe of the shock jock, hopeful of their power to make them, terrified of their ability to break them. There is a lot of bullying in today’s relations between media and politicians. It goes both ways”.

    Elizabeth Lopez, also from The Age, points out that:

    “It seems few in politics or the media are even questioning whether this hate-monger should continue to have unrivalled access to the airwaves.

    Howard’s own chumminess with Jones is well documented. “I don’t think he’s a person who encourages prejudice in the Australian community, not for one moment. But he is a person who articulates what a lot of people think.” This must make it right, then, but does this reasoning stand up when the shoe is on the other foot?

    Hilali was also articulating what a lot of people think when he allegedly said the September 11 attacks were the work of God.

    Perhaps we need a parliamentary register of politicians who get letters of demand from Jones, and who holiday at his farm, and one on Crikey for journalists who do the same.”

    Nowhere to be seen is any “middle ground” position on this matter, or at least, I haven’t identified one just yet.

    You don’t have to read far into this issue to realize the division that exists on the issue, with The Australian writers on one side of the debate and The Age writers on the other (a similar division to what happens to exist on a number of issues) 🙂

    …From Justin

  32. CFQ says:

    The reaction of Howard and co is indeed appalling, but it’s hardly surprising. But surely they must realise that now that the ALP is actually giving them a run for their money in the polls, they have to cling on to any vote they can, including Jones’s (depressingly) large audience.

    Of the many things that bother me about Jones, I think it’s the fact that he has so much power and yet is not an elected official. But he probably knows that should he have the courage to run for office, he’d presumably have to engage in debate from the public and all political corners, and not just be able to cut the call.

  33. swio says:

    If I was a Labour strategist it might make sense to actually go on the offensive against Jones. His problem is that he has been sued for libel so many times that you could call him a liar again and again and again. I really wonder what would happen if a Federal labour leader went on his show and then deliberately brought up cases where Jones had been proven in court to be a liar, or had settled. It would be interesting to see how his audience reacted. I doubt it would make much differece to them but I think it probable you could insert a simple meme into the Australian conciousness that Jones is dodgy. God knows you’d never run out of ammunititon making that argument. If you could effectively sow that meme then you could neuter his political effectiveness. Every time a coalition member appeared on his show they would be in effect associating themselves with a man who is a well known liar. It would turn him into a double edged sword.

    As far as shaming anyone into boycotting Jones based on his racism, well that’s about as likely as aboriginal health care reaching first world standards. There are just too many people that agree with him.

  34. Shaun says:

    I’d not even bother with Jones if I was a politician. Why give him any more oxygen?

    Can’t remember the study (it was recent) but it pointed out that Jones’ audience was pretty much rusted on Liberal voters. Hence he was preaching to the choir and the appearance of any Labor/Green etc politician was not going to have any great effect on voting patterns.

  35. Oz says:

    The world seems to be going topsy turvy lately. John Laws is sticking the boot into the PM over his support for Jones and saying things you could agree with it.

    Referring to Chris Master’s biography on Jones, Jonestown, Laws said: “Read the book Prime Minister.

    “Then you better ask yourself if this is the sort of individual you want articulating what you seem to think are the views of many Australians.

    “It’s very easy to pander to prejudice. Many of the most dangerous people the world has ever known did just that.”

  36. observa says:

    “Anthony, good call. Imus’ comments were sexist as well as racist. What a revolting specimen.”
    And did you call for the sacking of that revolting specimen who called a woman a skanky ho?

    Jones has no power, anymore than any of our media moguls do. They are popular because they reflect strong public opinion from time to time. Sydneyites were increasingly pissed off at the revolting behaviour of a significant section of a particular immigrant group. Their political leaders had betrayed their faith by tacitly going soft on these scum for many years and also having to put up with similar revolting scum they let in to preach to them. That communal frustration finally boiled over in the Cronulla riots and Jones was merely giving vent to that anger. It wasn’t Jones that caused all the pollies to sit up and take notice and now even Rudd leads the mob to run Hilali out of town. ACMA are totally out of line here and were attempting to squash free speech they didn’t think was appropriate to their leafy latte burbs.

  37. Kim says:

    ACMA are totally out of line here and were attempting to squash free speech they didn’t think was appropriate to their leafy latte burbs.

    Either that, obs, or ACMA made the lamest finding they possibly could given the law under which they operate.

  38. PeterTB says:

    Here’s a link in case you want to read the actual report. It’s a bit long and tedious, and the findings are not perhaps as black and white as has been reported.

  39. John Greenfield says:

    The really unfortunate takeaway about the Jone’s sagas is that those who are most outraged are those who never listen to him. They wait for a story of soundbites to be packaged by their Culture Warriors in the ABC or Fairfax.

    Alan Jones’ appeal and ‘power’ are far more complex than the luvvies understand. Regrettably it sounds like the luvvies and the middle class morals committees in general are resentful that working class voices are able to be heard on a medium the luvvies do not rule. Therefore, this medium must be closed down.

  40. John Greenfield says:

    More evidence of the luvvies’ disconnect is realiance on the totally American concept of the “shock jock.” Once more, we have a situation of the luvvies having no idea what a real “shock jock” is. If they did, they would not be calling John Laws and Alan Jones “shock jocks.” What is really “shocking” to the luvvies is working class people expressing themselves independent of the luvvie cultural gate-keepers.

  41. John Greenfield says:

    Oh, and the gall of Al Sharpton to get his panties in a twist over anybody else’s racism!

  42. Anna Winter says:

    John Greenfield, the only person expressing disdain for the working class here is you. We luvvies actually know that working class people aren’t all – or even mostly – vile, racist thugs.

  43. I feel like I am at a union meeting.

    Someone speaks an inconvenient truth.

    They are shouted down with “you are the only one saying that”.

    Scroll up as much as I might, I cannot find the disdain for the working class which John Greenfield is supposed to be expressing (according to Anna Winter, that is)

  44. John Greenfield says:

    Only the ones who listen to Alan Jones, eh, Anna? We should all be delighted for further behavioural insights into homo working-class from one as clearly learned in such matters as yourself.

  45. Luvvie says:

    I protest. I know the working class very well.

    They’re learning to make an excellent macchiato.

    And I tip them generously when they do.

    I’d like to thank Mr Alan Jones for teaching good manners to the working class.

  46. joe2 says:

    “Here’s a link in case you want to read the actual report. It’s a bit long and tedious, and the findings are not perhaps as black and white as has been reported.”

    Thanks for that more detailed link Peter TB . I have already saved it for closer inspection. Can I ask how this sounds to you, though ?

    “The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that the licensee of commercial radio service 2GB Sydney, Harbour Radio Pty Ltd, breached the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice 2004 (the code) by broadcasting material that was likely to encourage violence or brutality.”

    This is from the media statement that ACMA released. Seems just black and white to me . Not something I would like from my local disc jockey. Positively scary, I would suggest. This coming from a body appointed by Howard and team, we must remember.

    see full details….
    http://www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD//pc=PC_310133

  47. What is really “shockingâ€? to the luvvies is working class people expressing themselves independent of the luvvie cultural gate-keepers.

    Assuming that Alan Jones audience is working class, the ones who get to express themselves are the ones who agree with Jones. Instead of a “luvvie cultural gate-keeper” they get the Parrot’s producer screening calls. That’s really not much of an improvement.

    BTW Luvvie – your second name isn’t Kraevsit by any chance, is it?

  48. Frank Calabrese says:

    Meanwhile in WA.

    http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,21556727-2761,00.html

    RADIO talkback host Howard Sattler has been cleared of inciting racial hatred.

    Last October, a listener on his program called for Australian mufti Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali to be shot.

    WA’s Ethnic Communities Council complained to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, saying Mr Sattler should have used a “dump button” to stop the comments going to air.

    But the authority rejected the complaint.

  49. I feel like I am at a union meeting.

    Someone speaks an inconvenient truth…

    Nah, it’s more like a lone Maoist turns up to disrupt the meeting by chanting inane slogans Steve.

  50. Chris says:

    John Greenfield how do you reconcile your claim that Alan Jones is the voice of the working class with the evidence I cited above regarding the demographics of Jones’ listeners. If 70% of Jones’ listeners are over 50 and 1/3 over 65 then the very best that can be said of him is that he represents the opinion of older, coalition aligned Sydney residents.

  51. observa says:

    “If 70% of Jones’ listeners are over 50 and 1/3 over 65 then the very best that can be said of him is that he represents the opinion of older, coalition aligned Sydney residents.”

    Yeah well it was probably their kids and grandkids who were doing all the real talking down at Cronulla. Apples and trees.

  52. John Greenfield says:

    One thing this thread eerily suggests is that the luvvies have still not learnt from the Hanson experience. From that point of view, Rudd’s response is wise if he wants to claw back those working and lower middle class Howard voters.

  53. Chris says:

    I note that my point regarding the demographic composition of Jones listeners goes conspicuosly unanswered. I happen to agree that Rudd’s response was wise, however Jones dosn’t represnt swinging aspirational voters he represents rusted-on coalition voters.

  54. So what is it that we’re supposed to learn from the Hanson experience, if we’re not going to be labelled “luvvies”, Mr G?

    Alternatives:

    (1) Hanson showed that in the marginal seats there was a small, but significant, group of voters who were responsive to the “Straya for those whose ancestors got here before the latest bunch of wogs” message?

    (2) All those working and lower middle class voters believe in “Straya for those whose ancestors got here before the latest bunch of wogs”? i.e. they’re all bigots.

    I find (2) a bit hard to believe – only a luvvie intellectual snob would go for that one.

  55. Katz says:

    There are two things to be learned from the “Hanson Experience”.

    1. Populist bigotry is only briefly attractive to Australians.

    2. The rest of Australia learns slower than Melburnians.

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