Well punch my face, Paul Sheehan has finally lost his stupid fucking mind.
His tactic, a favourite with Akerman, Devine, Henderson, Bolt et al, of casting immensely powerful people in the role of victim, besieged on all sides by a loud but ultimately unrepresentative cabal of ‘progressives’, (and at what point, I wonder, did that word become one that commentators could use pejoratively with a straight face – because it’s about time someone called ‘progress’ out for what it really is; an excuse to force decent, God fearing folk to marry dudes or a horse, wrapped up in the guise of the ceaseless, ageless march of human endeavour) was deployed in his latest op-ed in the SMH with a gusto usually reserved for stirring speeches delivered by the president toward the end of an alien movie.
Not once in his 684-word piece does he condemn Jones for his remarks or even acknowledge that they were some of the most offensive words to fall out of the face of this unmitigated douche-canoe, or anyone on the political landscape for that matter, in well over a decade. And maybe he doesn’t have to, it’s self-evident that the comments were remarkably insensitive, but most pieces defending Jones at least begin with a perfunctory acknowledgement of this fact.
What Sheehan seems to be annoyed by here is that there are a good deal of people who have not been satisfied with Jones’ apology and would like his sponsors to abandon him. For Sheehan, this has nothing to do with Jones and everything to do with a shadowy league of humourless liberals, dispatched from their ivory towers on their high horses, hydrated by the outraged tears of Phillip Adams. This is not a fair fight, he argues, and the fact that over 100,000 people have signed an online petition against Jones is evidence of this.
Most Australians do not like a brawl involving 100,000 people against one.
Hang on, what, mate? If you’ve got an issue with 100,000 people signing this petition, you’ve not got a problem with how this specific instance has played out; you’ve got an issue with petitions as a concept. Because that’s how they fucking work. It’s the idea that a group of relatively powerless people can come together and be powerful by virtue of their numbers. It’s like Voltron with democracy instead of robots. And while you are technically correct in identifying Alan Jones as ‘one man’, it bears pointing out that he’s one man with almost unparalleled influence on the media landscape, the ear of the opposition leader and countless other policymakers and hundreds of thousands of devoted listeners. So let’s not pretend for a second longer that 100,000 petition signers vs. Alan Jones is an unfair fight.
The other issue Sheehan seems to take with this whole thing is that the bloke behind the petition has a partisan point of view:
The author of the petition is Nic Lochner, a 22-year-old university student with political aspirations. He recently stood as an independent in the election for Randwick Council. He received 105 votes, or 0.95 per cent of the votes cast. Lochner is not independent when it comes to politics. His recent comments on Twitter include: ”By our powers combined, Bob Brown is Captain Planet!” and this: ”No presumption of intelligence when it comes to the Liberal Party”.
Setting aside the fact that this Lochner guy does sound like a bit of a tool, that the man who started a petition to take Alan Jones off the air has the sort of political views which would lead him to want to take Alan Jones off the air should come as no shocking revelation. So where’s the problem here? Sheehan seems to think that there is an ulterior motive, that it’s got nothing to do with Jones’ specific comments and everything to do with Lochner’s own political agenda. I agree. And more than that, I don’t see anything wrong with this. The petition is not just about the comments made at the Young Liberals’ fundraiser.
It’s about an entire career built on offensive, disingenuous, hateful remarks that have flown under the radar for years. There have been outrages before; spot fires put out by Jones’ masterful understanding of the media and the loyalty of his listener base, but this felt different. So it’s no surprise that people who feel that he should have been taken off the air for years should rally behind this, and the fact that their political persuasion would make this unsurprising is…well, unsurprising.
Sheehan rounds out his argument like this:
Gerry Harvey, after ordering his company, Harvey Norman, to pull its advertising from the Jones show, put the question: ”You have to ask are you part of a lynch mob?”
Gerry, if you’re still wondering, I can answer that question. No. In no conceivable universe are you part of a lynch mob. So don’t worry. I’d hate for you to think that pulling your sponsorship from a multi-millionaire who insulted the memory of the Prime Minister’s dead father to the revulsion of the vast majority of the nation was in any way comparable to being part of a group of people who have chased and murdered someone in a frenzy of bigotry. That’s not what you’ve been a part of here.
As long as there are journalists like Sheehan, commentators like Jones will have some degree of immunity against harsh criticism, able to hide behind accusations of conspiracy, hypocrisy and a disproportionate response. And commentators like Jones will also continue to play the victim, retreating back into their bubbles, licking their wounds and being consoled by their supporters until they have the strength to launch back into their scheduled routine of spewing wilfully ignorant bile into the ears of AM listeners. The fact that a man whose entire success revolves around victimising and bullying could so successfully play the part of bullied victim is something very nearly approaching amusing. It would be amusing, that is, were it not so fucking infuriating.