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For people to be afraid of you, they must think you’re invincible. Alan Jones has spent decades as a successful bully, both on-air and off, because he had created a perception of invincibility. He somehow managed to persuade politicians and corporations alike that he spoke for the majority of the country, and they lined up to either do his bidding or advertise on his show. This reinforced the perception of his invincibility, and phrases like ‘the man who could make or break governments’ and ‘the voice of big business’ came to be associated with him. Many figures in the media (with the notable exception of Media Watch) and politics alike who wanted to stand up to his negative commentary and bullying behaviour were afraid to do so, because they were afraid that he might tarnish their reputation on air and cost them their jobs. Thanks to your efforts, that image of invincibility has been completely broken. You have forcefully demonstrated that Australia rejects his methods, and in no way can he be seen as the voice of the majority. He has his listeners, but politicians now understand that Jones does not speak to swing voters; rather, he ‘preaches to the converted’ who already share his particular political beliefs. He certainly cannot be called the voice of big business anymore, after over 85 advertisers abandoned his show, including most of Australia’s leading brands and many international brands as well. While we will never know for sure, the timing of ACMA’s decision against Jones may have resulted from seeing that they had nothing to fear from him. Stripped of his influence, his capacity to damage the Australian community has been severely limited, and will simply fade over time. Whether he keeps his position at 2GB or not is a longer-term question of his financial viability, and a decision that must be made by Macquarie Radio. Jones’ show occupies prime advertising space, but so long as he is there it is effectively ‘dead air’ – filled with advertisements by one-store shops, restaurants, local companies and car dealers. He is a 20% shareholder of Macquarie Radio, which makes it an unenviably difficult situation for Macquarie Radio’s management. He may eventually be able to lure back some major companies, but only if they can trust he won’t continue to use the methods that have been so strongly rejected by the Australian public. Likewise, he may regain some influence, but only if he adapts himself to modern Australia. With Alan Jones well and truly held to account, we believe the time has come to formally declare this part of the campaign to be over. We believe that this is the correct decision both strategically and morally. We know that some of you would wish to continue until Alan Jones is directly forced off the air – indeed, the name of this page might suggest as much. However, when we started this page, we were simply two powerless individuals making a helpless, angry cry out into cyberspace. We expected perhaps 150 likes at most and maybe a few hundred signatories on the petition, and no actual results. When it became clear that we were representing the opinion of the majority of Australians, we realised over time that certain responsibilities came with that, including conducting this campaign in a manner which corresponds with Australia’s fundamental values.
One of those values, as our opponents frequently raise, is freedom of speech. Freedom of speech has its limits – there are laws against certain types of public speech (racial vilification, hate speech, incitement, etc.), laws which Alan Jones has repeatedly broken in the past. However, those are not the ONLY things Alan Jones talks about. It is one thing to hold him to account for commentary which is harmful to the community; it is quite another for us to silence him from making any kind of commentary whatsoever. For the public majority to silence a member of the media, particularly a political commentator with a sizable listening audience, would be an extremely dangerous precedent. It is so dangerous that we, acting as the public, must be willing to give him a chance to reform his behaviour, no matter what he has said or done in the past. While we do not want to live in a country where people like Alan Jones can abuse the airwaves and be unchallenged, we also do not want to live in a country where the public can silence an unpopular minority voice. We must strike a balance, and we believe that our results so far have done just that. On a more philosophical level, it is vital that we remind ourselves of the bigger picture. We are here to build a higher level of civil and political discourse, and are not here out of hatred or spite. We have held him to account; to go further would be to act out of hatred. We refuse to be fuelled by the same destructive impulses that have driven Alan Jones, because we will not become his 21st Century equivalent. Remember that you are now all powerful players in the conversation, so we must carefully watch our own words and behaviour to ensure it reflects the kind of conversation we want to create. We must also be aware of the irony of us using Jones’ own tactics against him – to continue them unabated would prove that nothing has changed at all. Some of you will no doubt want more concrete assurance that he will not return to making destructive commentary – that is, bullying, personal attacks, or attacks based on race or gender. We will be listening closely to see if these occur again. If they do, this campaign can be reactivated within minutes. All it would take would be the creation of a new petition, and with one email we could promote it to all 115,000+ signatories of the current petition, many of whom would gladly re-sign and pass it on. We have resisted calls to boycott advertisers across 2GB as a disproportionate and unethical response; however from this point on we hold 2GB as a whole responsible for his commentary - any new petition would be directed towards advertisers across the station. At that point, we will not relent. However we believe such an action will be unnecessary – not only is 2GB management likely to keep him in line, but as mentioned, our public institutions like ACMA are now willing to as well. This is indeed a true sign of victory, for it proves that nobody is above the law. Public interest can be a fickle and unreliable thing, so having strong public regulators is an important part of the picture. Perhaps most importantly, we have noticed a dramatic improvement in Alan Jones’ style of commentary recently – his wording is far more careful than in the past, and has steered away entirely from the personal attacks which he has been so infamous for. Alan Jones aside, there have been far more significant consequences of this campaign. It is because of these wider ramifications that we’ve been willing, on occasion, to deviate from the subject of Alan Jones to similar problems in our politics and media.
First, we have demonstrated to the whole country that the Australian public will no longer tolerate hatred in our politics. Eradicating it completely is a long way off, but we have struck a powerful first blow. We believe that Australia deserves a politics where we can respect opposing political perspectives even if we disagree with them. This will take increased wisdom and maturity from our public figures than we have seen in the past. However we must remember that public figures are constrained by the will of the majority – their flaws often reflect our own flaws as a people. Building a better politics, as we have always said, will start with us. While taking action to improve things is critical, it is equally important that we constantly examine our own thoughts and behaviour, and are models for the type of country we want to create. Second, we have demonstrated to both media and our largest corporations that hatred is no longer an acceptable source of profit. Alan Jones’ model has long been seen as something to aspire to; it has now seen as a 20th Century relic. After this, we will never see the ‘shock jock’ model replicated ever again. Similarly, we have put corporate social responsibility firmly back on the agenda for our largest companies. In a world of infinite choice for consumers, corporate ethics becomes an important product differentiator. For the most part, we have been pleased with what we saw. Finally, and most importantly, you have found your voice. This, of course, is partly to do with the power of social media. Indeed, we felt compelled to continue this campaign far beyond what we thought was necessary to prove the power of social media, and to demonstrate that facebook groups do not simply ‘blow over’. There are profound changes occurring across the planet due to social media, because we are moving from a world dominated by the voices of a few to one which listens to the voices of many. However, technology alone isn’t enough to give you a voice. It requires courage, dedication and the willingness to act. And ultimately, this is why we took action. We may have started this in response to destructive remarks, but that is not why we stayed with it and gave up so much time for it. It was because of you. We have been genuinely inspired and powered by the sight of tens of thousands of Australians coming together to stand up for a better country. Australia and the world have countless problems that need resolving, and they will need your leadership for that to occur. We cannot now leave a void in the public conversation so that voices of division come to dominate once again. If you believe that you have finally found your voice, all we ask is that you use it. Yours in change,
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