Australia: Shock Jock Attack on PM Gillard Fires Online Anger

Spontaneous anger erupted on Australian social media on Saturday night 29 September 2012. News broke that a Sunday Telegraph journalist had recorded a tasteless reference to Prime Minster Julia Gillard's father by controversial radio shock jock Alan Jones. This anger has been translated into action with Twitter and Facebook used to push for his sacking.

Blogging at in other words… Tom Cummings was one of the first to comment:

Loathe as I am to give oxygen to the ramblings of an embittered old man, some things need to be challenged. Tomorrow's Sunday Telegraph will feature a near-full-page article describing how broadcaster/shock-jock Alan Jones told a group of Young Liberals attending the Sydney University Liberal Club President's Dinner that Prime Minister Julia Gillard's father John, who passed away recently, “died of shame.” He said:

“The old man recently died a few weeks ago of shame. To think that he had a daughter who told lies every time she stood for parliament.”

Tom included this image of the following day’s Sunday Telegraph that was quickly doing the rounds via Twitter:

Comedian and social commentator Catherine Deveny was one of many who posted a list of Jones’ sponsors, which had been taken down from the radio station website:

@CatherineDeveny: Here are a list of companies you may consider #boycott2GB because of the station and Jones’ ongoing hate and misogyny. 30 Sep 12

The #boycott2GB twitter hashtag went viral and Alan Jones quickly joined the Australian Trends.

alan jones

Alan Jones. Photo from Flickr page of Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer

An online petition on “2GB and Associated Advertisers on Alan Jones’ Radio Program: Immediately terminate the contract and cease association with Alan Jones..” had over 75,000 signatures by Tuesday morning 2 October. A related petition called for the sacking of a Woolworths executive for allegedly donating a “chaff bag jacket” to an auction at the dinner. The chaff bagreference is to previous contentious remarks by Jones about Julia Gillard.

At first it was difficult to find anyone supporting Jones or his subsequent qualified apology. Jones defended himself by claiming that he is the object of hatred, vilification and jealousy. Warren didn’t want us to linger on the matter:

@surfbird03: While Alan Jones comments were at best stupid, they were not said on air. Maybe just maybe it's time to move on. 1Oct 12

Some tweeters who are against Julia Gillard and her ALP (Australian labor Party) government were tweeting nevertheless. Ted Ball tried to turn the focus back on Labor:

‏@TedTBall: Labor MP's who use Julia Gillards dad as a political weapon are as bad if not worse than Alan Jones #auspol #alp #myliberal 1 Oct 12

This came after attacks on the Liberal leader Tony Abbott, claiming he has lowered political discourse. There is little doubt that the tone of web debate has hit rock bottom in recent years.

Onliners were busy on Facebook as well. Toyota Australia’s page had over 350 comments on Monday as well. Anne Fitzgerald summed up the feeling:

OMG I love Toyotas. Please stop supporting Alan Jones. This social media impact will last for years to come. The combination of last week's Melbourne tragedy and Jones's offensive behaviour have brought more and more people to this way of protesting. We will keep alive for years to come the names of those who put profits before ethics. Get yourself off the list! I will put a sign on my car denouncing my Rav4 until you do!!!!

This is a fast-moving story. Some advertisers and sponsors have withdrawn and a couple of regional radio stations have dropped Jones’ program. A new petition with 500 signatures calls to Revoke the title of Order of Australia that he was awarded in 1988 for his services as Australian Rugby Union coach.

[Personal note: the author of this post has been one of the tens of thousands who have taken some kind of online action in response to Alan Jones behaviour.]

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