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The Many Faces of the Australian Shock Jock

“Alan Jones, on your radio program, you often abuse, berate and belittle callers with whom you disagree. On Q&A, you are reasoned and respectful of the people asking questions, to the extent that I sometimes think you’re not as bad as you’d like us to think. Is your radio persona pure entertainment and, if so, who is the real Alan Jones, and do you believe that you are using your platform in a responsible way that encourages constructive debate?” Anthony Johnsen, Q&A 20th July

This thorny bugger of a question was thrown to conservative radio shock jock Alan Jones on Monday night’s Q&A, much to the squeamish displeasure of the recipient. Jones was on the offensive, claiming his trademark fiery exchanges which only occur with politicians, not with listeners. That may be true, but having previously said Julia Gillard’s father “died of shame” and she should be taken out in a body bag and dumped in the ocean, there is little doubt that Jones’ 2GB studio is not a place for “reasoned and respectful” discussion. The former Labor PM is not alone in copping Jones’ abuse, with independent MPs Rob Oakeshott, Andrew Wilkie, Liberal leadership challenger Malcolm Turnbull and even Prime Minister Tony Abbott all copping a verbal bashing.

It has been somewhat of a surprise then that Jones’ appearances on Q&A have shown a different side to the infamous orator, far less “angry old man yelling at cloud” and far more at home aside the more measured voices that the show attracts. The issues he champions on Q&A are also more nuanced and interesting than the grand-stand reading of the Coalition’s briefing notes on 2GB. Furthermore, on all platforms, Jones seems to have complicated his political vision since his days heading up the “Juliar” campaign, from his embrace of same-sex marriage to his campaign against coal-seam gas. So why is he suddenly almost reasonable, or has he always been so underneath his conservative blustering?

The more sceptical observer might call Jones an opportunist, a savvy chameleon giving the audience what they want to hear. On talkback radio they want rage, on the ABC they want rational discussion. Such inconsistency is frequently attributed to fellow conservative kingpin Andrew Bolt. Whilst he is generally as stubbornly right-wing on all platforms nowadays, claims of inconsistency plague his past and cast doubt on the uncompromising caricature he now propagates.

In a scathing portrait of Bolt for The Monthly, Anne Summers presented a convincing argument that Bolt refashioned himself in the 1990s to fill what was then a right-wing void in the op-ed pages. Whilst she doesn’t doubt that Bolt was somewhat conservative, she questions the authenticity of his miraculous transformation from unassuming editor to megaphone commentator. And with due course, given News Corp’s chief Gillard-hater used to work for the ALP in several positions. The nation’s great climate denier also once wrote the “Environs” section in The Age.

Summers quotes a former colleague saying “A big part of me admires Bolt for having built all this out of nothing. But it is so cynical because that is not who he is.” “He obviously saw there was reputation and money to be made from being conservative,” said academic Robert Manne. “He was forceful but he was not as right-wing then or we would not have got on so well,” said journalist Shelley Gare.

This touches upon a deeper point about the now popularized far-right provocateur mould – to what extent do they actually believe what they say? There should be nothing beyond comprehension about adopting a conservative worldview, in fact if one cannot even imagine it then perhaps they are too rigid to engage in a diverse contest of ideas. However, the sheer vociferousness, the attack-dog style, the relentless plundering of issues for literally thousands of media segments and the offensiveness of some dialogue invites the cynical to suggest they are making a calculated decision to feed the desires of a niche audience, to deliberately provoke the mass audience and to stay relevant through remaining controversial.

All which makes the faintly shifting stripes of Alan Jones more interesting. He is no lefty and there is no room for him in the centre. He has fashioned himself as a conservative warrior. There is no popularity or money in providing nuance to an argument in the modern media melee. So Jones ought to be commended for not sticking to the tired old trope of the Andrew Bolt right-winger, and occasionally veering off his ideological course, even if only briefly.

Perhaps he should take a second look at wind farms. Yeah never know, he might be surprised by what he sees.



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  1. Möbius Ecko

    It seems the entire contemporary conservative/right wing movement is one of a dissimulation, pretending to be different things to suit the times. The current government, but most especially Abbott, personify this. They are nothing like they were or promised when in opposition and indeed won’t allow the current opposition to take on the controvert chimera they did.

    Past conservatives like Menzies would disavow Howard let alone Abbott, who he would completely disown. Indeed past US Republicans would have turned their backs on the Tea Party movement, as some do today.

    So it should be no surprise there are those who see a cash cow and milk it no matter what principles the let go in doing so. When it comes to conservatives there’s one overarching acculturation that rules their lives, from centre right moderate to extreme right radical, and that’s individual greed.

  2. crypt0

    I know people who used to be firm ALP voters.
    Then time moved on, they realized that their houses were worth much more than previously. Union won wage increases and the good fortune that accompanies being born at a certain time in history (babyboomers) made them realize just how well they were doing.
    All due to their own hard work and talents of course.
    So … they became right wing conservatives.
    Which goes some way to explain why a disproportionate % of older Australians are conservative.
    Australia’s motto … I’m all right, Jack.
    Perhaps bolt is just getting older.

  3. Blinkyewok

    Two faced comes to mind.

  4. brickbob

    Just follow the money is such a true statement,and that’s all these jocks are doing,and that is all they believe in.”””””

  5. Harquebus

    If it is the Q&A that I am thinking of, Alan on the one hand demanded a reduction in the debt and deficit and on the other, suggested borrowing more because of cheap rates to build more infrastructure. Huh?

  6. John Kelly

    For Jones, all the world is a stage.

  7. JeffJL

    Well Mr Jones did change his spots when Telstra and Qantas came on-board to support his program so there is some evidence for this.

    I feel that those on the right seem to be playing power games while on the left they are trying to produce a better Australia. Not 100% true I know but largely so in their policies and actions. Thus hypocrisy is easier for the right than the left. If the above article is correct then it provides more ammunition for my assumption.

  8. zemarama

    Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt are narcissistic self-serving megalomaniacs, nothing more, nothing less.

  9. eli nes

    3 or 4 times a year I get a lift home from putting the car in for a service. The radio is invariably on the jones’ show and he sounds good, speaks with authority and his show is very effective. Those that ring seem fixed in their beliefs and jones simply keeps the hoops rolling.
    The man easily influences the way his listeners vote and with the selling of farms to the chinese as a sweetener, he could help labor in NSW, QLD and the NT.
    I was lucky enough to be a few years ahead of the baby boomers. Of my close school friends, only my dad went to war and all, but one, are conservatives with an ingrained fear of communism. None consider themselves right wing.
    They consider me indoctrinated by my dad’s politics and that I have indoctrinated my children. They were influenced by their parents. who were in management or had a business, and informed by menzies. The result was not indoctrination but a belief in a firm blue and white collar philosophy.
    They and their children have never challenged their ‘influences’ and will never vote labor or green.
    ps of the 8 only my labor mate and i pay tax and medicare levy. All but one of the others are a mixturer of self made or inherited millionaires who pay no tax. Albo’s buffet has made sure none will vote against the rabbutt.

  10. Grant Moss

    It’s easy to throw bricks when you cannot be held to account. The sad thing is that Jones, Bolt etc. appeal to a segment of the community that, because of the closeness of the two major parties’ votes, can determine the result of an election. These commentators spew an endless message of fear and hate pushed by the current government. But then, fear and hate are good currency … they buy votes in elections.

  11. Bronte ALLAN

    I do not care how “touchy feely” Jones has become, he is still (in my mind) nothing but a loudmouth, inept excuse for a radio announcer! Especially with regard to all the shit he used to dole out regarding Julia Gillard etc. He has proven, time & again–as often shown on Media Watch–that he would not know the wood for the trees & he is nothing but an ignorant blowhard at best! Mind you, he is not alone, there are several more so-called “shock jocks” who are probably as bad. And as for Bolt, don’t get me started!!

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