There’s a danger ‘correcting’ someone on in their field of expertise, but Chris Master’s column regarding Alan Jones today in the SMH needs further elucidation.
Masters’ thesis is this week’s trope, that Jones is not as powerful as people think and politicians should just stand up to him.
Up to a point, Lord Copper. Up to a point.
Masters ponders a salient question (made here earlier in the week, FWIW): how much of the outburst of public anger is down to the billboard or Alan himself?
Then Masters goes full ABC:
Jones, as a politician who broadcasts, has a wicked advantage over properly elected officials. The public pay for the poor judgment inflicted on them, with no commensurate way to vote him out of office.
This is precisely wrong, but is common among people who have worked at the ABC without the commercial realities of ratings. Jones comes up for election every single morning when people turn on their radios. Or not. He just so happens to win every election. Jones lives and dies by direct democracy spoken – the fact he has survived for so long frightens the hell out of politicians. Imagine if every one of their whims was decided by a vote every morning and they could lose their job as quickly as a breakfast radio host. There’d be more job security at 2Day FM.
Then comes this fallacy:
While Jones’ devoted audience is large by radio ratings standards, it is small compared with a popular national TV show. Jones does not work so well on TV, where he confronts a broader cross-section of the community. The hectoring, the frailty of perspective and weakness of logic become more apparent. It is the same in the witness box.
This is precisely wrong.
Jones’ style didn’t work well on TV when he hosted a normal current affairs show. It works well on Sky but his audiences are low on Sky. All audiences are low on Sky. That has nothing to do with Jones. And the style of Jones on TV is different from the radio Jones. On TV, Jones is a different beast. He is more measured. If Marshall McLuhan’s theory about radio being a hot medium and television being a cool medium wasn’t such a dog’s breakfast, you could almost guess that there are two distinct Jones, each tailored for the medium on which they are.
If Masters’ thesis is that Jones shouldn’t have the power he has because he has a ‘small audience’, what are we then to make of The Australian or the readership of the Herald. Or even worse, the AFR?
Jones authority is the momentum and spread of his ideas, and that he is known to represent a lot of people who may never listen to Jones.
Listening to Jones can be hard work. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the knee jerk reaction against him this week is odd. Next time he is on Q&A, watch the Twitter feed. A lot of people will express surprise that they agree with Jones on many issues. In fact, on many topics he is closer to the Greens than the Liberal Party.
Jones opposes foreign ownership, especially of agricultural land.
Jones opposes fracking, especially on land where you can eat the dirt. (Seriously, you can eat the dirt … Maybe.)
Jones supports marijuana for medicinal use.
Jones supported the Yes campaign in the same-sex marriage survey.
Jones has lobbied for decades on behalf of farmers against the banks and for a royal commission into the banks.
This week has presented is one of the most dramatic examples you will ever see of playing the man and not the issue. If it continues over the next few days, it will be all the evidecne you need that the anger has nothing to do with a projection onto the sails of the Opera House and more to do with the projection of the haters who want to silence a voice through the politics of rage they have never been able to silence through competition.