Alan Jones has railed against the social media campaign for advertisers to boycott his program as a form of “cyber terrorism”, “cyber bullying” and “corporate sabotage” that should be made illegal.
Jones’ breakfast program — usually stuffed with ad breaks, “live read” advertisements and sponsored weather and traffic reports — was an ad-free zone this morning, after 2GB management decided to suspend advertising until the furore about his comments to the Sydney University Liberal Club dies down.
The program was also, essentially, an interview-free zone. Jones’ only notable guest was speedway racing car champion Chris Holder. The broadcaster also spoke to a fundraiser from the Dural Country Club and a deputy principal from a school whose kitchen garden was recently vandalised.
Otherwise the three-and-a-half hour show was filled with talkback calls and editorials from Jones — most of them about the supposedly vicious online campaign being waged against him. At one point he filled in time by reading from the The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald letters to the editor pages.
“If this is not illegal it ought to be,” he said about the 2GB boycott movement, led by the Facebook group Destroy the Joint. “If it happened anywhere else in society — this type of bullying or harassment or threatening conduct — the police would be called in. If it happened in the rugby league grand final or in a restaurant or in a picture theatre this behaviour would not be condoned.”
The Destroy the Joint group, named after Jones’ comments criticising female politcians, was created by the Australian Services Union’s NSW secretary Sally McManus and is represented by journalism academic Jenna Price from the University of Technology, Sydney. It has posted the names and email addresses of Jones’ sponsors on its Facebook page.
Jones told listeners one group opposing him “calls on signatories to ‘destroy the joint'” — seemingly unaware the group is referring to his own comments.
“We can’t have this kind of cyber harassment and cyber terrorism of advertisers simply because people don’t agree with what I say, they don’t agree with my politics, they’re madly left wing, they want to support a government I criticise,” Jones said on air this morning. “Presumably, they’ll find out somewhere where I buy my food and they’ll be protesting that someone is selling me food to keep me alive.”
Politicians should be voicing similar views, he said: “I haven’t heard one syllable out of Canberra opposing the way small business has been treated here.”
It’s not just the politicians staying schtum, however: 2GB’s majority shareholder John Singleton has had nothing to say publicly about the scandal since it broke.
Jones also blasted change.org, the website hosting a petition calling for his sacking, because people have signed the petition under false names including “Osama bin Laden” and “Andrew Bolt”.
Jones said that the station’s decision to cease advertising was not about avoiding embarrassment but was making a stand on behalf of small business: “The advertisers aren’t leaving the program I can tell you. There are plenty of people who have written to us wanting to join the program and there are plenty of people willing to replace anyone who does leave. The bulk of them are happy to stay but they are confronted by this cyber harassment and bullying and terrorism and bullying and intimidation and threats.”
Jones also denied that former sponsor Mercedes Benz, which has demanded he return his $250,000 car, pulled its sponsorship following his comments. He said a note from 2GB sales staff showed the car company had decided to end its sponsorship two weeks ago.
One talkback caller, Mitch, supported Jones’ anti-Merc stand, saying the company had no right to take any moral high ground because it made vehicles for the Third Reich, including Hitler’s Mercedes.
Meanwhile, relations between the paper that broke the Jones story, The Sunday Telegraph, and News Limited stablemate The Australian are extremely frosty today. On Sunday, the Tele “outed” Mitchell Nadin, a junior reporter at The Oz, as the off-the-record source who told Sydney Morning Herald journalist Kate McClymont that the Sydney Uni event was conducted under the Chatham House rule (meaning those involved understood they were not to publish what was said). The Tele even “papped” Nadin — a former Young Lib member — outside the Surry Hills office shared by the two publications.
“It’s disappointing that his name has been made public,” The Australian‘s editor Clive Mathieson told Crikey this morning in reference to the Tele’s decision to print Nadin’s name. “I’d rather they hadn’t done it. We have dealt with this matter internally and spoken to our colleagues at the Tele and the matter is closed.”
Mathieson admitted he was disappointed his reporter hadn’t filed a story on Jones’ comments: “It was a good story and we would love to have had it in our pages.”
The fiercely independent Daily Telegraph took a noticeably softer line than its Sunday sister paper today, editorialising: “The whole affair is starting to get a touch of Salem about it and those seeking to burn Jones at the stake would do well to remember that such persecutions only make people feel sorry for the witch.”