Alan Jones

“Someone in the corporate world has got to develop a spine here because these are … keyboard warriors,” Alan Jones told the Sydney Morning Herald in September.

The “keyboard warriors” Jones railed against were Mad Fucking Witches (MFW) and Sleeping Giants Oz, the online activist groups who pressure advertisers to boycott Jones’ radio show.

Initiated after Jones’ infamous comments about Jacinda Ardern in August, their campaign has prompted approximately half of Jones’ advertisers to cut ties, theoretically losing Macquarie Media approximately $6 million. On Thursday, Subaru became the 309th advertiser to terminate their ad campaign, which some sources reported was worth $1 million.

Despite much media interest and backlash, few have interviewed the anonymous activists in depth. Crikey spoke to MFW founder Jennie Hill and an anonymous spokesperson from Sleeping Giants to better understand their mission.

Abuse and denial

Crikey: There are many people who say bigoted things and use abusive language in Australia. Why did your followers want to target Alan Jones specifically?

Jennie Hill: A high percentage of our followers are victims of domestic violence or grew up around it, so a lot of people have suffered and are coping with trauma. A lot of women who come out of violent relationships recognise what is called the ‘cycle of abuse’ — the abuser might hit or verbally abuse the victim then apologise, the abuse backs off for a while but inevitably ramps up again. Jones’ verbal abuse follows a similar pattern — he has issued ten or more apologies over the last 10 years to Julia Gillard, Louise Herron and others, but he always offends again. Ever since his comments about Jacinda Ardern, our supporters feel they can’t let him get away with it again.

Sleeping Giants Spokesperson: Our followers also just want companies to … reject the discourse of abuse. Nine’s new head of radio Tom Malone’s comment, “Alan has already acknowledged that he’s erred and we’ve moved on” is classic abuser language, where the abuse is ignored and your response to the abuse is somehow the problem.

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Crikey: The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Alan Jones reached out to your campaign, but you twice cancelled meetings with him.

JH: I had a meeting organised with 2GB, to discuss our concerns with Jones’ program and the culture of their organisation that permits “punching down”. I postponed twice, both for unavoidable reasons, and the offer to meet remains on the table. But they stopped communicating with me. I did speak to Alan Jones on the phone, and I had several conversations with Adam Lang (the former CEO of Macquarie Media who resigned in October).

Crikey: How did the phone call with Jones go?

JH: He was pleasant and chatty — gentlemanly in fact. But he just doesn’t listen and centres himself in everything. He kept saying “Women love me, I have women who work for me…” I just wanted him to recognise that his words might lead other men to disrespect and abuse women more than they otherwise might do. The fact he doesn’t recognise this is extremely hypocritical because he knows that, on other matters, his words are very influential.

Gagged and outlawed?

Crikey: What do you make of Scott Morrison’s recent speech denouncing “secondary boycotts” and exploring possible legislative changes to prohibit or limit the kind of work you do?

SG: This was a stunt and we are ignoring it.

JH: I too struggle to see how he could practically do it. Our whole financial system is set up to encourage “secondary boycotts” — any financial advisor who advises a client to sell stocks because of a potential profit write-down is organising a secondary boycott. We are astounded that Scott Morrison, being of the political persuasion he is, doesn’t support the effective operation of financial markets as they’ve been for hundreds of years.

But if he does manage to bring in laws that prohibit our work, we would have little choice but to stop doing what we’re doing.

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JH: Australia’s existing laws and practices already prevent many from speaking out. We’ve had messages from thousands and thousands of people saying they are following everything we’re doing but they can’t even like the page, let alone comment, because of the social media policies at their workplaces. That includes government employees and people who work at the companies we are targeting, and at 2GB and other Nine entities.

Calling out or in?

Crikey: Barack Obama recently suggested that “call-out culture” is essentially preaching to the converted, and that progressives must persuade those who don’t agree with their cause. Do you see any hope of reaching out to Jones’ supporters and listeners?

JH: We’re not only talking to like-minded people. There are people coming to the page who don’t agree with us and saying “leave Alan Jones alone”. But our supporters are having intelligent discussions with them, educating them and changing minds.

I think the hard policy work people like [Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions] Sally McManus do is essential. But there is a place for what we’re doing — making noise that gets people talking about an issue when they otherwise might not be and calling out those who amplify sentiments that may trigger men who are predisposed to violence.


As advertisers continue to drop like flies, we will see just how much the powerful men amplifying these sentiments are prepared to lose.

Are grassroots organisations like MFW our best bet for holding power accountable? Will they succeed? Let us know your thoughts at [email protected]. Please include your full name for publication.

Peter Fray

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