Alan Jones campaign: is it censorship?

In light of the ongoing Alan Jones saga, which saw him broadcast today ad-free, I put together this Storify about the possible free speech implications of campaigns to get Jones off the air. Storify is a way to curate and aggregate social media into larger narratives. You can view the original Storify post here.

  1. profsarahj
    “Free speech” wars going ballistic. First a global imbroglio over Innocence of Muslims, now a local imbroglio over Alan Jones. Next …??
    Sun, Oct 07 2012 00:04:32
  2. This first tweet is out of order, but it sort of sets the scene.
  3. mumbrella
    Opinion: If you force Alan Jones off the air, of course it’s censorship http://mumbrella.com.au/if-you-force-alan-jones-off-the-air-of-course-its-censorship-120589
    Sat, Oct 06 2012 23:58:55
  4. Above was the tweet, from Mumbrella, that set off a lot of people talking about meaning of “censorship”. That, and of course 2GB’s statement that people were cyber-bullying and censoring Alan Jones.
  5. profsarahj
    Someone had to do it. My latest at @conversationedu In defence of Alan Jones: https://theconversation.edu.au/columns/sarah-joseph-4912 (ducks head)
    Wed, Oct 03 2012 22:29:47
  6. I had written an earlier post, referenced above, which was not the same as that of Mumbrella, but on similar lines. Um. I should say the piece doesn’t really “defend” Alan Jones (yeah yeah, maybe a “clickbait” title), but it does raise concerns with the campaign to shut down his show. Anyway, in light of all this, I sent out an 11 point tweet. Yep, should’ve been a blog in retrospect, but hey, it gave me a chance to use Storify for the first time!
  7. profsarahj
    1/10 It’s not cyber bullying, 2GB, it’s campaigning. And … what is going to happen during AJ “ad breaks”? Will he just go nonstop? #gawd
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 15:04:15
  8. Helishingly
    I suppose the sanctions against South Africa in the 80’s to end apartheid can now be considered bullying according to #2GB
    Thu, Oct 04 2012 19:20:56
  9. The tweet from Ms Deborah isn’t in order either, but nice comment!
  10. profsarahj
    2/10 but is it campaigning for the censoring of a show? And therefore a campaign for an instance of censorship? First, a segue …
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 15:04:15
  11. profsarahj
    3/10 The Newsroom has storyline = advertisers & corp power trying to interfere w/ newsshow on comm TV channel. Is that a free speech issue?
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 15:04:15
  12. profsarahj
    4/10 I know it’s fiction but one can easily imagine that happens in real life. And unlike on TV, news show mightn’t stand up to its bosses
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 15:04:15
  13. profsarahj
    5/10 if it’s not a free speech issue, then “free speech” has nothing to do with commercial media entities, except when govt censors them.
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 15:04:15
  14. profsarahj
    6/10 doctrinally plausible, but it leaves “speech” at the mercy of commercial whims, with no chance to claim free speech in defence.
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 15:04:15
  15. profsarahj
    7/10 and if Facebook & twitter start removing pages & tweets coz of advertiser/sponsor pressure, again not a free speech issue
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 15:04:15
  16. profsarahj
    8/10 if it is FS issue, how do we characterize campaign to pressure sponsors to achieve outcome of a show being removed? Is that different?
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 15:04:15
  17. profsarahj
    9/10 speech is speech. The quality of speech is relevant to whether it should be censored, not whether it’s in fact being censored
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 15:04:15
  18. profsarahj
    10/11 so I think the campaign, while not in itself censorship, is campaigning for an instance of censorship
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 15:04:15
  19. Sorry. The number goes awry here as I had a sudden “new point”.
  20. profsarahj
    10/10 The campaigners think Jones should be off the air. If that’s the case, why be upset if that outcome is called a form of censorship?
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 15:04:15
  21. So those are my 11 points
  22. Drag0nista
    Here’s one I prepared earlier: At what cost do we defend free speech? http://bit.ly/QGwbzc #jones #destroythejoint
    Thu, Oct 04 2012 09:33:26
  23. Above is another interesting blog on the issue. It does seem to concede that free speech and censorship issues are involved, and seems to expand upon my point 9/10 (though I add that’s not why she wrote it!)Anyway below is a selection of conversations arising from my 11 point tweet. First with @charleesarah
  24. charleesarah
    @profsarahj how is censorship to stop paying someone to spout their opinion?
    Sun, Oct 07 2012 09:59:40
  25. profsarahj
    @charleesarah would you think differently if the person was spouting a brave important opinion, but shut down coz vs advertiser interests?
    Sat, Oct 06 2012 23:58:55
  26. charleesarah
    @profsarahj perhaps, but in this case I think the advertiser interests have been reframed by an upswell of public sentiment.
    Sun, Oct 07 2012 09:59:40
  27. profsarahj
    @charleesarah yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a campaign for censorship. Does the source of pressure make a difference? Why?
    Sat, Oct 06 2012 23:58:55
  28. profsarahj
    @charleesarah it might make a difference as to whether censorship is warranted, not on whether there is censorship
    Sat, Oct 06 2012 23:58:55
  29. Below is conversation with @PuppyontheRadio, bringing in a theme that would become common: free speech vs equal speech
  30. PuppyOnTheRadio
    @profsarahj podium from which an individual can speak does not remove their right to speak – it simply changes the level to which their >
    Sun, Oct 07 2012 09:59:40
  31. PuppyOnTheRadio
    @profsarahj speech is heard. I want Alan Jones off the airwaves, where he is in a controlled environment and can speak without fear of >
    Sun, Oct 07 2012 00:04:32
  32. PuppyOnTheRadio
    @profsarahj contradiction. I don’t want him to be silenced, as he has the right to say what he likes, but I want equal right to reply.
    Sun, Oct 07 2012 00:04:32
  33. profsarahj
    @PuppyOnTheRadio ah interesting point. But free speech isn’t all about speaking on “an equal level”. O’wise hard to apply to media at all
    Sat, Oct 06 2012 23:58:55
  34. At this point @4q2x suggested that that was a problem with free speech, that it was not about equal speech. I agreed that was a probem (Storify isn’t letting me go back far enough in that timeline to include – that user tweets a lot!)
  35. profsarahj
    @4Q2x @PuppyOnTheRadio ah. Equal speech isn’t the same as free speech. Though equalizing factors may be legit limits on freedom
    Sat, Oct 06 2012 23:58:55
  36. @IlVileno also took up the equality point, as did @freyabe
  37. ilVeleno
    @profsarahj Its a concept of freedom generally. Freedom for less rich/powerful not possible w/out equality. Power dictates choices.
    Sun, Oct 07 2012 00:04:32
  38. profsarahj
    @ilVeleno that’s an interesting conception of free speech. But it’s never meant “equal speech”. Though equalizing factors may be justified
    Sun, Oct 07 2012 09:59:40
  39. freyabe
    @profsarahj I don’t believe you can ever talk about free speech without talking about power. This is not a level playing field.
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 22:05:43
  40. profsarahj
    @freyabe that’s the REALLY interesting debate. But it fundamentally changes “free speech”. Now I’m going to stop as on hols
    Thu, Oct 04 2012 19:20:56
  41. Um yes. I am on holiday. But this debate was too juicy to ignore. But it’s one reason why the debate below with old sparring partner Rod is a bit disjointed.
  42. Rod_Hagen
    @profsarahj This is a pretty clear instance of freedom of speech in pure form, surely? It’s not corporations or Govt saying this.Its people.
    Sat, Oct 06 2012 23:58:55
  43. profsarahj
    @Rod_Hagen for reasons put in my 11 point tweet, I think it’s a campaign for an instance if c’ship. Yes, also in itself an instance of FS
    Sun, Oct 07 2012 00:05:38
  44. Rod_Hagen
    @profsarahj Yes, some corporations as a result may then make what they see as a rational decision about whether to advertise with him or not
    Thu, Oct 04 2012 19:20:56
  45. profsarahj
    @Rod_Hagen so if corp sponsor pressures a show to change its content due to its economic interests, that’s ok? That’s economically rational
    Sat, Oct 06 2012 23:58:55
  46. Rod_Hagen
    @profsarahj No one’s stopping Jones saying anything. He can use a blog, say limits of defamation law, etc.
    Thu, Oct 04 2012 19:20:56
  47. profsarahj
    @Rod_Hagen would you feel the same way if journo sacked for story that hurts sponsor? “Oh well, she can blog”
    Fri, Oct 05 2012 15:04:15
  48. And finally, this interesting exchange with @Natural_Justice on commercialism and free speech
  49. Natural_Justice
    @profsarahj corporations (2GB, FB) provide platform for speech – can it ever really be free? Or is it bought by complying with terms? 1/2
    Sat, Oct 06 2012 23:58:55
  50. Natural_Justice
    @profsarahj we’d like to think speech on commercial platforms free, but like everything in market we pay a price somewhere. It’s not real FS
    Sat, Oct 06 2012 23:58:55
  51. profsarahj
    @Natural_Justice probably. But FS must at least be relevant, lest we totally cede speech issues in the commercial terrain
    Thu, Oct 04 2012 19:20:56
  52. Natural_Justice
    @profsarahj agree. We are figuring out what FS means on commercial platforms. Can there be censorship if no known boundaries yet?
    Sat, Oct 06 2012 23:58:55

10 comments

  • Hmmm blockquote formatting didn’t get read … oh well. Please delete last post.

    “Savagely” 100%? That’s hyperbole Fran.

    Nope. We also know that as a matter of practice roughly 100% of commercial talk radio is anti-progressive — savagely so. Let’s be accurate. Commercial talk radio in this country is nearly all anti-progressive and most of that hectoring and abusive. If there are any left-of-centre folks with regular spots in commercial talk I’ve never heard of them.

    In any case, they are not all Jones-es unless you are on a crusade to get rid of all rightwing speech.

    Err no … Your point here is unclear. It seems like a non-sequitur. Howard Sattler, Chris Smith, Ray Hadley … they all seem pretty similar to me. While I wouldn;t listen to RW shock jocks, I’m not campaigning to remove them all. The Jones campaign is a shot across the bows.

    Also – talkback radio is hardly the only potential target of a shutdown campaign – it could be anything – TV, websites, news, comedy … anything.

    It could be but I’m prepared to cross that bridge when we come to it. Personally, I regard the prospect as more apparent than real.

    So, in your opinion, there are no free speech issues whatsoever if corporate sponsors were to overtly interfere with a news program because it clashed with their commercial interests (a la Newsroom).

    There would be issues, but they would not concern “free speech”. They would go to the journalistic integrity of the news outlet. Assuming the pressure was not hidden but explicit and open, I’d see that as a step forward.

    Speech is speech Indeed it is. You make a strong point. I would add though that distribution is distribution, and not speech. There is a distinction here.

    Also surprising you conceding that companies have a right of free speech.

    In fact, I asserted the opposite. Companies have no human rights. They don’t have “free speech”. They can choose of course, what kind of speech to support. Jones sees protest against sponsorship as “an attempt to silence Alan Jones”. Clearly he admits that his speech is ultimately an expression of the will of his commercial backers — and thus not his alone to assert. If companies pull the plug, then that is their right — and it’s no more “censorship” than Mortein’s decision to kill off Louis the Fly.

    you clearly think Jones should be censored

    No, I don’t. I think the plug should be pulled, which is different.

    so why not call a spade a spade?

    I am pedantic about language. I like the best words to be used. Censorship is something carried out by the state or groups very close to it. It seeks to make certain speech impossible. Like you, I agree, sometimes there are compelling or merely persuasive reasons for censoring. This campaign is not about censorship but about what speech the public at large will support with their cash. If the ALP or Libs or some religious organisation sought a donation from me, they wouldn’t get it. That’s not censorship.

    If Jones is punted, that isn’t censorship either. He can still attend SULC functions and speak as he sees fit, if they will have him. If they won’t, he can stand outside the door ranting. I won’t bother him and nor should the state.

  • “Savagely” 100%? That’s hyperbole Fran.

    Nope. We also know that as a matter of practice roughly 100% of commercial talk radio is anti-progressive — savagely so. Let’s be accurate. Commercial talk radio in this country is nearly all anti-progressive and most of that hectoring and abusive. If there are any left-of-centre folks with regular spots in commercial talk I’ve never heard of them.

    In any case, they are not all Jones-es unless you are on a crusade to get rid of all rightwing speech.

    Err no … Your point here is unclear. It seems like a non-sequitur. Howard Sattler, Chris Smith, Ray Hadley … they all seem pretty similar to me. While I wouldn;t listen to RW shock jocks, I’m not campaigning to remove them all. The Jones campaign is a shot across the bows.

    Also – talkback radio is hardly the only potential target of a shutdown campaign – it could be anything – TV, websites, news, comedy … anything.

    It could be but I’m prepared to cross that bridge when we come to it. Personally, I regard the prospect as more apparent than real.

    So, in your opinion, there are no free speech issues whatsoever if corporate sponsors were to overtly interfere with a news program because it clashed with their commercial interests (a la Newsroom).

    There would be issues, but they would not concern “free speech”. They would go to the journalistic integrity of the news outlet. Assuming the pressure was not hidden but explicit and open, I’d see that as a step forward.

    Speech is speech

    Indeed it is. You make a strong point. I would add though that distribution is distribution, and not speech. There is a distinction here.

    Also surprising you conceding that companies have a right of free speech.

    In fact, I asserted the opposite. Companies have no human rights. They don’t have “free speech”. They can choose of course, what kind of speech to support. Jones sees protest against sponsorship as “an attempt to silence Alan Jones”. Clearly he admits that his speech is ultimately an expression of the will of his commercial backers — and thus not his alone to assert. If companies pull the plug, then that is their right — and it’s no more “censorship” than Mortein’s decision to kill off Louis the Fly.

    you clearly think Jones should be censored

    No, I don’t. I think the plug should be pulled, which is different.

    so why not call a spade a spade?

    I am pedantic about language. I like the best words to be used. Censorship is something carried out by the state or groups very close to it. It seeks to make certain speech impossible. Like you, I agree, sometimes there are compelling or merely persuasive reasons for censoring. This campaign is not about censorship but about what speech the public at large will support with their cash. If the ALP or Libs or some religious organisation sought a donation from me, they wouldn’t get it. That’s not censorship.

    If Jones is punted, that isn’t censorship either. He can still attend SULC functions and speak as he sees fit, if they will have him. If they won’t, he can stand outside the door ranting. I won’t bother him and nor should the state.

  • I have found this discussion fascinating and have been working through Sarah’s arguments in my head (resulting in oodles of cognitive dissonance).

    Censorship has always seemed in my mind something that a state apparatus ‘inflicts’ on the individual/s within it and arises from an inherent power differential, usually exercised by force of law and sanction. It is asymmetrical in nature – where the powerful prevent the powerless from expressing a particular view.

    This is certainly not what’s happening in this case but is it still censorship?

    It seems to me that there are two competing sets of free speech at hand here.
    On one hand we have the freedom of speech for consumers to communicate their intentions as to how they will discriminate in the market place (based on a particular set of characteristics) and on the other hand we have the freedom of speech for one wealthy individual backed by a private company (with a publicly owned bit of broadcasting spectrum up their sleeves) to say certain things in a certain way.

    Both it seems can exist concomitantly. Both sides have, and are exercising, their free speech… quite freely.

    In my mind, Jones has all the free speech he wants – he will not be jailed, threatened with physical violence or coercively deprived of his property as a result of his speech. In fact, in the event that his program fell over and 2GB died in a ditch, he would still be welcome to stand on a street corner yelling his various positions without being forced into silence – he could blog, hire skywriters, write books and articles, or howl at the moon each night and no-one will stop him.

    The state is certainly agnostic about his speech and will do nothing, absolutely nothing, to deprive him of it.

    However, that a sizable portion of population are decidedly less agnostic about Jones’ speech and are prepared to put their money where their mouths are, merely exercising this very same prerogative, does not encroach one iota on Jones’ freedoms. These petitioners are telegraphing their intentions to the market place about standards of speech they expect – namely that the tone and mode of Jones’ remarks have a corrosive effect on political debate in the public square and that this is bad for everyone and that he should desist. Let’s be clear, it is not the ideological or philosophical content that is at question here as there has been no call for conformity to any particular ‘line’.

    The petitioners are saying to the market “we find this form of speech unacceptable sure by all means continue to do business with Jones and 2GB, but just don’t expect us to help fund it by buying your products”. This is in keeping with both the principles of free speech and free markets.

    Sarah is of course not suggesting that we outlaw campaigns of this type but merely raises questions about whether it is a principle that we could live with regardless of its broader application.

    And I think I can live with it so long as the petitioners are not seeking to impose or to suppress a particular ideological position. I don’t think they are seeking this outcome. Rather, there is a call for a change in tone, cessation of name calling, screeching, invective and rancour – these are not ideas that are being suppressed but modes of expression. It is not about where Jones sits on the political spectrum.

    One of the key ideas that so often comes up in discussions about unpopular speech is that it is far better to counter bad ideas with better ones, to use the power of argument and persuasion as part of some kind of Darwinian meme competition.

    The problem with this argument in this case is that the comments made by Jones are not vulnerable to counter argument. They are not intellectual positions or statements of philosophy but simple name calling – plain, glib nastiness. These are not ideas, they are contentless verbiage and it is literally impossible to engage with them or to subject them to a ‘contest of ideas’.

    In the event that a slightly unhinged person decided to wander up and down Martin Place each day with a megaphone calling people nasty names at 130 decibels and we were to discover that the megaphone was furnished by Woolworths or Mercedes or whoever and that they supplied this individual with batteries each day so the rants could continue unabated, it would be my guess that in short order passersby, shop keepers, local workers, lunch eaters, buskers, and everyone else in the vicinity would demand that at the very least the companies stop providing the batteries.

    Jones can keep his megaphone but for the basic amenity of the polity it is quite legitimate that we say to the companies in question “please stop giving that guy batteries for his megaphone”. And if please ain’t good enough, then its unremarkable that people might express a preference not to buy their products and services.

    • Thanks Duke, for your considered comment. I have a few responses.

      1. your second para indicates that you believe free speech only applies in the public sector, with regard to State controls over speech. This is doctrinally supportable, but doesn’t take into account more modern views of free speech. If true, it means that issues regarding corporate pressure on publishers to censor (whether it be corporate owners or advertisers) have nothing to do with free speech. Nor, for that matter, would random purges of their platforms by Facebook and Twitter. Which would have been catastrophic if that had happened in Tunisia or Egypt in early 2011. Nor, for that matter, would Mastercard et al’s strangling of Wikileaks raise free speech issues (except to the extent one believes Mastercard et al are being pushed by US govt – not sure that is proven, they may just be doing it to suck up to US govt). This point is probably my most doctrinally contentious, but also my most progressive.

      It may be possible to deal with such corporate power even if “free speech” not involved (eg boycott Facebook etc). But it is a more powerful argument if it is involved.

      2. You do say it is about the “powerful” regulating “powerless” which could take into account corporate prompted censorship. I really like that point and will return to it below (point 7).

      3. I believe that corporations, off their own bat, pulling sponsorship due to the content of a publication, is an attempt to pressure a publication over its content, and is therefore an instance of attempted censorship (a la The Newsroom scenario). If one believes that, I don’t see that it logically makes a difference if the corps are pulling sponsorship, not off their own bat but due to pressures from elsewhere, in this case anti Jones campaigns. It is ultimately a campaign for censorship. BUT .. that doesn’t mean it is “bad”. Some censorship is allowed under international human rights law. But I believe I am calling a spade a spade. I don;t believe the campaigns themselves are of themselves censorship – but their ultimate goal is censorship if the ultimate goal is to take Jones off the air. (that’s apparently not the goal of all the campaigns – Jenna Price from #destroythejoint yesterday said she didn’t want Jones to lose his job).

      4. It is no answer to say that Jones can write a blog, or skywrite or whatever. Would you feel the same way if a worthy reporter was removed from her position after publishing a brave story.in a commercial news source? “oh well, she can always blog”. Taken to logical extremes, that position would mean that govt pressure on a radio station wouldn’t be a free speech issue, as someone could just blog a story anonymously. The platform does matter. Free speech does not stop at the soapbox. Also, removal from the airwaves would logically mean that he has lost his job – a clear penalty for “speech” including his Gillard comment and previous awful comments.

      5. Speech is speech. The principle of free speech applies whether it is political or worthy or commercial and unworthy. But free speech is not an absolute right, and I have never pushed the idea that it is. So certainly, limitations can more readily be applied to some speech than others. This doesn’t mean that free speech is irrelevant, just that limits and censorship is more likely to be permissible or even desirable.

      6. I think your characterisation of Jones as akin to someone who simply rants in the street may be OTT. Have you ever listened to him? I actually haven’t. His outrageous comments get a lot of publicity, but I find it hard to believe his entire show every day is simply an offensive rant. That just doesn’t seem humanly possible – 3 hrs a day every weekday for decades? That is not a defence of his actual rants – just a comment that there may be a tendency to simply dismiss everything he says as crazy – I am guilty of that myself perhaps in the earlier “In Defence of Alan Jones”. Eg many of his critics may agree with him on coal seam gas.

      eg. Jones clearly campaigns against global warming measures. That is an “idea” that MUST be taken on in the marketplace of ideas as he is not the only one – there is Bolt and also pollies like Bernardi. It is to give up the ghost to just say one can’t counter that so one must shut it down. The only way to defeat that idea is to take it on. One could bemoan the power of Jones as a reason climate denialism is so strong in this country. A better outcome to my mind than taking him off air would be equal time for proper climate science on his program, to expose his audience to important alternative ideas (though I realise that outcome is not likely). Because I don’t see climate denialism being outlawed any time soon.

      Also – no major party is in fact running on a platform of climate denialism. One might doubt Abbott’s bona fides on the matter, but I don’t believe the majority of his party is in denial. (I frankly don’t even believe his blood pledge)

      7. Now we come to the point of yours I like the most – free speech is relevant when powerful suppress powerless but not vice versa. A really interesting idea worth exploring. It brings in the idea of “Equal speech” which came up with the storify. But it’s not actually the way free speech is conceptualised, though that may be because until the internet, there was little way for the powerless to act. The equalising effect also gives rise to arguments that this instance of attempted censorship is justified.

      8. But – I am still uneasy. That is just my opinion – people can certainly differ on this. But, I am uneasy partly because the anti-Jones campaigns are in fact people who don’t listen to him. It smacks a bit of telling others what they can or cannot listen to. Freedom to access information, particularly from a willing speaker (and Jones is clearly that), is actually part of free speech – see, eg, Mavlonov v Uzbekistan under the ICCPR. The number who listen probably outnumbers those who have joined relevant FB groups and signed petitions, and aren’t the most internet savvy demographic anyway. Is there not a whiff of oppression in aiming to take away their listening pleasures, rather than try to convince them that Jones is not worth listening to? People can throw up their hands and say that they are “stupid” or “racist” or “sheep” or whatever – but I think that is a pretty offensive dismissal of a large-ish segment of the population. Also, this point is relevant to the idea that this campaign is “the polity” speaking – it might just be a loud minority. It also might be a new phase in the broader “culture war”.

      9. I wouldn’t cry if Jones was taken off the air. It probably would improve the quality of political debate in this country. (though it’d depend on who replaced him). Maybe that means the campaign is justified. And, as you kindly note, I certainly agree the campaigns themselves are free speech, including threats of or actual boycotts of businesses. I am not however convinced that part of this isn’t related to Jones’ position on the political spectrum – after all some of his critics have been very impolite so not everybody is motivated by wanting more politeness. And I doubt future campaigns of this type (which would be emboldened if this one succeeds) would be limited simply to keeping speech polite. And there are lots of targets of shutdown campaigns who would be a lot more vulnerable than Jones (who else would be allowed to go ahead ad-free?). As I say in the “Defence” piece, I think it would be a shame if the default position on outrageous or despicable speech is to campaign for its removal, rather than campaign to counter it. I prefer “he’s outrageous so stop listening (which would lead to the natural shutdown of the show due to its irrelevance)” to “I’m outraged, shut him down”.

      10.Some have taken my slippery slope argument in 9 as indicating that I am against boycott campaigns of any sort. Not true. People can boycott or shame companies for their own behaviour to press them to, eg, stop using child labour or whatever. And social media is a powerful tool to do that. This is a very distinct situation – people are pressuring companies due to the content of the broadcast they sponsor – the target is the broadcast not the company. Sort of like a secondary boycott. I am not against all secondary boycotts (I haven’t really thought about them generally tbh) but just pointing out that nothing in my argument is against primary boycotts (including a direct campaign for people to “turn off 2GB”).

      11. Whatever. This is a really interesting phenomenon. I shall watch with interest. Eg how long can Jones go without ads? What will happen when they return? What happens when Abbott next goes on the show? Fascinating stuff.

  • Highly recommend everyone read A Statement on Alan Jones by petitioners Nic Lochner and Vinay Orekondy. Not bad for one of those unengaged members of the latest generation Z (or is it the iGeneration?). Wonder if the Young Liberals would agree with its sentiments.

  • Allowing, for the sake of argument, that a corporation (or group of them) decides to pull the plug on something progressive being discussed in public space, the same remedies are available to us as have been deployed in this case. Yet even if these fail, that would only mean we weren’t persuasive enough. It wouldn’t be a function of the precedent. Our reluctance to act here is never restraining a corporation from acting as it sees fit. We also know that as a matter of practice roughly 100% of commercial talk radio is anti-progressive — savagely so, and for reasons that are easy to grasp so there’s no real downside.

    • “Savagely” 100%? That’s hyperbole Fran. I concede I’m not an expert in talkback radio but I am not sure you are either. In any case, they are not all Jones-es unless you are on a crusade to get rid of all rightwing speech. Also – talkback radio is hardly the only potential target of a shutdown campaign – it could be anything – TV, websites, news, comedy … anything.

      “Never restraining a corp from acting as it sees fit” – not at all. I have no problem whatsoever in boycottng corps for, eg, engaging in child labour, abuses against staff or people in the vicinity of their operations, or any number of corporate acts which infringe human rights. I do it myself. I do have reservations, for reasons you are now well acquainted with, with targeting corps because they sponsor speech that one does not like.

  • If speech in public is really maintainable only with commercial backing then it follows that it is qualitatively different from public speech and not protected. It’s corporate speech and corporations don’t enjoy human rights.

    Also, if Jones expressly links sponsorship to his speech, then he must accept the sponsors as his invigilators. They are entitled to pull the plug on what is after all their speech not his.

    • So, in your opinion, there are no free speech issues whatsoever if corporate sponsors were to overtly interfere with a news program because it clashed with their commercial interests (a la Newsroom). I don’t believe one can say that that is a free speech issue and that Alan Jones is not, simply because his opinions are not “news”. Speech is speech. And everybody on the commercial channels is, to an extent, subject to advertiser and certainly corporate power – ditto newspapers. In fact, maybe everybody except Alan Jones, given 2GB is prepared to run him without advertisements.

      The difference, as eloquently pointed out by Drag0nista, is that censorship is more justified in the latter than the former. That’s fine – I have never proclaimed that there is an absolute right to free speech. There clearly is not in international human rights law, domestic law, or even the home of the brave with the strongest free speech protections in the world – the US. However, we clearly differ as to where the line should be drawn.

    • I am not sure by the way that coerced speech is speech, in relation to your comments about sponsors as invigilators. Also surpising you conceding that companies have a right of free speech.

      But basically, I don’t even know why people are upset at the idea that issues of “free speech” and “censorship” are involved here. So what? Again, I say that the right to free speech is not absolute, you clearly think Jones should be censored, so why not call a spade a spade? Censorship is not always “bad”, as I say in the Storify, and as Drag0nista seems to agree.

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