Not that I strive to be topical, quite the opposite, but the Alan Jones thing has certainly flooded the media today.
What Jones said was inexcusable. I never had any time for the man or his ilk beforehand anyway; they carry no credibility with me whatsoever, being professionally opinionated bigmouths. But that was bad. Bad by simple community standards of decency, leaving aside considerations of specific personalities or political juxtapositions.
That said, his myriad vocal critics then went on to dismantle their own credibility. On Twitter and elsewhere the wild vitriol was palpable, and meshed in perfectly with our burgeoning culture of outrage-as-a-passtime. One silly old bugger making one off-the-cuff comment at a private function shouldn’t be enough to cause national outrage. In any case, Jones manufactured the ammunition, but it was the reporting journalist that loaded and fired the gun, for his own selfish motives.
Increasingly, it seems that the real-time public feedback loop engendered by chiefly Twitter but other lines of communication also has fostered an atmosphere in which people go looking for things to be utterly outraged at as an exercise, where once a disapproving shake of the head would have sufficed. There seems to be evolving an open-source thought-police model whereby anyone who speaks a heresy, whose definition is broadening daily, is subject to public vitriol and alienation at the whim of what is essentially an instant bandwagon culture. This happens largely in the absence of any collective introspection. This is the most dangerous aspect of it.
Alan Jones’ critics did nothing for their own credibility during the firestorm on Twitter that erupted after the news broke, and it only got worse during the live broadcast of the press conference during which Jones apologised. The jeering masses blotted their own copybook by
– carrying on about a rambling press conference which was i) completely unedited, a genuine Tasmanian-Tiger-level rarity, so of course it looked long & ineloquent, and ii) fuelled and egged on by journalists continually angling for a killer quote/further gaffe.
– resolutely refusing to listen to anything that he actually said, and wilfully & serially misquoting him in real time.
So there was idiocy aplenty on both sides.
Social ostracism is nothing new, and snooty fools from all walks of life have been using it since time immemorial to mete out punishment to those who have transgressed society’s precious mores. But the bandwagon-full-of-dynamite-rolling-down-a-hill potential of the net in terms of its speed and sheer reach beg some new consideration along the lines of making sure that the facts are served. It’s probably a plaintive cry amidst the mob, but the fact that the mob is so big and loud, and so very very instantly and iteratively self-reinforcing of its own views, make that cry all the more important.
In short, for critics of any kind to maintain the moral and intellectual high ground, and to therefore continue to deserve any kind of audience, cold reason and adherence to the rules of fairness need to prevail at all times. As soon as the usual human mob mentality takes over and emotive garbage starts overwhelming the real conversation that should be taking place, nobody is saying anything useful, and the whole thing descends into a horrible waste of electrons.
So for future reference, all you fun-loving mob revellers out there, put away your pitchforks, listen properly, think carefully, then react rationally. By all means kick the guilty. But make damn sure that when you’re asked about it afterwards you can still defend all of your words with joined-up-reason & confidence. Otherwise you’re just noise.