First published on 17 Apr 2013. Updated on 17 Apr 2013.
The right to free speech, as I have ranted before, does not include the right to be free from criticism. The same freedom that allows one to make a statement about, say, who you think might be responsible for the Boston Marathon bomb attacks extends to those who might want to point out that such a statement might be completely ludicrous and an attempt to make political points off a human tragedy.
And with that in mind, I would like to use my freedom of speech – and the gravitas that comes with having a punfully-titled column on the prestigious Internet – to say the following:
Alan Jones, you really do need to shut the fuck up.
Jones is no stranger to needing to shut the fuck up. He’s needed to shut the fuck up about a range of topics, from racial violence in Cronulla to climate change to asylum seekers to – perhaps most spectacularly – whether or not the death of the Prime Minster’s father last year was brought about by shame at his daughter’s taxation policies.
When the sun rises on a fresh new day, Alan Jones needs to shut the fuck up; and when the stars poke through the inky canopy of night they shine upon a world in which Alan Jones’ up-the-fuck-shutting is both necessary and devoutly wished.
Jones’ entire career has been predicated on needing to shut the fuck up and yet fighting against it. That anyone respects his opinion is baffling; that people aren’t gently moving microphones away from his mouth and changing the locks of the media outlets he inexplicably inhabits defies all rational sense. But he has a right to his opinion, and we have a right to point out that his opinion is factually incorrect; and, for that matter, that any time he fancies shutting the fuck up would be welcome.
The reason that Jones is raising ire this week is because the topic about which he has not shut the fuck up was the likely culprit of the Boston Marathon bombing. However, while the authorities actually investigating the attack still have no clear idea who was responsible, Jones is pretty sure he knows where the blame lies.
"Stupidity is like racism, sexism and homophobia: if you don’t stand up to it, you’re tacitly supporting it"
“I wouldn't be surprised if this was a conspiracy amongst students, left-wing radical students in Boston,” he told Sunrise on Wednesday, although there’s currently exactly as much evidence suggesting the work of a student conspiracy as there is for the bombing to have been masterminded by elephants, elves or the surviving cast of Diff’rent Strokes, “and I think we have to think also very seriously here about our own student numbers… I think the fact that we've been spared this kind of thing, touch wood, for so long highlights… the relentless work done by ASIO and all our police organisations.”
Oh, where to start?
There’s no evidence that students were responsible. There’s no evidence that there’s a left-wing student conspiracy afoot in US universities. Indeed, there’s no reason to suspect radical lefties at all: killing civilians isn’t traditionally the domain of the political left in the US. In fact, the rich history of politically-motivated domestic terrorism in the US including groups like the Ku Klux Klan through to individuals like Timothy McVeigh, whose philosophies veer more toward the radically ultra-right – which is, let’s be clear, closer to Jones’ political territory. And the deeply silly suggestion that the only thing that’s spared Australia this sort of horrific attack is that ASIO are secretly locking down our international students isn’t even sane enough to be wrong.
Now, I appreciate that Alan Jones saying something inflammatory about people he find politically distasteful is not surprising. His job relies on having something to say about whatever comes to hand, and saying “I honestly don’t know anything about this and so I feel it would be irresponsible of me to offer an opinion” is harder to fill an hour of radio with than just completely making a story up off the top of his shiny head.
However, that doesn’t mean that when Jones says something idiotic he shouldn’t be called on it. Stupidity is like racism, sexism and homophobia: sure, it happens all the time, but if you don’t stand up to it, you’re tacitly supporting it.
There’s an argument that Alan Jones shouldn’t be given oxygen. But you know what? At high enough pressure, oxygen becomes toxic. And it’s about time that the pressure was turned up.
Because when it comes to things that he knows nothing about, Alan Jones really does genuinely, sincerely and profoundly need to shut the fuck up.