The Shrieking Parrot

Few things give me greater pleasure than the sight (and sound) of a flock of lorikeets or cockatoos all going off at the same time as they cluster in trees to gorge on nectar. Shouting and bickering and carrying on – the cockies in particular sound like they’re tearing the very fabric of space-time with their prehistoric shrieking.

And speaking of prehistoric shrieking, I was amused this week by the antics of Alan Jones as he once again sought to bully into submission anyone opposed to his own interests (or those of his friends).

His performance interviewing Louise Herron (CEO of the Sydney Opera House) was just disgraceful – saying: “Who do you think you are? You should be sacked etc…” because she dared to take a principled position appropriate to her role and the dignity of a national icon.

I was surprised she didn’t respond by saying: “Who you think you are Alan? Presuming to take a stand on something over which you have zero authority.”

Because that exemplifies the ignorance and arrogance of Alan Jones (The Parrot, as he’s known at the ABC). He uses his platform as a radio announcer to shout his mouth off about everything under the sun, and has no qualms about choosing his targets (or the causes he wishes to champion) on the basis of his own interest.

He was, of course, notoriously busted during the Cash for Comment saga for taking money to make advertising sound like legitimate news or opinion, and to my mind nothing has changed. Jones has racing interests (and friends with horses in the Everest) so anything that promotes racing is fine by him. The fact anyone might disagree with him – even someone with a duty they hold sacred (or the hundreds of thousands signing petitions in support) – just sets him off squawking and spitting his famous vitriol until he gets his way, usually by intimidating politicians.

His performance on TV after the Opera House fiasco was temporarily shut down by light wielding protestors was vintage Jones:

They lost the argument, so they mobilised.”

The ignorance is breathtaking.”

If Jones was compelled to apologise to Louise Herron for his appalling behaviour, and only got his way by scaring the crap of Gladys Berejiklian, how exactly is that winning the argument? It’s like Hitler saying he won the argument over Chamberlain by invading Czechoslovakia.

The irony is breathtaking.

The thing that constantly amazes me about Alan Jones is his popularity with the people you’d think would most despise a man like him. Jones’ constituency is the battlers of Western Sydney – typically lower middle class, lower income, poorly represented in the higher education statistics, socially conservative and those with the most to complain about given the growing north/south divide in the Australian socio-economic condition. Somehow Jones is able to press their buttons and win their support despite being himself everything they’d normally hate. Uber-wealthy, highly educated and famously arrested in London for gross indecency in a public toilet. (There are plenty of other stories about him also.)

How on earth did a quintessential elitist like Alan Jones become the Battlers’ Champion? But that’s his way – he accuses others of the very things he could be accused of himself, and in so doing, manages to convey the impression that he is not elitist, bullying, misogynistic, nest-feathering, power-hungry and arrogant.

The true disaster though of a man like Jones having so much power is his disproportionate impact on elected governments. Both state and feds seem to cower in abject terror regarding his impact in Western Sydney where so many marginal electorates can determine an election.

They say you can judge the strength of a democracy by the freedom of the press – the Fourth Estate. If the press is free to scrutinise the affairs of government and comment in a manner to inform the electorate in their choices, all is well.

However, it is the hallmark of a totalitarian (or at least dystopian) society where the press functions mainly to distort the message and shepherd the electorate towards choices that are not in their interest, or otherwise serve the interests of the ruling elite.

Alan Jones squawking and bickering and terrorising politicians into terrible choices makes it clear that you can also judge the weakness of a democracy by the abused power of the Fourth Estate.

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