Back in 2007, I made the mistake of wading into an argument on the local internet snark site The Spin Starts Here. For those unfamiliar with the site, it was populated mainly by the beta versions of the modern internet trolls. Produced anonymously by a couple who called themselves Caz and The Hack, TSSH made it their business to harass and bully other internet users and/or writers, going so far as to both publish and encourage their commenters to publish the private details of said people - their home addresses, their places of work, phone numbers. It was a nasty business run by the kinds of nasty, jealous people whose deep unhappiness can only be assuaged by the fawning adoration of an audience as bitterly acidic as themselves.
Despite the fact I barely read or engaged with the site, I was targeted myself at one stage for the simple crime of defending a friend against their ongoing campaign of abuse. In amongst the usual kinds of petty insults that were favoured there, The Hack thought it would be jolly one afternoon to write that my mother had died from ''karma-related cancer due to having a disgusting, abortion-having daughter''. It had been a month or so since her death - clearly, the wound was still raw.
But although I was upset, it wasn't really for me. I despised these people - to be frank, it didn't surprise me that a man who hid behind anonymity and enjoyed such enthusiastic daily fellatio of his ego would stoop to that kind of empathetically bereft level. I was hurt, but it was on behalf of the family who had loved my mother and didn't deserve to ever discover that her memory had been tarnished on the internet by misanthropic morons.
I can't speak for the Prime Minister, but I imagine her feelings regarding Alan Jones's recent comments are very similar. In a speech at a dinner hosted by the Sydney University Liberal Club (SULC) a fortnight ago, Jones said that Julia Gillard's father had ''died a few weeks ago of shame … To think that he had a daughter who told lies every time she stood for Parliament". The remarks were cruel, thoughtless and utterly despicable - but hardly unexpected. This is the same man whose broadcasting track record includes suggesting the Prime Minister should be thrown in a chaff bag and dumped at sea and declaring it was a disgrace for the government to provide financial aid for Pacific nations to empower women into leadership roles, because women were ''destroying the joint''. Jones is not known for reasoned, compassionate intelligence. Why we continue to be outraged by the rank buffoonery that comes out of his mouth is perplexing beyond belief.
Despite the deliberate spitefulness of Jones's comments that night (a spitefulness that does not end in his public ''apology'' - he makes big bones of the fact that it was a private dinner, he was employing the kind of black humour you might hear in the trenches at Gallipoli and by the way, people have been really mean to him on Twitter ever since so it's almost like he's the real victim), I doubt very much that the Prime Minister cares what Jones thinks. In fact, I'm increasingly beginning to doubt that the majority of Australians care what Alan Jones has to say about anything, despite the continued perception that he is, as the SULC tweeted the next morning, ''the nation's most influential broadcaster''. Jones is emblematic of the kind of old, white, male privilege that is heralded in Australia and festooned with financial reward and social power despite being a complete liability to his employers.
The problem isn't that Jones is supported to retain his job time and time again - the problem is that the Australian commercial broadcasting landscape is entrenched with the kind of retro sexism that grants men like Jones, Steve Price, Neil Mitchell, Graham Cornes, Andrew Bolt, Bob Francis and all the other loud, rude, offensively entitled shock jocks free rein to speak exactly as they please with no aspirations to decency or consideration.
The fact is, the issue of Jones's continued employment is the least pressing matter to come out of the revelations of his speech. More worrying are the circumstances surrounding that evening - that here we have a university club made up of Young Liberals (many of whom will no doubt have aspirations to enter politics one day) not only brandishing the kind of obscene privilege that would enable university students to organise and attend exclusive, $100-a-head dinners at posh Sydney restaurants, but also reflecting through their choice of guest speaker exactly where their current politics and values lie. It's evident that the SULC - who, as stated earlier, deleted a next day tweet praising Jones for his ''brilliant speech'' - are still firmly tethered to the kind of close-minded, misogynist politics of a man like Alan Jones. The Liberal Party is struggling to discredit their current image of an unprogressive party led by a moralistic misogynist. It hardly bodes well for them to have the public see their most youthful members extending a VIP speaker's invitation to the only man in Australia considered more disdainful of women than Tony Abbott. Nor does it help to hear them braying with laughter at Jones's ''black humour'', when those with even a shred of decency would recognise this as a bridge too far. It looks especially bad to see that the SULC's idea of a good jape is to auction off a jacket made out of chaff bags, both signed and successfully bid on by Jones himself.
I'm beyond being offended by Jones because he's on the way out. At this point, I just don't even care to campaign for his resignation because it seems a lost cause. But the SULC's members naturally must have aspirations to help define the future of Australia. When they graduate from university, they will try to retain jobs as staffers, lobbyists and eventually MPs. And here, in 2012, they aren't just indicating their values lie with a decrepit old dinosaur with prehistoric social politics and an archaic view of women - they're demonstrating that, as far as the Liberals are concerned, from the ground up nothing ever really changes.