Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Campaigning and bullying are NOT the same thing.

I wasn't going to, but there's something else that occurs to me about this whole Alan Jones thing.  It's prompted by statements labelling the social media campaign protesting against Jones' comments "cyber bullying".

While listening to Jon Faine on ABC 774 yesterday morning, a woman called to object to this label.  She broke down as she spoke about losing a child recently to cyber bullying.  She didn't want what had happened to her child to be diminished by Alan Jones and 2GB co-opting the term.

I don't think that an organised social media campaign can legitimately be characterised as cyber bullying.  Firstly, I don't think that a social media campaign is that much different from a traditional campaign where people write letters, call talk-back radio, gather signatures on paper petitions, organise town hall meetings, go doorknocking etc.  The key difference is that social media tools allow people to speak and be heard by a very large audience.  In fact there is potential to connect on a global level without leaving the home.

Secondly, cyber bullying is bullying, it's just the tools that are different. That's not what is going on here.

I'm happy to disclose that I signed the online petition calling for Jones' removal following his comments.  I will also tell you that I encouraged friends to also sign the petition using Twitter and facebook.  I did more than sign, I've engaged in face to face conversation with people and this is the second piece I've written on this blog.  (You can read the first piece here.)  In days gone by, gathering signatures for a petition required pounding the pavement, setting up a stall on the street, talking to customers coming into your business about signing, passing the petition around at work.  Now it requires some drafting, an online account, the press of a button and a social media network.  Same outcome - names in support of a proposition; different tools and timeframe.

Applying glib labels to dismiss social media campaigns is really an expression of grief and fear at the loss of power.

Before social media, the power to be heard instantly sat firmly in the hands of people like Alan Jones - people who are paid to broadcast their opinions, stir up controversy and incite outrage.  The microphone was their tool and they had the power to speak uninterrupted.  People could engage in the discussion by calling talk-back, but the power still resided with the broadcaster with the power to flick the "kill" switch on any caller without warning.  From my own experience of calling the ABC, my call is first screened by a producer to assess what I want to talk about.  (I'm not in 2GB's broadcast area, and if I was I wouldn't listen and would be unlikely to call.  I have never called Alan Jones and can't vouch for their process.)

Now social media takes out these filters and time lags and gives anyone with access to a computer or smart phone the ability to broadcast or publish without interruption.  Broadcasters and other traditional media, no longer sit in the all-powerful position.  The power has been dispersed and they are just another voice in the population and they will receive feedback immediately and en masse about what they say.

In my opinion, this power shift is exciting.  It's also challenging.  Whenever power is challenged in a society it's significant.

So Alan Jones and 2GB need to suck it up, as they say in the classics.  They need to wear the consequences of their words and actions.  They need to come to terms with this power shift.  If their values genuinely align to their rhetoric about democracy, they should be dancing in the streets!

Bullying of any kind should not be tolerated.

If you'd like to read and sign the petition, follow this link.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. We will have more of an idea of the impact the social media campaign has really had on the Allan Jones saga in 6 mths time or will it just be another Kyle Sandilands affair where all the sponsors have returned?