Oh, for pity’s sake.
The Macquarie Radio Network has taken a commercial decision to suspend advertising on Alan Jones’ program – and this is a freedom-of-speech issue? Mumbrella, the cheerleader of advertising, thinks so (http://mumbrella.com.au/if-you-force-alan-jones-off-the-air-of-course-its-censorship-120589).
Here’s the cluestick: I have an absolute right to spend my money as I wish. I do not have to decide that I need to tailor my spending somehow to avoid “censoring” any radio shock-jock at all.
Moreover: I have an absolute right to say “If Mercedes gives money to Alan Jones, then I won’t give my money to Mercedes” – I choose the least likely scenario, because the only Mercedes I’ll ever afford would have a 1960s compliance date, and Mercedes wouldn’t get any money from me anyhow.
Further: I have an absolute right to say that I’d like other people to express a similar opinion.
But no: in a lame Twitter defence of its position, Mumbrella directed me to the Change.org petition to have Jones pulled from the air. This, Mumbrella claims, is censorship.
That’s not censorship: that’s a citizen expressing an opinion, and inviting others to endorse that opinion. In other words, since Mumbrella’s intellect seems to lie on the left-hand side of the Bell curve: it’s an expression of freedom of speech.
And Macquarie Radio is still free to ignore that expression, should it so desire.
You see: the only decisions in this example are, on the one side, personal; and on the other side, commercial. The personal decisions are “Do I seek signatures to the petition?”, “Do I sign the petition?”, and “Do we publish the results?”
The commercial decision is “Are there enough angry people to damage our brand? Do we continue lending our commercial endorsement to this program?”
Neither rank as censorship, because neither rob Alan Jones of his right to express his opinions. He can take them to the Domain, should he choose; write them in letters to editors, post them on a blog, on Facebook, on Twitter. He could buy his own radio license and – within the bounds of regulations that MRN is subject to – broadcast them unfettered. He can accept speakers’ fees, publish his opinions in books, whatever.
Then, as now, I have a perfect right to ignore him – and a perfect right to ignore those who want his audience and don’t care what he says. My right to choose where I spend my money cannot be fettered by the commercial interests of Jones’ advertisers.
Without sponsors, all he lacks is privilege. And privilege is not a question of free speech.