Interviews

friendlyjordies: boogeyman of the mainstream media

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Whether he’s bypassing mainstream outlets or showing us how to reseed the Amazon with our porn addictions, Jordan Shanks (known to most as friendlyjordies) is a media hacking guru. Ironically, you’ve probably seen him on the evening news lately.

Shanks is an environmentalist, an aggravator, and a watchdog whose content has spent years morphing into the satirical, politically charged format his viewers enjoy today. Using playground tactics to publish whispers from the bathroom stalls of the Chambers Of Power, he’s known for sharing stories that Australia’s mainstream media are too afraid to touch.

We spoke to Jordan to find out where this political business all started, his ascent (or descent) into the world of self help, that John Barilaro video, and heaps more.

FriendlyJordies Interview Happy Mag Jordan Shanks

HAPPY: You went to Newtown High School of the Performing Arts, are you still based around here?

JORDAN: No I’m in Zetland… actually so yes! It’s actually not that far away, but it is worlds apart, isn’t it? If Gladys Berejiklian had a dream, it would be Zetland.

HAPPY: Would this dream consist of a whole suburb that was a Lendlease shopping mall where the town hall was a Kmart?

JORDAN: Yes, don’t forget the brutalist architecture and garish yellow window panes for some reason. I don’t know why they are so into that, could you pick a worse colour?

HAPPY: Hospital green?

JORDAN: It is one of those cigarette warning colours.

HAPPY: I have to ask, where did your interest in politics come about?

JORDAN: I don’t know, I was always interested in it as a kid. My first Freudian memory of it was John Howard winning the ’96 election and my mum at an election party pointing at the TV and saying “you see that, that’s a bad man!”

HAPPY: And little Jordie was like “YES and those eyebrows”.

JORDAN: And then the programming continued, I think that was the beginning of it! I was always into it, and strangely just by random chance some kid that I went to school with at Newtown said “you should go and do International Politics with me because you get to go overseas for a year and the government pays for it”, and the rest is history as they say. But it wasn’t a free trip it was on fucking HECS, but you know, I was 18 and young and dumb.

HAPPY: Do you see yourself as a comedian or a political commentator?

JORDAN: Do you know what? This is the wankiest answer you will ever get.

HAPPY: Ok, but remember this is a music publication.

JORDAN: Dude, and how egomaniacal is that in itself to assume that I am even more wanky than any musician?

HAPPY: No bring it on, I wanna hear it!

JORDAN: I just see myself as a human being, man! I don’t know what to call myself anymore because I campaign, but I also do standup shows. It’s really strange, it’s really serious topics inter-spliced with this. I don’t know, what is that? I guess a satirist, that would probably be the closest.

HAPPY: When you go to a friendlyjordies live show, what could you expect? What could the audience expect? Would it be advisable to sit in the front row?

JORDAN: Yeah you can sit in the front row because dude, going to one of my shows is just an hour-long video that you pay 50 bucks for.

HAPPY: And does it border on self help, do you give advice to the audience?

JORDAN: I did with my first stand up shows but not anymore, I am going to start doing self help seminars when I hit a certain number on Jordan Shanks, which I guess I’ll reveal here – 100,000. And yeah, I think I’m fairly close to that, I think I’ll start moving into that realm as well.

HAPPY: Into the world of self help?

JORDAN: Yes, into the world of being a self help guru!

HAPPY: You’ve got more than a quarter of a million views on most of your videos and you publish three of them a week. Do you do this all yourself? Do you have a team? How does it work?

JORDAN: I’ve been very blessed with an incredible team that is self-effacing and allows me to take all the credit. But look, it’s always the same isn’t it? There are always a bunch of these people that don’t have a constant need for attention behind you, pushing you. I mean the editing that goes into the friendlyjordies videos, I know they look cheap but that is an aesthetic. They are top-of-the-line editors that could be working on movies, if Australia only had a film industry.

HAPPY: Do you think most of your viewers are attached to the medium and you as a comedian, or do you think they are there for the political content?  Do you see the distinction I’m making?

JORDAN: Yeah, I’m just trying to think. I really wouldn’t know, I think that what’s happened is they basically got sucked in from me regaling stories from school and I just started sprinkling in more and more politics and now I just have this constant campaign war room. I don’t know how it happened, but it was a really strange progression. And now people get pissed off when it’s not political, when once upon a time it was the reverse.

HAPPY: Do you think some of your viewers are responding to outrage, which is a theme in this kind of medium?

JORDAN: You know what I think it is? I think there is no other medium for that quality of information. I’m not saying I’m a genius, my researchers are much smarter I am, my writers are great. I obviously pull my weight, but they do a lot of this stuff and pretty much what it is they do is hang around the chambers of power and there are all these stories that never get reported and they are the important stories that just get thrown in the trash, day in day out. We are not by any stretch trained journalists or as intelligent as some of the journalists in mainstream media, it’s just we’re not that scared of being sued and we don’t have backs to scratch, so we can publish whatever we want.

HAPPY: So you’re not towing a party line as such, you’re a free agent?

JORDAN: Mhm.

HAPPY: Can you tell me a little bit more about how that research process might take place?

JORDAN: You know what, originally it was just scouring through parliamentary documents, and I’ve always been sitting at my computer writing away. Recently what’s happened is Christo – who actually just appeared recently in a prank call against a journalist we just did and he’s a gun, he’s super smart, super motivated – he just realised ‘fuck this I’m going to go to parliament’ and then he started hanging out with staffers and politicians and they’ve been saying ‘I’ve been trying to run this story for years, here you go’.

Look, when I say that he’s a researcher, a lot of the time it’s just all these really smart people that are giving us stories in our Twitter inbox, Christo just going there and saying “what do you know?” and they’re saying “please publish this” and it all just gets filtered out throughout the power structure that is the mainstream media right. None of that will ever reach the public. They have finally found someone who is willing to listen to them.

HAPPY: Because when the mainstream media run a story there are so many people in the chain, so many people that have to tick a box somewhere, there are so many alignments, and you’re able to bypass that?

JORDAN: Yep.

HAPPY: And in terms of your audience, they know it’s unfiltered and that’s why they come to you?

JORDAN: I think that’s it.

HAPPY: You’re of Croatian descent, you went to a progressive and diverse school. So when I hear you doing an accent for Gladys Berejiklian or John Barilaro is your objective primarily to get a response out of the politician, rather than to be culturally insensitive?

JORDAN: Dude, I don’t care about cultural insensitivity and the reason I don’t is because I realise that there are far more serious problems in this country. The things you hear in the press, we are all constantly conditioned to ask “is this ok, this accent?” That should be the 1000th concern that the public focus on. I mean for instance, recently with this we just exposed – and thank you guys for running it because you were the only publication that did and I’m always amazed that this is how the media system works.

We did a 27-minute video outlining how John Barilaro – and this is just some of the corruption we know about, we have more documentaries coming on this guy – but [taking] close to $100 million of favours taking taxpayer money out and giving it to failing businesses purely because they are guys they owe favours to. Like rampant, rampant corruption.

HAPPY: How do these people get away with it?

JORDAN: Because no one reports on it, everyone needs to understand this about the mainstream media, it acts like a giant magnifying glass. What they talk about might possibly be true but they focus on facts that benefit their masters. So we put out that 27-minute video and you guys immediately responded with ‘holy shit, there is a lot of deep seeded corruption that is happening particularly within the Nationals’.

I believe the Nationals are the most corrupt party Australia has ever seen by a mile, basically a rural dictatorship because they have no challengers within the rural seats. Obviously because you guys are more organic you are able to run that, but every other outlet including the Sydney Morning Herald, The Telegraph, Channel 7, Channel 10, every single one, 50 percent of the media in the country is run by one corporation Channel 9, run by fucking Peter Costello, they still dare to call themselves “Independent. Always.” Also the one that ordered that hit and is just one up, their chief editor, that guy was Joe Hockey’s former advisor, I wonder what side they’re on? Anyway their response to it was “Don’t you think that doing those accents was racist?”

HAPPY: You’re saying they were building a straw man argument to distract people from what they don’t want attention drawn to?

JORDAN: Yes it was basically just a straw man, who cares? Dude, even if I am the boogeyman they are painting me as, does that really matter when [Barilaro] sold out the most iconic national park in this country for $10,000, completely destroying it? 27 native species that don’t need to go extinct, he’s allowing them to go extinct because he has $10,000.

HAPPY: And this happened right after the bushfires?

JORDAN: Exactly, it’s just insanity. If I can just add to that, I’d like to give a shoutout to Michael West, because he is the new Fairfax. He’s an incredible journalist, he’s a disaffected one that used to work at Fairfax. He thought ‘this is garbage’ and started his own site. He put it best when he said “They are constantly touting themselves as holding power to account”.

You look at it in that video, 27 minutes and they go “you used the Sydney Morning Herald articles”. Yeah, that’s because they’re a little bit better at reporting what happened in parliament than the Hansard which is a written document of every single word that is ever uttered in there, like “the member for Bungadoodle sneezed at 4:05 pm”. Sometimes you might say “they said this in parliament”, but that’s not exactly journalism to begin with. If you look at it, all the articles were all positive press for John Barilaro just saying he was saying this, but this was the truth, and that’s what they were reporting. Anyway, Fairfax are always touting that they are holding power to account. It was amazing that when we actually held power to account, it was like a Westpoint ALDI’s article, they held a comedian to account.

HAPPY: As a social/political commentator, what are your guiding principals? What are the things you’re most passionate and concerned about?

JORDAN: The environment, front and centre. I really actually don’t care about anything else. As we were discussing beforehand, I don’t think there is anything else that our generation should be concerned about.

HAPPY: On that note, you recently just raised $8,000 for WIRES. are there any other initiatives that might be worth mentioning?

JORDAN: Yes, I just raised $200,000 for Animal Rescue Cooperative.

HAPPY: Amazing, any others?

JORDAN: I think honestly the best thing you can be doing is switching over to Ecosia because they plant a tree every 45 searches. This year, just by looking up porn, I’ve planted 8,000 trees.

HAPPY: That is truly hilarious, who would’ve guessed a porn addiction could potentially lead to the reforestation of the Amazon? Apart from that, what else do you have coming up?

JORDAN: I was going to do some shows but thanks to COVID, I’m in a similar boat to all the musicians out there and had to retreat to my digital chambers. As a result of that I have a lot of documentaries coming out about very specific parliamentarians who are extremely corrupt – that’s who we are going after now. Individual members because I reckon we can kick them off.

I just want to thank Happy Mag as well, because you won’t find this in your competitors Pedestrian and Junkee that are owned by major banks. You guys were the only publication to cover John Barilaro’s corruption. Think about this: the major NSW papers – The Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald – covering pop culture, while a pop culture magazine was covering NSW corruption, you’ve got to pat yourself on the back for that.

HAPPY: Thanks so much for joining us today Jordan.

JORDAN: No worries.

 

Interview and photos by Nic Mckenzie