We Shouldn't Be Free To Air Racist Bile On TV

It has been an ugly week in Australian media.

First, the chief executive of Foxtel, Patrick Delany, responded to a question about Fairfax and Nine’s merger by saying “You buy the land, you get the Indians”.

A few days later, Andrew Bolt wrote a column for the Herald Sun claiming that Australia is being colonised by a “tidal wave of immigrants”. ABC’s Media Watch wrote that Bolt’s “rant against foreigners marks a new low, even for him”. The Australian Press Council received an unspecified number of complaints.

By the weekend, there was a new race-related incident to contend with. Sky News invited the former leader of the anti-Muslim United Patriots Front Blair Cottrell onto the Adam Giles Show for an interview. Cottrell has previously expressed admiration for Hitler, posted anti-Semitic, anti-women and pro-Nazi views, and has been found guilty of ridiculing and creating serious contempt for Muslims under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.

After an outcry, Sky News removed the footage from its social media accounts, and later suspended the Adam Giles Show. Victoria’s Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan directed Metro Trains to stop playing Sky News at Melbourne train stations to ensure that “passengers aren’t bombarded with what’s really shocking content and messages.”

Sky News reporter Laura Jayes tweeted about Cottrell, calling him a “far right-wing fascist who’s a self confessed Hitler fan”. Cottrell responded in now-deleted tweets, “I may as well have raped @ljayes on the air, not only would she have been happier with that but the reaction would have been the same”, which resulted in his Twitter account being suspended. His Facebook account was not suspended for comments of a similar nature.

John Birmingham wrote that Cottrell’s appearance on Sky News was not a mistake but a “perfectly routine part of Sky’s business model.” Birmingham described Sky News After Dark as a digital Nuremburg Rally.

To top off the week, Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce appeared on ABC’s The Weekly and suggested that disadvantaged people are poor and “in many instances they’re white”. Earlier that day, Joyce had made similar comments in an interview with Hugh Riminton on Ten’s Eyewitness News arguing that “poor people who live on the peripheries of society, predominantly white people, these are the people I think are ignored, called hillbillies, rednecks and hayseeds”.

None of this is surprising. The racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, as well as white nationalist rhetoric, are just a mirror image of the white nationalism growing steadily in the United States and Canada.

Far-right Canadian YouTubers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux just toured Australia and New Zealand, reminding people that “it’s okay to be white” and “multiculturalism doesn’t work”, which led to varied responses from the media.

This is a time where cries over free speech overpower the reality of being a minority and encountering racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and prejudice.

Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich responded to Bolt’s article by saying that “this is the time that demands moral leadership by the media in confronting this surge in hatred.”

Whether that is possible remains to be seen. Bernard Keane wrote that “racism is now becoming part of ‘civilised discourse’”, while Jack Latimore, a Goori writer and reporter, questioned whether “white Australia is incapable of not being racist”.

Robert Manne, emeritus professor of politics at La Trobe University, wrote that publishing a column like Bolt’s in the mainstream media would have been unthinkable 20 years ago, and that it is “a consequence of the steady and sinister and perilous drift of Australia’s national conversation towards a permissible racism.”

Daniel James, a Yorta Yorta writer, suggested that “if any group in Australia understand the difference between immigration and colonisation it’s Indigenous people”, which Bolt and his followers should pause to reflect on. James concluded that “Australia as a nation is evolving and will continue to evolve and let’s hope it continues down the path of inclusivity and plurality, where we embrace various cultures and where the people of the first nations are meaningfully included and celebrated as the most successful ongoing culture the human race has ever known.”

People’s humanity should not need to be proven or validated. These latest incidents are distractions, a way to keep the public squabbling over topics that should not even be up for debate.

These divert attention away from white nationalist power, the ongoing effects of colonialism, the need for a treaty for First Nations peoples, and the calls to close the camps on Nauru and Manus Island.

It is time to stop providing platforms to people who are frightened of losing the privileges that Western civilisation provides them with.

It is time to take a stand, submit complaints to the Australian Press Council, support independent media, and ensure that marginalised voices are heard and published in the mainstream.

Feature Image: Sky News Facebook