Do you want Nazis? Because that’s how you get Nazis

The centre of mass of Australian media landscape is lurching towards racism.

This shift, which has been accelerating over the past few years, reached a predictable milestone, because leaving racist jam on the table means getting Nazi ants.

Sky News interviewed a notorious Australian neo-nazi, Blair Cottrell. He’s been convicted of stalking his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, trying to kill that new boyfriend, and setting their house on fire. He wants a copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf in every classroom in Australia, and brags about using violence to ‘control’ women.

I picked a random video from his Twitter feed — it’s him walking through a supermarket in Melbourne, and gurning in disgust at the camera every time someone who isn’t white walks past, which is often. At the end of the video, Cottrell says, “I’m in Melbourne, Australia. This look like Australia to you?” I can understand how this just seems dumb, rather than genuinely unsettling, if you’re not someone who might appear in one of these videos as a target.

Despite protestations that Cottrell’s appearance on Sky News was an administrative or procedural error, several connected campaigns targeting sections of Australia’s community are starting to converge on a coherent racist worldview. The pointy end is starting to show.

Recently:

  • A campaign targeting recent Sudanese migrants by botching crime statistics to imply some ancestral tendency towards criminal behaviour.
  • As part of that campaign, Seven’s Sunday night current affairs program aired a special, featuring a woman who has anxiety attacks whenever she sees ‘coloured’ people.
  • An article in the Herald Sun, published by Andrew Bolt, in which Census statistics were badly mis-reported to imply greater ethnic make-up in certain areas, alongside a cartoon caricaturing recent migrants.
  • Channel Seven also interviewed Cottrell in January this year, bragging about being “the only news organisation invited inside the meeting,” of far right neo-nazi groups.
  • A Daily Mail photographer intentionally provoked a group of teenagers to capture footage or photos of violence of African Australians
  • An ABC journalist is attacked in a organised series of syndicated articles across various media outlets for participating in the creation of a new ABC lifestyle website, the day after he’s barraged by death threats from a far-right activist (who’s been a regular guest on Sky News).
  • A one-year large-scale, seemingly coordinated editorial campaign to attack a single ethnic Australian for a seven word Facebook post published in 2016.

And, on Sky News,

  • Rowan Dean attacked Australia’s Race Discrimination Comissioner at the time, saying “Tim, if you don’t like it..hop on a plane and go back to Laos.”
  • Dean also claimed, when Melbourne change their pedestrian crossing iconography, “If I were doing the Melbourne [pedestrian] traffic lights, I would actually have — instead of the woman — I’d have a Sudanese guy with a crowbar flashing up on the lights to warn you that you’re about to be carjacked”
  • Sky News host Laura Jayes, tweeted, “FOUR of five terrorist arrested today are Aust born LEBANESE. There’s a pattern here. Honest conversation required about ethnicity” (Jayes was later targeted by Cottrell after the interview).
  • Peta Credlin, another Sky News host, did a monologue on immigration, saying that “Ordinary people in everyday suburbs have finally found their voice on the issue of immigration.”

These signals are heard loud and clear by the intended audience. A generalised shift towards racial vilification in media shifts the distribution curve of acceptable content further right — draping the narrow end of the tail over actual Nazis.

the shifting curve

There’s no reason to assume white supremacist rhetoric won’t increase in frequency and magnitude. The mystery lies in our collective reaction. I hope we don’t learn to accept each small lurch towards increased cruelty.

In the meantime, Sky News just signed a deal to feature on regional free to air networks in Australia, massively expanding their reach.

I also hope Australia’s media landscape can transform to reflect the community, and in doing so, learn to instinctively recognise the harm caused by leaning on racism as crutch. If they keep spreading the racist jam, they’ll keep getting those Nazi ants.

Header image ABC