Why is the Australian media promoting white nationalist ideas? | Jason Wilson | Australia news

Sky News Australia responded to the justified rage about them hosting neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell by suspending Adam Giles’s show. They’ll be hoping that this face-saving move means that we’ll forget it in a week.

But we shouldn’t. Not just because, as John Birmingham pointed out on Tuesday, Cottrell’s appearance is entirely consistent with Sky’s “after dark” business model. The network has very few regular viewers, but controversial guests garner it precious attention for a news cycle or two. We should keep it in mind because it is an element of a broader media phenomenon in Australia, in which News Corp properties have played a central role: the articulation of a much more forthright politics of white nationalism, underpinned by the idea that white people, everywhere, are under attack.

Just days before Cottrell’s Sky appearance, Sky presenter and Herald-Sun columnist Andrew Bolt penned a column on immigration which was, even by his standards, somewhat astonishing.

He warned that the Australian “us” was disappearing as a “tidal wave of immigrants sweeps away our national identity”. Bolt pointed to increasing numbers of Indian and Chinese immigrants – although the figures he used were questionable – and spoke of neighbourhoods which he claimed had relatively high proportions of Muslims, Chinese people, or Jews.

Though its ostensible topic was immigration, its criticisms of Indigenous people belled the cat.

He complained about “Aboriginal-only courts”, making it clear that for him, authentic Australian culture was white, English-speaking, and opposed to “multiculturalism”, languages other than English, and almost every conceivable identifiable migrant community.

It was a lurid tale of an implicitly white Australia under demographic attack, and among others, he blamed “activists, academics, and politicians” for imposing multiculturalism on an unwilling populace.

The idea of the “demographic replacement” of whites, and a conspiracy to bring it about, are central white nationalist claims.

Writing on similar recent arguments made by another News Corp star, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, Slate’s Matthew Rosza argued that Carlson echoed white nationalist talking points.

“White nationalists”, Rosza wrote, “often oppose immigration from predominantly non-white countries on the grounds that the people who move to the United States from those nations will ultimately supplant white people in terms of political power.”

Bolt seems more concerned with cultural power but the concern about being supplanted is still evident.

Bolt’s stridency was noticed on social media, and Bolt was reported to the Press Council.

If he was bolder than usual last week, it may be because of recently hosting visiting Canadian far-right social media star Lauren Southern on his show. He was just one of many Sky presenters who offered her a friendly platform.

With notable exceptions, Southern received a warm reception from News Corp outlets, despite having been previously banned from the United Kingdom, and her wealth of connections on the far right.

When Southern and touring buddy Stefan Molyneux appeared on Bolt’s program, they talked at length about an alleged link between IQ and ethnicity. This, too, is a standard talking point on the far right, and it is often used as a reason to limit immigration, or simply to assert white supremacy. It is a basic building block in many arguments against racial equality.

Bolt allowed Molyneux to hold forth on a conspiracy theory that an elite group was withholding data on IQ and race from the broader population. He didn’t question this too hard, and mainly worried that letting the information out might lead to social disorder. It was of a piece with his weak pushback against the other ideas they came to push.

When Southern’s turn came, she talked about her new documentary, Farmlands, which addresses the alleged murderous persecution of white South African farmers.

As in her lurid film, Southern offered accounts of children being boiled alive, and described “brutal, brutal murders”, and “the murder of these white farmers are some of the most gruesome crimes we have ever seen on earth”. She asserted that the fact that the murders were racially motivated was being covered up. She alleged, in effect, a more active form of white genocide.

As previously reported in the Guardian, there is no evidence that white farmers are being specifically targeted in the country, and that young blacks were at much greater risk of murder. But her story echoed the panic drummed up on the issue by News Corp outlets earlier this year.

A report by Paul Toohey in March led to columns by Miranda Devine, among others. Devine asserted a kind of white kinship between white South Africans and white Australians as the basis for allowing them special treatment under immigration laws.

Then the minister for immigration, Peter Dutton, took a personal interest in the matter and proposed offering special visas for a category of South Africans who were actually less likely to be victims of crime than the people they were accusing of perpetrating the outrages.

Later, Brisbane and Perth saw street demonstrations in favour of white farmers. The fact that News rolled out the welcome mat for Southern might be partly explained by her promotion of ideas that were the basis of a broadly successful journalistic campaign by the Daily Telegraph.

Why would they think her beyond the pale, when they agree on so much? Southern gets eyeballs, and clicks are clicks, even if they’re from hate-readers. In an attention economy, those who are adept at flirting with extremism without quite crossing the line into actionable hate speech are valuable commodities.

Sky got called on Cottrell. The disaster may have occurred because the line is becoming increasingly blurry in segments of the rightwing press. After all, they regularly let presenters air the views of far-right ideologues, even as they promulgate similar ideas themselves.

Also, nothing seems to matter more across large swathes of news than antagonising the left.

The network now risks advertisers abandoning it. But its presenters and guests means it forms a nexus with News’s most popular tabloids and news websites.

There seem to be fewer and fewer inhibitions in the News Corp ecosystem to the flourishing of an even more radically racialised political discourse.

  • Jason Wilson is a Guardian writer and columnist

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