“No platforming” is the tactic of protesting to deny racists and bigots a chance to sprout their hate speech and recruit new adherents to their violent ideologies. But, as political editor Dr Martin Hirst writes, some in the media elite think it’s the protestors who are “illiberal”, not the neo-Nazis.
THIS WEEK, more than 50,000 anti-racist activists and supporters gathered in the German city of Chemnitz to demand that neo-fascists, racists and Nazi revivalists get out of their town.
According to our eyewitness, Ulli, the “openly fascist groups” who paraded through the streets were “prepared for a lynching and pogrom”. There were attempts by the fascists to attack the anti-racist protests, journalists were threatened and Nazi regalia and “Hitler salutes” were on full display. Ulli told IA that the police did nothing to prevent the attacks or to arrest people with Nazi paraphernalia, even though it is illegal and highly taboo in Germany.
But, it’s fair to assume that some of Australia’s leading journalists and commentators would condemn the protestors as illiberal and anti-free speech for “no-platforming” the far right thugs who had been rampaging in the streets and attacking anyone who didn’t look Aryan enough.
A big claim, I know, but hear me out.
On the same day that tens of thousands of ordinary Germans gathered to push back against neo-Nazi groups, the host of ABC’s 7:30, Leigh Sales, was tweeting her contempt for people on Twitter who cheered the news that American far-right man-blob, Steve Bannon, had been disinvited from a literary festival organised by the prestigious New Yorker magazine.
Another example of the pushback against free speech and the lack of willingness to hear & debate ideas that differ from one's own. I hope @NewYorker doesn't buckle. https://t.co/UhOW8vNALD— Leigh Sales (@leighsales) September 3, 2018
As if that wasn’t enough, ABC reporters Sally Neighbour and Sarah Ferguson joined in.
Ferguson even had the gall to troll the New Yorker for its decision to pull Bannon from the festival line-up!
Hey @NewYorker We interviewed Steve Bannon on Oz ABC y’day watch here https://t.co/pB0cIa5Neg on #timesup , #metoo , @SenSanders ,on racism. Back & forth, provocative, fascinating. This man warned against silos @BarackObama #NewYorkerFestival— Sarah Ferguson (@FergusonNews) September 4, 2018
Both Ferguson and Neighbour claimed that interviewing Bannon on the ABC – ahead of a mooted tour later this year – was holding the powerful to account. The tweeted image of Sarah Ferguson cuddling the notorious abuser and racist tells a different story.
Astounded at the hysteria over our Bannon interview. Like it or not, he is one of the most influential people in the world. Does anyone seriously think he will go away if we ignore him? Our job is to interrogate the powerful, always has been, always will be #4Corners https://t.co/SxKDt0LG9q— Sally Neighbour (@neighbour_s) September 5, 2018
Why are these two incidents linked?
The link should be clear and obvious; both Bannon and the German far-right want to install a Whites-only “ethnostate” in which the movement of non-Whites would be strictly controlled. It’s clear from Ulli in Chemnitz that the German far-right is openly Nazi. However, Bannon is a bit more careful. Nonetheless, Bannon’s ambitions, politics, beliefs and his political project is identical to the neo-Nazis in Germany.
Both make wild and false claims about a global Jewish conspiracy and other anti-Semitic claims, both support a form of ethnic-cleansing for areas heavily populated by brown and black people, and both spout a discredited and unscientific form of eugenics to justify their hatred and their violence against ethnic minorities and white anti-racists, whom they see as “race traitors”.
If I have to hear another journalist from bubble central casting telling other people to get out of their bubble ...— Lisa Pryor (@pryorlisa) September 5, 2018
Who’s really living in a bubble?
The social media pushback against Sales, Neighbour and Ferguson over their mistaken defence of Steve Bannon and the Four Corners interview obviously rattled them and other senior producers at the ABC.
Even one of the most progressive voices at the national broadcaster, Q&A executive producer, Peter McEvoy, felt the need to weigh in to defend his colleagues.
How the @NewYorker was bullied by social media. On #QandA we will continue to include and question opinion makers you (and I) don’t agree with. #getoutofyourbubble https://t.co/AZOmQRg78w— Peter McEvoy (@petermcevoy) September 5, 2018
That McEvoy would tweet that the New Yorker had been bullied out of hosting Bannon by social media is as offensive as it is stupid.
It’s no surprise, either, that the queen of the liberal journalism elite, The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy, also jumped on the “let’s all just talk it through” bandwagon, as if the German neo-Nazis, or Steve Bannon and his white supremacist supporters, are likely to listen to rational arguments against their racist diatribble.
Good grief. Journalism is about resisting a retreat to enclaves. It's about getting people out of them, and debating ideas, in civil and rational fashion. If it's all enclaves, we might as well give it away. We aren't helping. We are making things worse. https://t.co/2eGI0NaUu0— Katharine Murphy (@murpharoo) September 3, 2018
Well, here’s the rub. It’s not the anti-racists on the streets of Chemnitz, or those of us who protest at Steve Bannon who are living in a “bubble” or “enclave” or “silo”.
The real “bubble dwellers” are elite of the Fourth Estate who think that every idea is of equal value and that by bringing the neo-Nazis into “dialogue” might somehow either change their minds or weaken their power. They can afford to hold onto their stupid and dangerous free speech fundamentalism, because they are not (yet) the sort of people that the neo-Nazis want to chase down and beat up in the streets of Chemnitz.
The elite of the News Establishment can afford to play nice with racist thugs like Steve Bannon because they share his White privilege and they see him as one of them — after all, he was a senior editor at Breitbart. So, it’s “them” against “us”. And, remember, we went through this a couple of weeks ago with homegrown Nazi Blair Cottrell being softball interviewed on Sky News.
In the jaundiced world view of the News Establishment, Bannon is to be feted, and given time to expound his bullshit and build his supporter base in preference to the brave individuals who physically confront the Nazi threat.
Their excuse – as perfectly expressed by Sally Neighbour – is that Bannon is powerful and therefore a legitimate subject for interview. But what exactly is Bannon’s base? The organised far-right in the USA could only get a dozen stupid white people to its recent “national mobilisation” in Washington DC.
EXCLUSIVE: Steve Bannon, in his $1,400 hotel suite, rails against the "elite" https://t.co/9LY3EL8YGL— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) September 6, 2018
On the other side, the anti-racist and anti-capitalist group, Democratic Socialists of America, has close to 50,000 dues-paying members. It would never occur to Leigh Sales to have the DSA leaders on 7:30 because it would take up valuable air-time that could be devoted to a “debate” with Bannon, his English counterpart Nigel Farage or American alt-right figures Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos who are scheduled to visit Australia in the coming months. Farage is already here this week, and Bannon has apparently been invited by the Ethics Centre (what the actual f*ck?).
The ABC crowd has lost my respect over their position on Steve Bannon. They may be safe for now, but as Martin Niemöller’s little poem reminds us, when the Nazis have come for the communists, the trade unionists, the Jews, the Gypsies and the Muslims, they will come for the middle-class liberals.
Only the useful idiots will be safe, so maybe Leigh, Sally, Sarah and Peter have nothing to fear from them.
Let’s dedicate this classic Redgum track to the useful idiots. Appropriately, it’s from the 1978 album If You Don’t Fight You Lose:
I love to read the Bulletin
And watch the ABC
I love to air my well-informed opinions constantly
All my friends are professionals
From polite society
So come and sing the middle-class liberal
I’ve got a home in Beaumont rag with me.
"We saw pictures from there that clearly showed hate and innocent people being chased. You have to show your disapproval of that."— DW Politics (@dw_politics) September 6, 2018
Chancellor Merkel reacts personally for the first time on the events in #Chemnitz. pic.twitter.com/uxHzXO4jZs
You can follow political editor Dr Martin Hirst on Twitter @ethicalmartini.
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