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After Christchurch: Business as usual in racist Australia

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison denounced social media's role in promoting hate speech (Screenshot via YouTube)

The Coalition Government and media organisations are tacitly allowing the status quo of racism and division to continue, writes Noely Neate.

AFTER ALL THE TEARS from the atrocity that was the terrorist attack in Christchurch, I had hoped all Australians would wake up to themselves. That it was a flashpoint in our history and change would be made at the very top of government and the media.

But not only is Australia a deeply xenophobic nation but it is, in the main, cowardly as well.

It hurts me to say that but looking at our Government, Prime Minister, senior ministers and mainstream media in general, what else can we ascertain? Within days, days, of the murder of 50 innocent Muslims while praying, at the hands of a far right, white supremacist “Australian” extremist, Australia is back to business as usual.

Interim Prime Minister Scott Morrison is giving speeches about "division", tossing in “both Left and Right”, reminiscent of President Trump's very fine people on both sides rubbish.

‘"Left versus Right’ is ridiculous as it suggests Australia fits into two categories of people — it is lazy and divisive in itself. Putting that aside, however, it appears no one who could reasonably identify as "Left" is out there massacring people. They are calling for compassion, supporting Muslims and calling for hate speech to stop being normalised.

Of course, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton kicked off the week on ABC RN by accusing the Greens of being “just as bad” as right-wing nationalist Senator Fraser Anning, claiming both are seeking to extract political advantage from the Christchurch terror attack. 

The "Greens" to which he was referring seemed to be mostly Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi – Australia’s first ever, and currently only Muslim Senator,’ who was quite rightly pointing out how some politicians in Australia have for years been whipping up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment — because they have!

Sadly, I was only watching ABC News Breakfast on Monday morning (18 March) and commercial news after that. They ran with Dutton’s rant all day — no context, no background, just the "both sides" line, which of course helped form the narrative they continued with yesterday as well (19 March).

Not only is Morrison and his ministers flogging this both sides deflection, but the mainstream media are also happily running with it. I assume this is so they don’t actually have to reflect on their own role over the years in aiding abetting the Muslim bashing – which they like to politely refer to as something that "could be seen as dog whistling" – that bred an environment where a white supremacist could flourish and feel emboldened.

But don’t worry, if some were starting to feel a bit uncomfortable about their role the PM came to the rescue — it is all social media's fault!

Social media does give a platform for like-minded grubs to congregate and this does need to be addressed. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is quite right to call on Facebook to explain why it did not take down the terrorist's video straight away — and to call for them to change their ways.

However, both the Government and the MSM have now run with this narrative. All they want to talk about is how evil social media is. Sadly, even Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who up until this point has been pretty smart, bought into this narrative. In a piece in the Herald Sun, he helped give the Government an out to continue deflecting from the role they have played in grooming an extremist.

Yes. Bill, social media has an obligation to stop the spread of hate. So do the Government and the media — where the hate starts. Looking at our governments' incessant race-baiting over the past 20 odd years and the media’s love of racist clickbait should be a much higher priority than shirt-fronting Zuckerberg.

Of course, mainstream media organisations love a good social media hit job as the likes of Facebook, in particular, hurt their advertising revenue. They are not bystanders here, so this is a win-win for them. They can smack Facebook and deflect from their own role as well. 

Obviously, someone also forgot to give Senator Linda Reynolds the memo that the Coalition was not and had never been anti-Muslim, and that even though last week, race-baiting was cool, it isn’t this week. Her performance on Q&A, linking the Bali Bombers to the Medivac Bill was nothing short of astonishing, I mean, implying that mostly Muslim asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru were potential “rapists, terrorists, murders and paedophiles  is so last month.

The above only covers the past few days. If we wanted to include every single incidence of race-baiting, dog whistling, xenophobia and the biggest worry at hand, Islamophobia, that has gushed from this Government and our mainstream media, it would take pages of text.

Of course, we have stand-out odious performers in senators Pauline Hanson and Fraser Anning. John Birmingham has best described this situation in his 'How Eggboy cracked open the farce of the far right' piece:

'Fraser Anning may be vile, but he is also calculating. He is saying the quiet part loud. This Government and its leading figures have long said the loud part quietly by stoking fear and hatred for electoral gain in every election since 2001.'

Until Australians address this, we cannot improve. Cowardly media organisations who just report Government whitewashing do not do this nation any favours. You are tacitly allowing the status quo to continue — a status quo that resulted in 50 innocent Muslims being murdered.

Every single time PM Morrison is allowed to deflect and pretend he has not used Islamophobia for political gain, you are misleading the Australian public and normalising hate. Every single time you fail to condemn or give platforms to Pauline Hanson, Fraser Anning, Jim Molan, Cory Bernardi and George Christensen, just to name a few, you are misleading the Australian public and mainstreaming hate. You could almost enter any Government MP’s name and add “Muslim” into a Twitter search and find some good old fashioned dog whistling, at a minimum.

These are stand out targets, but they don’t have power. Morrison and Dutton do. Tony Abbott did. Malcolm Turnbull also did. The likes of SKY and Sunrise can only participate with their odious hate clickbait if politicians provide it. Two of these prime ministers, in particular, have supplied that. Sadly, Turnbull just didn’t have a spine, though of course, he is now decrying hate speech!

50 Muslims have died and both our Government and MSM's reaction is, look over there, don’t look at us or our track record of mainstreaming hate. This is irresponsible, cowardly and utterly reprehensible.

Do not allow our politicians and mainstream media off the hook as though they had no role in what happened at Christchurch!

It's time for ordinary Australians to stand up and do what our leaders should have done over 20 years and say "No!" to hate and demonising of minorities in our society, who need our support now more than ever.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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