It didn’t take long for the empty platitudes over the weekend to completely dissipate and for the right-wing establishment of Australia to say what they really think: their rampant race-baiting and open Islamaphobia had absolutely nothing to do with the genesis of an Australian man‘s white nationalist terror attacks in Christchurch on Friday.
Conservative columnist Janet Albrechtsen kicked off this morning with an article in The Australian bemoaning the lefty blame game about the attacks, largely because the finger was being pointed at her employers and fellow travellers in politics:
Every time there has been an attack by Muslim terrorists, we condemn the evil killing of innocents and are at pains not to blame all Muslims. It would be immoral and factually wrong to blame an entire community for the murderous actions of a few. Yet it took less that 24 hours for political ratbags to exploit cold-blooded terrorism by a white supremacist in New Zealand on Friday for their narrow-minded, illiberal political agendas.
Of course, there’s a crucial difference between Islamist terrorism and white supremacist terror in Australia that Janet fails to mention. Islamist ideas have barely any platform in this country, but white nationalism and its forebears are completely mainstream and trafficked every single day in our media – to an extent basically unmatched in the rest of the Western world.
As nice as it would be to blame it all on the open fascism of Fraser Anning, it doesn’t quite add up. Though it’s clear that the murderer found his inspiration – or at least support – in the swamp of online far-right chan shitposting culture, we need to interrogate why Australia provides such fertile ground for this kind of thinking.
Breakfast television frequently uncritically platforms – and pays for – the views of people like Pauline Hanson and Mark Latham, essentially allowing them to spew hate with very little pushback. Newspapers run eye-wateringly racist cartoons which simply wouldn’t fly anywhere else in the world. Politicians obsess over white nationalist talking points like African crime rates and ‘white genocide’ in South Africa. Our supposedly left-biased national broadcaster gives neo-Nazis a platform in the name of ‘balance’. A whole cottage industry has sprung up attempting to rewrite the history of Australia’s violent colonisation.
These ideas are completely mainstream. There’s good reason why publications the Daily Telegraph are currently doing their best to wash its hands of all complicity in building an Islamaphobic culture, turning the debate towards social media.
Monday’s front page of The Daily Telegraph pic.twitter.com/ZbOlxdfQg9
— ben english (@bennyglish) March 17, 2019
Social media plays a big role in radicalisation today – there’s absolutely no denying that. But the culture was already here before Facebook.
For example, it’s hard to point the finger entirely at social media when Pauline Hanson’s response to the shooting was a post in which she bemoaned the fact the murderer’s actions would “drive debate underground” on immigration. Hanson also faced an uncharacteristically tough interview on Sunrise this morning, which seemed to genuinely shake her.
“This terrorist manifesto almost reads like One Nation immigration and muslim policy. Do you feel complicit with this atrocity?”@Kochie_Online to @PaulineHansonOZ after the Christchurch terror attack. pic.twitter.com/VFIRQQezyn
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) March 17, 2019
Despite his open mourning for the lives lost in Christchurch, our prime minister Scott Morrison has also played into the demonisation of Muslims for political gain. An article from the Sydney Morning Herald from back in 2011 was widely disseminated on social media over the weekend, depicting Morrison as wanting to use fears about “Muslim immigration” as a political cudgel.
I have heard from a number of sources that Morrison’s team were very active over the weekend in contacting media outlets to deny this 8-year-old story. The Project confirmed they had received a denial after Waleed Aly mentioned it in his monologue on Christchurch.
Update: Scott Morrison's office has contacted The Project to deny the 2011 report on comments he has alleged to have made within a shadow cabinet meeting
— The Project (@theprojecttv) March 15, 2019
All over the conservative media we’re seeing a concerted effort to distance themselves from the murderous anti-immigrant beliefs of the shooter, while still making the same anti-Islam arguments they’ve always made.
Andrew Bolt‘s liveblog of the massacre was peppered with head-shaking condemnations: “Ghastly, ghastly evil”, “Sick bastard”, “very ugly”. And yet Bolt has forged a career on writing hysterically about an Islamic invasion of Australia – including repeatedly citing astoundingly Islamaphobic novel The Camp of the Saints, which depicts the collapse of European civilisation thanks to immigration.
This is Andrew Bolt, their intellectual leader, who writes thoughtful pieces like this pic.twitter.com/ieCw5Ri88u
— Jed Odermatt (@jedodermatt) March 16, 2019
The difference between Bolt and the murderer is one of tactics, not substance of belief. That’s why he has hastily authored an op-ed today which attempts to control the terms of the debate – and to suggest that aspects of the shooter’s ideology are also held by much more respectable people, so it’s definitely fine to keep spreading them:
Mass immigration when European women had such low birth rates was “cultural replacement”, he said, echoing concerns by European politicians and writers such as Douglas Murray, in his bestseller The Strange Death of Europe.
Even the title of Tarrant’s manifesto, The Great Replacement, was taken from a work by French intellectual Renaud Camus, a gay-rights activist opposed to mass immigration.
This isn’t condemnation. This is one of Australia’s most prominent right-wing voices weaselling his way out of the ultimate implications of his beliefs. When Bolt and his ilk rail against Muslim immigration, the collapse of Western civilisation, the failure of Muslims to integrate, the inherent criminality of immigrants… where do they think that leads? What action do they imagine this will ultimately foment?
We’re going to see a lot more of this over the coming days and weeks: an attempt to distance themselves from the actions of the terrorist while reserving the right to make the same arguments as him.
Don’t let them pretend they’re not part of the problem.Image: Sunrise