You’ve simply gotta hand it to Australia: not only do we repeatedly put Nazis on TV to expound upon their genocidal views while pleading ignorance about their actual nature, we repeatedly put literally the same Nazi on TV multiple times.
The case of Hitler fanboy Blair Cottrell has become a matter of rote incompetence among the Australian media, for reasons that are basically entirely inexplicable at this point. First he was on Triple J, which thought that the Nazi angle needed exploring in a genial roundtable format. Then he popped up in a Channel 7 news report under the pretence of being an average citizen concerned about ethnic crime. And now he’s popped up on Sky News – long fabled as the home for serially unwell weirdos as soon as the clock ticks past 6pm – having a pow wow with former NT Chief Minister Adam Giles about immigration.
Sky understood pretty quickly that they’d fucked up bad and issued a statement about implementing structural reforms to ensure this doesn’t happen again. One might argue that there are a vast number of regular Sky guests – and, yes, actual commentators – who have views which don’t diverge significantly from Cottrell’s, but are less inclined to indulge open jackboot LARPing than Blair and his crew of idiot thugs. Andrew Bolt’s column in the Herald-Sun earlier this week parroted white nationalist rhetoric, including a bizarre jab at so-called Jewish enclaves in Australian cities, without any kind of institutional response from News Corp.
But ignoring that for a moment, here’s a fact: it’s insanely easy to not put Nazis on TV. A huge number of Australians – most of them, even – successfully don’t do it each and every day without a thought. It should be an absolute baseline for how we conduct ourselves in a functional society, and yet our media seems temperamentally incapable of achieving it.
‘But what about free speech?’ I can already hear Facebook commenters hammering out on their phone keyboards so hard that their screens crack. Yes – free speech is absolutely wonderful. I indulge in it each and every day and it gives me the kind of euphoric rush I’d find hard to achieve otherwise without the use of illegal opioids. One thing you might recall is that Nazis actually did have a chance to mount an open argument at one point in the past: it was called World War II, and over 60 million people died in the process.
The new breed of neo-Nazis generally don’t goose step around in SS uniforms, and sometimes – shock horror – they don’t like to self-identify as Nazis in the media. Aside from the knucklehead nerds who treat fascism like a cosplay contest, today’s far-right loons like to maintain a sense of respectability while laundering precisely the same ideas that drove the Holocaust. This is why Cottrell – despite loving Hitler and regularly posting anti-Semitic content – doesn’t pop up on Hack Live with ‘Proud Nazi’ on his chyron. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Even his open posts make the ultimate goal of his movement clear: ethnic cleansing.
The free speech defence of putting Nazis on TV – or radio, or newspapers, or wherever else they might seek to appear – goes a little like this: in order to have a pure and fair political discourse, everyone needs to get the chance to air their pet obsessions in the open marketplace of ideas. Then we, as the informed public, can absorb that information and make up our own mind on what’s true or not.
Where that falls apart when it comes to Nazis is that they actually have no interest in participating in the so-called ‘marketplace of ideas’. Blair Cottrell absolutely does not give a shit about your free speech discourse. Panel shows, news commentary and the other instruments of the liberal media, to a Nazi, are merely potential vessels for propaganda in building a mass fascist movement. He doesn’t want a debate for some well-meaning free speech centrist back at home to nod and pontificate over. If Nazis get literal ethnic cleansing into everyday debate, they’ve already gotten what they want.
Besides, as most people hopefully realise intuitively, ‘I want to deport or kill immigrants’ is not actually a counterargument to an immigrant saying ‘I want to remain alive for the foreseeable future’.
If you’ll permit me a pile of wank for just a moment, I’m going to pull on a stylish black turtleneck and throw back to an incredibly relevant quote from Jean-Paul Sartre on anti-Semites from all the way back in 1945:
Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert.
That’s exactly it. neo-Nazis and their hangers-on could not care less about your polite society and whatever politics you picked up in Year 11 debate club. They – and I’m absolutely including the suck-ups to the far right like Bolt, Rowan Dean or Miranda Devine in this – are doing their best to return violent racism to the halls of polite conversation.
Let’s not fall for it. We know who they are, and we know who they associate with. Let’s not put Nazis on TV.