Politics

Congratulations Australia, We’ve Successfully Normalised Neo-Nazis

Australia's media keeps finding new ways to be racist.

Just when you thought Australia’s counter-factual hate campaign against the African-Australian community couldn’t get more absurd, 7 News has upped the ante by glowingly profiling a group of neo-Nazis starting a vigilante mob.

Far-right nationalist organisation True Blue Crew has threatened to “take a stand on the streets” of Melbourne in response to the so-called “African gang crisis”. The group has been posting messages on Facebook urging the public to “answer the call”. Many commenters on the group’s Facebook page have been encouraging the True Blue Crew to use violence against African-Australians in response to the gang issue.

The group held a meeting on Sunday to discuss tactics and deployed a number of security measures to keep out protestors and journalists. Except for 7 News, which was granted “exclusive access” to the meeting, as reporter Jodi Lee boasted on primetime TV last night.

In a tweet promoting the story, Lee described the True Blue Crew as “Victorians taking ‘immigrant crime’ into their own hands”. The 7 News report referred to the organisation as “right wing activists” who had hosted a “community gathering”, which is an extremely euphemistic description of an attempt by the far-right to organise vigilantism.

The full report paints the True Blue Crew in a positive light, which is exactly what the group was intending when it generously granted 7 News access to its meeting. According to Lee, participants travelled from “all across the state, they came from as far as Cobram, Shepparton, Melton and Mornington”, which doesn’t tell you much other than that there are a lot of right wing tools across much of Victoria.

Lee said the members of the True Blue Crew don’t consider themselves right-wing activists, just “patriots”, even though the meeting was held at a venue owned by the United Patriots Front, a far-right organisation whose members have been found guilty of inciting racial hatred. But Lee didn’t mention any of this, she just reported verbatim what the group said.

The 7 News story went on to quote the group’s criticism of the Victorian government and police, before throwing to a few spokespeople, including United Patriots Front leader Blair Cottrell.

Even the most cursory Google search reveals Cottrell has made numerous anti-Semitic comments and once called for pictures of Adolf Hitler to hang in every classroom. Again, Lee mentioned none of this and instead gave him time on primetime TV to spout his views unchallenged.

Lee ended the report by describing the True Blue Crew’s vigilante efforts as a “kind of neighbourhood watch” to help “protect residents”.

What The Fuck

When the politically confected “African gang crisis” blew up at the beginning of the year it was pretty clear things were going to get nasty, but it’s extraordinary to see neo-Nazis interviewed on the news on their own terms, without the slightest hint of scepticism.

But should we really be surprised? The media and conservative politicians have handled themselves disgracefully over the past few weeks. The Herald-Sun has been whipping up fear and hatred even though the crime statistics don’t back up their claims about the alleged rise of gang crime. The Age’s first front-page story of the year was a picture of “community leader” Nelly Yoa with the caption, “I’m ashamed to be Sudanese”. The only problem being Noa isn’t a community leader and many of his claims were found to be complete bullshit.

Home affairs minister Peter Dutton keeps shouting nonsense about Victorians being too scared to go out at night, even though the cops have said he’s wrong.

It isn’t surprising to see the far-right try and exploit the situation and ride the wave of racist panic generated by the media and politicians, but the failure of 7 News to do any kind of actual journalism in their report is worth discussing.

The network was effectively used as a propaganda tool by neo-Nazis. By refusing to challenge the True Blue Crew and Cottrell on their claims, and failing to contextualise their comments (i.e. by pointing out they are actual neo-Nazis and not simply “patriots”) the report isn’t really news, it’s PR for white nationalism.