Politics

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Sky News?

This is how Sky News (and others) is streamlining the radicalisation process of far-right terrorists.

The new report by New Zealand authorities into the Christchurch massacre, in which an Australian far-right terrorist killed 51 muslims as they worshipped in mosques, should have been damning for some in the Australian media. But instead, there has been silence, even as another young man was arrested for planning a similar attack.

The report highlighted not just that the Christchurch gunman subscribed to views of the “great replacement” — a racist theory that posits white people will go extinct — but also financially supported websites and pundits who espouse the view.

Included in his thousands of dollars in donations to right-wing websites like Stormfront, were donations to overtly white nationalist publications like Rebel Media and Freedomain Radio.

The Christchurch shooter gave money to Rebel Media at the same time it’s contributor Mark Latham’s was using his platform to raise funds for his defence against Junkee’s former Political Editor, Osman Faruqi, which the latter brought against Latham for calling him a race hustler.

Rebel Media also used to employ Lauren Southern, who has previously promoted the great replacement theory. Andrew Bolt has done the same.

Southern also contributed to Freedomain Radio.

Both she and Bolt regularly appear on Sky News, and one has a nationally-syndicated column.

“It’s not that you can say she directly led him [the Christchurch gunman] to do anything in particular, she espoused a theory, he agreed with it, and donated money to a company linked with her — and a few years later she popped up as someone residing in Australia and is a regular contributor to Sky News, owned by the largest and most successful media company in Australia,” Faruqi said. “There’s a pattern of this. Another organisation [the terrorist] gave money to was Rebel News — who also worked with Southern — but the Australian contributor at the time was Mark Latham.

“Since then, he’s gone on to be elected as the leader in the NSW parliament of the far-right party One Nation.

“What we have is a pattern where people who create content consumed by the far-right, aren’t shunned or excised from the media environment — but they’ve reached a level of success unseen since the Christchurch attack. That’s the most terrifying thing.”

Their existence in these spaces can help set people on the path to terrorism, counter terrorism, and political violence, analyst James Cutler told Junkee.

“Their open platforming of fringe right-wing ideas like the great replacement, COVID conspiracies and US election conspiracies, and the platforming of alt-right figures like Andy Ngo and Lauren Southern is showing far-right groups they’re feeding it to their viewers and they see that as an opportunity to radicalise them further,” he said.

Mr Cutler said typically the path to radicalisation would begin with Fox News style media (like Sky News) and then move to more radical ideas like Lauren Southern and Andy Ngo.

But here — steps one and two have become one and the same.

“Radicalisation is this A to B path,” Mr Cutler said. “Theoretically people start at point A, where they engage with those fringe views like the great replacement like we see on Sky News for example.

“From that point A, someone on that pathway will gradually progress to point B, where they’re engaging with the far-right extremism.”

Just this week, an 18-year-old was arrested for allegedly planning a mass-casualty event.

“The male we’ve arrested has an extremely right-wing ideology and is focused on neo-Nazi, white supremacist and anti-Semitic material,” Assistant Commissioner Scott Lee said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Lee said the arrested teen had expressed support for the Christchurch terrorist’s beliefs in the past.

“ASIO itself has said in documents I’ve reported on that the Christchurch attack was not the end point of this extremism, it’s likely the start. It would inspire more attacks,” Mr Faruqi said. “And the fact that we’ve just seen this arrest suggests that this debate about white supremacy in the media and politics, it’s a very real one we have to have properly.”

He said deplatforming people like Southern may no longer be enough.

“We’re well beyond that at this stage. Sure, we don’t need to have Blair Cottrell on our television screens anymore but if we have far-right politicians elected and mainstream media journalists denying the existence of white supremacy here, we have way bigger problems than neo-nazis on television.”

Mr Cutler agreed. He said that deplatforming may not be the right approach, and instead advocated for mandatory warnings on programs which feature material likely to radicalise its viewers.

It’s time we did something to prevent more of our young people turning against their community. While the path of how to do that isn’t clear, what we must do at the least is be honest about how this process begins.

It begins with Bolt and Southern. It begins with views that we allow to be aired despite them being the antithesis of what we say it means to be Australian.

We need to talk about why the media and politicians deny the presence of white supremacy in this country, which itself was built on a white supremacist lie.