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23 August 2018
By Matt Hrkac

Racism is now a normal part of mainstream discourse... What next?

There was once a time when racist, divisive and discriminatory commentary would be condemned by many viewers and readers of the establishment media.

There was also a time when the racist utterings of Pauline Hanson were rightfully shunned by the same media.

Those times are long past. Now, these outfits use racist commentary as click bait to boost their readership pool.

Channel 7’s Sunrise, for example, routinely give Hanson ample airtime to spout her dangerous rhetoric — free of any sort of criticism by the show’s hosts or condemnation by the public.

Right-wing shock jock Andrew Bolt has moved from presenting conservative economic positions and climate change denialism to incorporating race-based hate into all his commentary. He is being given a platform by Murdoch’s Sky News and Herald Sun, Telegraph and other state-based press.

Racism and discrimination have been mainstreamed by the establishment media: they are now an accepted norm in the hour-by-hour news cycle.

Social media is a large driver of this phenomenon, as it can effectively cocoon people into their own echo-chamber.

The slightest hint of a more progressive policy is slammed and dismissed by the establishment media as “socialist” or “green” engineering.

Turnbull, who was leading a government that was arguably to the right of former Liberal PM John Howard, was routinely slammed by his right-wing opponents as being a “socialist” or “green in Liberal clothing”. If Turnbull is a “socialist”, what are Peter Dutton or Scott Morrison or Mathias Cormann?

The establishment media’s discourse helps drive and set policy for compliant politicians.

For example, recently we’ve seen the Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy whip up race hate over so-called “African gang crime wave”. Former Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton said Australians must be on guard as “a single act of compassion” towards refugees could undo its policy of stopping the boats. Sky News has given a platform to self-styled neo-Nazis and Katter Australia MP Fraser Anning has told parliament there needs to be a “final solution” to the “Muslim problem”.

Although Sky News and Anning have been roundly condemned, with the former being forced to apologise, the fact remains that the establishment media is playing a critical role in normalising racism and helping the far-right to push the boundaries even further.

It will not be the last time Sky News gives a platform to right-wing extremists. Likewise, Anning won’t be the last politician to deliver an extremist speech.

This is leading us down a very disturbing and dangerous path. If such commentary becomes an acceptable part of mainstream discourse, then “mainstream” politicians will be quick to push the boundaries to silence anyone vaguely progressive, or moderate.

We can and must counter this dangerous trend.

What can we do? We can support and subscribe to progressive media, such as Green Left Weeklythat offer solutions, critique and opinion from a progressive perspective.

The left must make better use of social media to respond to and challenge the dangerous rhetoric.

We must not fall into the trap of talking only among ourselves, whether that is on social media, or in our day-to-day lives.  When millions of working people are doing it tough, and the right is providing scapegoats, the left must put forward real solutions and direct people’s rising anger towards those who are really making their lives a misery — the government and their hired minions in the media.

The time to stand up and fight back is now.

This was originally published in Green Left Weekly under the title "Take a stand against the mainstreaming of racism".

About the author:

Matt Hrkac is a writer and activist based in Geelong who regularly contributes to Green Left Weekly. He has particular interests in politics, elections and the trade union movement and has had extensive involvement in a number of local campaigns. He is a former member of the Greens.

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