Backlash against Sky News for normalising fascists

Melbourne rally for refugees on July 21. Photo: Matt Hrkac

The Victorian Socialists have joined the widespread condemnation of Sky News for hosting a neo-Nazi, saying the NewsCorp TV station had taken another dangerous step to normalising the far right.

On August 5, Sky News presenter Adam Giles interviewed Blair Cottrell, who is on record advocating that schools distribute copies of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and erect images of Hitler.

Giles' interview with Cottrell was friendly. Not once did Giles challenge Cottrell's far-right, racist attitudes and he ended the interview wishing Cottrell the best in his future endeavours.

This is not a first for Sky News: it regularly interviews far-right provocateurs and alt-right fanatics. Just days before, it interviewed Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern, the Canadian far-right provocateurs who recently toured Australia.

While Sky News has been normalising racist and far-right attitudes for some time, it seems this interview overstepped the mark, with sponsors and presenters withdrawing in response.

The Victorian government has directed that SkyNews no longer be broadcast at train stations.

Former Labor minister Craig Emerson stepped down as a Sky News commentator the day after the interview, stating that he would “not remain on a TV channel that thinks it's alright to wish a vile neo-Nazi and anti-Semite the best with his endeavors”.

But Sky News is not the only mainstream news outlet to give a platform to fascists. Since 2017, Cottrell has been interviewed on ABC’s Four Corners, Triple J’s Hack and Seven News.

The Victorian Socialists have condemned the Sky News interview as “another dangerous step in the normalisation of the far right who threaten the safety of migrants, Muslims and basic democratic rights”.

It also issued a challenge to the network to invite Stephen Jolly, the Victorian Socialists’ lead candidate for the Northern Metropolitan Region in the upcoming state elections, “to give voice to anti-fascists and anti-racists in our community who understand that fascism needs to be fought not coddled.”

Sue Bolton, a Socialist Alliance councillor for Moreland City Council who is running with Jolly, told Green Left Weekly that socialists have a responsibility to “challenge the racist and nationalist ideas being spouted by the far right”.

Bolton, who organised a Moreland Says No to Racism community rally in 2016 that was targeted by far-right groups, including members of Cottrell's group, said anti-racists have to create their own platforms to speak out against racists.

“In Australia, the far right have been emboldened by the government’s racist policies towards refugees and their demonisation of migrant communities.

“People of colour and Muslims are being made scapegoats for the social and economic crisis that has been brought on by cuts to social services, lack of housing, the increasing cost of living and undermining of public healthcare and education,” Bolton said.

Far from challenging the views of the far right or these racist policies, it seems much of the media prefers instead to promote Cottrell’s brand of racist and Islamophobic views as acceptable and mainstream.

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