Mainstream media: promoting the voice of hate

Erskineville Town Hall, November 24. Photo: Peter Boyle.

All around the Western world, far-right groups (some with neo-Nazi links), are gaining political ground through an orchestrated campaign against Muslim communities. These groups are spreading fear and hatred against recent immigrant communities from Muslim countries, and tap into well-resourced post-9/11 war propaganda initiated by rulers of the world’s richest and most powerful states.

One of the favourite tactics of anti-Muslim hate campaigners is to push laws banning the burqa, the fully-veiled dress style used by a tiny minority of Muslim women. In Australia, the ultra-conservative Reverend Fred Nile, leader of the Christian Democratic Party and a member of the NSW Legislative Council, and Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi from South Australia, have unsuccessfully tried to move private members bills to ban the burqa.

The burqa ban issue became a controversy in Sydney’s inner-west when Sergio Redegalli, a glass sculptor and gallery owner, painted a “Say no to burqas” mural on the wall of his Newtown studio.

Local residents Amanda Perkins and Pip Hinman organised a public meeting in the Erskineville Town Hall on November 24 to discuss the issue. At the end of a wide-ranging, passionate but civil debate, two-thirds of the audience supported a resolution opposing any law to ban on the burqa.

Two commercial television stations, Channel 7 and Channel 9, filmed the entire meeting. But their news items broadcast the following night focussed solely on a pro ban minority who attended the meeting.

Many readers will not find that too surprising, perhaps. But they may find it a little shocking that these two TV stations were actually promoting, to a mass audience, an orchestrated media stunt by the far-right Australian Protectionist Party (APP).

(The APP split off from another far-right party called Australia First, a group headed by the notorious open Nazi supporter Jim Saleam, in 2007, and hopes to advance in electoral politics on a model borrowed from the British National Party. In March this year, Nick Chance a visiting speaker from BNP coached APP members on using anti-Islamic propaganda and shedding connections with anti-Semites and overt neo-Nazi types.)

Members of the APP and another far-right group, the “Southern Cross Soldiers”, came to the Erskineville meeting with prepared scripts.

APP member Robert Hunt came dressed in a black burqa. With the TV cameras focused on him, Hunt strode to the front to address the meeting. He theatrically whipped off his mask, saying: “No one has raised the issue of security yet. I’m a male.”

Another wild-eyed APP member, Jack Zedee, said he was a former soldier from Lakemba (a Sydney suburb with a big middle-eastern community) and that he was sick of being abused and spat at by burqa-clad Muslim women in the street and fearful of “Sharia law” being imposed in Australia.

Another speaker, who seemed costumed and primed with a crude script was a woman who gave her name as “Skye Patch” and claimed to be a “concerned resident”. She declared herself to be from “Generation X” and made argued fro her right “as a proud Australian woman” to wear a sleeveless dress, makeup, high heels, use botox and be free from “political correctness”.

She was very Pauline Hanson-esque in her language and played to the TV cameras.

It was weird. There is no move to “impose Sharia law” in Australia, there is no move to ban any dress apart from the burqa. But apparently allowing a few Muslim women to wear the burqa is the “thin edge of the wedge” — the next thing we know we’ll be under Sharia law.

It’s an impressively wild leap of no-logic, even for the white supremacist far-right (born again as anti-Muslim hate campaigners today). But powerful, rich friends with TV stations no doubt make the leap somewhat easier.

Channel 7 made from this overwhelmingly anti-racist, anti-ban meeting what will undoubtedly serve as a propaganda film for the APP and other far-right groups. Channel 7 reporter Todd Binney later admitted they had lined the stunt up with the APP. You can watch it here.

Fortunately, a local resident filmed the entire meeting. It will be posted to Youtube soon and made available at the Green Left website.

With such hatred and racism being spread by the big business media, it is all the more important to keep alternative media like Green Left Weekly alive.

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