Bleats

How About We Stop Interviewing Nazis As Though They're Going To Have Something Useful To Contribute?

Honestly, Australian media: talking to fascists doesn't make you look cool and edgy; it makes you look, accurately, like you're being played.

Every so often it’s worth remembering that the right to free speech – enshrined in US law, implied but not actually enshrined in Australian law at all – relates to the government, not to private citizens.

It’s a promise that you won’t be bundled up into a van for saying something politically provocative, basically, which happens in many other countries. Just ask Australian journalist Peter Greste how he found press freedom while working for al-Jazeera in Egypt. (Spoiler: turns out they’re pretty into jailing people.)

And even as far as the government goes there are plenty of occasions under which you can be arrested for saying stuff.

Revealing national security secrets, for example. Making threats against people. Telling people a thing you’re selling is healthy when it’s not. There are loads of ways that free speech literally fails to be a get out of jail free card.

You can try it for yourself: go to a shopping centre and start aggressively swearing at the top of your lungs. Will authorities applaud your exciting and robust exploration of controversial views, or will you be arrested under public nuisance laws? One way to find out!

Also, having your right to free speech respected does not mean you have the right to a platform.

And that brings us to the issue of what the actual hell the Australian media are doing in giving Blair Cottrell airtime. At all. Under any circumstances.

Definitely someone whose opinions should be taken seriously by the media.

Cottrell is the leader of the United Patriots Front, an organisation of racist crybabies which split from another group of racist crybabies, Reclaim Australia – because not even neo-Nazis can hang out with neo-Nazis without wanting to get the hell away.

Cottrell also has a criminal past – he stalked his ex-girlfriend and then attempted to burn down her new boyfriend’s house. He was also convicted under Victoria’s racial vilification laws last year, and keeps saying silly things about how all classrooms should have a portrait of Hitler because some people never learn the difference between good attention and bad attention.

The inside of Blair Cottrell’s head, all the time.

This most recently came to light with Sky News’ rapidly-regretted decision to have him on Adam Giles’ programme on Sunday night – an interesting choice of guest given that Giles is of Kamilaroi ancestry and Cottrell has been pretty clear on what he reckons about Indigenous culture generally (it may not shock you to hear he’s not a fan).

Sky, to their credit, have apologised and removed the interview from their online archive – which is more than, say, Channel 7 did when they had Cottrell on – like Sky, as an “activist” – in January, speaking about Melbourne’s supposed race crime epidemic without making clear that he might happen to have something of an agenda.

And, as Crikey have pointed out, Australia’s security agencies have identified right-wing extremist violence as a clear and present danger in Australia, with ASIO head Duncan Lewis confirming last year that “It is a real problem and it is something that we’re very, very acutely aware of and I have people working that particular issue.”

So it’s not just a matter of having a difference of opinion: our prime intelligence agency considers violent right-wing groups to be a security risk. There are real stakes here.

The fall out of the interview is still, ahem, falling out. Former Labor politician Craig Emerson has quit the network over Sky’s decision to feature Blairsy, tweeting that “The decision to allow Neo-Nazi Blair Cotterell [sic] onto the channel was another step in a journey to normalising racism & bigotry in our country.”

And you know what? He’s right. So here’s a cool idea for Australian media: stop interviewing Nazis.

We know what they think. We know what their solutions look like. We can, on the basis of the last 90-odd years, guess that they’re not going to have useful or intelligent comments to make. Also, they represent the views of literally dozens of Australians.

We can probably stop inviting them on our television shows, surely? It feels like the public discourse would be the richer for their silence.

Where Does An Australian Soldier Even Get A Nazi Flag In Afghanistan, And Other Questions

Sure, we get the outrage over soldiers flying a Swastika flag over an Australian military vehicle; but we also have a few practical questions which we'd like answered, thanks.

The recently-published photograph of Australian soldiers flying a Nazi flag from an army vehicle in Afghanistan back in 2007 has garnered outrage – although not nearly the amount that you’d expect given that it was, after all, AUSTRALIANS SOLDIERS FLYING A NAZI FLAG FROM AN ARMY VEHICLE.

There have been with assurances from the Defence that this wasn’t something with which they were down. “Defence and the ADF reject as abhorrent everything this flag represents. Neither the flag nor its use are in line with Defence values.

The Blues Brothers had the right idea.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spoken out against this, declaring that “It was wrong, it was absolutely wrong and the commanders took action at the time.”

And this is as it should be. However, we have a few questions:

1. Where the hell did Australian soliders get a Nazi flag in Afghanistan?

Do they have Nazi merch available in Kabul? Is there a kiosk at the airport where you can grab a phone card, tourist info and swastikas? Or are our brave diggers bringing their own hate symbols with them from home, and in which case shouldn’t someone be at least casting an eye over their pre-deployment luggage?

“Just got a few… um, souvenirs. That I might need to fly from a vehicle at some point.”

2. What message were they attempting to send, exactly?

Afghanistan was officially neutral during World War II and didn’t participate in the theatre of war. So it’s not like flying a Nazi flag is either an obvious threat or a welcoming gesture so much as a symbol from a foreign conflict which didn’t really involve them.

It’d be like flying a banner from the Sino-Japanese War of 1894: it’s probably not going to inflame particular passions, beyond a few history buffs. And speaking of which…

3. Are contemporary military unaware that the ANZACs considered Nazis very much the baddies?

Given the veneration which Australians hold the proud tradition of our brave diggers in uniform, it’s hard to imagine that anyone – especially people actually in the military – would be unaware that the Australian armed forces were specifically, openly against the Nazis during World War II.

They were downright outspoken about it – and went as far as literally dying in order to prevent the scourge of fascism from devouring Europe. That’s how motivated they were.

So flying a flag isn’t just horrifically disrespectful to the tradition of which contemporary soldiers were a part, but also shows an embarrassingly loose grasp of history.

Yes. Yes you are.

4. Why has this not come up for 12 years?

Digital photography was in its infancy back in 2007 and it’s easy to forget rolls of film one’s dropped off at the chemist, but how was this kept under wraps?

While the offending soldier has been reportedly identified, there are question marks over what exactly happened as a result. At the risk of being terribly Political Correctness Gone Mad about it, is “Nazi flag flyer” really the vibe we want to go with for our international peacekeepers?

And while we’re on the subject…

5. And the photo was a great idea why, exactly?

Presumably if the photo was intended as proof in a complaint about soldiers displaying fascist iconography it wouldn’t have been supressed for over a decade, so we have to assume that it was to celebrate the it-to-the-man-sticking awesomeness of the action.

And thus someone thought “yep, totally going to record this moment, can’t think of any way that this might come back and bite me on the behind, well done me.” Honestly, it’s one thing to commit a hate crime, it’s another to actively create evidence of your complicity in it for funsies.

Still, at least justice is being paid lip service to, twelve years later. Take that, Nazis!

So Roseanne Barr's Appointment To The White House Is Presumably Imminent, Huh?

After two years of thinking that there was no line left to cross in the US, it turns out that there's one after all! Who knew?

Given how immune we’ve become to the idea that people actually get held to account for expressing deeply offensive opinions it has come as a major shock to hear that Roseanne Barr has just killed her own show by tweeting about former Obama-era staffer Valerie Jarret and claiming the African-American advisor was the result of what would happen if the “muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby”.

Yeah. The intentions there are… pretty clear.

 

You do know other people can see you on Twitter, right Roseanne?

Predictably, the internet erupted. Less predictably, bad things happened to a public figure for public hate speech: her show was cancelled mere hours later.

Barr must have realised something was up because she apologised, deleted the tweet and quit Twitter in an attempt to shut that post-horse bolt stable door, but the damage was done. US network ABC announced the show was canned, Barr’s management announced they had dropped her as a client, and at least one cast member confirmed she had already informed her representatives that she wouldn’t be returning to the show.

Locally Channel 10 announced they were cancelling plans to screen it and had pulled the old series from their network as well.

To be clear, despite the predictable outpouring of free speech warriors on Twitter, Barr wasn’t the victim of a political correctness purge by ABC.

That tweet was reportedly the last straw for the show’s head writer, the legendary comedian and actor Wanda Sykes, who told ABC that she was quitting after seeing the tweet  and the network made the commercial decision that Sykes was more valuable for them to maintain a relationship with than the increasingly problematic Barr.

And the chances of the show being given a new home seem remote: not only has at least one cast member confirmed that she was already in contact with her management about quitting the show after Barr’s tweet, a number of showrunners and producers have made clear that they would walk if the show came to their network – including Fox.

Anyway, we assume President Trump will shortly announce Barr’s new position in his communications team. Or possibly his legal team – it’s not like she’s much less qualified than the people currently doing the job, in any case.

The White House already seem on board! There ARE second acts in American life!

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