What’s with the furore over the ABC platforming Steve Bannon? Four Corners was just balancing out all those full episode interviews it did with victims of white supremacy. Liam McLoughlin dives in.
We all remember how Channel Seven made Pauline Hanson accountable for racism by making her dance the Cha-cha-cha on Dancing With The Stars. So too do we recall how holding Donald Trump’s feet to the fire with saturation media coverage delivered him a humiliating defeat in the 2016 election.
And so Australian journalist Sarah Ferguson and Four Corners have learnt the right lessons from history and, in the words of Helen Razer, given a “soft-tissue massage” to a man who former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke described as an excellent choice for Donald Trump’s chief strategist.
“This cannot be “current affairs”. Surely, this was not praised by other journalists as “world class”, “masterful” or as anything short of a horror. A horror that has mistaken itself for a romantic comedy in which Meg Ryan is the lead. Meg meets her fiery “match” in a book-shop parcel mix-up. He has her Margaret Atwood novels. She has his Milo Yiannopoulos. They both learn soon that opposites attract!”
And if one sign of attraction is showering your potential mate with wildly inaccurate flattery, then attraction this was. Ferguson said there was no evidence that Bannon is a racist. There’s also no evidence Ferguson has read Breitbart. Or perhaps she has but there was a terrible mix-up and she thought she was interviewing Steve Martin? He’s worked with Eddie Murphy after all.
Another sign of attraction, and evidence that maybe this interview was less than the grilling it was purported to be, was at its conclusion when the pair laughed and Bannon said “You’re good…you’re fantastic. That was great”.
Guy Rundle was no kinder than Razer, describing Ferguson’s approach as “naïve reflectionism”.
“We don’t make people important, they say. We simply cover people the public think are important. Rubbish, of course, obviously so to anyone with the most basic introduction to a bit of material political theory. But most of our journos skipped so many classes, and spent so much time in the bromide camera room huffing chemicals, that they know nothing, and may have cognitive impairment, and are thus liberals.”
Which proves the old adage, ‘play the ball not the person, unless your play on the person is objectively funny’.
Jason Wilson in The Guardian made a strong case for why Ferguson should look a bit harder for Bannon’s racism.
“In March 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center published just one of many extensive accounts of the website’s promotion of Islamophobia, myths about black crime, and anti-immigrant sentiment under Bannon’s stewardship. Under Bannon, the site also trafficked in strident homophobia, transphobia and anti-feminism. Apart from attacking any minority you’d care to name, Bannon-era Breitbart serially promoted conspiracy theories about their perceived enemies in movements like Black Lives Matter, and celebrated Confederate iconography. Bannon himself proudly described the website as a “platform for the alt right”, extending the welcome mat to readers from the racist, far-right movement, and promoting materials from white nationalist groups like Generation Identity.”
In response to the backlash after the program’s airing, Sarah Ferguson tweeted this.
— Sarah Ferguson (@FergusonNews) September 4, 2018
Perhaps instead a Mea Culpa along these lines was in order.
“What’s wrong with airing a 40 minute interview with a white supremacist whose actions have directly influenced “a far harsher regime of immigration enforcement, including the separation of families; the so-called “Muslim ban”; and the destruction of the liberal international order… a surge in hate crimes (including murders), a proliferation of violent far-right street protests, and a generalised atmosphere of fear in marginalised communities?” EVERYTHING.”
As Wilson writes,“it’s worth making all of this context clear. That context should include – and ideally centre – the voices of the people most affected by restrictionist immigration policies and far-right violence. Such voices have been heard far less frequently than Bannon’s in the course of the Trump era, and even less so by Australian audiences.”
Wilson quotes a survey by the Data and Society Institute which demonstrated “just by showing up for work and doing their jobs as assigned, journalists covering the far-right fringe… played directly into these groups’ public relations interests”.
So now the ABC is doing PR for the alt-right. That’ll show ‘em.
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