Alt-right wolves in sheep's clothing



Far-right extremists are savvy political actors. They know that openly discussing their beliefs risks running afoul of anti-discrimination laws. Because of this, they have mastered how to speak in the negative and convey meaning through allusion.

Main image: Former NT chief minister Adam Giles interviewed former United Patriots Front leader Blair Cottrell on his Sunday Sky News program, the Adam Giles Show (Facebook: @realblaircottrell)Now the furore of misinformation (in Australia, at least) has died down, it's important to look back to understand how neo-Nazi views infiltrated mainstream media and why the television watchdog ruled that Sky News did not break industry standards by airing an interview with noted neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell, leader of the United Patriots Front, which is widely regarded as a white nationalist hate-group.

This decision was eminently predictable despite the intense public outcry at the time. The watchdog report declares that Cottrell did not incite hatred of minorities in part because he did not mention them by name. However, the Sky News interview is a case study of how extremists renegotiate their ideas for mainstream consumption. Much of the discussion was devoted to exploring a central tenet of white supremacy: 'white genocide'.

White genocide is a conspiracy theory which asserts that the white race is in terminal decline due to immigration, inter-cultural mixing and land redistribution. Experts credit infamous neo-Nazi David Lane with developing the idea. Cottrell avoided such blunt terms, instead using 'white farmers' to discuss the same ideas.

The South African government is exploring land reform as a means of socio-economic redress. In 1913, the white-only government reserved nearly all arable farmland for the white minority, and the post-apartheid government has only restored a small fraction of this land. 

In the interview, Cottrell argued that we should stop immigration entirely except for white South African farmers. 'White farmers are not going to ransack homes or attack police,' he said, 'they won't chop people up with machetes in the street'. Buried beneath hyperbole was the implication that black people might do such things. This is a common tactic: the audience understands the insinuation but, if questioned, the speaker can fall back on the defence that they did not actually say it.

Nevertheless, he went so far as to accuse South African politicians of 'drawing up the means' to kill white farmers and steal their property, conjuring an image of a white minority in immediate danger. The white farmers narrative is the concept of white genocide rebranded for an Australian audience.


"We can hardly be surprised that Sky News greenlit an interview with a neo-Nazi when government officials forwarded the same ideas."


We can trace the fiction to the Suidlanders, Protestant doomsday preppers who believe a prophecy about an apocalyptic race war. It was then picked up by AfriForum, an alt-right group that stokes fears about ethnic crime and dabbles in apartheid apology. AfriForum facilitated a tour by Australian journalist Paul Toohey, who returned home with an exposé-style yarn linking the alleged farm murders with land redistribution. The piece leans heavily on AfriForum sources and additionally complains of a 'black-dominated media'.

The Telegraph hammered the story the next day with columns from Caroline Marcus and Miranda Devine as a part of a concerted News Corp campaign. A day later, Peter Dutton proposed a 'fast track' for white farmers, hearkening back to an arcane history. Queensland's Aboriginal Protection Act was the model for the South African apartheid regime, and Australia remains the top destination for the 500,000 white South Africans who have left the country since the African National Congress came to power.

Critically though, the policy suited the 'African gangs' media circus advanced by Dutton ahead of a law-and-order campaign in the Victorian election. The proposal gained vocal support from Tony Abbott as well as the cross-bench. Dutton claimed that one farmer was killed each week on average, while Abbott asserted that 400 farmers had been murdered in the past year. Both of these figures first appeared in Toohey's piece, with AfriForum cited as the source.

Despite being widely circulated in the media at the time, both figures are false. While senior government officials capitalised on the story, Sky News promoted the idea of an impending white genocide, a claim which Fraser Anning enthusiastically repeated. So it was that in a short space of time, a series of mediators laundered white supremacist propaganda for the general public. We can hardly be surprised that Sky News greenlit an interview with a neo-Nazi when government officials forwarded the same ideas.

Journalists and academics have thoroughly debunked the white farmers narrative as racist agitprop, but its truth is beside the point. The purpose of the account is not to inform, but to persuade. The fiction acts as a rhetorical wedge in that either we accept that white people are in danger or risk censure. Such was the case when Dutton lashed out at critics, calling them 'crazy lefties' peddling 'fake news'. Similarly, Toohey chastised human rights organisations for being insufficiently concerned. Andrew Bolt doubled down on the point, insisting that groups ignoring or disputing the scenario were anti-white.

We cannot expect that our regular procedures, whether an industry code of conduct or anti-discrimination legislation, will capture anything but the most literal declarations of hate-speech. In saying that Cottrell only mentioned white South Africans, the watchdog's report only tells half the story. The white farmers narrative is a white supremacist dog whistle, pregnant with the suggestion of violence perpetrated by people of colour against white people.

This is by no means an isolated example. Recently, the white supremacist slogan 'it's okay to be white' made its way to our Senate, while self-described fascists infiltrated the NSW Young Nationals. Groups hostile to ethnic and religious diversity have not exercised such influence over Australian politics since the end of the White Australia policy. It is crucial that politicians, journalists and citizens do better and remain vigilant against attempts to normalise hateful ideas.



Joshua BadgeJoshua Badge is a lecturer in philosophy at Deakin University. Follow him on Twitter @joshuabadge

Topic tags: Joshua Badge, white African farmers, alt-right



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Existing comments

May I suggest everyone read the book : TARGET AFRICA by Obianuju Ekeocha who is a Nigerian woman who founded CULTURE OF LIFE AFRICA. She has spoken in 17 countries and at the UNITED NATIONS. You may get a better view rather than this one
PHIL ROWAN | 05 December 2018

Another so-called social libertarian who does this is the Editor of 'Spiked' in the UK, Brendan O'Neill. O'Neill has served a term with Australia's Centre for Independent Studies, professes to be a 'left-wing', anti-racist, social libertarian, writes regularly for The (conservative UK) Catholic Herald and had his specious justifications for so-called unlimited 'free speech' soundly demolished on Q&A recently by Nyadol Nyuon, Lawyer and community advocate.
Dr Michael FURTADO | 13 December 2018


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