“Did you hear about the terrorist who drove a vehicle into a crowd of people?”
“The one in Barcelona? Yeah it was all over the news all weekend. Couldn’t miss it.”
“No, the one in Charlottesville.”
“Oh I heard something about that, but was that terrorism?”
“Let’s see. A guy used lethal violence against civilians he perceived as political enemies. That fits most definitions of terrorism.”
“Why isn’t it being talked about the same way as London or Barcelona?”
“Do I even need to answer that?”
“Sadly, you don’t.”
Telling a very specific narrative
The Charlottesville attack didn’t register for long in Australia’s mainstream media. Much like the minimalist and dispassionate reporting of the Y’all Qaeda terrorists, the disparity between media reactions to the Charlottesville and Barcelona attacks within a week gives a very clear insight into what is supposedly ‘newsworthy.’
Once again, our media networks feed excitedly on our fear. Shamelessly, they lap up any scrap of information about a suspected Islamic terrorist attack and report it in excruciating and unnecessary detail. This is great news for ISIS, because this is the kind of exposure that money literally cannot buy. Moreover the hyperbolic reporting exaggerates the nature of the threat posed by terrorist groups, making them appear more powerful than they really are. Reporters are in fact, key instruments of terrorists and other crazed murderers. So you have to wonder why media organisations don’t change and take on a more responsible approach.
But why would they when their current strategy is working for them? The narrative about the dangers to Western nations posed by Islamic terrorism is one of their most successful strategies for selling news. In this way, there is a kind of perverse symbiotic relationship between the news media and terrorist organisations. Each nurtures the other.
This leads to the second related point that we kind of get the news coverage we deserve. They won’t change their business model if we keep rewarding them. Every time we open a clickbait article about terrorism or terrorist threats, we are perpetuating the cycle. I know these events are shocking and we do want to know about them but do we need to know every minutiae? No we don’t.
Have we just passed the need for Godwin’s Law?
Godwin’s Law suggests that in an argument the first person to call their opponent a Nazi has lost both their audience and the argument. When you are talking about racists who peddle identity politics this can be a fine line. In fact I flirted with crossing this myself in an another article about terrorism a little while back and sure enough that was enough a draw an aggressive response from one reader who felt any allusion to creeping fascism within this country to be ludicrous.
But now, after 12 more months of identity politics we are at the point where the existence of Nazi groups in the alt-right isn’t even in question (unless you are Donald Trump). When white nationalist rallies proudly feature Nazi chants, salutes and swastikas, there is not much point calling them anything else.
Don’t assume we are much ahead. There is no shortage of ethnocentric nationalism in Australia too- and should Peter Dutton replace Turnbull as PM, expect the targeting and scapegoating of minorities to increase even more.
Nationalism on its own is often quite harmless and even has positive consequences when it doesn’t include any racist element and is quite simply a love for one’s country and countrymen. But a lot of nationalism doesn’t stay like that. Nationalism can easily shift to ethno-nationalism and racism, usually as a result of intellectual cowardice.
I’m usually pretty strongly against guilt by association. Just as I oppose the blanket condemnation of all Muslims for the actions of ISIS, I have to also allow for the fact that I can’t condemn every Australian who is concerned about multiculturalism as being an uneducated Nazis.
But if you are voluntarily part of an association that is partially supported by violent racists, stand up to them or find a group that better represents you, because if you let yourself be represented by Neo-Nazi thugs, you have basically become one by default.
The kind of violent ideation I see voiced and applauded on supposedly ‘patriotic’ (a term I use with some irony) websites is sickening. And I have rarely seen it moderated or restrained by site moderators or other group members.
Political groups are not football teams, you don’t owe them any loyalty (actually you don’t owe your football team any loyalty either- they exploit you shamelessly, but that is another article) and are free to stop supporting them the moment you don’t like what they stand for. In fact you are almost obligated to do so, otherwise they are exactly what you stand for.