We have all seen the panels where a bunch of white ‘personalities’ debate something so far outside the realm of their understanding that it is laughable and yet, it continues, it influences and it pays them to continue saying what they want without basis, without evidence and without any real challenge. They are – after all – on mainstream media platforms voicing their ignorance as though they have some sort of authority to speak on issues.
In Australia, the rabid racists are adamant that they are entitled to hold views that have no basis except through information gleaned from shock jocks and ignorant panellists who make claims.
Broadcasters who have been enjoying the unfettered right to centre whiteness in their panel discussions will be breathing a sigh of relief following the recent decision of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in response to the KAK furore.
ACMA has found that Channel 10 did not breach the code by airing panel discussion in which, Kerri-Anne Kennerley said:
“… children, babies, five-year-olds are being raped, their mothers are being raped, their sisters are being raped, they get no education.”
The ACMA investigated the complaint and determined that the ‘threshold tests of ‘intense dislike’ or ‘serious’ contempt have not been met in the circumstances of this broadcast, and the licensee did not breach clause 2.6.2 of the Code.’
The reasons given by the ACMA were that there was robust discussion and that the views of Kennerley were challenged by another panellist.
Although there are reports that Kennerley was cleared of racism, the ACMA objectively assessed the material and determined in plain English:
The ACMA considers an ordinary reasonable person would have understood this statement to mean that sexual abuse, including child sexual abuse, was endemic in remote Indigenous communities.
The ACMA considers that the emphatic and sweeping suggestion by Ms Kennerley of endemic sexual abuse in Indigenous communities could be capable of provoking strong negative feelings in a reasonable person. Sexual abuse, and particularly child sexual abuse, is regarded by the community with abhorrence.
So while Kennerley and the right tries to spin this as a win, the lawyers working for these broadcasters will likely be advising them that when they allow panellists known to make racist comments on air – they will need to make sure they have someone on the panel to counter the view. We will hear an awful lot of “this is my personal view/opinion” from those known for their ‘controversial’ (racist, bigoted and ignorant) views.
While the ACMA is not authority on what is racist, they are making a strong suggestion that the comments by Kennerley would be received as such ‘to the ordinary person’ but what about our communities? With the exception of known right wing darling, the Indigenous communities throughout Australia have condemned Kennerley’s comments as racist.
So why are we relying on a media authority such as ACMA to determine what is and isn’t racist when that is not even the matter they are considering?
Racism and the determination of what constitutes racism must always centre the group being targeted by comments – in this case – Indigenous people who were loosely being accused of not caring about the issues Kennerley perceived as more important than the fact that Australia celebrates on a day that makes the commencement of mass genocide, dispossession and violence for Indigenous people.
Kennerley defending herself and denying racism is at play is both predictable and unfounded.
A white woman defending her right to say baseless and racist things on air is not new and her centering herself as the victim is a tried and true tactic – but that does not mean she is right and it certainly does not mean she gets a pass.
I concede that self-reflection and objective and active listening when people of experiential difference to you requires a certain intelligence that is not within many people – that does not mean that Indigenous people should accept this as simply the way it is.
The ACMA has made it clear that, although clearing 10 of breaching the code, Kennerley’s comments were without evidentiary support and had the propensity to offend and broadcasters should look at this as an opportunity to do better.
It is important to note also, that broadcasters have a responsibility to understand their audience and ensure that they are not reinforcing the ignorance that has permeated within this country since invasion. They also have a responsibility to those that they will invariably wheel out in front of their audience base to provide a counter view knowing the rabid racists will then target them.
This country is racist and this racism is reinforced by the actions of a lot of mainstream broadcasters who host panels that they know will be presenting a certain view and if they do not do the work now to change their tactics, there will undoubtedly be bolstering of laws and codes to address this.
To Yumi – thanks for calling out the comments for what they were – I know this was at significant personal cost but doing the right thing often is.
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