Pop quiz! If you hear that Pauline Hanson is being interviewed on the news do you:
a) Expect to hear a balanced, coherent and factual interview
b) Expect to hear a racist, ill-informed and deliberately divisive interview
If you picked answer b, give yourself a pat on the back. It’s no secret that Pauline Hanson has extreme (read racist) views and has done since the day she first made her public debut in 1996, spewing dangerous and derogatory comments.
Nothing has changed since then and yet she still continues to be interviewed by the media. Why?
Last week Pauline Hanson made headlines around the nation after she made shamefully racist and ignorant comments during an interview with The Today Show, on Melbourne residents forced hastily into lockdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
Hanson’s comments sparked outrage from The Today Show hosts and viewers alike. The Today Show then made the announcement that Hanson would be dropped as a regular commentator from their show.
I applaud Channel Nine and The Today Show for taking this stance - we shouldn’t be giving a platform to people who misuse it to spread dangerous ideas and mis-information. But I’m wondering why she was given that platform in the first place?
Some people may argue that she is an elected political figure and politicians are interviewed in the media all the time. Or that the media has a responsibility to present diverse opinions, even if they are not popular.
But I would counter argue that by saying it’s the media's responsibility to ensure they are giving a voice to a variety of opinions that drive issues forward, not a platform for racial (or any form) of vilification. We need commentators that are well-informed - they don’t all need to agree - but they should stimulate positive debate, not hate.
We all know controversy is a classic recipe for ratings success and click bait - how many times have you stopped scrolling and read an article on the tempting promise of a scandal? So the cynical side of me says that’s the answer. She still has a platform because controversy is good for ratings and ratings are good for revenue. I really hope the cynical side of me is wrong.
At what point do the media need to step in and say this is no longer an extreme view, it's downright racism and it doesn’t have a place in the news agenda? Shadow minister for the environment and water, Terri Butler, summarised it well when she appeared on ABC’s Q&A, saying, “Free speech is one thing, elevating racism in the discourse is another”.
Many would say The Today Show should never have given Hanson the opportunity to give such a destructive interview. That might be true. But at least they have the good sense to say enough is enough and we won’t tolerate this harmful nonsense anymore.
One platform has been taken away but there are still others and no doubt Pauline Hanson and other dangerous commentators will pop back up soon. In fact, Hanson tweeted numerous interviews she had coming up after the ban was announced.
It’s not just the media that has a responsibility to uphold - brands do too. It’s no longer ok for brands to remain neutral on social issues that don’t align with their brand values and impact their customers.
The ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign is asking brands to pause their advertising on Facebook for the month of July - sending a clear message to Facebook that they need to lift their game and implement new policies that stop hate speech and address the impact Facebook has on our society.
Many brands have joined the boycott including Unileaver, Coca Cola, The North Face, Ben & Jerry’s and Diageo. The widespread movement is demanding real change by withholding the thing that Facebook seems to prioritise the most - revenue. There is a lesson for us as consumers here.
If we go back to the ratings equals revenue equation, we can add in one more element. You. Me. Us. The people who generate the ratings. The people that have the power to influence the thing that influences revenue. We can create meaningful change by actively consuming media that lifts up and advances all facets of our society.
Twitter erupted with comments questioning The Today Show’s choice on giving Pauline Hanson airtime and no doubt this would have influenced their decision to remove her from the roster. I implore everyone to keep being vocal - call out the media (and brands) when they aren’t living up to their responsibility and stand by them when they do #votewithyourremote.
Words by Senior Brand Leader, Jade Glashoff