Does airing alt-right views normalise racism and bigotry?

A former Australian minister has resigned as a commentator for Sky News to protest the broadcast of an alt-right extremist interview, which echoes sentiment in New Zealand with the visit of alt-right speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux.

Sky News was criticised for publishing three videos on Twitter featuring an interview with far-right extremist Blair Cottrell, an outspoken carpenter from Melbourne. This led to former Australian Labor minister Craig Emerson, a Sky News commentator, quitting his job in protest.

He said on Twitter the decision to air Mr Cottrell was "another step in a journey to normalising racism & bigotry."

Sky News said it was "wrong" to have published the videos, but did not apologise. The channel said on Twitter that Mr Cottrell's views "do not reflect ours" and confirmed the interview had been removed from its platforms.

In the interview, Mr Cottrell said Australia lacks national pride, which is "necessary to galvanise the minds of the masses and to protect the people of this country against foreign ideologies."

After his interview was pulled by Sky News, he said on Twitter the channel had caved to "Leftist abuse", slamming the decision to remove the content as "pathetic". 

Mr Cottrell believes Australia should only accept skilled migrants, and has advocated for the country taking all the white farmers from South Africa and halting immigration from the rest of the world.

Like Mr Cottrell, Canadian alt-right speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux fear the spread of foreign ideologies taking over the West. They’ve stirred up conversations around freedom of speech in New Zealand after arriving in the country last week to speak at an event. 

Australia and New Zealand both appear divided on whether alt-right speakers should be allowed to express their opinions. Whereas some argue that alt-right speakers whip up hatred towards minorities, others say these speakers should have the right to express their views.

"Muslims can no doubt be decent and noble people, just as tame wolves do exist, but the fact is that Islam the religion is by its nature dangerous to the West," says Ms Southern in her self-published book Barbarians: How the Baby Boomers, Immigration, and Islam Screwed My Generation.

According to the pseudoscience Mr Molyneux teaches, white people are ranked higher than the likes of black people, Arabs and Latinos. He believes race strongly influences IQ, and IQ strongly influences how economically successful or criminally violent a person will be.

While these views may seem out of touch in a country like New Zealand that prides itself on being diverse and advocates for equality, the country has been divided over whether Ms Southern and Mr Molyneux should be allowed to express their alt-right views to the public, following the cancellation of their speaking event.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the pair weren't welcome in any council-owned venues in Auckland because of their history of racism and intolerance. They were scheduled to speak at Auckland’s PowerStation last Friday, but the venue's owners cancelled the event at the last minute. 

After Ms Southern and Mr Molyneux's event was cancelled, the pair took to YouTube to declare New Zealand hostile to free speech. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded to that accusation on Saturday, saying New Zealand wasn't "hostile" to free speech - just to their views.

But Ms Southern hit back at Ms Ardern, accusing her of supporting multiculturalism and advocating for freedom and liberty, but then denying her and Mr Molyneux the right to express their unique views, regardless of whether it might offend some people.

Melissa Derby from the University of Canterbury told Newstalk ZB there are "dangerous implications" of the decision to deny the Canadian pair the opportunity to express their views publicly. She said freedom of speech "has to apply to everybody".

It gets a bit complicated, however, when someone like Mr Cottrell has expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler. He was also found guilty last year by a magistrate of provoking ridicule of Muslims, the Guardian reports.

Should an individual like Mr Cottrell have the right to express his views, even if it risks motivating hatred and division within society? That's the million dollar question.

"We had a sold out show & an agreement with a venue that was broken," said Ms Southern on Twitter after the cancellation of her and Mr Molyneux's event. She said that's "not the free market" that New Zealand claims to be.

The Canadian pair spoke to Newshub after their event was cancelled, telling Patrick Gower neither of them disagrees that people can't oppose their views. They said the ability to express different views is what has made the West "so great". 

Roughly 1000 protestors gathered later that evening in Auckland's Aotea Square, celebrating the gig's cancellation, which they said had nothing to do with freedom of speech.

On Saturday morning, a small group of about 30 people gathered in Aotea Square to "stand for freedom of speech".