True democracy is more valuable than censorship
AS IF our homegrown grievance industry needed any additional help, outrage is now being manufactured by outside agitators.
Enter, stage left, the Sleeping Giants, a group of online activists spawned by the election of that Outrager-In-Chief Donald Trump in November 2016.
The group's initial target was alt-right website Breitbart - whose former executive chairman Steve Bannon went on to become Trump's one-time chief strategist - mobilising its followers to bombard the site's advertisers.
Eventually, hundreds of advertisers capitulated and as many as 4000 companies added Breitbart to its advertising blacklists.
On the extreme end of the political spectrum, one of the Giants' biggest "success" stories has been the de-platforming of Alex Jones, the far-right conspiracist of InfoWars infamy.
Now, you may notice a trend here: all of the group's high-profile scalps are from the Right.
"We've been tweeting at every platform for about a year," its US founder boasted to the Washington Post on the weekend.
As detestable as some of Jones' views are, this push to shut down opponents rather than debate them bodes badly for a free press and a healthy civil society.
First InfoWars and Breitbart, then who?
Turns out, my own employer Sky News.
An offshoot of the group recently sprang up in Australia and its chief priority has been to shame brands out of advertising on the channel until it is no longer commercially viable.
Ironically, the administrators of Sleeping Giants Oz told the Saturday Paper they choose to remain anonymous as their work makes them "prime targets for harassment".
It was only recently that the US founder was unmasked - or "doxxed" in cyberspeak - as 45-year-old professional copywriter Matt Rivitz from San Francisco.
The group operates by compiling a list of advertisers on the outlet in question, sending it to followers (which it claims number 300,000 globally) and instructing them to make sure the "company in boxes [sic] a[re] full by Monday!!!"
It also urges its army of keyboard activists to take screenshots of ads appearing next to what they consider "hate speech", tweet it to the advertiser and tag Sleeping Giants so it can keep track of the "progress".
Rivitz claimed to the Post that the group had never called for a boycott, but this is plainly complete garbage.
In Australia, the offshoot group started a petition on change.org more than a month ago, insisting airline Qantas "remove Sky News from its screens".
The demand was in the heading, for heaven's sake.
They're not the only activists calling for censorship.
ABC darling Benjamin Law ranted on Saturday that Qantas had delayed his flight by two hours, then somehow forced him to use a "shitty laptop charging station" over which a television airing aSky News program was - according to him - discussing "black people and Safe Schools" (presumably not together).
" … So it's only fair I've climbed onto that station like a gorilla and pulled the TV plug from the wall," the Fairfax columnist tweeted, as if he expected a Victoria Cross.
But imagine the uproar if someone who disagreed with, say, Law's view conservative MPs should be "hate f***ed", bragged about gathering up all of a cafe's Fairfax papers and binning them.
The fact is, this campaign against Sky News began well before the interview with self-proclaimed neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell nine days ago, in which he was allowed to push his views unchallenged - something the network has rightly apologised for and made moves to prevent happening again.
But that incident has become an all-too convenient excuse for critics who wish to silence us in toto.
Take Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan, who - doing her best impersonation of a socialist dictator - announced on Thursday she was pulling the channel from the state's transport network.
Utterly befitting of her portfolio, Comrade Allan then gave a trainwreck interview in which she wrongly claimed the Cottrell episode had repeatedly aired in Victorian train stations - it hadn't been broadcast even once - and failed to give examples of any offensive Sky content that had actually been shown on station platforms.
As far as I can tell, there's been nothing from Sleeping Giants or a Victorian minister calling for a ban of the ABC, which also hosted Cottrell on its Hack Live television special in 2016.
The public broadcaster followed that up by inviting white supremacist and an organiser of the original Charlottesville rally, Eli Mosley, onto Triple J's youth news program Hack the following year.
All this came after Aunty featured former terror suspect Zaky Mallah, who had repeatedly tweeted about "gang-banging" conservative female columnists, onto its flagship Q&A.
Those cheering the silencing of journalists and media outlets because they're from the Right should be warned the same tactics are equally effective as shutting down the Left.
In 2014, an online mob of web users who referred to themselves as "Gamergate" inundated advertisers of progressive website Gawker.com after one of its editors posted a sarcastic tweet that seemed to endorse bullying.
The campaign resulted in the site losing advertising valued in the seven figures and two years later, it folded.
As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.
Caroline Marcus is the host of Saturday Edition and Sunday Edition on Sky News.