Triple j’s hack tv special on the little Aussie Fuhrer Blair Cottrell was exactly what commentators grappling with the rise of Pauline Hanson have been calling for: a conversation.

In response to breakfast television host Sonia Kruger’s call to ban Muslim immigration, Waleed Aly called on people who might have choked on their Weet-Bix to instead empathise with her fear and exercise restraint. If only we could all just get along the bigots would … well, it’s not clear what would happen, as even Aly acknowledges that the likes of One Nation or the tiny groups of Hitlerites are highly unlikely to change.

In a column criticising the Greens for walking out during Hanson’s maiden speech in the Senate, Aly pressed further, arguing that “we don’t engage anymore”, decrying the hardening of the lines of debate.

Hack’s panel on patriotism set up two Muslim women, an academic, an Indigenous artist and an ex-soldier to take on a One Nation voter and Cottrell, leader of the United Patriots Front, a tiny group of unreconstructed fascists. At best, through reasoned debate, this was designed to expose the fallacies on which the racist arguments rest. At worst, it was the exercise in empathy proposed by Aly.

What ensued was an hour of monologues from Cottrell, including stupendous slurs about Muslims and Indigenous people, and a mini biopic shot at flattering angles while he explained his modest aim “of getting the most power possible”.

This level of media attention is out of all proportion to what he represents. Cottrell’s group numbers no more than 30, and mobilises no more than 100 nutters at its protests.

Groups who organise counter-demonstrations are chastised for bringing them greater attention. But between the TV news leading with their demonstrations, counter-protest or no counter-protest, and current affairs producers sticking them in an armchair in front of a camera, the media are intent on thrusting fascists into our lounge rooms.

The question is whether viewers will also see people taking them on and calling them out for what they are.