#BBCTrending: Has Australia's flag been co-opted by racists?

360 Image copyright Getty Images

Australian hip-hop artist 360 provoked a fierce debate when he said he associated his country's national flag with bigotry.

Asked how the nation was perceived abroad, the platinum-selling performer - real name Matt Colwell - told the ABC discussion programme Q&A:

"The Australian flag to me has now become... I identify it with racism."

The audience applauded when asked if they agreed.

The rapper described seeing drunks with the flag around their neck racially abusing taxi drivers. "I've seen it so much, growing up and still today. It's pathetic."

He also tweeted: "I think those who fought under the flag for this country would be ashamed of the racism under the guise of patriotism in Australia."

There was an angry online response. "You lost another fan today. Our flag is racist? Uneducated fool," posted Michael Ockhertz on 360's Facebook page.

"I love being australian @3ree6ixty that doesn't make me a racist," tweeted @frozenuptwice. Others said it was unfair to smear the vast majority of Australians who proudly fly the flag with the behaviour of a small group of bigots.

But there were also plenty of supporters of 360. Many pointed out that he had not said the flag was racist - simply that it had been hijacked by racists.

"@3ree6ixty Great appearance on Q&A. The only people you've upset seem to be aggressive racists," tweeted @tonyslats.

"Our servicemen died for what the piece of cloth represents, not its fabric, and that is exactly what he was lamenting," posted Claye Middleton on Facebook.

"The flag has been hijacked by people who have little respect for others views, beliefs, or nationality of origin."

In the wake of the furore, 360 said he had been threatened with violence. But he stood firm, insisting: "I'm not anti-Australia, I'm anti-racist Australian."

On his Facebook page, he reiterated his view that the symbols of patriotism were being used to mask racism.

Image copyright Twitter

Reporting by Jon Kelly

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