There was once a time when demonstrators shouting ‘Freedom’ were synonymous with the Civil Rights movement in America, the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and the solidarity of captive nations to shake off the shackles of the Soviet Union. These days the cry still resonates for many people around the world, faced with the widespread persecution of totalitarian regimes. In Australia however, as seen in the round of demonstrations last weekend, it’s become a vacuous rallying call for the rag tag minority of far right activists, pseudo libertarians and United Australia Party acolytes – who have seized on the political opportunism afforded by the pandemic to push their own wobbly agenda.
What makes this groundswell all the more appealing for those that choose to scream anti-vax slogans and the like is the climate of misinformation, distortion and clickbait absurdity that affects every corner of the media. Even when there is an opportunity for serious debate, some media outlets pitch for the lowest common denominator – a largely commercial decision because who wants to click on a story that might make you actually think?
A classic example was much of the reporting that came out of the recent Glasgow Climate Summit. Whilst some of the more responsible sections of the media concentrated on the important issues, others like news.com.au went for the gratuitous human interest guffaw. “Camilla Parker Bowles can’t stop talking about Joe Biden’s ‘long fart’” headlined one story. Yes, all very ironic when it comes to the subject of gas emissions but at the same time, belittling when it involves any serious discussion.
A multitude of media outlets reported the same incident, with some at least acknowledging that the incident was alleged. The ‘much trusted’ Daily Mail noted that the information came from an ‘informed source’, noting that “it was long and loud and impossible to ignore.” I guess we can now expect totally reliable reportage on every act of flatulence that occurs at a major political event.
That kind of low grade, bottom of the barrel humour has worked particularly well for Donald Trump in attacking and vilifying his opponents. Trumpism, the pandemic, social media and the click baiting of news have all combined to produce a dystopia where the truth is constantly under attack. Reality is quickly replaced with inflammatory rhetoric and popularist slogans. As the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels often advocated, repeat a lie often enough and people will soon start believing it.
In Australia we have the Big Pineapple, the Big Merino and the Big Lobster – to name just a few. We also have the big Clive Palmer billboard, most of which seem to survive for less than a week or so before they are defaced or satirically altered. Given his dubious track record including the treatment of his nickel mine workers and his own somnolent stint as a Federal politician, it’s hard to believe Clive is back again with his self funded United Australia Party plus a posse of mavericks like Craig Kelly to spruik his nationalistic, anti-Liberal, anti-Labor agenda.
He could not have asked for a better climate of media mistrust and social media bullshit to push his popularist prattle. Whilst the majority of Australians probably regard him as a self-promoting buffoon, the UAP is bound to attract a large slab of the disaffected vote, much like One Nation did originally, and could possibly win a number of Senate seats.
History shows us that whenever truth and reality come under attack and are grossly distorted, political opportunists emerge to seize on the moment. Well can I speak for the majority of double vaccinated, community minded, good citizens for once, and in the words of the immortal Twisted Sister, let Clive Palmer know – “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.