The Danger of Oxygen Fuelled Falsehood
Human opinions and views will always diverge greatly. However, giving oxygen to spurious views in full knowledge they are divisive in nature and designed to misinform should be considered a crime and the perpetrators called to account.
The behaviour, language, and deception of Donald Trump over the four years of his presidency have been an international scandal, not simply a domestic scandal, given the role the US has played, and is expected to play, in international affairs. But equally scandalous, on the one hand, has been the failure of leading Republican figures to pull him into line, and on the other, the failure of social media outlets to prevent the dissemination of material that has been factually wrong, and worse, designed to cause division, even hate. It is almost beyond belief that for four years this president has been allowed to perpetrate falsehood, and in the process, convince a significant following that facts are fake and what is fake to be fact. Twitter is to be congratulated for permanently closing his account, but why did it have to come to this before action was taken?
To be fair to him, the environment in which this scandal became possible, is not exclusively of his making. Deep within the US psyche is ingrained belief that individual rights must prevail, no matter the circumstance. Any attempt to curtail these rights, be it gun control in the face of shocking massacres and brutality, or responsible behaviour to safeguard the community in the face of the covid pandemic, is perceived as an assault on these supposed fundamental rights. The result is that massacres still occur, brutality towards blacks is endemic, and thousands needlessly die of the pandemic. Trump has shamelessly played to this psyche, and in the process has brought democracy to its knees and irretrievably reduced America’s standing in the international community.
The great challenge facing the Unites States of America is finding a political way forward through which the protection of individual rights and the protection of common good can be championed as complimentary partners of one another, not as opposites. This way forward is as urgently required in international affairs as in domestic national affairs. True liberty is not the capacity to do whatever you want; regardless of others, it is the capacity to be fulfilled in the company of the much greater whole to which all humanity belongs. This is a challenge the Republicans must address. If they cannot extract themselves from Trumpism they will lack any real capacity to be a viable, unifying, alternative government.
Unfortunately, fake news, divisive madness, also exists on the periphery of Australian political life and because the purveyors are deemed necessary to the survival of ‘conservative’ politics, they have dangerously more influence than they should be expected to wield as individual politicians. Two of the worst offenders are Craig Kelly and George Christensen. Both are conveyors of untruth, most recently supporting the conspiracy theory that the assault on the US congress was stirred by the left-wing fringe movement - Antifa. If this were true, then not only did Trump egg on the extreme right, but he also managed to influence the left as well! It seems not to worry both gentlemen a jot that the report on which thy relied for the dissemination of their conspiracy theory has been totally discredited.
Readers will be aware that both these men have been climate sceptics and have done all in their power to circumvent an energy policy that will assist Australia’s necessary transition to a low emissions future and the development of new industries based on prolific supplies of renewable energy. Not only have these two men had far too much influence in delaying environmental responsibility, but they have also seriously let down a work force that should by now have been assisted into a future based upon new secure and growing employment opportunity. Instead, the work force has been left facing an inevitable cliff as fossil fuel extraction comes incrementally to an end.
Craig Kelly is an embarrassment; I understand increasingly so even in his own electorate. Why has the Prime Minister protected him? Surely the Liberal Party will not again support his endorsement?
In a recent Opinion Piece Tony Abbott railed against what he considered to be indefensible curtailment of individual rights as Australian state authorities imposed mask wearing and lockdown restrictions. He apparently believed the seriousness of the virus to have been grossly exaggerated and Australian economy growth to have been unnecessarily curtailed. Having spent some recent time in the UK one would have thought that observing 1000 covid deaths a day, an NHS stretched beyond its capacity and an economy in deep trouble, he would understand this pandemic is not a gentle stroll in the park. Abbott clearly holds the view that individual ‘rights’ must always prevail.
In the same opinion piece Abbott opined that decisions such as those involved with shutdowns should be made by elected members of government and not influenced, let alone be led by ‘unelected expert opinion’. One would have thought the reverse, that the role of elected members of parliament should be to be as informed as possible by expert opinion and both devise and implement policy based on this advice, regardless of its popularity or otherwise within the electorate.
Where expert advice or opinion has not been taken or followed, the pandemic is out of control and politically motivated partisan ideology has been allowed to prevail. Where expert advice has been ignored in relation to global warming, the planet becomes unnecessarily more fragile.
All human beings tend to read or listen to opinions which coincide with well-established views. Because of this tendency, it is vital that mainstream news outlets are disciplined in the promotion of facts and that ‘alternative facts’ are not given equal authority. When facts have been determined beyond reasonable doubt an alternative view is simply false.
What has befallen the US is unlikely to befall Australia. However, if voices of falsehood and discontent are given oxygen, it is possible that such madness could find root in Australian life.