How Can We Stop Politicians Spreading Misinformation?

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This is Craig Kelly.  

He’s a Liberal backbencher and since the beginning of the pandemic he’s been spreading some really controversial misinformation.  

And so far, he’s faced no consequences foany of it.  

So, why should the Government speak out against Kelly’s bad opinions? And what does it say about the state of truth in politics that they haven’t already?  

Craig Kelly And His Harmful Bulsh*t

In the past year, Craig Kelly’s spouted anti-vax ideas, encouraged the use of an anti-malaria drug to defend against Covid-19 and even said that making kids wear masks was like “child abuse” 

Ignoring the fact that children under 12 aren’t actually required to wear masks in any Australian state or territory, Kelly’s comments have been really damaging to public health messageswhich is an issue seeing as he actually has a massive amount of influence on social media.  

Joshua Badge: The damage of this can’t really be overstated. Craig Kelly’s content on Facebook is some of the most shared political content of all so it’s doing real damage.” 

There’s been widespread backlash against Kelly’s comments and people want to see action taken here.  

Three In Four Australians Want ScoMo To Publicly Rebuke Craig Kelly

According to a new poll, three in four Australians want Scott Morrison to publicly rebuke this misinformation.  

When he was acting Prime Minister, Michael McCormack was given the opportunity to criticise Kelly’s BS but he refused to do it, saying that he wasn’t “into censorship” and Kelly was “entitled to his view”.  

If our Government is seemingly comfortable with mis and disinformation coming from our politicians, what does it mean 

Well for a start, it’s not great news for public health messaging.  

The Vice President of the Australian Medical Association said that allowing misinformation to just sit online is “torching the foundation of community health and science”.  

But it goes beyond public health (which has arguably never been more important) because setting this precedent is obviously not great for our democracy.  

A Dangerous Time For ‘Alternative Facts’

JB: The thing to keep in mind is that it’s not just Kelly, it’s not just a single rogue individual in government. The Coalition MPs – like George Christensen or Matt Canavan, or the former Ambassador to the US Joe Hockey – have also posted on social media promoting Trump’s lies about voter fraud in the US and various things about Covid-19 so it really goes up to the highest ranks of government.” 

Journalists have pointed out that this is a really worrying turn of events for Australian politics, and with dangerous comments like Kelly’s allowed to keep floating around, we’re heading down the ‘alternative facts’ path paved by the Trump administration.  

The US Capitol riots showed us how dangerous that path can be.  

But we kind of expect politicians to lie a little bit right? Well, Joshua told me that even though there’s nothing particularly new here, it’s happening on another level now.  

What Can The Media Do?

JB: Politicians could say misleading things and have their quotes published in all the major newspapers for a long time before Trump came along  and introduced lying in a more blatant way. So, on the one hand it’s not particularly new, on the other hand there is a sense of developing degradation and atrophy. 

There needs to be more checks and balances in order to regulate that power and the media definitely plays a huge part in that. Certainly it’s worthwhile thinking about how we could improve the behaviour of politicians but we also need to think about the role of the media and how well they’ve actually been doing their job. There’s this idea that they’ve been talking truth to power but are they really doing that?”  

The Takeaway

Craig Kelly’s remarks are incredibly damaging for public health at a time where we all just need messages from our leaders based on scientific evidence.  

But the misinformation goes beyond that. Because of the government’s failure to criticise Kelly and other MPs spreading harmful lies, we’ve entered dangerous territory and we need journalists and clear-minded politicians to step up and counteract the BS before it goes even further.