Trump Pioneered Post-Truth Politics, And The Morrison Government Wants To Bring It Here
Our leaders have watched the chaotic, vile, and corrosive politics embodied by Trump, and have been taking notes. They want to bring it here.
Donald Trump’s election sent ripples running through the political world. Here was a man who had no interest in the truth — his speeches were a toxic, lazy, stream of whatever fabricated bullshit popped into his head as he was speaking — but all of a sudden, he was President.
We watched on in horror as he fought to tear down democratic institutions like the free press, independent courts; and through his ‘alternative facts’, even the foundation of truth itself.
We Need To Remember That What Happened In The US Can Happen Here Too
Many Australians think we’re different to the US — invulnerable to the same kind of assault on truth. But we’re absolutely not.
Four years later, Trump has been impeached twice, and the American people have rejected him at the ballot box. Yet, while his supporters desert him like rats fleeing a sinking ship, Australia’s politicians seem desperate to stick to him to the bloody end.
This is no accident. Our leaders have watched the chaotic, vile, and corrosive politics embodied by Trump, and have been taking notes. They want to bring it here.
While Republicans in the US have today voted to impeach Trump for his incitement of the Capitol riots, our leaders have refused to even admit the President played a role in encouraging hundreds of angry and armed far-right conspiracy theorists to break into the home of America’s democracy.
In fact there were more US Republicans who voted to impeach Trump than there were Australian government MPs prepared to even criticise him.
While Scott Morrison has been on holiday since the start of the week, we’ve been subjected to Nationals Leader Michael McCormack running the country. In the few days since he’s had the top job, he’s charged full-speed down the path of Trump-style politics.
Kicking off the week as boss, McCormack compared the Capitol Riots to Black Lives Matter — saying that “Any form of violence, any form of protest that ends in death and destruction, is abhorred.”
The facts are simple. The Black Lives Matter movement is a push back against the racist policing and politics that kills people of colour, year after year. In contrast the capitol riots were because the far-right didn’t want to accept the results of a fair and democratic election.
When shocked activists and journalists pushed him on the comparison, he doubled down. “All lives matter,” he said — the very same racist dog whistle used by white nationalists in the United States. McCormack may be an idiot, but this was no accident.
Like Trump in 2016, our Deputy Prime Minister has listened to Australia’s racists, and is telling them that he’s on their side.
Like in the United States, this racist viewpoint has been defended to the hilt by the conservative Murdoch press. While they have Fox, we’ve got the Murdoch tabloids and Sky News — and their editorial line famously attacks progressive voices, while championing conservative demagogues and climate conspiracists. In the US, conservative journalists spent the start of 2020 downplaying COVID-19, calling it a ‘Democrat hoax’ — entirely familiar to anyone who has read stories about climate change in the Daily Telegraph.
The Liberal Party Wants A Post-Truth World
Meanwhile, others in the Coalition are also becoming increasingly detached from reality.
In the two weeks in 2021, NSW seatwarmer Craig Kelly MP has said mandatory masks were an act of ‘child abuse’, spread climate conspiracy, blamed “Antifa” for the Washington attacks, said the NSW Liberals were pushing a vaccine ‘scare campaign’, suggested Australia should debate whether we vaccinate for COVID, and suggested alternative cures could be betadine, hydroxychloroquine, and ivermectine. Each post, a dangerous lie.
He’s got a massive audience: every post has thousands of likes, shares and comments. On Tuesday this week, a quarter of all Facebook interactions with an Australian politician were on his posts. Scott Morrison didn’t even make the list.
Doctors have been pleading with the Liberals to shut Craig Kelly up. Every post erodes trust in our government’s health response to COVID, and makes it that much harder to protect people from the pandemic.
Instead of gagging him for spreading medical disinformation during a public health crisis, the leaders of the Liberals and Nationals are just cheering him on.
“Facts are contentious,” McCormack, Australia’s Acting Prime Minister, said. “Some of what my colleague puts up on Facebook is very much true.”
Morrison, McCormack and Kelly would have us believe that facts aren’t facts any more, and as long as you sometimes tell the truth, there’s no problem with lying.
There’s a reason they won’t condemn Trump and his rabble of far-right nationalists, racists & conspiracy theorists. It’s because they’re harnessing the same distrust in institutions and experts that tore the US apart — and they’re doing it for their own unscrupulous aims.
They want their votes at the next election, and are willing to put the Australian people at risk to get them. Our warning to the Liberals and Nationals is simple. Don’t open up Pandora’s Box and take us down the post-truth path of Trump’s America.
Trump’s style of politics is poison to democracy. As president, he spent four years on the golf course, crowing about vast conspiracies to steal votes from him, make his rallies appear smaller, and about the fake news who were making him look bad.
He tweeted endlessly about how life was now great in America — with the stock market the ‘highest in history’, ‘more jobs than ever’, and how coronavirus was ‘cured’. Meanwhile, most American people were getting poorer, sicker, and more worried about their future.
In a post-truth democracy, politics won’t be about competing visions for the future of our country. Instead, politicians from both sides will be feeding us absolute bullshit — and people across the country will instead be left trying to figure out what is fact, and what is fiction.
The seedy underbelly of the Liberal Party in Australia has been copying Trump for some time. Now, it looks like it may have infested the highest ranks of the party.
People’s access to accurate information, whether it’s about public health or climate change, is critical to our democracy. When our leaders lie to us, our democracy is in peril.
We’ve seen that happen in the United States, and we need to fight to make sure it doesn’t happen here.
Nick McKim is a Senator from Tasmania and is the acting leader of the federal Greens.