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Jennifer, who has a PhD, has worked as an academic and a scholar, but now works at little of both her careers. She has published short stories in several anthologies, academic papers and book chapters, frequently on the topic of human rights. Her interests and writing are wide ranging, including cultural analysis. Jennifer has written for On Line Opinion, Suite 101 and ABC’s Drum Unleashed. Jennifer is well-known for her long-running blog No Place for Sheep: an eclectic blog that covers politics, society, satire, fiction and fun stuff.

If you want an example of the Australian media’s ingrained toxicity…

If you want an example of the Australian media’s ingrained toxicity, the reporting of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s decision on Saturday to reinstate COVID payments to casual workers is a splendid one.

Mr Albanese had earlier and wrongly decided that the payments, mandated to end on June 30 by the previous LNP government, should not be renewed. This unwise decision, taken in the midst of surging infection around the country, provoked alarm from many quarters including some media. It was accompanied by startlingly ill-informed comments from the Prime Minister, suggesting that “good employers” ensure that their casual employees can work from home when unwell. A great deal of casual employment cannot be undertaken “from home,” a fact one hopes would not escape a Labor Prime Minister’s notice.

However, after taking the criticism on board Mr Albanese announced that the payments would be extended until September and backdated, so no one would suffer from his earlier error in judgement.

Media, including the Canberra Times ($), the Sydney Morning Herald the Australian, Sky News, the Guardian and 6 News Australia are among those who chose to report these events as a “backflip” by the Prime Minister. “Backflip” is a derogatory term only ever used by media to imply weakness and inconsistency. The use of that one word signified the negative nature of their narrative. Albanese had not “reconsidered after listening to critics.” Albanese had “caved under pressure.”

“Backflip” in this context is a failed metaphor. All backflips result in the performer facing the direction from which they began the action so are not a change at all, but rather an elaborate means of returning to the same point of view. Nonetheless, the word has become a fundamental component of the lexicon of political commentary. This in itself could be considered a metaphor for the state of the industry.

The message conveyed to politicians is toxic: You must change this decision but if you do we will attack you for your weakness and inconsistency.

If you continue to attack someone for making a change for the better you’re likely more invested in attack than you are in change. Regrettably, our media frequently create the impression that they are far more dedicated to furthering the former than the latter. So wedded are they to negativity they are unable or unwilling to acknowledge that a government capable of reversing its bad decisions is a democratic rather than an autocratic body, and the kind of government we so desperately need at this time.

The “backflip” narrative is an elaboration of the press conference “gotcha” moment so beloved by many Australian journalists. It’s nothing to do with speaking truth to power or responsibly informing the public, rather when it works it’s a “look at me” reporter’s power trip, an opportunity to momentarily grab the spotlight if a politician can be made to look foolish, inept, or ignorant.

The moment a journalist employs the term “backflip” they have fallen into editorialising. They have made a choice, perhaps unconsciously given the prevalent misuse of the term, to contaminate their reportage with biased language rather than simply reporting the facts. It is a fact that the former Morrison government mandated the termination of COVID payments on June 30th. It is a fact that Mr Albanese initially intended to uphold that termination. It is a fact that he reconsidered this decision and extended and backdated the payment. A choice is made by journalists as to how to present these facts to the public: as reconsideration, or backflip. There is a glaring difference in the impressions created by these two words.

While we have managed to elect a new government, we are still stuck with the same old media who cannot or will not imagine a non-toxic politics. This will likely not be the last time the Albanese government may have to change its position. Any government must be granted the space in which to reverse bad decisions without enduring toxic criticism from toxic media who are more interested in furthering discord than they are in facilitating positive change.

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Mainstream journalists are failing to speak truth to power

THE NON-VIOLENT TACTIC of speaking truth to power was a focus of the 1950s struggle by Black Americans for equal rights and racial equality in the U.S. It was shortly thereafter adopted by journalists as their mantra and is now regarded, largely in the abstract it must be sadly noted, as their primary task.

In his commentary on the recent Federal Election, BBC journalist Nick Bryant described former Prime Minister Scott Morrison as our first post-truth leader. Given Morrison’s documented domestic and international mendacities, together with his exceptional talent for truth twisting, Bryant’s observation is definitely on the money.

However, what is absent from his analysis is the role of the media in enabling a post-truth climate that allows men such as Morrison, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former U.S. President Donald Trump to gain high political office in the anglosphere. None of these men or their equally compromised colleagues would have flourished had it not been for legacy media, whose journalists are apparently easily overawed by shiny, noisy, blingy things entirely devoid of substance and with a dubious talent for gishing the gallop.

We have watched, frequently in stupefaction, as some of our senior journalists tied themselves in knots and destroyed their reputations attempting to convince us that these charlatans are really men and women of gravitas engaged in the noble pursuit of good governance. Remember The Woman who saved Australia by the Australian Financial Review’s Phillip Coorey? Oh, how we laughed!

Or the Sydney Morning Herald’s James Massola on the loveliness of Jenny Morrison and how everyone would vote for Scott if we could only just meet her, an article so cringingly bereft of intelligent thought that one could almost believe it really was written by monkeys infinitely swiping at random typewriter keys.

Rather than speaking truth to power, legacy media frequently opts for attempting to legitimise power, no matter how absurd journalists make themselves in the process. The fact that both Massola and Coorey can write adequately should they choose to suggests that they are as compromised as the politicians they all too frequently serve – rather than challenge – and just as untrustworthy and manipulative.

One of the most despicable narratives purveyed by the majority of Australian media during the election campaign was the notion that there is a moral equivalence between the Liberal National Party and the Australian Labor Party. This narrative attempted to erase almost a decade of documented L-NP malfeasance, nonfeasance and misfeasance, creating the myth of a morally level playing field on which moral equals would fight it out.

 

 

In the end, voters rejected this blatant attempt to erase history and memory by the very profession claiming to protect both. You cannot speak truth to power if you attempt to obliterate power’s dark record. We see you.

Mainstream media’s general willingness to overlook the serious harms inflicted on citizens individually and collectively by a brigade of post-moral L-NP politicians exposes the post-truth crater into which journalists themselves have fallen. If you doubt this assertion, may I direct you to this recent article by the SMH’s Jacqueline Maley, titled ‘Peter Dutton has the worldview of a Queensland cop. It’s in our interests to give him a go’.

This is Maley’s contribution to the current media effort to rebrand former Defence Minister Dutton, a baffling venture given Morrison’s failure to save the Liberal Party from a looming conflagration by giving similar undertakings in the last days before the Election.

Why on Earth media and politicians seem to think that outing someone as two-faced is some kind of character reference, I don’t know. But it isn’t. If you have to reassure the public that the perceived monster is really a softy, you are rather missing the point, which is that you are having to do this, stupid.

We have, in Australia, removed the senior post-truth politician from his leadership, but we haven’t removed them all. And we have come nowhere near defeating the media who enable and promote them. Legacy media is also two-faced and this mirrors those politicians. For example, you’ll find good journalism by competent writers “balanced” by propagandist tripe and one is tempted to conclude that as with the two-faced politician the “good’ is employed for the purposes of minimising and normalising the “bad.”

This tactic keeps the audience off-balance, which is where the L-NP like us. It’s a classic abuser’s strategy, one that can keep us miserably trapped forever and that is its goal.

We’ve confronted the politicians and escaped the trap, at least for the moment. Now we’re challenging the media because speaking truth to power is a tactic available to everyone.

 

 

This article was originally published on Independent Australia.

 

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Political journalists are framing the election

The mainstream media is shaping the narrative of the 2022 election into a battle between two leaders.

Perhaps one of the more remarkable journalistic observations last week came from ABC’s political editor Andrew Probyn, when he declared on Insiders on Sunday that “Only certain political messages get through”.

Probyn appears to be entirely unaware of, or unwilling to admit, the role of his profession in determining which of those messages will “get through”.

For example, on Monday, ABC breakfast presenter Patricia Karvalas amplified an article in The Age written by journalist David Crowe, with the headline: ‘Albanese pays a price for gaffe as voters swing back to government.’

 

 

Given the saturation coverage of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s mind freeze when asked about unemployment numbers (almost 6,000 articles referring to the gaffe were published in 24 hours), it seems likely that journalists played a not inconsiderable role in ensuring that this particular message got through.

Journalists amplifying other journalists’ stories on the gaffe takes media determination to embed the narrative in the public consciousness to another level.

Albanese should have had the numbers memorised. However, that he didn’t is hardly worthy of almost 6,000 articles in 24 hours.

What is profoundly alarming is that journalists appear happy to ply their trade without considering their role in influencing public opinion. It’s hard to believe they are unable to make the connection between the messages they allow to get through and public reaction, so perhaps we can conclude they are unwilling to engage in this much self-reflection.

This election is apparently about character and leadership. Prime Minister Scott Morrison comes to the party with an unprecedented record of internationally recognised mendacity, unprecedented levels of alleged rorting, a well-documented disregard for the safety of women in his own workplace, a steadfast refusal to entertain the possibility of a useful federal ICAC, a proven history of cruel incompetence in the handling of bushfires, floods and the COVID pandemic all of which speaks, or rather screams, to both his character and his leadership abilities.

Yet it is as if he has, like Aphrodite, emerged renewed from a dip in the Paphos sea, his political virginity restored. In their efforts to find “balance”, journalists have ditched recent history and veered dangerously in the direction of blatant bias, in their increasingly desperate efforts to portray the Opposition Leader as equally, if not more, unworthy of our trust because he forgot a number.

This is not a contest between two men of similar moral character, which surely is a salient if deliberately ignored point. Albanese has no such history and as Morrison sets a very low bar in the character stakes, we can be reasonably certain of Albanese’s superiority.

You cannot on the one hand claim an election is about character while on the other, scrupulously avoid every reference to the dubious character of one of the contestants.

This brings me to the framing of the election as a contest between two men by a media that, apparently as one, yearns for a more presidential system of government than that offered by our Westminster system.

There are only two electorates that will vote for (or against) Morrison and Albanese.

It remains the choice of parties, not voters, who their leader will be.

Both major parties can change their leaders whenever they decide to do so. Voters have no influence over their decisions.

We do not vote for our prime minister. And yet, here we are.

Media focus on leaders gives Morrison a considerable advantage. It means we aren’t constantly reminded that the majority of his cabinet is tainted by varying levels of scandal and untested allegations of criminal behaviour. We only have Scott and as we’ve seen, the media isn’t going to remind us of his transgressions so that’s a definite win for them.

A focus on the teams behind the leaders would certainly favour the ALP, not least because they seem to be scandal-free and less empathically challenged, which is a good thing in a crisis.

It is only a contest between two leaders because the media have made it a contest between two leaders. This does not serve the interests of voters.

It is terrifying that the majority of the media seems prepared to overlook the behaviour of the Morrison Government for the last three years and the devastating long-term effects this is having on our society, and are apparently more than willing for this state of affairs to continue for another three years.

Apart from any of that, the “battle between leaders” narrative serves only to undermine our democracy, which journalists well know and apparently don’t care about.

As long as journalists continue to deny that they play a significant role in influencing the public view of politics and politicians, we cannot trust them. The contortions of thought that permit them to hold this belief are astounding. Their reluctance to recognise what they are doing inevitably colours their opinions and commentary.

Andrew Probyn is correct. Only certain messages get through. However, this penetration is not controlled or determined by a mysterious and powerful exteriority. Journalists and editors decide which messages get through and to what extent, and journalists and editors decided which messages get spiked.

Journalists need to own their influence and until such time as they do, the public will continue to be manipulated and deceived by those considered reputable, as well as those considered hacks.

 

This article was originally published on Independent Australia.

 

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Scott Morrison uses Ukraine war to push coal agenda

IN A PRESS RELEASE on 20 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that his Government is donating 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal to Ukraine, in response to a ‘direct request’ for the fuel, made through the Polish Prime Minister.

Morrison said:

And today, in response to a direct request from Ukraine, Australia will donate 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal. This will help Ukraine’s power generators operating and supplying electricity to the power grid at this critical time. They need that before the end of May and we have arranged the shipping for that to take place and are working with other countries to ensure it can get to Ukraine. So it’s our coal. We dug it up. We’ve arranged the ship. We’ve put it on the ship and we’re sending it there to Ukraine to help power up their resistance and to give that encouragement.

The fuel will be supplied by Whitehaven Coal and will cost the Government $28 million, plus likely staggeringly high delivery costs.

It is fairly important that Mr Morrison’s gift of coal is examined more closely, for reasons that will quickly become apparent.

There is considerable public if not media scepticism about the donation, including from Richard Denniss, chief economist at the Australia Institute, who tweeted:

 

 

Details of how the Prime Minister will deliver the coal to Ukraine are sketchy and so far, proposed logistics have not been interrogated by the media. Will the coal be shipped to Poland then transported by rail to Ukraine, for example, as Ukraine’s only remaining accessible port, Odessa, is preparing for Russian attack? Is it still possible to transport coal by rail across the Polish border, or is infrastructure too damaged or threatened to function?

Has Morrison bought $28 million of thermal coal from Whitehaven that will not reach its destination? Is this an announcement about notional coal that serves only to funnel public money to a major supplier of fossil fuel?

It’s a measure of the lack of trust in the Morrison Government and its fondness for announcements that these questions even need to be asked.

As Denniss suggests, does it not make more sense to give money rather than incur the costs and risks of transporting the coal ‘we dug up’ to a war zone?

Morrison announced:

‘This was a request that was made of us and Australia is in a position to fulfil that request. It was also made to me through the Polish Prime Minister and we’re very pleased to be able to meet that need.’

Why would the Polish Prime Minister ask the Morrison Government to donate coal to Ukraine? Has Poland run out?

Of course, giving money to Ukraine to source Polish coal would not benefit Whitehaven, who have generously agreed to donate $250,000 to the Australian Red Cross Crisis Appeal as part of their contribution to humanitarian assistance.

It would be an immense relief to be living in a country where questions such as those asked above were raised only by fringe dwelling conspiracy theorists. Sadly, that is not the country in which we live today.

The Morrison Government has a history of announcements that have come to naught, not least of which is the mysterious $4 billion disaster relief fund to which we have had occasion recently to refer, after the catastrophic Northern Rivers and South East Queensland floods. None of this money has been released, despite the dire need of many survivors of both bushfire and flood, and it has instead earned some $473 million in interest for the Government.

Given what we know, it is by no means beyond the parameters of reasonable speculation that the Morrison Government could have seen an opportunity to line the pockets of their Whitehaven mates under the guise of organising a notional shipment of notional coal to a stricken Ukraine.

Of course, the intention to assist may well have been present, the awkward reality that the form of assistance and its delivery may not be feasible is hardly the Morrison Government’s fault, is it?

It would, of course, be a despicable move for the Government to transfer public funds to Whitehaven, disguised as humanitarian relief for a country ravaged by war. Oh, that we lived under the authority of a Government where such speculations were wild and thoroughly dismissable!

But we don’t. We live under the authority of a Government that has a long history of rorting. We live under a Government led by a Prime Minister who is internationally and domestically acknowledged to be a liar, including by his own colleagues. We live under a Government that we cannot trust to act in the interests of its people, but only ever in its own interests and those of its supporters.

So it is important that we demand answers about this gift of coal, because if $28 million of public money has just been donated by this Government to the fossil fuel industry, we deserve to know.

 

 

This article was originally published on Independent Australia.

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Morrison’s apology derails rape trial

Yet again many of us are asking ourselves, is Prime Minister Scott Morrison thoroughly ill-intentioned, or merely driven by blindly arrogant stupidity and incompetence?

That we are forced to ask this question almost daily is in itself a serious indictment of the man, regardless of the answer.

Of course, he could quite easily be both.

Many of us who heard Morrison’s apology to Brittany Higgins in Parliament earlier this week were alarmed when he named the alleged victim of an alleged rape which is due to go to trial in June.

The PM’s apology has been described by a leading defence barrister as without foundation, as the allegations have not yet been tested. There is now considerable doubt that, as a consequence of Morrison’s apology, a jury can be struck in the ACT where the trial is due to be held.

Scott Morrison has interfered with the progress of a criminal trial while ostensibly apologising to the alleged victim who is seeking justice through that legal process. He has imperilled Ms Higgins one chance to seek justice, under the guise of publicly declaring his regret for her situation. And he has done it all under parliamentary privilege. Incompetence?

In the ACT the charge cannot be heard in a judge-alone trial, but must be heard before a jury. The accused’s lawyers are now seeking a stay on the criminal proceedings, on the grounds that Morrison has prejudiced their client’s case. If they are successful the trial could be delayed, or aborted indefinitely.

An arrogant, stupid and unfortunate mistake made by an incompetent politician?

Or a calculated, self-interested outcome in the guise of a message of concern and regret?

That Morrison was unaware of the possible consequences of naming Ms Higgins in his speech is not a credible explanation. He has frequently, in parliament, declined to comment on certain situations because they are before the courts, so we know he is conscious of the sub judice prohibition and to suggest otherwise is ludicrous. It’s also barely credible that those involved in the preparation of the speech were unaware of its potential to derail the trial.

Nobody knows what the trial might reveal. What we do know is that none of it will be good for Morrison. His stated knowledge of the alleged rape of Ms Higgins remains contested. Accusations of a cover-up by senior advisors and government ministers remain alive. The recent revelation of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s text to Ms Higgins in which he describes Scott as a liar and a hypocrite, again brings into question the veracity of the PM’s account of when he was told of the alleged rape.

There are many reasons to argue that the sabotaging of the June trial is advantageous to the Prime Minister, not least because it will bring his questionable role in the events back into public focus, whether they are relevant to the trial or not.

It’s time to stop explaining Morrison’s actions as merely “incompetent.” The “incompetence” excuse serves only to conceal the depth of his self-interest, and the lengths to which he will go to protect himself and further his own concerns. He is a thoroughly ill-intentioned man with enormous power, who will do anything he needs to do to retain that power.

“Incompetent” comes nowhere near describing the dark heart of this man, indeed, that descriptor only works to soften and humanise his psychopathy. He is at heart dangerously ill-intentioned. He may well be incompetent with it, but to underestimate his potential for destruction by dismissing it as incompetence is foolish.

His efforts to sabotage this rape trial should alarm all women, and the men who are our allies. We are nothing to this man. His contempt for us is so boundless that he will even use an apology to derail the possibility of justice, because it’s in his interests to do so.

It’s transactional, stupid.

 

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Morrison’s misinformation campaign is his greatest weapon

STEVE BANNON, sometime White House Chief Strategist in the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump, coined the term “flood the zone with shit”.

This strategy, succinctly identified by Bannon though not created by him, involves disseminating masses of disinformation intended to seed public mistrust and erode the public’s ability to determine what is true. Overwhelmed by disinformation, it becomes impossible to identify one coherent narrative and the search for truth becomes too exhausting to pursue.

When the public is exhausted, the zone has been flooded with shit. There is confusion, anger, insecurity and fear, and having concluded that there is no knowable truth in politics, people instead yearn for an authoritative leader, someone who appears to cut through the shit for them, as the only feasible alternative.

In Australia we are desperately dog-paddling through the shit-flooded zone, trying to keep our heads above the solids. With a Prime Minister who is recognised as a liar internationally and domestically and a Government that is prepared to support him despite his mendacity, thus participating in it, we have no hope of determining what is true in the political narrative they currently dominate.

With a largely captive media who no longer act as gatekeepers speaking truth to power, we have lost our most important defence against the deceit and duplicity of those for whom power is the only goal.

The need for clicks is a primary determinant in what is published and how, to an extent inconceivable before the internet and social media. Add to this the flagrant preferencing of the Federal Government by the majority of the mainstream media and you have the perfect conditions in which to flood the zone.

There are still voices that speak the truth in a valiant attempt to outswim the tsunami of lies, but they are too rarely in the mainstream.

And so it is that in a time of pandemic, when we are fast approaching a Federal Election, the outcome of that Election is likely to be determined not by the neglect unto death of elderly people in aged care facilities and not by the catastrophic failure of the Federal Government to manage the pandemic and its effects, but by leaked text messages and the scandals of personal betrayal.

Why? Because leaked text messages and the soap opera of individual psychodramas get more clicks than policies, even when those policies have been proven critical failures with horrendous consequences. These scandals offer titillation, light relief from the futile daily struggle to determine what is true and the despair that comes with being overwhelmed by lies.

The scandalous can make us laugh, albeit bitterly. It is amusing to mock the powerful who control our future and in the mocking, we can forget for a moment that however ridiculous, brutal, amoral and unethical they are, they still control our future.

We are only human and we must forgive one another, declares Prime Minister Scott Morrison who, over a long political career, has shown not a moment’s concern for anyone’s interests other than his own while overseeing brutal policies that have brought death and despair to Australians and refugees alike.

That Morrison’s efforts to humanise himself and his colleagues have accelerated in sync with the scandals is telling. We’ve all made mistakes so we should be able to forgive them in our leaders, is his spin. No matter the incommensurate nature of those mistakes and the power differential between them and us. We all screw up. It’s human to err and to forgive is divine. You can read this as another level of shit flooding, in which corrupted power tries to fool you that we’re equal.

To some degree, however, everyone is complicit. When the ruling class floods the zone with irresistible scandal, of course we’re going to pay attention and they know this. It’s the equivalent of throwing us cake for an immediate sugary fix, as opposed to providing the more substantial bread we need to survive. We become so hooked on cake that bread doesn’t satisfy our cravings, even though without it we will weaken. It takes an effort of will to resist the cake and demand the bread, and we’re already dealing with a pandemic.

The flooding strategy is intended to produce a maze of narratives and counter-narratives so complex and confusing that we have neither the time nor the energy to find our way through them. A pandemic offers the ideal opportunity for this manipulation.

This time in our history is sometimes described as the “post-truth” era, however, it isn’t so much “post” (the truth is out there somewhere) as truth sunk five fathoms deep in a sewage pond of disinformation by people who’ve understood that making truth impossible to find is the most useful propaganda tool of all time.

So far.

 

 

This article was originally published on Independent Australia.

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What is required of a woman if she wants a seat at the powerful men’s table? That she smile.

2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame yesterday met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and she did not smile at him.

In fact, Ms Tame used powerful body language and a steely side-eye to convey her disdain and contempt for the man.

Watching this act of subversion from Ms Tame was liberating. Like many other women, I recall, with equal parts rage and sorrow, the times in my life I have smiled when my true feeling was fury, or hurt, or shock or despair, or even just excruciating boredom with the men. To smile in such circumstances always cost me because it was a denial of my truth, and my authenticity. Nobody can deny their truth and authenticity without paying a price, and this particular price is extracted from girls and women from the moment we are born, and does not cease until the day we die.

Predictably, Ms Tame’s stance aroused the self-righteous ire of the civility police, notably academic and Murdoch hack Peter van Onselen, best known for using the intimate writings of the deceased alleged victim of his best friend, alleged rapist Christian Porter, in a most uncivil attempt to invalidate allegations of anal rape by the former federal Attorney-General. This gives you some indication of the man’s ethics.

Pete van Obsolete rushed to produce a thundering column in The Australian ($) decrying Ms Tame’s refusal to play the game a woman is expected to play when encountering the Prime Minister, or just about any man, to be honest. Juvenile, lacking in manners, childish, attention seeking, brazen, are just some of the adjectives Pearl Clutcher Pete used to condemn Ms Tame. He then went on to state in an interview later that evening that if Ms Tame couldn’t smile she shouldn’t have gone, and there we have it, in a nutshell.

What is required of a woman if she wants a seat at the powerful men’s table? That she smile.

This knowledge comes as no surprise to most women. What is surprising is that a man actually says it out loud. Thanks, Petey. You’ve confirmed what we’ve always known and now we can quote you.

Certain men require that women perform their ideal of femininity, an ideal that has at its centre a compliant woman. If we smile (though our hearts are aching), smile (even though they’re breaking) our smile reassures these men that whatever vile thing they’ve done to us is not really that bad because look, we are smiling!

A woman’s smile is an essential tool in the ongoing patriarchal project to minimise and deny the rampant misogyny that continues to control the lives of women and girls. A refusal to smile is a refusal to accept the status quo. It is a refusal to play the game. It is a refusal to enable and minimise our own mistreatment and the suffering it brings. That is why they want us to smile, and that is why they are so enraged when we don’t. The refusal to smile is the refusal to be complicit in our own oppression.

Ms Tame campaigned last year for the recognition of victims of sexual assault. Scott campaigned last year for the protection of alleged rapist Christian Porter whom he (erroneously) declared to be “an innocent man under the law” Scott has also been accused of covering up the alleged rape of Ms Brittany Higgins in Parliament House in 2019. I can’t think of one reason for Ms Tame to smile at Scott.

What Ms Tame demonstrated is that it is not necessary for women to play nice with powerful misogynists. With one gesture, she smashed through conventions that only serve to keep women subjugated. The outpouring of support for her stance only proves that we are more than ready for this moment.

Those men (and women) condemning Ms Tame for what they perceive as her incivility, her lack of manners, and her impoliteness need to get out of the way, because their opinions are obsolete. Women increasingly understand how demands that we smile (and I use this as a metonym throughout this piece) work to oppress us, and are indeed designed for that outcome.

I’m not smiling. I’m baring my teeth.

 

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“We didn’t know just how severe Omicron would be” says PM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed on Tuesday that he and his government were “blindsided” by the virulence of the COVID-19 variant, Omicron.

This claim is referred to in most news reports as an “admission,” which implies that the government really didn’t know Omicron’s potential for mass infection, despite it being already proven in Africa, the UK, the US, Canada, and much of Europe.

“Claim” infers they did know, and chose wilful ignorance over rapid intervention. They also encouraged opening up & in the case of NSW, the abandoning of all TTIQ precautions at the same time as the highly infectious variant hit.

If the Scott government was unaware of Omicron’s potential this suggests that its members dwell in a rarefied atmosphere, untroubled by events on the rest of the planet, which is surely not a useful or desirable habitat from which to govern a country. But in truth, it is impossible to accept that Morrison and his lackeys were unaware of the infectious nature of the new COVID-19 variant. Making this outrageous claim only serves to emphasise his catastrophic incompetence and his arrogant disregard for the welfare of the country and its people.

If the Scott government was, as its leader claims, “blindsided” by Omicron’s contagious capacity it is because the Prime Minister wilfully ignored expert advice and the evidence of his own senses as the variant rampaged overseas before landing here. A highly infectious variant did not suit the government narrative of opening up, enjoying Christmas and putting the pandemic behind us in the new year.

So Morrison, aided by complicit lackeys, did his best to ignore the virus that was spoiling his vision and we now face previously unheard of infection and death rates, food shortages, vaccine shortages, booster shortages, overwhelmed hospitals, sick essential workers, a dearth of Rapid Antigen Tests, the collapse of systems set up to record and monitor infections, and the closure of businesses because people have instigated their own personal lockdowns in an attempt to avoid infection.

All this because Scott Morrison insisted on having his story, despite overwhelming evidence that it was wrong.

In fact, this is exactly what we should expect from a man who believes he was chosen by God to run this country. Morrison has incontestable faith in his own stories. He will go to every length to see them realised. He doesn’t listen to voices that might challenge the trajectory of his narrative. He deliberately failed to inform himself on the new variant, despite being surrounded by experts, because their advice did not accord with the story he wanted to tell.

And here we are.

Is there any other leader in the world who has told their country that they “didn’t know” how severely contagious Omicron could be? Is there any other leader who would plead ignorance of Omicron as an explanation for their abject failure to address it? It’s the leader’s job to know more than we do, he has at his disposal resources we can only dream of yet “ordinary” people on social media apparently knew long before the Australian government that the variant causes havoc.

At least Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was forthright enough to declare that he found the topic of COVID-19 “boring.”

“In which country did people not die? Tell me!” he responded. “Look, I didn’t come here to be bored.”

Meanwhile in Australia:

The Prime Minister said despite hundreds of deaths in the last week, that the death rate overseas was even higher.”

It’s alarming enough that the Prime Minister believes “admitting” wilful ignorance is a reasonable political strategy. What he’s actually admitting is that he lives in a bubble of protection from global events, medical and scientific research, and any information that does not coincide with the stories he tells himself which must be right, according to his reasoning, because God chose him to tell them.

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Rapid Antigen Test scandal reveals Morrison’s cruelty

On January 5 2022, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that he would make Rapid Antigen Tests freely available to concession cardholders.

This change of heart followed days of sustained criticism and soaring prices, as R.A.T.s became increasingly scarce and some retailers took advantage of the shortage to price gouge.

Australia, Morrison made clear, would not be joining other Western countries such as the UK and the U.S. in providing free tests to their populations. That would, he and his ministers claimed, lead to hoarding and wastage, and people misusing them for “social reasons”.

Like me, you might have been labouring under the misapprehension that the purpose of R.A.T.s is social, in the sense of individuals taking responsibility for the larger society in which we live. We use R.A.T.s (or would, if we could get them) to ensure we aren’t infected with COVID-19 before we go out and about, mingling with family, friends and strangers.

They are the cornerstone (or would be, if we could get them) of personal responsibility, that moral virtue urged upon us by a government itself so bereft of moral virtue and responsibility, personal and collective, that one can only howl with bitter mirth when they speak these words out loud.

No doubt many people felt some small relief when we heard the Prime Minister appear to soften his hard stance and announce that those with concession cards of one kind or another would be able to access R.A.T.s free from their pharmacy. People already financially challenged would not have to go without the vital tests, however, the working poor without concession cards are, as usual, cast into outer darkness. No free tests for you.

Morrison’s neoliberal Pentecostal prosperity ideology continues to operate from the premise that if you haven’t got enough money, you’ve nobody to blame but yourself.

However, on Monday we learned that the Government is not going to supply the R.A.T.s to pharmacies. Instead, pharmacies must source their own supply, give them without charge to those eligible and then claim the costs back from the Government via a structure that is yet to be determined.

Whether or not pharmacies are willing to do this remains to be seen. They can hardly be blamed if they don’t. Anecdotally, several people have reported on social media that their pharmacists have said they cannot supply the tests to the eligible if those tests are not supplied to them by the Government.

The possibility of free tests seems less and less likely. Indeed, it seems to be just one more Morrison announcement without substance.

It would be easy if the Federal Government simply supplied pharmacies with the tests. After all, Morrison and his ministers have access to as many as they need whenever they need them for free despite their substantial salaries and presumably they are able to extend this rare privilege to their families and close associates.

However, as we have seen repeatedly throughout this pandemic, the Federal Government operates on the premise that everything must be as difficult and complicated and slow as possible, and must require minimum outlay of public money. This is not because it endeavours to be responsible with public monies entrusted to them, but because they wish to retain as much as possible for rorts, election campaigning and military hardware. In other words, everything they can use to their own advantage and not yours.

In a move eerily echoing the priorities of dictatorships rather than democracies – on the same morning as we discovered that free tests will not be available as we thought, that many places are without adequate food supplies and that extremely ill people are being treated in hospital car parks – Defence Minister Peter Dutton announced he has committed to spending $3.5 billion on tanks, as well as assorted accessories.

That any government would refuse to make free tests available to financially disadvantaged citizens is both scandalous and bitterly cruel. That any government would announce free tests and simultaneously make it almost impossible for them to be accessed is nothing short of sadistic.

No doubt over the next days, we will hear Morrison declare that he’s offered the tests and it’s up to the pharmacies to source them and claim a refund. If they aren’t prepared to do that, he’ll say, then they’re the ones depriving people of R.A.T.s.

It writes itself, doesn’t it? We’ve heard it so many times since this pandemic began. “I don’t hold the R.A.T.s, mate” is but the next manifestation.

 

 

 

This article was originally published on Independent Australia.

 

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Who am I talking to?

Most people on the social media platform Twitter assume that those they choose to converse with are adults, but be warned, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Last week a number of users, including myself, responded to a Twitter account as if it were run by an adult and discovered we were wrong: the owner is fourteen.

Unfortunately, our response to something written by the teenager was negative and couched as robustly as if we were speaking to our peers, which should surprise no one because we thought we were. The result was an almighty backlash, as accusations of child abuse, paedophilia, and cyber bullying a child were hurled about by those who knew the account belonged to a minor, and those who, like bored monkeys, take any opportunity to hurl their excrement because they can.

My personal social media policy is not to follow minors. I would not want my fourteen-year-old child to be engaging daily with adults on a platform where all sorts of topics are discussed, language is frequently florid, many accounts are anonymous, and abuse of all kinds is rife. Call me over-protective, but I’m of the view that there are subjects and discussions for which the teenage mind is ill-prepared, and to which it should not be introduced on a public platform by anonymous adults. So I’m not about to knowingly contribute to the impact such an environment has on kids.

It was alarming to witness some adult users privilege the minor’s “right” to use the platform over their safety. This struck me as a problematic exercise of libertarianism – yes, many of us want to give every encouragement to young people who are politically engaged and enthusiastic about expressing their opinions. Is a social media platform populated by adult strangers a safe space in which to do this? I’d say not.

There’s nothing that can be done to protect minors on the Twitter platform – there is no requirement to disclose the age of the user and it is open to anyone aged thirteen and over. You can’t really tell anything about anyone from their biographies and pictures: some people disclose personal information and others don’t, and very many bio pics bear no relation to the appearance of their owner. Mine is a cartoon black sheep, for example. Many people choose anonymity for a variety of reasons, not least of which is safety, and restrictive workplace social media policies. A post arrives in your time line under the poster’s handle with no further information, and generally one responds without doing a background check. If you had to check every handle, the platform would quickly become useless.

As with all social media, there’s a truly vile stream of Twitter users who find satisfaction in trolling and bullying others. The best you can hope for is to avoid attracting their interest. Sadly, the young person at the centre of this story has now become a target for the absolute worst of this miserably disturbed group. I wonder how adults arguing for the “right” of a teenager to participate in a very rough adult forum feel about this.

Hopefully there’s a responsible adult somewhere in the teenager’s life who can protect and guide them through this experience. And perhaps some adults need to think a bit more deeply about risking a teenager’s well being for the sake of their notions of liberty.

 

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Scott Morrison renews crackdown on social media users

For the second time this year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, bereft of the will and the capacity to announce anything useful, has again declared he will go after “anonymous trolls” on social media.

His cunning plan requires forcing tech giants who own the platforms to either identify the “trolls” so they can be pursued for defamation, or pay defamation costs themselves. The proposal also requires social media users to provide proof of identity before being allowed to use the platforms. You can’t sue anonymous.

This proposal is unlikely to be legislated and equally unlikely to be useful in the event it becomes law, except for the privileged few who can afford to pursue legal remedies.

It is worth remarking on as yet another performance of hypocrisy on the part of Morrison and some members of his Government. Backbencher Andrew Laming, for example, renowned for his photographs of a woman bending over at work, created dozens of Facebook accounts specifically to troll his opponents using identities other than his own.

Morrison regularly trots out the social media bogeyman, including an address he gave to a Christian convention on the Gold Coast earlier this year in which he described social media as the “work of the Devil” and a “weapon used by the evil one”.

It is remarkable how Morrison’s Pentecostal religious convictions frequently appear to dovetail with the business of his Government. His war on social media is but one example. Think of his attacks on people with reduced means in the form of Robodebt and the cashless debit card, attacks that are consistent with the Pentecostal principle that material benefits accrue to believers and deny God his due results in misfortune.

Then consider Morrison’s current efforts to pass the so-called “Religious Freedom” Bill, a 2019 Election promise and one that some in his own Party fear will undermine existing rights preventing discrimination by religious institutions. The LGBTQI community will be most affected by the Bill, which nicely fits with the Pentecostal abhorrence of homosexuality.

Not all members of the Morrison Government are followers of the Pentecostal cult – or, indeed, any religion – however, they are all committed to a neoliberal project that fundamentally corrodes society and destroys trust in its institutions. There is in Australia an unfortunate convergence of interests between Pentecostals, conservative Christians and neoliberalism that creates a substantial powerbase, enabled by supportive media.

The most powerful antidote to this cabal is social and independent media. These platforms offer “ordinary people” the opportunity to express disagreement and to challenge the edicts of the political class. They are the cyber equivalent of heckling and discomfiting politicians and their enablers in the streets.

Inevitably, the authoritarian populist regime headed by “Scomo” not only wants to silence public dissent, but it also wants to punish the dissenters. What better way to do that than threatening ruinous defamation action? After all, despite the Prime Minister advising marching women they were lucky not to be shot, we have not yet reached the stage where people protesting their government’s actions can be disappeared off the face of the Earth. And defamation action is legal.

The pre-election pearl-clutching around the “evils” of social media deflects from the major site of abuse and concealment in Australia today: the Morrison Government.

Morrison, assisted by other MPs, senior advisors and staffers, is suspected of concealing his knowledge of the alleged rape of Ms Brittany Higgins in a ministerial office just down the corridor from his own, in March 2019.

But social media is the problem.

The Morrison Government is attempting to introduce voter identity law, when voting is already compulsory and there is, according to the Australian Electoral Commission, no evidence at all of widespread voter fraud. This legislation will likely disenfranchise many groups of voters.

But social media is the problem.

Alleged rapist and former Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter had his legal fees covered by secret donors. He has not declared their contributions, which are estimated to be up to $1 million, making a mockery of the declaration of interests required of MPs.

But social media is the problem.

The Morrison Government is committed to the coercive control of millions of Australians through the imposition of the cashless debit card.

But social media is the problem.

Millions of public dollars have been commandeered by the Morrison Government to fund extensive rorts as part of its election campaigns.

But social media is the problem.

I could go on, itemising the numerous ways in which Morrison and his MPs have deceived, defrauded and abused the Australian people, but I have a word limit.

So let me finish with a link to an ever-growing list of Scott Morrison’s lies. The Prime Minister is, indisputably, a serial liar. He even appears to lie without purpose, when nothing is achieved by the lie, or when the lie compounds an earlier lie.

We are now at the stage where nothing he says can be believed, because so much of what he says has proven to be a lie. There really is little point in listening to him, because, lies.

But social media is the problem and Morrison has the solution. Praise be.

 

 

 

This article was originally published on Independent Australia.

 

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Sexual abuse survival: How one woman’s story helped heal another

*CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape and sexual abuse

I went to St Michael’s Collegiate school in Hobart, at a very different time from Grace Tame. Grace’s story and in particular the references to the school have stirred memories I thought no longer had the power to move me.

I want first to acknowledge Grace’s experiences and her steadfast telling of them and have it noted here that the recounting of her story by a woman can sometimes break through the defences of those of us who have survived, and in turn free our voices.

When I was at St Michael’s, or Collegiate as we called it, the school was run by the Community of the Sisters of the Church, a group of Anglican nuns. I was sent there not because my family was particularly interested in high Anglican ideology, but because it was a school with a strong reputation for educating girls and apart from that, I needed to be got out of home and it was a boarding school. My story is also one of childhood sexual abuse, not by a teacher but my stepfather.

“If I’d known what was happening, I would have stolen you.”

We lived in the small east coast village of St Marys, where my stepfather was the local doctor. He was also a lay preacher in the Methodist church where he played the organ on Sundays. He was a much-liked, even revered figure in the community.

Many years later, in one of the confounding synchronicities life can occasionally present, I met Gwynneth, who was a nurse at the small hospital in St Mary’s when my stepfather worked there. We established that Gwynneth knew me when I was a child. She visited our house for dinner, though I do not remember these occasions.

“What was I Iike?” I asked her, as this was the period when the rapes had just begun and I have no memory of myself.

She said:

“You were quiet. Shy. If I’d known what was happening, I would have stolen you.”

I asked her: “What was he like?”

She told me:

“We thought he was a very good doctor. He let us do things nurses weren’t supposed to do. He encouraged us.”

I hated her for a moment for speaking well of him.

St Michael’s was for me a sanctuary, a refuge from a home where there was no peace to be found, no respite from fear, a house of life-threatening violence and unpredictable adult fury.

At St Michael’s I slept safely in the knowledge that I would not be disturbed either by the sounds of heavy footsteps thudding down the hallway and my mother’s screams, or my stepfather pulling back my bedcovers to slip in beside me. At the dining table at St Michael’s I was permitted to leave food I could not eat. I was allowed to like and dislike.

The only times I knew fear were when I received the fortnightly notes from my stepfather telling me which day he would visit to take me out for a drive. Then it would start again – the cold in my belly, the wakeful nights, until the visit was over and I knew there’d be respite until the next time.

It felt like happiness after it was over – the euphoric relief. I thought it was happiness and this misunderstanding distorted my perception of how things should be between people for a long time.

This situation continued for some five years. In my 15th year, something gave way in me.

I had for many months imagined how it would be to tell someone of my secret life. I knew whom I would choose. Her name was Sister Elizabeth May.

At this time the nuns wore full black habits with white wimples, we saw neither their hair nor their ankles and their waists were bound with wooden rosaries. I never found them intimidating, though I expect it would be quite difficult to intimidate a girl who knew as much as I did about the terrible things that can be done by adults.

I experienced only kindness from these women. Though they knew nothing of my story, my distress expressed itself in sleepwalking, nightmares and a complete inability to learn, though, obviously, I was not stupid. Children aren’t stupid, despite what some adults may think.

The only thing I could do with any confidence was to play the piano, which I had been learning since I was five from, confusingly, my stepfather who proved to be an excellent teacher. Sister Elizabeth May used to sit with me of an evening when I was practising. She sat near the piano, knitting black mittens for the winter. She suffered terribly from chilblains. I’m quite sure she knew something was badly awry.

One evening, I said:

“What happens if you forgive someone 70 times seven and they still do something wrong?”

She asked:

“Who are you forgiving?”

So I told her. Everything.

And was believed.

Which in itself was quite remarkable for the times – which were before these things were spoken of. Before mandatory reporting, so Elizabeth May did not have to go to the police with my story.

Instead, she went to Sister Jessica, the headmistress, a formidable figure we girls did not know well. I was called to her office. Elizabeth May came with me. I cannot remember Jessica’s questions, I remember only her gentleness and how much I wanted her to take me on her lap. She didn’t, of course, but she did stroke my hair and pray for us all.

Later, I learned that the sisters took their dilemma – and what a dilemma it was at that time, with no framework of regulations within which they could seek guidance – to the Dean of Hobart, Michael Webber. The Dean was a frequent visitor to the school; we knew him well.

Between the three of them, they formed a plan to confront my stepfather and mother – yes, my mother knew of all this from the start. But that’s another story. They decided to brief a lawyer who also attended the confrontation. I have no idea what passed between the four of them, but I do know that not one of them ever questioned the veracity of my story.

I was believed.

“I only know they loved me when I was lost and alone, and full of terror.”

On the day of the confrontation, it was decided I would be sent to spend the afternoon with one of the secular teachers who had a house in the school grounds. They wanted me safe and out of the way. I spent the day in terror. I was afraid he’d find me. I was afraid he’d kill my mother if he couldn’t find me.

I was afraid of breathing.

I can’t remember anything of that day apart from the feelings. At some point, Elizabeth May fetched me from the house and took me to see Jessica. Together they told me my stepfather had admitted the truth. I would not have to go home again, they said. I would not have to endure anymore. I remember the relief. I remember I cried because I didn’t have a home. I remember I feared he would kill my mother and my baby sisters because of what I’d done.

Many years later they told me they’d given him an ultimatum. Either he gave the nuns charge of me, or they’d report him to the police. Of course, my parents agreed to relinquish me.

In retrospect, this seems a remarkably sophisticated way to deal with a situation that was bizarre for its time – not in the sense that it didn’t happen often, because I am sure it did, but because nobody ever did much about it, especially not the churches.

I don’t know if they made the right decision or not, or even how to gauge that. I only know they loved me when I was lost and alone, and full of terror.

And so St Michael’s Collegiate School became my home – the Sisters of the Church my guardians.

In the holidays, other girls would invite me to stay with them. Nobody knew why I couldn’t go home and I invented a story of parents travelling overseas. Sometimes I didn’t want to go to friends’ homes because I couldn’t reciprocate and then the nuns would let me stay at school. They took me out with them on picnics and trips up Mount Wellington.

I had a record player, books and a lot of pianos all to myself. At night, Elizabeth May or Jessica would bring me warm milk and sit with me until I fell asleep. I was free to roam all over the school and the boarding house and I was, for brief intervals, happy.

Grace Tame, with her fierce courage and her shining spirit, freed in me these vivid remembrances, and for that, I am deeply grateful. Today, for the first time in many years I’ve cried for my Jennifer and her plight at that time in our life.

This is what we can do for one another, those of us who survive.

I believe the nuns saved my life. I believe they taught me truths I would never have known, were it not for their influence.

If I could speak to her I would tell Elizabeth May that I still play the piano. I would tell her of my granddaughter, Mabel Jane – who is the child most like me – and whose young life is full of promise and safety and love. I would tell Jessica I have learnt that our children and their children can heal us in ways we could never have anticipated.

I would tell them that though once I was without both family and home, through their love and care they gave me the chance to grow into a woman who could make for herself her own home and family, and live in profound contentment. This, I would tell them, is what you gave to me, and to Mabel Jane, and I will be grateful for this all of my days.

 

 

If you would like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep under the title of Let the healing fountain start… , and on Independent Australia.

 

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Gallows in the streets of Melbourne

On Saturday in Melbourne a motley mob of protestors gathered in the streets to protest Victoria’s new pandemic laws. In a chilling performance of intimidation, protestors carried a mock gallows through Melbourne streets complete with three nooses, while calling for the death by hanging of Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews.

The mob was compromised of anti vaxxers, QAnon believers, neo Nazis, Trump supporters, and religious zealots. What unites this disparate group is a common desire to live free of all government intervention.

Co-incidentally (or not) over the same few days Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in a striking performance (even for him) of dog whistling consistently referred to Australians being sick of governments seeking to control them particularly after the last couple of years of lockdowns. His message was designed to feed the protestors’ grievances, and let them know they have his support.

Morrison has a history of decades long and intimate connection with leading Australian QAnon supporters, Tim Stewart and his wife Lynelle. The Stewarts stayed at Kirribilli House, and Mrs Stewart was employed there as a companion for Morrison’s wife, Jenny. This arrangement has now ceased, after considerable public scrutiny.

When the leader of your country harbours right wing extremists in his home, it is hardly surprising that you see gallows and nooses in your streets.

 

 

Death threats were also made against three Victorian cross benchers who are working with Labor to streamline the proposed laws.

There has been a deafening silence from almost all politicians and media across the board on this weaponisation of menace, marking yet another dark turn in Australian politics. We now live in a country where the political class conspicuously do not condemn death threats against politicians. It appears that both major parties are dependent on right wing extremists for votes, and neither party is willing to risk alienating them by condemning their behaviour.

 

 

That nobody condemns this behaviour indicates that the extremists, in and outside of federal parliament, are currently in control of the narrative. When you dare not condemn death threats and imagery because they originate from your voter base, you are compromised probably beyond redemption, and you are not in control.

 

 

Please take a moment to consider that death threats and nooses in the street are apparently so unremarkable in Australia that mainstream media and politicians, including the ALP, see no need to condemn them.

Consider as well what would ensue if anyone other than white men and their white consorts carried a gallows through Melbourne streets calling for the death by hanging of politicians.

The protests continue. On Monday night, a more substantial gallows appeared in the city, this time towed by a four-wheel drive. An effigy of Daniel Andrews was produced, and protestors attempted to hang it from the gallows noose, as they screamed “Kill Dan Andrews!” “Hang Dan Andrews” and “Freedom.”

 

 

Those of us who are both horrified and frightened by this appalling downturn are trying desperately to retain some semblance of decency and trust in our politics. We are doing this with no support and assistance from our politicians and our media. That these scenes go unremarked by both should alarm everyone. It’s almost as if this political violence and incitement has become normalised in Australia without us even noticing, and here we are.

It is shocking but sadly not surprising that Scott Morrison apparently supports death threats against a Labor Premier. The standard you walk past. But what is most profoundly shocking is that there has been no condemnation from the ALP of these threats against one of their own.

So can we assume if someone drives a mock gallows with an effigy of Morrison hanging from a noose through the streets of Canberra, there will be no repercussions? Or perhaps Peter Dutton? Anyone can do now this with impunity, we assume? Any group can gather around Parliament House shouting “Kill Scott Morrison, hang Peter Dutton” and there will be no repercussions?

Because this is where we are at now in Australia. Because these are our values.

And the fish rots from the head.

Note: Late this morning after 3 days of intense social media pressure, commentary by the msm and some politicians has started to appear.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

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Education and Political Interference in the Death of Democracy

By Dr Stewart Hase

In Ray Bradbury’s 1953 book Farenheit 451, Captain Beatty states that, ‘A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it, take the shot from the weapon. Breach one man’s mind. Who knows what might be the target of the well-read man’. In this dystopian novel, Beatty is justifying the burning of books.

While Farenheit is a novel, there is a long history of book burning going back centuries.

The burning of books is intended to control knowledge, to prevent free thinking, to make sure everyone thinks the same and an affront to liberalism. Book burning is a political issue, and similarly, the 21st century equivalent is Internet Censorship, which, in a political context, has became a hot topic since the propagation of mistruths became so visible during the Trump Presidency.

There are myriad reasons politicians want to interfere with the distribution of knowledge, not least of which is to avoid scrutiny. But, the most frightening, as highlighted in Farenheit 451 and Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four, is the need for complete control of ideology-what we think.

Texas has become the latest State to ban Critical Race Theory from being taught in schools, joining several others that have banned it or thinking of doing so. While Critical Race Theory was conceptualised over 40 years ago it has become a target for politicians as racial tensions have grown, arguably since the murder of George Floyd, and continue to be at flash point across America. Some states have also banned Project 1619 from being taught in schools becoming another target of revisionist conservatives.

There is little doubt that both Critical Race Theory and Project 1619 are ‘in your face’ accounts of the history of slavery and racism in the United States that started with the first slave ship arriving on the shores of Virginia in 1619. Critical Race Theory describes the social construction of racism and how it’s relationship to power, civil rights, advantage and disadvantage. What gets conservatives jumpy is that at the heart of Critical Race Theory is its attack on white supremacism. Critical Theory, in general, is a scholarly approach to research, well understood and accepted in universities around the world. It is less liked by the institutions and ideologies that are scrutinised by it because Critical Theory attempts to unearth who are the beneficiaries of the actions of others, and the institutions in which they reside, who are the disadvantaged and what are the real social, political and economic effects. Institutions are not great fans of Critical Theory because it investigates truth to power.

We should be very concerned about political interference of this type when it comes to school curricula. It is a blatant attempt by conservatives to control what people think and, if not to exactly revise history, to control and suppress it. Along with the events at Capitol Hill, the normalisation of lie telling in the media, legislation to suppress the vote, and divisiveness of American politics, and the widening gap between the haves and the have nots, we should be concerned with the threat to democracy. We may be observing the death of another republic.

And we should be concerned, as well as watchful, here in Australia about the control of knowledge and information. There is a slow but steady shift to the right in democracies across the globe. This shift reflects people’s propensity to seek simple solutions to complex problems that populist right wing politics provides, underpinned by authoritarianism-tell us what to do. Simple explanations such as, it ‘their fault’ (xenophobia and racism) make it easy for the masses to shift responsibility and to stop being curious as we are fed misinformation that helps us explain our world. We are not immune from this in Australia. It simmers just below the surface.

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Morrison (inadvertently) admits he knew?

The following information was reported by Channel Nine news on the evening of Friday March 26, and has so far escaped the attention it deserves.

 

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison states in this interview that when Brittany Higgins expressed her intention to resign from the office of Michaelia Cash in January 2021, she was offered the opportunity to speak with him before her allegations of rape by a senior staffer in Parliament House were aired in the media.

“At the time just before she departed she was offered the opportunity to come and speak with me with Minister Cash,” he says.

The Higgins story broke on February 15 2021. Morrison has steadfastly denied that he knew anything about the alleged rape of Ms Higgins until that day.

Ms Higgins left Cash’s office on February 5 2021, ten days before the story broke.

Why would the Prime Minister offer to meet with Ms Higgins prior to her departure from Cash’s office, if, as he has maintained for the last two months and stated several times in Parliament, he knew nothing about the alleged rape until it was aired in the media?

Facing intense questioning on the involvement of his department and himself, Morrison instructed Secretary Phil Gaetjens to conduct an inquiry into when the PMO knew about the alleged rape, and who had been informed. This inquiry has since been halted, though Morrison did not notify Parliament of its cessation, leading the House to believe it was still underway.

Senator Cash has denied that she knew the “full details” of the allegations until Ms Higgins indicated her intention to resign at the end of January.

Why would Cash consider accompanying Ms Higgins to a proposed meeting with the Prime Minister if Cash believed Morrison knew nothing about the alleged rape and indeed, had only just found out herself?

Ms Higgins, by the way, says she was never informed of this invitation from the Prime Minister.

It’s not clear if Cash was ever informed, either.

Morrison has gone to extraordinary lengths to convince Parliament and the general public that he was ignorant of the rape allegations until the story appeared in the media on February 15. He claims his office was unaware until February 12.

In one sentence, the Prime Minister has done irrevocable damage to this narrative. He has also exposed the unreliability of all other accounts that have been tailored to support his own, accounts from ministers, senators, senior public servants and staffers.

Morrison’s one sentence has the power to bring the entire dysfunctional edifice crashing down, if the press gallery will follow it up.

If the Prime Minister didn’t know, why would he extend an offer to meet with Ms Higgins in January?

If the Prime Minister did know, he’s been lying to Parliament and the public.

Either way, he’s a liar.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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