By James Moylan
It has been interesting to read the Australian Press report on the Fake News scandal breaking in the US. The hypocrisy is astounding but not unexpected. At least some of the mainstream press agencies in America occasionally try to report the facts without resorting to spin; in Australia all we have is Fake News. 24/7. Year in year out.
Our mainstream press is owned, lock stock and barrel, by big corporations. Yet Aussies seem to be more than happy to stick their snouts into the rotting pile of garbage they spew out every day.
‘Tut-tut’ we say as we read a report about Mr Trump threatening to build a wall on the Mexican border, while our government is running a hell-hole concentration camp on a tropical island nearby.
‘Horrifying’ we comment over our morning coffee as we read of neo-Nazi sympathisers on the fringes of the American election campaign, while we elect a bunch of neo-Nazi sympathisers to our Senate and watch as our government fawns all over them.
‘Only in America’ we wryly observe as we watch the newly sworn in US Senate try to dismantle Obamacare, while our government has been slowly throttling Medicare, attacks the unemployed, removes dental assistance for the poor, defunds Legal Aid, and spends an entire term of government sacking public servants, stripping away their entitlements, and refusing even modest wage rises.
‘Thank God we’re are Aussies’ we sigh as we read about Trump stacking his cabinet with rich appointees with vested interests, while our government is being run by an ex-merchant banker who could likely buy and sell Donald Trump.
‘The President won’t release his Tax Returns’ scream the headlines in our biggest papers, while our PM keeps a billion or so dollars earned from being a corporate raider in secret bank accounts in overseas tax-havens.
We sold our press to the top end of town long ago. Fake news? We should be so lucky. In Australia we live in a bubble where our press assures us, every day, that up is down and the right is always right. At least in America they actually get to read some genuine reporting every now and again. In our country, when a corrupt multi-national mining conglomerate buys the rights to build the biggest coalmine in the world, and the Qld government does its best to give them an interest free loan of one billion dollars of our money to construct a rail link, to ship our coal to non-existent Indian markets; the response has been silence. Even a little bit of fake news regarding these matters would be better than none.
When a Cabinet Minister is caught blatantly rorting her expenses so she can flutter on our out-of-control property market; the front page of the Australian spends a full week excoriating the leader of the opposition for daring to use his parliamentary expenses to bring his family along with him while campaigning for government. Fake news? ‘How horrifying’ we mutter. Yet in Australia all we have is propaganda.
Every day all our mainstream news outlets are singing from the same hymnal about how we need to further entrench the influence of the rich and powerful. Terms like ‘tax reform’ have become a shorthand for cutting the taxes of the already well-off. ‘Welfare’ is depicted as a hand-out and negative gearing as a way of assisting the poor struggling masses. Centrelink is no longer an agent of national compassion but rather a method for punishing the indulgent and feckless poor for daring to interrupt the long lunch of the entitled.
We have all been taken for suckers. We have collectively rolled over and let the press barons tickle our tummies while the corporations strip mine our wide brown land and dismantle our democracy. ‘Socialism’ has become a dirty sneer that government ministers throw at anyone sitting in a gutter asking for a crust.
The unfortunate and inescapable truth is that we are living in a land that is run by big corporations, for rich owners, by entitled, bigoted, white, politicians, where the whole of the mainstream press is simply a propaganda machine devoted to distraction and disinformation. So don’t giggle at what is happening in America. They are following our lead; not the other way around.
Sometime in the next few years the card castle that is the Australian economy will come tumbling down. When the crazy over-inflated property market crashes we will find ourselves living in a country where we exported all the profits of the long mining boom, or allowed them to be funneled into the pockets of the rich, even while we let our political masters dismantle the industrial base of our country and export all of our manufacturing jobs overseas. We now live in a country in which the entire economy is built on the shifting sands of the housing market. When the property market finally deflates, as all bubbles in the history of the world have deflated, we have nothing to fall back on.
Turnbull and his ilk will still have their fortunes tucked away in hidden bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, but all the middle-class who have extended their credit cards on the basis of ludicrously over-hyped property values will suddenly discover themselves sitting next to the unemployed in a gutter. Finally the ruling class in Australia will have generated the sort of world they have dreamed about. Everyone, apart from them, will be part of the underclass. We will have hundreds of thousands of unoccupied houses across our country that will at last be affordable, yet nobody will be able to afford to live in them. The illusory savings invested in super and being managed by the top end of town will have dissipated like smoke in a breeze as our stock market crashes. Bankers and property moguls will be forced to retire; overseas. I hope you already have a big vege patch planted. It might come in handy.
Yet, even in the midst of the coming depression, our corporate press will still be willing and ready to tell us all about the latest antics of the Kardashians, and sell holidays to visit the bleached bones of the Great Barrier Reef, or invite us to invest in the latest get-rich-quick scheme. They will remain willing to endlessly tell us how our poverty is all our own fault for being a bunch of leaners not lifters.
We live in a country with the highest levels of personal debt in the first-world, with a vastly over-inflated property market, with stalling wages and no manufacturing base, where the palpable and apparent effects of global warming are visible for anyone with a pair of eyes, and where all of our mainstream press is owned by one or anther big corporation; yet we spend our days looking at America and shaking our heads?
In just a few tens of years all of the coal we have been exporting will return in the guise of climate change refugees. Directly to our north is an archipelago peopled by more than six times our total population which will be one of the first parts of the globe swamped by rising sea levels. And these refugees will all know exactly who is to blame for the global catastrophe, even if us Aussies have deliberately avoided even thinking about it.
Do you think that our children will be thanking us for the world we are bequeathing them? I look around and feel utterly ashamed of my generation.
I know that a lot of readers will be feeling indignant and be protesting that ‘it was not me’. That ‘I am not to blame’. But if we are not all collectively guilty; then who is?
‘Poor fellow my country’ does not quite sum it up. We are deep in a coal mine, wearing a blindfold, and we keep on digging. Do you think future generations will cut us a break? We will be despised. And the sad truth is that there is an awful lot to despise.
So, perhaps, before we read about Fake News in the US, and sink back further into our pool of self-righteous schadenfreude, it might be an idea to look around our own backyard and realise that most of the rest of the world rightfully considers modern-day Australia to be a land peopled with selfish, brutal, right-wing arseholes. A land where the population is happy to round up immigrants and deport them on a whim, lock up refuges in concentration camps, embrace any multi-national mining concern willing to bribe our politicians, reduce the Aboriginal population to beggars granted the right to occupy our prisons any time they feel in need of a feed, demonise any attempt to decarbonise the economy while simultaneously subsidising coal mines; and yet still peer down their long noses at the rest of the globe and call them ‘undeveloped’.
Don’t kid yourself, the majority of the world’s population looks at Australia and sees a modern day form of racial and corporate apartheid. After all; they aren’t living in a bubble.
Fake news? We should be so lucky.