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Tag Archives: lying

The Propaganda Machine

In recent weeks there has been much commentary about the formation of Bjorn Lomborg’s “Consensus Centre” within the halls of the University of Western Australia. We have been aggrieved at the profligate use of taxpayer funds during a “budget crisis”. We are offended, but hardly surprised, at the disbanding of the independent Climate Council, saving $1.5m at the cost of losing internationally-recognised expert climate change opinion, followed by a $4m grant to the Consensus Centre, whose methodology and outcomes are universally panned. We have been repeatedly shamed by our government in its statements and actions on the world stage in relation to climate change, and this latest move is simply the most recent in a long list.

However, the issue goes deeper than this. Beyond our anger at the heedless use of money and the slap in the face to reputable Australian scientists whose contributions are valued far more cheaply than an imported demagogue; beyond our shame at being led by people who not only deny the recognised scientific truth but who paint Australia (and the rest of the world) as misled fools; and beyond our bemusement that our government could lend support to, and expect support from, an internationally derided charlatan who is good at manufacturing numbers. Beyond these things is the undeniable fact that our government is spending our money in an attempt to lie to us more effectively.

The Consensus Centre is a propaganda machine. Nothing more, nothing less.

I have written before about the cruel bind in which the Coalition finds itself. It is in the unusual, perhaps unique, position of having been voted into power to rule over a people who disagree with its central beliefs. The outcomes of such a conflict are seen in the 2014 budget – a budget true to the Coalition’s ideology, but absolutely rejected by the vast majority of the Australian people. We see the conflict in a hundred big and little ways, from the attempts to squeeze pensioner entitlements to the risible knighthood for Prince Philip. We have seen it in the government’s attitude to climate change: a conflict which will only grow as the outcomes of climate change become progressively more undeniable, as the rest of the world leaves Australia in the dust on climate change action, and as Australia’s coal assets become progressively more undesirable.

Our government, in toto, does not believe in climate change. We are led by a Prime Minister who, recent avowals that climate change is real notwithstanding, still truly believes that “The climate change argument is absolute crap”. Tony Abbott presides over a government whose overriding principle is to promote and support the continued use of coal for energy, both as an ideological position and an economic imperative. Australia’s current economy relies absolutely on coal, and everything the Coalition has done since coming to power has simply increased that dependence.

For the Coalition, the imperative is clear. Put simply, there are only two possible ways to make sense of the government’s avowed acceptance that climate change is happening and humans are responsible, and its actions upon coming to government.

  1. The first possibility is that the government does believe in climate change and sees future climate action as inevitable. However, Australia stands to lose, and lose big, if it accepts this publicly and is forced into action. Reforging the Australian economy as a 21st century society is seen as far too hard, a preferable approach being to deliberately sabotage and delay consensus in any way possible. In this way it can support its own temporary position, granting two or more terms of government, notwithstanding Australia’s increasing reliance on fossil fuels. In this analysis, the short term benefit which accrues to Australia and to the current cadre of politicians will eventually and inevitably lead to dire outcomes for Australia and likely disrepute for members of the current government. The current government’s actions to date do not appear to indicate that they particularly fear disrepute.

  2. The second probability is that the government really doesn’t believe in climate change. It has chosen to accept the (well under) three percent of scientists who profess any doubts at all. It prefers to listen to economists and accountants and fossil fuel lobby groups, to Heartland Institutes and Peers of the Realm, instead of the vast weight of scientific consensus in Australia and abroad. If you don’t believe in climate change, the only position with integrity is to frustrate the creation of any kind of global, binding emissions standards. To long-time watchers, it is quite clear that this government does not believe in climate change. The Emissions Reduction Fund that Greg Hunt is so proud of was always going to be a success because, in the government’s eyes, it is not expected to address any real problems, only political ones.

Thus we see Australia’s obstructive approach to global standards and agreements. We see Tony Abbott dismantling and disbanding and defunding every climate change body over which he has the least power. It’s a rearguard battle, one that will be lost, and soon, but the Coalition can’t afford to recognise that or they will see that a large portion of their policy platform is bankrupt.

At the same time, they recognise that the real fight is not against science. The unstated position of the Coalition is that the science is wrong, that the world is wrong. The Coalition does not intend to fight on that battlefield; the science is not the main game. The main game, for any political party at any time, is the beliefs of the people and the fight for re-election.

Thus the Consensus Centre. The Centre is the Coalition’s next piece of artillery in the war for the minds of the people.

The climate change war of ideas in Australia has not yet been won.

A large proportion of Australians accept the truth of AGW, at least intellectually, but there remains a reluctance to accept the ramifications. Tony Abbott knows this. The anti-renewable lobby knows this and is relying on it.

“The politics of this are tough for us. Eighty per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.” That was Tony Abbott’s unguarded commentary at the same event where he made the infamous “total crap” comment. In the government’s eyes, the problem is not climate change, desertification, the loss of arable land, or global action to decarbonise the world’s energy and bankrupt Australia’s coal economy. In the government’s eyes, the problem is the people, and their stupid belief in “the global warming religion” (as Tony Abbott’s chief business advisor, Maurice Newman, calls it).

The real purpose of Consensus Centre is not science. It is propaganda.

Lomborg is being paid to manage the “tough politics”, not to actually influence the science of climate change. The saying goes “Lies, damn lies and statistics…”, and this might be doubly true for an institution such as Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Centre, the body on which UWA’s Consensus Centre will be modelled. “[Lomborg] is famous for using economic modelling as a mercenary gun for hire, saleable to governments and jurisdictions requiring climate inaction, climate distraction, or just straight-out climate crisis denial.

On the surface, Lomborg’s Consensus methodology seems reasonable, perhaps even visionary. On the basis that we cannot fix all the problems in the world, Lomborg attempts to prioritise the various issues across the globe in terms of best return on money invested. The Consensus Centre methodology is primarily an economic one, and it judges climate change to be a low priority. It does this on the basis that addressing climate change will be very expensive for comparatively little gain. If this were true, there would be some validity to Lomborg’s approach. Unfortunately, this result can only be arrived at through underestimating the impacts of climate change, underestimating the amount of benefit global action could bring to the problem, and overestimating the cost of these efforts. Lomborg uses the “locked-in” climate change that is currently unavoidable to argue that our efforts to address climate change will be largely in vain, deliberately ignoring the exponential increase in climate damage that will come about if we don’t address global warming. He also claims that the required cost of decarbonising the world economy is too expensive, and our efforts would be better spent addressing more modest issues.

The consensus methodology is specifically intended to apply economic modelling to produce a predetermined outcome. This is the antithesis of science. Science operates on the basis of disproving hypotheses, measuring real-world data in order to be sure that it matches the theory. In science, there is no room to adjust the parameters of reality to make the answers say what you want.

In statistics, on the other hand, if the result comes out counter to what you hoped, you have the ability to change the inputs, say by valuing people in different places with different economic worths.

Lomborg’s Consensus Centre methodology has no academic credibility. “Within the research community, particularly within the economics community, the Bjorn Lomborg enterprise has no academic credibility. It is seen as an outreach activity that is driven by specific set of objectives in terms of bringing particular messages into the public debate and in some cases making relatively extreme positions seem more acceptable in the public debate.”

Fighting back without fighting

The Abbott’s government propaganda efforts are seeming more and more like George Orwell’s 1984. We are being led by a government that actively works to silence dissent; that seeks to criminalise protest; that has access to secret police and legislation that can effectively make its citizens disappear without trace, announcement or recourse; a government whose defining characteristic from well before it was elected was that it lied to the people it sought to govern. Now that same government is using taxpayer money to help set up a body with the primary purpose of lying to its electors more effectively.

When your government actively engages in deliberate propaganda, what can a concerned citizen do?

Some have proposed campaigns of civil disobedience. However, the March in March rallies, union actions, or currently the thousands-strong marches in protest of the closure of indigenous communities appear to have little effect on the extraordinary thick-skinned government. Following each rally, government ministers and conservative columnists pop up to say things like “Twenty thousand people marched, but that means four million people did not” and “These are union troublemakers, not ordinary people” and “We will not be swayed from what’s right [in our opinion]”. Does that mean that we should not march?

Obviously not. It may be too much to expect that the government would pay attention to the desires of its people when they go directly against Coalition ideology. But the one thing that currently separates this government from facism is our system of free elections. It is only at the ballot box that we can expect to address the wants of this government. So we must fight – not to change government policy, but to keep its failings in clear view. We must keep up the protests at the lies.

We must also be informed. We cannot rely on this government to give us the information we require to make effective decisions at the next election; in fact, this government relies on its people not receiving, or not paying attention to, real information on climate change, on the economy, on the budget and on asylum seekers. We must keep reading (and writing in) independent media vehicles such as the AIMN. We should bear in mind that most of what we hear from politicians and establishment media is liable to be designed to keep the populace misinformed and compliant. And we should keep our sources of primary information close to hand.

On climate change, to counter the “modelling” of the new Consensus Centre, there are a variety of primary sources. Skeptical Science is a vital resource. For those interested in understanding not just the truth of climate change, but the reasons behind ongoing climate change denial, this author can recommend the free online course Making Sense of Climate Science Denial, offered by the University of Queensland via ed-X. The course largely consists of a range of short online videos and interested participants can put as much, or as little, time into it as they prefer.

Whatever your preferred approach, however, just bear this in mind: your government is lying to you.

Just Political Language or the Tony Abbott Art of Lying

Tony Abbott lying it seems (image from abc.net.au)

Tony Abbott lying it seems (image from abc.net.au)

Lying in Australian politics – in particular the ‘Tony Abbott art of lying’ – has reached an unprecedented level. The Prime Minister and his cabinet are taking lying to such depths that it is not disingenuous to suggest that they no longer have a moral compass or understanding of truth.

Some time ago I wrote the following in a piece titled. ‘’Abbott Tells Another One’’:

‘’If this means I am saying he is a pathological liar then so be it. It’s not a nice thing to say about anyone but we are dealing with truth here. It’s not so much that he is a serial offender, he is. I think the electorate knows that and factors it in. The fact that he lies can and is easily supported by volumes of readily available, irrefutable evidence. (I can provide it if need be). However what is of equal concern is that the main stream media (the so called fourth estate) who are supposed to be the people’s custodian of truth, condones it’’.

Since being elected Prime Minister some political commentators have suggested he has made a genuine attempt to be Prime Ministerial. If he has it has been a forlorn attempt. He has been unable throw off a lifetime image of political thuggery, negativity and gutter speech.

As Prime Minister he has continued to lie in the fashion of an opposition that knows that its words can be lost in a mist of factual uncertainty and exaggeration. Oppositions can at times be forgiven for over exuberance. Governments and particularly Prime Ministers cannot.

It is the blatantly despicable and obnoxious manner in which Abbott does it that grates. On 12 February in question time he rose to deny that he said that he would spend the first week of his Prime Ministership with a group of indigenous people. The denial was indefensible and there would not be a member of both sides of the house who could justly defend him. Yet this flagrant misrepresentation of truth goes unreported in the mainstream media. Not to mention the misleading of parliament.

And it’s not just his lies that offend. It’s the silliness of his diplomacy when he uses phrases like ‘’goodies and baddies’’ to describe international conflicts. Or when he says Holden workers ‘’will feel liberated’’ after being sacked. Or “Let’s be under no illusions the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism.”

When a liar continues to lie and do so with such consistency and fervour one can only conclude that he is a person that believes his own bullshit. To use an Australian colloquialism.

Really one has to wonder if he is worse than some of those extreme right wing religious fanatics that blame natural disasters on gays. When an Australian Prime Minister says Australia is spying on a close neighbor to “help our friends and our allies, not to harm them.”, you have to wonder if he needs a manager because he has been handling himself for too long.

His Ministers also seem to have carte blanche to follow his example. George Brandis when asked about Abbott’s one million jobs target blames Labor and suggests there is a wages breakout working against them, the facts say that this is not the case but there is no withdrawal. Truth is the victim.

Kevin Andrews recent comments that we would become like European countries if we didn’t reduce our Welfare Assistance was lying at its worst because it was linked with fear and it lacked factual supportive evidence

George Brandis in the Senate makes the claim that the whistle blower Edward Snowden is guilty of putting Australian lives at risk. When the on line commentary site Crikey asks him for the evidence of this he is unable to substantiate his claim. Remember he had the gall to call Howard a lying Rodent. Then I suppose it takes one to know one.

Tony Abbott tells lies about workers benefits at Ardmona. The company refutes his assertions but he insists he is telling the truth. He insists that Cadbury is a different case in so much as the subsidy to them was for tourism. Video evidence confirms that he is lying but he rises in Parliament to repeat the lie. Remember the many company rejections of his carbon tax assertions when Opposition Leader.

He makes the following comment.

‘’All we are getting from the opposition is relentless negativity and one scare campaign after another.’’

I remember Peter Reith saying something similar on The Drum not long ago and all the panellists laughed. Including the conservatives.

In October last year Abbott said this.

“Can I just scotch this idea that the Coalition’s policy is or ever has been tow-backs … There is a world of difference between turning boats around in Australian waters and the Australian Navy towing them back to Indonesia.”

Scott Morrison said this.

Border Protection Command assets had, in the conduct of maritime operations associated with Operation Sovereign Borders, inadvertently entered Indonesian territorial waters on several occasions.”

Now of course we know they were both lying.

During a press conference at Parliament House, Tony Abbott was asked how it could transpire that professionally trained and highly skilled naval personnel could mistakenly sail, more than once, into Indonesian territorial waters.

We got this answer that suggests the Prime Minister could have made a fortune from writing comedy.

“Even people who are at the very top of their game… will occasionally make mistakes,” Mr Abbott replied, while praising the skill and professionalism of the Australian navy.

“Test cricketers occasionally drop catches, great footballers occasionally miss tackles and regretfully, there were a couple of occasions when this mistake was made.”

“On the high seas, all sorts of things happen,” Mr Abbott added.

“There are winds, there are tides, and there are other things that they’re focusing on.

YES FOLKS THAT WAS YOUR PRIME MINISTER SPEAKING

Cricketers don’t need a GPS to play a straight bat. Nor should the government.
Secrecy is lying by omission.

To quote Barnaby Joyce.

“I know both the Treasurer and the Prime Minister well enough to know that they are not liars”

One lie does not justify another.

If a political party is not transparent in supplying all the information the public has a democratic right to be aware of, it destroys the very democracy that enables it to exist.

In his joint attack with The Australian on the ABC Tony Abbott had this to say.

“My concern as a citizen of our country is to try to ensure that our national broadcaster is fair, is balanced and is accurate”

At the same time the Murdoch Press was destroying the reputation of an Australian sporting legend in Ian Thorpe. The Prime Minister was silent.

Joe Hockey blames unions and wages on the demise of Toyota and reckons the company privately told him so. The company repudiates the suggestion but Joe sticks to his guns. A bit sus as we Australians are apt to say.

When Tony Abbott said this what did you think?

“You can vote Liberal or Labor and you’ll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school”.

“There will be no change to school funding under the government I lead”.

Then he made the following statement.

“The Coalition will deliver on its education election promises, not on what some people “thought” it was going to do”

I know what I thought and I know what I’m still thinking now. Lying deceptive bastard.

Some time back Tony Abbott told us that the best way to understand the truth of what he was saying was to have it in writing. Otherwise what he was saying was just idle chatter for an audience.

So now I’m a little confused. You see, now he is saying that what I thought he said is only a figment of my imagination. That what I think I thought he meant is not what he meant at all. That when he says something and I take it to mean one thing, he has the option of saying that what I thought I heard was not what I heard at all. It was only my interpretation of what he meant. I mean, did he say what he meant or did he mean to say what he meant or was what he meant really what he meant.

I know that I am 73 and I have the odd senior moment but usually I know what I mean and what is meant by what I say. I also know that people understand what I’m meaning.

I have done a Google search for an Abbott code breaker but it doesn’t understand what I mean.

I am deeply offended when people lie to me. When the Prime Minister and his ministers do it so unashamedly and with impunity I feel shame for their incapacity to comprehend the goodness of truth. They seem intent on destroying the discernment and astuteness of how we communicate. Indeed if the necessity for truth is eliminated from relationship, debate and normal discourse then a breakdown of society is inevitable.

If the mainstream media cannot hold Abbott and the government he leads to account then they are as complicit as he in his lying.

‘’It is better to be told the absolute truth than be controlled by lies’’.

Alan Austin has also written a great piece on this subject.

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