Difficult to pin down when this narrative actually began, but for argument’s sake I’ll posit its start with the recent Australian Federal Election and the plethora of fake news trumpeting a Labor victory.
A successive run of negative polls published over at least two years, pointed to this mythical Labor win.
Indeed, dire poll numbers prompted Malcolm Turnbull’s putsch, which lead to the demise of Tony Abbott and ultimately the triumph of Scott Morrison.
The script suggested a brave new Shorten Labor Government replete with the sparkling post-modern trappings of a new Whitlam/Hawke/Keating imperium.
But the thumping hangover of this self-inflicted delusion is made worse by recent raids on the ABC and a News Corp journalist, both aided and abetted by the home-grown master of the dark art of fake news, the Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton.
Minister Dutton displayed his mastery of the art during a Kitchen Cabinet interview with Annabel Crabb on ABCTV Insiders.
I don’t often reach for the mute button, but this chat, characterised as a train wreck by the Labor Senator shadowing Dutton Kristina Keneally, bodes ill for the Opposition.
Indeed when the Australian Parliament resumes, Morrison, Frydenberg, Dutton, Christian Porter and the entire triumphant Liberal Front Bench, will deploy fake news with such gusto, the occasional frisson of Question Times past, will be recalled as a golden era.
To be sure the Federal Member for Grayndler and Labor Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, a known political bare-knuckled brawler of Tories, begins his stint by taking on the Victorian state secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) John Setka.
But the NSW branch of the Labor muscling up over the Victorian branch which gifted Australia six years of stability under Bill Shorten, is a mere side show.
The real game is the impending dismantling of the decades-long social compact between a succession of Australian governments and the citizenry.
The Liberal/National Government will achieve this aim by easily shutting down debate.
You can guarantee key Liberal spokespeople will repeat ad nauseam their favoured fake news phrase; ‘we do not comment about on-water matters’.
The global phenomena of fake news began with the election of US President Donald Trump seemingly with the assistance of certain players associated with the Russian Federation. But this brand of psychological operations or psyops is commonly deployed by most governments.
Indeed the preamble to the US Army’s official psyops manual entitled, Psychological Operations Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, begins with this quote; “all military action is intertwined with psychological forces and effects”. The author is Carl von Clausewitz, taken from his book On War, published in 1827.
Last week an insidious example of fake news or psyops, titillated the global media to wit the vision of smoking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
So who do we believe?
In times past we sought the Superman of news, that purveyor of “truth, justice and the American Way,” the US White House. But any person other than viewers of Fox/Sky News who give credence to the White House and its soon-to-retire press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders are the very same citizens at whom fake news is aimed.
So how readily is fake news being deployed in Australia?
ABCTV on 17/06/2019 broadcast a Media Watch report where Paul Barry analysed this gem of Sky super star Peta Credlin interviewing Mr Adani about the future of the Carmichael Mine in Queensland.
This mammoth, but problematic coal mine delivered the Coalition three more years in Government courtesy of a swag of Queensland Federal seats.
Despite the fact Credlin’s interview is clearly biased in favour of Adani’s business model, the insidiousness of the fake news is not so much Credlin’s obvious frippery, but rather the pedigree of its spruiker.
Peta Credlin’s husband Brian Loughnane is, among other things, an adviser to The International Republican Institute.
Much of this Institute’s funding comes from, surprise surprise, the US State Department currently lead my Mike Pompeo who on June 16 told Fox News Iran had indeed bombed those pesky oil tankers.
Meanwhile in Australia a few months back the Sydney Morning Herald dutifully reported on April 9 2019 former Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane pressing Peter Dutton MP to bestow special treatment upon a certain Mr Huang Xiangmo.
But when asked to comment on the matter Peter Dutton MP skilfully deployed a variation of the Liberal Party’s favoured fake news phrase, ‘we do not comment on-water matters’.
As the song says, ‘we’ve only just begun’.
Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book, The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale here.