Budget Night 2017 (And I Feel Fine)

As a politics junkie, the lack of Fairfax insight on Budget night is genuinely troubling. It means most of the country will be getting their in-depth analysis from News Corp media or other conservative sources like Channel Nine.

The Ministry of Truth will have unchecked access for the first time in years. ABC and Guardian only attract the Outer Party types who pretend they understand politics. Schwartz Media and Sky News are for the latte-sipping Party elites. The proles will ask Kochie to tell them what Budget 2017 means for them. Expect to hear “working families” a lot this week.

This is what happens when you don’t support journalism and poor management is rewarded. This is why Rupert Murdoch sponsors the Inner Party: cuts to Education, cuts to Health, changes to pensions, changes to GST, cuts to ABC and SBS; the masses stay stupid and docile while Big Malcolm (or Donald) takes over.

Their agenda never changes. While the broader public are distracted by the racial purity of Labor’s dogwhistle pandering, universities become less attainable and hospitals are ignored.

Support striking Fairfax workers by choosing a reputable news source like ABC – you may not like them, but at least they’re forced to be honest on something like the Budget. Even consider BuzzFeed, they have some young and talented journalists with good insights on how this will affect people under 40.

You can’t let Morrison and the millionaire Muppet win this. It will set the agenda for the next 3 years and will influence the 2019 election. The next great Liberal dynasty could be launched tonight.

(And let’s be honest, Bill Shorten is no Whitlam, Hawke, or Rudd. I wrote about his need to be replaced here.)

(The 1984 references are deliberate, because this is how that sort of shit starts.)

winston-churchill-by-karsh

 

How a Bill Becomes Bourgeois

Bill Shorten has doubled-down on his Australia First rhetoric, with an ad that can only be described as ‘whiter than the cast of a Channel Nine show’. Shorten promises that a Labor government will “build Australian first, buy Australian first and employ Australians first” as he is surrounded by white, blonde-haired men and women.

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Bill Shorten at the latest Q Society meeting

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which audience Shorten is attempting to seduce. The Australia First dog-whistle is almost blatantly aimed at Trump sympathists and Hanson loyalists. The Australian and ABC News described the ad as ‘racist’.  The Sydney Morning Herald was a case study in why you don’t let editors file copy during industrial action, putting up an article that even BuzzFeed would have rejected – no link provided in solidarity with striking Fairfax workers, Google it if you want to see it.

Even Labor diehards rejected the ad, calling it xenophobic and disgusting. Anthony Albanese labelled the ad “a shocker” saying, “It’s not the sort of ad that I want my party to be promoting.”
This morning, Bill Shorten tweeted an admission that the ad lacked diversity.

Really Bill? A lack of diversity? That’s all that’s wrong here, too many white people? Sure, his ad looks like a printer that has run out of ink, but the continued, broad-based appeal to the hardcore racists in the various Reclaim movements is the real problem. By making Australia First the slogan for Labor in 2017, Bill Shorten is hinting that White Australia is alive and well. On the same day that Emmanuel Macron defeated the resurgent Nazis in France, Bill Shorten capitulated to them on national TV.

That’s the problem with Bill Shorten’s Labor – it stands for nothing. They’re actually trying to make cuts to private schools a sticking point for the Turnbull government. It’s more than tone deaf, it shows a disregard for the intelligence of Australian voters.

Labor has spent years claiming that private schools get too big a slice of education funding, and now they expect people to fight against the fact that private schools will be losing money to public schools? It’s beyond stupidity. Of course this could be a new slogan for the ALP: Bill Shorten, Beyond Stupidity.

It isn’t hard to cast your mind back to 2015, when barely-sentient root vegetable and Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, announced plans to racially profile pedestrians in the Border Farce affair. Most recall that Shorten was against the plan, coming out strongly against it. Of course, when it was first announced, and before the social media reaction had been gauged, Shorten felt that it was a terrific idea.

Maybe it isn’t all Shorten’s fault. Maybe this is just how Labor works now. Who could forget Kevin Rudd’s endless focus groups? I mean, fuck, his Australia 2020 Summit was the only way he could come up with policies for his first term.

But Bill Shorten is supposed to be leading Labor, not lurching from one ill-conceived proposal to the next. The ALP are supposed to be the alternative to the Coalition, not alongside them in the trenches, negotiating with the Nazis. The Opposition are supposed to be the Government-in-waiting, with ideas on how to lead the country, not waiting for the other side to make mistakes, just so they can say, ‘Hey, at least we aren’t them’.

I have said before that, despite his profile, Shorten has failed to define himself or the role he would play as a potential PM, leading few voters to treat him as a serious threat to Turnbull’s reign. This hasn’t changed.
Bill Shorten is less electable than Mark Latham, even if Latham was still running Labor today. At least with Latham, we know where he stands – against women, people of colour, Muslims, minorities of all persuasions. What does Shorten believe in? His right to be elected Prime Minister, and that’s about it.

In a time when the sitting Prime Minister is irrelevant in his own party room, the Opposition Leader is incompetent beyond all measure. We need at least one better option from either side before the next election, yet no one really comes to mind.

Albanese doesn’t seem either keen or capable of taking on the leadership. Bowen gave up his chance when he was the Immigration Minister responsible for proposing the Malaysia Solution – no one would elect Dutton, just as no one will look to Bowen. Burke and Dreyfus are both inoffensive choices, but would be better suited to challenging after an election loss, as neither have the profile.

Plibersek could be a chance, if she was capable of making any point without sounding disingenuous. It is difficult to forget that she abandoned her principles for party advancement in the 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act, and while no one in politics can be expected to be a saint, we’ve seen what happens when that occurs on a larger scale, in the ascendancy of Malcolm Turnbull. Plibersek is probably Labor’s best chance at defeating Shorten and Turnbull, if she can prove herself to be up to the task.

As it stands, Labor isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The divisive Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years left the party with a dearth of talent and an inability to govern. While Labor can outstrip the Coalition in two-party polling, Shorten is barely scraping by, remaining wildly unpopular. After losing the popular vote for Labor leadership, Shorten should have been seen as an interim leader, keeping the seat warm until a true contender came to the fore.

Reality Bites

In the realm of reality television, morality is a myth. As such, it should come as no surprise that the present season of Married at First Sight has gradually normalised emotional abuse, gaslighting, and antiquated gender roles in relationships.
In the last few episodes, tension built between one couple, Andrew and Cheryl, after Andrew spent a “boys night” bad mouthing Cheryl and encouraging others to follow suit. After Cheryl was told what had happened, she confronted Andrew in front of MAFS relationship expert and psychologist John Aiken. Andrew denied having done anything wrong, claiming that he could not clearly remember the night, and rather than address what had happened, John Aiken focused on the idea that Cheryl wasn’t trying hard enough to keep her man happy.
Then at a dinner party, Andrew openly mocked Cheryl, dismissing everything she had to say, belittling her in front of all the couples. He continued to deny his behaviour at the boys night, even when confronted by those who were present.

This has been a trend throughout the series. Gradually conditioning viewers to accept that broken, abusive relationships can work, if only the participants work harder. Early in this season, when Andrew was dumped by his TV wife, a rumour quickly spread that he had started a fight with a bouncer on their wedding night. If true, this shows a pattern of behaviour that the “experts” really should have picked up on. It could have become a teaching point for viewers of the show, helping people recognise negative behaviour in relationships – potentially helping victims of abuse to escape.

Instead, the show rules force couples to stay together if only one wants to leave; an archaic notion that predates the no-fault divorce. One might even question the qualifications of John Aiken, as the resident psychologist, in ignoring such clear and present warning signs.
This whole episode is reminiscent of an incident on My Kitchen Rules in 2016. One couple was having trouble getting their meals cooked in time, and as the night progressed, an endless torrent of abuse was showered upon Tim by his wife Dee. The tirade was noticed by viewers, who called it out as bullying and psychological abuse.

The big difference here, of course, is that when Tim was being bullied by his wife, viewers seemed to notice it more because it was such a rarity – seeing a man as the victim of an abusive relationship.
When Andrew is seen to be gaslighting and manipulating his TV wife, viewers react far less forcefully, because this sort of relationship has been a television mainstay for half a century – going back to shows like The Honeymooners.

Married at First Sight is easily one of the worst shows on television, for both content and style, and this latest controversy has driven further nails into its coffin.
With at least one Australian woman being killed each week, on average, we need to be able to recognise abusive behaviour when it is screened.
With one in three Australian women having experienced physical violence since the age of 15, we need to put a stop to the normalisation of unhealthy relationships on TV.
With psychological and emotional abuse being the most common form of domestic violence in Australia, we need to be able to call out Andrew and name his behaviour: it is abuse, plain and simple.

18C You in Hell

Yeah righto, Bill Leak’s dead then.
For those who knew him, he was smart, funny, a biting satirist with a wit as sharp as his pen. For the rest of the population, he was sexist, hateful, a bigoted racist with a chip on his shoulder the size of his ego. Right-wing nutjobs adored him and leftard social justice warriors deplored him.
Both sides have some very strong opinions about his death. And both sides are equally wrong.

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Image compilation via New Matilda

There’s no denying the fact that at his peak, Bill Leak was a satirical force to be reckoned with. A talented artist, Leak won the Packing Room Prize twice and the People’s Choice Award once for his entries in the Archibald portraiture competition, he also collected nine Walkley Awards between 1987 and 2002.
A former “darling of the left” according to ABC 7:30 host Leigh Sales, once upon a time Leak was well known for his skewering of the Howard government. Yet, his tone changed with the ascent of Kevin Rudd’s Labor, as one might expect of any political cartoonist. However, many attributed this shift to a brain injury Leak suffered in 2008. Leak addressed this notion in his 2012 book UnAustralian of the Year,

So what was it that had turned me into a right-wing shill?
…Kevin Bloody Rudd had won the election by defeating John Howard and becoming our first Labor prime minister for 11 years.
And me? I’d turned into a fascist overnight.

Of course, a Labor government and its revolving door of leadership can’t be blamed for Leak’s racist treatment of Indigenous peoples, nor his infamous, retaliatory 2006 cartoon “No Offence Intended” depicting then Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as a dog mounting a West Papuan man.

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Image compilation via Reuben Brand

While some may point to Leak’s brain injury as a turning point, it’s important to note that he was already headed in that direction, even before the rise of Kevin Rudd. It would be irresponsible for anyone eulogising Bill Leak to pretend that his cartoons were not damaging, both to communities and his legacy. In the last few years, Leak went out of his way to attack Indigenous communities, Muslims, LGBTIQ+ people, Safe Schools, women, Palestinians, the environment, the human rights commission – basically anyone who didn’t fit into the Murdoch media model of white, straight, conservative, male.

While a case can be made for the fact that his employer (The Australian) had a duty of care that was neglected by publishing his increasingly terrible works – exploiting a sick, old man to further their racist, backwards, hateful agenda – it shifts responsibility away from Leak. Those leaping to defend Leak since his death have generally claimed that he was of sound mind, a champion of free speech whose battle to be heard may have contributed to his health issues.

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Bill Leak and the “Gay Agenda”

So who is correct in their assessment of Bill Leak? Was he the happy-go-lucky satirist, able to succinctly capture the public mood with one image? Or was he the evil old racist, out to crush anyone who would dare ask for civility and human rights?
He was a man. Flawed and constantly shifting in his opinions. He may have been a good friend to some, but he was also a horrid abuser for others.
If he felt there was a hypocrisy to be called out, he would take aim. If he felt threatened by modern progressives, he would fire away. Did his fall from a balcony contribute to his fall from grace? Perhaps, but his earlier cartoons would imply that he was always going to wind up where he did. No one can deny that the tone of debate in Australia has shifted dramatically over the last decade and Bill Leak was apt in his representation of conservative opinions.

So celebrate his life and his death. Remember his tremendous successes and his massive flaws. If his battle for free speech meant he could attack those less able to defend themselves, then there should be no surprise when some are glad he can no longer spew such hatred.
And if you don’t like the fact that there are those revelling in the death of your friend, in Leak’s own words, suck it up, snowflakes.

Cliché As Old As Time

Can we talk about the Beauty and the Beast live-action remake?
A few days ago, Disney released a short promotional clip from the film, featuring Josh Gad as LeFou singing Gaston. Teen Vogue described Gad as “an absolute star” for his performance in the clip; according to Screen Rant, Gad’s voice “really shines through. However, as anyone watching the clip could attest, the sound mixing is terrible – an unfortunate combination of Josh Gad’s failure to project his voice and the orchestration being far too loud. It’s an issue that needs to be remedied before the film is released later this month. And yet no one in the entertainment media has discussed the fact that this is a major flaw of the video, almost reminiscent of the muffled dialogue from Bane in the promotional Dark Knight Rises scene.

Instead it’s been a relative deluge of pants jizzing over the suggestion that Disney has made the brave choice to turn LeFou into an “exclusively gay” character. The New York Times characterised this announcement as a part of the ongoing culture war between conservatives and progressives, while others seemed to be working from the same press release.
The question must now be asked, if this “nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie” is prominent, why is there a need to announce its inclusion? There was further news this week that Beauty and the Beast also contains the first ever Disney interracial kiss. A film with two watershed moments? Surely, that is worthy of its own media hype, and yet, almost nothing. Why? Because one moment has the illusion of being progressive, while the other seems to be 50 years overdue. Because one generates major headlines for its inclusion in a ‘family film’ and as such, free advertising, while the other is sure to draw condemnation for being so far behind the rest of society. And that’s the crux of the problem, while Disney is overdue for a gay character, tokenistic opportunism does nothing for anyone but Disney.
Disney is almost incapable of real diversity, and yet any hint of something that threatens the white, heteronormative, patriarchal groupthink of the ‘family entertainment’ industry and people lap it up like some loyal cultist in Jonestown. A white man kisses a black woman? How… progressive. An allegedly gay man has a crush on a straight man? How… inclusive.

The character of LeFou is a dogsbody – think Baldrick in Blackadder. The relationship between Gaston and LeFou isn’t some Burns/Smithers thing, a one-sided crush generally played for laughs, it’s supposed to be more nuanced. Rather, it seems to be playing on the trope that any male subservient to another male must be in love with him. This sounds more like something you’d find on r/TheRedPill or 4chan or some other message board arguing about alphas and betas, than an acceptable way to promote a Disney movie. I have serious doubts that this film will do anything positive for the LGBTIQ+ community, beyond the notion that yes, one character is gay. More gay characters are needed in movies like this, but they need to be honest depictions, not quirks to be exploited for profits.

“According to one person who has seen it, the LeFou moment is actually fairly subtle, perhaps so much so that it would slip past many viewers unnoticed.” – NYT

The moment is so subtle, that it has to be explained in an interview and press release weeks before the movie is released. Sounds a lot like when Zack Snyder had to announce that Jimmy Olsen features in Batman v Superman, because no one could have known this simply by watching the movie.
It would seem that this “touching tribute” to gay Beauty and the Beast composer Howard Ashman has less to do with fleshing out a character and is mostly about generating profits through controversy. Star Trek Beyond went down a similar route when it made Hikaru Sulu gay as a tribute to original Sulu actor and LGBTIQ+ activist George Takei. Except that Takei wasn’t such a fan of the idea, stating that it would have been a greater tribute to create a new character, rather than changing the vision of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. And while Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon stopped just short of saying Ashman was a fan of “rough trade“, watching the original film, it would seem as though characters such as Gaston and LeFou were intended to be straight.

The manner in which Disney is trying to market this film is endemic in Hollywood right now. Garbage is being given huge budgets and pushed out in a manner that to criticise it makes you a bigot, such that lazy filmmaking gets a pass because it became profitable by manipulating the public sphere.
Films that range from average to abortions are marketed with cheap gimmicks to get the public invested in the notion that the art transcends the screen. Bill Condon is no stranger to this, having directed the final two instalments of the Twilight movies – films that relied on the staged relationship between the two leads, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. This fakery was exposed when Stewart was caught in a tryst with her Snow White and the Huntsman director, Rupert Sanders, months before the release of Breaking Dawn: Part Two – putting the Stewart and Pattinson in an awkward position as they tried to promote the film as a”couple”. The Twilight films were fairly horrible – not one managed to crack 50% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes – in structure, narrative, acting, and dialogue these movies all failed to create a worthwhile experience. Yet they turned a profit and were considered successes, helped in part by the “relationship” of Stewart and Pattinson.
Suicide Squad was another film that used gimmicks to create the illusion of quality. From Jared Leto’s alleged method acting – sending used condoms and dead rats to other cast members, to director David Ayer saying “Fuck Marvel” at the film’s premiere. Because, y’know, fuck having a coherent narrative or even vaguely decent acting.
And who could forget the Ghostbusters reboot, an average film that no one was allowed to criticise for its many flaws, because to do so was considered sexist.
Still, as this Beauty and the Beast story develops, there are a few lessons we can learn:

  1. It would be amazing for Hollywood to increase the presence of LGTIQ+ characters in films. However, stunts and gimmicks will only serve to undermine the message of inclusion and diversity. Visibility = good, tokenism = bad.
  2. If you’re going to announce that a character in your movie is gay, make sure that you can control the message. Bill Condon has now said that the issue of LeFou’s sexuality in the film has been overstated.
  3. Don’t assume that there will be a positive reaction to altering an established character, while it is 2017, people still struggle with change.
  4. Normalise gay characters. Write more LGBTIQ+ roles. Get to a place where you don’t need to announce that you have the “first openly gay” character for any particular studio.
  5. If you’re releasing a promotional teaser clip for a film, make sure it represents a finished product. If you have to go back and edit the film after receiving  feedback on the clip, consider a test screening in the future.
  6. Editing makes or breaks a film. Stop outsourcing this vital job to the lowest bidder.
  7. Stop using gimmicks to promote inferior films. If you want to promote your film but don’t think it’s good enough on its own, make a better film.

I am open minded with regard to these changes. I know that more gay characters in films is a good thing, but I’m not so naïve as to believe that this media storm wasn’t a stunt. Be safe, stay woke.
Your friend and ally,
Dean.

For clarification, this is how the song sounds in the original Disney cartoon. The lyrics are clear, the music is subtle and yet prominent enough to be memorable, there’s no straining to understand what is being said about the film’s antagonist. Mr Condon could learn a thing or two.

Not Quite Hitler, Part I

Tiny finger on the button,
Often acting the buffoon,
And behaving like a glutton
Or perhaps a shaved baboon.
With a face of dried out mutton,
Wears a rug, or dead racoon.

Golden showers, prostitution,
His salacious, shrivelled worm.
Active proof of devolution,
Can make any woman squirm.
A new Russian revolution
May occur in his first term.

Wants to make the country greater,
Yet he lost the vote, big league.
And he’s acting like a traitor
While inspiring fatigue.
Will become the next dictator
With his Twitter based blitzkriegs.

He’s committing acts of treason
Wielding power to abuse.
Passing laws for no good reason,
Soon to round up all the Jews.
His impeachment in due season
By the father of Ted Cruz.

Little Donald

Spewing hatred from his vulgar sump.
There’s a man in the House we should dump.

Ranting and raving while on the stump,
A new life in the House; Forrest Gump.

Weak, sad, little loser; rather plump.
Smallest man in the House; tufted clump.

Incestuous Orwellian chump.
Predator of the House; gormless lump.

With six bankruptcies filed, not a slump.
Shocking man of the House; ugly grump.

Fiscal cliff, when it comes, he will jump.
Creep in Chief of the House, Donald Trump.

New Leak: Trump Emails Prove Campaign Worked With Russia Against Clinton

A batch of emails leaked overnight directly implicate Donald Trump in a Russian plot to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the election.
According to emails obtained by The Washington Post, Donald Trump reached out to The Kremlin in June, requesting assistance in finding damaging material to use against the Clinton campaign. WaPo notes that this was around the same time that Trump publicly called on Russian hackers to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.
It is believed that a high placed member of the Trump transition team leaked the emails after being replaced by Mike Pence last Friday.
The correspondence between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin could potentially see the President-elect impeached by Congress before he even sets foot in the Oval Office.

One shocking factor in this news is the fact that that this exact sequence of events was accurately predicted almost twenty years ago.

In 1998, Donald Trump sat down for an interview with People Magazine. As the discussion turned to his potential political aspirations, Trump said,

“If I was to run, I’d run my campaign through social media. The users are the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Facebook. I could post memes and they’d eat it up. I bet my shares would be terrific.”

A few weeks after the People interview was printed, the long-running cartoon series, The Simpsons, had an episode entirely dedicated to Donald Trump becoming president in 2016. The episode, titled An Inconvenient Trump, accurately predicted which states he would win, Mike Pence as his running mate, Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party candidate, Barack Obama as the incumbent POTUS, and it even had a cameo from Bernie Sanders.

Meanwhile, all across America, a huge spike was seen in transgender teens attempting suicide, with 16 deaths linked to the mere notion of a Trump presidency, evidenced by a number of chain emails.

OF COURSE, none of these statements are true. They exist for the purpose of satirising the countless false claims made after the November 8 election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. However, they highlight an important point: legitimate fact-checking has become something of a lost art over the last year.

There is no evidence of collusion between Trump and Putin. I just made it up.

People Magazine did not interview Donald Trump in any capacity in 1998. Furthermore, in 1999 Trump announced his intent to run for President as a member of the Reform Party, not the Republican Party, in the 2000 election, saying,

“The Republicans are too far right. And I don’t think anybody’s hitting the chord, not the chord that I want hear, and not the chord that other people want to hear, and I’ve seen it.”

There is no evidence that Trump ever described Republicans as the dumbest group of voters, and in 1998 Fox News did not have the reputation as a right-wing propaganda machine. In fact, Fox News (formed in 1996) really didn’t have much of a profile until after George W. Bush won the election in 2000, and didn’t secure its place in the minds of Republican voters until after the events of September 11.

The various images and screenshots from The Simpsons that have been doing the rounds have been deliberately misleading. The images of Trump were taken from a 2015 promotional short parodying Trump’s announcement of his candidacy in the 2016 election.

The electoral map comparison has some immediately obvious issues, namely that the states don’t match. The key is in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions, with states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania all the wrong colour in comparison. The picture with Mr Burns and the dog comes from a 2012 clip in which Mr Burns “endorsed” then Republican candidate Mitt Romney, with Smithers pointing out all the controversies that had plagued the Romney campaign to that point.

In 28 seasons of The Simpsons, there exists only one instance of “President Trump”. In an episode that aired in 2000, Lisa Simpson mentions the debt inherited from President Trump. It’s a throwaway line, not major a plot point, and definitely not a prescient moment of foresight. As mentioned already, Donald Trump attempted to run for President in 2000 for the Reform Party. The Simpsons writers were clearly using that notion to make a small joke about the ridiculous nature of such a prospect, that a man so morally and financially bankrupt could ever occupy the highest political office would be detrimental for the country.
Now, this episode, ‘Bart to the Future’, is set at least 30 years in the future of that specific Simpsons timeline, as mentioned by the Native American casino owner, before he shows Bart what his future would look like. Given electoral cycles, this means that the episode is probably set in 2029, as it’s not long after Lisa’s inauguration, though it could just as easily be set in 2033. *If* it’s set in 2029, it could mean that Trump ran and won in 2016, securing a second term in 2020. However, the episode also has Lisa say that she’s the first straight woman to become President, an obvious joke, albeit somewhat offensive in 2016, about the rumours surrounding Hillary Clinton’s sexuality. Which means that the episode also “predicted” that Hillary Clinton would become president at some point during those 30 years. The obvious assumption would be 2008, however, with no mention of the first African American President, we must assume that in this timeline Clinton won in 2016, with Trump running again in 2020. 2020 would make more sense, as Trumponomics would have a greater impact on Lisa Simpson’s inherited debt in 2030. Either way, the timeline is wrong and the Simpsons didn’t predict anything of great significance. It’s a cartoon folks.

Regarding the suggestion that the Trump victory on election night had an immediate impact, with at least 8 trans youths attempting suicide, is not only wrong, it’s offensive. A series of tweets and Facebook posts started the rumour, which was eventually picked up and tweeted by a journalist with the Guardian. While this tweet has since been deleted, for many this was considered verification as genuine.
While there has been a reported increase in calls made to suicide and counselling hotlines, especially by minorities feeling threatened by the rhetoric that came out of the Trump campaign, there is no evidence of an overnight spike in deaths following his victory.

In this vein, there were a number of stories that gained traction on election night and were then widely circulated, with little effort made to debunk such claims.
For a start, no, Harambe the dead gorilla did not gain upwards of 15,000 votes on November 8. This was another story perpetuated by a journalist on Twitter, with many believing it to be true, despite no evidence existing beyond rumour.

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Rudy Giuliani did not tweet about Blacks and Hispanics trying to steal the election from white people. This was from a parody account, of which there are quite a few. The former Mayor of New York and professional angry shouter doesn’t use Twitter. These accounts even fooled a number of journalists in mainstream media, as the tone is strikingly similar to that of Giuliani and others within the Trump campaign.

14917077_211599255945919_4272781136069099289_oAt no point has any Trump rally involved people chanting “We hate Muslims, we hate blacks, we want our great country back.”
This was made up by a British fake sports news writer on election day. He managed to fool countless thousands with his tweet, and many in the media reported this as fact. The rest of his Twitter feed is full of false stories, some humorous, others offensive. Also, and this is a minor point, this is a very British chant. American crowds aren’t renowned for their creativity in their chants, which is why “U.S.A.” is so popular at their events.

Lastly, Donald Trump has no plans to reopen the 9/11 investigation. This has been gaining traction in the last few days and is based on a fake news story from over a year ago. Most people seem to be getting the story from”Your News Wire”, a clickbait site obsessed with conspiracy theories, reading the headline and assuming it to be true.

Continuing to perpetuate these debunked claims, even in the knowledge that they are falsehoods, because they “seem like they could be true” or because “the other side are spreading lies too” does more damage to an already fragile system.
We all know that the lies are out there, we’re capable of recognising the obvious falsehoods, and yet we keep sharing them without considering the consequences. By sharing stories we know to be false or claiming that it doesn’t matter, we’re ensuring that our genuine arguments can be dismissed as falsehoods.
Sure, the alt-right doesn’t care about facts, but that’s exactly why we need to. There is a way to fight opinions with facts, and repeating known lies isn’t one of them.

Facebook has come under fire this week for its role as a vehicle to drive false narratives and disseminate fake news, making it difficult to find facts in your newsfeed. There are some ways to find the truth though.

  • First and foremost, stop believing memes. Adding words to a picture does not automatically make the words true.
  • Secondly, don’t automatically believe a tweet just because someone took a screenshot and put it on Facebook.
  • Next, don’t be afraid to call bullshit. If you know something is false, call it out. Have the argument, let people call you a buzzkill. If they want to block you out and live in their ignorant bubble, so be it, that’s on them. At least you tried.
  • Also, check facts. If something seems a bit suss or just a bit too extreme, Google it. Check Snopes. Find a reputable source. Demand proof beyond “this is what’s happening”.
  • While we’re at it… Hi, this is a blog. It’s not a reputable news source, it’s a blog. While this blog aims to place fact-gathering and accurate reporting at its core, it’s still a blog. Blogs gathers news from other sources, add opinion and analysis, and put their own spin on the events. Blogs can also make things up and claim absolute falsehoods as facts, as seen in the opening paragraph. Always check the sources cited on a news-based blog to see if they match the narrative, and if there are no sources, be sceptical.
  • Never stop questioning what you’re told. That’s the only way to stop this march into ignorance, racism, bigotry and abuse.
  • Last, go beyond the headline. How many of you clicked on this because of the headline or the lede? Who actually got to the end to read this advice? Read the whole article, don’t just skim through it.

That’s it. That’s how simple it is. The great threat is normalisation of blatant falsehoods and the promotion of lying liars who lie. Stop believing everything you see on social media, just because someone else said it.

R U OK? Not Even A Little Bit

There are dozens of guides floating around social media today, giving advice on how best to ask R U OK? What to do if someone says “no”. How to follow up on the question in the future.
The problem is, that achieves very little for someone with depression. Someone actively contemplating suicide isn’t about to turn everything around because you reminded them that they can call Lifeline or visit a GP.
Workplaces still have no idea how to deal with employees living with depression. Universities offer little more than empty platitudes to those feeling crushed by their study load. Even the unemployed have little recourse when it comes to seeking assistance, because of the overwhelming cost of treatment.
Sure, we can all pop another pill to help deal with our shit, but what does that really achieve? The work is still there. The assessments are past-overdue. The stigma of living with mental health issues still exists as others continue to joke about depression or whip out the kid gloves whenever you walk into the room.
There are problems that don’t go away, and any time you ask for help, you’re faced with a system that expects you to pick yourself back up.

#RUOKDay is a hollow excuse to congratulate ourselves for doing nothing to combat depression and suicide.
The purported aim is to “start a conversation”, because apparently that all someone suffering under the relentless burden of mental illness needs. A good chat.
The only positive result of this gimmick is that broader Australian society will feel better for claiming to have achieved something by making it trend on social media all day. The victims, meanwhile, are left to languish for the other 364 days of the year, because of the system that pretends we don’t exist.

The official advice for R U OK? Day is to talk to someone with depression about their issues and tell them where to get help. But this changes nothing. It doesn’t address what they might need.
When you ask someone “R U OK?” in a text message, are you prepared to offer them a couch to crash on for the next six months as they try to put their life back together?
Will you pay for their visits to a psychologist? Medicare barely covers it and bulk-billing for mental health is ineffective.
Do you have the capacity to change a system that puts the onus on the victim? Where anyone asking for help is first expected to help themselves?

For all the corporate enthusiasm for R U OK Day, for all the politicians attending events, very little changes. Mental health services continue to be defunded. Accessing proper treatment is always a challenge. For anyone who really needs help, finding it is almost impossible.
The first recourse for mental health treatment is for a GP to prescribe antidepressants and occasionally write a referral. After that, you’re on your own.
That was my experience when I first asked for help a few years ago. I was admonished for being depressed by my GP, given a prescription and shown the door. No follow ups, no real questions, just a “We all have issues, this will help”. Except it didn’t. The antidepressants worsened my mood, I became irrational and irritable. While a pharmacological approach can work for some people, it won’t work for others, because *big shock* we are all different. Our chemical makeup varies from person to person. There is no one, big catch-all approach to mental health treatment. It is still a case of throwing ideas at a patient and hoping one will stick.
I wound up in a psych ward after a suicide attempt, I was there for a week and a half before I saw a doctor, and within hours of talking to the doctor, I had been discharged, because I managed to convince them I was fine. Which I wasn’t. I just didn’t want to spend another minute in there, being ignored as my problems in the real world piled up.
My time in the psych ward taught me a few things

  • The public health system doesn’t know how to treat depression. I spent a week locked in a room taking antidepressants, I could have done this at home.
  • Workplaces are incapable of dealing with someone with mental health issues, because they’re stuck demanding medical certificates for any time spent absent.
  • People in the broader community don’t know how to approach depression and suicide. I had people I considered friends making bets about when I would kill myself. I found out that one of the people who triggered the attempt that put me in the psych ward was being told my every move by one of the nurses in the ward, as they knew each other.
  • The NSW Police only care about suicide and depression when they have to clean it up. When it came to the related court date, which I won’t discuss here, I overheard two officers gleefully discussing my attempt and treatment, as it strengthened their case against me.

After I got past this, I tried finding a psychiatrist who could help and wound up shelling out $400 per session to learn very little about myself that I didn’t already know. I know why I’m depressed. I know my triggers. I don’t have a way of effectively dealing with them because there is no system in place that allows any of us to take a couple of weeks out of life to heal. Our neo-liberal capitalist society doesn’t have time or space for prolonged weakness. You have a matter of days to sort yourself out, or you are left behind.
This is the boat I am in right now. For the last month I have been trying to pull myself out this psychological quicksand, only to find myself sinking further in. I’ve stopped going out. I’ve stopped going to uni, which, of course, means I’ve failed this semester, further compounding the issue. I need a medical certificate and to apply for academic consideration before I can even consider continuing with my study and that in itself is a whole world of stress I can’t deal with right now.
I’ve found myself hiding from the world, hoping that someone will notice I’ve vanished and offer to pick me back up, to help me fix the problems I’m facing.

So when someone asks me today, R U OK? My response will be “Yeah, I’m fine” because I don’t want the platitudes, I don’t want the standard response or the standard treatment because I have tried that and it failed me. I want to be better, but I know that I will struggle until the system we have built for treatment becomes adaptive, and I know that I am not alone.
Am I okay? No.
Are you okay? No.
Does it make any difference to ask? Who knows.
All I know is, for those of us living with depression, society needs to change for the better before we can.

My God, What Have We Done?

July 3rd, 2019

Happy Freedom Day! Praise be to Supreme Minister Morrison! Long may he govern!

It’s incredible how much can be achieved in three years. Goodness, it was incredible how much could be achieved in just one day. On that holiest of Sundays, the borders were closed, the state religion established, the welfare rats were forced into the jobs they claimed they couldn’t find, and the terrorists at the ABC were executed for treason.

No one expected Scott Morrison to seize the leadership the day after the 2016 election, though Propaganda Minister Bolt has always maintained that his ascension that day was inevitable.
No one expected Supreme Minister Morrison to find himself with an approval rating of ninety-six percent just two days later. The day the polling was released, our beloved voice of the people, The Daily Telegraph, dedicated an entire issue to the humble boy from the Shire.
No one expected the Australian economic boom that came from the management of Treasurer Cormann. In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph today, he credited the Supreme Minister for the success of the nation,
“Only Herr Morrison had the foresight to keep the Australian people out of the Labor recession. The budget black hole our Supreme Minister inherited from the sinister ALP had stopped growth, destroyed jobs and we all know what happened after they declared war on businesses. They wanted to use tax as bullets. War Minister Bernardi knew the only way to combat this was using bullets as bullets. And where are the Labor pigs now? They all ran off to their caves like little girly men.”

Over the last three years, our great nation has grown beyond all expectations. It wasn’t all easy, there was some resistance at first, but after the extradition deal signed with President Dutton of Nauru, the defiant opposition were no longer a problem for our glorious leader. Since that day, we have only grown stronger.
For the safety of all Australians, the Minister for Information, George Brandis, has ensured that all data is constantly monitored. The expansion of ASIO has given us all the opportunity to report any suspicions, no matter how small the matter may seem. Continuous patrols of all neighbourhoods by the Federal Police has reduced crime to nearly zero.
Mining Minister Joyce fulfilled the promise of jobs and growth when the war criminals and socialist protesters were forced into the employ of Her Magnificence, the Empress Gina I of the Commonwealth of Western Australia.
As Minister for Morality, George Christensen helped the Supreme Minister to outlaw homosexuality and the immoral education of children. Now, any children identified to have queer leanings are taken to conversion camps in rural Queensland, spending days, weeks and years there until they can accept that any challenge to the heteronormative state is bigotry and hatred and must be stamped out.
The High Bishop of Christ, Minister Abbott, has led the hearts and minds of the nation to a new enlightenment. We can only find satisfaction and glory in working hard and supporting our government. “Whose side are you on?” has become our rallying cry.
Hero of the people and Minister for Workers, Eric Abetz created a newer, stronger employment force, with unions and non-government organisations outlawed.
Close friend of the government, Royal Commissioner Lambie made the historic discovery that sharia law does indeed involve terrorism. Along with Queensland Premier Pauline Hanson, she helped expel all the criminal Muslims who refused to convert to the state religion.
The highlight for all Australians though, was when Grand Admiral Pyne annexed New Zealand with his powerful fleet of newly-built submarines.

Our new Governor General, Dame Julie Bishop, appointed Supreme Minister Morrison Liberal Leader for Life on the second anniversary of his rise to power. President Trump and British PM Farage were both in attendance for this wondrous event, both commenting on Australia’s resilience in the “War On Darkies”.
This, of course, was when Freedom Day was declared.

Today, as we celebrate our second Freedom Day, the former leader and traitor to the cause, Malcolm Turnbull, is due to be publicly shamed for suggesting that perhaps the government he lost had gone too far to the right. As the national newspaper, The Australian, correctly asserted, if anything, the Supreme Minister has been too generous in his treatment of the left. Only half of those identified as “leftards” were lynched, the rest were allowed the honour of rebuilding the Tasmanian logging industry.
There has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian.

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Our Supreme Minister, the Most Honourable Scott Morrison