Dumb Nation

This is the first federal election since Donald Trump was elected, and it shows. Sure, we had all of the Section 44 by-elections, but that was nothing.
We only had to suffer under the Turnbull Prime Ministership during that shitshow; this time around it’s a no-holds-barred race to the bottom with Scott Morrison receiving praise for “doing things” while Shorten is attacked for being Shorten; Clive Palmer has paid his way back into political relevance without ever having to pay his workers; and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation is competing with the Liberal party for the highly coveted title Most Trash Candidates Nominated in a Single Election.

I mean, seriously, how did things get this bad? Many would blame the media for giving any and every ideologue, bigot, or garbage human a platform from which to spew their hate-filled rhetoric, but like, which barrel are the Libs scraping if these are the best people they could find?
It beggars belief. One thing is certain though: I hate everyone and everything that made this possible.

Scott Morrison is probably Australia’s best-known bullshit artist, rising through the ranks of the Liberal Party by refusing to cooperate with the media, and like a beaten dog the media chased him to try to get in his good graces. As a result, we’re faced with a sycophantic rabble who seem to believe that delivering the news means echoing the government’s spin verbatim because the analysis is for the weekends.
As such, there has been a very “us against them” mentality presenting itself on social media as the press dig in wholesale to defend someone like Chris Uhlmann, no matter how basic and pretentious his reportage has become. The insider culture of the press gallery has also resulted in a number of junior and senior journalists falling into this victim mentality when it comes to reporting.
Unfortunately, “them” is the Australians who are sick of a lacklustre media that appears to care more about working with politicians than holding them accountable. Laurie Oakes wouldn’t have pulled this shit.

At any rate, the utter lack of substance from the Liberals and Morrison in this campaign combined with a budget deficit presented as a surplus should have decimated support for the Coalition. Yet, we’ve seen a tightening in the polls because much of the press coverage of the Liberal/National policies has been incredibly positive, often presenting Liberal/National statements, press releases, and speeches without challenge or comment.
For many news networks, #Watergate is not even worth acknowledging, so conditioned are they to playing the role of propagandist.
While some are close-minded enough to attack those on the ABC for being overtly partisan (even if the only crime is one of impartiality), at least the ABC is following and covering the corruption that is being exposed in the water dealings.
I mean, the Barnaby Joyce interview by Patricia Karvelas took place on Radio National for crying out loud.

Beyond that, Bill Shorten has been copping shit for the fact that no one actually wants him to be Prime Minister. It’s not all his fault, of course, it doesn’t help that he is Bill Shorten. He’d have a much better time of it if he was Anthony Albanese or Tanya Plibersek, but he’s the ostensibly spineless compromise Labor chose to drive their party off a cliff.
Fortunately for Shorten and Labor, the Liberal/National parties have fully committed to self-immolation in literally every policy they propose or any Cabinet they form. Unfortunately, Bill Shorten is so hated, that he still risks a Morrison return in an election that should be, for all intents and purposes, a cake walk.

While Shorten has shown some promise as a human in the two debates last week, the ALP may need to consider another upgrade if they hope to get over the line on May 18. The Coalition doesn’t actually have a platform in this election, every single announcement, press conference, or interview has been focused on stopping what Labor is doing, rather than running on their own policies.
Josh Frydenberg couldn’t answer Barrie Cassidy when he was asked about the Liberal party’s plans for Australia. He had plenty to say about Labor, but nothing to offer any voters who may have been watching.
Labor appears to have a vision for Australia under the 46th Parliament but their execution is questionable, though it’s possible for them to turn it around in the last two weeks, especially with their campaign launch today.

We should all be able to agree that Pauline Hanson’s Port Arthur trutherism is the least offensive thing she has ever done, yet it became the tipping point that finally allowed Clive Palmer to capitalise on the millions of dollars he was spending to rebuild his public image.
Meanwhile, after surrounding herself with the absolute dregs of society, Hanson seemed shocked when she discovered that they were all racist, sexist, homophobic fuckwits with nothing to offer anyone in any facet of society. This led to the interview of the election, with Pauline Hanson getting to host a pity party for herself, and A Current Affair was only too happy to pick up the bill.

And so as Pauline Hanson and One Nation collapse under the weight of who they are as people, the Coalition have been forced to find another natural ally in Clive Palmer.
I mean, it makes sense, they aren’t fans of paying workers what they are owed either. Though, I must say that I’m a bit shocked by the Libs expelling extremists from their party, after pre-selection, when they’re so incredibly keen to work with extremists in the Senate and vote for any sort of race-based proposition offered up by said extremists.

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Clive Palmer’s return was built on average memes and shit poetry, before diving into bed with the far-right and conspiracy theorists. No one could have predicted a fat loud obnoxious billionaire doing that.
N O O N E

In amongst all of this, the rebirth of Clive Palmer as a genuine contender is something to behold. As some have started to ask following the revelations of how much Palmer has spent on advertising, even as he refuses to pay his countless other debts; how much does Australian democracy cost? Are we witnessing the first instance of a billionaire buying himself political office?
At least last time he was offering some vaguely centrist policies that made him viable for a swathe of disenchanted Labor voters and Liberals who did NOT want to vote for Tony Abbott as PM. This time, he’s just taken up the Hanson/Trump baton, doing everything and nothing to win on a platform of shit memes and wall-to-wall advertising.

And yet he persists, with a string of preference deals cementing his role as kingmaker, without any need to be a member of the party to which he once held life membership.  Though, I must note the delicious irony of Palmer’s role in the most corrupt government Australia has ever seen and his willingness to trade preferences with the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison/? government in the middle of a string of corruption allegations.
Federal ICAC anyone?

Now, the fact that over a million people signed a change dot org petition to have Fraser Anning removed from Parliament highlights a thorough lack of understanding of how the Australian Washminster system of government operates; never mind the absolute ignorance of the powers of the Parliament and the Constitution.
It should have been a sign of how bad this election would turn out, but, if foresight was 20/20 we could have prevented the rise of these neo-fascist political movements.
But, what can you do?
Nazis gonna Nazi… and media gonna enable them at every turn because outrage is profitable and the normalisation of extremists is “balanced journalism“.

The key to all of this has been a thoroughly lacklustre media over the last decade, a time in which the far-right resurgence was built on voter ignorance through the failure to create profitable journalism online. Those who have found a way in which to create profitable journalism have had to work hard for years, churning out real stories, focusing on delivering the news people need, not just what they want.
The Guardian, The New Daily, and Crikey seem to be the only media organisations that are growing in Australia; the New York Times could have been one to watch if they had stepped up their election coverage, instead it may be a slow, or measured, growth for the legacy masthead in Australia.

As a result, there has been an incredible surge of frustration amongst consumers, and some of that became outrage directed at journalists for the failings of the organisation for which they work. The failure of a number of major “mainstream” media outlets to pick up or report stories like #Watergate in this election, or to properly hold the government to account in interviews and coverage has seen swathes of journalists written off as government patsies.
Some of the attacks have come from one-eyed Labor and Liberal/National “brokens” – voters who refuse to admit any fault for the party they support, and see any criticism of their party as clear evidence of an agenda to protect the party they despise. It’s stupid, and most of these people are incapable of engaging in debate or discussion around policies.
However, a lot of the attacks on journalists have been grounded in fact and the genuine failings of those who should be speaking truth to power and digging through lies, spin, and doublespeak employed by the major parties in their attempts to win over the electorate. We’ve seen a number of falsehoods reported verbatim, with no attempt to challenge what was said for fear of being seen to be partisan.
There is also *some* merit to the notion that Bill Shorten and Labor have been given a much harder go during this election, with fewer questions asked of the Coalition when it comes to policy, but that could simply be because the Coalition really doesn’t appear to have any policies to unveil.

Generally speaking, though, there is a pervasive sickness that runs through Australian politics. A sickness that compels the political class to lie; the media class to offer very little analysis; and the voting class to believe that they understand politics and that opinion is as valid as fact; and through social media all of this has been brought to a head.
There is some measure of irony to the fact that the internet was supposed to bring us together and make us smarter, but the reality is, Australia is facing the challenges exposed by the US election in 2016. Through the internet we’ve seen a narrowing of views, spurred on by the winnowing of legitimate and trustworthy media sources.
The growth of social media has legitimised the notion that opinions, no matter how uninformed, hold as much worth as a thorough investigation.

And for useless opinions, we need look no further than Andrew Bolt, who today blamed voters for, um… voting and no longer putting up with racist charlatans like Bolt setting the agenda. Oddly enough though, he isn’t too far off the point.
He’s noticing how fed up voters have become with the bullshit that is being tossed around by the media and politicians in this campaign. They’re sick of being treated like idiots, without even considering the fact that it was the stupidity and ignorance of the voters that put us here in the first place.
Stupid is as stupid does, and stupid made Andrew Bolt a household name. Stupid reelected Malcolm Turnbull when it was already clear how shackled he was to the far right. Stupid made Tony Abbott Prime Minister. Stupid has helped resuscitate the political careers of Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson.

If the bullshit of the last decade has done anything, it’s created a situation where voters have no choice but to pay attention to the political news of the day, because a sideshow became the main attraction after the election of Donald Trump.
Voters are still buffeted by the general mood of the country, feeling they know enough about who to vote for from the opinions they scroll past on Facebook.
But there is hope in the frustration that has boiled up in this election.

The ALP campaign launch sold the message that Labor cares about unity and stability, which may allow for a return to normal governance without the need for a leadership challenge hanging over the head of every leader; wondering which scandal will be the last for the sitting PM.
The Labor policies leave a lot to be desired for anyone who doesn’t have a permanent fulltime job – more than 50% of the country; so it is unlikely to be the dream run the ALP wants. But, the fact that all polling shows there are almost as many people willing to vote for a minor party as there are for Labor and the L/NP means that there is a lot of room to challenge the mandate Labor will likely claim in two weeks.
And yes, Turnbull claimed his minority government had a mandate, Labor tends to be scared of ignoring the left when the Greens threaten their inner-city seats.

So, there’s potential for a gradual shift away from the abuse and stupidity of the last 6 years during the next term of government, even as this election gets more and more extreme over this final fortnight.
Australia won’t get any less stupid any time soon, especially when the “mainstream” media is so relentlessly useless, but there is hope. We currently have the highest rate of voter enrollment in history – which should, hopefully, see the impact of this in this election; and failing that, given the general incompetence of Australian politicians and their inability to pass any climate change legislation, at least global warming will kill us all.

This originally appeared on AusVotes2019

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