Some say we now live in a “post-truth” world. It’s rubbish, of course. It presumes truth ever ruled.
Some say that after the election of Donald Trump, who told lie after lie to snare the American presidency, people are not expected to tell the truth anymore.
This is silly. Rich well-connected people have always been allowed to tell lies. How do you think most of them got to be so rich and well-connected?
And ordinary, everyday people are still expected to tell the truth. It’s just that with the advent of the internet and social media, it’s never been easier for all kinds of people to tell lies and have them spread − like a virus − by millions, or even billions, of ordinary, everyday people. This makes some rich, well-connected people very nervous. And so it should. They are losing control of the narrative. They are losing elections.
Let me explain.
It’s true that Donald Trump told an enormous number of lies during the election campaign. So many, indeed, that it was almost impossible for fact-checkers to keep up with his breathtaking audacity. They did, though, and the respected, venerable, established bastions of American journalism – the Washington Post, New York Times, MNBC and CNN − did call him out. More than called him out. Treated him like a circus freak — giving him an immense amount of free publicity, as well as turning him into a martyr.
Another problem was that, in this Facebook world, the people who supported Trump didn’t follow these highbrow publications. And even if they were made aware of them, they didn’t believe them. Especially not after Wikileaks published The Podesta Emails, which appeared to show, in embarrassing detail, the Democrat Party machine actively working with the Clinton camp to stymie Clinton’s populist primary opponent Bernie Sanders. And so it wasn’t hard for Trump then to discredit “Lying Hillary” and the “dirty media” that backed her. A lie is best, of course, when backed up by even a sliver of truth.
The tragic irony is that if the establishment hadn’t put a finger on the scales of democracy to aid their approved candidate, she probably would have still won the primary and then gone on to win the presidency. They had probably tipped the scales before – many times – and gotten away with it; the difference this time was that they got caught. And the people were appalled. As they had long suspected, the game was rigged and no-one could be believed. And so Trump was free to lie and lie. And now here we are.
Lying isn’t new. Truth has always been a scarce commodity. Perhaps it is just that lying has been brought out into the light, so we can all now see how persuasive lies can be. But nothing has really changed. Perfidy has always been a potent weapon, particularly for the powerful.
For example, fossil fuel companies have long funded climate denial websites and phoney science. As a result, many still doubt the irrefutable facts of climate science. And the world still warms as politicians bicker over an adequate response. Before them, cigarette companies sowed doubt about the harmful effects of smoking through television advertising and so-called experts.
Before that, Hitler used rallies and speeches to slander the Jews. And always, governments have used crude propaganda to push for war. Let’s not even get started on organised religion...
The difference is that, in the past, the establishment was able to get away with their lies. Now they are getting exposed. Their credibility has declined. Now ordinary everyday people can access their satisfying, sellf-confirming fantasies from any number of sources.
Trump didn’t end truth. Telling lies has always been acceptable if the right people told them and didn’t get caught. Now Trump is in power, doubtless his lies will be quickly forgotten.
In America, in Britain, in all the world, but most especially here, the powerful have told lies and broken promises without compunction.
And in Australia, they still do. Just over the last week or so, we have seen Deputy Prime Barnaby Joyce lie about the backpacker tax — saying that at 10.5% backpackers would be paying less tax than Australian workers. That is incorrect in every likely scenario, but the truth has barely been mentioned by our media.
We have seen Malcolm Turnbull brazenly lie about Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, saying he was a kind and compassionate immigration minister, who was defending and not attacking ethnic minorities – and certainly not being racist − when he said the first and second generation descendants of Lebanese Muslims were criminal terrorists. And then double down on the dishonesty by saying Dutton wasn’t the one telling lies and causing division, but rather Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
Said Turnbull in Question Time last Thursday (24/11/16):
“The big risk we have in this House now is the recklessness, the complete disregard for the truth of the Leader of the Opposition.”
He continued to say that Shorten had deliberately misrepresented Dutton’s remarks, adding:
“… and he did so in order to inflame unrest and racial hatred.”
It was an absurd statement, but Australia’s establishment media just accepted it without comment.
Also last week, we had Pauline Hanson stand up in Parliament to say:
"I am fed up with people... calling me a racist when they cannot find one thing that I have said that is racist."
This is the lady who said in 1996 that Australia was “in danger of being swamped by Asians” and has continued on the same vein ever since. Did the media call her out on this absurdity.
BREAKING: Pauline Hanson says Australia in danger of being swamped by colourful coral. pic.twitter.com/o5PR2M2HJy— Dave Donovan (@davrosz) November 26, 2016
No, we had them follow her up to Yeppoon for a photo opportunity diving on the reef. To watch her breaking off bits of coral to suggest the reef was unharmed by coral bleaching and that, therefore, climate change was a hoax.
Lies and more lies.
Because none of this stands up to any scrutiny. But still it was all said and, by and large, the media reported it uncritically.
This has nothing to do with Trump. The Australian media are happy to let lies fly, as long as they are told by the right people. Namely, people from the right. This became abundantly clear in the course of our Jacksonville and Ashbygate investigations.
We are not living in a post-truth world, but the truth may be rarer than it has been for a long time. And in a time of universal deceit, truthtellers like Independent Australia will be more important than ever.
Thank you for supporting this publication in our fight against liars. One day, perhaps, we might be able to live in post-lies world.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
BREAKING: Pauline Hanson says bleached coral in danger of being swamped by coloured coral living on welfare and taking bleached coral jobs.— Dave Donovan (@davrosz) November 25, 2016
Hot take on the post-truth/fake news phenomenon from George Orwell (1936). pic.twitter.com/WvDI1aYFYD— Christopher Snowdon (@cjsnowdon) November 27, 2016
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GET IN QUICK! Short Sleeve Polo Shirt with Embroidered IA Logo - Australian Made (free postage*) https://t.co/Qzdqw3N9d4— Dave Donovan (@davrosz) November 28, 2016