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The unreality of anti-lockdown activism

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Conspiracy theorist Karen Brewer may be responsible for inciting anger in truck drivers over border restrictions (Image by Dan Jensen)

The proposed state border blockade by truck drivers may have been inspired by hate speech from a radical conspiracy theorist, writes Tom Tanuki.

I’M WATCHING the birth of a pseudo-political unreality. Peoples’ anxieties are manifesting as “movements” that aren’t actually demanding anything; they’re just happy to be outside, carrying on.

People become newsworthy because they wear nice costumes, do stunts, interrupt traffic and get on the telly. They re-enact movie tropes because it feels like the activist thing to do. I’ve seen things no man should ever have to see: a man reciting modified Spartan battle cries from the movie 300 to a crowd of anti-vaxxers. Some bloke riding a white horse into an anti-lockdown rally, like Mel Gibson did in that fillum.

Now a truckie strike has hit the national news. That isn’t from any movie I know, but it’s also not from real life either, because they aren’t actually striking.

So why’s the nation, including Channel Seven, now taking it seriously?

What I do know is that there is a middle-aged woman from New Zealand called Karen Brewer who must be very pleased with herself — because she originally made it up. What’s more, I think she might be inciting a day for the mass hanging of politicians. On Tuesday. But we’re not talking about that in our present unreality. We’re all talking about fake truckie strikes.

We were told that “the truckies” were planning a strike on 31 August because of border restrictions and COVID-19 jabs, even though many of those restrictions apparently don’t apply to truckies on interstate trips. Channel Seven even said so. All they really had to go on at the outset was a handful of viral videos from truckies. Were they even truckies? Did we check? They had convincing orange work attire on, so that’s enough to be sure, yeah?

One of them said that it wouldn’t just be a truck strike to interrupt the nationwide food supply — no, it’s a full-scale truckie effort to take over the Government. Gosh! I envision a hundred mighty Kenworths barrelling into Parliament House. A big truck revving on the floor of the House of Reps. One of them went further, insisting that he’d talked to “everyone” and “the veterans are in”. Now I’m picturing Weary Dunlop supporting the striking trucks. Such folkloric heroism! Can we get the bikies and the farmers in too? How exciting!

According to these probably-truckies, the strike wasn’t just about COVID-19 restrictions, it was also about the “corporate government” and the “paedophile suppression order”. Those are enduring talking points among Australian conspiracists.

But the videos were exciting enough to impress all the nation’s daydreamers, who are now absolutely peaking about this “strike”. “Stock up on your food supplies, the truckies are comin’ to take over!”, I see people rave online, again and again. A Facebook group called We Support Aussie Truckies, which is not exactly teeming with actual drivers, has grown by the tens of thousands in days.

To confuse matters, there is a real strike happening now. The Transport Worker’s Union has denounced the COVID-denialist “strike”, trying to distance it from a legitimate Toll trucker’s union strike which began on Friday.

More importantly, I’ve been shown Facebook groups with real truckies in them. It seems many drivers are paying out on this garbage.

One truckie said, quite plainly:

‘I think you will probably be outnumbered by those who actually will get the vaccine. You do have a choice and it’s yours to make at all times. Choose to get vaccinated, or choose to be unemployable.’

Another:

‘Don’t expect any truck I’m driving to be stopping with you. I’m all for the vaccine.’

But why listen to actual truckies, or the drivers’ union, about a truckie’s strike? Everyone’s convinced that an industry-wide truckie strike is happening because that’s the entertaining unreality.

Like horses: also fun.

I actually predicted the Coolangatta Braveheart horse stunt. On the Friday, I recorded a video about the tendency of anti-lockdown protestors to enact movie tropes as activist aesthetic, specifically referencing Braveheart.

Then on the Saturday, Braveheart appeared.

Ursula K LeGuin’s 1971 famous science fiction novel, The Lathe of Heaven, tells the story of a character whose dreams alter reality accordingly. They dream it and it comes true, no matter how mind-bending it is. After Saturday, a mate said to me that I’ve obviously inherited the Lathe of Heaven. I am manifesting a corny anti-lockdown future.

Back to the woman who made this stuff up. Karen Brewer is a veteran conspiracist who thinks everyone in charge is a paedophile-supporting “Freemason DeMolay”. She records endless videos discussing the subject. Karen was successfully sued last year by Nationals MP Anne Webster for defamation, who was awarded damages of $875,000 after Karen accused her of being linked to a network of child abusers. Karen is liberal with paedophilia accusations.

Lately, she’s progressed to fantasising about inciting an insurrection. On 31 August, so her plan goes, everyone’s supposed to line up outside all houses of Parliament and start silently taking steps inside — in Australia and New Zealand. (She calls herself and her supporters “Anzacs” now, demonstrating the same humility and hubris as Coolangatta Braveheart.)

Eventually the halls of power – local, state and federal – will all be filled with the kind of person who listens to Karen Brewer. Great! Then they’ll stay there until all the “Freemason DeMolays” resign.

Karen was trying to appeal to different industries for her big 31 August takeover. That’s why a few probably-truckies took up her call to arms, filming themselves repeating Karen’s stupid plans. That, in short, is how we got a “truckie’s strike”.

There’s a more interesting story underlying that which isn’t getting told and it’s about how inflammatory Karen Brewer actually is. An anti-lockdown channel called The Transparency Report shared some of the stuff Karen and her followers say when they lose their temper. When they do, 31 August ceases to be about merely walking into Parliament.

Karen recently wrote about NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard:

‘Brad, you f***ing c**t, you will be swinging from a rope and your carcass will be dumped in the depths of the sea.’

On 31 August.

(Screenshot supplied)

Her followers regularly write things in her Telegram group like:

‘Let’s do this. Hopefully Trump back in office, full authority to hang all paedos and traitors.’

On 31 August.

So that’s what they – and when I say “they”, I mean the 15,000 people who follow Karen Brewer’s Telegram channel, at least – think is going to be happening in three days. On 31 August.

We regard certain strains of conspiracism as more violent, disregarding others as fantasy. That’s natural. I am well-versed in pointing out neo-Nazi calls to violence, for one, but violence is inseparable from that dangerous ideology and neo-Nazism’s long history of terrorist violence backs up their rhetoric. But should we be similarly worried about whether this delusional New Zealander can actually incite thousands of fantasists to go and hang people at random on Tuesday?

I know Karen’s got a long history of being a lurid storyteller for a very online audience, so probably not. But I’m worried, I suppose, because we devote a lot of spiritual energy these days to helping manifest the unreality of conspiracists. Can a fake truckie’s strike be real if we all insist it is? Even the national news helps manifest their stupid ideas now as the subject of a national panic in days.

Can Karen actually get people to hang pollies? Honestly, I don’t know. I know it’s a good time to be a daydreamer; a time of unreality.

Not just “unreality”. Sometimes when I watch anti-lockdown activism, it feels like someone has given the Lathe of Heaven to an idiot.

An idiot who watches too many movies.

Tom Tanuki is an online satirist, social justice commentator, writer and comedian. He has worked in anti-racist political comedy, most notably through his satirical group the Million Flag Patriots and anti-racist group Yelling At Racist Dogs (Y.A.R.D.). You can follow Tom on Twitter @tom_tanuki.

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