The big news story today is an officially unconfirmed report (so it’s totally true) that President Trump is trying to wriggle out of a deal between Obama and our PM Turnbull to resettle 1250 refugees in the US. Our PM has gone into damage control mode, looking very grim, and our clueless Immigration Minister Peter Dutton clearly turned a blank page in his ‘what to do next’ notebook, so he stitched his face to Steve Bannon’s ass and bleated something on Redneck Radio this morning about the ‘hate media journalists on the left’. Apparently its all their fault, everything is just fine, and the proud ship of AU/US relations sails on.
So who do you believe? Almost everybody involved in politics is a liar. They employ teams of spin-doctors to fabulate semi-plausible versions of the truth that are hard, in the moment, to refute. And by the time someone has done the exhaustive legwork to disprove their version, nobody cares anymore. What hope is there when even the so-called good guys are doing it — before Christmas, Obama rushed through a nasty little piece of legislation called the ‘Countering Foreign Disinformation and Propaganda Act‘ which allows the US government (as the arbiter of truth) to marginalise any narrative that doesn’t sync with their version of the truth. So far, The Donald has not needed to invoke it: he is a masterclass bullshitter, and why would he stop when there’s no penalty?
If we can’t believe politicians who lie with impunity, can we believe their critics? Steve Bannon’s genius was to reveal the impotence of the mainstream media and to raise the profile and credibility of alt-right sources of information. By creating a parallel yet seemingly plausible stream of disinformation, they cast doubt. Who is telling the truth? Nobody knows anymore, and the pabulum that passes for news becomes less believable with every passing day. People grab their sixty-seconds of ‘news headlines’ on their phones on the way to work and think they’re up to speed and making sound decisions — reality is, we don’t have a clue, and now we’ve got all the time in the world to regret.
People are abandoning institutions like never before. We’ve lost faith not only in the paedophile factories that masquerade as religious movements, but also in our governments, our banks and financial institutions, our sports teams, our health care system, our police and defence forces. What do people do when there’s nobody left to believe in? They form their own reactionary groups — urban militias, vigilante groups, hacker forums, hate groups, sovereign citizens — all of them co-habiting online echo chambers, where they brew their own awful versions of reality, mostly anonymous and insulated, until the day they unleash their violent manifestos up the world.
I’m told that a lot of people are reading Orwell again: “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength” sorta thing. That makes me a little nervous, because we may have a hard time persuading some of these people that 1984 was meant to be a fiction.