There’s a frenzied rush by the Australian political/media class to both propagandise Australians as quickly as possible into supporting preparations for war with China, and to ram through legislation that facilitates the censorship of online speech.
Australia’s Communications Minister Michelle Rowland is set to release draft legislation imposing hefty fines on social media companies who fail to adequately block “misinformation” and “disinformation” from circulation in Australia, a frightening prospect which will likely have far-reaching consequences for political speech in the nation.
Sydney Morning Herald reports:
Under the proposed laws, the authority would be able to impose a new “code” on specific companies that repeatedly fail to combat misinformation and disinformation or an industry-wide “standard” to force digital platforms to remove harmful content.
The maximum penalty for systemic breaches of a registered code would be $2.75 million or 2 per cent of global turnover — whichever is higher.
The maximum penalty for breaching an industry standard would be $6.88 million, or 5 per cent of a company’s global turnover. In the case of Facebook’s owner, Meta, for example, the maximum penalty could amount to a fine of more than $8 billion.
Those are the kinds of numbers that change a company’s censorship protocols. We’re already seeing social media censorship of content in Australia that the Australian government has ruled unacceptable; here’s what the transphobic tweets embedded in a right-wing article about Twitter censorship looks like when you try to view them on Twitter from Australia, for example:
These tweets were reportedly hidden from Australians on the platform at the behest of the Australian government. Australians could wind up seeing much more of this sort of Australia-specific censorship from social media platforms if this “misinformation” legislation goes through. Or they could just start censoring it for everyone.
The problem with laws against inaccurate information is of course that somebody needs to be making the determination what information is true and what is false, and those determinations will necessarily be informed by the biases and agendas of the person making them. I can substantiate my claim that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was provoked by NATO powers using an abundance of facts and evidence, for example, but there’s still a sizeable portion of the population which would consider such claims malignant disinformation with or without the supporting data.
When the government involves itself in the regulation of speech, it is necessarily incentivized to regulate speech in a way that benefits itself and its allies. Nobody who supports government regulation of online mis- and disinformation can articulate how such measures can be safeguarded in a surefire way against the abuses and agendas of the powerful.
Under a Totalitarian Regime, your government censors your speech if you say unauthorized things. Under a Free Democracy, your government orders corporations to censor your speech if you say unauthorized things.
At the same time, Australian media have been hammering one remarkably uniform message into public consciousness with increasing aggression lately: there is a war with China coming, Australia will be involved, and Australia must do much more to prepare for this war as quickly as possible.
Australians are remarkably vulnerable to propaganda due to the fact that ownership of our nation’s media is the most concentrated in the western world, with a powerful duopoly of Nine Entertainment and Murdoch’s News Corp controlling most of the Australian press.
Both of these media conglomerates have been involved in the latest excuse to talk about how more military spending and militarisation is needed, this time taking the form of a war machine-funded think tanker publishing a book about how we all need to prepare for war with China.
Nine Entertainment’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have an article out titled “Military expert warns of ‘very serious risk’ of China war within five years” by the odious Matthew Knott, who is best known for being told to drum himself out of Australian journalism by former prime minister Paul Keating for his appalling war-with-China propaganda series published earlier this year by the same papers. Readers who follow Australian media would do well to remember Knott’s name, because he has become one of the most prolific war propagandists in the western press.
The “military expert” who warns of the need to prepare for an imminent war with China is a man named Ross Babbage, who as Knott notes is “a non-resident senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.” What Knott fails to disclose to his readers is that the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments is funded by every war profiteer and war machine entity under the sun, the majority coming straight from the US Department of Defense itself.
As we’ve discussed many times previously, it is never, ever okay for the press to cite war machine-funded think tankers for expertise or analysis on matters of war and foreign policy, and it is doubly egregious for them to do so without at least disclosing their massive conflict of interest to their readers. This act of extreme journalistic malpractice has become the norm throughout the mainstream press, because it helps mass media reporters do their actual job: administering propaganda to an unsuspecting public.
The Murdoch press has also been using Babbage’s book release as an excuse to bang the drums of war, with multiple Sky News segments and articles with titles like “Military analyst Ross Babbage warns Australia of potential war with China in coming years,” “National security expert Ross Babbage warns ‘strong possibility’ of war with China in latest book,” and “‘Running out of time’: Xi may move on Taiwan in next few years.” Again, not one mention of Babbage’s conflict of interests.
All for a news story that (and I cannot stress this enough) is not a news story. A war machine-funded think tanker saying he wants more war is not a news story — it’s just a thing that happens when the war machine is allowed to pay people to be warmongers.
“War Machine-Funded Warmonger Wants More War.” That’s your headline. That’s the one and only headline this non-story could ever deserve, if any.
Propaganda and censorship are the two most important tools of imperial narrative control, and it’s very telling that Australia is ramping them both up as the nation is being transformed into a weapon for the US empire to use against China. Steps are being taken to ensure that the Australian populace will be on board with whatever agendas the empire has planned for us in the coming years, and judging from what we’re seeing right now, it isn’t going to be pretty.