SYDNEY, Australia - Ron DeSantis, the Republican Governor of Florida who has made his name as an extreme opponent of vaccination warrants, announced at the end of last month that Australia was " not a free country ". This was surprising news, especially for Australians .
We've mostly been through pandemic lockdowns alternating boredom, frustration, wine, lots of Netflix and trying to locate our pants before Zoom meetings. We have also become aware of a disturbing myth that seems to be enthusiastically entertained by the American right: Our experience of the pandemic, apparently, has been that of a violent police state. We must have been too busy pulling them out. trash cans to realize it.
Last week, the myth of our enslavement propelled ambitious allies into the streets. In the États-United , Poland and Great Britain , demonstrators clearly non-Australians rallied outside Australian diplomacy missions, denouncing the country's decline into a rogue autocracy. A #SaveAustralia hashtag was all the rage.
So Australians on Twitter were confused about what they needed to save - the sun? free health care? low deaths linked to Covid ? - maybe it was because they weren't visiting the dark corners of Internet where the myth took shape. There, propaganda that describes Australia as a fucked up hellish landscape is generated and shared.
Made for an American audience, it appears to be part of 'an international right-wing campaign to recruit those frustrated by lockdowns, uncertain of vaccines and driven by calls for individual freedom. Australians, trying to put their children to bed before gorging on "Ted Lasso", have been drafted as unwitting props in an American cultural war.
During months, I and other local disinformation researchers have watched the seeds of this campaign spread across digital platforms.
Cam Smith, a public broadcaster and independent researcher who tracks down the far right, noticed videos claiming to show recent acts of brutal police violence against citizensunlucky "just ping, no context" on the anti-vax and anti-lock channels. But the footage, Smith discovered, were reissued recordings of incidents that had occurred in the country 12 months earlier, some from a provocation campaign by anti-masks to defy the restrictions and initiate confrontations with the rs police.
In the Facebook groups that I monitor, it's the same thing . Right-wing American influencers with millions of followers share videos in which Australian anti-masks organize disruption in stores or start fights with the police. Artfully constructed, the videos are designed to tell stories of innocent citizens brutalized by excessive state violence.
This is bad enough. But the malicious spread of foreign influence goes beyond the Internet. In July, anti-demonstrations lockdown took place across Australia, drawing crowds to Sydney and Melbourne. Yet it was not a local uprising: data analysts found the protests had been coordinated by a central group of organizers based at Germany and Great Britain .
These demonstrations anti-containment, which more than a few thousand people have never attended, are modest by Australian standards . And unlike Americans, Australians are not politically inclined to demands for freedom and choice as much as we are to fairness and solidarity. (The name of the national anthem is "Advance Australia Fair.") Like the First Peoples nations of Australia knew it, and as the Australian settlers learned upon their arrival, individualism is far less useful than collaboration on a continent where everything from the weather at the bugs try to kill you, all the time.
Even if certainlockdown restrictions are loosening, Australians continue to comply with public health orders, which now even benefit from crushing public support . But where blockages persist, far-right activists have seized a rare opportunity to march through empty streets.
In September, a small gathering of Melbourne workers protesting against vaccination warrants suddenly swelled as far-right figures urged their supporters to join. uencers.
Once you understand the in-game coordination, where content is produced and returned in a mind-blowing loop, an eerie theatrical quality of these events takes over. its meaning. The decision, for example, to takeSeeming in places like a dark suburban gorge near an Ikea complex in Melbourne seems odd - until you realize the excellent views il provides to film protesters as they rush at unprepared police. That these protests be appreciably accompanied by placards in support of Donald Trump suggests that their final audience may not be local.
Yes, the Australian lockdowns seem endless to all of us. Melbourne, cold and crowded, recently broke the sad record of most days locked from any city in the world. Many, including me, have been cut off from loved ones by the strict restrictions. But the reality that escapes the propagandists is that Australia 's prolonged shutdowns are not a ploy for greater government control, but a failure.
A clumsy Australian federal government failed to ensure an adequate initial supply of Covid vaccine in the precious window of time before the arrival of the Delta variant. The Prime Minister, who sadly fled on vacation while the country was literally on fire , unfortunately remains the responsible.
Delta has circulated and blockades have resumed - yet Australia remains a free country. Even in the midst of the global economic disruption, the Australian cogs of free enterprise have managed to find new ways to run, for better or for worse. Free and fair elections continued to take place. Yet the truth is of no value to those who insist on policies that undermine public health.
After all, the blockages, the masks and the cing australia social distancing have mhas kept the total number of deaths from the virus nationwide to less than 1,500. With its slightly smaller population, Florida - chaired by Governor DeSantis - has already lost 57,000 people. It is this cold reality that the horrible, outlandish and ridiculous propaganda seeks to banish. But he can't.
Van Badham ( @ vanbadham ) is a columnist for The Guardian Australia and the author of the forthcoming book "QAnon and On: A Short and Shocking History of Internet Conspiracy Cults.
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