Our nation is shocked at news from Washington that Tamworth’s favourite son, deputy PM, blue-blooded, Red Octopus, Barnaby Thomas Gerard Joyce, picks up a dose of ‘rona and must abort his mission to shirt-front Mark Zuckerberg after a brilliant one day bull-session in The Old Dart with deputy PM Dominic Raab who has great tips about his latest spreadsheet to select only the better type of refugee from Kabul and Transport Minister Grant Shapps, guru of infrastructure and the Zen puzzle of “levelling-up” which as every student of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s rhetoric will tell you, involves fixing inequality without making poor areas richer by making rich areas poorer.
If no-one can understand Al (to his pals and family) Johnson’s “levelling-up” gibberish, Riverview Old Boy, coal seam gas-lighter, Santos’ shill, Murray-Darling tilter and knight-errant in RM Williams’ armour, Barney is clear about one thing. He’s on a (very public) crusade to defend his daughter Bridgette’s honour from vile cowards on social media, who assume that she and her former boss, John Barilaro are an item. At it like rabbits. Vile stuff. Ugly. Even Harvey’s Weinstein’s casting couch would blush.
Turns out it’s all the work of one coward, @SewerRat420. No-one been seriously harmed, moreover. A tiny, online, rumour becomes an issue only when Joyce gives it oxygen. It’s the Streisand effect. You get a lot of it in a policy-free Morrison government.
But it’s timely. Joyce’s war on @SewerRat420’s tweets to their 69 followers may be quixotic but it’s all Barney needs to manufacture outrage. Grandstand. A protective Dad he takes things into his own hands; pens a lurid op-ed for Costello’s Nine Newspapers.
Brace yourselves, this is a disquieting passage; Barnabese is not easy to read.
‘Twitter, it is not the trolls that inspire the devastating mental health issues. The trolls don’t have a voice unless you give them one, and you do! You make money from their noise, their ambit scratchings on the back of a lavatory door. They post their character assassinations from the back of the door at the servo and you illuminate it in on a city billboard for all to see.’
BJ’s surely in the running for Australian Florid Laureate. But how could a young Nationals’ staffer, straight from Uni, who got her “senior political adviser” job through cronyism, be so wrongly accused of having an affair with her sleazebag boss, a married man? An MP?
Joyce has a veritable Flagstaff Mountain of moral high ground to stand on, given his own affair with his former media adviser Vikki Campion, now the mother of his two bouncing boys, although, at first, he nobly cast doubt on the paternity of the first. It is something he had to do but he wasn’t going to take any paternity tests.
A very post-modern anti-hero Joyce also has a history of groping women says WA Labor’s Jackie Jarvis. Yet rural advocate, Catherine Marriott’s allegation of sexual harassment goes nowhere when the NSW National Party’s thoroughly independent internal inquiry can reach no conclusion but won’t make its finding public.
It’s a long trip to protect your daughter’s virtue but someone has to do it. Of course, it’s overkill, but, just for perspective, Joyce did tell the house he would not let his girls get Gardasil because it would make them promiscuous. As for social media it is filth.
Anyone can post anything about anybody Joyce reckons. What is the world coming to?
Using anonymous social media should be restricted to the party in power. Or tapping Clive Palmer’s piggybank to peddle lies about the Labor Party raising taxes.
Andrew Laming has over 30 fake accounts. Amanda Stoker has her “Mandy Jane” alias.
Yet Barnaby’s complaint is a bit misleading. @SewerRat420’s account was promptly suspended. Twitter’s private information policy, prohibits sharing content that would violate anyone’s privacy. Phone numbers and addresses were the target but late last month the ban was extended to include photographs and videos of people taken without their permission, even if they’re depicted in public.
Crikey’s Cam Wilson reports that Twitter users who’d used the platform to document behaviours of people like QAnon adherents and Proud Boys were suspended from the platform for sharing footage of these groups taken in public. He, himself is suspended for tweeting details of public records freely available online of Alan Jones’ new YouTube venture backers Australian Digital Holdings.
None of this assuages Joyce’s fury. It’s an attack on Bridge’s morality, chastity, pedigree and a blot on the Joyce Family reputation for integrity. Paterfamilias and pocket moral philosopher, Barney whips himself into a lather. His blood is up. Nothing for it but to nip over to the US. Sort out the bastards in charge. Coronavirus? Can’t touch him.
Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey, retired 29 November, but it won’t be too hard to rock up to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s palace. Nor should it be impossible to get hold of Dorsey’s successor, Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal.
Happily, Morrison’s VIP, private executive jet, is idle. That’s rare. Australia’s First Dad, ScoMo dashed down from Canberra to Kirribilli, last Father’s Day, at a bargain cost to us of $6000, last September.
Big family man, Barnaby is a Walter Mitty. Sees himself as a SAS crack paratrooper in the Morrison Jihad against social media, (SM) the Great Satan of our click-baited age of disinformation, trivia, superficiality and sexploitation, a formula not yet patented by ex-pat Rupert Murdoch, but very much his house style.
SM is a handy scapegoat in any election campaign when you have no real policy to campaign on – and when social media is less easily controlled than the mainstream – and can express unpalatable truths. If not hold you to account, it can at least expose your lies. Morrison calls it “coward’s castle”, a bit rich from someone whose MPs abuse parliamentary privilege to smear Labor regularly.
It’s rank hypocrisy, moreover, given the Liberal Party’s own rich history of anonymous trolls on social media, neatly summarised by Andrew P Street, in Independent Australia.
But in an era of post-truth, post-shame, Tory politics, who lets the facts get in the way of a top story? The Tamworth Family Values Crusader takes it up to Zuckerberg narrative evokes David v Goliath, despite Barn telling Gina’s daughter, Bianca, in a typically controversial intervention, in 2011, that his parents were millionaires.
You have to be a millionaire to run for office in the US.
In October, Joyce rings John Thune, number three Republican in the Senate, a long, tall South Dakotan (1.93m) who is big on algorithm transparency, and who looks like the president from central casting. Thune is pushing his Filter Bubble Transparency Act to unmask internet platforms’ perfidy. His own prose is a beacon of lucidity.
“For free markets to work as effectively and as efficiently as possible, consumers need as much information as possible, including a better understanding of how internet platforms use artificial intelligence and opaque algorithms to make inferences from the reams of personal data at their fingertips that can be used to affect behavior and influence outcomes. That’s why I believe consumers should have the option to either view a platform’s opaque algorithm-generated content or its filter bubble-free content, and, at the very least, they deserve to know how large-scale internet platforms are delivering information to their users.”
Thune is pushing it uphill. His bill is wishful thinking. Not exactly what Joyce is after. He wants something like the man with the red flag in the UK who had to walk in front of the new-fangled motorcar in 1865, restricting its speed to four miles per hour in case it frightened stock in the fields by the road. Or some protective censorship, such as is enjoyed by other repressive regimes around the world.
The Committee to Protect Journalists lists the top ten and their ways.
In the top three countries–Eritrea, North Korea, and Turkmenistan–the media serves as a mouthpiece of the state. Other countries on the list use harassment, arbitrary detention together with sophisticated surveillance and targeted hacking to silence any independent press.
Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, and Iran specialize in jailing and harassing journalists and their families, while also monitoring and censoring internet and social media.
But our Deputy PM offers Australia’s help to the bipartisan bill, especially, after whistleblower and former Facebook product manager, Frances Haugen tells Congress she’s seen how the company prioritises profits over the wellbeing of its users, reports the AFR’s Tom McIlroy.
Profits before well-being? Incredible. Sounds exactly like Australia’s Federal government-subsidised-private-Aged Care scam where 34% of homes for our elders are run for profit.
During the last Covid wave in Victoria in 2020, over forty per cent of the total of seven hundred deaths occurred in just ten homes, none of which were run by the state government. Yet the dominant media narrative is that the Andrews’ government is to blame. Who needs censorship?
Being placed in a for-profit home means an aged care resident is twice as likely to suffer serious injuries in a for-profit home as in a government-run one, the royal commission investigating the sector finds.
Yet there’ll be no rush to reform. Expect instead over five million dollars of public funds to be spent on a classic Crosby Textor ploy; a series of talking points and ads all repeating a pledge to keep Australia Safe from evil cyber trolls, hackers and other malignant unseen enemies of the public good.
Always identify a peril to unite your supporters around. Or invent one. Just skip the harm caused by the slurs, lies, disinformation and conspiracy theories posted by your own MPs including George Christensen and recent defector to the UAP, Craig Kelly.
To win votes, an anti-trolling bill is proposed. No draft is yet available, but the vibe of the new law is to make it easier for plaintiffs to un-mask real names of trolls on social media, a process already available through our legal system and one which then relies on the victim having the money to run a defamation case.
The federal Coalitions ’s plans will help it to sue you; not protect you. Cam Wilson notes, “they are more likely to help the powerful get revenge than help your average Australian stop online abuse.”
Of course, there’s wealth of other public duties our multi-talented multi-tasking Deputy PM would be able to perform, according to the officialese released by his government’s organ-grinder. Some of it is pure poetry:
“Mr Joyce will focus on infrastructure and meetings with counterparts on how to restore the aviation industry after the pandemic.”
Yet public fuses with private for Joyce in a great display of a father avenging a wronged daughter. He’ll be able to claim he was prepared to go halfway around the world to go toe to toe with Zuckerberg, himself, to protect his innocent eldest child, the fair young maid Bridgette. Of course, there are personal motives behind Joyce’s quest.
Joyce is making another bid for redemption with the nation including ex-wife Natalie and his first family. (This would be his first second family if we followed the US nonsense of the President’s wife being the First Lady, his pet, First Dog, the late Champ, and so on.)
We are, nevertheless, on that track or steep decline, but it’s mainly Anti-vaxxers in MAGA hats waving Trump banners and protesting their rights under pseudolaw, close cousin to pseudoscience.)
Close also to madness. Last month, one of Australia’s aspiring singers, Claire Woodley, daughter of Bruce Woodley, of The Seekers, dedicates a performance of I am Australia to “victims of satanic ritual abuse” – a rhetoric common in US-born QAnon conspiracy theory about abducting children for satanic rites.
An equally bizarre aberration is the appropriation of My body My choice a slogan stolen from women seeking the right to control their own fertility through pregnancy termination if need be. Yet Trumpism, with its mindless morass of alternative facts, intoxicates our current PM who marvels at how the Donald did things, even appearing at a campaign rally with him in Ohio September 2019.
ScoMo’s sycophancy is rewarded with a medal, The Legion of Merit, for leadership in meeting global challenges and we’ve all seen how well that went for him in COP26 and by US suppliers nicking our markets in our trade war with China. Now there’s a submarine deal which could reach $170 billion.
Trump’s crypto-fascism is not without its parallel in Morrison’s politics but the two trends spring independently from larger changes including a decaying news media ecology and a failure of traditional empirical knowledge-gathering processes.
Also playing its part is the alienation as seen in the gig economy, wage theft and the rise in casual insecure underpaid work, a precariat of 2.3 million workers, last year according to the ABS.
But you’ll never find Barnaby voting to increase the minimum wage if you check the record. Nor, like his PM, is there evidence of any excess empathy for the battlers he eulogises when it suits him. He also shares with Morrison a type of narcissism.
For the Tamworth Rat, things haven’t been the same since he left Nat to shack up with his former media adviser, Vikki Campion. In Barnaby’s febrile mind, redemption and rehabilitation beckon but, given the nature of the man, it’s above all, another chance to star in his own movie as Australia’s elder statesman who can wrangle the plain truth out of any fancy-pants hombre in five minutes face to face.
The narrative of Joyce’s movie, Barnaby holes up in the Jefferson Hotel, is a postmodern version of Mr Smith goes to Washington with a twist: Mr. Smith turns out to be the grifter Barnaby Joyce.
Of course, the spin is terrific. BJ’s sorting out the UK’s transport issue, with his insights into inland rail and if only he could get out of that hotel, he’s just itching to hawk AUKUS. Of course, he’ll patch up the crack in the Liberty Bell while he’s in the land of the brave, and he’s got ways and wiles to fix Morrison’s blue with Macron, a new, post-Brexit EU with France in charge. Give that Marise Payne a run for her money.
BJ jets off in Shark One, A Qantas A330 converted in 2015 by Airbus to a freighter and air-to-air refueller, the KC30-A tanker. How good is ScoMo’s upgrade converting the ‘bus into a VIP executive jet, at a bargain $250 million ? You’d think that the Coalition won in a landslide – not that it clings to power by one miserable seat.
Cynics on social media suggest the OS junket is a chance for Scott Morrison to get Joyce out of the way. Labor’s slogan, “vote Liberal get Barnaby Joyce” seems to be cutting through. But that’s a bit harsh.
Not only is our urbane, suave, master of nuance, deputy PM a born diplomat, Joyce’s linguistic gifts are as legendary as his Akubra millinery. Bi-lingual, fluent in both New English and in word-salad, he knocks the socks off Scott Morrison when it comes to communication. Let alone oratory.
Who can forget Barnaby’s recorded speech to Shepparton irrigators in 2017 where he boasts that he forced Turnbull to take Water out of the Environment portfolio so that he could protect wealthy upstream interests? It’s the sort of sell-out that endears you to your children.
“We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask,” he is recorded, bragging.
Does he want a medal or a chest to pin it on?
But now, alas, Barn can’t riff about transport and infrastructure, make them boggle at his inland rail boondoggle or brag about his luck in acquiring “mongrel land” with coal-seam gas under it. Worse. Barn can’t shirtfront “Zuck”. Schmooze Ted Cruz. But he’s a Tongue-Fu Master from way back. Just listen to his mission statement.
“In a car, if I run over a person I go to jail, seatbelt or not. Online, I’m apparently indemnified. What’s the difference – breaking a leg or breaking a mind? We spend billions on mental health while they make billions in profits. I want to put the fear of God in them.”
Barney’s probably picked up a bit of man-flu in BoJo’s London, Brexit’s party animal playground, after a mask-less Dominic Raab, sacked Foreign Secretary but still deputy PM, ear-bashes Barn about his new spreadsheet to screen asylum-seekers from Afghanistan, although a plane load of dogs gets priority, when Carrie takes pity, another triumph in the Tory race to inflict gratuitous cruelty on the most vulnerable.
Oddly no-one seems to be talking about the latest of eight books which Andrew Leigh has published since entering parliament in 2010, What’s the Worst That Could Happen? Populism cops a serve.
“Tackling long-term threats requires four things: strong science, effective institutions, global engagement, and a sense of cooperation and order. Populists are anti-intellectual, anti-institutional, anti-international, and anti-irenic (‘irenic’ means to strive for peace and consensus).”
This posture is at the heart of their popular appeal — and denialist myopia regarding systemic risks is its inevitable by-product. Barnaby Joyce take a bow, with your claim that the COP26 accord doesn’t apply to your party, even though you are supposed to be in a coalition with the Liberals.
And whilst Joyce loves the fiction of the practical, man on the land, in contrast to the latte-sipping inner city urban guerrillas sabotaging The Australian Way, his trip as the UK is gripped by another pandemic wave including the highly infectious and still largely unresearched Omicron mutant variant seems decidedly ill-advised, if not foolhardy.
What is it that requires Barnaby Joyce to take such an ill-advised flight into the teeth of a raging pandemic in the UK – & then on to the wen of infection that is the US? What could he not do remotely via Zoom? His populist denialism is not heroic, it’s stupid.
Doubtless Joyce’s cult-followers will be sending him packages of the horse de-wormer Ivermectin that the Morrison government so desperate to court denialists, conspiracy theorist and anti-vaxxers that it still permits quack Craig Kelly to spruik online.
What could Barnaby Joyce not do by Zoom that requires he risk his life on a junket taking in two nations with dangerously high rates of endemic infection?
Busier than a cat watching two rat-holes, devouring briefing papers and making calls, Joyce will at last get a bit of me-time. The Red Octopus, as Barn is known to Nationals’ women, can put the finishing touches to his submission to Morrison’s women’s taskforce to which he is a recent appointment.
Clearly Joyce’s gig on the women’s’ gabfest is endorsed by the formidable Marise Payne, the “one wise monkey” Easter Island statue of women’s issues and contender for worst advocate for women in history since Tony Abbott’s public gesture of contempt in appointing himself as Minister for Women.
He’s also got time at last to check the interest on the $675,000 he claimed for his three weeks’ work on the ground during his nine months stint as Special Drought Envoy for which he produces no written report. Swears he sent texts instead. No biggie, says the PMO, it never expected any report. The Envoy was to be “focused on getting into communities and talking to farmers in drought”.
The Morrison government claims that Joyce has Covid and will be in isolation for ten days but when has Morrison ever told the truth about anything? At best, the current PM’s enticing the old rogue bull elephant away from attacking McCormack, former nominal Nationals’ Leader who got the job only because he wasn’t Barnaby. Perhaps the Ivermectin will do the trick and Joyce will up and at them after Christmas. But by then, Morrison will want his jet back so that he can fly ahead of his campaign bus and pretend that he’s been on board it every inch of the way from Kirribilli to Queensland.
On reflection, Barnaby’s barnstorm is bananas. Dangerously daft. What was the Morrison government thinking in sending its Les Paterson to England, ravaged by pandemic at a time when Boris faces defeat over the lies he told about who paid for the gold wallpaper and the two hundred thousand pounds’ worth of other accoutrements to do up the flat above number 11 Downing Street where he and Carrie make do?
What evidence is there that even in perfect health, that a personal visit from Joyce would seal any deal? The prospect of his shirt-fronting the billionaires atop their social media empires is ludicrous. It just doesn’t work like that. Besides the whole idea of intervention and censorship doesn’t bear inspection.
There was never any likelihood of any good coming out of swapping ideas with a Johnson government that rode to power on a wave of Murdoch-fuelled Brexit-mania but which has now lost the plot on everything?
As for our family man’s personal mission to fend off the troll-masters and protect his vulnerable young daughter, it will be at best a noble failure. Barnaby will be able to say he did everything he can but his best efforts were sabotaged by Omicron.
The whole fiasco of Joyce’s trip to London and Washington is a cautionary tale. It smacks of ineptitude, dud judgement and miscalculation. Even if it did get the wretched Deputy PM out of the way of Morrison’s campaign, it shrieks desperation. Abdication of duty of care. And callous indifference, if not something more sinister.
The Morrison government’s intention to make a Clayton’s cyber-safety a plank in its re-election is an abuse of public funds. It’s also another cynical hoax.
While ScoMo gets to spin his South Korean stunt, a set piece in the world leadership strand of his Second Coming Miracle campaign, sending his deputy on an abortive tour of two major trading partners at the height of a pandemic, raises serious questions. We trust Joyce recovers. But ScoMo and his Crosby-Textor guard’s reputation won’t. Reason. Intelligence. Integrity. Where the bloody hell are you?