Hi! Just A Friendly Reminder That If You’re Under The Age Of 75, Scotty And Barnaby Don’t Actually Give A Shit About You, Or Your Future.
This is why.
When Barnaby Joyce got up on his pixellated pulpit last week and started preaching about how social media is about to get its long-overdue day of reckoning, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by a steely bolt of rage.
“My daughter is but one victim of malicious online lies: it’s time the social media giants were held liable,” he declared after becoming aware of what he considers to be an internet trolling crisis (gasp!) in which young Australians (aka his daughter Bridgette) are the real victims
It seemed, as old mate Barnz got blusterier than usual, that the bull meter was at an all-time, carbon-heavy high.
Enough, in this one young Australian’s opinion, is truly enough.
Australia’s youth population, as well as that of the globe for that matter, have assumed a strangely empty and impressionable space in the echelons of political gameplay, particularly in the last two years. This is no new narrative.
Since the beginning of time, humanity’s most enduringly powerful call to action has been, “If anything, do it for the children!” Sadly, it’s rare that this kind of political bemoaning is anything other than a comfy, PG-rated smoke screen veiling far more odious intentions.
For the last two years, the Australian Government has failed to display a single semblance of constructive and long-term concern for the youth of this country, despite the challenges that we’ve had to face having been truly “a plenty”. Rather, Scotty, Barnaby and their entire Coalition have continued to show a flagrant (and almost laughable) disregard for enacting any kind of serious policy change for sustainability and environmental conservation during their whole time in office. A constant refusal to conserve our heritage-listed forests from property developers, protect Indigenous sacred sites from being blown up by mining companies, save the nation’s most precious reef from coal mining and do literally anything at all about curbing the polluting activity of big corps are all evidence that our federal leaders actually don’t really care about protecting the Australian youth of either today, or tomorrow.
When school kids took to the streets to protest this exact bloody issue, the government and conservative shock jocks joined forces to rain down on them in a judgemental, torrential storm that still hasn’t quite stopped. The demeaning narratives around young people being major virus transmitters, bunking off school to protest and melting like millennial snowflakes under any kind of criticism have been fanned and supported by the Liberal government on multiple occasions – both during this most recent crisis, and long before it.
This is all rather perplexing, however, given the fact that if Scotty’s grandkids are living in one of his waterfront properties in 2050, it is highly likely that they’ll be swimming to school. I reckon even Jenny would have something to say about that! You don’t want their uniforms getting all wet and uncomfortable before a day of high-cost, high-reward private school learning.
Therefore, when seeing Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce give stridently impassioned speeches about their daughters and their very serious concerns for the nation’s kids as a result of Facebook’s sneaky, trolling activity, I couldn’t help but smell a number of Canberra-bred rats.
It is interesting how quickly the youth of this country become the proverbial scapegoat for the collective’s social sins, and then, just as speedily, morph into the cute 100% homegrown Aussie sacrificial lambs whenever it suits the conglomerate of decrepit and short-sighted Anglo-Saxon men who have smugly ruled our island nation since 1788.
The issue here is that, in the end, it’s young people that always end up suffering in their future as a result of poorly designed political decisions, and honestly, not much seems to ever really change about that.
At this very moment, there are children who have spent most of their lives living in onshore detention centres. Right now, 80% of the nation’s 10-year-olds behind bars are Indigenous children. Right now, there are kids living on sea-bound land that will someday soon be completely gone. On top of this, lockdown-induced grad job instability, frequent and major university funding cuts and skyrocketing mental health issues for the country’s youth mean that all in all, young people have had kind of a shocking time of it lately.
Any reasonable person may think these issues carry a fair bit of weight, and should probably be factoring in federal discussions, but I am yet to see the Coalition make a single move to address any of them in a public and forceful way, and things just don’t feel right. Frankly, that’s probably because they aren’t.
If we cast our minds way back to ye ol’ February, when Facebook and the Australian Government went to war and all of us Down Under momentarily lost the ability to look at any news, emergency service pages or anything even vaguely journalistic on Facebook, while also very nearly losing Google entirely, one may realise that in actuality, governments world over have some serious issues with the omnipotent power of Big Tech. Not to discredit how harmful trolling can be, but it feels like in this case, the feds are maybe less concerned with malicious people leaving comments online and more so with preserving their hold on power through monitoring information flows and media activity, and as such, us as civilian subjects (slash 2022 election swingers).
The tensions between Australia and Big Tech have been running high for some time, so when Barnaby Joyce said that he wants to, and I quote, “Put the fear of God in them,” I have a sneaky suspicion that he isn’t singularly concerned with adolescent social media trolls, but rather, the King Troll himself – Mr Mark Zuckberg. Jumping on the bandwagon of Facebook’s most recent whistleblower talking about Instagram to the US Senate feels almost too slimy to be true, but that’s the political game, and man oh man, do they play it well.
The debate about Big Tech is intricately nuanced, very loaded, and far too complex to quickly address here, but it is evident, if one looks a little more closely than usual, that the Australian government is about to start regulating our social media, and they’re going to use “internet trolls hurting our kids” as their excuse to do it. And in the process that follows, I know that any further discussion of sustainable policy making, ecological conservation and freeing vulnerable minorities from grossly unjust social and institutional entrapment will be left outside to further wait in an increasingly harsh yearly rainfall, and none of them are going to do anything about it.
Scott Morrison just called Facebook a “coward’s palace”, but in my opinion, that particularly gilded castle actually lies by the water at Kirribilli and on Canberra’s long and grassy plains. Honestly, I would just love it if our elected leaders put some of their glossy, man-of-the-people-esque speeches (executed in shiny Akubra hats) towards advocating for, and pulling through on, protecting our unique wilderness, wildlife and ecosystems so that they are still around for the Aussie youth of today, and all those to come, no matter whether they have internet access or not.
I guess, when it comes to Aussie political integrity, all we can do is hope.
And then, when the time is right, seriously, seriously fucking vote.