Electoral Fraud

Electoral Fraud #

True Democracy is a fragile form of government. As Churchill put it, “It is the worst form of government, except for all the others". Genuine participatory government is also a rare beast. At best we are ruled by the shadiest hucksters who know how to manipulate the masses to usurp the power from the people.

Aristotle warns, democracy, if not well regulated, turns into mob rule – rule by the uninformed, misinformed, disinformed or deliberately ill-informed.

Homer was suspicious of the gilded tongue and other forms of oratory. “words empty as the wind are best left unsaid”. Yet unprincipled modern politicians thrive on brain washing the general populace.

Noam Chomsky illustrates similar tendencies in his theories of how media and government engage in “Manufacturing Consent”. He also claimed that “propaganda was to democracy as the bludgeon to dictatorship.”

Due to the party system in most democracies, Chomsky claims all we ever get is a choice between the lesser of two evils.

Lynton Crosby, renowned in Australia, America and Britain as the “Goebbels” of modern democracies. To call Crosby a political strategist is like calling Dracula a health worker.

Noted for his aphorism that “a message of fear beats a message of hope every time”. Crosby is credited with winning unwinnable elections for John Howard, Tony Abbott, George Bush and David Cameron.

Crosby, also known as the “wizard of Oz”, shamelessly uses all the dirty tricks of a demagogue – whatever it takes. Slag the opponents at every turn. Misrepresent reality whenever it is convenient. Trump springs to mind.

The bag of tricks includes rhetorically embracing populist positions full well knowing the ensuing fury from the Left will sustain the issue on the national agenda for days at a time. This is also known as “Dog Whistle Politics” or “Wedging your opponents” so they have nowhere to run.

Crosby is also renown for his signature “dead cat” manoeuvre. Boris Johnson described the strategy like this:

“There is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout, ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’ In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.”

Since this, Crosby, who was paid more than 4 million by the British Conservative party, has been knighted for “services to the British Public” and named Australian of the Year. Astonishing! And they wonder why we are cynical and drowning in a sea of distrust, thoroughly disillusioned bordering on despair.

Flynn, a member of the public administration and constitutional affairs committee, said:

“I welcome this appointment because it will drive the honours system into deeper disrepute. The more it is abused, the more people will come to regard it as at best arbitrary, and at worst corrupt.”

The Labour MP John Mann said giving a knighthood to Crosby was “degrading” to the honours system and “an insult to the country’s heroes”.

Aristotle wrote “Dignity consists not in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them”

“It is better to deserve and not have honours than to have them and not deserve them”. Mark Twain

Fear is the most powerful enemy of reason. Both fear and reason are essential to human survival, but the relationship between them is unbalanced. Reason may sometimes dissipate fear, but fear frequently shuts down reason. As Edmund Burke wrote in England twenty years before the American Revolution:

“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”

“If the consent of the governed is extorted through the manipulation of mass fears,” Al Gore writes, “or embezzled with claims of divine guidance, democracy is impoverished.”

The 2001 election showed John Howard he could swing an entire campaign on a single lie. The real lesson of the 2001 election campaign: for fear to work, there has to be something at stake for both sides. Howard set up a struggle between one man’s comfort and another man’s freedom. There is a wretched imbalance in this struggle, which is why comfort always wins.

Tony Abbott won the 2013 election with three, three word slogans, A Great Big Tax, Stop the Boats, and Open for business, which he later admitted were lies.

Scott Morrison on the other hand relied on the “weaponising” of many memes targeting former Labor leader Bill Shorten among the most “effective”, despite many connected to ‘death tax’ claims were found to be vastly exaggerated or patently untrue.

Kevin Rudd insists, over the past decade, in 18 out of 18 federal and state elections, “Murdoch has viciously campaigned in support of one side of politics, the Liberal National party, and viciously campaigned against the Australian Labor party,”

Bernard Keane writes,

“It’s standard political rhetoric of misrepresenting your opponent and their policies. To start labelling such statements as ‘lies’ would be, to use Michael Herr’s line in Apocalypse Now, like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.”

“Trump, Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson used a playbook developed in conservative campaigns in Australia, the US and the UK, with a focus on micro-targeted pork-barrelling, culture war campaigns, coordination with News Corp to deliver attack lines and demonisation of opponents and their policies — all bolstered by, an enthusiasm for lying that far exceeded the realms of both political tradition and necessity.”

If the public can be convicted for gaining financial advantage by deception, why does this not apply to politicians who gain political advantage by misrepresenting their opponents policies? With any good fortune, the federal government moving to legislate “truth in advertising” laws, which will outlaw lies designed to win votes during election campaigns, will be effective.

Following the 2019 election, I wrote to the Australian Electoral Commission decrying the fact that they managed to bat away 87 formal complaints. What alarmed me the most was that the AEC spent taxpayer money engaging expensive barristers defending misleading practices by unscrupulous electioneering.

They responded asking for more information. This was my reply:

Correspondence to the AEC #

Thank you for inviting me to respond with specific concerns regarding the last (2019) Australian Federal election. I am not aware of the corrected 89 complaints but am looking at the broader issues of a fair and equal playing field. We have always known that elections are wide open to fraudulent dirty tricks. In the 1950’s Nixon’s tactics earned him the nick name “tricky dicky” and worse.

Here too, the Menzies government clawed into office using the “reds under the beds” scare campaigns leading to Donald Horne claiming Australia was a first-rate nation run by second rate leaders.

In time, elections in autocratic cities like Rome, (or Russia, China, Belarus) became as much a fiction as the vestiges of democracies. Augustus adorned the capital not only with temples but also with election facilities. (And he showed up in person to vote, though the process was a charade.)

There were truth-tellers throughout Roman history, but as the centuries wore on, the telling of official lies became a recognized art form.

One thing we know for sure is that it is that the Roman Empire is gone. And, unlike Brexit, no one was aware of the “end” as it was happening. Rome was sacked, as were other cities, and armed conflict at times brought turmoil, but decay occurred over centuries, and for many the transition from one thing to another was not stark. The human life span puts blinders on perception.

Dictionary.com defines Misinformation as “false information that is spread, regardless of intent to mislead.” If deliberately weaponized, it becomes disinformation - lies. Hannah Arendt advises us to use the word “lie” rather than euphemisms. Disinformation means “false information, “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.”

If business men can be charged for using deception to gain financial advantage, why not politicians?

As far back as 1688, the English Privy Council issued a proclamation prohibiting the spread of false information. The difference in the 21st century, of course, is the reach and speed of fake news and disinformation by all forms of media.

Noam Chomsky warns us that:

“propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”

Marshall McLuhan in the 1950’s noted:

“Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind. To get inside in order to manipulate, exploit, control is the object now.”

The final line of defence would be to make individuals who deliberately spread knowably fake news liable to prosecution. Many countries have already begun to make such laws.

Yet the AEC appears to lack the ability to discriminate enough to regulate our elections in a fair and equitable manner so that all voters come to the ballot box with clear reliably informed minds as what the real issues are. Any deliberately misinformed or ill-informed vote is an invalid vote, leading to electoral fraud and thus mediocrity.

Fraudulent elections create mediocre and incompetent governments. Many commentators assert that democracies today are run by total misfits. Trump, Johnson, Duterte, Erdoğan, Morrison …., all democratically elected, in my mind fit that bill.

Natural catrastrophes lay bare the precarity of officials appointed to high office merely by loyalty. Bush was embarrassed by New Orleans and Erdoğan by the lack of support to earthquake victims.

Morrison ran a totally negative campaign. During his campaign launch all his candidates were chained up in their kennels and only allowed out after the election. No policies, no plan, no mandate. Only demonising others in Trump style governance. Is this what we want in Australia?

Added to this were a number of other distracting complicit players. For News Limited to lose $30 M a year as a propaganda sheet helps to brainwash helpless voters. Clive Palmer spending $87 M and not winning a single seat, yet celebrating it as a victory as his only objective was to keep Labor out.

Yet, to have the audacity to compare Palmer or Murdoch’s involvement with Get Up is a good example of false equivalencies. In my opinion the former are kleptocrats, while the latter is a grass roots movement of ordinary citizens donating hard earned money in a just cause.

It becomes my impression that AEC lacks the will, spine and perhaps even the competence to ensure that Australians voting, are reliably informed citizens, making intelligent choices. Most have been brainwashed and vote against their own best interests due to widespread disinformation.

How do we hold on to a healthy, functioning democracy with a citizenry so crazily receptive to demagoguery — so perversely gullible. The best liars win. “To the unscrupulous go the spoils,” implying the victor is not legitimately entitled to office.

For your Lawyers to claim “the idea that voters could be so “gullible and naive” to believe Australia was a one-party state was “an outlandish proposition” is in my opinion, simply ludicrous and absurd.

For you to spend valuable taxpayer’s money to propagate eristic arguments, defending shady tactics, does not inspire much faith, confidence and trust in an institution commissioned by the sovereign citizens of Australia. Your remit is to serve the wider community, not play party games.

My assessment: The AEC can and must do better to preserve our fragile democratic way of life. Rigged elections discourage people of character to run and we are left with second- and third-rate leaders.

With respect, Charles Klassen