We may be living in what many are describing as a ‘post-truth’ era, and while I don’t disagree with this nomenclature it does imply that in the near past we lived in a time of truthfulness from our media and political representatives. Let’s not get too carried away with that narrative.
Manipulating and even fabricating information to suit one’s purpose is nothing new to the media and it is certainly is not to politics (as The Chilcott Enquiry made pretty clear). Still, I must admit that soulless human shells like Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and Nigel Farage have taken this disdain for the public and the truth to a whole new level, but propaganda has many forms and many don’t require any outright falsehood, just a strategically framed disingenuous question.
Yesterday I wrote about the common false choice that is accepted as part of the debate around changing the date of Australia Day. However I wanted to spend a bit more time exploring the more common and blatant false choice that the political right love to exploit. I must have seen dozens of memes posted on social media all following this almost identical premise. It usually asks why we should be spending money helping refugees instead of spending more money on our veterans. Sometimes the target of the meme will be foreign aid and disaster relief and sometimes the underfunded group it uses for comparison is the elderly, the homeless or the poor, depending on which group has been getting the most media attention recently. It usually ends with the tacky sentence, “Share if you agree,” just to really make it look like it was written by a 13-year old. That is usually a pretty big red flag to me that someone wants me to react without thinking.
Obviously there is nothing wrong with caring about the elderly, veterans or the homeless (as long as you do actually care about them and don’t just exploit them for your own political agenda). One of the reasons I want both the Liberal Party and One Nation as far away from any policy decisions in the future is precisely because I care for these groups, while Turnbull and Hanson do not. Similarly there is nothing wrong with caring about refugees. The false choice here is that we can’t care about both.
The Australian government budget allocates a vast amount of money for a wide array of purposes. If you would really like to see more money spent on veterans, this could be done by spending less money propping up the dying coal industry, by giving less money to private schools or by closing tax loopholes so that companies actually pay tax. There are a myriad of other areas the money could come from too, but the point I am making is that it is not mutually exclusive to appropriately fund veteran welfare/ homelessness and refugee programs.
If you have been conned by one of these false choices in the past and given it a ‘like’ or a ‘share,’ don’t give yourself a hard time. Everyone makes mistakes, but maybe be a little more cautious of the next time anyone sends you something that ends with the words, “Share if you agree.”