Centuries from now, future historians will be able to assign a date to the start of the Australian Dark Age: it began in July of 2019. That was the date the nation turned its back on the enlightenment of reason, evidence, science and rationality and forged into a befogged future of political fantasies and wild, unfounded beliefs. Not unexpectedly, the state failed and darkness settled over the land.
For three and a half centuries human civilization has ascended from the wellspring of knowledge, rational thought, tolerance, the separation of powers and the individual liberties espoused by the Enlightenment. Australia is the offspring of that process. In 1790 Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles, acclaimed the newfound land a future empire of the intellect, declaiming:
“Here future Newtons shall explore the skies.
Here future Priestleys, future Wedgwoods rise’’
In Australia in July of 2019 all this came crumbling down.
The political powers, and their corporate masters emerged from the shadows to commence a relentless campaign to demolish the truth and replace it with their own fictionalised credo, one founded wholly on political and selfish expedience, to the neglect of national needs. The process had been proceeding cryptically for several years but in the late 2010s it finally burst, like Leviathan, into public view.
Climate denial had been roiling in the colon of the Liberal-National Parties for over a decade, before finally rising up its gut to digest Turnbull, the last, pallid, defender of scientific truth. Symbiotic with this contagion was a near-hysterical hatred of anyone who wanted to preserve the Australian landscape, its natural beauty and wildlife – those dreaded ‘greens’ (regardless of whether they were green or just people who happened to love or understand their country). Gradually the LNP’s sights began to zero in on those they believed most to blame: the scientists. Those producers of the inconvenient truths which so often contradict, confound and appear to mock the ideological fantasies of the right. Those people who constantly expose the fairies at the bottom of the Liberal garden to be… a fairytale.
Hitherto, the LNP’s emotion-based belief systems were held in check by its sober, respectable and electorally pragmatic centre. Then, along came Trump – and they caved. The view that the truth is now whatever political ideology – not fact – decrees it to be, at any particular moment, has engulfed the entire political machinery of the right, and hijacked the Australian Government.
Donald Trump might be the most unpopular President in US history, or close to it, but he has set new world standards for leadership based almost entirely on falsehood. The Washington Post’s tally of his lies, half-truths and pure bullshit now exceeds 10,000. On average, the US President fabricates ‘something fishy’ 16 times a day, says the Post.[i]
Not surprisingly, the backroom boys and girls of the LNP machine envied his apparent success at getting US voters to go along with whatever came into his mind and his undoubted ability to divert public and media attention with new claims more outlandish still. Most of all, however, they and the Coal Axis who rule them both, admired Trump’s gagging of American science, excluding all mention of climate change – the greatest global threat in human history – from all government utterances. Even the Pentagon, a past-master in the black art of misinformation, has been puzzled how to advert to climate in its many reports on threats to the US, when so censored.
Suffice to say Trump has infused confidence into the element within the LNP that believes that anything you wish to say at the time is the ‘truth’ and that Australian politics, properly, is a contest of lies in which the task of voters is to choose the best liar.
Thus, the LNP Queensland State Convention considered several urgency resolutions relating to science and its ‘use in politics’, in the end opting for a plan to establish an “Office of Science Quality Assurance” which was endorsed by its leader. [ii] Of course, this is nothing other than enforced censorship and an attempt to gag any scientist or scientific report which does not support the going political fantasy. It is pure Trumpery, with a Queensland accent.
It is possible that most LNP members either failed High School science, or that they may not know that science is a worldwide process for arriving at reliable facts by attempting to knock down anything new. This is known as peer review. Thus, climate science has been attacked and criticised by experts ever since it began – and today’s consensus is therefore as close to the truth as humans are able to get. So even though the politicians cannot disprove it, they deny it, for the sake of those old, old ambitions – money and power. And where they cannot deny it, they silence it, in the hope the public will not notice.
This piece of mediaeval book-burning was followed, first by a mafia-like attempt by coalminer Adani to menace the CSIRO scientists whose reports it didn’t like[iii], which was endorsed by the Deputy Prime Minister [iv] and then by general support for the principal of politics censoring science it didn’t like by Federal Resources Minister Matt J Canavan [v], confirming the suspicion of many that the growth has metastasised within the Australian body politic. That there is indeed a plan to silence science, akin to the plan to gag the ABC and media.
The denial of science is the denial of human knowledge, and all that comes with it. It is the denial of the very cornerstone of our modern civilization. It is an attempt to lobotomise Australia by blocking public access to tested facts and established wisdom, to corrupt our political process by committing it to falsehood and to rob Australians of a right to make informed judgements on their own future.
The mediaeval Dark Ages were a time of eclipse for culture, learning, progress and understanding, much of it under the oppressive aegis of religion and feudalism. Today we stand at the threshold of an Australian Dark Age, when knowledge is sapped and controlled by forces whose sole aim is to bend it to their own selfish ends. There is only one solution: the people must rise against it.
Julian Cribb is a science author, based in Canberra. His new book Food or War looks at the future of the global food supply on a hot, stressed, overpopulated planet.