Australian politicians & mass media join forces
(an unusual alliance)
By Spencer D Gear PhD
A shorter edition of this article is published in On Line Opinion, 3 October 2018, as: Fake news! The Senator Fraser Anning saga
The Collins Dictionary’s word of the year in 2017 was ‘fake news’. Its definition was, ‘false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting’ (Collins Dictionary 2018. s.v. fake news).
U S President Donald Trump uses the description, ‘fake news’. One example was:
Trump tweeted about his July 20  meeting with Sulzberger [New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger], saying, “Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, “Enemy of the People” (Schwartz 2018).
Egypt has enacted ‘fake news’ legislation, as have France, Belarus, Russia, and Singapore (Schwartz 2018)
What is fake news?
I’m using it in this Collins Dictionary sense: ‘false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting’ ‘The BBC defines fake news as false information distributed deliberately, usually for political or commercial purposes….’ (BBC News 2018).
So, fake news is false, sensational reporting of information that is supposed to be news’ journalism. But it is deliberately used for political or commercial purposes.
How could fake news be crafted in Australia or elsewhere? I’ll use an Australian example of how I propose that fake news has been developed.
I stress that I’m not supporting all of the content about which Fraser Anning spoke. This is an article to show how I see ‘fake news’ developing before our very eyes.
2. Four steps to fabricate fake news
How is fake news created? I understand there are 4 simple steps:
Step 1: Somebody makes a statement about an issue.
Step 2: Others breed false information about this statement.
Step 3: This false information is spread through the media as newsworthy journalism. Members of Parliament (MPs) also have spread fake news.
Step 4: Conclusion: Fake news is created.
Let’s follow these Anning steps.
2.1 Step 1: Senator Fraser Anning’s ‘final solution for immigration’
This article is not about whether I agree or disagree with the content of Senator Fraser Anning’s maiden speech in the Australian Senate on 14 August 2018.
His speech can be read at: Full text: Senator Fraser Anning’s maiden speech (SBS News 2018).
In my view, some of the news sources below have fallen into this ‘fake news’ trap with making Senator Fraser Anning’s maiden speech in the Australian Senate on the ‘final solution for immigration’ parallel to Hitler’s ‘final solution’.
What did Senator Anning state in the Senate in regard to immigration? The Guardian reported:
He “didn’t even think about” the historical connotations.
Anning claimed the speech had been taken “completely out of context” and his remarks had “nothing to do with” the Nazi party’s Final Solution.
“The fact is all I said was the final solution to the immigration problem is a vote of the Australian people,” he said. “I don’t regret anything … I’m not going to apologise or regret anything I say” (Karp 2018).
2.2 Step 2: The ‘final solution’ beat up
Senator Pauline Hanson (Anning was formerly a senator with Hanson’s One Nation party) admitted on Q&A ‘she didn’t know what the term “final solution”’ meant (McMahon 2018).
Also on the same programme, Bob Katter MP of the Katter Australian Party (KAP) could not have been clearer about his support for Senator Fraser Anning (KAP) and the content of his maiden speech:
Mr Katter claimed his senator had “absolutely no idea” the term was used in Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler to describe the genocide of the Jewish people in Europe.
“He didn’t get to a university to know the significance of all these words,” Mr Katter said. “He’s smart, but he hasn’t read all the history books. He doesn’t know what any of this means. And nor will he spend any time finding out.
“I’m sick of you lily pad lefties coming at us on some absolutely ridiculous technicality that has nothing to do with the issues.”
Mr Katter said his party was resolutely pro-Jewish and wanted to protect Jewish people in Australia from “the persecutors” being brought in from the Middle East under Australia’s migration program (McMahon 2018, emphasis added).
In Cairns, Bob Katter said of Anning: ‘His speech was absolutely magnificent. It is everything that this country should be doing’ (Karp 2018).
2.3 Step 3: False information spread
This is only a taste of what the media and MPs have been reported as saying.
2.3.1 Hype by MPs and Senators
(Image courtesy Haiku Deck)
Concerning Anning’s ‘final solution’ statement:
Former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull: ‘We reject, we condemn racism in any form, and the remarks by Senator Anning are justly condemned and rejected by us all’; it was a ‘shocking insult’ to the Jewish people (Karp 2018);
Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition, ‘repugnant and disgraceful’ (Karp 2018).
Senator Pauline Hanson of One Nation said she was ‘appalled’ by Anning’s comments, adding that the speech was ‘straight from Goebbels’ handbook from Nazi Germany’ (Karp 2018a).
The energy and environmental minister, Josh Frydenberg, a Jew, labelled the comments ‘extremely ignorant’ and ‘hurtful, divisive and unacceptable’. He added in an interview with Channel 9:
“Fraser Anning should not only retract his comments, but he should immediately go and visit a Holocaust museum and hear first-hand from survivors, how raw the pain is, and hear about and see the destruction and devastation caused by the Nazi killing machine,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“You see, 10 million people lost their lives to the Nazis. Six million were children.
“It’s totally unacceptable for an Australian member of parliament, let alone any Australian, to utter those words and he should retract them” (Karp 2018).
Former treasurer (now Prime Minister), Scott Morrison MP, said: ‘Fraser Anning should not only retract his comments. “What the terrorists do is they say to young people who live in Sydney, in suburbs and places like Lakemba… ‘come and fight with us, because all those Aussies don’t want you, don’t like you’ (Financial Review 2018).
The leader of the Greens followed the other political rhetoric:
“Referring to immigrants, particularly Muslim immigrants, with the same language that the Nazi’s used to discuss the extermination of Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust is vile, racist, bigoted and has no place in out (sic) society, let alone our parliament,” Senator Di Natale said (Lewis 2018).
Not all parliamentarians were against Fraser Anning’s ‘final solution for immigration’ terminology. ‘The Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm called the response a “ridiculous overreaction” to a phrase that could have “multiple meanings”’ (Karp 2018).
2.3.2 Hype from the mass media
SBS News (2018a) reported: ‘Senator Anning used the Nazi-associated phrase “final solution” and called for a ban on Muslim immigration’.
On the Today Show, Anning was asked by host, Georgie Gardner, ‘about using the Nazi term “final solution” in his speech’. He said he ‘didn’t even think’ about whether it would be offensive.
“All I said was the final solution to the immigration problem is a vote of the Australian people,” he said. “That has nothing to do with the ‘Final Solution’”, the thought police got onto that….
“Claims that the words meant anything other than the ultimate solution to any political question is always a popular vote are simply ridiculous,” Senator Anning said in a statement.
“Anyone who actually reads them in context will realise this….
“If people want to take it out of context that’s entirely up to them. It was never meant to denigrate the Jewish community and it’s (sic) two words and if that offends anyone unfortunately that’s the way it has to be” (Graham & Farr 2018).
ABC News began an Opinion piece with:
On the surface, Fraser Anning’s use of the term “final solution” in Parliament can be attributed to two explanations.
The first is that he is ignorant of the historical significance and weight behind the term and its association with the Nazi regime in Europe.
The second is far more sinister — it is dog-whistle politics to the ever present racist undercurrents in Australian society (Masters 2018).
Then Masters proceeded to give us a graphic history lesson on the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust. No adjectives are adequate for me to describe the genocide inflicted on 10 million (including 6 million children) by Hitler and the Nazis during World War 2.
Jewish women and children deported from Hungary, separated from the men, line up for selection. Auschwitz camp, Poland, May 1944.
- Yad Vashem Photo Archives
- View Archival Details
However, the ‘final solution’ of the Holocaust was not the topic of Fraser Anning’s speech. However, it sure got the ABC and other media outlets on board with their inflicting another meaning to those two words.
The Sydney Morning Herald’s headline on the day after Anning’s speech was: ‘Fraser Anning achieves what he deserves: denunciation from the ages’ (Wright 2018).
The New Daily’s article on the Anning speech had the headline, ‘Unapologetic Fraser Anning under fire from all sides after ‘final solution’ Senate speech’ (McCulloch 2018).
2.4 Step 4: Fake news has been created
We’ve moved from,
A person making a statement, to
Other people placing another spin on the statement.
The new spin is spread by mass and social media.
So, the fake news has been generated.
In the Aussie example, what was the original statement?
3. What did Senator Fraser Anning actually say in the Australian Senate?
In his maiden speech in the Australian parliament, Senator Anning stated:
- ‘My most immediate concern is saving agriculture in this country’.
- ‘My next biggest concern is rural infrastructure development. First and foremost, my priority is water…. My first solution is to build the Bradfield scheme’.
- ‘The next critical problem that we need to address is immigration. Australia currently has the highest per capita immigration rate in the world’.
- ‘Finally, it should go without saying that, as a nation, we are entitled to require that those who come here not only have useful work skills and qualifications but also the commitment to work and pay taxes’.
It was in the paragraph of the ‘finally’ statement that Anning fired up those who took his comments out of context and beat up politicians + mass media fake news hype – in my opinion.
Part of what he stated in the final point was:
In the days of Menzies, immigrants arriving here were not allowed to apply for welfare and that attracted exactly the right sort of hard-working people this country needed. We should go back to that and ban all immigrants receiving welfare for the first five years after they arrive. The final solution to the immigration problem is, of course, a popular vote. We don’t need a plebiscite to cut immigration numbers; we just need a government that is willing to institute a sustainable population policy, end Australian-job-stealing 457 visas and make student visas conditional on foreign students returning to the country they came from. What we do need a plebiscite for is to decide who comes here. Whitlam didn’t ask the Australian people whether they wanted wholesale non-European migration when he introduced it and neither has any subsequent government. Who we allow to come here will determine what sort of nation we will have in the future, so therefore this isn’t the right of any one government to decide. It’s too important for that. Instead, we need a plebiscite to allow the Australian people to decide whether they want wholesale non-English speaking immigrants from the Third World and, in particular, whether they want any Muslims or whether they want to return to the predominantly European immigration policy of the pre-Whitlam consensus. I for one will be very happy to abide by their decision (SBS News 2018, emphasis added).
(Asylum seekers boat off Christmas Island, courtesy ABC News, Brisbane Qld)
In this 35.10 mins speech, Anning acknowledged he was a ‘conservative Christian’. The sentence that got on the goat of politicians and the mass media and has led to fake news being perpetrated by them (in my view) was: ‘The final solution to the immigration problem is a popular vote’ (SBS News 2018).
Anning did a round of interviews on Wednesday morning [15 August 2018] claiming the use of the term “final solution” – used by the Nazi regime to describe a genocidal policy of exterminating Jewish people – was inadvertent but refused to apologise because he claimed the outrage was solely coming from political opponents (Karp 2018).
4. The final solution: Queensland Premier reacts
The Queensland Premier used her ‘whip’ to try to punish the Qld division of KAP over something that was said in federal parliament:
Annastacia Palaszczuk has ripped up a deal allowing the Katter’s Australian Party five extra staff, on the back of Senator Fraser Anning’s widely condemned maiden parliamentary speech….
The Labor leader renewed criticism of the KAP’s support for Mr Anning’s inflammatory speech, which praised the former White Australia policy and suggested a plebiscite as the “final solution to the immigration problem”.
Nazis referred to the extermination of the Jewish people in Europe and beyond as “the final solution to the Jewish question” (Crockford 2018).
I refer you to Fraser Anning’s intention in what he said in the Senate (see below).
The ‘thought police’ have been in action; fake news came out of a comment that had nothing whatsoever to do with the Nazi ‘final solution’.
Speaking on the Today Show [Channel 9], Mr Josh Frydenberg said the remarks were “extremely ignorant, hurtful, divisive, unacceptable”.
“Fraser Anning should not only retract his comments, but he should immediately go and visit a Holocaust museum and hear first-hand from survivors, how raw the pain is, and hear about and see the destruction and devastation caused by the Nazi killing machine,” Mr Frydenberg said….
“You see, 10 million people lost their lives to the Nazis. Six million were children.
“It’s totally unacceptable for an Australian member of parliament, let alone any Australian, to utter those words and he should retract them.” (Calcutt 2018).
5. Fraser Anning’s intent in what he said
(Bob Katter photo, courtesy The Examiner, ABC News)
Bob Katter MP, leader of the Katter Australian Party (KAP), said he ‘supports his colleague Fraser Anning “one thousand per cent”’ (Jackson 2018).
Anning’s response to the fuss over what he stated about ‘the final solution’ in his maiden speech was:
The comments were “taken out of context” and he hadn’t even thought about their significance.
“The fact is, all I said was the final solution to the immigration problem is a vote of the Australian people,” he said.
“That has nothing to do with the final solution. The thought police got onto that.
“I’m a strong supporter of the Jewish community, and always have been. For everyone to take it out of context is a joke and an attempt try to shut down debate.
“It was never meant to denigrate the Jewish community and it’s two words and if it offends anyone, unfortunately, that’s the way it has to be” (Calcutt 2018).
The context was what to do about immigration policy in Australia’s intake of migrants and he wants the Australian people to decide with a vote. He confirmed that his ‘final solution’ had nothing whatsoever to do with Hitler’s ‘final solution’ in the Holocaust of World War 2.
It sure sounds like the MPs and media have taken Anning’s comments out of context and made them mean what he did not intend. That’s how fake news is developed and promoted (based on the definitions above).
6. Threats to Katter’s Australian Party
Because of the association of Fraser Anning’s speech with the Nazi’s ‘final solution’ in World War 2, there have been some threats made to the KAP.
6.1 Qld Premier’s threat to cut KAP staff numbers
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk MP has threatened to refuse funding some current Katter’s Australian Party staff. The Guardian reported:
Palaszczuk told the Labor state conference in Brisbane on Sunday [2 September] she would not (sic) longer fund the extra staff after the KAP failed to denounce the senator for his remarks.
“We have the right to free speech in our parliaments, but that free speech is not free of consequence,” she told party faithful.
“So because his party will not denounce senator Fraser Anning, I denounce his party”….
“I am withdrawing the additional staff I granted to Katter’s Australian party because it tolerates the intolerable and it defends the indefensible, and senator Fraser Anning’s statements are indefensible,” she said on Sunday [2 September]….
Robbie Katter said Anning’s words had been twisted and taken out of context (Australian Associated Press 2018).
The North West Star, Mt Isa, reported:
KAP State Leader and member for Traeger Robbie Katter has referred Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission following her decision to strip the KAP of four staff.
“On Tuesday I sent a letter to the CCC asking them to formally investigate the matter,’’ Mr Katter said.
“I’m asking the Premier to step down while the CCC considers our complaint.”
The call comes a day after the Premier made the decision to strip the party of staff over the row about KAP Queensland Senator Fraser Anning’s maiden speech in Federal Parliament last month.
Mr Katter said Queenslanders were appalled to see political power wielded as a weapon to shut down opposing views.
The Premier tried to use the threat of withdrawing resources to get us to behave a certain way in Parliament. We wouldn’t, so she removed them,” he said.
“It seems like a pretty clear case of using threats to influence the free will of a Member of Parliament. If she gets away with it the implications are massive for our democracy in Queensland.’’
Mr Katter said LNP members had also been referred as a result of the pressure they placed on the Premier (Barry 2018).
What would a civil libertarian say about what Palaszczuk did to KAP?
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O’Gorman says while Senator Anning’s speech was “appalling”, the government’s action is contrary to one of the pillars of the Fitzgerald report.
He says stripping KAP of their staff allocation is reminiscent of the Bjelke-Petersen government’s stifling of their Labor opposition (AAP 2018).
6.2 Consequences of fake news: Threats to withdraw funding
Troy Gray, the secretary of the Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union, which gave KAP $100,000 between 2011 and 2013 said he ‘totally disagrees’ with Anning and Katter’s position on immigration. His view was that he would be ‘staggered if anyone in the union movement would support the party after those comments’ (Karp 2018b).
What about support from the CFMMEU (Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union)? Bob Katter responded to The Sydney Morning Herald:
Mr Katter, 73, told Fairfax Media he planned to recontest his seat of Kennedy, which he has held for 25 years, but reserved the right to change his mind. He said no one from the CFMMEU had contacted him about Senator Anning’s speech or his subsequent statements.
“I can’t think of any reason why they would,” he said. “We are being undercut by massive migration into Australia [and] the only people fighting against that are ourselves [KAP] and the CFMMEU” (Koziol 2018).
It seems to me that the ‘fake news’ definition from the Collins Dictionary has been played out before my eyes in Australia in August 2018:
- A newly elected, Senator Fraser Anning, made a maiden speech in the Australian Senate and spoke of the ‘The final solution to the immigration problem is, of course, a popular vote. We don’t need a plebiscite to cut immigration numbers; we just need a government that is willing to institute a sustainable population policy’.
- MPs, Senators and mass media picked up two words, ‘final solution’, took them right out of context and applied them to the Nazi ‘final solution’ to exterminate 10 million Jews in the Holocaust of World War 2. They bred and fed false and sensational information about a simple statement about immigration. One doesn’t have to agree with Anning’s content, but what the MPs and Senators made of those two words was fake news, in my view.
- These falsely generated particulars were spread through the mass and social media.
- So, fake news about immigration in a Senator’s maiden speech was developed into ‘real’ news about Fraser Anning promoting a ‘final solution’ to the immigration problem that was parallel to Nazi’s ‘final solution’.
8. Works consulted
AAP 2018. KAP considers going to CCC after staff cut. 5AU (online), 3 September. Available at: https://www.5au.com.au/sharenews/173590-kap-considers-going-to-ccc-after-staff-cut (Accessed 15 September 2018).
Australian Associated Press 2018. Palaszczuk cuts Katter party staff over Fraser Anning speech. The Guardian (online), 2 September. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/sep/02/palaszczuk-cuts-katter-party-staff-over-fraser-anning-speech (Accessed 15 September 2018).
Barry, D 2018. Robbie Katter refers Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to CCC. The North West Star (online), 5 September. Available at: https://www.northweststar.com.au/story/5627256/robbie-katter-refers-premier-annastacia-palaszczuk-to-ccc/ (Accessed 15 September 2018).
BBC News 2018. Spotting ‘fake news’ among the real stories (online), 14 March. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/education-43404254/spotting-fake-news-among-the-real-stories (Accessed 4 September 2018).
Calcutt, L 2018. Fraser Anning speech: Senator says final solution comments ‘taken out of context’. 9News (online), 15 August. Available at: https://www.9news.com.au/2018/08/15/08/21/fraser-anning-speech-muslim-migration-final-solution-politican-reactions (Accessed 4 September 2018).
Crockford, T 2018. Premier rips up Katter deal after Anning’s ‘final solution’ speech. Brisbane Times (online), 2 September. Available at: https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/queensland/premier-rips-up-katter-deal-after-anning-s-final-solution-speech-20180902-p5019b.html (Accessed 7 September 2018).
Financial Review 2018. Queensland senator Fraser Anning refuses to apologise for ‘final solution’ speech (online), 15 August. Available at: https://www.afr.com/news/queensland-senator-fraser-anning-refuses-to-apologise-for-racist-final-solution-speech-20180814-h13zby (Accessed 17 September 2018).
Graham, B & Farr, M 2018. ‘While all Muslims are not terrorists, certainly all terrorists these days are Muslims,’ Senator Anning said. news.com.au (online), 15 August. Available at: https://www.news.com.au/national/politics/while-all-muslims-are-not-terrorists-certainly-all-terrorists-these-days-are-muslims-senator-anning-said/news-story/c0753644cfccdda0394619e6f9dc01b5 (Accessed 17 September 2018).
Jackson, E 2018. Katter supports Anning after Senate speech. The Examiner (Cairns), 15 August. Available at: https://www.examiner.com.au/story/5587566/katter-supports-anning-after-senate-speech/?cs=9397 (Accessed 4 September 2018).
Karp, P 2018. MPs widely condemn Fraser Anning’s ‘final solution’ speech. The Guardian (online), 15 August. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/aug/15/mps-widely-condemn-fraser-annings-final-solution-speech (Accessed 4 September 2018).
Karp, P 2018a. Fraser Anning speech ‘straight from Goebbels’ handbook’, says Pauline Hanson. The Guardian (online), 15 August. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/aug/15/fraser-anning-speech-straight-from-goebbels-handbook-says-pauline-hanson (Accessed 17 September 2018).
Karp, P 2018b. Union drops Katter support as recording claims Fraser Anning aimed to ‘hit nerve’. The Guardian (online), 16 August. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/aug/16/union-drops-katter-australian-party-support-leaked-recording-claims-fraser-anning-aimed-to-hit-nerve (Accessed 17 September 2018).
Koziol, M 2018. ‘Almost certifiable’: Bob Katter pays political price for backing Fraser Anning’s ‘final solution’ speech. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 16 August. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/almost-certifiable-bob-katter-pays-political-price-for-backing-fraser-anning-s-final-solution-speech-20180816-p4zxun.html (Accessed 17 September 2018).
Lewis, R 2018. Shades of Pauline Hanson in Fraser Anning’s first speech. The Australian (online), 14 August. Available at: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/shades-of-pauline-hanson-in-fraser-annings-first-speech/news-story/abdd9495e797a1153076403f6ff736f9 (Accessed 17 September 2018).
Masters, A 2018. Fraser Anning’s ‘final solution’ speech points to a more dangerous threat to Australia (Opinion). ABC News, Brisbane Qld (online), 16 August. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-15/fraser-anning-final-solution-more-dangerous-threat/10123350 (Accessed 17 September 2018).
McCulloch, D 2018. Unapologetic Fraser Anning under fire from all sides after ‘final solution’ Senate speech. The New Daily (online), 15 August. Available at: https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/national/2018/08/15/fraser-anning-final-solution-unapologetic/ (Accessed 17 September 2018).
McMahon, N 2018. Q&A recap: Pauline Hanson says she had no idea what ‘final solution’ meant. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 28 August. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/fraser-anning-s-final-solution-speech-absolutely-magnificent-says-bob-katter-20180815-p4zxme.html (Accessed 4 September 2018).
SBS Mews 2018. Full text: Senator Fraser Anning’s maiden speech (online), 15 August. Available at: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/full-text-senator-fraser-anning-s-maiden-speech (Accessed 4 September 2018).
SBS News 2018a. KAP refers Qld premier, LNP leader to CCC (online), 4 September. Available at: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/kap-refers-qld-premier-lnp-leader-to-ccc (Accessed 15 September 2018).
Schwartz, J 2018. Trump’s ‘fake news’ rhetoric crops up around the globe. Politico On Media (online), 31 July. Available at: https://www.politico.eu/blogs/on-media/2018/07/donald-trump-fake-news-rhetoric-crops-up-around-the-globe-media-social-media-foreign-affairs/ (Accessed 17 September 2018).
Swan, J 2013. Jewish MP to put religion before politics. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 30 January. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/jewish-mp-to-put-religion-before-politics-20130130-2dkmr.html (Accessed 4 September 2018).
Wright, T 2018. Fraser Anning achieves what he deserves: denunciation from the ages. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 15 August. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/fraser-anning-achieves-what-he-deserves-denunciation-from-the-ages-20180815-p4zxm3.html (Accessed 17 September 2018).
 The Romani, Romany or Roma are gypsies in Europe, the sub-continent and the Americas.
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Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 September 2018.