Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reportedly vowed to fight the spread of Covid “conspiracy theories,” saying it is the government’s task to counter misinformation online.
The move comes as “Commonwealth authorities warn they are witnessing a growing ‘online extremism’ that has forced them to arrest and charge multiple people in recent weeks,” the Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday.
According to the piece, examples of dangerous conspiracy theorists include those who believe Covid is a hoax (no more serious than the common flu) and those who believe the pandemic is being used by globalist elites to further their agenda.
The article claims:
“This week doctors and nurses spoke emotionally of internet conspiracy theory QAnon brainwashing their loved ones. The pandemic frontline heroes are now returning home from Covidfilled wards to friends and family who believe Covid is a hoax or the pandemic is a plot by evil global ‘elites’.”
Prime Minister Morrison was asked on Wednesday what his government was doing to stop the online conspiracy theories threatening the vaccine rollout.
Morrison told Question Time:
“Crazy rubbish conspiracy theories have no place when it comes to the public health of this country and this government will have no association with it. Countering misinformation is a task for all of us, it is certainly a task for the government and one we are acting on.”
The Australian Federal Police said it had observed nationalist, racially motivated, and religious extremists among those “exploiting public fear” during the pandemic, the Telegraph noted.
“Ideologically motivated violent extremism (IVME) propaganda, and increased time spent online, has seen extremist narratives influencing a broad mainstream audience,” an AFP spokesman said.
“This comes in many forms including by spreading disinformation, conspiracy theories, and in some cases to incite violence.”
“Extremists do this for a range of reasons including to promote their ideology and recruit new members.”
In August last year, a Nine News poll revealed that more than half of Australians believe police should be given the power to penalise people for spreading COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
According to the outlet, 56% of those surveyed believed police should be allowed to fine Australians who intentionally spread “chaos-inducing conspiracy theories” during a pandemic. Of those surveyed, 16% said a fine was too lenient while only 6% opposed the idea.
Of course, the obvious question is what constitutes a “conspiracy theory” and who, exactly, will be the arbiter of truth? Over the past two years, we’ve seen big tech censors cracking down on anyone who deviates, even “partly,” from the mainstream narrative.
Early last year, Pastor John Piper had his audiobook Coronavirus and Christ banned from YouTube after the video-sharing platform deemed it a violation of community guidelines in relation to COVID-19 reporting.
At the same time, Google suspended a popular church app from the Google Play store after accusing Christ Church Pastors Tony Sumpter and Doug Wilson of mishandling the subject of coronavirus in a series of sermons.
And that’s to say nothing about big tech’s consorted efforts to suppress, delete, and silence anyone, even those in the medical profession, from speaking about the possibility of alternative solutions to the virus.
Much like baseless accusations of “hate speech,” the term “conspiracy theorist” is increasingly being employed against anyone and everyone who questions the mainstream narrative.
The question now will be whether authorities plan on using this as justification to stifle expressions of dissatisfaction with the government’s measures, scrutiny or criticism of the narrative, and proposed alternative methods of dealing with the virus.
One thing is for sure, when the government censors speech or bars debate, conspiracy theories are sure to abound. Why do people subscribe to alternative narratives? Because they don’t believe what they’re being told. That’s either because they don’t trust the person speaking, or the things being said are inconsistent or demonstrably untrue.
It’s natural for people to want to make sense of the world. Especially during chaotic times. But when the government begins fighting for a particular narrative by silencing or threatening alternatives, they’ll soon find public suspicions at an all-time high.
The reason for this is simple. Most people understand that lies are fought with truth, but the truth is fought with censorship.