Absolute power corrupts absolutely

We really shouldn’t be surprised that Facebook banned news coverage from their platform for around a week in Australia recently. Their ‘real’ objective isn’t to be the world’s back fence that everyone leans on to have a chat, it is to sell advertising that is based on your interests. They analyse your interests based on what you don’t scroll past or look at on other webpages that have an interface with Facebook, store the information then go to advertisers and promote that 10,000 people living in the state of Victoria with an interest in poetry will be aware of your new poetry book if you buy some publicity using their targeted advertising system. The targeted advertising they sell is quite profitable, and effectively they have the market to themselves. After all, if you want to check in on family and friends on an alternate social media platform, you have to convince your family and friends to move to that platform as well.

So, when the government of a middle ranking, western democracy threatens that income, Facebook responded as it does best, by throwing all their toys out of the playpen. Certainly there were other options and negotiation eventually won the day, but you have to remember where Facebook came from to understand their mindset. Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of Facebook) wrote a computer program to rate the ‘hotness’ of the girls at his university and shared it with his fellow Harvard University students, until the University closed the system down.

The morals and ethics behind the company seem to have stayed the same as Facebook became legitimate and grew. Until shamed into action, the company saw nothing wrong with Donald Trump’s misinformation campaign, providing the platform for a number of terrorists to broadcast live the killing and inflicting of serious injury to others or re-publishing ‘information’ about crackpot theories such as COVID19 vaccinations being used to inject 5G receivers in your body on their site. They eventually get around to identifying, and either moderate or delete the offending posts. It’s hard to ignore that the ban on news coverage in Australia was immediate, poorly targeted and removed posts from organisations such as Queensland Health, 1800 Respect, SA Health and even Communications Minister Fletcher’s favourite example, North Shore Mums from view. Typically, Facebook again rolled someone out to say they were sorry that the implementation was flawed, but in the next breath went on to blame someone else for their failings. In short, the business model is, “we’ll do what we want, you will be grateful that you get anything and by the way, it’s our way or the highway.”

It’s our way or the highway is a characteristic shared by Facebook and the Morrison Government. At least they should have understood each other’s bargaining position. As Katherine Murphy recently pointed out in The Guardian
My colleague David Marr has noted recently Morrison’s reluctance to be transparent dates from his “on water matters” days in the immigration portfolio. Marr noted during those days as immigration minister, with the “uncomfortable piece of set decoration” General Angus Campbell at his side — “neither man answered a single question that mattered”.
Not answering a single question that mattered seems to also be a policy that Morrison has carried into his Prime Ministership. Last month, The Monthly published a long article that listed a number of occasions where the Morrison Government’s senior members have been less than open and transparent with us, the people that pay for the excesses and demonstrations of absolute power.

Commencing with the premise that in the Coalition Government
Private-sector leadership is sought and the public service is mocked. Economic stimulus is funnelled through business while government agencies survive in a state of austerity, under constant threat of “efficiency” cuts. Under a Coalition with few plans for government beyond diminishment, but a fierce sense of entitlement to power, the eventual devolution of standards was inevitable.
The Monthly’s editor, Nick Feik concludes by suggesting
The next time a scandal breaks — and one will break soon — the public might be outraged, but will be neither shocked nor surprised. This is simply what happens with a government that pursues those who keep it accountable, ignores ministerial codes of conduct, is unconcerned by conflicts of interest, is intent on shielding its workings from the public, and distrusts its own agencies and institutions. To the Coalition government, citizens are, as the saying goes, like mushrooms: to be kept in the dark and fed bull***t.
While Feik has a point, it seems that in February a scandal broke in the halls of Parliament House that even Morrison can’t silence by convening an enquiry or an investigation that reports back long after the caravan has moved on. This time, the scandal is coming from within the halls of power on Capital Hill.

Brittany Higgins, a former employee of the Ministerial Staff of Minister Linda Reynolds, alleged that she was raped in the Ministerial Offices after a party in 2019. It seems that at the time, the area was cleaned rather than protected to enable Police to gather evidence, Higgins was ‘counselled’ that a Police investigation leading to a criminal prosecution would be detrimental to her current and future career prospects and the Coalition would arrange a Parliamentary investigation. Higgins publicly revealed the rape by a senior staffer in February 2021 after the promised investigation had seemingly been taken down a dark corridor and strangled. Three other Parliament House staffers have since come forward and made similar allegations against the same senior staffer who seemed to have a magical ability to be able to move to a different Minister’s Offices when things got ‘difficult’. Friends of another woman (who has since taken her own life allegedly due in part to her horrific experience) have released documentation that claims that a current Federal senior Minister raped her in 1988, prior to entering Parliament.

For the record — any form of assault is never acceptable.

Morrison’s response was also not acceptable. He was purely transactional (start an enquiry, yada, yada, yada) until his wife had a chat with him and pointed out the moral and ethical concerns of the nation by suggesting he should reflect how he would feel if one of his daughters was sexually assaulted. Incredibly, Morrison told the press of the conversation so you could question if he really sees the poor behaviour and lack of morals or ethics in his actions. And well done Mrs Morrison for ‘having the discussion’.

Facebook has demonstrated its absolute power by removing newsfeeds from its platform because it could, or the numerous examples of ‘pork-barrelling’ discussed in The Monthly occurred because the Coalition was exercising its absolute power. While both alleged rape perpetrators have the right to protest their innocence until the matters are tested in the appropriate Courts of Law, the number of individuals who have bravely told their stories suggest there is something to see here. It seems there is considerable evidence that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

What do you think?

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Phil Pryor

22/03/2021

The Morrison type is too common in politics, the game for lying self promoters. Devoid of morals, ethcs, decency, social awareness, this type never ever aims to tell the truth. They spout stories to defend the ego, enhance it, magnify it, distort it, swell it, inflate it. Me, lookatme, it'sme, wonderfulme, that's the tune. Ugly, untrustworthy, uncivilised...

How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?