Monday, 5 September 2022

Disinformation stuff

The Stuff papers have been checking into which candidates for local government are actually antivax conspiracy theorists.

So why are we doing this? It’s certainly not fun, or enlightening work. Mostly, it’s depressing, tedious and disturbing. In the last fortnight, I’ve swung from despair, to irritation, puzzlement, and occasionally amusement.

But facts and transparency are cornerstones of democracy. Stuff is drawing attention to these candidates because they cannot distinguish fairytales from reality. They are anti-science. They lack critical thinking and sound judgment.

And while they claim the opposite, many seek to disrupt democratic institutions. Many share a common disdain for the rules, procedures, and norms of representative governance. (In the case of VFF, they have made explicit their aims to make the country ungovernable.)

If voters elevate them to decision-making roles, they should do with this knowledge.

There are two separate things going on here.

I agree with Vance that it is dangerous to elect people who cannot distinguish fairytales from reality, and who are anti-science. But local government hasn't got a ton of remit over Covid- or vaccine-relevant stuff. An antivax local government could refuse to set vaccine/mask requirements in council-owned places where those requirements might make sense, but what else could it really do?

On this aspect, I am way more worried about councilors who believe anti-science fairytales about rent-control, zoning, and about the possibility of reducing national net emissions through council measures targeting emissions already covered by the ETS. A lot of them think that stadiums and convention centres are great for economic development. They're all wrong. Anti-science councils can really screw things up when relying on fairytales in those areas. But none of those get picked up in anti-disinformation campaigns.

The second part of Vance's argument is stronger. If those candidates' hidden aims are to throw sand into local government gears, that's a bigger problem to the extent that councils pursue objectives that are worth pursuing. 

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