That Other Contagion - Agent Orange


I came across an article in The Atlantic about a highly infectious virus that has crossed the Pacific from the US to reach the writer's home, Australia. It has also reached Canada. This virus attacks the body, the body politic, democracy itself.

In late 2021, as Australian cities were seeing anti-lockdown and anti-vaxxer protests against the country’s long-running pandemic restrictions and newly implemented vaccine mandates, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted “Don’t Australia my America.” As someone who has recently moved back to Sydney after covering the Trump presidency for the BBC, I have instead found myself thinking the opposite: Don’t America my Australia. The American variant of democracy is contaminating the body politic of my home.

My family left the United States partly to escape its politics, so it was jolting to watch Trump banners that I was more used to seeing in Mississippi and rural Michigan being brandished on the streets of Melbourne. But the Trump paraphernalia, and crowds of Australian protesters that resemble mosh pits of MAGA diehards, have been only a mild form of the sickness. There have been more malign manifestations. Some lawmakers in the state of Victoria who backed tough lockdown measures received death and rape threats.

Trump's Aussie Mini-Me prime minister, Scott Morrison.

During his three and a half years in charge, this former marketing executive has earned a reputation as a serial political liar and peddler of “alternative facts.” In a polity famed for plain speaking, maybe we should look upon him as Australia’s first post-truth prime minister.

Morrison, who made his political name while immigration minister by stopping boats carrying asylum seekers from reaching Australian shores, has also come close to ventriloquizing the former president. If border protections were weakened, he claimed in 2019, asylum seekers with criminal records might be granted entry. “They may be a pedophile; they may be a rapist; they may be a murderer,” he said, using language reminiscent of Trump’s notorious attack on Mexican immigrants at the launch of his presidential campaign in 2015.

...Moderate conservatives have openly expressed concerns about the rightward lurch. The Liberal member of Parliament Dave Sharma, who is facing a tough fight for reelection in his coastal Sydney constituency, recently warned that if centrist conservatives like him were unseated, the Liberal Party would run the risk of further Americanization. As Sharma, a former diplomat who got to observe Washington’s politics up close during a stint at the Australian embassy, cautioned, “You’ll end up, I think, with a Liberal Party that’s less progressive and less moderate because those people will all be gone, and it looks more like the Republican Party in the United States. Do people really want that?”

...The Australian Electoral Commission has expressed concern about fringe candidates circulating groundless insinuations of election fraud and ballot tampering on social media. A Liberal Party candidate, Katherine Deves, who last year likened her campaign to bar transgender athletes from competing in women’s sport to standing up against the Holocaust, has also been a frequent front page distraction. Morrison has distanced himself from her past comments, but has resisted calls to “cancel” her, as he put it.

The forthcoming vote will determine the extent to which the Overton window, that indicator of political permissibility, has shifted. Will voters reelect Morrison and thus tacitly endorse his post-truthism? It is not that the Trump effect has made Australian politics more brutal. Rather, it has been a contributing factor in making day-to-day democracy here more untruthful, cynical, angrily partisan, culturally charged, and overly politicized.

Comment response:

Yes, its true enough, TB.  It has arrived just as our society will be challenged as never before.


  1. Had main stream politicians not let us down so badly there would be no audience for these destructive idiots.


  2. It is amazing -- and depressing -- to see how quickly the Trump virus spread, Mound.


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