“Who watches the watchers?” It’s an old question, but one that has sharpened to renewed clarity in these dangerous times.

We live in what Orwell might have called “a time of universal deceit” — and the biggest, most dangerous liars are those who champion themselves as the guardians of truth.

Politicians… well, politicians have always lied, but now they’re doing it on a scale that would make Richard Nixon blush. The media have always had a troubled relationship with the truth, but now they’re lying to our faces, constantly and shamelessly. So-called “fact checkers” peddle blatant deceit.

Even supposedly impartial sources of information are being hijacked by lying ideologues.

Take the “They Vote For You” website as an example. This website is supposed to be an objective record of how Australian federal MPs vote on legislation. But, who runs the site? The “Open Australia Foundation”.

The website, by design or otherwise, has been hijacked by a small group of activist users, who seek to misrepresent voting records in order to prosecute a political agenda.

The net result is not a better informed public. It’s a misinformed public.

The background of Open Australia Foundation is hardly transparent — its funding sources, for instance, are not cited – although it has a link to donate, on its site. Nor do annual reports seem to be publicly available — I stand happily to be corrected, of course.

But, on the evidence, the website has a very notable problem with its “just the facts” posturing. It might also be asked why there is even any need for the site when the voting record of every MP is freely available on the Parliament House website. But the problem — for the Open Australia Foundation, anyway — with the Parliament website is that it is indeed a simple, factual record. How to spin such dry facts? Here’s how:

The website characterises politicians as having “voted very strongly for” or “very strongly against”. When you vote in parliament, it’s a yes or a no. There aren’t different degrees of support.

Rather than giving the names and detail of the actual bills, the website attempts to characterise the bills in highly subjective terms. There are no single bills “increasing housing affordability” or creating “a fast transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy” or “making more water from Murray-Darling Basin available”, but the website promotes the fiction that complex policy challenges can be addressed by a single piece of legislation.

Not only does the website re-frame the actual voting record of MPs to suit what is an obvious narrative, it actively misleads about how MPs vote.

Senator Bragg chaired the Libs and Nats for Yes campaign, and was a strong proponent for marriage equality. But They Vote for You claims he “voted strongly against Indigenous and LGBTI rights”. He has written a book supporting indigenous constitutional recognition, but the website claims he is opposed to the Voice.

Dave Sharma has been consistently making the case for a transition to net zero by 2050 and more ambitious emissions reduction targets, yet is described by the website as having “voted strongly against a fast transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy”. The basis of this conclusion is a single and inconsequential amendment to a bill that was passed unanimously.

And somehow, having voted for the implementation of the Hayne royal commission recommendations, this means Mr Sharma “voted strongly against increasing consumer protections”. Go figure.

Spectator Australia

Another example of the website’s blatant lies is that it purports to show which senators voted for or against the Paris Climate Agreement. Only problem: no senators voted on the Agreement. Not one. Because, as an international agreement, it is entered into by the executive — the Senate doesn’t get to vote.

We live in a time of near-universal deceit, indeed.

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Who Checks the ‘Fact-Checkers’?
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Lushington D. Brady

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In the last decade...