“Dolores Umbridge is a massive c*nt,” said social commentator and comedy writer Nayuka Gorrie on the Festival’s flagship panel Lie to Me: An Evening of Storytelling at Sydney Town Hall.
Seven speakers packed the stage with host Benjamin Law to discuss how lies dominate the post-truth era, just in time for the upcoming 2019 federal election. If not for that Harry Potter reference, politics seemed to be the heart of the evening.
“Telling the truth is oftentimes worse than telling lies,” Gorrie said, “Some lies go uncontested”.
She recalled being discouraged from using the word ‘invasion’ with regards to “white settler colonialism”, and the apathy of John Howard and Kevin Rudd towards the lies about Indigenous “income, alcohol and pornography” statistics.
“In literature, national public holidays, curriculums, politicians…we repeat lies until they become truths.
Speaking with “Aboriginal-pessimism”, Gorrie “[does not] know if things will change” because “white supremacy is so insidious”.
Political commentator and human rights advocate Dr Tim Soutphommasane also challenged Australia’s national identity, dispelling the myth of a “fair go” and “egalitarian” country.
“All nations are built on lies, that potent mix of fact and fiction” he said.
“Think about misdirection, denial, deflection or distortion, which make it all the more harder to identify lies.”
Dr Soutphommasane also criticised journalists who ‘don’t seem to be doing their jobs” at scrutinising lies, and giving “soft interviews to Pauline Hansen, Mark Latham and Fraser Anning who peddle mistruths and distortions without being challenged”.
“Nowadays, nasty ideas are dressed up in respectable language.
“Neo-nazis and white-supremacists use ‘social justice’ as their defining umbrella, or far-right benign slogans such as ‘IT’S OK TO BE WHITE’.”
Former Greens senator-turned-writer Scott Ludlam said he was “fascinated by elections”. He traced how lies and deception ‘scale up’ in parliament, and then become forgotten.
“Here we are, saturated in fake news, alternative facts, outnumbered by bots and sock-puppets with fake faces and numbers for names,
“Newspapers and television stations mutated into pieces of political weaponry, and the whole body of politics being unborn from reality.”
He made subtle snipes at the policies of Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott, and Scott Morrison’s “If you have a go, you get a go” campaign (“What the fuck does that even mean?”) while advocating a firm stance on climate change, rallying against the lies of the “tobacco industry” and “fossil fuel sector”, as well as the strategic “poisoning of the information world”.
“[People] sometimes pay an appalling personal cost for trying to put the truth in front of the populace”
He called on the “humble public library”, “independent publishers”, “scientific journal”, “independent publishers” and “whistle blowers” to help people distinguish reality from “bullshit”.
Ece Temelkuran, one of Turkey’s best novelists and political commentators said, “Shame has transformed dramatically, creating this political and moral madness.”
“Today, we are facing this open buffet of truths. You can choose anything, and you can believe in them. As long as you consume it without complaining about the system. But something is wrong with the system.”