There is nothing that agitates some whitefellas more than an intelligent, articulate and charismatic blackfella.
The emphasis the No Campaign is putting on Thomas Mayo is a classic example. Thomas Mayo attended the Uluru gathering and afterwards travelled the country visiting hundreds of communities to explain the Voice. At each he movingly recited from memory the Uluru Statement of the Heart.
His touring and campaigning has been funded by the Maritime Union of which he is a long time member and now an official.
To further add to the hate and vitriol directed to him he is, according to the author’s wife, extremely good looking. It is all a bit reminiscent of J Edgar Hoover and his hatred of Martin Luther King – intelligent, articulate and charismatic. In his case however, Hoover spent an enormous amount of time and effort tracking King’s sex life – partly no doubt to undermine King’s standing – but possibly also because of some kink in his closeted gay life triggered by this charismatic African American.
The No campaign has featured Thomas Mayo in a crude racist full page ad in the AFR with Michael and Kate Chaney. They are also circulating a nasty video mash up which uses selective footage to depict Mayo as a threating and dangerous subversive.
He also features heavily in the No side’s official AEC lodged case alongside Professor Megan Davis who is also apparently another dangerous radical out to destroy our way of life. If you would like to hear some of Professor Davis’ allegedly radical stuff she is speaking at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre alongside Professor George Williams on Tuesday August 8.
On the broader campaign the range and variety of anti-Voice campaigns is admittedly impressive. While most major mainstream religious organisations support the Voice, No campaigners are targetting people who voted no in the gay marriage postal poll and fundamentalist Christian groups.
According to The Guardian (13/7) Advance Australia’s Facebook page lists two firms as “partner” organisations that have been given permission to “help manage the page” – Whitestone Strategic and RJ Dunham & Co.
“Whitestone’s website describes the Sydney-based company as ‘Australia’s conservative campaign consultancy’ that brings ‘campaign clout in the fight for Australian values’, offering services including strategy, digital, fundraising and field operations. It has done work for Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic party, Australian Capital Territory and federal Liberals, and is listed as registrant for the website of the former Australian Christian Lobby head Lyle Shelton.
“RJ Dunham & Co is a Texas-based marketing and fundraising company with an office in Sydney’s Hills district. Its website says the company “specializes in helping Christian nonprofit ministries extend their cause by generating more resources to fulfill their mission”.
“It has done work for a range of conservative political and religious organisations, both here and in the US, including the Australian Christian Lobby, a California megachurch and a Texas service counselling women against abortions,” The Guardian reported.
Almost all of the stuff No is producing is therefore unsurprisingly, the sort of stuff the far Right in the US produces and is increasingly part of the mess of misinformation and disinformation which is present across social media here and in the US. It is also the sort of stuff the Liberals increasingly reflexively use in campaigns and cost them so many seats in the Victorian State election and the recent Federal elections.
Sadly, as Law Professor, Luke Beck, says: “It is perfectly legal to spread misinformation and disinformation and tell outright lies about the proposed constitutional amendment, just as it is legal to tell lies during federal election campaigns. While Australia has laws banning businesses from engaging in deceptive and misleading advertising about their products and services, there are no equivalent federal laws that apply to politics.”
But given all this what is the state of play? The overall mainstream media is not helping with its model fixated on conflict, shock and awe.
Almost all polls are putting the Yes campaign behind No although the voting date has not yet been set; the Yes campaign is only just getting underway; and, its grassroots structure is such that much of it will be invisible to mainstream media reporting. It is far too early to write it off.
Media reporting on any poll is also, as always, enthusiastic to say the least. For instance, this week The Australian’s Simon Benson was on the front page saying Albanese was in polling trouble and Dutton was overhauling him. It was only on closer reading that you discovered the two party preferred vote was 55% to 45% and Albanese had a 30% lead in the preferred PM status.
The Age was as bad saying Albanese’s approval rating had ‘slumped to an election low’ at 51% compared to Dutton’s 21%.
Bookies are of the same view offering you a $1.22 return on a dollar bet on Albanese being re-elected and $4 on the chances of the Coalition winning. Sadly, no-one seems to be offering odds on the referendum outcome. It might be because it’s regarded as bad taste (unlikely given the way betting companies behave) or they are waiting until closer to the date.
Declaration of interest: The author has shared a platform with Thomas Mayo at an MUA event.