The Australian conspiracy

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Have you ever listened to a really passionate AM radio host who believes all manner of conspiracy? They might use phrases like “New World Order,” “false flag” or even “crisis actor,” to describe how sinister figures are curating a narrative opposite of the truth for an ulterior agenda.

These theorists have consistently popped up to “challenge the narrative” in all manner of events, from the moon landing to tragedies like 9/11 and just about every school shooting that has sparked an interest in some form of social change. These theorists may come off as disgusting and exploitative to many due to their lack of tact discussing tragic events, but there is an art form to how they are able to sow doubt and perpetuate half-truths through cherry picked facts and buzzwords to challenge even the most obvious truths.

You can get a close look at the rhetoric and wordplay at work in various online conspiracies through one of the internet’s most popular joke theories — that Australia does not exist. It’s a joke that returns every so often to confuse those who are unfamiliar with it. I’ve recently seen it pop up this year to the ire of many young or oblivious Australians.

All of the well worn conspiracy arguments come into play for the jokers insinuating the country and continent never existed. These include a ton of gaslighting (destabilizing a person’s belief with lies, denial and contradiction) tactics, comments from “Have you ever actually SEEN Australia?” to made up history lessons conflating Australia with Atlantis or as a grand conspiracy where airplanes meant for “fictional” Australia actually take you to a country which “is an actual real country.” Pseudo-science is also plentiful, using fabricated or edited quotes from Carl Sagan, Isaac Newton and even Bill Nye The Science Guy to support totally bogus “scientific facts,” such as “continents in the southern hemisphere can’t exist because the earth is round, and their mass would fall off the globe.” Even for a joke, the “evidence” gets very elaborate and can cast a shadow of doubt onto those who don’t know better.

While there is some fun to be had watching Australians angrily assert that they are looking at Australia right now through their window or getting them to question their country’s existence, the joke is a warning of the dangers conspiratorial rhetoric — as each time the joke has resurfaced, real, gullible people have had to research whether or not Australia truly exists. You can see where this type of doubt sowing could be a problem once completely idiotic and dangerous theories like “water is poisonous” now have ground to take root. Theories like the world being flat or dinosaur bones being created and buried by the government are ultimately not a serious danger in the grand scheme of things, but once people start calling to destroy the water supply or to erase a very real continent off of maps, things have gone too far.

Ironically, the solution to collective parroting of a false theory mirrors many conspiracy theorist’s view of mainstream narratives — that there is a need to “think for yourself” against the tides of “sheeple” (a collective) that cannot. So as conspiracy theorists like to say, “question everything,” or else one day you might wake up to your neighbors agreeing on why “Australia is a myth perpetuated by the U.S. government.”