Ginger Gorman is an award-winning journalist based in the Australian Capital Territory and, in 2013, was the target of vicious online trolling (many women are), which included a death threat. After the trolling subsided, she indulged her curiosity and investigated these online trolls. Over the subsequent years, she spoke to psychologists, trolling victims, law enforcement officers, academics, and some of the trolls themselves, by embedding herself into their online communities. This resulted in the book ‘Troll Hunting: inside the world of online hate and its human fallout’1,2.
When the vacuous Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted ‘thoughts and prayers’ to those affected by the fires devastating parts of New South Wales and Queensland, Gorman replied: “Don’t you reckon ‘thoughts and prayers’ has become an international political euphemism meaning… ‘I’m not doing anything to fix this’?”3 Indeed. This ‘thoughts and prayers’ drivel is the same meaningless platitude delivered by politicians in the US after every mass shooting, as they turn their backs and walk away from meaningful gun reform. So it is, and has been, with climate change in this country. Not long after Morrison sent ‘thoughts and prayers’, the vastly limited federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg tweeted the same platitude4. Birds of a feather….
Some time after Ginger Gorman posted her comment, Simon Holmes à Court posted the following: “I propose #GormansLaw: anytime a politician offers thoughts and prayers, we read/hear them saying ‘I’m not doing anything to fix this’.”5 I was already there; I just didn’t have a name for it6.
One of the most evocative images coming from the fires is a photograph of a couple of young lads (the photographer’s sons) standing calf-deep in water at Black Head back beach (near ForsterTuncurry), looking at the fires which are raging some hundreds of metres in front of them. This image was taken by a Martin Von Stoll. He told his boys to “take it in because this is something you might not experience for the rest of your life.”7 Unfortunately, given the increasing pace of climate change, and the decrease in rainfall across southeastern Australia, I think he is most likely mistaken. I expect his lads will experience this sort of catastrophe fairly regularly.
Brilliant cartoonist David Rowe, who publishes in the Australian Financial Review, took the Von Stoll image as a template, drawing a similar scene with Scott Morrison staring at the fires like Von Stoll’s two boys. However, in this cartoon, Morrison is holding two buckets full of water, one in each hand. That in the left hand is labelled ‘thoughts’, with the one in the right hand labelled ‘prayers’. In Morrison’s back pocket is a folded series of papers labelled ‘Climate Science’8,9, presumably unread.
During the fires, Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian visited evacuees at Club Taree in Taree in northeastern NSW. Morrison, it was said, made a beeline straight to a table full of elderly residents who were having their lunch. An evacuee who lost his home said that Morrison “didn’t really talk to anyone else. He went straight to them, interrupted their lunch and just kept repeating ‘oh, how tragic’, and ‘wow, that’s tragic’ as they told him their stories of losing their homes. There wasn’t any real emotion or compassion.” He also claimed younger evacuees were ignored as he put on a show for the waiting media crews, Morrison was then out the door in 20 minutes10.
Whenever I see Scott Morrison, especially standing mute with his gormless grin, I am reminded of the quote, often erroneously attributed to Groucho Marx, among others. And that is: ‘The secret is sincerity, if you can fake that, you’ve got it made’11. Morrison is the most transparently disingenuous politician I have ever seen. Gorman’s Law epitomises him perfectly.