Are truth and democracy under siege?

The leader of Australia’s national university and Nobel Laureate, Professor Brian Schmidt, says democracy and truth are under siege and universities have a vital role in meeting the challenge.

Delivering his annual State of the University address at ANU, Professor Schmidt will issue a rallying call, telling staff and students that universities have never been more vital to democracy.

“Extreme forms of populism, at times and in places approaching fascism, have gained a dangerous foothold in our world,” the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University explains.

“They are leading to violence and autocracy, besieged parliaments and mass arrests, trade wars and fears for future peace. Perhaps most seriously, populism is stopping us from addressing the most existential problem of all – climate change.

“We are entering an era when populism will have severe consequences for the entire planet. It has to be combatted. To think it will just go away is to wilfully ignore the lessons of history.

“We have to ask: who is currently looking after the health of our democracy?”

Like much of the world, the US-Australian citizen has been watching recent events in the United States closely, including the storming of the Capitol – something Professor Schmidt says he could not believe happening five years ago.

“Of the great institutions that have traditionally comprised the ramparts of Australian democracy, only the universities have retained the public’s trust," Professor Schmidt says.

“This gives us a special responsibility to show leadership.

“The biggest problem in the world today is the undermining of the Enlightenment belief in the primacy of the truth.

“Because they exist to establish what is true, universities are needed like never before.”

Do you think truth and democracy is under siege in Australia and around the world?


Sorry Ben but universities are no longer the source of enlightenment they used to be, they now are more likely

to be concerned with making money not education. While I understand overseas students are a great source of cultural diversity they now seem to come with a desire by their countries of origin to control what their students are taught. In particular the Chinese attempt to rewrite history by denying the Tienanmen Square massacre.

Yes universities need funding but this should come from the Australian government for our students so that universities can concentrate on education not raising funds.

While our political system continues to be run by and for the warped Murdoch press we will continue to be led like sheep with no thought for the improvement of our society

Yes we are facing a very real threat to democracy has have we have known it. It is not perfect but much better than examples we have seen overseas.

A major threat comes from our electoral system where money plays a large role with advertising costs etc. Political donors raise a major threat as there is little if anything control on their influence along with the lobbying activities on behave of major interests with deep pockets.

The pork barreling by politicians is a sign of unethical behaviour but nothing is being done to stop it.

A recent viewing of the TV program "The Rise of the Nazis" was alarming as there were parallels to be seen with another country over the last few years.

We are at something of a crossroads with our trust in politicians low, with good reason, and populists are spreading propaganda via social media that is disturbing as they feed conspiracy theories, stories that are not factual and downright rabble rousing. Sobering but true.

“Of the great institutions that have traditionally comprised the ramparts of Australian democracy, only the universities have retained the public’s trust”

What a load of rubbish! When university leaders, including Professor Schmidt, block a grant from the Ramsay Centre for a introduce a western civilisation degree and stated that one of the reasons was that Abbott and Howard were on the board of the Ramsay Centre and yet agree to introduce a Confucius Institute and then trumpet that they exist to establish what is true, how can we believe them. We read, time after time, that students are marked down because their work goes against the ideology of the tutor when universities should be a bastion of exchange of ideas and free speech.

The violence and autocracy, besieged parliaments and mass arrests may be happening in some overseas countries on an irregular basis but none of that has happened in Australia, nor do we see any trace of the possibility of it happening. We have seen protests about climate change, BLM and other sundry causes which, in the main, are peaceful. Even when such protests do not have official approval, they are allowed to proceed albeit closely monitored and some arrests made without violence. Perhaps Schmidt was playing to an audience for some kudos, who knows, but I can see no reason for such a speech to be allowed to come into the mainstream media.

To me the biggest threat to democracy is the possible rorting of the recent US Presidential election (hackable vote counting machines?).

The benefactor of this election is hardly a poster boy for democracy...supposedly features in his son's laptop files as the"big guy " who is not to be forgotten when the Ukrainians are handing out the cash.

Once we see the truth surrounding these issues perhaps then we can decide on the state of the democracy.

In the meantime if we are so concerned with the health of democracy why have we allowed our economy , including "our " univeritsies, to become some dependent on the CCP.

I find this a strange comment, the reason I say that is recently I decided to read a book I had read many years ago, the book was called the history of Australia and New Zealand, the author was Alexander Sutherland, the book was written in the late 1800s, the ANU are talking about editing this book because the language used in the book is not appropriate today, so in a democracy is it appropriate for someone to change history to suit today’s rhetoric, I don’t believe it’s appropriate, I note a comment regarding a reference to fascism, which I think is the opposite of what’s happening around the world, I think we are moving so far towards the left that we are closer to socialism than we have ever been, but to qualify that comment I have also believed that socialism and fascism are just different sides of the same coin, and are as bad as each other, democracy is being damaged by the intolerance of both the left and the right.


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