How the Australian Government Created a Treasure Trove for Citizen Journalists

Going into bat for the legacy media which had had his own back for so long, Barack Obama praised them as “the curated media”. Likewise drunk on their own self-regard, the legacy media developed a mania for so-called “fact-checking”. Both Obama and his cheerleaders in the legacy media labour under the delusion that they are somehow the gatekeepers of the public record.

Once, in a sense, this was true: only large media organisations could afford to subscribe to vast media libraries like Lexis-Nexis. But the internet age has changed all that.

As Arthur C. Clarke predicted in his 1984: Spring; A Choice of Futures, modern communications technology broke the legacy media’s monopoly of the public record, just as surely as the Trump election broke the legacy media, once and for all. Almost exactly as Clarke foresaw, a new army of citizen journalists, armed, as journalist “TimCast” Poole says, with just a bus ticket, a backpack and a camera phone, are the new wave of media.

At the same time legacy media journalists gave up even bothering to consult the vast libraries of historical information at their fingertips, preferring instead to look – and think – no further than their Twitter feeds. Such closed minds and lazy research go a long way to explaining the legacy media’s credulity in the face of lying hucksters like Greta Thunberg. Their ignorance and gullibility also lead directly to their hysterical parroting of nonsensical claims that natural disasters such as Australia’s current wave of bushfires are completely unprecedented.

Meanwhile, the Australian government, of all sources, has gifted ordinary citizens and citizen journalists alike an unprecedented trove of historical fact with which to counter the lies and ignorance of the legacy media.

Trove is a project of the National Library of Australia. Trove is a vast, free, online repository of resources including manuscripts, images, audio, books and archived websites. Most importantly for citizen journalists, Trove includes a huge, searchable database of Australian newspapers, from 1860 to 1959.

As the Australian legacy media have launched an onslaught of hysterical garbage and fake news, as the 2019 bushfires burn on, citizen journalists have taken to Trove with a passion. The alarmist gibberish of the legacy media has been systematically debunked by an avalanche of inconvenient facts from the pages of past newspapers.

Is the legacy media telling you that it’s been the hottest day ever, in Australia? Just hop on Trove and search past newspapers for a keyword like “heatwave”. You’ll soon find articles such as the one from the Sun of 20 December 1938, telling of temperatures of 119°F (48°C) in White Cliffs, and 125°F (52°C) in Bourke. Or mind-boggling stories from the astonishing month-long heatwave of 1906, which saw town after town recording weeks of record-high temperatures. In Bourke, the temperature didn’t fall below 39°C for 24 days in a row.

Writing my own post on claims that places like Daintree haven’t experienced fire “for tens of millions of year”, I quickly found references to drought conditions and large-scale fires in the late 1930s.

Similarly, Trove searches demolish claims that Australia has never seen bushfires as large or as early as we’ve seen in 2019. In the late 1940s, Queensland newspapers reported fires “from Bundaberg to the New South Wales border”, and “an 800-mile chain of fires…from Cairns to Maryborough”.

Knowledge is power. An informed citizenry is a threat to authoritarian elites. The internet has broken the legacy media’s stranglehold on the public sphere. In creating Trove, the Australian government (almost certainly inadvertently) handed a weapon of unlimited power to Australia’s citizens and citizens journalists.

The legacy media and the Klimate Kult can lie all they will: we now have the facts at our fingertips.

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