Bedecked in an animal skin headdress, buffalo horns, face paint and Viking inspired tattoos he was the media face of the January 6 insurrectionists in Washington. Jacob Anthony Angeli Chansley, best known as the QAnon Shaman, didn’t stand much of a chance of anonymity in a police lineup following his arrest and was subsequently sentenced to 41 months in jail. After serving only 27 months he was released and is now reborn, supposedly running for Congress in Arizona in the forthcoming election.
These days his appearance has changed radically and the balding 35-year old looks more like a conservative bible belt evangelical as he pushes his agenda of ‘libertarian’ beliefs. It’s the sort of political aberration and metamorphosis you would brand ‘only in America’, although Australia has not been without its share of maverick ‘cookers’.
‘Cookers’ – I’m not sure of the origin of that word but it’s currently bandied about to describe anybody way right or way left of the political mainstream. So far we have yet to see anybody as colourful as the former Jacob Chansley but in February of 2023 News.com.au reported:
“Two of Australia’s best-known ‘cookers’ have revealed plans to contest the upcoming NSW state election in order to “tear the place down”. In a recent video shared on social media, Riccardo Bosi – a former Australian Army Special Forces lieutenant colonel turned right-wing extremist – revealed both he and fellow high-profile conspiracy theorist Dave “Guru” Graham planned to run in next month’s vote.”
The Wieambilla shooting in Queensland in December 2022, that resulted in the death of two police officers, was originally blamed on a sovereign citizen ideology on the part of the shooters Nathaniel, Gareth, and Stacey Train. This was later amended to focus on what the police described as broad Christian fundamentalist beliefs, sometimes called premillennialism.
Mercifully these kinds of extreme beliefs are rare in Australia although the rapid spread of misinformation on the internet is the fuel for any cooker’s fire. Artificial intelligence can now generate fake news at an alarming rate and the predictions are frightening. The media watch dog, NewsGuard, recently reported that “since May 2023, the number of websites hosting fake and false articles created with artificial intelligence (AI) has increased by more than 1,000 percent”. It identified 603 AI-generated news and information sites operating with little to no human oversight.
Whether the epidemic of cyber mistruths will impact forthcoming Australian elections and democracy here in general remains to be seen. Nevertheless you have to ask if somebody is already commissioning a series of AI generated sites where a fake Taylor Swift endorses Peter Dutton as our next PM.
There is also an argument that Australia is ignoring international trends, preferring moderation over the kind of extremes and lunacy we see in other countries, in particular with Trump in the US. The success of the ‘teal’ candidates in the last Federal election was certainly a positive move.
We now look back at groups such as Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party, The True Blue Crew and Love Australia Or Leave as blips on the political landscape, almost bordering on the comical. Even the radically named Sex Party which was temporarily deregistered by the Australian Election Commission, not because of its name or policies, but for lack of membership, has been reborn as Reason.
Led by Fiona Patten with its stronghold in Victoria, Reason’s policies include getting religion out of politics, the decriminalisation of all drugs and the legalisation of cannabis, urgent action of climate change, reconciliation now with Indigenous Australia and education reform including comprehensive sex education in all Australian schools.
Perhaps our constant exposure to American politics, in particular the cult of Donald Trump, is a good thing and reaffirms that we never want that kind of crazy blind allegiance here. By the same token if any of our rather colourless pollies chose to don warpaint, cover themselves in Nordic symbols and sprout bull horns, I would have no problem.