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Clive Palmer backs, Ralph Babet endorses, visit by US right-wing firebrands

Clive Palmer's 'Freedom Conference' features Tucker Carlson as guest speaker.

Clive Palmer's 'Freedom Conference' features Tucker Carlson as guest speaker. Photo: TND/Getty

American rightwing firebrand Tucker Carlson will be hosted at Parliament House in Canberra later in June, a move slammed by disinformation experts.

It is happening because mining magnate Clive Palmer is funding and hosting a conference promoting ‘freedom’ and ‘truth’ across Australia, with Carlson as the key guest.

Carlson played a pivotal role in a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit against Fox News, while a conspiratorial filmmaker convicted of a felony in America will also be in Australia for the event.

The ‘Freedom Conferences’ will take place across Australia’s capital cities from June 21 to July 1 with Carlson as the keynote speaker, alongside conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza and, of course, Clive Palmer.

Carlson will attend a cocktail reception at Parliament House on June 25, hosted by Senator Ralph Babet.

Dr Jay Daniel Thompson, an expert on disinformation from RMIT University, questioned whether Carlson or D’Souza were committed to freedom or democracy.

“Carson has a particular affinity with the great replacement theory and the idea that the South African government was oppressing white farmers,” he said.

“D’Souza is … a right-wing culture warrior who has been banging on for three decades about the illiberal left-wing elitism [of] American society and Western society as a whole.”

He said that it is important to highlight that Palmer, Carlson and D’Souza have every right to speak at the conference, but the event’s framing of a “misguided and right-wing nostalgia for [a] past that never was” should be concerning.

“Ironically, despite all their talk of freedom of speech, I don’t think we are going to see much of a debate about Carlson or D’Souza’s rhetoric,” he said.

“Their views need to be challenged, particularly when they’ve been demonstrated in the past to be factually baseless.”

Conspiracy theories

Carlson, best known as a ratings juggernaut at Fox News, left the Murdoch-owned company abruptly following a lawsuit from a producer on his show who claimed she faced a hostile workplace, harassment and sexism.

He has mainstreamed conspiracy theories to his audience in the millions and has called white supremacy “a hoax”.

Carlson has often used his platform to promote his political allies. Photo: Fox News

D’Souza pleaded guilty to illegally making campaign contributions to a Republican candidate in 2014, which netted him a felony conviction, before being pardoned by Donald Trump in 2018.

He has consistently spread unsubstantiated claims in his films and books, and has been discredited on his claims of widespread voter fraud in America’s elections.

Air of legitimacy

Thompson said that the uncritical spreading of dubious claims — under the pretence of ‘truth’ —contributes to an environment where it is difficult to tell what is real and what isn’t.

“After all these years of being discredited, they still receive invitations from around the globe,” he said.

“They’re still being held up as a prize of truth and freedom.”

Ralph Babet, the United Australia Party’s lone representative in government, has been promoting the event.

He was contacted for comment.

Thompson said photo opportunities with government MPs continue to give people like Carlson and D’Souza the air of legitimacy.

“You’ve got the framing of potentially toxic misinformation as being an intellectually rigorous and necessary talk-fest,” Thompson said.

“Current affairs, future threats to true democracy and personal freedom – who wouldn’t be against such a threat?

“My question is what are those threats, what do Clive Palmer, D’Souza and Carlson consider those threats to be? I think we already know the answer to that.”

Topics: Clive Palmer
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