In a previous article I argued that those now coming out as opposed to lockdowns first need to apologise for perpetrating or collaborating. But even before an apology, there needs to be an admission that lockdowns were wrong. A recent article in the Herald Sun is an example of a very tentative first step. “Covid calls that defied belief” – HeraldSun, October 14, 2022.
Patrick Carlyon lists 77 separate “Covid calls that defied belief.” The whole tenor of the article is that the disgraceful behaviour of our public officials over the last 2 and a half years is just one of those things that we should shake our heads at, or even have a chuckle about, and then move on.
Carlyon is free to frame his article as he sees fit, or as his editors allow. But there is another way to frame it and it’s very very different to the choice he made.
Here is a selection of the 77 items, with my alternative take.
Item 1: An “abundance of caution is never a bad thing,” Premier Daniel Andrews says. Yes, after 6 lockdowns over 262 days, sometimes it is.
What Carlyon doesn’t say, and leaves the reader to assume, is that lockdowns are sometimes okay. Maybe three is the right number? Maybe four? They’re not okay, they are never okay. He also overlooks the fact that caution is a subjective notion and that two different people can have a different view of what a cautious approach looks like.
Unlike Andrews, whose idea of caution is to do something never before tried, i.e. locking up healthy people thereby crushing hopes, dreams and incomes, others could take the perfectly reasonable view that caution would dictate leaving the status quo as intact as possible while protecting those most likely to get severely ill.
Likewise, an abundance of caution could be interpreted as waiting until vaccines have had proper trials, and long-term data, before suggesting, let alone coercing, people to roll their sleeves up on pain of losing their job.
Item 2: The promise of a “short sharp” lockdown. We now know that “short sharp” lockdowns usually become months-long lockdowns.
Is Carlyon saying tacitly that lockdowns are okay, provided they’re short, or provided they only go for as long as the initial announcement said they would? What he ‘now knows,’ is that short ones end up as long ones. Well that is a very elementary lesson to take from our experience.
Another lesson is that this government lied to us. Did anyone really believe on the eve of the sixth lockdown that it would last only as announced? Or did we all suspect another lie? This is a much harder lesson to take – it opens up uncomfortable lines of enquiry such as “What else did /do they lie about?” From there it is a short step to demanding that there be accountability for the lies – and further, that every future announcement is challenged. I don’t recall many journalists doing that.
Item 13: Old women being confronted by police on a park bench.
Item 14: Police searching the shopping bag of a woman in the CBD.
Item 15: The needlessly melodramatic arrest of pregnant mother Zoe Lee Buhler – with handcuffs, in her pink pajamas at home – for posting about a lockdown protest.
Item 16: A Greek funeral being interrupted when police enter the church to do a head check.
These four items are of a piece with each other. They are stated nakedly, without any attempt at all to say whether they were okay. Let’s assume he means them to be self-evidently wrong. Why does he ignore the elephant in the room, which is the utter debasement of the Victoria Police command – they let themselves be turned into cheap thugs for hire, flat track bullies who cast aside everything about what it means to be a human being?
This is the real scandal – that when faced with distasteful orders, our best and brightest boys and girls in blue couldn’t find any courage to stand up and say no. “Just following orders” has always been the weakest of excuses. They showed a complete contempt for the public they are supposed to serve. One could be excused for thinking them utterly morally and ethically bankrupt.
Any wonder they are struggling to recruit. On the matter of Zoe Buhler’s arrest, is he saying that it was right, but just a bit too melodramatic? Would it have been okay if she was dressed for work? Or if her kids weren’t there? The way the sentence is framed puts the focus on the drama, while pushing the bigger issue – that Buhler was arrested for a Facebook post – to the background.
Item 17: A learner driver being fined $1,652 (later rescinded) for a lesson with her mum because the activity was “non-essential.”
Item 18: A delivery man being fined (later rescinded) for washing his car at an otherwise empty car wash at 1:15 am.
Item 8: Bans on golf and fishing – even by yourself – are mostly adhered to, even by those who reject the policies. “No trip to the golf course is worth someone’s life,“ Premier Dan Andrews explains. Yet no trip to the golf course would have risked anyone’s life, either.
Here is a set of examples which point out the arbitrary nature of the rules. The implication is that those rules were wrong. That’s true as far as it goes, but the deeper revelation is that the rules were deliberately nonsensical, in order to do two things.
First, it is an arrogant display of ultimate power. “I can make you do anything – even if it makes no sense or even if it’s counter-productive – and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Second, the sheer absurdity of the rules serves to distract people from the abuse of power, so they end up talking about the details and arguing over the size of the fine, or whether golf should be allowed in small groups, or if fishing is okay if the wind is more than five knots and I only catch snapper. The absurdity also severely adds to the mental distress of the population as they try to assimilate what is happening to them.
Item 61: Police Commissioner Shane Patton warns fines could result from police patrols of playgrounds, many of which are draped in warning tape.
Item 62: The strident police line compels police association head Wayne Gatt to point out the obvious. “Police are now tasked with enforcing a curfew that no one has welcomed, and to prevent families going to playgrounds that bring them joy.”
Item 63: When the playground ban is finally dropped, two weeks later, limits remain. One parent, no eating or drinking. The Fun Police won’t let go.
Item 64: To this day, no evidence has been produced to support the ban. The obvious conclusion is that there is no scientific basis for such a cruel and misplaced measure.
This group of items from Carlyon’s list shows the utter humiliation of the Victoria Police as they submit to the Premier’s whims. They know it’s wrong, the police association knows it’s wrong, we know they know it is wrong, but still they do it. Carlyon’s “obvious conclusion” that “there is no scientific basis” is indeed obvious. But what is tacitly allowed is the possibility that if there were ‘scientific evidence” then these “cruel and misplaced measures” would be okay. No. It would still be cruel and misplaced and therefore wrong.
Publishing this kind of article must have taken a degree of courage on the part of the editors of the Herald Sun, given the slavish fear-mongering we saw on their banner headlines for the past 2 years. That they are only now stepping out into the light is a shame. But at least it’s a start. The sub-text and tone of this piece is disturbing – it provides a degree of ambiguity that a casual reader could mistake for ambivalence about just what happened in the last 2 years. And the V-word is not mentioned. At all. Evidently that is still no-go territory.
In explicit terms, what really happened was that our governments lied to us, they attacked all that it means to be human, they salivated over gross abuses of power, and they waged a psychological war on their own populace.
I’m not moving on. Not yet. Not by a long hypodermic shot.