Covid19 Diary 11

Samuel Pepys: August 8, 1665
… The streets mighty empty all the way now, even in London, which is a sad sight. And to Westminster hall, where talking, hearing very sad stories from Mrs Mumford among others, of Mrs. Mitchell’s son’s family. And poor Will that used to sell us ale at the Hall door – his wife and three children dead, all I think in a day. So home through the City again, wishing I may have taken no ill in going; but I will go, I think, no more thither.

August 9, 2020

Melbourne is in Stage Four lockdown; the rest of the state has returned to Stage Three. The virus escaped hotel quarantine, and then got into other workplaces, probably in both cases because casual staff were not properly trained in personal protection, or did not have access to appropriate PPE, and were working across multiple sites.

Most unhappily, it got into aged care homes. That was always one of my fears, knowing from my visiting experience how incredibly hard it is to stop an infection running rampant through an aged care facility once it gets in. We see it every winter with flu, which is why as a minister I always get a flu shot, and we see it whenever there is gastro. I have been checking the UnitingAgeWell website every day to see how they are coping. Staff members have tested positive, but so far it doesn’t look as though there has been any onsite transmission, and none of the residents have it. I’d like to think this is because UnitingAgeWell is a not-for-profit with all government grants used for the benefits of the residents rather than to fund the lavish lifestyles of its owners (which I guess would be all of us – members of the Uniting Church) but I’m aware how much luck has played a part in community transmission so I can’t make that claim.

One thing that has become incredibly obvious this week has been just how broken the mainstream media is in Australia. That was already apparent when looking at the way the MSM reports on issues around climate change and asylum seekers. I can’t forget the commentary that saw the repeal of Medevac as a political game rather than a horror that could lead to the real deaths of real people. And the desperation of the ABC to be ‘balanced’ on climate change, rather than representing the overwhelming scientific consensus, probably played a part in Scott Morrison winning the last federal election. But to sit in Victoria, which is in a state of disaster, with hundreds of new infections every day and deaths rising, and watch the media play ‘political gotcha’ at media conferences made me feel sick. It was so obvious that for the MSM this is just another political contest, no more, no less, with winners and losers that they could extol and condemn.

The most egregious were of course from Murdoch publications; has any single human being done more damage to Australia than that man? The Victorian political correspondent from The Australian was called out on her badgering of the Premier about breaches of hotel quarantine, when what Victorians wanted to know from the media conference was what Stage Four restrictions mean for us, here and now. Other MSM journalists immediately circled the wagons around her, condemning and chastising the public for thinking we could criticise the way journalism is practised.

What I found most frustrating is that this same ‘journalist’ had written a series of articles falsely connecting infections in Victoria to the Black Lives Matter protests, and none of the MSM journalists defending her had said a word about those. She spread misinformation in a time of crisis and contributed to the racialisation of the virus, but ABC journalists like Hamish MacDonald and Patricia Karvelas condemned the public rather than her. The loyalty of the MSM in Australia seems to be firstly to Rupert and secondly to each other; there is no loyalty to the truth or the public.

This is why the independent media have become so important. I now subscribe, which means actually pay cold hard cash for, reporting and commentary from the Guardian, Crikey, The Saturday Paper, The Monthly, Meanjin, The Conversation, Independent Australia, and individuals like Andrew P. Street. It is the only way to find out what is actually going on. SBS News isn’t bad, although it has occasionally fallen into the ‘balance’ trap. I’ve given up in the ABC. The 7.30 Report used to be required viewing when Kerry O’Brien hosted it; no more. Dear God, Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest is going to give the Boyer Lectures!

But I subscribe to independent media because I can afford it, and because I am ridiculously well-educated (that wretched law degree was good for something) and so can tell when journalists are passing off partisan political commentary in the service of their masters as reporting. I don’t know what proportion of the Australian population has these advantages. And we are in ‘unprecedented’ times when good reporting is more important than ever.

Oh, well, everyone; keep those masks on and wash your hands. One day this will be over, and then we can picket the newscorpse offices over their lies. Yay!

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