vlcsnap-2022-01-10-17h41m14s299On the surface, it’s difficult to discern what the Australian Government sought to gain from manufacturing a farcical soap opera starring the greatest tennis player of the past decade, a man who has been crowned Aussie Open champion nine times already (more than any other player in history) and has won it on the last three occasions it’s been staged. If the idea was to continue the doomed ‘Zero Covid’ policy by making an example of an international household name just to show no one is exempt from some of the strictest restrictions on the planet, it’s been something of a PR disaster – especially when one considers Novak Djokovic wasn’t exactly alone as an unvaccinated athlete whose entrance to Camp Oz was approved for the tournament. This fact suggests he didn’t receive any of the ‘special treatment’ that has been cited as a reason for the opposition to his participation, though having his visa revoked and all the legal shenanigans that have followed emits the scent of a prized scapegoat.

The un-vaccinated have been portrayed as Public Enemy Number One by Australia as much as any other country with a leader prepared to weaponise the pandemic for political gain. Monsieur Macron is a good example, forever engaged in discriminating against the un-vaxxed, and a man who will don a mask when sat alone for a Zoom conference whilst not considering such precautions necessary when hanging out in-person with other world leaders. And Aussie PM Scott Morrison has seen his popularity plummet over the last few months as the harsh policies of the past couple of years have proven unsuccessful in stemming the tide of each successive variant. As Sydney and Melbourne (the world’s longest locked-down city) tentatively reopen, a change of tack by Aussie politicians has seen a resigned acceptance emerge that everyone will succumb to the Omicron variant at some point, and no amount of lockdowns will alter that inevitability. What does that say about the sacrifices the Australian people have been faced with little choice but to accept?

Whereas the UK lockdowns were intended to slow the spread in order to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed, the Australian approach seemed to be a misguided attempt to stop the coronavirus altogether; no matter how long it took, they’d keep everyone behind closed doors until the nasty virus had gone away. Apparently, new kid on the block Omicron has been responsible for a swift upsurge in Aussie cases – more in the past couple of weeks than in the past couple of years – despite all the extreme policies in place since the spring of 2020; yet, Novak Djokovic, a man whose antibodies are presumably strong having already recovered from a bout of Covid in December, has been targeted as embodying everything evil about those portrayed as responsible for the wave of latest cases, the un-vaxxed. Australia’s Northern Territories have responded by locking the scum down whilst simultaneously allowing the merely double-vaxxed (who are more than capable of spreading the latest variant) to go about their business.

With Scott Morrison faced with having to call elections come the spring, it’s evident he requires something to justify the policies he’s pursued with such vigour, regardless of how the evidence implies they’ve ultimately failed. Smearing Novak Djokovic appeared to be the gift he was looking for, what with the current Aussie Open champ being so arrogant as to turn up ready to play jab-free. Battling deportation due to officials concluding he didn’t meet the criteria for vaccine exemption to enter the country, Djokovic has now successfully appealed against the decision to cancel his visa in the Federal Court of Australia. Under guard at a Melbourne hotel since last Thursday, he argued he had done all that was required of him to enter Australia and the judge agreed, ordering that his quarantine end ASAP. Djokovic claimed he had been grilled for six hours by immigration officials, sleep-deprived at his hotel, and placed under persistent pressure to submit to their decision that he pull out of the tournament, which begins in just seven days’ time. Djokovic felt he possessed proof that contradicted the authorities’ conviction he didn’t qualify for exemption, afterwards explaining ‘I had been recently infected with Covid in December 2021 and on this basis I was entitled to medical exemption in accordance with Australian government rules and guidance. I further explained that my medical exemption had been granted by the Independent Medical Review Panel’.

Djokovic added he had received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Tennis Australia which said he had medical exemption on the grounds of his recent recovery from the coronavirus; and medical authorities in Australia have recently ruled that a temporary exemption from vaccination can be issued to anyone who’s been infected within six months, something Djokovic has proved he is eligible for. It seems pretty clear that the Aussie authorities were determined to prevent Djokovic from participating in the Open, yet the Serb refused to play ball. His successful appeal isn’t the end of the story, however, as the Home Affairs Minister still has the powers to overrule the judge, able to cancel his visa all over again. The Government’s lawyer at the appeal hearing said that the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs (now, there’s a job title) ‘will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancellation’.

In theory, Djokovic could be banned from Australia for up to three years, though how much such a decision would boost Scott Morrison’s re-election prospects remains debatable; it’d certainly damage the country’s international reputation even further. With the Ashes having successfully been staged – and benefitted from a piss-poor England performance – does Australia really want to reduce an equally prestigious sporting occasion to a farce by deporting the defending champion on such spurious grounds? In the wake of the Aussie Government response to the appeal hearing, Djokovic’s brother Djordje has argued the authorities will be even more determined to deport the player following their humiliating defeat, quoted as saying ‘they want to capture and lock up Novak again’. Considering the efforts so far made to prevent Djokovic’s participation at the Open, it’s difficult to believe the authorities will simply call it a day following the judge’s decision. To throw the towel in now would surely amount to an admission of failure not only in this particular case, but it tackling the coronavirus altogether.

According to stats, 92% of Aussies over-16 have been double-jabbed, though only 14% have had the booster; that stat has nothing to do with a Serbian tennis player and far more to do with the unsuccessful policies of politicians. Even in the Mother Country, more than half of the patients admitted to hospital here with Covid symptoms are vaccinated, despite the un-vaxxed continuing to carry the can; and when such a respected public figure as ‘Sir’ Tony Blair refers to them as ‘idiots’, queues are at vaccination centres are hardly likely to be boosted as a consequence. Confronted by the failure of lockdowns, social distancing, social bubbles and Covid passports as workable methods to keep an airborne virus at bay, the unvaccinated remain perfect scapegoats for struggling politicians, though one wonders if the Aussies have overreached themselves and sabotaged an event that, like the Ashes, could at least present a positive image to the rest of the world that life down under is finally beginning to recover.

© The Editor




DoomwatchAs political slogans go, ‘Follow the Science’ was a useful default phrase whenever the shifting sands of SAGE pushed the Government into one more U-turn in the Covid U-bend last year. The scaremongering boffins feeding the PM their flexible advice on what to do and what not to do in order to stay safe, save lives and prop-up the NHS evidently felt able to chop and change on a whim because they were science people and whatever they said was therefore scientific; any challenges to their wisdom – though the MSM largely avoided those, anyway – could be rebuffed by essentially saying this is the science and you simply follow it, end of. It’s just as well the voices questioning the validity of the science were few and far between when it came to mainstream platforms, and their small numbers meant they could easily be written off as crackpot conspiracy theorists. It’s a neat way of silencing your critics, but killing potential debate with one word or a phrase is very 2020s, of course. Question Identity Politics and you’re far-right or racist (or maybe being one means you’re both); question the Trans issue and you’re a Transphobe; question Islam and you’re Islamophobic and so on.

One would think anyone so fanatically committed to a cause would be prepared to argue their case with a convincing and persuasive argument; but dogmatic fanatics are not rational, logical individuals who can defend their corner with rationality or logic, which is why they tend to resort to name-calling, trolling, abuse, cancel campaigns etc. They’ve twigged that most will accept their position just because they can scream louder than the opposition – and it’s not a nice sound, after all. Not that one has to scream where Covid issues are concerned, however. ‘Jean in Suffolk’, a listener participating in a Talk Radio phone-in the other day declared ‘Vaccinations should be compulsory for everyone. Some people have to be protected from themselves.’ In a similar vein, an online friend of mine from one of the overseas Anglosphere territories posts daily updates that read like government propaganda bulletins; I wouldn’t have previously credited them with such slavish subservience to the official line, but maybe I too often make the mistake of assuming everyone of my acquaintance has the same instinct as me to question and be suspicious of anything that emanates from a government department. I didn’t put that instinct on hold in 2020 and I’m certainly not doing so now.

At the moment, it feels as though we’re sleepwalking into a very scary place indeed and that sleepwalk is unimpeded by those one would expect to step back and see the bigger picture had they not been cowed into compliance. For example, I’m not quite sure how anyone could realistically defend some of the moves being proposed in that most frighteningly authoritarian pandemic police state, Australia; but somebody must be or else they wouldn’t be happening. According to a report issued last week, ‘People in South Australia will be forced to download an app that combines facial recognition and geolocation. The State will text them at random times, and thereafter they will have 15 minutes to take a picture of their face in the location where they are supposed to be. Should they fail, the local police department will be sent to follow up in person.’ No, that wasn’t written by Chris Morris, nor was it adapted from an embryonic manuscript for ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ that Orwell abandoned because he felt it was too far-fetched. It’s for real.

Pre-Covid, the so-called quarantine app is something that few would have been surprised to hear was compulsory in China, but a Western democracy? Perhaps the manner in which the democratic nations of the free world have taken so easily to Chinese ways reflects the gradual and deepening infiltration of Western government, business, industry, media, academia and institutions by the mighty Yuan over the last decade or so – something that has been achieved with the kind of impressive stealth a neutral could admire were it the work of an evil genius in a Bond movie. I suppose you know the aim of the infiltration project has been all-but achieved when controlling the populace in the style of an unelected Communist plutocracy suddenly doesn’t seem such a bad idea to Western leaders after all. With the curve still defiantly un-flattened, the Government here is now renewing the ‘emergency’ Covid legislation for another six months. Say no more.

And how’s following the science going amidst this adoption of pseudo-totalitarian rule? As a mantra, Follow the Science was so ubiquitous for so long that it’s interesting to see how its most enthusiastic advocates are now choosing to disregard the science because it doesn’t fit their agenda. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (the JCVI), an independent expert advisory panel of almost 60 years standing, was turned to by the Government to provide its usual advice and recommendations, this time on the subject of vaccinating children aged 12-15. The conclusions of the JCVI were that jabs at that age weren’t necessary; this wasn’t what the Government wanted to hear, so it asked them to reconsider; some JCVI members resigned in protest, but those remaining stood by their conclusions, which the Government has apparently decided to overrule by testing out their chosen stance in that ever-dependable arena, the Court of Public Opinion.

But the JCVI are a scientific body, one which presumably follows the science; in response to its recommendations, ones based on scientific calculations, the Government seems determined to push ahead with vaccinating children, despite medical and scientific advice from the experts stressing the opposite. Mind you, this is an administration that appears committed to vaccine passports even though vaccines don’t prevent transmission, so insisting those who least need to be jabbed should be jabbed (and applying emotional blackmail via their trusty MSM support network) isn’t as shocking a move as it might have once seemed. And, as ever, there’s always more going on than receives publicity. An NHS vaccination memo slipped out a few days ago in which the question ‘Is there a financial supplement for vaccinating eligible 12-15 year olds?’ was accompanied by the following answer: ‘Yes. In addition to the £12.58 item of service fee, a further supplement of £10 can be claimed per vaccination dose to eligible children and young people aged 12-15.’ Well, it’s one way of saving the NHS, I guess.

Let’s face it – scepticism is an entirely natural reaction now. Who has broadcast the Covid message? Politicians and the mainstream media. Who has enforced it? The police. None of these institutions have exactly covered themselves in glory over the last 10-15 years, so it’s no wonder so few trust them anymore. One might as well expect yer average Afghan to trust the West after abandoning them to the Taliban. The cynical exploitation of the unique and often frightening situation of the last year and-a-half by those in power has been unforgivable. Certainly, a government engaged in so many anti-democratic abuses of civil liberties under the convenient cloak of a pandemic should provoke mass defection to the opposition, yet this is where there’s so much cause for despair.

Under normal circumstances, one could endure a terrible government because the thought of kicking them out and replacing them with something better is always there; yet when one looks across at the Labour Party in the realisation that they’re the sole realistic alternative to the Tories, one is immediately aware there is no alternative anymore. They’re just as awful, if not worse. But perhaps at a time when so much choice is being taken out of our hands, that’s the abysmal excuse for choice we still have left. Hey, Biden’s a pitiful President, but at least he’s not Trump! Hey, Keir Starmer’s a pitiful Prime Minister, but at least he’s not Boris! If only there was some scientific formula to solve this conundrum, we could follow it.

© The Editor




I think this year marks ten since I joined Facebook; after YouTube, it was the first online platform I signed-up for, and I’m pretty sure this happened in 2011. To begin with, what was for me the novelty of Facebook was reflected in the amount of times I used the site. Connecting with people in different parts of the country and indeed different countries altogether was a new sensation at the time, and I’m still in touch with a couple of people in Canada to this day courtesy of FB. Ten years ago, I used to post something at least once every 24 hours and also routinely commented on the posts of others; I was engaged with it in the way some engage with Twitter now. I guess it’s easy to forget how revolutionary having global communication at one’s fingertips for the first time felt; to me, this was like a space-age version of pen-pals. Of course, the initial novelty gradually wore off as my online life expanded to other platforms, and these days I mainly use FB for the messaging – a method of staying in touch with those otherwise unreachable, and I largely avoid public participation. I tend to post something no more than once or twice a month and even then it’ll usually be nothing more than a photograph I came across. I don’t really feel any affinity with many on there anymore, so use it sparingly.

Anyone familiar with Facebook will be equally familiar with the ‘newsfeed’, the section of the platform whereby the posts of those one follows are grouped together in one long scrolling session. Some rarely post at all – which makes their occasional missives worth waiting for – whilst others are serial posters, sometimes guilty of quantity over quality; but it’s possible to filter out ones who can clutter up newsfeed and simply leave the best of the rest. FB newsfeed is a strange place in which the latest fads and fashions of FB Friends sit alongside algorithm-generated suggestions, the majority of which bear no relation to anything I’m remotely interested in but are (I suspect) based on my age and the social demographic FB imagines me to belong to. Newsfeed is also littered with ads for both products and websites tailored towards one’s previous preferences, and ‘liking’ the odd post by a website you’ve never heard of before will immediately lead to an invitation to ‘like’ the FB page of the website, which – if you acquiesce – will then result in that being permanently incorporated into your newsfeed. There are some I honestly have no memory of ‘liking’ at all; but most of these are a quite pleasant distraction amidst the ads for cars I’ll never drive, holiday resorts I’ll never visit and clothes I’ll never wear, so I leave them there.

More often than not, these tend to be animal-related – heroic stories of dogs or cats that survived traumatic situations, and posts by zoos with various exotic beasts that can enliven a two-minute video. Following the horrific fires that engulfed Australia just over a year ago, I must have ‘liked’ a post by a wildlife reserve that cares for and has aided the rehabilitation of displaced koalas, for that has been a regular presence in my newsfeed for months; I’ve always had a soft spot for koalas ever since I briefly owned a stuffed cuddly toy of one as an infant, so that explains it. Even though I’ve yet to check, I do wonder if said posts will now mysteriously vanish from FB in the wake of a unique spat between a nation and the guardians of the big tech galaxy, one which could well be an interesting sign of things to come.

To ‘unfriend’ someone on Facebook was something I did myself once or twice a few years back, often arising from misunderstandings due to the tone of voice not always correctly perceived when written down. One cannot use italics, for example, and genuine sentiment can sometimes be mistaken for sarcasm, depending on the reader’s mood at the moment of reading. But the storms in my cyber teacup were nothing compared to events this week, when FB unfriended an entire country, i.e. Australia. A proposed law to make service providers actually pay for content on their platforms down under has resulted in Facebook taking its ball back. As of Thursday, Aussies logged on to discover the sudden absence of global and local news from FB – immediately impacting upon the approximately 17 million Aussies that use Facebook every month; this abrupt disappearing act also applied to anyone attempting to access any Australian news sites from outside the Southern Hemisphere. However, despite joining FB in condemning the proposed law as something that ‘penalises’ their platforms, Google pre-empted the dramatic move by FB and signed a deal with old Uncle Rupert’s News Corps in which it did indeed agree to pay for content. In one foul swoop, you have the schizophrenic ethics of big tech – Google standing alongside Facebook to criticise a law suggesting they pay for content whilst simultaneously paying for content. Ironically, it seems the one beneficiary of this spat is an organisation rooted in the very industry social media sites have helped bring to its knees.

Whilst most governments give the impression of being at the beck and call of big tech as much as they are beholden to the banks, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has taken an intriguing stance, stating that big tech companies might be changing the world, but that doesn’t necessarily equate with them running it. ‘I am in regular contact with the leaders of other nations on these issues,’ he said. ‘We simply won’t be intimidated.’ International condemnation seems to back up the Aussie PM’s response whilst at the same time Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan compared the behaviour of Facebook to that of ‘a North Korean dictator’. FB are clearly trying to hit Aussies where it hurts, but are coming across as incredibly petty as well as petulant; they’re not exactly accustomed to not getting their own way. The fact that the FB blackout also included government health sites meant the latest Covid info was no longer available to Australian users, something that was hardly going to win hearts and minds.

The digital cartel monopolising the flow of online information has grown in influence over the past half-decade as older mediums have been sidelined. Naturally, there is envy in the air, but there is also increasing concern that too much power rests in too few hands. Stoking the fear of big tech, Donald Trump heavily hinted this was an issue he’d be dealing with during his expected second term in office; and without wishing to delve into conspiratorial waters, the way in which social media dictated the narrative of the 2020 Presidential Election – the censoring of the Hunter Biden story being a prime example – seemed to suggest a concerted effort on the part of big tech to prevent this from happening. How relieved the digital overlords must be to have a fresh (ish) face in the White House with several former big tech employees on his payroll.

Before Google kowtowed to Murdoch, Australian Senator Rex Patrick attempted to call the bluff of the nation’s dominant search engine by pushing for the change. ‘It’s going to go worldwide,’ he said. ‘Are you going to pull out of every market?’ Interestingly, Microsoft has broken rank by supporting the proposed law, saying ‘The code reasonably attempts to address the bargaining power imbalance between digital platforms and Australian news businesses.’ On the other side of the world, the EU has attempted to give news sites copyright on links that appear on search engines, forcing the latter to pay for the privilege, whilst France has also been trying to tackle the issue. Whether or not any of these efforts will succeed when big tech wields so much clout remains to be seen, but I suppose these all represent the first stirrings of official opposition when there has been so little so far. Perhaps in unfriending an entire country, Facebook has taken cancel culture to an extreme from which retreat is the only way back.

© The Editor