GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 605
16 September 2022
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YET ANOTHER PANEL AND AUDIENCE Q+A STACK
Writing in Crikey on 12 September, author Leslie Cannold declared that “the end is nigh for Q+A, no matter what night it’s broadcast and who presents it, because the show’s formula…is now past its use-by date”. Dr Cannold (for a doctor she is) advised readers – if readers there were – that she had been a Q+A panellist “several times in its first few years”.
For its part, Media Watch Dog hopes that Q+A survives well into the future. After all, it provides great copy for MWD – especially since MWD goes out at Gin & Tonic Time on the afternoon after the night before.
Last night’s program – titled “Property, a Republic and Truth Telling” is a case in point. Eric Abetz – who now presents as the Australian Monarchist League’s campaign chairman – was the token conservative on the panel of five (which included three contributors to the avowedly leftist The Guardian and/or the proudly left-of-centre Washington Post).
Following a discussion on the republic in the wake of the Queen’s death, Q+A presenter Stan Grant decided that it would be a you-beaut idea to test the mood of the (ABC Studio) room on this issue. Let’s go to the transcript:
Stan Grant: Can I ask everyone in the room, um, if there was a vote – and we don’t have a model to put to you. But if there was a vote, “yes” or “no”, on Australia becoming a republic, right now, this week – hands up who would vote “yes” on that. And hands up if you wouldn’t. Just trying to gauge. Ok. That’s a very ABC audience, isn’t it? But, um – [everyone laughing] I had to say that [laughing].
Stan Grant was correct. The Q+A turn-out on 15 September was “a very ABC audience”. Of those audience members who expressed a view – some 80 per cent said that Australia should become a republic this week while some 20 per cent indicated that they would vote “no” in a referendum on Australia becoming a republic.
And that’s one of Q+A’s problems. Its audiences are replete with leftists and left-of-centre types who sometimes turn into a baying mob. Sure there are quite a few conservative republicans – but many of them have been cancelled – read censored – by Q+A and other ABC outlets.
There was a time when Q+A (falsely) claimed that its audiences were politically balanced. Now even the Q+A presenter recognises that what he termed a “very ABC audience” invariably lacks balance. That was certainly the case last night.
ABC SENDS AUSTRALIAN-BASED REINFORCEMENTS TO SUPPORT LONDON-BASED ABC JOURNOS REPORTING THE QUEEN’S FUNERAL
Jackie’s (male) co-owner turned on ABC Radio at 3am this morning (AEST) and joined insomniacs across the nation who were tuned into Rod Quinn presenting “Overnights”.
It was essential listening in the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, which has seen the exodus of so many Australian journalists to what some call the Old Dart. Sure, the mainstream media has sent lotsa Aussie journos to report from London, Windsor and the like – some venturing into Balmoral and Edinburgh in Scotland.
However, no media outlets have so many journalists in the United Kingdom as the ABC. Especially in view of the fact that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has a number of journalists based in London.
On Media Watch Dog’s count, the ABC has despatched such high-profile reinforcements to Britain from Australia as Raf Epstein (ABC Radio Melbourne), Richard Glover (ABC Radio Sydney), Michael Rowland (ABC TV, News Breakfast), Sally Sara (ABC Radio, The World Today) and Virginia Trioli (ABC Radio, Melbourne). Plus Barbara Miller and James Glenday – who have gone to the UK from the United States to cover the funeral.
The ABC’s visiting contingent has joined existing ABC journalists based in London – Linton Besser, Steve Cannane, Nick Dole and Isabella Higgins. Oh yes, there’s also Emily Clark, who is an international reporter for ABC News.
Was the creation of the Epstein/Glover/Rowland/Sara/Trioli/Miller salient into the UK necessary in order to provide reportage of the Royal Funeral? – MWD hears readers cry. And the answer is – You Betcha. A couple of examples illustrate the point.
On 13 September, Warwick Long – who is standing in for Virginia Trioli as presenter of the ABC Radio 774 “Mornings” program in Melbourne – interviewed, yes, La Trioli somewhere in the UK. Comrade Trioli told listeners all about the fact that the Queen’s body would soon travel from Edinburgh to London. Who would have known this? And she reported on the flower display in Green Park near Buckingham Palace and mentioned that the media was so thick on the ground that “journalists are actively trying to interview journalists”. Really. A bit like Comrade Long interviewing Comrade Trioli that very morning – when you think about it.
La Trioli also delved into the history of the British monarchy. Or did she? Ms Trioli told “Mornings” listeners this, with respect to the funeral proceedings following the Queen’s death. You know, the gun-salute, processions, lying in state and so on. Let’s go to the transcript:
Virginia Trioli: This would have been the scene that would have taken place in England – for king after king after king after queen going back hundreds of years. And, I think, the continuity of that history is quite remarkable.
Not quite so remarkable, really. After all, MWD’s fave monarchs – Mary Queen of Scots (aka Mary Stuart) and King Charles I – both had their heads cut off. The latter was King of England.
And then there was Comrade Glover’s interview on 16 September. In a discussion that ran for close to half an hour, your man Glover even played a recording of an interview he had done with his British relatives whom he had caught up with in London. He also provided ABC listeners with the name of Elizabeth II’s first horse and inaugural corgi. Worth every taxpayer dollar for such insights, don’t you think? Can You Bear It?
GUARDIAN CONTRIBUTOR THOMAS KENEALLY GETS A RANT OPPORTUNITY ON ABC RADIO NATIONAL
While on the topic of the late Queen and all that – did anyone hear Patricia (“Please call me PK”) Karvelas’ long interview with author Thomas Keneally on ABC Radio National Breakfast on 15 September?
As an example of The Guardian/ABC Axis in action, Comrade Keneally was invited on to RN Breakfast following an article he wrote in The Guardian Australia with the self-explanatory heading: “Hollow, cloying veneration greeted the Queen’s death. Now history calls on us to get an Australian head of state.”
It may be that PK and her executive producer overlooked the fact that Thomas Keneally’s recent book is titled A Bloody Good Rant. Certainly, TK was in full “bloody good rant” mode when he spoke to what appeared to be a somewhat embarrassed presenter who seemed not to know how to end the verbal sludge.
In a rant for the ages, your man Keneally (i) declared that it was the Queen who had done the republicans “like a dinner” in the 1999 referendum, (ii) claimed that Australia has a “prohibition on talking about the republic, (iii) compared former PM Scott Morrison – whom he referred to as merely “ScoMo” – with General Pinochet’s 1975 coup in Chile and (iv) prophesied “if, when Prince [sic] Charles speaks up too much – he is expelled from England [sic] – he comes here as a political refugee”.
It was that kind of interview. The author of A Bloody Good Rant scored a 13-minute interview for a bloody good rant about the republic and all that on Radio National, despite the fact that he claimed there is a “prohibition” on talking about the issue in Australia. As to the idea that any British government would expel King Charles III and exile him to Australia – what a load of absolute tosh. Can You Bear It?
7.30 PROVIDES LEFT-OF-CENTRE ACADEMIC JUDITH BRETT WITH AN OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE A (VERBAL) SWING AT JOHN HOWARD
As avid Media Watch Dog readers are only too well aware, La Trobe University’s Judith Brett is the go-to professor when the ABC is looking for a seemingly conservative commentator who is not really a conservative. It is a matter of record that Dr Brett (for a doctor she is) once co-edited the quasi-Marxist Arena Magazine with MWD’s fave Marxist comedian Guy Rundle.
This is the very same Judith Brett who, in her 1992 book Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People, declared that “much anti-communist rhetoric” can be traced to “the anal erotic imagery of the attack from behind”. In other words, Sir Robert was an anti-communist because he was frightened by male rape – and not because he refused to believe that the Soviet Union’s communist dictator Josef Stalin was a nice kind of guy. Really.
But MWD digresses. On 12 September, Laura (“the Morrison government was into ideological bastardry”) Tingle reported on the decision of the Albanese government to cancel a week’s sitting of the Commonwealth Parliament. La Tingle commented: “It may, in fact, be a shock to many Australians to even realise that the prime minister is not the head of state and that in fact we have a separate head of state [i.e. the Sovereign of Great Britain and Northern Ireland] who doesn’t even live here.”
7.30’s political correspondent then commented: “While the constitutional roles of the Queen and governor-general are often debated, their ceremonial role has been much less clear and has also been increasingly usurped by prime ministers”. Then it was over to La Trobe University emeritus professor:
Judith Brett: Because the Queen’s been, in fact, on the other side of the world, it’s never really made a lot of sense that she’s able to represent Australia to Australians at moments particularly, for example, of national crisis. So, there’s been a bit of a vacuum and into that vacuum, particularly since John Howard, the prime minister has come…. They were things which, in previous generations, the governor-general would have done.
What a load of absolute tosh. Over the past century, Australian prime ministers have always been more prominent than governors-general. Robert Menzies, Bob Hawke and John Howard led Australia at wartime. None of this trio presided over a vacuum which led to a situation where national leadership was provided by the governor-general of the day. Respectively, Viscount De L’Isle, Bill Hayden and Dr Peter Hollingworth. Enough said.
It’s mythology to suggest that any governor-general has represented Australia or Australians – whatever that might mean. 7.30 just presented the left-of-centre Judith Brett with another opportunity to have a swing at John Howard – per courtesy of the Australian taxpayer. Can You Bear It?
Media Watch Dog’s Five Paws Award was inaugurated in Issue Number 26 (4 September 2009) during the time of Nancy (2004-2017). The first winner was ABC TV presenter Emma Alberici. Ms Alberici scored for remembering the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 whereby Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union. And for stating that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had effectively started the Second World War, since it was immediately followed by Germany’s invasion of Poland (at a time when the Soviet Union had become an ally of Germany) and the Soviet Union’s conquest of the Baltic States.
Over the years, the late Nancy’s Five Paws Award has become one of the world’s most prestigious gongs – rating just below the Nobel Prize and Academy Awards. It is currently judged by Jackie – Nancy’s successor.
SHAUN MICALLEF DEFIES ABC CENSORSHIP BY INVITING GERARD HENDERSON ON TO MAD AS HELL (SORT OF)
Lotsa thanks to the avid Media Watch Dog reader who drew attention to Shaun Micallef’s ABC TV Mad as Hell episode which aired on Wednesday 7 September. The last episode of the program will air on 21 September.
Now Jackie’s (male) co-owner has always been a fan of Shaun Patrick Micallef ever since learning that Young Shaun rose through the education ranks to become captain of Sacred Heart Senior College in Adelaide. Wow. In time, Captain Micallef used his Catholic boyhood to considerable effect. Even to the extent of becoming a clerical cross-dresser of sorts, with quite a few appearances as a bishop – or was it a cardinal? – replete with alb, chasuble, long stole plus a mitre on his head and crozier in hand. Hamming it up of like the (very) late Kenneth Williams.
But MWD digresses. It so happens that Gerard Henderson, along with some other political conservatives, has been cancelled/censored by the Conservative Free Zone that is the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. It would seem that Captain Micallef did not receive the ABC memo – and invited Hendo on to Mad as Hell. For his part, Jackie’s (male) co-owner thought that his guest appearance on Mad as Hell was one of his finest performances. Let’s go to the transcript as Captain Micallef commences the segment:
Shaun Micallef: Welcome back. The ABC – should it be defunded? Or should we just wait until it spends all of its money on so-called programming [audience laughing]. Christie Whelan-Browne has more.
Comrade Whelan-Browne (she of what Paul Keating once termed the Hyphenated Name Set) proceeded to mock the ABC’s somewhat self-indulgent 90th birthday celebrations. Then it was time to hear from “Mock Ita Buttrose”:
Mock Ita Buttrose: Well, there’s a view circulating on social media [audience laughing] – being perpetuated by some sections of the so-called Main Stream Media [MSM] – that the ABC is some woke leftie-hive mind circle-jerk. [audience laughing]. I mean, I think that – and I work here [audience laughing].
Then C W-B expressed her own view on behalf of Mad as Hell:
Christie Whelan-Browne: The ABC’s original charter was to provide programming for the viewing public not being provided by commercial networks. So, judging by the current ABC output, there was a gap in the market for poorly written drama, sitcoms where nothing happens, news reports with drone shots in them and docos about things that no one’s interested in padded out with slomo sequences…. But it’s with smart arse, self-referential, so-called satire programs that, come award nights, Aunty regularly covers herself in urine. [audience laughing]
Whereupon Mad As Hell proceeded with a performance where a character confessed to not paying his Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) fees to the Commonwealth government. Following which, a mock panel of four expressed feeling guilty about the ABC having so many all-white panellists where the panellists feel guilty about their whiteness. Or something like that.
Enter, from stage left, Hendo – making a return to the Conservative Free Zone after what journalists like to call a W.E.B. (aka Well-Earned Break) as “Mock Gerard Henderson” (aka Hendo).
Mock Gerard Henderson: Well, you see, this is just typical [audience laughing] of the typical ABC. Some undergraduate humour about HECS, followed by a softball, post-modern, ironic critique of their own leftie wokeness [audience laughing]. Then a sneering and, may I say, not especially accurate caricature of me [audience laughing], picking up on all of the points I just mentioned. Settle on a point of view and stop relying on catch-phrases. Typical ABC. [audience laughing].
What a brilliant performance. Mock Hendo made all the points about the ABC that Real Hendo would have made on the ABC, if he had not been banned by ABC management.
Shaun Micallef and the Mad as Hell Team – Five Paws.
NINE’S PETER HARTCHER SEES MURDER (INCLUDING FRATRICIDE) PLUS COUPS IN PARLIAMENT HOUSE
In his recent book A Sense of Balance (HarperCollins, 2022), John Howard writes sensibly – and with balance – about the leadership changes which took place in Australia over the last decade or so.
In his chapter titled “Choosing The Leader”, the former prime minister regrets that in 2015 then incumbent prime minister Tony Abbott was “pulled down” by Malcolm Turnbull. John Howard writes that no coherent policy case was advanced “as to why Abbott should be deposed”. Howard also argues that “Labor made a huge blunder replacing Rudd with Gillard” in June 2013. He added:
The removal of two PMs who had led their parties back into government before either had completed a full term bespoke immaturity and an incapacity to treat politics seriously.
Some readers will agree with the author of A Sense of Balance – while others may disagree. The point being that John Howard’s views on the matter are considered. Not so those of Peter Hartcher – political editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Writing in Nine’s newspapers on 10 September, your man Hartcher had this to say:
The sources of Australian national neuralgia this century have not been constitutional. They’ve been political. It wasn’t the Queen who threw Australian politics into a feverish decade of fratricide. It wasn’t the Governor-General who was responsible for turning Canberra into the coup capital of the Western world. It wasn’t the constitution that made the Labor Party turn murderously, pointlessly on its own prime ministers, or made the Liberals to do exactly the same.
Turn it up. Sure, there have been numerous changes of prime ministers in Australia over recent decades. But references to fratricide and murder are just over the top. Moreover, according to MWD’s count, there has not been a coup in this wide brown land since the Rum Rebellion in 1808 against Governor William Bligh. And, when you think about it (or even if you don’t), without the rum there may not have been a coup.
So what’s to be done to stop Comrade Hartcher’s rush to hyperbole? Give him a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus – that’s what.
JONATHAN GREEN’S “BLUEPRINT FOR MEALS” FIT FOR A KING
There was enormous interest in the Documentation segment on 9 September about Jonathan Green’s visit to the knackery with his hungry and cold fox hunting horse named Jack.
Avid readers have expressed interest in any response from the ABC’s sneerer-in-chief to MWD’s story. Here it is – sent out at Gin & Tonic Time on 10 September.
Why is Gerard Henderson? Does anyone know?
— jonathan green (@GreenJ) September 10, 2022
It would seem that fox hunting types throughout the land rallied to Comrade Green’s cause with a total of three retweets and a couple score of “likes” – representing, apparently, the total listening audience of your man Green’s “Blueprint for Lamingtons” program on ABC Radio National every Saturday morning at Hangover Time.
On Saturday 10 September, it was yet another “Blueprint for Boring” occasion. Your man Green spoke to his regular guest, Chef Annie Smithers. This week, instead of lamingtons or sauce, the pair discussed the Royals and their food.
They talk about how many official dinners the Queen has attended (a lot) and Green asks Smithers what she would have cooked if Elizabeth II had dropped round to her place for dinner (a fish).
Smithers then discusses the late Queen’s eating habits – apparently she ate four small meals a day, light on starch, with a lot of vegetables. She also liked a “jam penny” – a tiny strawberry jam sandwich – on occasions. How frightfully interesting. What would we do without Comrades Green and Smithers on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster every Saturday?
The pair move on to speculate on King Charles’ diet. Ex-vegetarian and current steak-lover, Green, suggests that Charles may be vegetarian. Smithers isn’t so sure about that, but agrees that the new King probably doesn’t eat much meat, due to his “amazing stance” on sustainability and saving the planet and so on.
[MWD recalls that, while lecturing about climate change in a 2021 BBC interview, Charles stated we should change our diets to save the planet – indicating his willingness to have two days off from meat per week. – MWD Editor.]
Ms Smithers thinks that because of Charles’ environmental concerns, perhaps he is more into eating hunted deer for dinner – and acknowledges that in “some spheres”, this may be frowned upon. Blueprint for Living is not one of those spheres – because, as avid readers will know, Green has previously shared his hobby of fox hunting, and stated on Twitter: “I don’t shoot animals. I watch hounds kill them from horseback”. See MWD’s 9 September issue for details on your man Green’s fox hunting and horse knackering adventures.
Sandal wearing inner-city leftist sneerer has a day off. pic.twitter.com/D0t1oRbZ87
— jonathan green (@GreenJ) May 2, 2015
Perhaps next time your man Green is on an outing to watch foxes be torn apart by dogs, Annie Smithers can help out with a recipe for fox sauce or fox-flavoured lamingtons or some such thing.
Your Taxes At Work.
In 1967, the music hall entertainer Ken Dodd (1927-2018) sang the song “It’s a Funny Old World” in his album For Someone Special. The term was popularised by British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in November 1990 when she was forced by her Conservative Party colleagues to step down. At her final cabinet meeting the Iron Lady reflected: “It’s a funny old world”. And so it is – as this MWD segment demonstrates.
GRATTAN INSTITUTE DID NOT MEET THE GRATTAN INSTITUTE’S REQUIREMENTS FOR DISCRETIONARY GOVERNMENT GRANTS
The feedback from avid readers about the last issue of “Outside Insiders” segment showed enormous admiration for the Grattan Institute chief executive officer Danielle Wood. Readers were oh-so-impressed that her opening speech to the Jobs and Skills Summit had received unanimous approval from the best and brightest of Insiders’ panellists. It was variously described as not only “excellent” but “really excellent” (Karen Middleton) and “terrific” (David Speers). The Guardian/ABC Axis concurred – per courtesy of Sarah Martin and Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly.
However, MWD did have one problem with the Grattan Institute’s CEO’s address – when she said:
I can’t help but reflect that if untapped women’s workforce participation was a massive ore deposit, we would have governments lining up to give tax concessions to get it out of the ground.
This comment brought much laughter and applause. It was, after all, a good joke. The only problem is that it didn’t make much economic sense. After all, childcare is a labour cost and fuel tax credits do not amount to a subsidy. The current issue of the Productivity Commission’s Trade and Assistance Review contains the following comments:
- Fuel tax credits (FTCs) are available under the Fuel Tax Act 2006 (Cwlth) to refund the fuel tax embedded in prices if the fuel is used by a business off-road, in a heavy vehicle or for some residential purposes (such as diesel generators).Under the current FTC scheme, off-road fuel users can claim 100 per cent of the fuel tax embedded in the price as an FTC. (emphasis added).
- The [Productivity] Commission does not regard FTCs as industry assistance for the purposes of the Trade and Assistance Review. Fundamentally, their operation is consistent with Australia’s general avoidance of taxing inputs to production…. In addition, FTCs are available to all industries and sectors. [emphases added].
Ms Wood’s performance followed the recent high-profile release of the Grattan Institute’s document New Politics: Preventing Pork-Barrelling by Danielle Wood, Kate Griffiths and Anika Stobart.
The key target of the document turns on what the authors term “discretionary grant funding”. What to do about it? Well, according to Ms Wood and her colleagues, this is What Is To Be Done (to use a term popularised by Vladimir Lenin):
Australia needs stronger processes and oversight to prevent pork-barrelling. First, all grants should be allocated through an open, competitive, merit-based process. Second, ministers should establish grant programs, and define their purpose and selection criteria, but should not be involved in choosing grant recipients. Third, compliance with grant rules should be overseen by a multi-party standing parliamentary committee. Funding for Auditors-General should also be increased to enable wider and more frequent auditing of grant programs.
Pretty impressive, eh? Maybe. Except for the fact that the Grattan Institute was established following not one but two, er, discretionary grants.
This is the background. In 2006, the Coalition government, led by John Howard, gave a $25 million taxpayer handout to the United States Studies Centre (USSC) in Sydney. This upset not only Labor Party supporters but also the good people of Melbourne (Hendo’s hometown). So, in 2008, the Labor government, led by Kevin Rudd, gave $15 million to, yes, the Grattan Institute. This was matched by the Victorian government, led by John Brumby, which kicked another $15 million into the Grattan Institute.
So, there you have it. The USSC was established with the assistance of a $25 million discretionary grant. And the Grattan Institute was established with the assistance of two discretionary grants totalling $30 million.
The grants given to the USSC and the Grattan Institute did not follow the processes recommended by the Grattan Institute in its recent report. There was not “an open, competitive, merit-based process”. Ministers were involved in choosing grant recipients. And none of the grants were overseen by a multi-party standing parliamentary committee. In short, neither of the grants met the Grattan Institute’s current standards.
There is, however, one difference between the two sets of discretionary grants.
The United States Studies Centre does not whinge about discretionary grants. However, the Grattan Institute complains about discretionary grants which do not meet rigorous criteria. Yet the Grattan Institute does not ‘fess up that – without taxpayer handouts by two Labor governments – it would not have been able to complain about discretionary grants in such Grattan Institute publications as New Politics: Preventing Pork Barrelling. And a Grattan Institute chief executive officer would not have delivered the opening address at the 2022 Jobs Summit.
It’s A Funny Old World.
This increasingly popular segment of MWD is inspired by the Anglo Irish satirist Dr Jonathan Swift’s proposal to relieve the plight of the Irish under British control by certain suggestions which he proffered in his writings. Most notably “A Modest Proposal – For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick”. As a consequence of such irreverence, your clergyman Swift (1667-1745) never attained his due rank within the Church of Ireland (i.e. the Anglican Church in Ireland). But that’s another story. The point is that he popularised the term “a modest proposal”.
A MODEST PROPOSAL TO RESOLVE THE AWKWARD DISCUSSION AS TO WHOSE FACE SHOULD BE ON AUSTRALIA’S $5 NOTE
There has been an awkward debate in recent times, consequent upon the death of Elizabeth II, about whether the face of King Charles III should replace that of the Queen on Australia’s $5 note. Or perhaps the mugshot of a famous Australian bloke or sheila, or even a horse like Phar Lap.
All this before the Queen has been laid to rest in the grounds of Windsor Castle. In the hope that this controversy will not continue over the weekend all the way up to Australia’s official day of mourning on 22 September, Media Watch Dog has a Modest Proposal. Put a mugshot of Peter (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) FitzSimons AM on the $5 note – dressed in his famous red bandanna. As MWD readers are aware, Comrade Fitz wore a red rag on his head for a decade until it needed a wash and was lost in a Neutral Bay laundry.
There are a number of reasons why MWD’s modest proposal would work. Here are some:
▪ The bright red colour on the $5 note would be of real assistance to the visually impaired.
▪ All the political conservatives, Christian believers, constitutional monarchists, boxing fans, supporters of sporting stadiums and real historians who come into possession of the new $5 note are certain to divest themselves of the image immediately – to the likely benefit of both formal charities and what Americans call panhandlers.
▪ The Fitz-Fiver could encourage the increased use of bandannas through the land which would be a way to help save the planet by recycling curtains, sheets, tablecloths, handkerchiefs and the like, into fashionable headwear.
A Modest Proposal – Here’s hoping this helps. See Jackie’s design below:
DR NORMAN SWAN TRANSMITS OLD COVID INFORMATION
On Saturday 10 September, the ABC’s COVID-19 guru Dr Norman Swan took a brief break from his book tour to offer up the following tweet:
This is not a benign virus. Wishful thinking won’t make it go away. Currently on a stuffy plane. Few masks. Young and middle-aged people, barely sick with covid-19, are dying of strokes https://t.co/6Zxhr1kaLN
— Norman Swan (@normanswan) September 9, 2022
Australia’s self-described most-trusted doctor (who has not practised medicine in four decades) was apparently so alarmed by the attached Washington Post article that he felt the need to share it with his Twitter followers while sitting on a “stuffy” plane. What exactly separates a stuffy plane from a non-stuffy plane was left unsaid.
Twitter users who read this tweet but did not click on the link to the article might conclude that The Washington Post had published a new article outlining disturbing new information about COVID. However, those who did want to read more details about these important revelations would have discovered that the article was published on 25 April. And not 25 April 2022, or even 25 April 2021. It was in fact published on 25 April 2020.
The Washington Post helpfully attaches a banner to the top of the article warning that “This article was published more than 2 years ago”. It should be obvious that in April 2020 doctors knew comparatively little about what was still sometimes being referred to as “the novel coronavirus”. It should be equally obvious those catching the virus in April 2020 were all unvaccinated and were being infected with the original Wuhan strain.
So how did the ABC’s doctor in the house end up sharing such outdated information? Well, a search for the article on Twitter shows that it continued to circulate at low levels throughout the pandemic. However, on 4 September 2022 it was shared by T Ryan Gregory, an evolutionary biologist from Canada who appears to spend much of his time tweeting about COVID. From there it spread exponentially within what could charitably be described as the COVID-focused community.
The article quickly spread to Australian Twitter, with James Cook University Immunologist Alan Baxter sharing the article on 4 September. The following day saw an even greater number of transmissions of the article, including by UNSW’s Professor Raina Macintyre.
Young and middle-aged people, barely sick with covid-19, are dying of strokes https://t.co/DgZYmV54Iq
— Raina MacIntyre 😷💉📈 (@Globalbiosec) September 5, 2022
Fortunately, 5 September appears to have been the peak of that wave, with declining tweet numbers over the following days. We cannot be sure where Dr Swan encountered the article, but he has been known to come into close Twitter contact with Professor Macintyre.
Ironically, shortly after Dr Swan tweeted out the article it was picked up by Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz, who generated a second wave of transmission in recent days.
Those hoping to avoid transmitting old articles are advised to avoid Twitter accounts with previous history of transmission and spend more time in well-ventilated, outdoor environments.
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Until next time.
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