Good morning, Australia!
Aside from the Internet spying, the militarized riot police, and the detention camps, everything is fine Down Under...
PART TWO: Where were we?
Oh yes, 70 percent of Australians were agreeing “sometimes people’s freedoms need to be restricted to keep Australia safe.” Land of the unbrave, home of the unfree.
Someone asked me after the first Australia post what I meant by a democratic police state. Pretty much this. If Neil and Karen are not just not standing up for their rights but begging for kneepads, their leaders are almost duty-bound to provide them. Give the people what they want, especially when what they want is more power for me!
Welcome to the Pandemia in its purest form, no pandemic required.
Scholars have noted that anti-Semitism runs hottest in Arab countries where Jews for all intents and purposes don’t exist. Similarly, the fear of Sars-Cov-2 appears strongest in places that haven’t seen it. (The same trend is clear in the United States, by the way. The nursing home workers who have seen Covid’s real impact more closely than anyone else are the least afraid of it, at least based on their unwillingness to submit to vaccinations.)
In any case, Australia has been happy to be a modern-day hermit kingdom, with its states competing to impose the strictest Covid rules.
Keep in mind, these are internal borders - these states are closing themselves to OTHER Australians. But hey, when the plague with the 99.7% survival rate comes calling, anything goes.
Insane as they were, the restrictions appeared to work. Australia had minor Covid outbreaks in 2020, but lockdowns quelled them. By early 2021, Australians were fetishizing their Covid-free lives, celebrating “doughnut days” - in which the number of reported cases was zero. A CNET article from March was headlined “After coronavirus: Australia offers a strange glimpse of life post-pandemic… life, in at least one country, feels oddly normal.”
For much of 2021, the citizenry’s main complaint was that the government hadn’t moved fast enough to get mRNA vaccines. But with those arriving, the federal and state governments promised a “path to freedom” - as long as 70 or 80 percent of adults consented to be vaccinated. Australia appeared on its way to a bright, shiny Covid-free future.
But Covid plays jokes on all of us (except the original comedians in the People’s Republic of China, somehow… but that’s a story for another day). You’ll never guess what happened this summer, just as Australia ramped up its mass vaccinations. Or will you?
Yep, the country’s biggest outbreak to date. Cases went from 10 a day in June to 40 in early July to almost 2,000 by mid-September. This rise came as a complete shock to everyone (except those wise fools who read my Twitter feed back when I had a Twitter feed). The post-first-dose spike, it’s a thing.
Back most of Australia went into lockdown, and just to prove they have learned nothing in the last 18 months, the doctor-dictators (doctators?) went whole hog, right down to closing playgrounds. (The story below is from Sept. 1.)
They also doubled down on mandatory vaccinations. Just get to 80 percent adults vaccinated, baby! Just like the United Kingdom, and everything will be fine.
But for the first time, Australians are pushing back in significant numbers. Last week, thousands of people repeatedly took to the streets of Melbourne, the capital of the state of Victoria and the second-largest city in Australia (about three-quarters of Victoria’s 6.5 million people live in Greater Melbourne). The immediate catalyst for the protests was a vaccine mandate for all construction workers in Victoria, but broader lockdown fatigue is clearly playing a role.
But the authorities are in no mood to compromise. The government of Victoria deployed black-clad riot police known as the Special Operations Group to fire rubber bullets and beat protestors.
Just how large the protests have been is hard to know, in part because the government has not exactly encouraged media access. Another issue is that much of the Australia media - like its American counterparts - is squarely on Team Apocalypse and insists on pretending that the protestors are all neo-Nazis.
Also, Melbourne residents late last week reported that their Internet service had mysteriously ground to a halt, which made both organizing and reporting protests very difficult. Normally I would write this off as a conspiracy. And I still lean that way. Except it turns out that the Australian government just passed a law giving itself incredible powers to spy on and control the Internet.
Called the “Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt)” bill, the legislation allows the Australian federal police to take over accounts in secret and “modify or delete the data of suspected offenders.” In theory, the police are supposed to use these powers to target serious dark web offenders like child pornographers, but they are not required to do so.
Whether or not the police are now trying to disrupt would-be protestors from organizing online, the new law shows just how aggressively Australia intends to police the Internet going forward. A little freedom is a dangerous thing.
Yet it is not clear at this point that the protestors have momentum. They numbered in the thousands, not the tens of thousands, which in a region of 5 million is not overwhelming. And among the favored chants in Melbourne last week was “Everyday!” - a promise to be back on the streets each morning. Yet even by Friday the protests had fizzled.
This has been a pattern all over the world for the last 18 months. Whether from unfavorable media coverage, difficulty organizing because of Facebook censorship, or fear of Covid, anti-lockdown protests have never grown large enough to force policy changes.
What will change that passivity - in Australia and everywhere else?
Your guess is as good as mine.