Monday, May 11, 2020

I should know better than to publicize anti-lockdown protests

It seems like even Australia is not exempt from wacko, extreme right-ring anti-lockdown protests. I say "even", not because Australia does not have an extreme right-wing element or because they are paragons of social responsibility and common sense, but because the country has had a reasonably easy time of the pandemic (fewer than 7,000 cases and 100 deaths), has generally handled it very well, and is already starting to relax its lockdown rules.
The largest protest this last weekend was in Melbourne, and it attracted a paltry 100 participants, so this is very much a tiny fringe group. But why is there ANY protest at all in a country that, like neighbouring New Zealand, has garnered accolades internationally for its prompt and sensible response to the coronavirus?
The answer is that anyone who has any extreme right or oddball views, or is prone to belief in any number of unrelated conspiracy theories, has latched on to the anti-lockdown protests as a means of publicly expressing views which would otherwise not be at all acceptable in polite society. Hence, they attract, in addition to pandemic deniers, general anti-vaxxers, gun rights supporters, believers in an international conspiracy to microchip citizens, those paranoid about contact tracing apps, 5G network health worriers, even people who just don't like Bill Gates. It has become a handy umbrella organization for all these lonely, angry people, and others with less specific anti-establishment beefs.
These "movements" usually also require the star power of a galvanizing leader to bring such disparate free spirits together, and to give them more social media traction than they deserve or would otherwise attract. In Australia's case, it is one-time celebrity chef and weight loss guru Fanos Panayides, who has been hitting Facebook many times a day to air inflammatory videos, including viral stunts like smashing his television (on the basis that television is just a government mind control conduit).
It's easy write off these protests as fringe events of little consequence. But they have a way of insinuating themselves into the public consciousness, and giving the impression that they are much more mainstream than they actually are. Witness the similar US protests that media outlets like Fox News have blown up out of all proportion. And I may even have been guilty of some of that myself by commenting on it and attempting to analyze it, rather than just shrugging and ignoring it.

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