A biased narrative from the Murdoch press has develop into unstuck because the NSW COVID-19 disaster worsens, writes Dr Victoria Fielding.

IN FEBRUARY of this 12 months, after Victoria headed right into a proactive short, sharp, circuit-breaker lockdown, Herald Sun and The Australian “writer” Sophie Elsworth published a piece titled: ‘Why Premier Daniel Andrews needs to be more like NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.’

This article began with the much-repeated trope that Victorian COVID-19 well being restrictions had been proof of Daniel Andrews’ dictatorship, represented misuse of his energy, had been over-reactions and unnecessarily harsh:

If solely Premier Daniel Andrews received off his energy journey and stopped scaring the dwelling daylights out of residents, Victorians could be a lot better off.

 

The stage 4 lockdown compelled tens of millions of individuals to remain holed up inside their properties 22 hours a day, put on masks indoors and outside and be confined to a 5 kilometre radius.

 

And within the five-day lockdown, there have been simply six circumstances of neighborhood transmission — what a gross over-reaction.

Sophie “not a health expert” Elsworth was not alone in her commentary criticising Andrews’ dealing with of the pandemic and it was not simply the Murdoch media who joined within the media refrain: research by Insentia confirmed 75% of media protection was vital of the Victorian Government.

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As I’ve written about previously, a lot of this criticism match like a glove with Morrison’s politicised anti-Labor narrative by accusing the Victorian Government of contact tracing failures and of failure to suppress the virus, compared to “gold standard” NSW which was supposedly distinctive sufficient to do what was apparently inconceivable in Victoria — to dwell alongside the virus.

The comparability between NSW and Victoria all through the Victorian disaster, exemplified by this assertion by Elsworth, was not solely proof of political bias within the media but additionally made the expertise of Victorians throughout their prolonged lockdown far more traumatic than it wanted to be:

‘Across the border in NSW, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has confirmed outbreaks might be proportionately managed with out unnecessarily impacting the lives of tens of millions of individuals.

 

If solely damaging Dan may take a leaf out of Gladys’s playbook.’

This biased and over-simplified political comparability grew to become a rule of thumb – or what media scholar Denis Muller calls a stereotype – in reporting concerning the pandemic, accepted with out scrutiny throughout the media pack. No, it was not each journalist. But it was sufficient of them that this narrative dominated the general public discourse and led to a lot polarisation in the neighborhood and complaints of media bias amongst information audiences.

This biased narrative, nonetheless, has come spectacularly unstuck as NSW has skilled their very own COVID-19 disaster, with the Delta pressure stubbornly spreading regardless of the standard of contact tracing.

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It’s value declaring that contact tracing is only one instrument within the pandemic toolkit and was by no means a silver bullet. Many different complex factors together with luck – the virus within the fallacious place on the fallacious time – additionally play an element. Despite 1000’s of individuals making this level loudly throughout the Victorian disaster, begging journalists to cease oversimplifying the pandemic narrative, it appears to have come as an enormous shock to the NSW Government, the media pack and far of the NSW public that contract tracing will not be magic. It can’t cease an outbreak when it will get to a selected vital mass and that this is the reason lockdowns are certainly essential, which I’m fairly certain Dan Andrews and Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton did calmly and methodically clarify quite a few occasions if anybody cared to pay attention.

Criticism of the strictness of Victoria’s lockdown has additionally been felled by the dawning realisation by many journalists that NSW’s “gold standard” exceptionalism narrative could have contributed to Gladys Berejiklian’s reluctance to lockdown, her associated reluctance to implement strict lockdown measures and, to date, her refusal to shut non-essential companies. It may additionally have impacted on the NSW public’s understanding of the hazards of “living with COVID” and their acceptance and adherence to lockdown measures. Media bias is harmful at the very best of occasions and exceptionally dangerous throughout a well being disaster.

So, how have the media pack to date responded to the dramatic flip of occasions which have uncovered their anti-Victorian authorities bias and their simplification of politicised Morrison-inspired narratives now that they’re seeing what occurred in Victoria is the truth is very comparable to what’s occurring in NSW?

There appear to be two methods — deny and delete.

Here is Neil Mitchell denying he was towards Victoria lockdowns, which is a lie so simply disproved, it’s laughable:

And Peta Credlin, who rivalled Neil Mitchell for her blatant opposition to lockdowns, thought she may hypocritically whiplash pivot to criticising Gladys Berejiklian for not locking down onerous sufficient:

Sophie Elsworth has tried a distinct tactic, going with the delete path to attempt to get herself out of her self-inflicted mess. She can delete the tweets if she likes – the viewers has saved receipts – however she will’t delete the quite a few articles she has printed in Murdoch papers saying the very same factor.

I’m certain there’s extra tweet-deleting happening, accompanying a rewriting of historical past and revisionism to attempt to erase the biased sins of the previous.

There is, after all, a 3rd strategy which as of but I haven’t seen any journalists or commentators making an attempt. It’s a easy one, but additionally tough: apologising and promising to do higher subsequent time. Is this prone to occur? I’d like to see it, however I’m not holding my breath.

This article was originally published on Dr Victoria Fielding’s weblog, ‘Media Inequality‘, and is republished with permission. You can observe Victoria on Twitter @Vic_Rollison.

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