Why has Victoria had to endure so much psychopathic commentary during the pandemic?

Victoria’s Lockdown 4.0, a director’s cut of 2020’s indignities, inconveniences, boredoms and traumas, began at midnight last Thursday. Lockdown Eve was spent rummaging for gratefully misplaced masks, shopping, swearing, exercising, worrying about bills and work and coronavirus, and swearing. Last pints were squeezed in irresponsibly; last grasps at human connection sought out completely understandably.

By the evening, before restrictions had even kicked in, Peta Credlin took to the unhinged airwaves of Sky News to stoke violence against her employer’s political opponents. After describing Victoria’s “Andrews Regime” in less than glowing, less than coherent terms for many, many minutes, she accused Anthony Albanese of playing politics over Australia’s vaccine rollout – which, for those keeping score, went from “front of the queue” to “not a race”.

“[Albanese] is trying desperately to blame Scott Morrison, fearing Victorians will come after him with their baseball bats. Trust me, there’s more than enough baseball bats in Victoria for both Albo and Andrews to cop a whack,” Credlin hissed.

If we are doomed to import Fox News’ assault on reality and mindless, violent demonisation of people that care about things – which culminated in a deadly seditious coup on the Washington Capitol only a few months ago – could we at least localise the language a bit? It doesn’t feel like it very much, but Victorians are Australians too. We have c-r-i-c-k-e-t bats. 

More to the point, no one cares about Anthony Albanese enough to do much of anything, yet alone commit random acts of bat-related political violence. Credlin’s outburst, distilled to its essence, is rage and buzzwords for bombarded viewers to associate with it. The idea that Victorians are seeking “Albo” out for a good baseball batting is not reflective of reality; it is a sentiment seeking to shape reality. 

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Credlin spent the latter portion of Victoria’s second lockdown inciting fuckwitted behaviour during a deadly health crisis

As coronavirus’ jaunt down under continues to disproportionately hurt Victorians, so too does Australia’s bizarrest piece of political gaslighting: the myth that state premiers, particularly Labor ones, particularly Labor ones in imaginary Communist Police States, get their rocks off on locking people down. The implication is that last year’s deadly winter can be willed out of existence, the method that worked to eliminate the virus three times previously won’t work this time, and what’s needed instead is a good dose of a neoliberal psychopathy and a forthright desire to hit the market hand in hand alongside the virus. 

As the week wore on, the scaffolding of repression fell away fast and old routines flooded back. Melbourne’s village idiot, The Herald Sun, sought the opinion of Collingwood champion and world renowned epidemiologist Dane Swan.

And a Mongols Bikie boss/Instagram influencer who also does not like lockdowns.

“Mitchell has expressed significant discontent with the state government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.” Hold the front page.

The Bad TV Show, the Victorian Government presser, returned for an appalling fourth season, again providing a captive audience the largely pointless opportunity to watch the expertise of medical professionals collide with the expertise of political reporters that went to private schools and vote for the Liberal Party. 

Still repetitive and infuriating, Season 4 has swapped out the titular role of Dictator Dan for a succession of assertive bald men. This has heightened the discombobulated vibe of Lockdown 4.0, but Acting El Presidente James Merlino’s lack of patience for Morrison’s ineptitude almost makes it worth watching.

Merlino has routinely criticised the fact no purpose-built quarantine facilities are currently under construction 16 months into this pandemic, and that aged care patients and staff have not been prioritised competently in the nation’s vaccine rollout, currently the 99th most efficient in the world: 16.7 jabs jabbed per 100 people, well below the global average of 24.9, and eating the dust of powerhouse nations like the UK on 97.2 and The Seychelles on 136.7. 

By Monday, The Australian was calling responsible Melburnians “meek”. The city was painted in the national faux-broadsheet as a “poorly run police state”. This is of course a wordier version of the highly irresponsible line The Hun ran into the ground last year, but that didn’t stop the ABC’s Leigh Sales thinking it a staggering insight. “wOrTh ReAdInG,” she tweeted. It was not.

“It is as if they have been cowed rather than angered by last year’s deadly outbreak and the subsequent hardline shutdown. The good of the herd is firmly dominant over the rights of the individual,” the Oz’s Cameron Stewart wrote, presumably while hiding a zombie bite from his immediate family.

“There is a strange mood of submission and acquiescence,” he continued, condescendingly describing millions of people treating their local communities with care and respect and love during a global health crisis. One that has already taken the lives of 820 Victorians and 3.7 million humans.

“It’s the small things you notice. The reflex defensiveness of Victorians who feel the rest of Australia has no idea what they suffered.” As a general principle that can be applied across life’s many ordeals: people that experience a thing have a better understanding of what the thing was like to experience than the people who did not experience the thing. It’s not that complicated, and someone should ideally explain this to Leigh Sales before this goes on any longer.   

“Can an entire city suffer from PTSD?” Yes dickhead, be nice about it. An Uber driver from Richmond to St Kilda last week wanted to talk to me, a complete stranger with the ability to mess with his star rating, about trauma and perseverance, during a short $9 late night cruise. Large clusters of people experiencing something traumatic can be traumatised about it – this is a relatively “no shit, Sherlock” revelation. The real question is: Why do so many people that work at NewsCorp feel the need to be assholes about it?

Psychopaths thrive in the corporate world, the media, and in politics. This is a well documented phenomenon. A lack of empathy, a willingness to undermine peers, unwavering confidence and self-interest, and an outsized ability to sow discord can go a long way in these environments. Psychopaths are overrepresented in positions of power and influence, and they generally have an easier time making it all the way to the top of their organisations.

Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, absolutely at the top of his organisation, was again comfortingly, familiarly absent from Melbourne’s Lockdown life until yesterday, when he returned from New Zealand to hand back a piddly amount of taxpayer money to the poors. 

He took the opportunity to feign empathy for the plight of the Victorian (“we must live alongside the virus”, July 16, 2020, Victoria having recorded 317 cases that dayand then pleaded with Merlino’s cold commie heart to not keep the serfs locked down any longer than necessary.

“Lockdowns are not the objective, whether the Commonwealth continues to fund them or not,” he said in Parliamentary Question Time. Of course lockdowns are “not the objective” – getting rid of coronavirus is – but understanding science and having compassion for life have never been the Liberal Party’s strongest attributes. 

Take Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes who this week quite psychopathically failed to wipe the shit-eating glee from her face during a moment of abject distress for 6.6 million Australians. 

While boasting about NSW’s “gold standard” contact tracers (who did not find the source of NSW’s last two outbreaks), itself a fucking weird thing to do as Victorians headed back into lockdown due to a leak from South Australian hotel quarantine, she added:We know Victoria is winning one race, and that would be the lockdown race.”

These examples are all empathy-devoid ways of speaking about the millions of Victorians who annihilated coronavirus out of existence, for the sake of the rest of the country, like nowhere else in the entire world, by staying home and being fucking miserable for most of last year. 

Much of it is also counterfactual nonsense; a form of psychic abuse for now long-suffering Victorians still clinging to sanity against all the odds. Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, who looks better with the beard but still manages to smoulder, has thus far been quite correct about things that are good for us. He thinks this is bad for the people. 

It is yet another bitter pill to swallow for millions of reality battered, now utterly loopy ordinary people currently in lockdown for the fourth time: shitting on Victorians while they again cop coronavirus’ misery is an electorally popular sentiment among Scott Morrison’s base – most specifically Australia’s population of empathy devoid psychopaths, a voting bloc that disproportionately supports the types of political parties that do psychopathic things like make pariahs of suffering people during a global health crisis. This is disturbing in its own right.  

It is made even more disturbing that this psychopathy is fuelled by an unhinged, unscientific media narrative about an imaginary police state that does not exist, and endless advocacy on behalf of both the Liberal Party and, staggeringly, the novel coronavirus. Only Covid itself wants to rip through the Victorian population more than a Murdoch hack at a press conference wants it to.

Ideas this stupid, this unscientific, this blind to what has happened across the rest of the world do not deserve prominence and celebration: they deserve scorn. This pandemic has been hard enough without also needing to deal with such turgid minds. At the end of this nightmare, the purveyors of such nonsensical, irresponsible, politically cunning psychopathy should be shunned. Their masks have slipped down their faces like a Brighton banker out for a sedate lockdown amble. Don’t let them forget.

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By David Milner



Dave Milner
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twitter: @DaveMilbo
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