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Opinion by David Milner

This past weekend Rupert Murdoch’s last grasp of plausible deniability, The Australian, ran a piece of neoliberal fanfiction about the poor masochistic victims of authoritarian rule in The Soviet Republic of Victoria.

Allow me to make this extremely simple. If you believe any of the things said in Caroline Overington’s imaginary-commie misery porn, or worse, say these things to the Victorians in your life, many of them will resent you for it. And they will resent you, most specifically, because you haven’t even tried to understand what they actually went through (e.g. not this).

We are not scared of our Premier. We did not cheer his cruel methods. We are not “skittish with fear” about a totalitarian dictator, almost entirely because we do not have one of those. Fear does not cloud our unknowable commie Victorian minds, please just trust us on this.

What lots of us are actually doing, collectively, and slowly, is dealing with a recent trauma. Last year was so unusually horrendous and straight up weird that basically everyone I talk to can’t remember it properly – the repressing process is so efficient we’ve already been left with just the vague sensation of having done the exact same thing for many months on end. It’s difficult to create new memories when you can’t go anywhere or do anything.

And during this prolonged moment of stasis, we had good reason to be concerned (and pissed off) that this pseudo-news empire, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, in lockstep with its LNP wing, was attempting to undermine our state’s health response to the coronavirus pandemic.

NewsCorp’s insistence that Victorians love licking despotic boot is a myth concocted because it’s hard for them to admit Victorians are collectively less enthusiastic about coronavirus than these newspapers seem to be.

Victorians have never stepped foot inside this quack’s clinic, and yet we’re repeatedly being diagnosed to the nation by sociopaths and fiction authors.

Caroline Overington, the author of this particular fiction, is a fiction author. Not in the way The Australian’s Rachel Baxendale and Adam Creighton are fiction authors – in that she literally writes books that she makes up inside her head.

The problem with this particular dose of fiction is that it’s an insult to the very real sacrifices made by 6.5 million Australians. Electorally insignificant Australians, but Australians nonetheless.

The existence of this lopsided and, let’s be crystal clear, stupid national conversation spits in the face of what the people of Victoria endured on behalf of the rest of the country. It is yet another casualty of the biggest oligarchical tinge to our democracy, Rupert Murdoch, and his cowed, ineffectual media counterparts.

Now that nearly all Australia’s talking heads are centralised in Surry Hills and Ultimo, is this how places that aren’t Sydney get presented to the rest of the country? Or is it only reserved for places flirting with imaginary communist dictatorships (i.e Labor Premiers)? Take us away Caroline.

“So, maybe you think the worst of government’s [sic] attempts to control the population are now behind us?”

Good start.

“No tasers yet, but… when they arrive in Australia, they too will be ecstatically embraced in particular by Dan’s claque of mad-eyed fans in Victoria. Punishment? Coercion and control? They cannot get enough.”

Oh we’ve definitely had enough.

Victorians are closer than ever to achieving herd immunity from one of the world’s deadliest viruses, and the virus’s columnists despise us for that.

Rupert Murdoch’s “local paper” here, The Herald Sun, advocated relentlessly for the same policies that drove the UK and the US into their current states of functioning less than ideally. The Herald Sun tried to frame our city as aflame, in open revolt against a commie despot that – I know I’m repeating myself here but someone needs to be responsible – does not exist. It’s absurd Victorians need to deal with this ridiculous and insulting myth after the year we’ve had. It exacerbates real human pain.

As does the silence from the rest of Australia’s media. The supposedly respectable side of this rotting ecosystem we’re all meant to revere for some reason.

Do the journalists that can see all this happening but still keep their mouths shut, still circle their wagons around the hacks destroying this profession, do they know what they’re actually meant to be doing? That whole “truth to power” thing? Could they at least watch a movie that depicts what good journalists look like? There’s a lot of them.

Caroline, what’s wrong with Victorians?

“Citizens of Victoria seem quite willing to accept all manner of injustice as really quite reasonable.”

And why is that, CaRoLiNe?

“The truth is: Victorians are frightened. Their own government has made them skittish with dread. They are afraid, but it’s not the virus they fear. They know what the government is prepared to do to them. They know how blunt the punishment will be.”

“Punishment.” Is that what that was? Did my son miss out on normal, healthy, happy things for a third of his life because he was being punished? Fuck you.

“That is what the Andrews Government is taking away from people: the right to spend time with the people they love. ‘I make no apology,’ said Dan, during one of his dreadful press conferences.”

This collection of words, published in The Australian, is an assault on reality. I’d describe it as gaslighting, except none of us here know who Caroline is, so it doesn’t matter. The rest of Australia is clearly the audience, not us.

What all these rags refuse to acknowledge is that the people of Victoria entered into a social contract with their Government – a tacit agreement more important than the legal one forced upon us. Roughly five million of us were compliant and helpful to our local communities – Labor and Liberal and Greens voters alike – not because we feared Kim Jong Dan, but because we understood the reality of the situation.

We went along with Mao Tse-Dan’s hard lockdown plan because (a) we thought it might work, which it did, and (b), given we had no real choice in the matter, wouldn’t it be better to just do it properly? In case it worked? Which it, you know, did.

We did this for ourselves, but we also did it for the rest of the country, and now this is how we are spoken about?

This plan working was the only thing that mattered for many months. And a crucial piece of this plan working so well was NewsCorp’s bullshit becoming less effective than usual.

As the endless void between July and October wore on, things getting better but painfully slowly, we watched in horror as the US and the UK had the NewsCorp-sanctioned approach of doing bugger-all about the pandemic afflicted upon them. Our friends and family abroad were dying or surrounded by death, and for some reason they wanted that for us here, too.

What I wanted – and I promise you I was not alone in this – was for my hometown to annihilate this shitty virus. It’s really not that complicated.

Of course we cared about the disastrous hotel quarantine outbreak. We were devastated about it. It was our lives. But what we didn’t need was all these unhinged conservative mouthpieces flying in, trying to make everything about liberating those poor Victorian serfs from Dictator Dan. That felt sociopathic. Inhumane. Stupid. This was about life, ours, not politics.

Why was Peta Credlin here? What did she achieve? Does she still have her “Free Melbourne” T-shirt? Has she learned how to wear a mask yet? Did she get her job done, and quite seriously, what was her job?

Why couldn’t our own local Liberal shills handle this themselves? Is Caroline Overington having any luck with this schtick right now? And is Amazon still refusing to sell Adam Creighton’s booklets about letting the poor and old die for the economy, which he presumably wrote atop a throne of human skulls?

Who buys this shit?

Even Amazon, an effective low-wage high-virus fiefdom, is behaving more responsibly than The Australian – a national newspaper that rounded out its horrific week by telling us the sky is green.

“Craven” is right. My entire life I’ve been told that democracy needs a strong, healthy press in order to flourish, but perhaps it also needs this particular brand of divorced-from-reality publication to die?

This brand of hyper-conservative media, which has paved the way for national disasters in both the UK and the US, and which clearly exists in Australia to an alarming extent, propagates the idea of “alternative facts” being an actual real thing because its entire underlying ideology is based on factually incorrect notions. Myths like climate change not being real. That it’s noble and wise for the lives of ordinary people to be worse. Trickle down economics working. Blind faith in the benevolence and wisdom of the “invisible hand” of the market, which we now know just means 2500 of us become richer than the Pharaohs and the planet gets to hurtle past yet another ecological crisis point.

The fallacies championed by Caroline Overington’s boss are more dangerous to our democracy, and to the future of this planet, than the turgid prose of a fiction writer living in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. But holy shit it’s a frustrating part of it all.

The Shot

Melburnians show their hatred of Murdoch publications.

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