Features Australia

Covid mania

Fear and loathing in a tale of two Canberra crimes

19 February 2022

9:00 AM

19 February 2022

9:00 AM

It was Mad Max meets Mean Girls at the SummerNats, Canberra’s car festival that brings out the hoons. While tens of thousands of Australians peacefully demonstrated, calling for state and federal governments to end Covid vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions, a potty-mouthed chef decided to engage in a counter protest of her own. She chose the car of two female protesters, presumably because it was decorated with red Australian ensigns, and rammed her SUV into the side of it so hard that she mounted the vehicle and landed on their bonnet, crushing it. She then tore off the flags and started assaulting and insulting the witnesses.

The unsavoury episode was recorded on iPhone. Police, firefighters and paramedics were called. The assailant could have faced charges of menacing driving or ‘road rage’, one of the more serious driving offences in the ACT. The mandatory minimum licence disqualification is three months for a first offender. The maximum penalty is a fine of $15,000 and/or imprisonment for one year. She could also have faced charges of attempting to flee a traffic accident without providing her licence details, theft, damage to property, assault. Yet despite the filmed evidence, she was let off with a fine for negligent driving.

Media coverage of the incident was widespread and sympathetic, as if the damage she’d done was accidental. On social media, she gloated, ‘parked my car on an antivaxxer’ and used the notoriety she gained to link to a website where she sells risqué photos of herself, earning additional income from new followers who cheered on her close encounter of the violent kind.

Mainstream readers were not impressed, incensed that she was profiting from her crime and blaming the ACT police, who recently stood by while protesters set fire to the doors of Old Parliament House under the guise of an Aboriginal smoking ceremony.

Compare and contrast the case of Dr Bruce Paix, a trauma specialist with 32 years’ service as a rescue doctor and anaesthesiologist. A war veteran and former RAAF wing commander who was deployed seven times to dangerous countries, Paix was the senior Australian military doctor in the Middle East when Mers, the viral cousin of Sars, broke out. He is also a volunteer firefighter.

Paix says the vaccines have numerous safety risks and that reports of adverse reactions are systematically suppressed by government, professional bodies and media, while valuable therapeutic options have been outlawed in favour of a ‘vax or nothing’ strategy. For refusing the jab, he has been unable to work as a hospital anaesthetist and for refusing to toe the government line, he has been discharged from the air force.

Paix says on Monday, 7 February, he and two friends – a middle-aged man and his father, were driving to Canberra airport to protest as politicians arrived in Canberra, when they came to a lane partially blocked by a parked vehicle. There was no signage to indicate an official roadblock and Paix says he thought there had been a traffic accident, so he edged around the vehicle at walking pace when a large man in a yellow high-visibility shirt came towards him and he braked to a stop. The man moved forward and slammed his hands on the bonnet, shouting at him. Police arrived shortly afterwards and claimed Paix had been driving furiously, recklessly or in a way that is dangerous to the public and arrested him. In court, they alleged that he had struck a police officer on traffic duty. Paix was offered bail on condition that he leave Canberra but remained in solitary confinement for six days until he was allowed to stay and protest.

Paix got a hero’s welcome when he returned to the convoy campsite, Camp Freedom, but his case didn’t get a fraction of the coverage devoted to the photogenic chef. If he had rammed his car into a vehicle and landed on its bonnet, the headlines would probably have read, ‘far-right extremist in anti-vax terror attack’. Predictably, media coverage of the protest has been hostile. One outlet wrote that ‘thousands of anti-vaxxers stormed Canberra’, as if they had stormed the Bastille.

Yet despite being caricatured as Q-Anon crazies, the demonstrators include thousands of highly qualified people who have been sacked for refusing to be jabbed or in the case of Paix’s medical colleagues, for criticising lockdowns (even though lockdowns have now been widely recognised as ineffective including by the Biden administration which has tried to blame them on Trump), for writing mask exemptions (even though masks have been shown to be ineffective) or for writing vaccine exemptions (for injectables whose safety seems increasingly questionable).

The US Food and Drug Administration sought to delay the release of 350,000 pages of short-term safety data that it has on the Pfizer vaccine for 75 years, but a US court has ordered it to make the data public in the next six months. Subsequently, Pfizer issued a warning to the stock market on 8 February that its profits may be downgraded this year because of risks associated with ‘information regarding the quality of pre-clinical, clinical or safety data, including by audit or inspection’, ‘challenges related to public confidence or awareness of our Covid-19 vaccine or Paxlovid, including challenges driven by… concerns about clinical data integrity,’ and most extraordinary of all, ‘the possibility that Covid-19 will diminish in severity or prevalence, or disappear entirely’.

You would think that governments in Australia, New Zealand and Canada would stop forcing people to be jabbed, at least until Pfizer’s safety data has been disclosed. But no. In Canada, Trudeau is doubling down, announcing this week that he will use Emergency Laws to freeze the bank accounts of anyone contributing $25 or more to the Canadian truckers’ freedom convoy.

Despite a new poll that indicates an overwhelming majority of Canadians want all Covid restrictions dropped, Trudeau still has supporters. ‘Gas the unvaccinated,’ read a poster carried by a woman at an anti-freedom rally in Canada, whose identity was hidden behind her ski jacket, hood, face mask and sunglasses as effectively as if she were wearing the white robes of the Ku Klux Klan. Only her pink fingernail polish could be seen.

After the second world war, when there were virtually no Jews left in Poland, antisemitism was still rampant. Will Covid mania persist even if the virus that inflamed it vanishes and only a frozen swab remains in a Wuhan lab, waiting for its next great escape?

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