As Victorians breathe a well deserved sigh of relief this weekend, having smashed 2nd wave in world beating fashion, I wanted to talk about the way simplified media narratives have misled public about how dangerous ‘living alongside covid’ is. News is meant to inform. A thread👇🏻
Once media set a narrative to explain something - like Victorian second wave - they jump on it as a pack. Pack journalism reinforces and simplifies the dominant narrative so that only info that fits the narrative is included, and everything else is ignored. Journos are blinkered.
We all know what the simplified Vic covid narrative was - let’s call it ‘get Andrews’. There were two things used to explain covid spread - hotel quarantine infection and bad contact tracing. That’s it. Nothing else could permeate this simplistic narrative. It became entrenched.
This was of course a POLITICAL narrative. Inspired by Morrison and promoted by partisan Murdoch media, other outlets including Costello’s Fairfax and ‘please don’t cut our funding’ ABC obediently latched onto this simplistic ‘this explains everything’ narrative, blind to all else
I called out the simplified and distorting ‘Victoria contact tracing is bad’ narrative back in August. As predicted, since then the narrative has continued without pause all the way up to today, ignoring all else. So has the obsession with security guards catching covid at HQ.
So, what was missed in rabidly simplified ‘get Andrews’ narrative? There were lots of things missed - the spread of a pandemic is one of the most complex things you could imagine, and can’t be blamed on ONE THING. Even when media reported other things, it never changed narrative.
By missing all these other factors, media distorted reporting and commentary of the pandemic by telling the public ‘if only virus didn’t get out of hotel quarantine and if only Victoria could contact trace, Australia can live alongside virus’. That’s a dangerous simplification.
Let’s look at some of the key info missed from ‘get Andrews’ narrative. First, the obvious one. Look beyond the Victorian political blinkers at what was happening overseas with covid. There was no space in this narrative to compare Australian covid to horror happening overseas.
Because there was no comparison with overseas, there was never space in this narrative to analyse HOW and WHY covid was exponentially multiplying in other countries. That’s of course what viruses do - despite contact tracing, despite mask wearing and various other restrictions.
If journos had done this analysis, they would have found factors playing out overseas which also helped explain how Victoria’s second wave happened. By doing this, they’re actually presenting useful information to the public - everyone trying to deal with it - business and people
For example, from what Sutton has said, soon after covid got out of HQ (via night manager - a fact often missed in get-Andrews narrative), there was a super spreader event. This is the ultimate wrong place wrong time scenario - down to bad luck. This can seed hundreds of cases.
Scientists are still learning about how covid spreads. This 👇🏻 helps to explain what they’ve learned - some cases don’t spread to others, others spread to many if they are particularly contagious and coughing or sneezing in a crowded unventilated space.…
We’ve seen the super spreader event happen at Chadstone butcher shop. We’ve seen it happen at Liverpool hospital - first cases showed up in August and that cluster has had new cases two months later. Now imagine such an event happened in Victoria without contact tracers knowing.
Once undetected spread is out there, it can multiply exponentially. Some unknown cases might show up and others might keep spreading without testing. This is randomness of pandemic. Undetected spread from super spreader was - in my opinion - how covid got away from Victorian govt
Add to this, the second wave, as we’ve known for months, is far more contagious than the first wave. This is crucial context to understand when looking at the impact of a super spreader event. Within weeks, hundreds will infect thousands.…
Other key fact missing in analysis of 2nd wave - particularly obsessive focus on blaming Andrews for security guards catching covid, is we now know covid is airborne. We know that, yet Morrison’s health dept haven’t updated health advice to make this clear…
The other thing missing in get-Andrews constant criticism of contact tracing is just how difficult contact tracing is when you’ve got tens of cases a day. The politicised narrative kept comparing NSW contact tracing to Victoria’s, but obviously it’s harder when thousands to trace
Once the narrative was fixed - Victoria can’t contact trace, full stop, case closed - journos then failed to ever analyse what a GOOD job Vic contact tracers were doing. Even when experts said ‘this is great work’, the get-Andrews narrative couldn’t accomodate this info.
Also missing from obsession with contact tracing is that you can trace cases you don’t know about. Today Age reporting (well!) that Vic health felt are acknowledging low testing let covid spread get away from them.…
So crucial to talk about how the policy - which exists in every state currently - of asking people to come forward for testing ‘if you have symptoms’ is missing a huge number of cases. In late June, Vic govt went looking for undetected spread and found it - hundreds of cases.
There is no doubt NSW Health have been doing a good job of managing covid, but even despite this, they’ve still had undetected spread and unknown cases popping up. NSW CHO said latest cases show there have been ‘weeks or months’ of missed transmission.…
The simplified narrative blaming Vic HQ and contact tracing for second wave, coupled with the ‘we’ve got this’ NSW narrative (eg. gold standard contact tracing) has, in my opinion, lulled NSW into a false sense of security, which explains dangerously low testing numbers in NSW.
Another huge factor missing from the ‘get-Andrews’ narrative is the risk and consequences of asymptomatic spread. A study in this article says UK have had double or even triple positive cases due to asymptomatic cases not getting tested.…
The other danger of asymptomatic spread is it’s most likely to occur in young people who are also the group most likely to ignore restrictions like social distancing because they’re not scared of catching covid. Morrison always said schools were safe. That is clearly not true.
Young people circulating with the virus undetected is being blamed for covid getting away from Scotland. They had very low numbers -0-10 every day for weeks, and they now suspect this number hid huge outbreaks amongst 18-30 year olds.…
But wait, there’s more. We of course know that it’s not just asymptomatic cases which lead people not to get tested. People with symptoms also don’t always get tested for various reasons - casual work, fear of stigma, impact on family. This fact is missing…
We have also known throughout second wave that even when people get tested they don’t always work productively with contact tracers to map their whereabouts. They don’t always answer their phone, nor be honest about where they’ve been. They’re human.
Even when such facts are known - when Vic DHHS said positive case didn’t disclose visit to Shepparton - rather than accepting the complexity of pandemic response is only as good as humans caught up in it, journos just used this as new way to ‘get Andrews’ - blinkered by narrative
I’m almost finished. Other part of get-Andrews narrative which has been simplified is the role of police. To be blunt, there is no point having health restrictions if they’re not policed. Happy for people to scrutinise police actions. Fact remains, they police powers were needed.
Additionally, missing from get-Andrews narrative was reasonable balanced scrutiny of the failure of Federal govt to manage areas of covid response they’re responsible for - particularly aged care. They had no plan. And journos ignore this blatantly fact.…
All this simplification in the get-Andrews narrative has also meant that media has consistency framed covid lockdowns in Victoria as ONLY necessary because Andrews can’t manage covid. This has led to mass opposition to lockdowns by media and in turn public, undermining confidence
It has been clear from start of lockdowns due to second wave, media were not going to accept that lockdowns were not only necessary, but were actually not the enemy or the villain - the virus was. This led to constant ‘pressure’ on Andrews, in concert with Libs, to open too early
Finally, the biggest elephant in the room missing from the get-Andrews narrative is the exceptional success Vic govt has had fighting the covid pandemic. They could never congratulate Vic for doing this 👇🏻 because that doesn’t fit the narrative. That’s it. Thanks for reading. End

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More from @Vic_Rollison

18 Oct
I asked Victorians to tell me what’s it’s been like to live through daily barrage of biased media reporting while also dealing with covid threat. I was inundated with over a thousand replies and DMs. I wanted to summarise what everyone told me. A thread👇🏻
Here is my tweet asking for responses. You can scroll the 100s of responses. There are many common themes which show how terribly the media - national and Victorian - have failed the Victorian public during the pandemic crisis.
Many people said they felt anxious enough about covid - scared of catching it, friends and family getting it, jobs and businesses lost, lockdown isolation, missing family - and that when they turned to the media for information, they were left feeling more anxious and upset.
Read 19 tweets
16 Oct
I am doing some research on the impact of biased media attacks throughout Victorian second wave on the emotional state of locked down Victorians. If Victorians could respond to this tweet with short summary of their experiences of how bias impacts them, I would appreciate it 🙏🏻
If you don’t want to share publicly, DMs are open and you will remain anonymous.
The responses to this tweet are making me want to cry. I am so angry that the Victorian community has had the trauma of the covid crisis worsened by a biased media who follow the lead of the PM who threw Victorians under a bus. Journos treat it like a game. It hurts people.
Read 4 tweets
13 Oct
The point of talking about a covid case not telling contact tracers they have been to Shepparton is not to shame that person, but to show the consequence and how virus spreads. Humans are not perfect. This is not surprising. Why aren’t we allowed to talk about this taboo topic?
One of the reasons we’re not allowed to talk about people withholding information from contact tracers is that it makes it harder to blame contact tracers for virus spreading - it doesn’t suit the Andrews’ bashing narrative. If we can’t talk about it, we can’t solve it.
Entire time this simplistic narrative ‘Victoria can’t contact trace and NSW is perfect’ has been politicised, contact tracing critiques have failed to acknowledge complexity of system that relies on humans. This is not judgement of those humans, it’s just acknowledging reality.
Read 5 tweets
10 Oct
Since we’re all talking about the #MurdochRoyalCommission and complaining about media bias (#ThisIsNotJournalism), I thought it might be a good time to talk about what good journalism looks like, and why we can’t go on the way we are. A thread👇🏻
In Rudd’s statement urging people to support a Murdoch RC, he said media is no longer a level playing field. Media is supposed to represent a market place of ideas where groups compete fairly to have their perspectives heard. Different sides of politics, different interests etc.
This ideal is the reason Rudd called for a stronger diversity in Australian media outlets. Australia is the most concentrated media industry in the world. This, coupled with Murdoch’s partisan media and his huge share, means our media is anything but a level playing field.
Read 16 tweets
8 Oct
One of the most ridiculous threads of the obsessive narrative comparing Victorian contact tracing to NSW (Vic = bad, NSW = perfect) is assumption speed to publish locations on a website 5 people visit is more important than physically contacting those who might have been infected
I thought the comments from Brett Sutton about the situation in Victoria were quite illuminating - highlighting the challenge Victoria have had contact tracing cases which have occurred in large families which then involve up to 10 workplaces.…
Affected workplaces are not posted up on twitter or a website to announce a case has been found there. Workplace tracing doesn't happen in the same way as tracing people who have been to a restaurant. But of course these differences are just ignored to keep that narrative alive.
Read 6 tweets
17 Sep
Again I'm having to call out @rachelbaxendale's misrepresentation of Victorian covid data in her never ending campaign to blame second wave on Vic contact tracing failures, and in turn Dan Andrews. This time she's ignoring a key event in her comparison timeline. A thread👇
If you missed last installment of Murdoch media misrepresentation of covid data, you can catch up on it here. NSW international arrival figures were left in to skew contact tracing data results in NSW's favour. I showed Vic and NSW are indeed comparable.
This time @rachelbaxendale is claiming she's got smoking gun data to show Vic had more cases under investigation than NSW did when they reached 10 community transmission. But this data comparison misses a key difference between Vic and NSW. Vic went looking for undetected spread.
Read 8 tweets

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