Danger in numbers
Last Saturday’s lead article by Rick Morton (“How Covid-19 energised conspiracy theorists”, May 16-22) details in disturbing detail the extent of adherence to a variety of conspiracy theories fuelled by Covid-19. Morton is correct in saying, “Transmission functions, then, much like the pathogen itself. When the messaging genome is cracked in just the right way, the mistruths can replicate and spread. There may well be mutations.” This is a perfect illustration of what Richard Dawkins has dubbed “a meme”: an idea that replicates and spreads throughout populations. Such memes readily replicate themselves via suitable “hosts”. These “hosts” described by Morton are people who harbour conspiratorial beliefs, which, if expressed by isolated individuals, would readily be understood to be “delusional”. But when any such belief is held by considerable numbers of people in a given culture, they can’t formally be “diagnosed” as delusions. We do know about folie à deux. But with “folie à very many”, the option of recognising the “madness”, as when individuals present to psychiatric facilities with unshakeable irrational beliefs, cannot be applied. Morton goes on to describe what has been called “a quantum theory of denial”, wherein conflicting positions can be held by conspiracists at the one time, without apparent discomfort – just as in quantum theory particles can “occupy” different positions simultaneously. In psychoanalytic theory, this well-known phenomenon is called “splitting”. Both delusions and splitting phenomena occur when reality itself is too threatening. The current Covid-19 threat is indeed very threatening to us all, but to have to deal with conspiracy theorists in addition is costly to the wellbeing of us all.
– Ron Spielman, Paddington, NSW
No faith in commission
As if civic morale was not already on the respirator, Mike Seccombe has to remind us of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission, established by the government to steer the nation in what is clearly a very right direction in any rebound from the virus (“Out of action”, May 16-22). Who could be better than a hand-picked team of fossil-fuel industry execs to save us in the impending total world war with the forces of nature? As per the PM’s usual modus operandi, don’t expect to be made privy to the details, but be assured that there will be at least a few big, short-term winners in the diversionary campaigns, especially on the commission. The prospects of final victory, however, look vanishingly small without massive reinforcements of brains and integrity from somewhere other than the PM’s great and powerful friend in Washington.
– John Hayward, Weegena, Tas
Even the picture of Neville Power suggests he knows he is bullshitting for his own corporate life. The whole structure and implementation of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission and the secrecy is a warning. A warning that the public needs to get real answers loud and clear of the obvious alternatives from experts rather than businessmen, for no other reason than to put pressure on the opposition not to be a lame duck and to oppose the right-wing liberal political fix for the benefit of the nation.
– Trevor Pratt, Eaglemont, Vic
I really don’t understand Scott Morrison (Paul Bongiorno, “Back in black. Cough, cough…”, May 16-22). By adhering closely to the advice of medical experts during our well-managed Covid-19 crisis, he reversed his image as the uncaring leader of December to regain overwhelming approval today. Yet, while being so busy with the pandemic that he did not have time to convene parliament, he did find time to start a barley trade war with China, our largest export market, just as we are hoping to restart our economy and snap back into full employment. It really does not make diplomatic or economic sense. One wonders if he thought it expedient to have a trade spat with China, but only a small one compared with the magnitude of our current debt mountain. Then, poor performance in recovering the economy and job creation could magically be directed away from his government. Or should we rather conclude that he should leave foreign policy and international trade up to the experts, too?
– Keith Mitchelson, St Lucia, Qld
Jones put out to pasture
Although I am loath to criticise the customary brilliance of The Saturday Paper’s Editorial, your premise “instead” is a non sequitur (“Radio silenced”, May 16-22 ). Since Alan Jones “will appear on Sky News and write columns for The Daily Telegraph and The Australian” then he will indeed, given the collective intelligence of his audience, “go now to tend his vegetables”. If 2GB was a crime family, Jones would now be in bed with a horse’s head. Instead he wakes up each day to saddle up with braying donkeys.
– Chris Roylance, Paddington, Qld
Let there be light
Thank you to Gadfly for raising the significant problems with the Snowy 2.0 project (“Snowy forecast”, May 16-22). I have suggested a “Snowy 1.5” project that utilises floating solar to harvest the sunlight falling on the Snowy Mountains reservoirs. This has numerous advantages and is recommended by the World Bank in a detailed, generic economic analysis. If the solar-panel electricity is not needed for the grid, then it is used to pump water for later generation of hydro-electricity. I am told the New South Wales government is looking at floating solar for numerous sites across the state but it seems that the Snowy scheme is not one of them. Maybe because it does not require massive civil works.
– Michael Paine, Beacon Hill, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 23, 2020.
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