Alan Jones continues to send wrong message about COVID-19 | radioinfo

Alan Jones continues to send wrong message about COVID-19

Monday 23 March, 2020
Comment from Peter Saxon

Last week Alan Jones found himself in hot water once again.

This time from a new strain of ill-advised comments regarding the coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19.
What he did was compare the number of infections and deaths attributable to the COVID-19 virus so far, to the number who come down with flu and die from it each year. On the raw figures, Jones is correct, the common flu “wins” hands down. Globally, hundreds of thousands die from it every year and, as Jones points out, there’s not as much of a fuss made over that. 
Says Jones, “We now seem to be facing the health version of global warming.”
If Jones is correct with the figures he’s been presenting – and he is – then what is all the fuss about?
There are two giant holes in his argument. Firstly, by equating global warming to COVID-19, what Jones is effectively telling his fans is that there’s really nothing to worry about because it’s all a hoax. 
Alan, it’s not a hoax. Two of the men you admire most in this world, Scott Morrison and Donald Trump have both accepted that. Why are you so out of step with them?
Secondly, Jones has misled his followers – not by presenting a factual comparison of annual cases of influenza with coronavirus but by omitting the salient factors that has the medical and scientific community so worried.
What has them worried is not what the number of coronavirus infections/deaths are now, but what those numbers will be in a couple of months if Jones’s listeners took his advice and treated COVID-19 with the same skepticism they treat climate change.
Below is a diagram from the Washington Post that charts the exponential growth of coronavirus in the United States. 

 Says, The Post:

This so-called exponential curve has experts worried. If the number of cases were to continue to double every three days, there would be about a hundred million cases in the United States by May.

That is math, not prophecy. The spread can be slowed, public health professionals say, if people practice “social distancing” by avoiding public spaces and generally limiting their movement. 

The fact that the curve has now flattened dramatically in China only proves the chart's point. Although slow to realise the threat initially posed by the virus, China’s government, which doesn’t value individual rights in the same way we might in the west, has since locked down whole cites and has reportedly welded shut apartment doors to keep their citizens isolated.  And, as brutal as it sounds, it seems to have worked.

“Social distancing” is now what western governments around the world are desperately trying to achieve with a citizenry that is far less respectful of authority than the Chinese. Are our authorities being “alarmist” in their messaging, prone to “exaggeration” as Jones suggests? Given the nonchalance to warnings from sections of our community who are still partying in crowded groups, the messaging is, perhaps, not alarmist enough.
That’s not to say that some sections of the media aren't ramping up the hyperbole for all it's worth. And those idiots hoarding toilet paper and other groceries deserve our ire. The greatest inducement to panic is watching others panicking.
But the solution is not to cut back on the level of warning in case it incites some morons, but to make an example of these idiots by shaming them and arresting a few if needs be.
Since last Monday’s clanger, Jones has dialled back the tone of his rhetoric, but he persists with comparing the numbers of people who come down with the flu each year to COVID-19 as if that’s the pivotal issue. He brought it up again late in his breakfast shift last Friday while speaking to U.S. correspondent, Harley Carnes.
Amidst a longer chat than usual, Jones asked what the flu numbers were in America. Carnes answered that some 34 million Americans (give or take) or about 10 per cent of the population, came down with the bug each year. Of those, around 37,000 die.
Those are indeed big numbers that dwarf the 11,329 active cases of COVID-19 and the 161 deaths it had caused – by 8:30am AEST last Friday. Then Jones went into making the case he’d been prosecuting all week: that in light of the imbalance in those numbers the coronavirus is overblown and overdramatised.
Carnes, a former CBS newsreader has been 2GB’s “man in America” for as long as I can remember. He is possessed of a sharp wit that accompanies a relaxed tone. Yet, he is uniquely suited to the conservative stance that Jones and his audience demand of contributors.
But Harley’s also a journalist with an analytical mind, at least as interested in researching the truth as expressing a point of view. If you listen to the audio below, you’ll hear how Carnes, while seeming to have his regular agreeable chat with Jones, gently attempts to educate him and his listeners as to why people are so frightened of COVID-19. He simply makes the point, “There is no vaccine.”

So, far from thinking that COVID-19 is a tiny threat compared to the flu (which has a vaccine) people are entitled to be fearful that without a vaccine and with a higher contagion factor, COVID-19 could be much more dangerous.
What’s more, those infected can show no symptoms for a week or longer, all the while unknowingly infecting others. Why does that matter? Take the case of the Ruby Princess that docked in Sydney on Thursday. All 2,700 passengers were disembarked at Circular Quay with few, if any, checked for COVID-19. Estimates are that up to 30 people were carrying the virus.
As veterans of several cruises, my wife and I know the drill. You are let off the ship in tight groups to climb all over each other and retrieve your luggage that’s been piled up in a giant hall. You then queue up to be checked through customs and then stand cheek to jowl with everyone else waiting in line for ground transport. This process, from gangplank to transport takes around 40 minutes – all of it in close proximity to dozens of fellow passengers.
It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that in those 40 minutes the number of infected passengers had doubled to 60. That’s 60 people that get into a taxi, Uber, a bus or the car of a relative that’s come to pick them up. Some go straight to the airport, hop on a plane to virtually guarantee that they’ll infect others on board. Some who live locally will go out with friends and relatives to a restaurant or pub. So, in a matter just 12 hours or so, hundreds of people will have come in contact with those original 30 infected passengers and those hundreds will infect thousands more in the following 24 hours. 
I highly recommend you follow this link to discover an instructive series of animations that illustrate the science behind the growth patterns of pandemics like coronavirus.
I’m pleased to say that our governments are taking this thing very seriously and are taking the tough measures needed, while knowing that they’ll be unpopular with some sections of society and without trying to politicise the situation. The main oppositions too have, by and large, kept politics out of the equation.
What I don’t understand is how Alan Jones, a former speech writer to the late PM, Malcolm Fraser, and something of a political strategist himself, can be so tone-deaf as to play down what most of us have now accepted as the biggest global emergency we’ve faced since World War Two.
Even Donald Trump, who is not known for accepting the advice of experts gladly or for embracing humanitarian causes has accepted that he needs to step up and be, as he says, “a war-time president.”
He, along with his favourite news outlet, Fox News, now echo what the expert advice is and are taking the pandemic seriously - apparently with promising results.
What changed Trump’s mind? Could it be that on this occasion the man who would normally prefer his own beliefs has bowed to evidence based expert advice? Perhaps – although, I have no evidence-based, expert advice to prove that.
One thing we do know about Trump is that he has excellent political instincts and a brilliant political strategist as an advisor in Steve Bannon. And, if nothing else, Trump is a pragmatist who will do anything to get re-elected. In saying that, I make no criticism. Almost every politician on the planet will try to do the same. 
Let’s assume for a minute, though, that Trump’s better angels had won the day and he turns to his advisors and says, “It’s all very well putting in policies that may or may not save millions of people’s lives. And right now, we all feel warm and fuzzy, but what’s in it for me?”
If I were advising him, I’d say, “Well, Mr President what if this thing doesn’t go away like you’d hoped, then you’d be blamed for millions of deaths which is unlikely to boost your re-election chances.”
Trump: Yeah, but why don’t we treat it like we do climate change and just kick the can down the road and leave it to the next president to work out?
Me: Two reasons, Mr President. Firstly, no matter how hard they try, the Dems can’t pin any one climate event like fire, flood or a record heat wave on global warming because we just tell people that the climate’s always changing while we point to previous events in history where similar things have occurred. But COVID-19 is unique and every death it causes can be traced to it and it alone. There’s no way we can deflect from it.
Secondly, and perhaps, more importantly, this virus thing is going to play out before the election in November. You need to be seen to go to war on this. In the worst-case scenario, you can say you tried your hardest and blame it all on the “experts” that gave you poor advice and let America down. On the other hand, if we get the thing under some semblance of control by late October, you can take all the credit and romp it in. Maybe even get elected for life.

I’m joking, of course. 
But our own Prime Minister who I believe is doing as good a job as one could expect with a rapidly shifting target such as COVID-19 is also using the “war” word because this is a time when we must all pull together against a common enemy that doesn't respect borders, religion, race or political allegiances. I don’t believe Mr Morrison is being alarmist. Nor is he sugar coating the likely hardships many will likely have to endure. 

What we need now is the truth from experts and leadership from our elected officials. Radio has a role in delivering a balanced message that doesn't downplay the threat yet emphasises the reasons for hope and the heroics of our fellow citizens. We did it during the bushfires. We can do it again now.
If this is, indeed, the greatest national emergency that Australia's faced since World War Two, then Alan Jones needs to decide whether he wants to be remembered as a Winston Churchill, "We will fight them on the beaches..." or a Neville Chamberlain "Peace in our time..." and start writing his Alan Jones Comments segments accordingly. 

Peter Saxon


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Anthony The Koala
23 March 2020 - 4:05pm
Dear author,
I would like to comment on the reporting of comparing the incidents of COVID-19 by commentators and the media's reporting on the triaging procedures by intensive care specialists.

First, I do listen to Alan Jones. I found another flaw in Alan's comparison of COVID-19 and other influenza-type infections. True, more people have passed away from other influenza-type infections. But that is at the moment as at 23-03-2019.

Whether the COVID-19 infections arise from recent arrivals from risky areas around the world or by spreading through the community, the spread of infection is occurring exponentially with incidence of infections today is greater than the previous day's reports of infections.

People with other influenza-type infections may well be immune from other influenza-type infections when people move as a herd or crowd.Immunity from other influenza-type infections may be by individual humans being resistant due to previous infections OR by having influenza injections.

However, such a broad community/herd immunity from COVID-19 does not exist. The result is that Federal and State medical authorities advising our Prime Minister and Premious have implemented measures such as self-quarantine, keeping a safe 1.5m distance from other people and keeping a 4m-squared isolation in enclosed structures. Today, 23-03-2020, the Premiers have announced various businesses and religous institutions with enclosed structures to close. This is to reduce the chance of the spread of infection. Otherwise, if such measures are carried out too late, it may well be like the situation in Italy. Time will tell.

Second, the reporting on intensive care triaging has been sensational. On the 16th March 2020, the "Sunrise" program's news highlights on the hour and half hour broadcast a graphic of an extract of a section of a 'triaging' procedure by the ANZICS ('Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Specialists'), a specialist college for professionals in Intensive Care. The reporter said that the ANZICS will apply Italian-style triaging of patients by not treating patients over a certain age and letting them die.

These repeated reports on the "Sunrise" program resulted in me being in distress because I am caring a person who is not a "spring chicken" and if that person is infected she would not be treated and fobbed off to die.

I wrote to both "Sunrise" and ANZICS. "Sunrise" never replied but the CEO of the ANZICS replied "...Nowhere in our guidelines to the intensive care workforce, does it say there will be any triaging of patients along the lines purported by Sunrise. A journalist (with no medical background has drawn inappropriate conclusions to generate a sensationalist story)...", that this reply"....allays any concerns that you may have after seeing this ‘story’ on sunrise..."

In both situations the application of statistics without background information on immunity and the practice of news broadcasters sensationalizing stories should stop.

Thank you,
Anthony of Belfield
Mike Jacobson
24 March 2020 - 2:53am
Unless you've ever written an opinion piece praising Alan Jones, which seems unlikely, a disclaimer to that effect would at least warn readers of your bias.
Anthony The Koala
31 March 2020 - 8:02pm
This is related to broadcasting the latest gazetted order from the NSW Minister of Health regarding reasonable excuses for being outside the house, under page 13 of Schedule 1, of the "Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020 [NSW] ", source, gazetted 31-03-2020.

What was broadcast on Ben Fordham's 2GB program 1500-1800 was notice to listeners of the 16 "reasonable excuses" as per schedule. The reasonable excuses ARE NOT EXHAUSTIVE.

The program seemed to raise apprehensions in me in regards to what is not listed as a "reasonable excuse". Some callers wanted to know if that if a person was stopped by a police officer that if a particular essential service not listed in the "reasonable excuses" 16 point list, then the person would be UNJUSTLY fined $11000 as per Explanatory Note, bottom paragraph, of the document.

I too am concerned that, going to the petrol station or mechanic, the post office to pay bills and going to the bank are not listed as a "reasonable excuse", or whether "reasonable excuse" no. 1 covers this.

The no. 1 "reasonable excuse" is "...obtaining food or other goods or services for the personal needs of the household or other household purposes (including for pets) and for vulnerable persons".

Mr Fordham left listeners in the air by not contacting the the NSW Health Minister and asking whether going to the post office, bank, petrol station/mechanic comes under the "reasonable excuses's term "....other goods or services...."

If Ben had asked the Health Minister whether other essential services such as banking, post office, petrol and mechanic come under the ambit of "...other goods or services...", my fears would be allayed.

Then the Minister could pass this clarification to our Police, instead of Ben saying something on air like "....they'll (the police) eventually figure it out...."

But during the "figuring out time" you don't want to be an innocent person fined $11000 for going to the bank, post office, buying petrol or going to the mechanic which are essential services and then having to go to court and resolve this issue.

By the presenter or journalist not contacting the Health Minister I was left up in the air. Similarly, I could say the same issue for the report in the Daily Telegraph and SMH. The "comments" section in the Daily Telegraph left me none the wiser.

Journalists or radio presenters leaving other essential services "up in the air" without contacting the Health Minister and asking these questions leaves the listener and reader in a state of apprehension.


Thank you,
Anthony of apprehensive Belfield

Anthony The Koala
2 April 2020 - 6:16am
An update as at 2-4-2020
This is a continuation of the media coverage in NSW of the "reasonable excuses" for staying outside the "house" during the current pandemic.

Recall that the NSW Government gazetted 16 "reasonable excuses" on page 13 of Schedule 1, of the "Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020 [NSW] ", source, gazetted 31-03-2020.

One of the reasonable excuses is no 1 which is "...obtaining food or other goods or services for the personal needs of the household or other household purposes (including for pets) and for vulnerable persons".

What was not listed were other essential services such as banking, paying the bills at the post office, filling the car with petrol and mechanical repairs.

The sub-term in "reasonable excuse" no 1 is "....other goods or services for the personal needs....and for vulnerable persons"

In regards to the SMH, for example, the main article did not address this issue and neither was it addressed in the moderated comments section. Fortunately comments are moderated to prevent any kind of 'sledging' between commenters.

Even when one commenter at the SMH site asked a question about banking and car repairs, the reply was not answered. Source

On Ben Fordham's program (2GB, 1500-1800), a lot of the time was spent on callers wanting to know whether going to a partner's house in another location from the caller was allowed. There was some levity on whether one could read a book in a park. The answer was "....provided you do one situp between turning the pages..."

Importantly, Ben raised the very important issue about discussing such issues to a Minister from the NSW Government. NOT ONE MINISTER RESPONDED.

One of the topics that was drummed into students at the UNSW School of Law is the concept of the RULE OF LAW. Paraphrasing the Oxford Dictionary definition of the RULE OF LAW, where all members of society are equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes.

The issue is that while the gazetted document is publicly disclosed, the terms are vague. The processes involved are the enforcement of the law by our Police. The issue then becomes that invidual officers have the discretion to determine whether a citizen is infringing or not infringing a law.

Consequently, there may be inconsistencies in decisions based on the discretion of the officers who may find favour for one citizen but not for another citizen for the same set of circumstances. For a citizen that the officer was not in favour could take the matter to court.

Importantly, a source of litigation whether in the civil or criminal jurisdiction has been based on the meaning of a vague term whether in contract or in criminal law. Litigation means taking the matter to court and that imposes extra time on the courts and expense and anxiety imposed on the citizen.

Currently the courts are slowing down the number of hearings and are adapting to the methods of conducting hearings during this pandemic, source,

As a result, the citizen wanting to litigate for an unjust decision by the officer, the wait will be longer and the anxiety increase.

If the Minister of Health could provide a more comprehensive list of reasonable excuses through to the Minister of Police then through the Commissioner and inform the rest of the Police Force that would reduce the risk of inconsistent decisions made by officers for same given set of circumstances.

Otherwise when the Minister of Health or Police do not answer calls by 2GB's Ben Fordham or other media sources including the state government's site, to clarify the vague terms in the gazetted document will result in officers giving inconsistent decisions based on the same set of circumstances.

The effect of very vague terms is has the same effect of uncertainty and arbitrary decisions, a lack of the rule of law.

Finally, in order to seek clarification on non-listed essential services under Schedule 1 of the gazetted item, I also contacted my local member and 2GB's Ray Hadley.

I have written to my local member, a former 2HD breakfast co-presenter and have not yet received a reply in regards to the interpretation of "reasonable excuse" No.1.

I have also written to Ray Hadley (2GB, 0900-1200) at 0619, 1-4-2020 and received a very kind reply from him directly at 0632, 1-4-2020 and believed that my circumstances which includes caring for someone would apply.

The only person who gave frank and honest information was Ray Hadley. I thank him.

Thank you,
Anthony of relieved Belfield
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