In light of COVID-19 and all the restrictions and policies put in place by both the Australian federal and state governments, various Facebook pages have been set up to show dissatisfaction and disapproval in how the government is handling the situation. Some are simply voicing their frustration over the matter, whilst others are specifically targeting and vilifying politicians and defaming their initiatives.
Victorians for Civil Disobedience Against Virus Restrictions
The Facebook page “Victorians for civil disobedience against virus restrictions” (Page ID: 102323468125184) was created on 18 April 2020. At the time of writing it has 312 likes and 325 followers.
The page was created due to the frustration and resentment towards state and federal governments for continuing the lockdown restrictions unnecessarily. They are continuously found to be spreading rumours and conspiracy theories as they defame the governments’ initiatives in controlling the spread of COVID-19. Posts often spark back-and-forth debates between people commenting on the article or information shared, and whilst there are a few loyal commenters to the page, there are quite a few commenters that try to argue and ridicule the page and it’s loyal followers by highlighting their ignorance. So whilst, there are a few hundred followers, it seems that not all follow for the purpose of agreeing.
This page often shares videos and news stories from Andrew Bolt whose reputation as a credible news source is often questionable. Yet the page holds his word as almost sacrosanct. It is commonly these types of posts that generate the most comments and debates.
The above post only generated 4 comments, but with Bolt’s statement, “Australian politicians seem to be enjoying the ‘extraordinary powers’ they have gained during this pandemic far too much”, it sparked commenters to compare Daniel Andrews with Hitler and vilifying him as a Communist.
Two days later, the page shared another news story by Bolt stating that he ‘again…nails it.’ This post generated 40 comments, most of which involved one loyal follower of the page. Other comments were made up of various replies trying to argue ‘reason’, to which he would not see.
This comment alludes to the conspiracy that COVID-19 and its restrictions are just a cover for something else that the government is trying to hide.
Another reply in the lengthy thread of debate from the author of the page, further attracts this notion that these restrictions are unnecessary and a result of politicians ‘enjoying the little power trip’.
Above is another status shared by which the author, vilifying the Victorian government by comparing them to the harsh, dictator ruling of North Korea.
The St Kilda Rebellion Page
The Facebook page “St Kilda Rebellion” (Page ID: 111018913900433) was created on 11 April 2020. 215 people like this page and 235 people follow this page.
This page was created in protest to lockdown restrictions, particularly in relation to its effect on St Kilda’s (more specifically Acland St) locale and businesses. The page appears to organise protests or what they refer to as ‘peaceful rebellions’ and believe that the police are on their side, supporting their efforts to overturn the government’s restrictions and object to the tyrannical nature of the government’s initiatives. Posts and commenters of the page seem to believe that COVID-19 is a conspiracy for government control and that this is only ‘Pandemic 1’ and another will come in winter of 2021, so they call on protesters to come and put a stop to these restrictions and control so that it doesn’t happen again and so that the government stop infringing on their civil liberties. Similar to other Facebook pages, although there are a few hundred followers, as indicative from activity and comments, a large majority seem to be following the stories to take note of what people are saying but do not actually believe it themselves.
This is one of the page’s earliest posts, sharing an American article that they believe applies to our own circumstance. The post speaks of the tyranny of the restrictions and lockdown rules.
The above post shares a video from Craig Cole calling for a protest on the steps of Parliament. The post urges its followers to make a stand and fight for the truth of the situation, which they believe is more about ‘control’ than the virus itself. It aligns itself with the conspiracy that the country is at risk of being controlled and run by technological experts. Being that restrictions are still in place, the call and incitement of protest is actually illegal. This is not the first protest this page has organised though. They seem to believe that protesting is condoned and they will not face any punitive measures.
The above post, on May 1st, received the most attention thus far on the page with 159 comments. It sparked lengthy threads about what our civil liberties are and the power that they urge their followers to draw on in order to protect our legal, constitutional and human rights.
This above reply was in reference to the panic and fear circulating through news broadcasts which is causing people to be complacent about their rights.
This above exchange appears to ridicule the government’s restrictions stating ‘there is NOTHING to fear’ but also makes its own interpretation about freedom of movement and freedom of protest which is somewhat misguided.
“Not My Prime Minister”
The above comment was generated from a Facebook page called “Not My Prime Minister” (Page ID: 2059669984327999). The author of the comment goes on a lengthy rant vilifying the Prime Minister with multiple references to Nazi tyranny and Hitler. He states that the election was rigged and this is a fake, body double of the Prime Minister, appearing as ‘PM Adolf Scummo’. He claims that he has a source from within Parliament that provided him with this information. The picture he posts to support his comment depicts Scott Morrison with swastikas on his face and a mustache similar to Hitler’s.
The “She Ain’t Right” Page
The Facebook page “She ain’t right” (Page ID: 1291881054243432) was created back in 2017 (26 June) and has 47,708 likes and 51,926 followers. Unlike some of the other pages in the brief, this page wasn’t set up solely in light of COVID-19 but shows a history of defaming government implementations and vilifying various politicians.
There have been various posts and images published on the “She ain’t right” page that indicate the page and its followers believe the government is taking a communist approach to governance.
This above image was shared on the page and refers to the government as corrupt and should not be in power.
This above comment vilifies the government’s actions, referring to them as ‘gutless’ and having poor judgement. This implies that the government’s allegiance is to overseas trade rather than caring for the best interests of the country.
This comment portrays the government to be entitled and greedy. It specifically vilifies them by calling them ‘a bunch of parasites’.
One recent topic that has attracted further vilification of the government is the introduction of the COVID safe app that the government is calling for everyone to download to their smartphones. The intention of this app is to track virus contact and risk between people, however various conspiracies are being spreading on the internet that say the COVID safe app is simply a way for the government to track and trace everyone. The “She ain’t right” page has posted various articles about this issue and has generated many comments. Some criticize the app. Others compare people’s objection to downloading this app with the redundancy of ‘anti-vaxxers’. There are further comments defaming the way in which the government is instructing people to download the app.
This above post denotes the government as ‘imbeciles’ and shares an article that refers to them as a ‘laughing stock’. Their vilification of politicians lies in their comments that taxpayers continuously have to pay for government’s incompetence, claiming that the Covid-19 app is useless.
Many of the comments on this post were objecting to the government gathering information through the app and connected it to various conspiracies generated through the COVID-19 pandemic.
This comment is an inference to the devil or evil in the 666 reference. This is not specifically vilifying any politicians, however the same user then makes the following comment.
This comment refers to the ‘control and tracking’ by this app and reduces us to convicts again, under a controlling authoritarian.
This comment denigrates Scott Morrison and refers to the government as a ‘Totalitarian, fascist, lying dictatorship’. It also states that Scott Morrison and his Government has failed the Australian people.
The comment and image above compares our government’s current control and implementation to that of the Nazi regime. The image depicts Jews being led onto the trains during the Holocaust where they were placated to distract from the actual plan and horrors that awaited them. Thus, making inference to the wider conspiracy that this pandemic is a cover for the government’s greater plan.
This post depicts Dan Andrews in Nazi uniform, indicative of the perception that the control and restrictions that he is maintaining within Victoria is as unrelenting as that under Nazi rule. The post attracted a fair amount of hate comments generated towards Dan Andrews.
This comment agrees with Dan Andrews being compared to Hitler but then goes on to suggest Andrews should be wearing the PRC uniform – linked to communism.
Another agreement and goes on to further denigrate Andrews by referring to him as a ‘grub’.
This comment is actually an incitement to violence against Andrews.
In the above comment, by proposing that the message would be more accurate if Andrews was pictured in an IDF uniform instead, they are inciting anti-semetic or anti-zionist hate.
An Excuse to Vilify
While many are frustrated at the way our governments are responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic. For others, the coronavirus has simply provided another avenue to hate-target political leaders. The current pandemic has generated some unacceptable online comments & images of hate towards our leaders.
Researched & Written by Esther Goodrich
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This article is part of the Online Hate Prevention Institute’s special focus on Coronavirus: Racism, Hate Speech and Fake News.