PAT PILCHER is aghast at Newstalk ZB for giving far-right pundit Mike Hosking oxygen to spread Covid-19 rumours and testing dissent.
Flying home to Wellington with a hundred or so other travellers yesterday, I felt safe and fear-free. It was great knowing that I didn’t need to wear a mask. It’s almost too easy to forget how remarkable that is right now in a world churning in Covid-19 chaos.
This seems to have missed media outlets like Newstalk ZB, who seem to think it’s their duty to ramp up fear around the pandemic. (See my previous story about media spreading Covid-19 panic here).
Their latest headline hits new lows, shrieking: “PM is scaremongering us for political advantage”. The author, Mike Hosking, has tossed petrol onto an already burning Covid-19 conspiracy bonfire. Does Newstalk ZB or Hosking even give a damn about the consequences of this bizarre story?
As a second Coronavirus wave washes over Victoria, Australia, where 147 have died so far, it’s hard to call NewsTalk ZB and Hosking’s actions anything but irresponsible. Meanwhile, back in New Zealand, the PM called for more testing. Health experts say that we need to be super vigilant. With all this going on, surely it’s not unreasonable to say that this is not the best time to downplay the Pandemic or question Covid-19 testing.
Yet this is what Hosking and Newstalk ZB did. They seemed okay with framing the global pandemic as a political plaything, minimising it to suit their narrative.
If there’s any doubt, check this out. Hosking says that the PM’s “say yes to the test” comment is, “Because she wants you to worry, she wants you to remember the dark and troubled days of lockdown, and the uncertainty of what would happen to us all as this previously unknown virus swept the world and towards our small nation.”
Could it be that the Government wants to stop a pandemic from killing New Zealanders? Might they want to stop any further damage to our already battered economy? Anyone with half a brain knows that a second Covid-19 wave would be disastrous for Labour’s re-election. Yet Hosking persists with the bizarre conspiracy theory. He contends the Government is pushing testing to keep voters frightened and compliant.
Like so many other far-right pundits, he goes to some lengths to minimise the deadly side of the pandemic. He says, “We can’t be complacent. No, we can’t. But that applies to crossing the road, eating too much fat, or drinking too much alcohol. That doesn’t mean we test ourselves for it for the sake of it.”
If by now, you’re sputtering “Whaaa?”, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Social media was awash with outrage as people read his reckons. Many were livid that Hosking and NewsTalk ZB glossed over the fact that Kiwis are responsible people, most of whom are willing to get tested to play it safe. Most reasonable people know that the pandemic isn’t a game. Most are okay with getting tested so that the people we love don’t catch Covid-19, get sick or even die.
A whopping 686,703 people are already dead from the virus according to the World Health Organisation, but the severity of the situation eludes Hosking and the editors who published his rant.
Weirder still is his attitude to quarantining arrivals into New Zealand. To him, keeping overseas arrivals isolated for 14 days is little more than a “glaringly audacious ploy to have us believe that a virus that is in a handful of isolation hotel dwellers really needs us lining up by the thousand to find out there isn’t an issue”.
That Hosking says this as a steady stream of arrivals test Covid-19 positive is astonishing. Do Hosking and Co think the Ministry of Health reports got faked so Jacinda could somehow gain political advantage? I’m wondering if Newstalk ZB believes the earth is flat too.
To his credit, Hosking does admit the economy is in tatters, even if he later quips that the government, “had their health curtain call, we’ve applauded. But they’re now milking the standing ovations for naked political advantage”.
You’d need to look very hard to see where any advantage lies. The economic wreckage scattered across New Zealand is in plain sight and hard to miss. With an election looming, things could get more than a little bumpy for the Government. National will use the state of the economy in a bid to lift their sagging polling three weeks out from the election. On what planet the current situation will ever play well for the Government is unknown. Still, we do know that it isn’t planet empathy – a place that Hosking and NewsTalk ZB doesn’t seem to inhabit.
Minimising the pandemic and its effects isn’t tone-deaf, it’s irresponsible. We’ve all seen how the second wave of Covid-19 engulfed Victoria. Infections and deaths continue to spiral out of control. Telling people that taking precautions and getting tested is little more than a political ploy could see many refuse to get tested, wear masks, etc.
Worse still, Hosking and Newstalk ZB handed conspiracists fuel for spreading disinformation. Either way, the consequences could be deadly. Should community Covid-19 transmission reoccur, more deaths are likely. This begs the following question get asked: What planet is Newstalk ZB on for publishing such irresponsible rubbish?
If this comes to pass, Newstalk ZB could find that grieving families are lining up to hold them to account. They might want to consider reining Hosking in.