De-platforming Trump — and trumping Morrison

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

While Morrison is unlikely to resort to the level of unhinged rantings of Trump, we should still monitor the PM and his chief medical officer, neither of whom appear to be entirely reliable, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.

IT'S A TESTAMENT to the power of normalisation and the human desire for it, that the President of the United States can discuss the possibility of people treating themselves with disinfectant as a legitimate antidote to Covid-19, from the press room at the White House, without being taken into some sort of custody.

Trump said: 

"I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs."

The grotesque speculation engaged in by the leader of the free world didn't just come out of nowhere. Mr Trump has been making grotesque statements since before he attained office in 2016 and while we may have at first been thoroughly shaken by some of his observations, many of us are close to exhausting our supplies of dismay and outrage.

This latest example, quite understandably, was greeted by many with a weary string of curses and eye rolls, because nobody can sustain the level of horror Trump’s statements provoke on a daily basis without suffering burn-out. 

We know too well that his reflections are crazed. There are people who wake up every morning wondering what Trump tweeted while they were sleeping. He is entertainment – of the worst possible kind – but entertainment nonetheless. The danger is becoming inured to his insanity, because what else can we do and still get through our days?

UV light taken internally and externally is also a viable option, according to Mr Trump:

"I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you're going to test that too... So, we'll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute — that's pretty powerful."

At the time of writing, 945,249 people are infected with the virus in the U.S. and 53,243 are dead — a terrifying increase of some 25,000 deaths over a ten-day period. The situation in that country is one that would bring many democratic leaders, past and present, to their knees. But Trump does not waste his time mourning the dead, or pursuing credible avenues that might protect the living.

The President’s recent comments are the 2020 version of treatments used in bubonic plague outbreaks in the 1300s, when blood-letting, eating dismembered snake and swallowing mercury and arsenic were a few of the options offered to sufferers by their physicians. This is where we are at with the President of the United States — awash in medieval superstition and despotism, as Trump behaves increasingly like a mad, syphilitic English king claiming absolute authority over his subjects

Trump’s remarks were quite rightly mocked and disparaged on social media, and dismissed by medical experts. However, a couple of days earlier, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison boasted that he'd had a conversation with Mr Trump in which they enjoyed “very constructive discussions” about their respective health responses to COVID-19. Given Trump’s subsequent remarks, just what he might have contributed to those constructive discussions should give us serious pause for thought.

Morrison’s willingness to issue statements such as this validates Trump’s irresponsibility and insanity. It also further erodes Morrison’s credibility on matters such as the safeness of schools for children and teachers. Indeed, the advice from Morrison and his Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy that social distancing is not required in schools — the only venues in the country exempt from the rule, has about it a whiff of Trumpian witchcraft that is thoroughly unnerving.

Children may not go to the beach, may not visit grandparents, may not have birthday parties, may not play in the park and yet somehow, once they enter the school gate, they are safe from both contracting and spreading COVID-19. If this is the case, we should all be conducting our lives within school buildings and grounds — a magical space that coronavirus cannot invade, or at least in such low numbers as to be negligible.

It appears that Morrison and Murphy are relying on one piece of research from the NSW National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) – as yet not peer-reviewed – to validate their assurances that schools are safe for children and teachers.

As Dr David Caldicott notes, the COVID-19 cases tracked in the study were

'presumably identified by symptoms (not specified) in a cohort notorious for not manifesting symptoms.'

It is alarming that the Morrison Government is prepared to use a summary report as their sole basis for insisting that parents send children back to school. Indeed, one might be tempted to describe their hubris as “Trumpian”. However, needs must, and the economic imperative to get everyone back to work is, in this instance, the Government’s dominant need. 

It’s now reported that the White House, embarrassed and dismayed by Trump resorting to sorcery in his efforts to show the virus he is its master, is now considering scaling back the frequency and length of his press briefings. They’re planning to de-platform Trump, which will be an interesting exercise given how taken he is with his ratings.

State premiers also appear to be ignoring our Prime Minister on the issue of resuming full school attendance, yet despite this, Morrison will not give up attempting to bully everyone into doing it his way. He has no power in this matter, he can only carp, complain and exhort. However, producing research claiming it is safe for everyone to return is another attempt to intimidate and shame the states into obeying him.

Morrison is not Trump and we are very unlikely to hear the level of crazed from him that we’re accustomed to hearing from the U.S. President. It’s a continuum, though, and we’re on it — and we’d do well to monitor Morrison and his chief medical officer, neither of whom appear to be entirely reliable.

Dr Jennifer Wilson is an IA columnist, a psychotherapist and academic. You can follow her on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep.

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