Sophie Elsworth is the ‘national personal finance writer and columnist’ for News Corp according to her own profile on Twitter1. She has published in the most egregious of the Murdoch rags: The Daily Bellylaugh, The Hun and The Australian. This morning (10/8/2020), it was announced by the Victorian Government that over the last 24 hours, it had detected 322 new Covid-19 cases, and 19 people had died2. This was the worst daily death toll so far in Australia. So, what did ‘ruperter’ Elsworth do? At 9.36 am, August 10th, she tweeted:
“Sad day for Victoria again, 19 Covid-19 deaths. More than double the deaths in New York in the past week. Victorian population: 6.4 million. Last 7 days: 93 deaths. New York’s population: 8.4 million. Last 7 days: 40 deaths.”3
This is lying by misleading and is a false equivalence. Here, Elsworth presents facts in a way that is literally true, but is designed to mislead. This is one of the most common ways by which politicians lie4. A false equivalence is where you are comparing two facts which are not directly comparable; like comparing apples with oranges.
New York City (NYC) was the first part of the United States to suffer the worst depredations of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite this, it was not until early March that the first case was recorded in NYC, and this was in Manhattan. The disease tore through the city, and by the end of June, over 20,000 people had died. Currently, in the five boroughs of NYC, there have been 242,440 recorded cases, and 23,550 people have died. The recorded cases and deaths are distributed between the five boroughs as follows.
Manhattan: 31,604 cases; 3,152 deaths
Brooklyn (Kings County): 74,782 case; 7,259 deaths
Queens: 69,834 cases; 7,196 deaths
Bronx: 51,118 cases; 4,866 deaths
Staten Island (Richmond County): 15,102 cases; 1,077 deaths5
That works out to be about 28,900 cases and 2,800 deaths per million population. Victoria has recorded just 14,957 cases and 228 deaths6,7, which comes out at about 2,300 cases and 4.4 deaths per million population.
The daily peak of new cases in New York City was 6,377 on April 6th and happened only a little over a month after the first case was discovered. The daily peak of deaths was on April 7th when 597 people died8. In Victoria, the daily peak of new cases was on August 5th when 702 new cases were recorded2, while the daily peak of deaths was on August 10th (when this was written) when 19 people died7.
Why would Elsworth give such a misleading series of facts? It is because the federal Liberal Party, the Victorian Liberal Party and the Murdoch media are trying as much as they can to make the Victorian government look like a failure in dealing with this outbreak. The cat was let out of the bag by Malcolm Farr on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s The Drum (24 mins in) program on Friday,August 7th, when he said: “…I know for a fact that briefing from senior figures in the government is encouraging journalists to criticise Premier [Daniel] Andrews”9. That is why Elsworth did what she did. It shows you the lengths to which Murdoch media will go; co-opting a personal finance person to mislead people over the Victorian handling of this outbreak. This is all about bringing down the Andrews Government, who thrashed the Liberal Party at the last state election in 201810, and has been very popular since then. In addition, despite the second wave of Covid-19 hitting Victoria very hard, Andrews has fronted up to the daily press briefing and answered questions as well as he was able. He has also suffered through repeated questioning (often the same question over and over) from other Murdoch hacks and has maintained his cool, and continued to answer those questions. This is something Morrison could learn from. Rather than simply refusing to answer questions, or stating that he doesn’t agree with the premise of the question, or that he doesn’t reply to gossip, or obfuscating, or just rambling on with mindless drivel or motherhood statements, he could answer questions as Andrews does.