Another media buffoon

By September 8, 2020Media

John Kehoe is a senior writer for the Australian Financial Review and writes on economics, politics and business, and surprisingly, epidemiology. I say surprisingly in the latter case, because he has pontificated on epidemiology in a tweet in reply to Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty. Doherty tweeted:

“Private profit, public liability: call-centre jobs are sent overseas to increase payouts to global shareholders & executives. Cost of supporting displaced people who can’t find work falls back on the taxpayer. Why not require the company to pay those costs for eg 12-24 months?”

This seemed to be an entirely reasonable request given that it has been very much in the media in recent years, not just during the pandemic, and is especially pertinent given the money doled out to large companies via JobKeeper. This apparently upset John Kehoe, who tweeted:

“With greatest respect to Noble [sic] prize winner,your own centre’s models projected up to 150,000 Australian virus deaths(exceeded by only USA with 15 x population). So panicky govts forced millions Aussies jobless. And your biggest concern is some call centre jobs being offshored?”

Apart from giving the impression of having been typed with his fists, Kehoe’s tweet has similarities to some recent rants from right wing nut jobs and conspiracy theorists. These usually go along the lines of: ‘You told us that many thousands were going to die and they haven’t so we needn’t have bothered with the lockdown’. Such assertions are only marginally less stupid than those from QAnon fruitcakes who still maintain, in the midst of all this death and illness, that Covid-19 is a hoax or that the vaccine, should one be produced, will contain a mind control chip from Bill Gates. Their lack of logic does not allow them to realise that these estimates of deaths are based on doing little or nothing to prevent the spread of the virus. The fact that Australia suffered only about 100 deaths by the end of the first wave is due to the states getting their act together, ignoring Morrison, and throwing just about everything at the virus in an attempt to prevent it spreading. Victoria’s reaction to the second wave seems to be similarly effective, with the seven day moving average of daily cases dropping dramatically over the last month (from 513 to 72)3.

The Doherty Institute did refer to modelling on the likely number of deaths in Australia given an estimated death rate of about 1%, and an infection rate of 20% to 60%, and that came out at 50,000-150,000 deaths4. In 1919, it was estimated that about 40% of the population of Australia (then estimated to be about 5 million) caught the Spanish Flu and of them, 15,000 died; this was despite considerable lockdowns, mask-wearing and border shutting to try and combat its spread5. So, an estimate of 50,000-150,000 dead in a population now 5 times the size of that in 1919 is not too extreme. It is worth noting also that Kehoe only used the larger of the two end members of the spread, a common technique among those wanting to exaggerate their ‘argument’, especially when they know it doesn’t have legs.

If buffoons like Kehoe were capable of using logic, they would say ‘You told us that many thousands were going to die if we didn’t do anything; you did plenty, and the many thousands haven’t died, so your measures to stop the spread of the infection worked. Thanks.’




  • Jon says:

    Nothing new for Murdoch hacks and rusted on neocons. It’s the same tactic to that used by climate deniers – pick something which resonates with ignorant fools and those too lazy to research facts or do a little thinking themselves, and repeat it ad nauseam, but make sure you leave out the context so you can backtrack when called out. This one is straight out of the playbook for ideologically blind dummies and simpletons. If Kehoe understood even the basics of modelling – and there’s no excuse for him not knowing given his supposed expertise – he’d know that they always have best and worst case scenarios based on a range of defined parameters.

    It used to be rare that people would put their ignorance, stupidity and hypocrisy on public display but these days political extremists and many conservatives wear it like a badge of honour. Kehoe is either willfully ignorant or is lying by omission with the intent to mislead – both common traits among conservative commentators in particular in my experience.

    We’ve covered this previously but the hypocrisy and stupidity of Kehoe and his ilk extends even further. It’s politicians who make Covid-19 decisions, not health/science/economic advisors. And as even Kehoe would know they make these decisions based on a range of medical and economic data and with full knowledge of what’s happening overseas, while weighing up the political consequences. Given that’s the case, Kehoe obviously thinks Morrison and his government are impressionable and acquiescent fools – which ironically is not too far from from the mark.

    No doubt Kehoe, not wanting to be accused of gross ideological hypocrisy, has been giving the Morrison and Berejiklian a flogging on twitter and in his columns? No? I’m shocked to the core.

    • admin says:

      The day people like Kehoe actually get stuck into the Coalition government, rather than whining about the lockdown or attempts to save lives is the day we reclaim our democracy.

  • Jon says:

    Had the same uninformed Y2K tosh put up as an argument against “alarmist” global warming (on a sports forum of all places) a few years back Arthur. Unfortunately for the mug who raised it (and his supporters) I had a good knowledge of work done prior to 2000 to fix date-related problems in fed govt legacy software and this was later backed up on the forum by a bloke who worked in a large private company.

  • Mark Dougall says:

    Like Arthur I had involvement with the Y2K issue. I had significant responsibility for coordinating the management of, and response to, the problem in a large public organisation. A lot of work, very boring work, as Arthur says, went into ensuring that nothing, or at least nothing significantly harmful, happened. We knew what we were doing would address the issue. We also knew that there were people, who were the equivalent of today’s conspiracy theorists, who were putting forward all sorts of scenarios suggesting terrible doom would arise, that planes would fall out of the air, that missiles would be fired, and Armageddon was upon us. I actually had to speak to one of these people, who was a quite senior person in the organisation, and basically tell him to shut the fuck up. Interestingly he was a very christian Christian. As other posters have noted those who actually worked on this problem, and those who had raised concerns, were never alarmists, just realists. The mythology that has developed around Y2K, as with climate change, and covid 19, is created by those who are pursuing very selfish narrow agendas, or who are simply very, very stupid. It does not come from those with any real knowledge. In fact the example of the Y2K issue, just like the CFC problem, shows that prompt, coordinated, timely action can, and will, prevent, or at least significantly reduce the effects of, major risks. The people who oppose this are, as you have said so many times, criminals, or criminally stupid, which is the same thing I reckon.

  • Russell says:

    A good thread from quiet, level-headed thinkers who represent the sort of people we absolutely need in government right now. However, I suspect that like myself, our little band is an ageing one, folk whose careers are near or at an end. In view of the mega-weird mental/psychic state that has spread like a virus (appropriate!) through the public at large, infecting even people in influential positions, you just find the magnitude of the issue too great, even if tempted to help fight within existing institutions.

    The phrases “decayed truth” and “alternative facts” reek of the influence of a wrong-headed, debased postmodernism. In saying that I don’t wish to damn properly done philosophy, per structuralism and solid philosophical deconstruction. I see much value in deconstruction with certain provisos and parameters. However, there has been a malignant effect of philosophy out of France, the USA and other places since 1980; and it comes about from the twisting of deconstruction to allow big capital’s ever diminishing ethics. Hence nasty, anti-human economic tactics as well.

    The media and politics are two other big, powerful forces where the notion that “human epistemes and beliefs compete” for final authority ,but none should be given a sure victory over the rest. The age-old notion of one standing firm with a theory, ideology or set of mores, is replaced by dangerous relativism. There lies no final, irrefutable superiority in a single theory or mode of judgment, given their diverse cultural origins and contexts. Kehoe and his ilk ( Bolt, Trump, shock jocks and the ‘0.01 percenters’ who actually call the global tune via their extremely wealthy network of manipulation) made wily efforts to dissolve old-style “community” forms of ethics, because it suits their really foul purpose – gross exploitation/ruination of all life on Earth for dollar profits.

    We are caught as less visible citizens, inside this perverse version of postmodernism. It does away with once common, unconsciously held (Western) strategy of arriving at truth, especially moral truth, through logical, honest reasoning. And so these days, quite insanely, anyone can express THE Truth to/at us all. “My truth” easil;y slips into THE truth, invoked by so many people with access to digital platforms. Viewpoints, ad notions thus have become sources of total, incomprehensible contention, with often mass refusal to compromise or accept alternative viewpoints more logically arrived at. If one subscribes to a humane but time-tested system of thought, in which the scientific (Enlightenment?) deductive modus is used to determine what are facts and reality, one is increasingly marginalised. That thinking person looks out upon a world of endless virulent debate, wild disagreement, inconclusive argumentation. In the social media this situation is much worse, because across the globe, 24/7 people are bellowing, snarling demanding for their totalising narrative (the Truth) to be taken as Truth by all the rest. Regardless of any form of logic or universally agreed system of decision making. Thus government policy making is today a monumental headache, especially in democracies, or rather, in our half-baked, very imitation democracies. Prejudice posing as fair argument, political spin posing as sound ideas, and plainly brainless, whacky theories may eventually rule the roost of culture. A cancelling out a final intelligent consensus follows. Urgent action by politicians on pressing issues we face, fails to emerge. It’s a stalemate, where nobody dares act with determination and full belief in a course of duty. We just sink into a vague political morass, a vast welter of contrarian, embattled absolute positions. The most extreme opinion (“truth”) comes out of mainly poorly informed, even moronic, media loud-mouths, who contribute next to nothing to solving social or environmental problems: biggest of which is always the relentless over-warming of Earth and humanity’s wanton, vile ecocide, our war on all other forms and species that share the biosphere with the murderously selfish assholes which we, overall, accept to be.

    • admin says:

      While I clearly do not have your knowledge of philosophy, my scientific background and my meagre study of the philosophy of science has made me think that this post-modernism is a bad joke perpetrated on the rest of humanity, by a bunch of disgruntled philosophers unhappy with their lot in life. My background also makes me stare in disbelief at the abject inability of humans to understand what is being done to them and their planet in the name of unbridled capitalism. If it continues for much longer, we are doomed; if we aren’t already.

  • Russell says:

    I understand that it is a common perception of the postmodern philosophy arena, that it is pure verbiage, of little value practically, and almost solipsistic; self-gratification for some boffins at European universities. Yes, figures like Michel Foucault, Felix Guattari, Umberto Eco, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard and their more recent cohort, are not an easy read, certainly. But more than the caricature of pompous didactic wankers – a very degrading, silly assessment of their huge work – they have crucially important things to say about our civilisation’s set of problems – and why we sense we live in an end-time, a closure of something massive. Of course, capitalism has become a monstrous burden in its “metastasised” ultra-greedy corporate form – business practices that do mostly what they like, despite many people shouting “NO!” What the recent philosophers analyse in depth, is not just obvious manifestations of thought in our era, like turbo-capitalism, high technology and the rape of nature. They penetrate much further, into our very given, subconscious modes of thought in the West, that have somehow propelled us into an apparently apocalyptic state of matters. To do that, they have to use a new “grammar” of explication, because former words, ideas once taken for granted, no longer allow one to explain the world to oneself. They speak of the episteme, which refers to an entirety of thought processes, mores and praxis that rule the mass/ cultural mind. Linked close to that are “over-arching narratives”, the universally accepted concepts that unify a social system, that make its self-told story. Our narrative in the West, is the one derived strongly from Plato, Aristotle, Christianity and later, the immense spurts of thought in science disciplines occurring since about 1700 AD. The postmodern thinker would generally posit that this European-North American narrative has become more and more redundant, counter-productive, regardless of its hold on the culture of the West. I refer to the so-called “decline” of institutions, beliefs, etc we have been steeped in for four hundred years – in the western world particularly. And one major effort the deconstruction school made, is to force us westerners to realise that our powerful and aggressive forms of economy, political ideology and values, are not the only ones that ever existed. The story of western society’s forward movement is one among several grand narratives, some of which exist still, and some which are buried in history. And we in the west face severe internal and external challenges to the logico-scientific narrative that has held us captive for so long. Today’s philosophy concentrates on the massive but often hidden significance of our language uses, our own symbolic systems. by doing that, we can step aside from the bubble we live inside, to reveal how unconsciously ruled we are by a dying (some say already dead) psycho-social programming. Ludwig Wittgenstein pointed out the extremely major role language plays in creating social reality and in philosophical thinking itself. No philiosopher since the 1950s has or successfully argued against that moment: “linguistic turn”, as it is known. To end this diatribe: a diligent reader of postmodern sociology, cultural analysis and the like, will benefit by insights into the Western narrative which those writers offer. It’s a form of consciousness raising, but it’s quite a mental job of work to do so. The ultimate issue is whether the West (- thus the globe as a whole) can find a way through its stultifying maze, and establish new paths into the future. Or perhaps we must perish intellectually and morally, even physically, within the wasteland that great poets and philosophers have shown us, by holding a cruel but clear, unflinching mirror up to our easy lies, shibboleths and tired nostrums. A mirror showing us above all, our Promethean Euro-centric arrogance and power-mongering that have made the world around us now.

    • admin says:

      Holy mackerel! I need a cup of tea and a lie down now. The only one of those you list in the first part of your piece of whom I have heard is Umberto Eco. I have actually included a quote of his somewhere on this blog. That is about as far as my knowledge goes. You should write more.

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