For two years, Australians have been lectured, brow-beaten, and finger-wagged by “experts”. Most significantly, they’ve had their most basic freedoms rudely stripped away on the advice of the same experts. Before that, it was years of “expert” foghorning on everything from climate change to sugar.

Now the experts are shocked that a good many Australians are angry and answering back in no uncertain terms.

First, let’s make one thing clear: “trolling” (a term continually misused by clueless journalists to refer to what is more properly known as “flaming”) and abuse are not on. Threats of violence, especially death threats, are absolutely beyond the pale.

Unfortunately, though, all of those are depressingly par for the course on the internet. No matter who you are. So, you’ll pardon me if I take the pearl-clutching of academic media tarts with a Siberian grain of salt.

Abusive emails are standard fare for experts like Julie Leask, who regularly comment publicly on COVID-19 […]

But Professor Leask, of the University of Sydney’s school of nursing and midwifery, says this is “nothing” compared with the attacks others have received.

“Recently a colleague got death threats, including an email with the subject line: ‘enjoy the gallows, c**t’, and in the email: ‘time for you to die.'”

They are not alone.

Again, those particular comments are gross and unacceptable. That said, though, what do these loudmouth academics expect? Australians have endured two years of the harshest lockdowns in the world. Many have been unable to work, send their kids to school, or even leave their homes. Countless businesses have been driven to the wall. They’ve been fined, arrested and teargassed.

Australians are angry and distressed. Mental illnesses have soared. Rightly or wrongly, some people are going to lash out. Without doubt, the politicians and public health bureaucrats are also copping it. When academics jump at their 15 minutes, they shouldn’t be surprised that they find themselves at the pointy end of celebrity as well.

Catherine Bennett, an epidemiologist at Deakin University, says attacks on her really kicked off when she started commenting about the importance of lockdowns in managing outbreaks during Melbourne’s second wave […]

“As you become a public figure, people associate their frustrations with lockdown with you.”

This is the “laptop class”, who’ve been largely unaffected by the lockdowns they champion, suddenly coming into contact with the raw frustration of ordinary people who’ve had their lives turned upside-down.

Something Bennett at least can see.

“There are people who are so frustrated, who have lost everything, or are losing everything in lockdown, and then there’s the people who are mortified of ever coming out of lockdown,” Professor Bennett said.

As Bennett also notes, this is not just a case of “wicked anti-vaxxers” or “denialists”. This is the irrational response of people to the most uncertain of times.

Professor Bennett has been struck by how her comments were interpreted differently by different people.

“One day you get called Dan Andrews‘ mouthpiece and the next day you get an email castigating you for undermining the Premier.”

If it’s any consolation, this is exactly what happens to all of us who have even the slightest public profile online. I’ve likewise been threatened and abused; one minute I’m castigated as a “denier”, the next I’m accused of being “a government shill”.

Clutch their pearls all they will, perhaps some self-reflection is in order. Note the common thread among these academics:

is very vocal on Twitter […]

regularly appears on television […]

another high-profile scientist who comments publicly on COVID-19.

ABC Australia

There’s a certain schadenfreude in seeing the shocked reactions of a class of people who’ve become too used to telling others what to do from their ivory towers, shocked when they cop it back.

Welcome to the internet, honeys. The great leveller, indeed.

“They can’t talk to us like that! We’re experts!” The BFD. Photoshop by Lushington Brady.

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The Internet Is Not an Ivory Tower
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Lushington D. Brady

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In the last decade...