This week, beginning the 17th of August, it is reported that many people are breaking Covid-19 restriction laws. According to the Deputy Commissioner Rick Nuggent, police issued 42 fines in the last 24 hour (between 17th and 18th of August). These fines included people found at overnight illegal parties in contradiction of Covid restrictions.
Other fines for the same period were for not wearing masks, being out after curfew and not observing the 5km limit. Not one of these “offenders” have been identified the way the engagement party (read Jewish) has been.
The media has been relentless about this event repeatedly referring to it as a Jewish engagement party. Not just a party but a Jewish one. It has breached privacy laws by turning up on the doorstep of the families, who have acknowledged the mistake and have apologised. The family has been inundated with vitriolic anti-Semitic messages and death threats. Fences and walls in the relevant areas of Melbourne have been covered with anti-Jewish hatred, directly and indirectly encouraged by the excessive media attention. Social media has also been very active promoting ad nauseum the same hatred. Generally, anti-Jewish hatred has become much more endemic in Australia. Research shows that it is much more prevalent in 2021 and incidents have grown by 30 percent in recent times.
It was a very thoughtless act to hold a party during the imposed restriction on the Victorian community but should the small Jewish community of around 40.000 who live in Melbourne have to pay for a thoughtless act of a few. Should the families involved be punished in this excessive way when others perhaps get fined but remain anonymous, as it should be. Naming and shaming on all media platforms is not always altruistic in nature as it may ostensibly seem. It has most likely nothing to do with health concerns and everything to do with schadenfreude and personal beliefs. Alternatively, it is the desire to tell or “dob” on others whom you believe are breaking the rules.
For some time, I have had concerns about the way different ethno-cultural groups are reported in the media in regard to Covid-19 compliance or lack of it. I worry about naming and identifying people, from for example Muslim or Jewish communities, when Covid transgressions have occurred. I believe that this can lead to unnecessary prejudice and discrimination as is evident with the outbreak of prejudice in regards to the engagement party. It does not aid anyone or lead to better management of Covid restrictions. People break rules irrespective of their backgrounds. It is often an individual decision, irrespective of colour, creed or origin.
I am not sure what the value is of calling a school “Muslim or Islamic” when reporting on outbreaks of the virus or referring to an engagement party as “Jewish”. Why is it important to identify the particular group? What is important is the breaking of the restrictions and dealing with that and not the specific background of the people. We are all Australian citizens, irrespective of colour creed or origin.
I have researched the development of acceptance of difference for quite some time and my conclusion is that it is better that we hear less about differences and more about how we are all the same. My research shows that fairness, empathy and reason are the best mediators of tolerance and acceptance of others different from us. If we want a unified country, this needs to be encouraged and naming particular groups undermines desired coherency. It is imperative that the media and governments, whether Federal or State, are careful not become complicit in naming and shaming specific communities.
I am not suggesting that specific communities should not receive the aid and help needed to better understand the importance of measures instituted to protect the community. But then again, naming specific communities may aid and abate dislike at best and hatred at worse. I am sure this is the very last thing we wish to see.