I took some serious heat recently, after raising questions about the usefulness, function, role and consequences of using the Australian Government’s recent COVIDSafe app. I outlined two areas of concern, then was forced to address a third. My primary point was about precedent. The second concerned emotional manipulation; peer pressure, and the third, data security.
Objections to this included asinine responses such as “it’s un-Christian not too”, that I wasn’t’ “loving my neighbour” and that “people will die if I don’t” sign up for the app. The more astute arguments included “Romans 13 and how it commands us to submit to the government as an institution put in place by God.”[i]
The less astute included an outright dismissal, saying my argument was “crap.” Another ridiculed my point about the app being almost on par with taking an ersatz Hitler Oath. (Not an irrational concern, given the social pressure and hostile responses.)
Most of the reactions only served to solidify the precedent and emotional manipulation points. Once we accept as the norm, governments labelling people, places or things arbitrarily as being “hazardous to public health”, how long will it be until this new normal is applied by less benevolent forces to the Israel Folau’s of the world? Or even those, like me, who share Margaret Court’s view of marriage as being the biologically compatible, God-ordained union between a man and a woman.
An app that encourages people to potentially stigmatise, be suspicious of, and distance themselves from their neighbour, on the basis of that person having or (are being suspected of having?) an illness, isn’t all that conducive to Christian love, pastoral care or freedom.
Likewise, using emotional manipulation, regardless of how unintentional, to get people to sign up for the COVIDSafe app by unfairly accusing them of not being a Christian, loving or Christ-like.
We’ve heard this same asinine, emotional manipulative non-sequitur before during the same-sex marriage debate, discussions about Islamic terrorism #illridewithyou, abortion, transgenderism, Apocalyptic Climate Change…really, any Leftist cause.
Speaking out against the potential abuse of power, manipulation, and manipulative political processes, in standing up for civil liberties, is living out a love for neighbour.
Since when did a no questions asked loyalty to politicians, or allegiance to an ideology such as Leftism, become a yardstick for being a Christian?
Starry-eyed supporters of the COVIDSafe app seem more in tune with those condemning Jesus for liberating people designated by authorities as unclean than it is supporting Jesus’ care for the wounded, vulnerable, downcast or outcast.
I doubt my detractors would align themselves so quickly with any statement like, “Yo, Jesus, did ya get that app about lepers, mate? No. Why not? Do you want people to die!?”
If this is justifiable on a social distancing level than why not develop an app to also report the threat of STD’s, AIDS, Hepatitis or HIV? The fact we don’t, and won’t, indicate that COVIDSafe and the general response to COVID-19 is more about politics than science or authentic Christian living.[ii]
If this is justifiable, and in the interest of public health and safety, why not fund an app for non-smokers to ping off the phones of people who choose to smoke? If you wouldn’t support this, and yet are starry-eyed about the COVID-19 app, why wouldn’t you support it?
Let me be clear. I agree with responsible social distancing. I agree with temperature testing. I agree to a slow reopening. I agree with defeating this virus. I agree with better hygiene management, because this, to me, is showing genuine care for others, based on a basic common sense justified by objective morality.
Perhaps one of the silver linings of the Coronavirus is a return to more concern for our neighbour. Especially when it comes to manners, and personal hygiene – practising a level of care, long forgotten; one discarded by the inconsiderate, self-destructive abandonment of healthy Western traditions. I’d welcome this because it has to do more with collective and individual responsibility – people free before God, for God, and accountable to God, not enslaved to government-as-god ruling madly without accountability.
Contrary to the sentiment coming from most of those applauding the app, COVIDSafe does not make people using it magically immune to COVID-19.
It does, however, make you susceptible to potentially being denied service and employment if you don’t have the app. The government admits this latter point in its 78-page COVIDSafe information manual and doesn’t appear to discourage any third-party application from denying employment or service to anyone who doesn’t have the app.
3.19.4 The Australian Government has also given clear indications that it will not be mandatory for any person to install or to use the App. However, there may be a potential risk of circumstances in which a particular individual does feel pressured to download the App (e.g. a supermarket insisting on customers showing that they are using the App before being permitted to enter the store; or an employer insisting that their employees demonstrate that they are using the App before being permitted to start or continue work).
It’s worth noting a report published during October last year, where The World Health Organisation concluded that “active contact tracing is not recommended in general because there is no obvious rationale for it in most Member States.”
We don’t need a nanny state to wipe our noses.
How long will it be until sneezing in a public space automatically triggers a COVID-19 alert? Or worse, individuals quickly come under suspicion for blowing their nose into a tissue, or simply coughing in public.
If this sounds ridiculous, look back at panic buying. Look at the irrational, ludicrous interpretations and enforcement of social distancing laws, based on hysteria, hearsay, or presumption. See the mounting examples of neighbour spying on neighbour, and neighbour denouncing neighbour for suspected breaches of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Look again at the reaction against anyone opting out of getting the COVIDSafe app. Look also at how Cory Bernardi was treated for refusing to sign up for the app. Bernardi, the only person on the Sky News panel giving a defence of civil liberties, was told by host Prue MacSween to “give himself an uppercut”, and drown his concerns about government overreach in alcohol.
On the same panel, Melbourne City Councilor, Nicholas Reece accused Bernardi of not living in the real world, of making lofty “high school arguments about liberty and privacy.” It doesn’t appear that Reece fully understood the implications of his rebuttal. By placing Bernardi’s concerns over liberty and privacy, in the realm of schoolboy fantasy, Reece confirmed Bernardi’s point.
On the subject of data security, signing up to the COVID-19 app is not the same as signing up for an in-store card, or in-store credit. Those involve companies that operate under strict laws concerning privacy and use of personal information. They are accountable to the government, whereas the government is accountable to no one, but their party, their political supporters, and last of all, you the people – in a very, very limited sense.
For those who think that our fuehrers always know best, and will thus follow them blindly:
As Bill Muehlenberg and Matthew Littlefield have pointed out:
1. ACT Policing has admitted it unlawfully accessed citizens’ metadata a total of 3,365 times, not 116 as previously disclosed in an explosive commonwealth ombudsman’s report on Monday. The new disclosures include a total of 240 cases that resulted in information valuable to criminal investigations and one that “may have been used in a prosecution.
2. When Canberra introduced metadata laws a few years ago, we were told they would only be used to find terrorists. But greedy councils were soon demanding access so they could catch litterbugs. Facial recognition tool Clearview AI was allegedly misused by members of Australian police departments.
3. Governments routinely go wrong as power grabs become the norm, and technologies are regularly used for evil purposes. Indeed, one clear lesson of history is what is merely ‘voluntary’ today far too often becomes ‘mandatory’ tomorrow – all for the common good of course.
I get the point of the COVIDSafe app. It’s to inform people of areas that have been recently exposed to COVID-19 and tell people to get checked if they’ve been exposed. What I question is its usefulness, function, role and the consequences of handing bureaucrats more power.
It’s one thing to look out for others; it’s another to encourage a precedent where innocent, domestic citizens/places are deemed by the government to be “unsafe” based on a virus they are unsure about.
Romans 13 may carry weight in why we respect the need for good government, but it doesn’t hold us back from questioning government initiatives like the COVIDSafe app. Nor does Romans 13 discourage us from pointing out how our politicians, on both sides, have spectacularly failed, and still are failing, to give any reassurances about civil liberties; including how they will be respected, and reinstated after the coronavirus counter-measures can no longer be justified under the current crisis.
My point is ultimately about the precedence of citizens signing onto a Government program without question, emotive, even manipulative peer pressure to do so, and the danger it poses.
My point is about concern for people signing on to government program, run by politicians who haven’t bothered to reassure the people they represent that they are protecting civil liberties. Not one politician has done this, before or since the implementation of totalitarian COVID-19 countermeasures.
Breakthrough the jargon, and the COVIDSafe app is essentially an app that has the potential to monitor citizens. It allows third-parties to deny employment or service to anyone not carrying it on their phone. Throw in the reaction against those questioning it, and the fine print gives cause for real and rational concern.
We, the people are not the virus.
As I’ve said in the past, the warning of the 20th century to government’s and their people today is this: any justifiable counter moves against an enemy become unjustified if they make the government as tyrannical as the enemy it fights.
[i] As far as Romans 13 goes, while I concede that it’s a fair point, let me say again, that there comes a time when it’s necessary to remind the government that they only have because God gives.
[ii] See the brilliant briefing on COVID-19 by Dr Erickson for more on this (Link). Unfortunately, YouTube has removed and continues to remove all links to the Erickson briefing; more information here.