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Is Fear of Covid-19 Creating a Surveillance State?

by | Thu, Apr 23 2020

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Australian government app

In our month at home, Australians have been getting acquainted with some grim graphs, and trying to understand alarming facts and figures. But on Sunday, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that the rate of new cases of Covid-19 had decreased to below one per cent per day for seven consecutive days. “What it means is we now have a sustained and genuine flattening of the curve,” he said.

Though it’s a relief to finally hear some good news, Bill Muehlenberg, of Culture Watch, says Coronavirus is still inspiring alarmism, which can have some really harmful impacts on our economy and society. On Vision’s 20Twenty program last week, he warned that it’s more important than ever that our leaders respond with wisdom, rather than over-reacting in fear, to the ongoing crisis.

Though the hard numbers are available for everyone to see, we can also get preoccupied by extrapolation and modelling, some of which, Muehlenberg warns, can be wildly inaccurate. This is very similar to alarmism about climate change, which again, is based on extremely pessimistic guesswork.

“You’ve had wild predictions, gloom and doom, chicken little, the whole world’s gonna die, with often very inaccurate and unreliable modelling done on the climate change issue. And of course with that has really come very draconian calls. We have to radically redo our economies. We have to tax people out of existence. We have to almost ban personal automobiles, and using jets to fly around the world.”

In response to Covid-19, our government has very quickly imposed previously unthinkable restrictions on our freedoms. We’ve largely accepted these steps without protest, but even stronger measures may be ahead, and we’re already seeing worrying signs that Australia is becoming a surveillance state.

“At the very least,” Muehlenberg said, “we have to ask hard questions. We have to be vigilant. We’ve already seen one case after another, even here in Australia. Some guy might be completely alone in the middle of the ocean, or at least off the beach, swimming on his own, and being arrested and fined by police.”

Muehlenberg has documented plenty more cases where police have used their new powers in ways that don’t seem to protect anyone from getting sick. And he also says neighbours are spying on one another, much as they do in authoritarian states. “In fact there was a case of one guy who may have just had his TV on too loud. Somebody thought he had a big gathering, so the police smashed down his door.”

Bill Muehlenberg
Bill Muehlenberg (Photo credit:

“They’ve got a job to do, and there is a place for governments to step in and intervene. There’s no question about that. But the problem is we can go into overreaction, and cause more harm than good.”

Despite how well we’re doing, our government is planning to introduce even more measures, including a phone app to track our movements, which experts hope 40 per cent of us will install. But Muehlenberg points out that there is no “sunset clause” on these changes. When we have controlled the pandemic, which me may achieve sooner than expected, will we get our liberty and privacy back?

“Regardless of what you think about these things,” he said, “you do get Revelation in mind. You start thinking about a mark on your hand and your forehead, and you think wait a minute. What’s going on?”

“Now, I’m not saying Morrison or Trump or the leaders are part of some global conspiracy, but again there is a place to ask some questions, to be vigilant, because some of this stuff is getting a bit scary.”

In his conversation with Neil Johnson, he also raised the possibility that our government has taken the wrong approach to containing Covid-19. Ultimately though, he says we need to pray that our leaders have the wisdom of Solomon as they navigate these turbulent times. “They need to make sensible decisions,” he said. “If they overreact, they can create a culture of fear.”

Listen to the podcast below for more of Bill Muehlenberg’s insights, or check out his website for his ongoing coverage of the pandemic.

Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.

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