On grubs, malice, malignancy and muttering on social media — and angel voices too…

An interruption to the COVID-19 and lockdown series, but definitely related.

It has in the past week been impossible not to have seen this here in Oz:

Covid-19 patients from Sydney’s Concord hospital have shared their experience of the Delta variant’s symptoms and pleaded for Sydneysiders to get vaccinated. Lung specialist Lucy Morgan shared the stories of 50-year-old construction worker Fawaz, 30-year-old pharmacy worker Ramona and 35-year-old tradie Osama in a video from Sydney Local Health District. Fawaz and Osama infected family members who have also been hospitalised, while single mother Ramona says she has been unable to see her children for weeks

But this has not escaped the malevolent attention of the nutters and bastards on social media, as last night’s excellent Media Watch on our ABC showed.

This is the whole show — a cracker it is too!

Transcript:

Footage of those patients, identified only by their first names, was recorded by Dr Lucy Morgan and released by New South Wales Health. And it made it onto all the major networks including ABC News, Ten News First and Seven News.

But soon people on social media were wondering if the New South Wales Health video was actually a fake. 

And among the sceptics was former One Nation senator Rod Culleton, whose post received thousands of likes, and another former senator, David Leyonhjelm.

And one intrepid TikToker who went digging was able to reveal:

I found all 3 actors. Now how can this be coincidental?

– TikTok, @loiannecapone, 27 August, 2021

Yes, all three, including Ramona, were supposedly paid crisis actors, who did not have COVID at all.

And another internet sleuth then set out to prove it, ringing Concord Hospital to show that Ramona Khoury was not a patient there…

So, is Ramona a crisis actor pretending to have COVID for New South Wales Health? No, of course she’s not.

As New South Wales Health made clear, the patient’s name is not Ramona Khoury but Ramona El-Nachar, who is a pharmacy worker. 

And as you can clearly see they are two different people, despite the fact that both are women and both have dark hair.

And as for the two male patients, well, we’re happy to tell you they are not crisis actors either.

As actor and comedian Mitch Garling — who was ‘outed’ online as COVID patient Osama Ahmad — said on Instagram: 

MITCH GARLING: … turns out that people are using my photo and my StarNow profile saying that I am an actor sitting in a hospital pretending to have COVID. Look, I am an actor …

But not pretending to have COVID. Not that. Just, doesn’t even look like me. Has a beard. That’s it.

– Instagram, @mitchgarling, 27 August, 2021

It is amazing what people will believe, isn’t it?…

But it’s not just fun and games for the COVID conspiracists. Because the hospital told Media Watch:

It has been highly distressing for Dr Morgan and the patients to see their powerful messages undermined by these baseless and dangerous accusations, and to have their credibility questioned. Staff in Concord Hospital’s intensive care unit have also received multiple intimidating phone calls from members of the public over this matter. 

– Email, Dr Teresa Anderson, Chief Executive, Sydney Local Health District, 3 September, 2021

It is the last thing our exhausted health workers need.

And it’s not much better for the rest of us, relying on people to take COVID seriously and get the jab if we’re ever to win back our freedoms.

And now a disgusting local example that has been playing out here in Wollongong in the past 24 hours. But first, meet an angel — or a family of angels…

Who is that masked man? Why all the toys?

In July I rather cryptically noted — and I think I must have forgotten to include the video from WIN News! “But in fact it is from our local Wollongong news, and is a marvellous example of human kindness and also of Australian multiculturalism at its best.” That is Omar Nemer from Samaras Middle Eastern Restaurants in Fairy Meadow and Wollongong, also with a food truck that has been out and about during lockdown. And the toys?

Omar from Samaras Food Truck and Catering here. I have organised a massive collaboration for this coming week. The Samaras Food Truck pop-ups will be switching to drive thru for the remainder of the lockdown and do we have a suprise for you! Each drive thru next week we will have $200 worth of toys to give away!! Every kid that is in the car during the drive thru will get something from a BRAND NEW BIKE with helmet, Scooter with Helmet, Soccer Ball, Lego, a Foam Plane, Bubble Stick and much much more. It’s all thanks to these sponsors who have each Sponsored $200 worth of toys for each day.

I have mentioned Omar and his family business often, not least in this post: Munching against the fear of “the other”…

illeatwithyou
Restaurant owner Omar Nemer and community leader Grahame Gould

In the past 24 hours on Facebook Omar has made two major posts. This is the first:

Our community & staff are our number 1 priority which is why, for the first time in 13 years effective immediately Samaras Woonona, Wollongong & Food Truck are closing its doors for 2 weeks.

One of our Food Truck staff members has tested positive to Covid. The staff member worked Thursday 2nd & Friday 3rd in the evening at the Food Truck Drive thru.

The staff member fell symptomatic on Saturday 4th & was not symptomatic previous to this date. The staff member was directed to get tested and self isolate immediately by the Samaras management team. The staff member was not aware of any direct contact with anyone that was Covid Positive. We followed NSW Health regualtions which states the individual has to isolate until results come back and no further action is required up until that point.

All Samaras staff have conducted a covid test and are now in isolation until results come out as a precaution taken by the Samaras Management Team. All direct contacts (which are very minimal) are now in quarantine as directed by NSW Health.

NSW health has advised us that due to the fact that it is a drive thru, they are not concerned about the risk of community transmission and therefore this is not being listed as a hotspot. Please do get tested if you have any concern. They are also not concerned of any community transmission at any of the Samaras Woonona or Wollongong venues.

We have been advised that we have to close until our staff test negative (approx 24-48hrs) & to deep clean our shops & then reopen. We ourselves have decided to close as a precaution for 2 weeks as you can get covid & not have any symptoms or test positive up to 12 days after any possible transmission date.

The health & safety of our staff & customers is our number one priority & we feel it is best for our community. We look forward to seeing you all soon.

This can happen to anyone at any time. Wishing our staff member a speedy recovery. Take care out there people.

Thank you,
Much love,
Samaras team

Of course that was accompanied by many comments expressing concern and goodwill.

But then the grubs and bastards started, just as they did with the Concord Hospital patients.

It has come to our attention that there have been several people writing comments, spreading rumours that the Samaras family hosted a party in Berkeley with members from Bankstown attending, and we would like to address these harmful allegations.

The Samaras family have NEVER held or attended a party in lockdown.

This is false information and the Samaras family have nothing to do with these hurtful rumours. We do not live in Berkeley, nor do we have kids in a Mangerton daycare. If spiteful members of the community continue to make defamatory claims against Samaras, we will have no choice but to pursue legal action.

The people of the Illawarra that truly know who we are as a family know that we would never do such a thing. We pride our selves in being a core part of the Illawarra trying to bring unity.

We have always worked very hard to support our community and this is very upsetting and distressing for us to hear. We have never failed our community and this is no time to be divided. We have dedicated the last 13 years to the Wollongong community and have always been on the front line when the community needs us. Let’s stay united during these troubling times.

Kind regards,
Samaras family

So far over 250 people have indicated love and concern, and 22 have commented. One example is typical:

Cant believe one of our community pillars is being attacked again. Just gonna say it, the not so subtle racism that Samaras is and has experienced is disgusting.

Gonna save up my poverty dolleriedoos for a mezze plate with a side of dolmades to support ya’ll when you reopen

I commented last night:

I am utterly disgusted by this. Whoever is responsible is an absolute grub and can never be on the same human level as you and your family, whose generosity is well known and whose service is exemplary. Not to mention the food!

Let me share another story of angels in our Gong community — the local mosque:

JAB TIME: Wollongong man Muhammad Rafique gets his AstraZeneca vaccine shot at Omar Mosque from Helen Calvert from the Illawarra Public Health Unit. Picture: Robert Peet — Illawarra Mercury

Staff from NSW Health along with medical practitioners were at the mosque in Gwynneville to administer the vaccination.

An Arabic interpreter was also on hand to assist those who could not speak English.

Muhammad Rafique, one of the first people to get jabbed at the mosque, welcomed the experience.

“I’m so glad the mosque has chosen to run a vaccination clinic. It definitely played a major part in me deciding to get the jab,” the 24-year-old said.

“I had reservations about getting the AstraZeneca because of all of the misinformation around but my fears were allayed by the wonderful medical staff.”

Mr Rafique, who owns Bams, Burgers and Wraps in Gwynneville, urged his fellow Muslims to get jabbed as a matter of urgency.

“Do not delay, this is too important,” he said.

“I’m so glad the mosque opened this clinic because I’m sure a lot of people in the Muslim community have some reservations about getting vaccinated.

“Hopefully getting a jab in the mosque, where they feel comfortable, will encourage them to bite the bullet and book in to get vaccinated.

“I was always going to get a jab but the fact the mosque was offering jabs definitely sped things up for me.

“I’m now pleading with my fellow Muslims to do the same and get vaccinated sooner rather than later.”

That story you can believe, people! But do be very critical about what you believe on social media There are so many loose cannons, dingbats and just plain skunks tapping away on keyboards out there…. So much disinformation and just plain lies. Be very careful what you share.

On that see this great article in the New Yorker: Ivermectin, the Crate Challenge, and the Danger of Runaway Memes.

It’s common sense by now that social media allows us to exist in bubbles of perception. If you see many people doing something online, clogging up your social-media feeds with videos and messages, it’s easy to assume that the behavior is happening everywhere—and is therefore O.K. to do. What the Milk Crate Challenge and ivermectin have in common is that they are hazardous undertakings given more credence by their online ubiquity. In a slower, more cautious digital-media environment, perhaps the F.D.A.’s own warnings would supersede viral videos or misinformation on these platforms. But, when platforms are made up mostly of user-generated content and that content is served to viewers as quickly and as often as possible in order to drive engagement and advertising sales, content moderation is always playing a Sisyphean game of catch-up. As with the pandemic itself, problems are only identified and confronted after they have already spread.

2 thoughts on “On grubs, malice, malignancy and muttering on social media — and angel voices too…

  1. Re the last bit of Media Watch transcript:

    “And it’s not much better for the rest of us, relying on people to take COVID seriously and get the jab if we’re ever to win back our freedoms.”

    This jarred for me and struck me as a bit of lazy script-writing sneaking in at the end of the segment.

    This “freedoms” stuff is a bit like “woke” or “SJW” or – I don’t know, a whole handful of other phrases which tend to come from the right – “freedoms” being a tag from the self-styled libertarians.

    When I hear people being quoted I also hear the phrase “lifting of restrictions” which to me seems more neutral.

    Trust you are well. Great weather to get outside just now.

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