Donald Trump retains the ability to shock, be careful before signing up to greater surveillance, and the world looks for ways to bring the sports back.
Trump gets fooled again
The impact of the pandemic on the world’s many authoritarian leaders can be hard to gauge. North Korea is still yet to admit it has a single case and continues to test missiles. Hungary’s Viktor Orban essentially shut down democracy in that country. The Chinese Communist Party has attracted a great deal of criticism for minimising the number of initial cases and not preventing so many infected travelers from leaving the country, yet its huge clampdowns on the general population also prompted a large number of “what we can learn from China” pieces.
And then there’s US President Donald Trump, a great dictator in the same way Charlie Chaplin was. Trump’s standing at home and abroad has never been lower — the US now has had more than 25,000 deaths from the virus. And the strain is beginning to show.
There was yesterday’s extraordinary-by-his-standards briefing, a symphony of self pity, lies and petulance, during which he claimed he had “absolute authority”.
But as The Atlantic observed, “wielding actual authority is hard work for a lazy man”. So today, he shifted the blame once again. He announced that the US would halt funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for “mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus”. The US is the world’s biggest contributor to the WHO, contributing an estimated A$691 million a year.
There’s an app for that (but should there be?)
News came this morning that the federal government is developing a tracking app that will ramp up tracing of the virus, using the source code from Singapore’s TraceTogether app. The app will be opt-in, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants at least 40% of us using it.
Obviously we in the Crikey bunker are implicitly skeptical of Australia’s ever- expanding surveillance state and can name a lot of reasons we should be worried about how this data might ultimately be used.
There are some discrepancies in the reporting regarding exactly what this app will involve. The TraceTogether apps use bluetooth “pings” between de-identified users, yet the ABC says ours will use GPS information.
Regardless, it’s also worth noting that promises around de-identification are all but impossible to keep — given that personal information is, well, personal. If you think location alone isn’t enough, just look how easily University of Melbourne researchers identified people using “de-identified” Victorian public transport touch on and off information.
If it’s in the game …
Major sports codes around the world are scrambling to come up with alternative ways of keeping things going. Some English football teams have taken to replacing their cancelled fixtures with broadcasts of video game matches from FIFA 20.
Formula One has similarly acted to replace scheduled races with “virtual” ones, with various drivers logging on remotely to race, although there are “no official world championship points up for grabs for the drivers”, we are assured.
Elsewhere, the AFL is considering adding sitcom style “canned” crowd noises to games, which will in all likelihood be behind closed doors if and when they return.