Last Monday (12th December) there was a tragic incident in Wieambilla, Queensland, leaving six people shot dead. Four young police officers were attending the property for a routine matter (the exact nature hasn't been revealed) and came under fire from the occupants of the property. Two of the officers - Rachael McCrow and Matthew Arnold - and a local member of the public - Alan Dare - were shot dead, and the other two officers received gunshot wounds but were able to make it to safety and raise the alarm. After a lengthy police operation, the three occupants of the property were shot dead. The occupants were two brothers, Gareth and Nathaniel Train, and Gareth's wife Stacey Train (who, bizarrely, it's reported, was previously married to the other brother!) The relevance of this to kiwis, apart from it being just across the Tasman, is that the occupants of the property were ardent conspiracy theorists, heavily involved in the alt-right community, and regularly posting on internet message boards. Wieambilla is a tiny community of blocks of cheap land, which has attracted people wanting to exit society. Reportedly, a lot of people have migrated to the area, seeking to escape the “Covid madness” in the city and establish a cheap lifestyle away from it all, and the motivating factor has been the Covid vaccination mandates in Australia. It would seem the community had become a magnet for anti-vaxxers, with the local motel owner running a support group. The Trains (who were the occupants of the property and fired on the police officers), it would appear, were fairly conventional “normal” people (I'm struggling to find the right words!). Nathaniel Train was a former school principal. But then, we probably all know “normal” people who've gone down the rabbit hole, and become anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists, espousing the most outlandish theories. Prior to the killings the Trains had recently posted videos on YouTube, one of which mentioned the Baby W vaccination case. I guess this goes to show the dangers of misinformation, which we're seeing spilling out into real-world violence. And that is a worrying potential here in Aotearoa New Zealand as well, with some experts, such as Dr Sanjana Hatatoua of The Disinformation Project, stating such publicly. https://twitter.com/sanjanah/status/1603693025284292609 Tony Wall, the reporter at Stuff, followed up with Liz Gunn, asking for comment about the fact of the Queensland shooters referencing the baby case. Gunn, probably rattled by the likelihood that her actions, at least in part, contributed in some way to the tragedy, went off on another unhinged rant, which I've included below.
“Most Kiwis are now awake to the unpalatable fact that Stuff is a very dark and evil media organisation intent on twisting the best and most loving aspects of good and brave and ethical Kiwis into headline grabbing stories that bear no resemblance to the Truth.>
Of course, it would break any good human heart to hear a news story claiming that someone patently insane has been so twisted as to misuse a story of a baby whose parents wanted one thing only -unjabbed blood to reduce the risks in their baby's heart operation.>
I cannot be responsible for the insanity of either that person or of you, Tony of Stuff, whipping up this piece of human insanity into a piece of stuffed media insanity. I can only hope you have a conscience somewhere buried deep under your hubris, that tells you that what you are a part of here is wrong, morally, ethically and journalistically.>
Please print my statement here in full -otherwise you will be guilty of disinformation about me as you set about to crucify yet another loving and caring Kiwi.>
I can almost feel you salivating as you send this salacious and ugly message to me. Shame on you.>
Be a better man.>
Lay down your poison pen and walk out of Stuff. Do something honourable for once Tony. You and I both know this is a nonsense beat up story, done to please your brutish government overlords.”It would be great if these people, particularly the most extreme ones, and those profiting from conspiracy theories, come to their senses and see the harm they're causing. I'm not hopeful though.