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I think just about everyone would agree that our freedoms of speech and expression are basic pillars of any true democratic system; but they can be double-edged swords too, at times. Good examples of that are the personal views presented as (unsupported) facts, and aired widely in recent times by very vociferous anti-vaccination protestors…..some even urging people NOT to “take the jab” when Covid 19 vaccines ultimately become available. Other protestors, similarly high on emotion but short on facts, claim that the current Covid 19 pandemic is a giant international fraud and conspiracy.

And still, others deny recorded facts of our national and/or world history and seek to re-write them – simply because, they say, they don’t believe in them or like the stories they tell. These “doubting Thomases” and knockers of anything and /or everything relies on top-level, bigcity national and international media exposure for their continuing existence and impact. It is the oxygen that keeps these protest movements and alternative lifestyle causes “alive”. And the bigger the celebrity (or genuine authority) in any given field that they target, in airing their “views” as “alternative facts”, the bigger and wider exposure they get.

That’s one of the downsides of a democratic system….but one worth tolerating. In some notable dictatorships or one-party-State regimes worldwide, people with alternative or different views to those dictated by “the State” just don’t get the chance to express them. And if they do, they often face serious discrimination (against themselves personally, and their families), harsh penalties, incarceration…or worse. Some critics simply “disappear”. So – whether critics and/or their alternative views are right or wrong – they have a right to the same freedoms (of speech and expression) that the rest of us ….all of us, in fact….have.

However, sometimes the prophets of gloom and doom go a mile( or three) too far down the “protest road” – like the anti-vaxxers, the history denialisms and re-writers, the conspiracy claimants and the PC (political correctness) movements we hear so much about, so regularly. One of the best examples, recently (in my view!) has been the antics of the anti-vaxxer brigade. Amid Covid 19 and the world-wide scramble to come up with a vaccine to stop this wicked virus from killing many more millions of people globally, the anti-vaxxers are telling people to reject ALL vaccinations, and clashing with police(and other authorities) in street protests, to ram home their “message”.

And all this against a backdrop of indisputable evidence, worldwide, of vaccines eliminating many communicable diseases (and other previously fatal conditions) which had plagued our communities and countries for hundreds of years….. maybe thousands of years…..until the arrival of vaccination remedies over recent decades and generations.

I happen to believe strongly in the research and development processes of the medical profession and science, not just in Australia but worldwide. I am living proof, in fact, of how it can extend people’s lives well beyond their expectations – and well beyond the mortality rates that our forefathers and ancestors faced, before the developments in medical science and practice that we have come to accept as “normal” today. I have calculated that the efforts of today’s “medical marvels” have given me an extra 30+ years to spend with my family, to enjoy all that our world has to offer

Maybe (because of this) I’m a bit more sensitive to the thoughtless nonsense that our anti-vaccination advocates present, with such zeal (day-in-day-out) to gullible people who are largely ignorant of facts that they haven’t bothered to research).

In fact, I believe that the anti-vaxxers present, potentially, a very real threat to public health at all levels of Australian society. They are collectively, in my view, a potentially very dangerous movement. Well, I have a message for all of the protest groups referred to (genuine, or otherwise) who continue to portray their “views” as “facts” that we should all take heed of:

“Do your research. Take the time and effort, and spend what you have to (as others have too!) to establish your facts and prove your case, then publish it on the open market (as other genuine researchers and advocates do!) and – in our “true democracy”…….let the people decide, but on FACTS, not just your views. Accountability applies to you, too!”

I’m an avid reader of biographies and autobiographies on notable people who have made their mark in many fields and on people in many societies throughout the world……in music and the arts, in medicine, public health and welfare, in sport, and politics (across the spectrum), and other areas of endeavour

I don’t always agree with what they have to say or advocate, but I respect their right to present their views as they have (and do), and I respect the fact that they take the trouble to research what they write about, spend the time and effort to put it all together, and then spend the dollars necessary to have their works published – to be open to public scrutiny and accountability.

If the protest movements and anti-everything brigades who make such a public “splash” in the media and elsewhere), so often, followed the lead of the biographers and auto biographers and researched, presented and advocated their causes similarly, maybe people like me would have more respect and time for them.

Recently, I got a deserved rebuke (publicly) for a couple of basic “facts” I got wrong, in a published article….and I was happy that my error was detected, and corrected. Facts, as a record of history (in all its forms), are important. That’s accountability ….and that’s how it should be. Protestors and advocacy groups (right or wrong, genuine or otherwise) must be subject to the same scrutiny and accountability. Maybe, if they were, we wouldn’t have to tolerate so much of the nonsense we have to contend with, from them, now. But that’s where “freedom of speech and expression” kick in, isn’t it? And so we have come “full circle”!