Coronavirus and Men in Black have more in common than you realise


We don’t quote the movie Men In Black nearly enough, I reckon.

There’s a great deal in the concept of aliens hiding in plain sight that’s relevant to our modern lives, but over the years one line in particular from that film has come to be more and more important to me.

It’s when Agent K is patiently explaining the undercover methods of his secret agency, taking Will Smith’s character through what people want, and don’t really want, to know.

“A person is smart. But people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.”

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Agent K patiently explains the undercover methods of his secret agency.

Well, we certainly know that now.

Images of shoppers with trolleys groaning with multiple packs of 24-roll toilet paper would be hilarious if they didn’t represent what’s really going on here: that nature abhors a vacuum and fear rushes in to fill the space left by silence.

Let me clarify: I’m not saying there hasn’t been enough noise around COVID-19, its effects and consequences, but many people appear to be seeking a consistent, clear and concise message about what we should and shouldn’t be doing.

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Some officials say you should put food aside; others say don’t worry.

No-one is totally clear about the superfluousness of face masks. We are told to wash our hands — but if you are immunosuppressed, should you stay home?

The gap has been the lack of one strong, repeated message — made daily and over and over — until we all get it on all media platforms.

Without it, we have responded with the expected level of panic. Does this mean we are just not resilient enough as a community?

Sharon Houlihan wonders about that. She’s the general manager at Wellington Shire Council, which was at the epicentre of the bushfire crisis in Gippsland.

She says that when communities respond to a crisis with such panic, resilience is low, trust is low and we’ve lost faith in our ability to stop, think and measure our responses.

We are the home of Slip Slop Slap and Life: Be in It. We know how to do this stuff.

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We are the home of Slip Slop Slap and Life: Be in It. We know how to do this stuff.

But if it’s too soon for that kind of campaign, could our elected officials please tell us, every day, the five key things we need to know?

They’re welcome on my show every morning. Call me — before we run out of absolutely everything.

This weekend, the issue gets even more serious as the detention of people who contract coronavirus becomes a real consideration.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

In a landmark report, Elise Kinsella looks at the heartbreaking issue of kids who go missing in care: these are the least-acknowledged and least-embraced Australian children and they desperately need us to change how we see and treat them.

And here’s your reason to stay inside this weekend: the final volume of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy has landed — here’s your guide to the literary phenomenon for those of us history tragics.

Have a safe and happy weekend. If you’re in Melbourne — happy Moomba; if you’re in Adelaide — happy Womadelaide. If you’re in Ballarat, happy Begonia — and to all, a very happy International Women’s Day on Sunday.

I have one aim only this IWD — that we all play our part in recognising and eliminating intimate partner violence.

This young man did, so let him inspire you. Be brave.

Here’s the soundtrack for our conviction.

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Here's the soundtrack for our conviction.

And go well.


What to read this weekend

Virginia Trioli is presenter on Mornings on ABC Radio Melbourne and the former co-host of ABC News Breakfast.