Letter to the Editor of the Townsville Bulletin
10 December 2016
Mr Ben English
Dear Mr English,
Please see below a response to recent reporting in the Townsville Bulletin, namely the articles ‘Malaria drugs’ testing times’ (8 December 2016) and ‘Adverse effects for vets’ (9 December 2016).
Godwin’s Law states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving the Nazis or Hitler approaches. In a broad sense it can be used to describe any situation where one party loses all sense of proportion, and their credibility, while trying to debate an issue.
Godwin’s Law can be invoked when an argument deteriorates to the point where irrational Nazi comparisons are being made. At this point the person who made the comparison instantly loses the argument and the discussion is over.
This week, it is disappointing to say, Ross Eastgate brought the discussion regarding the use of mefloquine in the ADF precariously close to this point.
In a two-part article this week that appeared under the by-line “defence analysis”, Mr Eastgate clumsily suggests that the awful atrocities committed by the Nazis are somehow comparative to the work undertaken by the Army Malaria Institute to protect our troops against a deadly and operationally debilitating disease.
This is highly offensive and derogatory. It takes what is a serious issue worthy of proper and considered discussion and trivialises it.
Most concerning of all, is the fact that it does no service to those who are genuinely affected or concerned. Indeed such inflammatory commentary only undermines the ongoing efforts of all those who have been encouraging people to seek support.
It is troubling that this commentary ignores much of the evidence available, misrepresents Defence’s position, and unfairly attempts to vilify Defence medical staff and the world-leading work of the Army Malaria Institute.
For many months now Defence has been working to provide assistance to those who feel they have been adversely affected. We are committed to ensuring people understand there is help available to those who are suffering and we have undertaken a number of initiatives in response to the concerns raised.
We all have a responsibility to present information accurately and fairly, particularly when dealing with issues like this which have such important personal implications. So despite Mr Eastgate’s unbalanced approach to the discussion, we will not be invoking Godwin’s Law in this instance.
Instead, we will continue to work to ensure discussions on this matter are measured and constructive so that people are properly informed and comfortable enough to seek help when needed.
RJ Griggs, AO, CSC
Vice Admiral, RAN
Vice Chief of the Defence Force