The Scapegoating of Novak Djokovic
His fate is our fate.
This year’s Australian Open is shaping up to be quite a powder keg, even before play has begun. Last week I summarized some of the saga up until that point, but it just keeps getting crazier. I’m wondering whether it could blow up into the kind of trigger that started WWI (another significant historical event involving a Serb, curiously).
Fans of the no. 1-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic wait with bated breath after his initial brush with near-deportation, to see if the government will overturn a judge’s decision to let him stay and compete for his 10th Australian Open title and 21st major tournament — a record in the sport.
I’m torn between being utterly sick of talking about COVID, and yet also wanting to lay bare some emerging facts that aren’t reaching most people. A fearful public in Australia has been whipped into a frenzy against Djokovic, and their government has turned him into a scapegoat to be sacrificed for the atonement of the sins of the nation.
Whether you believe in the vaccine or not, it’s vital to recognize the enmity directed against the unvaccinated for what it is: Bad Religion. The failure of science and logic to guide public policy — especially in countries that have pursued a Zero COVID strategy — represents a huge setback for the credibility of science and vaccines as a whole. The data are increasingly clear that the mRNA vaccines do not reduce transmission and do not work against Omicron, hence the explosion in cases even in 95% vaccinated countries like Australia. They appear to have negative efficacy against the newer variants, especially compared with the robust natural immunity conferred on those — like Djokovic — who have had COVID (in his case, twice) and recovered. Given the higher risk of an adverse reaction for those who’ve had a previous infection, demanding 100% vaccination is asking those people to take all of the risk (and then some) with none of the benefit — including the non-existent social benefit of a non-sterilizing vaccine.
Djokovic’s main opponent on the court, Rafael Nadal, had COVID less than 2 weeks before arriving in Australia, and yet his worthless proof of vaccination made him a shoo-in for a visa, whereas Djokovic was detained in a flea-infested hotel for 3 days awaiting his clearance despite a clear medical exemption from Australian government officials. It’s been noted that only a Serbian national, who lived through the Balkan Wars as a young child, would have stuck it out long enough to have his day in court. Ironically, while he was detained, a fully-vaccinated Georgian player (ranked no. 21 globally) had to withdraw from a tennis match in Australia due to acute shortness of breath. This is yet another harbinger of the adverse reactions that will become increasingly common if we continue on the path of endless boosters. We now know, for example, that risk of myocarditis and pericarditis are higher in young, healthy men for the vaccine than they are for the virus itself — roughly doubling with each subsequent shot — and yet we continue to mass vaccinate children as young as 5 without knowing the long-term cumulative effects. Ignorance of these adverse reactions is no longer an excuse.
Thankfully, even the WHO has awakened to the growing failure of the mRNA vaccines in light of new variants, and is now advocating for alternative therapies (source — the key line, courtesy of Alex Berenson, is this: “a vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable”). Unfortunately, outside of some small heterodox circles, there still isn’t widespread awareness that vaccines were never the best way out of this mess. At best, they reduced the severity of symptoms for some higher-risk individuals, meaning it should be purely a matter of personal choice as to whether one takes it.
For the blanket vaccine mandate supporters, it’s less a matter of logic and efficacy as it is upholding a new social distinction that provides some semblance of order amid chaos — separating the sheep (i.e., believers in Science™) from the goats (i.e., those who would sooner take their chances with natural immunity). The existence of a respectful skeptic and bonafide champion like Djokovic is inconvenient for the officials who have gone all-in on vaccination, unless they can make an example out of him — a warning to others about the consequences of resistance.
Djokovic’s biographer recently explained to a CNN host that the tennis star has a strong belief in the body’s innate ability to heal itself — citing his struggle with debilitating food allergies, which he cured through an unorthodox diet. Djokovic is also friends with the “Ice Man” Wim Hof, and uses his breathing techniques to gain greater mastery over his physiology, including his own immune response to pathogens. It would take a massive awakening to get people to consider dietary and lifestyle change as our primary armor against whatever novel viruses emerge next, but if Djokovic is permitted to play, and wins the Australian Open, he might gain a platform that no one else has ever had to promote a real alternative to the failed mandates and petty bureaucrats who are trying to stop this from happening.
Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, understandably wants to score political points, or at least mitigate the damage wrought by the apparent double-standard of letting the unvaxxed Djokovic in with a medical exemption, while many Australian citizens have been prevented from coming home for the past year-and-a-half. Rather than doubling down on a failed and increasingly unpopular policy, the sensible thing to do would be to acknowledge that COVID has become endemic. Australia can get ahead of the curve by being the first country to formally acknowledge its mistakes, apologize to its citizens, and update its policies in light of the actual science in the months to come.