Well Brothers and Sisters,

there’s been a lot of hysterical over-reaction hooted about in the media of late, about the “threat” of Hendra Virus. A bit of a flap, you might say. A curious mob of cranks, whingers and political opportunists has arisen to call for the extermination, or at least the considerable culling (hell why not call it ethnic cleansing?) of the native bat populations. Apparently they believe that if you kill enough bats as a sacrifice to the Gods, the Hendra plague will miraculously cease to be.

Yes, about that plague.

There are hundreds of thousands of bats in Queensland and perhaps some tens of thousands of horses. There are around three million humans as I recall.

And yet.

In the entire History of Queensland, nay Australia, say some two hundred years, there’s been approximately 10 cases of Hendra virus killing horses, and a mere 4 human fatalities. Oh and a dog. While all such deaths are tragic to those involved, it must be pointed out that the odds of dying from Hendra Virus are statistically insignificant. I’ll put it plain; The chances of human or horse dying of Hendra virus are very, very slim indeed.

Some plague. The Pharaoh must be trembling.

Yet there are Headlines and Broadcasts calling each isolated case an “outbreak” with all the connotations that word carries. The Menace is hysterically exaggerated. Fear has spread throughout the community to a ridiculous extent. Politicians, keen to be seen to be “in control” of the situation instinctively lurch into a knee jerk reaction. Press conferences are called.Millions are immediately promised for research.There are calls to severely cull native bat species, have them declared a pest, etc, etc.

Sure reasonable precautions should be taken but is all this hysteria really necessary?


Perhaps theres a perverse element of local pride here. Hey, it’s named after a Brisbane suburb! It’s OUR virus! We can be proud that our viruses can compete on the world stage.


No wonder they call Queenslanders backward.


No strangers to a good, hysterical hate campaign, the Courier Mail has taken time off from stalking Julia Guillard and bothering the bones of Manning Clark to jump on the bat culling bandwagon. (Surprised they haven’t asked veteran nutter Andrew Bolt to join the fun, but he’s probably busy with his new “Cranks Corner” show on Sunday Mornings.) The Courier Mail has a long track record in fanning social tensions into public hysteria. On the weekend edition of 23/24thJuly they devoted a two page spread to the bat haters. Every bat-hating crank, whinger or old style Country Party voter who longs for the good old Joh days when you could shoot anything you damned well wanted to was given a platform. Including people whining about bats shitting on their car.

Well you know what I say to those people. There’s a family of crows who like to nest on a branch above where I park my car. Everyday they shit on my car. Do I call for a cull on crows? No. I swear briefly,clean off the shit and go on my way. Learn to live with it.

But such Acceptance is an unknown land to the hacks of the Courier Mail.

Yes there’s nothing the Courier Mail likes to do than launch a good fear campaign. If it’s not Drugs in Schools it’s Paedophiles Next Door they’re scaring us with. A community of scared, ill-informed people is grist for their mill. In fact, I am put in mind of an occasion when I was privileged to witness the Courier Mail’s myth making in the Act.

It was very late one Friday night in the eighties. I happened to be dining at the Legendary “Luckys” on Ann Street, and was idly staring out the window at the passing street-life as I awaited my garlic snails. As I did so I saw two groups of youngsters, about half a dozen or so in each group. One lot had just come out of the Beat and were walking up the street and the other lot seemed to be heading towards the club.

As the two groups passed by each other, just outside my Window seat as it happened, someone got bumped, words were exchanged, and the next thing you know there’s a bit of a brawl going on.

Well it didn’t last long and one group was soon running up the road. Forget which one There were few injuries.One guy needed a couple of stitches in his scalp later on. By the time the cops turned up it was all over and diminutive Lucky gave the cops an excited blow by blow description.

And that was it. Just another stupid brawl in Fortitude Valley, soon forgotten.


Except one of the groups of nightclubbers had people in it who could be vaguely described as “punk” looking. You know, a studded belt here, some spikey hair there. The Other group had members of various complexions, including those who could be described as “aboriginal” in appearance. (Although one of them as I recall had a shock of carroty hair and plague of freckles. Ha! He looked like he just got off the bus from Rockhamption.)

That was enough for the Murdoch hacks to go on!

So when I opened up the paper on Sunday morning, how surprised I was to see that I had witnessed the start of a race war! Yes indeed, the Sunday Mail, the Courier’s dead-conjoined-twin, had whipped the whole thing up into a race war between blacks and “punks”. Further violence was predicted. Revenge attacks expected. Un-named fearful witnesses were quoted. A minor Valley brawl was given a racial dimension that was entirely absent. The whole exercise was deeply irresponsible and could easily have created the very violence they pretended to eschew.

Fortunately nothing more came of the Sunday Mail’s attempts to whip up racial hatred, and the incident remains forgotten by all but me.

But when the Courier and Co., start ranting about the Menace of the Bat Swarms taking over our State, wiping out our crops and and that every bat is a winged “typhoid Mary” spreading Disease, well, I have to be a bit sceptical.

Long may the Flying-fox flap thru our skies!


I may sound a bit blaise about bats, but I’ve handled juvenile flying foxes on numerous occasions as a young lad (my family took on Wildlife Rescue orphans and the injured) and I can’t recall me or anyone else in contact with them ever getting sick as a result. Luck of the draw,perhaps.





The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet and an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanists AND the Church of the Universe. Like Saint Francis, he is the friend of all living creatures.



~ by reverendhellfire on July 31, 2011.

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