Covid Arbiter’s Ascension to Public Intellectual bucked the trend
Fairground fortune-teller coiffed microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles has become the unlikely and even only politico-bureaucratic high profile survivor of the Covid era.
Others might have been ennobled yet Dr Wiles is the only one to remain in the public gaze equipped with such useful tools of contemporary prominence as personal newspaper columns.
Now she is framed in a full scale film Ms Information prominent on the marquee of the New Zealand International Film Festival.
Other mainstays of the Covid era have faded from public consciousness. These include the era’s prime minister Dame Jacinda Ardern and director general of health Dr now Sir Ashley Bloomfield.
Contemporary revisionism holds that the government hard line in dictates such as long duration lockdowns were too stern, severe, not to say unnecessary.
Dr Wiles propelled into public figure status in the immediate run up to the Covid pandemic in these remote South Seas was another hardliner.
She urged officialdom to concentrate on the virus itself and not on what she saw as side issues such as the economy, notably in its tourist form.
Her role as a harbinger was bizarrely offset by her presented persona as a mother, wife, and indeed housewife operating out of a modest timber frame bungalow directly fronting onto a nice Auckland side street.
Was it this Everywoman context that enabled the British scientist to escape the poisoned darts of retrospective retribution that pierced the flesh of the other officials and experts?
It is true that as a technical figure she avoided entanglement with the policy and operational implementation underpinning notably the harsh isolation regime.
It is true also that woven into her personal diary of the plague years was the pervasive non-organic yet compellingly mechanised social media.
Some conjecture that the microbiologist might reasonably have switched off all her devices. Yet science “communication” is part of her stated job description. So all her devices regardless of content had to stay live. Quite literally she is an actual social scientist.
Some might also say that she diagnosed curious elements of the mood of the society in which she now found herself practising.
Such as the innate distrust of the “expert” and especially so if they happened to be female.
Consciously or unconsciously the Edinburgh graduate also understood that in these southern latitudes there is no such thing as gratitude and not much admiration either. These tend to be exclusively channelled into sport.
Therefore she correctly judged that whatever or whoever eventually emerged from the Covid era it would not be heroes.
Her rejection of white coats and test tube festooned laboratories in favour of gaudy street attire, kitchen backdrops, and blunt language is evidence that she anticipated the post plague years hostility to overtly exercised authoritarianism.
A curious by product of the Covid era is that its rallying calls such as “Be Kind” and “Team of Five Million,” tend nowadays to be repeated somewhat cynically
Dr Siouxsie Wiles’ subsequent apotheosis as a significant public figure remains a picaresque outcome of the Covid era. The film Ms Information produced by Alex Reed and Phillida Perry and directed by Gwen Isaac portrays the real life “social” scientist’s ability to make people feel simultaneously soothed and threatened.
Mass communications philosopher Marshall McLuhan defined media entities as being either hot or cool.
They are hot if they are obvious. They are cool if you have to work them out…..as you do with the irreconcilable differences of Dr Siouxsie Wiles.
The film applies a prism to the multi-faceted Dr Wiles’ compelling evolution from microbiologist to public intellectual.