“Ken Behrens” may have started as a mistranslation, but it’s fast become a shining example of Canberra’s indomitable spirit and humour as lockdowns wear on.
The ACT has been in lockdown since Thursday (August 12) after a local COVID-19 case was identified.
“I want to thank all Canberrans for doing the right thing,” ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in his now-daily update press conference on Friday.
However, the automated captions on the social media video translated it as: “I want to thank Ken Behrens for doing the right thing.”
Canberran and ABC Sports writer Sean Lawson was watching the stream on Facebook and saw the AI-generated gaffe.
“I thought that was really funny so I screen-grabbed and tweeted it,” he said.
“It just took on a life of its own.”
His phone was soon running hot with notifications.
“I ended up switching them off; I was getting too many notifications, so I muted the thread,” he says.
Good job Ken Behrens pic.twitter.com/lZ8w8Jnz4U
— arwon (@arwon) August 13, 2021
The term ‘Ken Behrens’ quickly started trending.
Soon others were taking screen-grabs of Sean’s tweet and posting them across other social media platforms.
A Twitter account was soon set up in Ken’s name which began tweeting COVID-related information.
Even former Immigration Department spokesperson Sandi Logan jumped on the Twitter hashtag bandwagon, taking it a step further with #JeSuisKenBehrens.
— Sandi Logan (@SandiHLogan) August 14, 2021
While the situation speaks to the Australian tradition of levity in tough times, Sean thinks the humour has triggered Canberra’s plucky spirit.
“[Also] it’s a novel spin on something very new to us, which is the daily COVID press conference,” he says.
“It was the first one; in other parts of the country, they’re pretty used to them.”
The name is already starting to become part of the vernacular – a symbol of the lockdown.
ACT Health’s media office has even got in on the trend, using the hashtag #kenbehrens.
Internet-savvy Canberrans have even linked the mysterious Ken to another local legend – ACT Policing mascot Kenny Koala.
Local Zoe Rose has raised $300 (and counting) for OzHarvest selling Ken Behrens t-shirts. Hoodies, mugs, cushions and more are also available.
Although it’s had an immediate impact, Sean’s not sure ‘Ken Behrens’ will endure as a lasting memory of the lockdowns.
“[Let’s] see if we can get Andrew Barr to use it,” he says, “but then [ACT] police Twitter might grab it and ruin it.”
While the Chief Minister’s words may have been incorrectly transcribed, the sentiment remains.
It just goes to show Canberrans know how to keep their sense of humour, even when times get tough.