“DON’T GIVE IT OXYGEN!” – The Rise of Unscientific Journalism


The following article was written prior to the removal of Robyn Irene’s The Betrayal of Julian’ from the Western Australian newspaper The Stringer. Since Robyn’s article was also published on Indymedia, my reference links are now pointing to that site.

“DON’T GIVE IT OXYGEN!” was temporarily approved for publication by The Stringer’s founder, Gerry Georgatos, but I was advised within the hour, that the newspaper had opted instead to remove Robyn Irene’s ‘The Betrayal of Julian’ .

A shame – and painfully ironic? – that “DON’T GIVE IT OXYGEN!” cannot address the same audience, but I respect Mr Georgatos’ wishes to have “never published ‘The Betrayal of Julian’ in the first place”, for the reasons he stated.

I also appreciate Gerry’s kind advice that I try uploading my article to the other site, Indymedia, where he is apparently a ‘Trusted User’ with publishing rights for his own and other writers’ articles. Robyn Irene may also be an Indymedia ‘Trusted User’, so I would advise her, Gerry or Anonymous (name listed as the publisher of ‘The Betrayal of Julian’) to carefully re-read the Indymedia Editorial Policy:

Newswire articles and/or comments will not be placed on our promoted newswire if they are [among other things] (1) inaccurate: posts that are inaccurate or misleading; (2) from political parties: the newswire is designed to generate a news resource, not a notice-board for political parties; and (3) a personal attack: articles and/or comments that contain abusive language against other activists or site users.” (coughs…)


One should not call accounts of events “slander” unless one knows that it is, from having witnessed the events, or seen evidence that leaves no doubt that the accounts are untrue. Calling truthful accounts slander is a catalyst for the Martha Mitchell Effect, a phenomenon that psychologist Brendan Maher named after Martha Beall Mitchell. Mrs. Mitchell was the wife of John Mitchell, Attorney-General in the Nixon administration. When she alleged that White House officials were engaged in illegal activities, her claims were conspiratorially deemed to be the result of mental illness. Ultimately, the facts of the Watergate scandal vindicated her, but the label: “Cassandra of Watergate” was nevertheless slung upon her.

Journalism that guesses whistle-blower accounts to be slander, on no evidence, is likely to have a hidden agenda – shoot the messenger and bury the truth? – but its deepest vice is probably loyalty. When one becomes but an echo of hearsay, one is right up the other end of the spectrum from the scientific journalism of Wikileaks, even when defending the organisation, its political wing, or the behaviour of members. That would surely be the beginning of the end, as would be the suppression of documents…

From Shining the Light, to the Dark Side…

Activist Robyn Irene’s punch-in-the-face, factually imprecise and somewhat whacko article: ‘The Betrayal of Julian’ (Oh those Judases! – and him all naked, but for his crown of thorns…) that was recently given a respectable airing in The Stringer – Independent News, is a good example of whistleblower-bashing and ‘forgetfulness’ to check: “Would my claims stand up in Court?”. The author of the article might also have asked: “Is mention of my friend’s erotic dreams about Julian Assange, the Christ figure, really serving the purpose I want it to?”, and perhaps… “Do I have any EVIDENCE that it was ASIO, and not my Mitty-like meanderings?”.

The publisher’s ABOUT page states:
“The Stringer was founded by media academic and producer Jennifer Kaeshagen and by multi-award winning investigative journalist Gerry Georgatos”.

It doesn’t mention anywhere on The Stringer’s website that Gerry Georgatos was also the WA candidate for the Wilileaks Party in the last Senate Elections. He was, and is likely to run again on April 5th, since the AEC did not permit Julian Assange to stand in WA. It wouldn’t be clear therefore, to many readers, that ‘The Betrayal of Julian’ is favourable copy for both Georgatos’ Party and his Candidacy, even if the hefty personal attack on some of the party’s resignees is obvious.

Gazing upwards, I can see how ‘Robyn Irene’, as sanitising agent, would be attractive. Her romantic, narrative style and the characters she describes – one of which, in the first person – would also appeal - Ordinary citizen gives testimony of her noble and dangerous adventure with secret agents! It’s all a bit ‘True Lies’ but perfect for drawing supporters into the story. I’m saddened that a multi-award winning investigative journalist involved with Wikileaks would let such pulp fiction through the door.

But soft, what light through yonder Windows breaks?

I don’t expect anyone to do anything about Robyn Irene’s hack-attack, especially WACA, who have more significant battles to fight, but as a matter of courtesy and good form, The Betrayal of Julian’ begs some response, in defence of a number of people’s GOOD faith, and respect for the whole truth… Amen. Rest assured, that there will be no Biblical dream sequences or contagious paranoia, but I’ll be damned if I think this baby will be given any oxygen by Nurse Irene.

Robyn Irene – aka Robyn Connell Jackson – in her thesis on betrayal – sets out with a critique of a recently published chronicle called ‘Ghosting’ by Andrew O’Hagan (ghost writer for Julian Assange’s unauthorised biography). You’d never know, because she fails to mention the title of O’Hagan’s work, and just refers to it as “his piece”. That’s a typical supporter strategy – “Don’t give it oxygen!” – but how the editorial staff of The Stringer did not pick up on the absence of a title to a work Jackson is describing, I do not know…

Another ‘betrayal of Julian’ is cited. This one is within the context of the Wikileaks Party election campaign. Well on topic for ‘suppression of documents’, but with a cached message: “Don’t bother looking. There’s absolutely nothing to see here!” – Jackson chooses to mention leaked emails that “prove something everybody knew already…”. Circling angrily around the “drama” that caused the WLP mass resignations, she never says what the actual drama was. No mention either of interviews that readers could consult, or of leaked phone recordings – one of which a certain blogger, “Educated Class” was complaining about a while back, to ex Wikileaks Party Office-bearer David Haidon.

We have heard extracts of that recording; and of another, between John Noble Shipton, father of Julian Assange, & WACA, two women who founded the Wikileaks Australian Citizen’s Alliance, and sat on the Wikileaks Party’s National Council last year. Jackson attacks WACA, exactly in the manner as the attack-site Rixstep did within hours of the women’s resignations, for their apparent role in the WLP’s failure in last year’s Senate elections. It would seem that Jackson remains ignorant of, or hasn’t ‘given oxygen’ to the recordings of phone conversations on the day of the resignations, wherein one can hear the Party’s CEO John Shipton proposing, in no uncertain terms, that WACA resign if they won’t ‘wear’ an ‘administrative error’ scenario, to explain what happened to the WLP’s NSW preferences.

Shipton was aware by that time that the NSW preferences had been ‘tweaked’ by a small number of people, unbeknownst to most of the National Council, but it seems he wanted to avoid a disaster in divulging that. Had he considered the gravity of the ultimatum he was giving to WACA, or was it delivered in exhasperation? Had he anticipated how people from an organisation that supports whistle-blowing and aspires to Truth, Transparency and Justice [WACA's motto] would feel, as Party representatives, surpressing information and propagating a story the wife will believe – or not…? The call Shipton made in that moment was possibly the greater of two evils. One pathway – quarantine the problem and apologise to the members and voters, as WACA suggested – might have kept the supporters together and not necessarily lost the election. A ‘Scandal of Pointless Treachery’ [The Shooters & Fishers Party did not reciprocate] would also have made headlines and high-lighted our integrity. The other pathway – bury it – would rip at the very identity of our social bond: shining the light.

And the truth did set them free…

Only extracts of the Shiton-WACA and Shipton-Haiden recordings have been published, as yet, but I’ve heard both in their entirety and can report. First of all, there’s no doubt in my mind that I was listening to the voice of John Noble Shipton, whom I’ve spent a lot of time with since 2011. That the other voices were those of Sam Castro, Karen Cochrane, and David Haidon, has been confirmed to me personally by those people.

Since the integral recordings have not been published, I’ll sum them up, but in enough detail to enlighten the debate. In the first recording, WACA and Shipton are trying to determine for some time, just what the hell had happened with the Party’s Preferences, since what was voted on by the National Council was not what was reported to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). In the course of the discussion, it seems there are things that Shipton was unaware of, regarding the actions of certain key players in the campaign (not WACA) and he sounds distraught by what he is discovering. He also explains to WACA some shit that’s been going down on his end.

Kelly Tranter, 2013 NSW Candidate for the WLP: "An administrative error"

When it’s clear to all parties that the WLP’s National Council has been gesummt in two States, and that WACA know who is responsible – because of a confession and an email trail – the real conflict begins. The women try hard to convince Shipton that the WLP must remain truthful and transparent, at all costs. Shipton’s position is that an Independent Review in the middle of an election campaign is suicidal. One can understand both sides – I felt his fear on the way to talking to the resignees, and their nausea after l arrived. What became clear on hearing the recordings, was that they were diametrically opposed, and that their desired courses of action were mutually exclusive. Robyn is perhaps right in saying it could have been resolved, but Shipton, in the heat of the moment, closed all doors by instructing the women to resign if they would not go his way. I was a close friend of John Shipton, but have to admit that he could have handled that moment better.

On personal experience and direct knowledge.

Robyn Connell Jackson met John Shipton for the first time on September 15th 2012 at the Aboriginal passport ceremony. I was documenting the event, at John’s request, and had asked him to come outside so we could film his ‘arrival’. She appeared out of nowhere, and awkwardly interrupted the recording of his speech to introduce herself. It was also the first time Robyn and I had stood face-to-face, but we knew each other online through the Wikileaks network.

I saw Robyn at one (1) WLP meeting after that and never, at any of our events; all of which I attended. Her claim of “personal experience and direct knowledge” is nil in relation to the Melbourne events that constituted The Wikileaks Party “drama” . Her only personal experience is as detailed above, and the imagined encounter with ‘Mr Brown Overcoat’ in a “busy Sydney cafe”. You know, if I had been The Stringer’s editor, I would have scratched that episode. It reminded me of a crazy bloke who once maintained to me that someone was “standing there watching your house from across the road”. It was a bus stop.

Jackson’s tales of ‘The Faction’ have their origin in hearsay, and are recounted in apparent ignorance of a second body of evidence, recorded shortly before the mass resignations. In that recording, Shipton attempts to charm the Victorian Volunteer Co-ordinator, David Haidon, away from his fellow activists into a smaller group (faction?) that will bypass the authority of the National Council. Stand-up comedian and former WLP Social Media Co-ordinator, Sean Bedlam, reported that he too was a recipient of that proposition. He mentioned that Shipton said he wanted to “tear the women’s faces off”, and that he, as someone who deals in harsh language as a comedian, found that harsh…

Maintaining some perspective…

I went to Melbourne to listen to what these people had to say and let them prove it. One must be even-handed, and in this case, compassionate. They WERE clearly heart-broken, just as Leslie Cannold had said on ‘Lateline’, One cried for two hours on the phone to me. The evidence was presented soon after I arrived. Then and only then did I know that they were telling the truth.

It has been disappointing, to say the least, to see good people parroting a story they haven’t verified, and being leveraged into smearing former friends and allies; great activists whose word and hearts they had come to trust, and with whom they were moving mountains. It’s clear both sides of the WLP schizm would want to save Julian and Wikileaks, if either were threatened, but those who protect the ‘scenario’ are trying to claim that the ‘principled faction’, who resigned rather than bull-shit the Australian people, want to destroy the party AND Wikileaks! According to Rolling Stone, loyalty is valued above all else and garners favour… and of course exposing corruption within the WLP could be damaging to Wikileaks. Everyone has feared that, but Christine Assange’s request to stop attacking/defending each other and concentrate on getting the truth out was only half-heard and barely heeded. No one felt comfortable revealing the whole truth, and others became reluctant to probe for it. Then in the midst of that gridlock, Shipton moved forward with his ‘Independent Review’. “What we already knew” there was confirmed by its author, as a disclaimer. The ‘auditor’ was a Party Member. What we weren’t informed of was that Samantha Castro’s submission to the Review had been suppressed.

Live a lie; die a lie…

The irony and cognitive dissonance was agonising. It drove many away.

Members who hung in there with the Party to “give them a chance to redeem themselves”, later admitted to having blocked their ears completely, in cult-like fashion, to what the “Faction” – Shipton’s challengers – had to say. Others withdrew from the Wikileaks movement completely, and have not come back. We are weaker, because the truth could not be told. It’s tragic for all of us, since there seems to be no question now of going back to the crossroads and taking the more ‘noble’ pathway. From her distant mountain perch, remaining devotee Robyn Connell Jackson parrots a blame game.

Julian Assange admitted and apologised for not ‘being there’ himself. Minutes of meetings that the Party did release, as well as Dan Matthews’ statement, revealed that Julian had only attended one of 13 council meetings – the first, if memory serves. What the leaked emails told us that we DIDN’T know – and Jackson didn’t mention, is that Julian appeared to be unaware his “promise” to Scott Ludlam would be broken in WA by the other last-minute switch.

Why campaign manager Greg Barns, apparently on his own initiative, advised Gerry Georgatos to preference BOTH of the Nationals’ Candidates could be a question that will never be answered…

Assange did some very good things rather than micro-managing his father’s disastrous WLP project. He helped free Edward Snowdon; monitored Chelsea Manning’s trial; and kept a close eye on a mounting crisis in Syria. He also spent a lot of time worrying about and trying to counter the hypothetical effects of the feature film: ‘The Fifth Estate’. Maybe a little less time on that and just one more NC meeting attended – the last one before the Preferences were submitted, for example – and the Party’s faux pas might have been avoided.

In the end, we all support JA and the Wikileaks organisation. Many would also support Assange running in the future as an Independent Candidate in the Senate, working in tandem with Senator Scott Ludlam; to save our souls, our refugees and our planet from the Abbott Government.

The “Don’t Give it Oxygen” style of unscientific journalism that has reached its zenith with evangilists for the WLP, is a kind of succubus that has emerged from the sound body of Wikileaks. O’Hagan’s memoirs would suggest that this demon has always been there, as the dark side of Julian Assange. If this phenomenon is due to the influence and subsequent emergence of his father, then the Darth Vadar image is apt, and the integrity of the organisation in danger of crumbling.

That Julian Assange can’t reveal his own secrets is acceptable, but only in the case where he is doing great ethical hacking – which is possibly, what he should stick to. Going into JTRIG mode – “Destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt” – with friends and allies, in the case of any disagreement, is not going to do it in party politics, either for Luke or Darth.

About CaTⓋ

Artist, musician, nerd
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