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Politics Editorial

Fixing fixations by arresting Friendlyjordies' Kristo

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(Screenshot via YouTube)

On June 4, Friendlyjordies producer and writer Kristo Langker was arrested by the NSW Police Fixated Persons Investigation Unit.

ARRESTING COMEDIANS

His arrest followed a complaint by NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and, according to a NSW Police media statement received by IA, Langker was later

‘...charged with two counts of stalk/intimidate intend fear physical etc harm (personal).’

A few details which may provide context, before we attempt to analyse the ramifications of this event:

  • Friendlyjordies is a YouTube channel, created by comedian and political commentator Jordan Shanks, that takes an irreverent and provocative approach to news and politics in the style of The Chaser;
  • Friendlyjordies has featured a series of videos, which send up Barilaro and raise questions of alleged corruption;
  • Barilaro has slapped both Friendlyjordies and YouTube with a defamation lawsuit;
  • 21-year-old Langker was taken from his family home a few hours after he had a brief interaction with the NSW Deputy Premier and was detained for six hours before being charged; and
  • the Fixated Persons Investigations Unit was set up to combat acts of so-called lone-wolf terrorism.

Let’s allow these facts to sink in for a moment.

IGNORING ALLEGED CRIMES

Now, let us contrast the above bizarre scenario with a few other recent events.

For one, there’s the case of Federal LNP MP Andrew Laming, who was recently accused of certain unseemly behaviour towards young females. Laming’s alleged tool of choice was Facebook. But Facebook has not been sued for allowing the proven harassment to occur on its platform. No counter-terrorism teams were sent to detain Laming, who is still collecting his bloated Federal MP's paycheck, creepy perving allegations notwithstanding. No ramifications of any kind for Laming, arguably, apart from the dubious and now clichéd “empathy classes” Morrison has ordered him to undertake.

When the alleged rape in Parliament House of former Federal Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins hit the news in February, not only was the Fixated Persons Investigations Unit (or similar counter-terrorism outfit) absent, but to date, no police arrest, or even a report from the Federal Government’s own internal investigation has materialised. The alleged offender has since disappeared from public view.

In the case of historical rape allegations against the highest law officer in the land, former Attorney-General Christian Porter, not only were there no special forces deployed, but the NSW Police did not even take a formal statement from the victim, apparently due to the difficulties posed by “COVID restrictions”. Porter, however, took fully paid stress leave and promptly sued the ABC and Four Corners journalist Louise Milligan.

PERSECUTING THE MEDIA

Journalists and political commentators being intimidated, though concerning, is now a commonplace occupational hazard, particularly for the national broadcaster and non-mainstream media organisations.

The disconcerting development of journalists and political commentators facing defamation threats and proceedings is also approaching epidemic proportions.

But journalists and political commentators getting arrested and charged for doing their jobs is just plain persecution and tyranny on an Orwellian scale. Add to these strongarm tactics the escalated powers of a police unit established to handle lone-wolf terrorism and you have a deeply troubling recipe for silencing dissent, investigative reporting in the public interest and even the sharing of general information, which the government of the day may find unpalatable.

Of course, there are previous examples of this bullying, such as the secret trial of Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery. There were the AFP raids of ABC offices and the rifling through of journalist Annika Smethhurst’s undie drawers. And the most disturbing arrest and incarceration of our time to date – the details of which regular IA readers are familiar – that of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.

However, all of these examples ostensibly concerned matters of national security.

A producer of satirical YouTube videos approaching an MP is hardly cause for the deployment of special forces.

Friendlyjordies’ lawyer Mark Davis described the arrest as "outrageous" and told IA that Mr Langker and his legal team are keen to see CCTV footage of the areas where both the alleged offences took place.

Mr Davis said that the circumstances of Kristo Langker’s arrest are also extremely disturbing and claims unnecessary force was used by police towards Langker, who did not resist arrest, and extreme force was used against his mother, girlfriend and even the family dog, all of whom were injured during the fracas.

According to Mr Davis, the family is “deeply traumatised” and “jumping at shadows” following the event:

“I am outraged with the arrest and the circumstances of the arrest…and the family will be seeking recourse.”

Mr Davis also described the terms of Mr Langker’s bail as "extreme", as he is not permitted to be in possession of an image or caricature of Barilaro, or even so much as comment on the appearance or behaviour of the NSW Deputy Premier.

In light of the above, IA posed the following questions to NSW Police:

  1. As the Fixated Persons Investigations Unit normally handles lone wolf terrorism, can you advise why an alleged “stalking” offence was followed up by this counter-terrorism unit rather than the usual police contingent for such matters?
  2. Can you comment on whether Deputy Premier John Barilaro or Police Commissioner Mick Fuller had any involvement in the decision for this matter to be handled by the Fixated Persons Investigations Unit, rather than the usual police personnel for such matters?
  3. Given the strenuous objections of the alleged offender and his employer (and the mobile phone footage of the alleged offences), has any investigation into the veracity of Mr Barilaro’s claims been undertaken?
  4. Has the CCTV footage from the alleged offence at Macquarie University been obtained by the police to substantiate Mr Barilaro’s claims?
  5. Why have such extreme special conditions been applied to Mr Langker’s bail (as indicated by his lawyers) to those generally applied for stalking offenders?

IA received the following reply:

The Fixated Persons Investigations Unit investigates fixated persons, which is defined as:

An individual who has an obsessive preoccupation, pursued to an excessive or irrational degree with:

  • a Public Office Holder or Internationally Protected Person, or
  • other person/s nominated by the Commissioner of Police, or
  • a cause influenced by an extreme ideology, (a "cause’"is an intensely personal and idiosyncratic grievance or quest for justice).

Further to the above and the statement provided yesterday [which provided information on the arrest], no further information is available.

IA also sought clarification from Mr Barilaro, who declined to comment.

FIXING FIXATIONS

The Fixated Persons Unit was created by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, a friend and neighbour of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in advance of the NSW Coroner’s report into the Lindt Café siege.

In announcing the new unit in 2017, Commissioner Fuller referred to the danger from people who are “obsessed about issues, ideals or individuals” and are “plotting acts of violence” or “capable of acts of terrorism”.

The idea Friendlyjordies is running a terrorist group, and his video producer Kristo Langker is mentally ill and plotting acts of violence, simply by asking questions and mildly mocking a deputy premier is so absurd it is beyond the contemplation of a reasonable person. In short, it is a farce.

The NSW unit comprises 17 detectives and government mental health workers and It is based on similar units established previously in the UK and Queensland. In 2018, IA sounded the alarm about this attack on free speech in an article entitled 'Queensland Police's Orwellian Fixated Persons Unit’.

Interestingly, members of The Chaser team were also arrested and charged following their infiltration of an APEC Summit in 2007, during which one member was dressed as Osama Bin Laden. Despite that prank taking place at the height of the “war on terror”, and with U.S. President Bush in attendance, the charges were later dropped.

Lending its support for Friendlyjordies, The Chaser temporarily changed its Twitter account name to “The Stalker” this week.

Commissioner Fuller has power under the legislation to unilaterally declare a person to be fixated. He is also the Prime Minister's next-door neighbour and admits to a “special relationship” with the PM, including putting out his mate’s garbage bins. He has also being touted in the News Corp press as being in line for Craig Kelly’s safe NSW Federal Liberal seat of Hughes.

The Fixated Persons Investigation Unit's enhanced powers is another form of control from a party that has gone further than any other political organisation in Australia to suppress dissent. 

Being arrested for holding up to public ridicule the policies and actions of politicians that many find so reprehensible that they lend themselves to parody, is in itself comedic. The ramifications for journalists and satirists of this latest development involving Friendlyjordies are grave.

Further, the impacts of a successful defamation action against YouTube for the actions of its contributors would be far-reaching indeed.

Mr Davis told IA:

“We are keen for Mr Langker’s case to be resolved before a court, rather than bantering with the Fixated Persons Unit or any politician.”

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9 and IA founder and publisher Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

This editorial was originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter. These editorials are usually only available to subscribers and may be read online in the IA members-only area.

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