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Tom Steinfort & Platforming a Jonah Takalua: A Type of ‘Anything Goes’ Propaganda

Let’s play a game. The game is called “Jonah Takalua or Drew Pavlou?” Here are the rules. Read through the sample quotes below and have a guess who said them: Jonah Takalua (a disruptive and recalcitrant teenage boy from the award-winning mockumentary series, Summer Heights High) or Drew Pavlou (an aspiring Australian politician whose call to fame is opposing all-things China)?

Here we go…*

“F*ck off, no one cares about you.”**

“Go chew on some f*cking glass.”

“You’re a disgusting, mindless slob, fck off from my timeline and don’t fcking even so much as breathe or glance in my direction again or we have a problem capeesh?”

“If you are trying to have a go at me let’s fcking meet up … Set a time and place dog cnt coward.”***

“Maybe f*ck off mate don’t really care what old person like you thinks you have a baby in your profile picture are you even a student maybe bit too old to be in stalkerspace c*nt.”

For those who don’t know Drew Pavlou, the instinctive answer would be that the teenage kid from Summer Heights High said all of the above. But for those who do know Drew Pavlou, it’s a tough call, preferably determined by a flip of a coin.

But let’s keep going, shall we?

Here’s some excerpts of letters written by people on the receiving end of such kinds of abuse (with identifying descriptors removed):

“Myself and a group of other students have recently become subject to tirades by XXX. As shown in the screenshots attached, he has told myself and others to kill ourselves, making repeated slurs and attacking us on his public page … with no concern for our mental health. … I think it is wrong for XXX to be telling students to kill themselves over what is essentially calling him out on bullying people for not agreeing with him.”

“XXX has a history of targeting and bullying others online. He would privately message and publicly call out and would never hold back from using personal and vulgar insults. Since becoming elected, this behaviour has only worsened, in that XXX now has a public platform and a degree of authority with which he can further his attacks. I have attached just one example of something XXX has recently said to me online. Whilst this may seem small, it is an example of a situation that has caused me significant mental distress and requires emergency mental health attention. I am not alone in feeling bullied by XXX, and I know many feel the same, but are afraid to step forward for fear of being bullied by XXX and his group.”

“I am writing to you about student XXX who has had previous warnings about his cyberbullying last year. XXX has been behaving erratically & cruelly online again, and I have attached some screenshots for you. I am pretty sure that his behaviour is well in violation of the student charter, and at this point I’m wondering what needs to happen before [someone] actually helps put a stop to this. Does someone need to actually kill themselves as a result of his cyberbullying before he gets removed? What’s the threshold here? He’s made my mental health absolute shit, I know that he’s made others’ mental health absolutely shit, and someone is eventually going to do something stupid if he keeps picking victims like this, and getting dozens of people to support his bullying. It is just absolutely traumatic to wake up each day and see new posts & comments about how awful you are, all because you have tried to do the right thing. I do have a psychologist that I am booking in with, and I’ll be okay. But Jesus Christ guys, what does this guy have to do before [someone] takes him away from a position of power? How can you let XXX publicly tell people he has a hall pass to bully others? I really don’t get it.”

Disturbing stuff, hey?

I’m guessing at this point you are thinking these complaints are surely about the teenage kid from Summer Heights High. Right?

Unfortunately, no. The answer is the aspiring Australian politician, Drew Pavlou.

What you just read are extracts from the evidence that formed part of the University of Queensland (UQ) disciplinary action taken against Drew as a representative of the UQ student senate (a student affairs organisation). I submit that a reasonable person would not have a problem with UQ pursuing disciplinary action against Drew based on the complaints above, particularly since UQ owes a duty of care to their students. In fact, a reasonable person would likely encourage disciplinary action.

But if you’re a journalist with an anti-China agenda, like 60 Minutes’ reporter, Tom Steinfort, you can find a way to twist UQ’s disciplinary action into a story about Drew being a victim of the Chinese Communist Party trying to steal away his democratic freedoms. That’s what’s brilliant about anti-China propaganda… anything goes, including platforming a Jonah Takalua twinsie and portraying him to the world as a champion of human rights and free speech.

Steinfort platformed Drew, not once, but twice over the space of 16 months. In both features, Steinfort led his audience to believe that UQ was doing “the bidding of Beijing” by pursuing a “witch-hunt” against Drew because of his anti-China protest on the UQ campus. Steinfort’s evidence for his thesis was spooky music and opinions from people whose opinions don’t matter. Actual evidence supporting the reasons behind UQ’s disciplinary action was either omitted or minimised in Steinfort’s stories.

It is my opinion that Steinfort is out of touch with Australian community standards; even the standards of his own media outlet that has done many feature stories on the costs of acute bullying. Us Aussies don’t need Beijing telling us that Drew’s behaviour towards his fellow students was way out of line and deserving of disciplinary action; we are quite capable of determining that standard ourselves.

The question remains: what exactly is Steinfort’s standard for bad behaviour that should go unpunished? Does he have any sympathy for the student who said she required emergency mental health attention because of Drew? What about the student who alluded to possible suicide risk? If Steinfort believed their complaints were credible and had sympathy for the students, why didn’t Steinfort reach out to them and give them equal airtime? Why was it all about Drew?

There’s another sleight of hand Steinfort used that really ticked me off, i.e., he led his audience into thinking that the Chinese Consul-General was praising violence against Drew at his anti-China protest on the UQ campus. But here are the Consul-General’s actual words:

“The consulate-general regards highly the importance of the safety of overseas Chinese students and affirms the self-motivated patriotic behaviour of the overseas Chinese students … [O]verseas students will abide by the Australian law and regulations and … express their appeals and demands in accordance with the law.”

Ask yourself: if Australian law outlaws violence, and the Consul-General was calling for all Chinese students to abide by Australian law, how was the Consul-General praising violence against Drew?

Drew Pavlou is currently suing UQ for over three million dollars. My hope is that UQ does not settle the matter behind closed doors, but rather pushes for a full and open court hearing for all us to see and hear. When it comes to anything related to China, the fourth estate is not a defender of truth; but the judiciary is. And in this case, the truth is a matter of great public interest. The public has a right to know the real reason why Drew Pavlou was disciplined by UQ.

In concluding, I would like to end this piece on a lighter note. So I present to you a word-for-word quote from Drew Pavlou’s barrister, Tony Morris QC, who is representing Drew in his three-million-dollar lawsuit:

“The world is [Drew’s] oyster. Whether he becomes Prime Minister or Secretary-General of the United Nations, he has the full range of choices.”

* Since publishing this blog post, Drew Pavlou has attempted to minimise his online abuse under the excuse that he was “taunted" about his friend's suicide. For context, the evidence of such “taunts" collected by UQ have been included in these footnotes so readers can make up their own minds as to whether Drew's responses were reasonable. It is my opinion that Drew's disposition towards online abuse has not changed, given that he doxxed me with the false accusation that I helped doxx a Uyghur woman that led to her incarceration in a concentration camp. Drew's doxxing of me subsequently led to people trying to find my location. Drew's online abuse can also go beyond the dangerous to just the outright bizarre, as evidenced by his video montage denigrating online commentator, Daniel Dumbrill, as a "cucked virgin" with "slouchy" posture.

** Drew was responding to the following comment: “Maybe people just don't like you using Wilson's death and bringing it up like some political tool to make outlandish accusations you can't even support. And then when pressed in an effort to find some kind of grounding for these claims you can only provide these round-a-bout and non-specific lines. Say all the dumb stuff you want, but for the love of God stop bringing him, our friend and someone many of us miss, into this."

*** Drew was responding to the following comment: “I think a lot of people contributed to the fire storm who later came out as public eulogists".