Doctor and activist

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Fire Bombing of Friendly Jordie a Litmus Test

24 November 2022

The fire-bombing of the Bondi home of Friendly Jordie on 23/11/22 will be a litmus test for the NSW Police.

Friendly Jordie is a comedian and political commentator who took on John Barilaro, famously staying at his luxury property while filming commentary critical of him. He was then accused of stalking Barilaro, using Police powers usually limited to terrorist suspects, which looked very much like abuse of Police powers.
He has a considerable audience, particularly among younger viewers.

Clearly this was a threat to him personally.

I have some experience of this. In 1983 I was living alone in Newtown in an upstairs bedroom and at about 3am I was woken by the sound of breaking glass downstairs. I looked out, but could see nothing. Quite quickly there was a smell of kerosene and immediately after the whoosh of a fire being lit and a raging fire in our back lane, like a car on fire. In some trepidation I ran downstairs, went to the back door, turned on the outside light and started to hose the back fence. There was no response from any neighbours and I reflected that in a house full of semi-detached houses almost everyone except me slept in the front bedrooms away from the lane. My hose did not have a nozzle, so I stood at the back door and had put my finger in the end of the hose to direct the water. There was an explosion and the light went out. This was pretty frightening, but it turned out that some of the water from my hose had squirted upwards onto the light, which had exploded, luckily a little away from directly overhead.

After a while the fire died down somewhat and I took stock of the situation and ventured to the back gate. A car was burning out close to the fence, but the fence was undamaged. I called triple zero and reflected on the situation. There was a World Congress of Advertising Agencies at the Opera House on and two days before, BUGA UP had staged some street theatre on the forecourt with a confession booth with ‘Redeematiser’ sign on it, and a ‘priest’ in a cassock urging advertisers to come in and confess their sins. I had been there to get interviews for my radio program ‘Puff Off- Australia’s leading program on smoking.’ An executive from the ‘Tobacco Institute’ had walked by and been conspicuously unamused.

The Fire brigade arrived very quickly, put the rest of the fire out and prised open the boot, which was empty. I waited for the Police for about an hour, then went back to bed. The Police turned up about an hour later, more than 2 hours after I had called and the officer smelled strongly of alcohol. I told him of my concerns about who might have been responsible for the incident, but he was quite dismissive. He said that people often set cars alight. I said that I had lived in the area for more than a decade, went for long evening walks and had never seen a car set alight. He said that he would get the chassis number from the number plate on the computer, (as he did not want to bother even looking under the now-cooled bonnet). Some years later there was a lot of publicity about corruption allegations in Newtown Police Station.

So there is a real question whether the fire bombing attack on Friendly Jordie will be investigated adequately. He has a far higher profile than I had, and fire-bombing a house is more extreme than torching a car. But his allegations touch Caesar nearer.

Here is the story in the SMH:

YouTuber ponders suspect shortlist after latest attack
Sally Rawsthorne, Sarah Keoghan, SMH 24 November 2022
YouTube personality Jordan Shanks-Markovina, better known as Friendlyjordies, says he has a ‘‘long list of suspects’’ in the alleged arson attack on his Bondi home on Wednesday, the second time the address has been targeted in a week.
Police and Fire and Rescue NSW have launched investigations after the property in the eastern suburbs sustained ‘‘significant’’ fire damage in the early hours of the morning.
Shanks-Markovina, 33, who is an Australian political commentator and stand-up comedian, said yesterday he had a ‘‘long list of suspects’’ based on his work.
‘‘We’ve done some extremely dangerous reporting over the last year on a bunch of extremely powerful people and corporations; there are many people that would want to do that,’’ he said.
‘‘I do have a shortlist in my head of who I think could’ve done it. I would hope that the NSW strike force that is supposedly set up for fixated people and terrorists would be looking into this instead of a comedian and his team for six months straight,’’ he said.
Friendlyjordies producer Kristo Langker was charged by NSW Police’s Fixated Persons Unit in June last year and accused of stalking former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro. The charges were later dropped.
There is no suggestion Barilaro is involved in the alleged arson attack.
‘‘Someone has just tried to kill Jordan Shanks,’’ his lawyer, Mark Davis, said.
It is the second fire at the home, which is a subdivision, in a week. Davis said last Thursday’s arson attack hit the other dwelling mistakenly. ‘‘It’s the second time, there was an attempt [last week].’’
Shanks-Markovina yesterday posted an image of the fire to his Instagram account, captioning it ‘‘I’m still alive’’.
The YouTuber was not home at the time of the alleged attack because he couldn’t find his key, instead spending the night at another property.
Emergency services were called to Wilga Street by multiple neighbours just after midnight on Wednesday. ‘‘The fire is being treated as suspicious,’’ Fire and Rescue NSW’s Adam Dewberry said.
Specialist forensic police and dogs ‘‘trained in the use of detecting accelerants’’ will investigate the cause of the fire, he said.
NSW Fire and Rescue said it took crews half an hour to extinguish the blaze, which ‘‘caused fairly significant damage’’.
The home remained a crime scene yesterday, with detectives arriving at the address in the afternoon as the smell of smoke hung in the air.
‘‘Officers from eastern suburbs police area command attended along with Fire and Rescue NSW and found the veranda of the house well alight,’’ police said.
‘‘The fire was extinguished with significant damage caused to the home and an adjoining property.’’
Shanks-Markovina has been a YouTube personality for around a decade. He has interviewed Kristina Keneally, Tanya Plibersek and former prime minister Kevin Rudd among others.
Recent videos on his YouTube channel, which claims 627,000 subscribers, include ‘‘KFC Workers Confess Their Sins’’ and ‘‘Anthony Albanese: Enemy to Women?’’.

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BUGA UP –  the issues keep resurfacing

19 November 2022

BUGA UP originated in 1979, when its 3 founders were prevented from a regular evening out to re-face tobacco billboards by pouring rain.  As it they sat and waited, they thought about how to publicise their work so that it did not appear as random anti-tobacco graffiti. They wanted a word that would be irreverent and would embody the concept of hitting back against the unhealthy promotions. After some discussion, the word BUGA UP was developed, an acronym for Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions. From that night they signed all the re-faced billboards with BUGA UP.

The major problem at that time was tobacco promotion, which accounted for over half outdoor advertising, with alcohol second. The concept was self-regulatory in that anyone taking up a spray can had to make their own decision about what they wanted to say, i.e. what they were willing to be arrested for. 

A relatively large number of graffitists, especially from the medical fraternity, were inspired by what appeared to be a large campaign and were willing to be arrested for spraying on tobacco billboards. Other activists were concerned about alcohol promotion and some were concerned about sexism in advertising.  A relatively small percentage were willing to be arrested for junk food or drink ads. (There were no ads for gambling at that time).

BUGA UP, however, looked at the whole issue of the regulation of advertising, asking that it not be one-way communication with no input from consumers or regulators as to the content or consequences of the promotions.  The advertisers’ position was that it was their money, they could  say what they liked, as this was ‘freedom of commercial speech’. Note the extra word in the cliche ‘freedom of speech’.

The advertisers set up a farcical ‘Advertising Standards Council’ which had very loose ‘codes of practice’ and an industry dominated judicial system, which took so long to work that the ad campaign was invariably over even if they banned an ad, which very rarely happened as they had the numbers in the kangaroo courts.  One hapless paediatrician was recruited onto one of these committees, had his name used to champion the quality of its membership, and of course was outvoted in every deliberation.  He eventually acknowledged sadly that he had been ‘used’ and he resigned.

But BUGA UP was active, producing a publication, ‘Billboard’, which was sent to all the major players in the advertising industry to emphasise to them that their regulatory systems were recognised as farcical.  BUGA UP invented the ‘Advertising Double Standards Council’ to satirise the ‘Advertising Standards Council’.  Its slogan was ‘If advertising standards are good, double standards are twice as good’.

One of BUGA UP’s members, Peter Vogel, wrote over 400 complaints about many ads. He was labelled a ‘serial complainer’ and they wanted not to respond to his complaints. He insisted that by their own charter they had to. They rejected all 400+!

Eventually there had been so much publicity about advertising regulation that the advertising industry wanted the Trade Practices Commission to re-legitimise its self-regulatory system, presumably as they thought government regulation was possible in the future.  The Fairfax newspapers fronted this action, and it was opposed by ACA, The Australian Consumers’ Association. The advertisers said that their codes and practices were working well.  At this stage Peter Vogel of BUGA UP came out of the woodwork, with his huge file of denied complaints. He had systematically made complaints using every item of the advertisers codes of practice and had a farcical response to every item, which the Commission could judge for itself.

Two academics, Shenagh Barnes and Michael Blakeney  wrote a book called ‘Advertising Regulation’ (Law Book Co 1982) which concluded that the self regulatory system manifestly lacked credibility’. But despite the moral victory, the consequences of the trial were not good. The Trade Practices Tribunal concluded that it was not able to set up a regulatory structure, but could only either approve or reject what was put in front of it, so in the absence of any alternative it approved the self-regulatory system as it might have a bit of benefit over nothing at all. ACA, the Consumers’ organisation, was almost sent bankrupt by the legal fees involved, and overall the Industry had got what it wanted.  A few years later when the issue had faded from the public eye, the Advertising Standards Council faded too.

The original BUGA UP guide, ‘Ad Expo- a self-defence course for children’ from 1983 is still available  online, but of course its ads are now dated. (

But now, as gambling wreaks havoc with families, and childhood obesity skyrockets, the issue of irresponsible advertising is back in the spotlight. Let us hope that there is more success this time, but a lot of work will be needed even to get up the momentum that BUGA UP had in 1983.

Here is an article on sugar and obesity: 

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BUGA UP Nostalgia

16 November 2022

BUGA UP (Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions) was most active fro m 1979-1985, and had a big effect on tobacco and smoking. It was also a high point in the demand for advertising to be responsible for the consequences of its use of its products.

In the end, the advertisers accepted a ban on tobacco to keep the threat of stronger regulation at bay. They cut back on sexism a bit and the movement to regulate them died down. So alcohol, gambling annd junk food ads have survived.

Here is a link to some of the TV programs from that time and a little after.

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