[Please note: 'Belinda Moss' is an alias...]

Belinda Moss
Tuesday, 17 September 2002
Canberra Times, Internet 'Your Say'

Cranky Over SIEV X

Mary Dagmar Davies and Marily Sheppard, two of the leading conspiracy theorists about the sinking of SIEV X, have reacted even more crankily than usual to Kirsten Lawson's quite balanced article on this matter (CT, September 16).

They seem particularly stung by the eminently reasonable assertion in the article that their SIEV X website caters to such weird conspracy theorists.

While the original motivation underlying this website might have been admirable, it has clearly degenerated into a forum where the most loopy views can be exercised without fear of suffering logical rigour.

They also do not tolerate dissent from their views, with the website censoring any real criticism. They allow one pet critic to post comments but only because he apparently lacks the nous to counter their arguments effectively.

CT Readers are encouraged to check out the site for themselves, but make sure you enter its portals carrying a sense of humour and healthy dose of scepticism.

The SIEV X cranks may mean well but their silly endeavours and one-eyed barracking would make a St George Supporter appear reasonable in comparison.

Belinda Moss
Thursday 19 September 2002
Canberra Times, Internet 'Your Say'

Even More Cranky About SIEV X

Marilyn Shepherd (Your Say, Tuesday 17 September) objected to Kirsten Lawson's very balanced CT article of 16 September accurately depicting the SIEV X website as a repository for conspiracy theorists.

(As an aside, what is the collective noun for conspiracy theorists, perhaps a "crank of ..."?)

In Your Say on Wednesday 18 September Marilyn then challenged the critics of her previous email (including me) to point out any instance where she has "claimed any type of conspiracy theory as regards to SIEV X".

Well Marilyn, any perusal of the notorious SIEV X website would quickly reveal you as posting the following cranky comments over just the last fortnight:

5.08 pm Sunday 1 September: Marilyn accuses Gough Whitlam's government of sinking refugee boats.

4.12 pm Friday 13 September: Marilyn waxes lyrical about mobile phones being confiscated from refugees so they cannot ring for help when their boats are sunk by Australia. (Would poor refugees really have mobile phones, and would they really work anyway Marilyn once the boats were out of range at sea?)

4.21 pm Monday 16 September: According to Marilyn, Australia pays for anything to do with refugees in Indonesia so therefore is really and secretly behind everything that goes wrong, while Indonesia cannot be held responsible for anything.

4.19 pm Tuesday 17 September: Marilyn believes the journalist Piers Akerman may be masquerading under another name to post questions to her on the website.

And last my favourite bit, 3.05 pm Wednesday 18 September: Marilyn describes herself as a self-confessed "bleeding heart conspiracy theorist" and also describes all her critics as "government toadies".

Marilyn, you wrongly accuse me of "callous ignorance". You wrongly and hypocritically accuse me of "villification" and "abuse".

Why don't pause [sic] for a minute and ask yourself why you seem to think all your critics are always wrong and always so bad?

Given your track record and attitude, you are not adding to public debate on the SIEV X issue, and your intolerance of criticism is only undermining your professed cause.

What you need is a good cuppa and a long lie down in a dark room. Maybe this would help you to regain your perspective.

Belinda Moss
Sunday, 22 September 2002
Canberra Times, Internet 'Your Say'


Once again all hands from 'grassyknoll.com' have rallied in another attempt to repel criticism of their fixated views over responsibility for the sinking of SIEV X (and the Tampa incident, and the supposed complete callous villainy of everyone involved in enforcing Australia's immigration laws or serving in the federal police and armed forces).

In their time-honoured fashion we are once again subjected to a mix of red herrings seasoned with abuse, claims of martyrdom and large doses of subjectivity, and spiced throughout with arrogance, condescension and unconscious irony.

As befits a former aide to former Australian Democrat Senator, John Coulter (the worst Democrat leader in that party's history - something of a real accomplishment when you think about the competition), Marilyn Shepherd's idea of an impartial judicial inquiry into SIEV X (Your Say, 20 September) is one headed by Justice Marcus Einfeld. What next Marilyn, an inquiry into ABC bias by Joan Kirner and Phillip Adams?

Margaret Hutton (Your Say, same day) provides a more balanced response for once but ruins it at the death knell by inviting her critics to contribute to her 'grassyknoll.com' online forum. Margaret omits to mention that postings appear to be heavily censored and, despite pious declarations that abusive language will not be tolerated, critics of Tony Kevin and his small band of acolytes are routinely traduced in a condescending and insulting fashion.

Mary Dagmar Davies (Your Say, 19 September) contributes another of her no doubt well meaning but dotty streams of consciousness. Mary, have you ever stopped to consider how your naval officer father would have reacted to your participation in a group so seemingly dedicated to cowardly attacks on the navy? How do you think he would have appreciated being routinely slandered as belonging to an organisation supposedly capable of callously murdering those aboard SIEV X but being unable to defend himself against such calumnies? How do you think he would feel to face critics who perpetually ignore accepted standards of debate, courtesy and honour?

The unnecessary deaths aboard SIEV X were a great tragedy and those really responsible should be punished. By all means let us have a judicial inquiry into the circumstances although I personally favour a Royal Commission.

But are Tony Kevin and his small band of red herring specialists really prepared to accept the probable inquiry finding that SIEV X sank through no real fault on Australia's part. Are you really prepared to face up to your supposed 'evidence' of an Australian conspiracy being proved to be irrelevant, false, misconstrued or deliberately twisted by your apparent negative views of the Howard government?

Please ladies, can we have some real facts on germane issues and not constant resort to fibs, exaggerations, paranoid suspicions and red herrings?

Does it really matter as to why and how SIEV X sank what Howard, Ruddock or Admiral Tom Cobley might have said or meant to say about where it sank, particularly in the days the first confused reports of the sinking spread around the Australian bureaucracy? Have none of you ever worked in a bureaucracy and experienced first hand the far from ideal information flows about even the simplest matters?

Marilyn, Margaret and Mary, please play the ball not the players. You should also join the same game under the long accepted rules on the same field. This would greatly assist in producing a result and it would be far less confusing for the referee and the home spectators. As this is really an international match though, the visiting spectators from overseas would not be happy about the long overdue attention.

Belinda Moss
Monday 30 September 2002
Canberra Times, Internet 'Your Say'

Check your facts, Ms Shepherd

Marilyn Shepherd from the notorious "grassyknoll.com" SIEV X website is at it again twisting the facts to suit her fixated personal prejudices over border control policy.

She falsely claims that guards at the Woomera Immigration Detention Centre are armed with firearms because she saw a "rifle" held by "riot police" in an amateur video taken by demonstrators.

Marilyn also wrongly calls Phillip Ruddock a liar on this issue.

Well Marilyn, once more your sloppy research and preconceived approach to investigating the facts have dropped you in it flat on your face.

Guards at Woomera are not equipped with firearms. This is fact and well known to anyone with an understanding of the immigration detention issue.

South Australian Police sent in to handle violent demonstrations outside the centre's perimeter fence are probably not armed with rifles either.

Even if they were so armed, it is hardly anything to do with Phillip Ruddock as they are state police.

It would be most unlikely that state police would be armed with rifles for crowd control tasks anyway, as rifles are useless for such a task and too vulnerable to forcible seizure and misuse by violent demonstrators.

Assuming you are not deliberately lying, if you think you saw a "rifle" Marilyn, you are either mistaken (as is often the case with your claims), or you misidentified a tear gas canister launcher (the only crowd control device that remotely resembles a "rifle").

Once again Marilyn, you should check your "facts" before slandering someone as a liar.

Phillip Ruddock and all the officials involved with immigration issues are decent people doing a hard job in difficult circumstances.

They do not deserve to be slandered by you, or even criticised by you on the basis of your personal prejudices rather than facts or reasonable supposition.

Belinda Moss
Tuesday 1 October 2002
Canberra Times, Internet 'Your Say'

Try Looking at Both Sides for a Change

Oh the irony of Marilyn Shepherd from "grassyknoll.com" (the SIEV X conspiracy nut website) complaining about people seeing only one side of a matter ("Your Say", September 30).

This is the same Marilyn Shepherd who, whenever confronted with facts or reasoned argument, just self-righteously flutters away on one of her tangential flights of fancy or wrongly accuses her critics of "namecalling".

This is the "Monologue Marilyn" who eschews dialogue, never apologises, never refers again to claims of hers that are proved wrong, but just drifts off again in another reverie of froth, bubble and inconsequential argument.

Occasionally glimmers of reality intrude, such as in yesterday's diatribe when Marilyn confessed, no doubt inadvertently, of being a layperson in the subject of her letter.

Detail, context and nuance are but leaves on the wind to Marilyn. To her a guard is the same as a policeman. A shotgun is the same as a "rifle" or a tear gas launcher, and no doubt buses and trucks are interchangeable for taking the kids to school or cattle interstate.

Marilyn glibly and wrongly describes Woomera detainees as "refugees" when in fact their detention is solely because they are not. Marilyn simply ignores inconvenient facts such as the world-wide people smuggling crisis and the fact that the vast majority of detainees are those whose false claims have failed what is acknowledged by the UNHCR as one of the fairest asylum assessment processes in the world.

Marilyn never addresses that Woomera detainees, including the Bakhtiyari brothers from Pakistan, are not prisoners (or refugees), that they could actually leave freely tomorrow if they chose to return from whence they came, and that they really face no well-founded fear of persecution at home.

In Marilyn's topsy turvy world view rioting detainees are "trapped doing nothing" rather than choosing to join a violent act, and guards "brandish" weapons or "wield" batons rather than carry them for their own protection or the protection of law abiding detainees.

Seen through the prism of Marilyn's prejudices any legitimate action by a detention centre guard is judged without any thought as to the context, especially when she so blithely ignores the violent behaviour of some detainees and most demonstrators.

How is it Marilyn that even with your slippery grasp on reality or recount, any provocation, threats or proven vandalism from detainees counts for nought? How is it that to you violent demonstrators who break down fences and illegally abet the escape of detainees are just "peaceful protestors"?

Is it not a confused sense of right and wrong that claims a demonstrator now apparently needs counselling because she mistook a tear gas launcher for a "rifle", but somehow her willing participation in a violent demonstration has no bearing on her apparent psychological fragility? I would have thought her presence at the demo was clear evidence of a pre-existing condition.

Similarly, you perversely demand that Phillip Ruddock justify why a "range of weapons was used against innocent people" when, in fact, there was quite a restrained use of minimum force against quite violent demonstrators committing acts of assault, criminal damage and numerous other offences.

What is the alternative Marilyn when manipulative and violent detainees, after abusing the "fair go" they get from our "benefit of the doubt" based asylum assessment process, will not go home when caught out fibbing and attempt to morally blackmail the Australian people (often as coached by people smugglers)?

What is the alternative when such attempts at moral blackmail can rely on an audience of the anarchists, the successfully smuggled and the gullible outside the fence?

You ask in seeming despair Marilyn why your fellow Australians do not share your outrage and why they believe the violent demonstrations at Woomera were "the folly of a few ferals”.

Well Marilyn its essentially because of three things: the obvious gullibility of those like you, the commonsense and moral integrity of most Australians, and the facts.

Belinda Moss
Wednesday, 2 October 2002
Canberra Times, Internet 'Your Say'

More Front Than...

In answer to Diana Quinn and Rob Small ("Your Say", 1 October) and others who may have fallen for the same trick about the SIEV X website (operated by Margaret Hutton, Marilyn Shepherd, Kay Kan, Kate Wildermuth and Mary Dagmar Davies [sic]).

The reason you can no longer read the loopy discussions alleging the most silly conspiracies on the SIEV X website is that last weekend they suddenly barred their discussion forum to outsiders.

All you can access now is the front end of the site which, while heavily censored in what it includes and biased in how it presents them, is not the part where they hatch and chatter about their conspiracy theories free of any reasonable test of logic, fact, plausibility and probability.

What they now call their "noticeboard" is simply the daily posting on what they used to offer as their open discussion "forum".

Previously they just relied on censoring postings to the forum with which they disagreed.

It now appears they barred the "forum" to outsiders because of the serious loss of credibility involved when people of normal critical abilities took the time to read a broad cross section of the entries. Several of the site's critics have also used excerpts from the forum in various public debates entered by forum members to illustrate the general air of unreality of the site's adherents.

Any critics of the website's conspiracy theories were (and probably still are) routinely abused in the forum as "trolls", "flaming trolls", "government toadies", etc. One critic who regularly took them on in their forum was viciously attacked for his alleged sexuality and continually patronised for his supposed "effrontery" in even questioning their bizarre suspicions and versions of events.

All critics were (and no doubt still are) also routinely described as "ignorant" on the ridiculous grounds that if you disagree with them in any way then you are automatically stupid. Only their "research" counts and if you quote other facts to them they simply reject them as somehow automatically of a lesser order than their "research".

Recent "Your Say" entries also illustrate this. Rather than answer points raised in criticism, several leading lights from the website, notably Marilyn Shepherd, routinely dish out abuse but then hypocritically label any critics as "name callers".

Today's "answer" from Marilyn Shepherd to yesterday's criticisms is a classic case of denial, evasion and red herrings. She attempts no actual answer to any point of criticism, or offers any constructive or viable alternative to any challenge to do so.

The pathological hatreds and absurd conspiracy theories propagated on the SIEV X website by its inner circle of adherents are not an acceptable contribution to public debate. The self-righteousness exuded by the SIEV X conspiracy advocates borders on a hate crime.

The tenor and detail of the discussions carried out among the "anointed" on the SIEV X website (but now hidden from general view) are morally contemptible and intellectually bankrupt.

They are also a telling example of the growing number of Australians who are apparently unable to address public issues in an objective manner or one that offers respect for the essential worth of your opponents as human beings.

Belinda Moss
Thursday, 3 October 2002
Canberra Times, Internet 'Your Say'

Peering Under the SIEV X Rock Again ....

Kate Wildermuth ("Your Say", 2 October), perhaps one of the more extreme "conspiracy theorists" from the Tony Kevin fan club at the SIEV X website, rushes to support fellow crank Marilyn Shepherd by thanking me for publicising the site.

Warning people about the website is an issue that I agonised over. But lifting a rock to expose the unpleasant creepy crawlies hiding underneath to the sunlight of informed public scrutiny does necessarily involve warning the unwary about tripping over such rocks.

I would hope, however, that Kate Wildermuth's emotive language betrays her true extremist views, paranoia and questionable motivation to informed "Your Say" readers.

Four good measures of Kate's subjectivity and methods are that:

  • She insists people scrutinising an ostensibly open discussion forum on the website are somehow "spying" or being some Orwellian "Big Brother".

  • She herself hid her participation in that forum, and others, under the alias "Charles Diamond" until last week.

  • Hiding behind her alias Kate was responsible for some of the nastiest abuse dished out on the site to anyone prepared to offer even the mildest opposing view.

  • The fact that, since the publicity last weekend, the website's "forum" (where the loopy conspiracy views are "discussed" and critics abused) has now been hidden from public scrutiny.

On a related but wider point. I realise it will also probably make little difference to the subjective or worse views of people like Kate, who always want to believe the worst about those they dislike, but it is quite wrong to perpetually claim that no children were ever thrown overboard from a SIEV.

Irrefutable and corroborated testimony to the Senate's "Children Overboard" Inquiry notes that children were thrown overboard from SIEVs and were so threatened on several other occasions.

It was only in relation to SIEV 4 that the initial confused reports that children had been thrown overboard were discounted by later reporting.

This does not, of course, excuse the disgraceful misuse by Peter Reith, and his personal staff, of the photos showing the navy's rescue of SIEV 4 when those aboard deliberately sank their boat to force such a rescue.

Constant claims, however, that "children were never thrown overboard" are just using the Goebbels technique of the big lie - make it a big one, and tell it often enough and loud enough, and it will start to appear convincing to the gullible.

Like most Australians I regard the sinking of SIEV X to have been a great tragedy (as is the unfortunate need to detain bogus asylum seekers who refuse to go home). Like most Australians who have paid attention to the issue I am comfortable with further formal inquiries into the circumstances of its sinking should legitimate doubts remain.

My only concern, however, is that the highly probable finding of any such inquiry will not be accepted by the cranks congregating around Tony Kevin and the SIEV X website.

Or even perhaps accepted by those who just love any opportunity to vent their spleen about the Howard government, while sipping their chardonay or café lattes with ABC "talkback radio" playing in the background.

As a long-time swinging voter myself, I find such subjectivity and "received apathy" a worrying threat to effective debate of public issues. Such naiveté provides fertile ground for the growth of extremist views, bordering on hate crime, such as those propagated by the SIEV X website.

It appears that no amount of rational discussion and evidence to the contrary will shake the SIEV X conspiracy groupies' bizarre belief that Australian authorities, including the AFP and armed forces, deliberately and callously murdered those aboard SIEV X and other vessels. What will it take to ever dislodge their paranoid belief that this was part of a huge, far-reaching and vile conspiracy to discourage people smuggling?

This is not to say that such cranks are not free to hold their loopy views. They are, however, moral cowards of the worst type when they routinely slander all those involved in protecting Australia's borders from people smuggling based on such rotten evidence, reasoning and motivations.

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