An academic study released earlier this week portrays the Australian state of Queensland’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD) laws, aimed at outlawing motorcycle clubs, as a cruel and cynical hoax.
Members of Queensland’s ruling Liberal National Party have portrayed crimes committed by bikers, particularly club members, to be a major public danger in Australia. The ruling party, whose members are currently running for reelection, have claimed that “Criminal Gang laws are keeping Queenslanders safer” and that the VLAD laws have driven a general decrease in crime. The study, by an Assistant Professor of Criminology at Bond University named Terry Goldsworthy, indicates the laws themselves have had virtually no effect on crime in Queensland.
Goldsworthy found that club members commit only about 0.6 percent of all crimes in Queensland and that the crimes they do commit tend to be assaults and drug offenses. The new laws have had virtually no effect on robberies, burglaries and vehicle thefts. Queensland’s crime rate has been generally falling for the last 12 years. The VLAD laws went into effect late in 2013.
Goldsworthy says politicians and police are actively engaged in a “media war” and are largely supported by news outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation – the corporation that owns Fox News and other Fox outlets in the United States. Fox cablecast the popular television series Sons of Anarchy in the United States. A News Corporation subsidiary bought the film rights to Jay Dobyns memoir of his infiltration of the Hells Angels and publicized the ATF agent on a Fox show called America’s Most Wanted. Fox television affiliates have widely publicized the exploits of a drug dealer and snitch named Charles Falco. In 2011, during a sensational dispute with former Hells Angel Chuck Zito, Sons of Anarchy producer Kurt Sutter wrote: “When it comes to parting with cash, there’s one badass outlaw that makes Zito look like a pussy – his name is Rupert, and Rupe don’t sway. Trust me, Chucky could firebomb our lot and Fox wouldn’t fork over a fucking dime to this guy. That’s why I love them… my parent company is as stubborn and aggressive as I am.”
Goldsworthy writes, “As part of the bikie war, the police have worked hard to win the media war, wooing and winning over most of the mainstream media, in particular the print sector. This is in alignment with objectives set out by the bikie Strategic Monitoring Team to reduce bad news stories – and their efforts have paid off.”
The study quotes a police report obtained under Australia’s Right To Information law (similar to America’s Freedom Of Information Act) that states: “To improve the results for this indicator there has been substantial media engagement including background briefing with journalists and news directors, the provision of regular enforcement footage and positive messaging through all media outlets. On-line media forums are also regularly conducted allowing direct questions from the public to the Operations Leader for Taskforce Maxima.”
Taskforce Maxima is an Australian police force dedicated to arresting members of motorcycle clubs.
The study asserts that “the bikie crackdown has been strongly backed by the Courier-Mail, Queensland’s only major state-wide daily newspaper,” and an outlet of Murdoch’s News Corporation. The study cites an editorial which reads in part, “The Courier-Mail has been unashamedly supportive of the crackdown on outlaw bikie gangs, reflecting genuine fear among Queenslanders who were terrorized by these thugs acting like they ran the state.”
In an editorial published this week, the Murdoch newspaper calls “Newman Government’s VLAD laws a win for law and order.”
The Australian equivalent of Fox News states, “Outlaw motorcycle gangs run sophisticated criminal enterprises. They are violent thugs who prey on the downtrodden and addicted. They peddle drugs and guns and ruin people’s lives. And our police, sanctioned by government inaction, allowed them to run rampant, particularly on the Gold Coast where the party scene lends itself to drugs.”
The editorial continues, “The VLAD laws attracted the usual criticism from bleeding heart civil libertarians and left-wing politicians who should know better. The reality is that Queensland is now a safer place.”
In some cases, the Murdoch media has blatantly lied. Using the Right To Information law, Goldsworthy found out that police believed there were a total of 900 motorcycle club members in Queensland when the VLAD laws went into effect. Yet the Courier-Mail has reported that 1,700 “gang participants” have been arrested since the new laws went into effect.
Gang Participant Robert Wickes
The accusations leveled at the accused “gang participants” have ranged from laughable to petty and cruel. For example, the Vlad laws forbid bar owners from serving motorcycle club members who are wearing patches. And this week, an Australian Vietnam veteran named Robert Wickes was denied entrance to his local bar because he wore a vest that included a patch that identified him as man who served in Vietnam. The patch, above, contains the slogan “duty first.”
The bar said they banned Wickes because the VLAD laws have compelled them to enforce “a blanket prohibition of all attire that might imply membership of a motorcycle group, irrespective of the logo, insignia or colors.”