When Jane Hansen of the Sunday Telegraph approached Serge Benhayon seeking information about ‘complaints’ made to government authorities that at the time he had no notice of and preliminary inquiries suggested that they had not yet been processed by the respective government bodies, Serge Benhayon could not help but feel there was a sense of déjà vu – he had been here before.
What emerged in the current round of complaints was that they were actually about a charity – the College of Universal Medicine, and Serge Benhayon was not even the appropriate person to be contacted, as he does not ‘run’ the charity and is not even on the current Board of Directors.
Journalist Jane Hansen, in what would appear to be an intentional attempt to ambush her target, did not mention that the complaints were about the College. All Jane Hansen mentioned was ‘complaints’ of uncertain origin, uncertain content and a series of questions that revealed her agenda, which was to write a story based on false information derived from dubious sources that would be given authenticity by the existence of these spurious ‘complaints’.
This initial impression proved to be correct – what was revealed on publication was that the complaint itself, the feature of her article, in fact originated from her dubious sources who were featured in her articles that were full of inaccuracies and outright false statements about Serge Benhayon, Universal Medicine and the College of Universal Medicine. In case we consider that this is a one off event, let us turn back the clock two years ago to examine the conduct of the Australian media and the style of reporting that Jane Hansen has appeared to have modelled her career on.
Journalists and Universal Medicine
In 2012, a handful of journalists engaged in widespread sensationalist reporting on Universal Medicine on the basis of false allegations from an organised group in the local Northern New South Wales community. We are now well acquainted with this group led by Lance Martin cyber-bully and promulgator of lies about Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine.
The journalists in question did not adequately vet their sources, they adopted wholesale the story spun to them by Lance Martin, who, had they chosen to properly investigate would have been identified as a disaffected individual seeking revenge for imagined wrongs and a small disaffected group he had gathered around himself. Lance Martin and this small group clearly had a personal agenda to use the media as a part of their campaign to muddy the name of Universal Medicine. In short, the journalists were used and they in turn used the dubious sources.
The source of the lies the journalists spread
Lance Martin had planned an orchestrated campaign against Universal Medicine with its genesis on an online hate-site, the Rick Ross forum (now called the Cult Education Institute). The Rick Ross forum was founded by a twice-convicted felon, Rick Ross, who runs a lucrative business as a cult ‘deprogrammer’ with no apparent qualifications to administer such ‘treatments’. The site is a breeding ground for hatred and misinformation, where labelling an organisation as a ‘cult’ appears to justify bigotry of every kind. The site rules deny a right of reply to organisations that are named on the site as a cult and no discussion is allowed on the site beyond a negative viewpoint. As long as one condemns and attacks others that have been labelled a ‘cult’, one is free to post as much hate-speech as they like. Contrary information is not permitted and if attempted is labelled as ‘information control’. The site advises on lines of attack to deal with ‘named’ groups and is an active resource for anti-cult information.
It is on this forum (of a twice convicted felon) that the predominantly Northern New South Wales cyber-group congregated, discovering the tactics of the anti-cult movement, developing a story to fit their agenda and ultimately orchestrating their media assault. It is interesting that none of the journalists looked behind their sources to find out what in fact was the agenda.
At the demise of his marriage in April 2012 Lance Martin had sought out company on the Rick Ross anti-cult forum, posting under the pseudonym ‘Concerned Partner’ and discovering a small handful of others who, like him, felt aggrieved by the simple fact that their partners had wanted something more than what they were being offered in their relationships. Something that of itself is not unusual. However, the Rick Ross forum provides more than the company of other unhappy people, it advises on how to publicly target groups and cause as much harm to the target as possible, indeed it could be accused of showing people how to cause malicious damage to those they have simply taken offence to. Lance Martin, seeking to gain traction in his campaign against Universal Medicine (and perhaps win his wife back) developed a story that fit the agenda of the Rick Ross forum and allowed him to court the media with. A story about his failed marriage alone would not have brought any press interest, the demise of a marriage is all too common, however, it was cunningly transformed into a salacious ‘cult’ conspiracy story, with Lance Martin at the centre of this false narrative as the helpless victim of an evil cult that had taken over his wife’s life.
This ‘anti-cult’ narrative was carefully manufactured to give the necessary journalistic ‘angle’. It mattered not that Lance Martin’s relationship had a very rocky 16-year history, or that his wife had given him plenty of reasons why the marriage was over, he pursued his aim of exacting revenge for his wife’s departure by a calculated use of the anti-cult narrative.
Some who aligned with him have also ignored the fact that their partners departed for various reasons, including alcoholism, different kinds of abuse or long-term dissatisfaction amongst other things, and opted to avoid looking at their own part in their marriage failures. The crusade involved courting the media in a carefully orchestrated campaign that was prepared and publicised on the Rick Ross forum – indeed the forum prepared its contributors to do just that.
Lance Martin and his handful of followers were met with an obliging media who led with headlines containing the words ‘Universal Medicine cult’. What should have been considered as merely allegations that needed to be investigated (but were not) were reported as facts and the journalists in question gave this hate group an open forum on their pages – apparently ignoring the Australian Press Council code’s requirement for fair and balanced reporting. Why would this be the case? It can only be assumed that the press ‘do not let truth get in the way of a good story’.
The media in Australia have always been a willing participant in the reporting of cult atrocity tales. These stories garner the public interest since they are often salacious and allow the sociological process of bringing an audience to a story that involves conflict, and by presenting beliefs that appear strange so that the audience can feel unified in their orthodoxy. In simple terms, stories about a divorce are very, very uninteresting (unless they involve celebrity) and ‘cult’ stories are good copy. It appears to matter not that the term ‘cult’ did not apply to the organisation that they targeted – it was enough that a handful of people had asserted that Universal Medicine was one. In this sense the journalists played right into the hands of a group seeking to exact revenge, they failed to engage and consider that there might be more to the story than what they were told.
The press themselves have been complicit in the abuse of Universal Medicine as they have actively ignored information provided to them by Universal Medicine and highly regarded professionals prior to writing and publishing their articles. It seems to be business as usual for the media – as in the most recent reporting that was supposedly a report on Universal Medicine, Serge Benhayon as well as the College of Universal Medicine, reporter Jane Hansen reported all manner of material without checking the veracity of her sources, or seeking balanced comments for much of what she presented. The editor of her paper was warned prior to publication that the material from her sources was highly inflammatory and likely to be full of lies, yet did nothing. Indeed the publication went ahead full of false statements when the facts were freely available on this website. Again, we have to observe that Jane Hansen (and the editor of the Sunday Telegraph) would not let facts get in the way of a story.
The vengeful Lance Martin and his followers, well seasoned by the anti-cult rhetoric of the Rick Ross forum, fed the journalists a carefully constructed story of a ‘dangerous cult’ with a charismatic leader who broke up families, engaged in financial exploitation and Medicare fraud and accused Universal Medicine practitioners of advising clients to not seek medical advice. Since there were absolutely NO FACTS to back up any one of the allegations and indeed some of the accusations were so bizarre that it seems strange that none of the journalists took pause to consider the veracity of their sources. If they had paused they would have identified a small group of disgruntled men and women with marital problems. Anna Douglass, reflecting upon Lance Martin’s creation of the media attacks observed that it was:
‘… interesting to note, there was no media interest in Universal Medicine, and not one complaint ever lodged with any Government departments until my marriage broke down. Lance has been consistent and relentless at getting any sort of attention and smearing Universal Medicine, he will go to extraordinary lengths, and will distort the truth to achieve this. If Lance had put the same commitment, energy and time used for his hate campaign into our marriage, I have no doubt that our relationship would be in a very different place…’
What the journalists published in 2012 was no more than opinion of these disaffected few mixed with hearsay and fabrication. It appears that Jane Hansen has followed this trend in 2014. This is irresponsible journalism and directly opposed to the basic standards as set by the Australian Press Council (APC).
Though all the journalists involved should be reprimanded for their conduct, the first journalist off the mark – who set the trend by showing a blatant disregard for any of the actual facts that were at his disposal, as well as any shred of journalistic integrity – was Byron Kaye of the Medical Observer.
Byron Kaye concocted a media story by committing the deeply disturbing act of personally lodging complaints with regulatory agencies, going on to represent and report on them as if they had been lodged by third parties. In this sense there was no story to report, only one of his own making. It is perhaps pertinent that Byron Kaye’s first love appears to be acting, film and theatre, as he is a regular contributor in the role of director in the Sydney theatre scene, and has even written his own script for a disappointing film that he produced. His creative flair for creating a story is obviously a transferable skill and he used this to great effect in concocting his ‘complaints’ angle for his Universal Medicine stories.
Byron Kaye is clearly compromised by his ‘salting the mine’ style journalism. Another hackneyed tactic he used was to solicit comments from his ‘go to expert’ Professor John Dwyer (of the Friends of Science in Medicine and the Australian Skeptics Inc, and always a reliable source wherever a critical commentary against complementary therapies is required) who Kaye relied upon to generate a slew of unsubstantiated claims about Universal Medicine, that in the light of the real facts end up appearing like arrant nonsense.
The overview of this is that with respect to Byron Kaye’s series of nine articles on Universal Medicine, which ran in the Medical Observer from mid to late 2012, Kaye was complicit in lodging complaints to at least two regulatory bodies. All to further fuel what was essentially a spurious thread of low journalism devoid of fairness, balance and critically, truth.
Throughout his series Byron Kaye made repeated reference to the complaints to the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) and one referred from the HCCC to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) due to it being outside the HCCC jurisdiction. These were clearly done to bolster his ‘myth’ of a dangerous cult medical group.
He never reported that he was in fact the author of the complaint to the HCCC that was referred to AHPRA, preferring instead to imply others made the complaints and oddly, he never reported that the HCCC and AHPRA dismissed all complaints with no findings of any wrongdoing.
In his early articles this wannabe ‘serious’ journalist, Kaye, referred to three complaints made to the HCCC, however it appears that there were only two in existence at the time. One lodged it appears by himself, the other lodged only the day before his first article was published. What is more, in his reporting, the complaints did not correlate with the material that he suggested was contained in them and indeed raised none of the health concerns Kaye alleged in his reports, containing predominantly vague statements about Universal Medicine being a cult organisation.
The details of these two complaints are instructive in themselves, indicating a disregard of an appropriate use of the complaints procedures, since those processes should be used for real complaints of substance. If the content (and genesis) of these complaints is considered it becomes evident that they are lacking in this fundamental aspect:
- The first complaint of 12 July 2012 was a general complaint about Esoteric Chakra- puncture, Esoteric Psychology and claims that naturopathic advice was being given by persons not qualified to do so – there was no complaint about a specific practitioner or person and the name of the complainant was withheld. This complaint fell outside the jurisdiction of the HCCC since it related to claims of unqualified persons holding out to be qualified and it was referred to AHPRA as the relevant body to deal with such complaints. It was then of course reported by Kaye that Universal Medicine was being investigated by AHPRA, ultimately this complaint was dismissed, but this pertinent fact went unreported. Another pertinent detail that was omitted from Kaye’s report was that he had made the complaint! The Medical Observer some months later reported that Kaye’s nine articles on Universal Medicine had led to 3 regulatory enquiries and it became evident that the complaint made to the HCCC on 12 July 2012 was made by Byron Kaye himself.
- The second complaint lodged on 15 July 2012 was lodged anonymously and made no actual claims of wrongdoing only vague references to Universal Medicine being a cult. The complaint was dismissed due to its lack of substance.
That they were reported as ‘news’ and to bolster a story is reprehensible. Is it really permissible journalism to manufacture complaints to write a story?
Kaye also made much about false claims being made about cancer prevention, however, prior to Kaye’s publications there were no complaints lodged with the HCCC that referenced Serge Benhayon making any claims about preventing cancer, though Kaye plays this ‘angle’ up repeatedly – as with Kaye’s whole series for the Medical Observer the facts were surplus to requirements.
What we can observe is that Kaye made at least one complaint to the HCCC and could then report that a complaint was under review thus adding credibility to his story of potential wrongdoing by Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine. The complaint was referred on to AHPRA, thus he then was also able to report that Universal Medicine had to answer to AHPRA. He never once reported that no wrongdoing was found and AHPRA dismissed the complaint on 15 October 2012. What is more, given that all complaints were dismissed, except for a minor change to some wording on the Universal Medicine website to follow TGA guidelines, the suggestion that Kaye had been responsible for three regulatory inquiries is ridiculous.
Want to support or manufacture a story? Lodge a complaint with a regulatory body and then write about ‘complaints against’ as if they were from individuals at their own behest. Create your own ‘news’ and save putting in any real effort to discern the truth.
This deeply unethical approach should elicit concerns about the appropriate use of avenues of complaint. Is it possible that there is a laxity and that it is exploited by those with an axe to grind to fabricate complaints and then solicit journalists to report them as news? Or collude with journalists from the beginning?
It strongly appears that this may be the case with the latest ‘reported’ complaint against the College of Universal Medicine with the Office of Liquor and Gaming, about which little is known, but the journalist Jane Hansen apparently had all the facts of the complaint at her fingertips even before the complaint was lodged. She had been given the complaint by Shadow Minister for Health Dr Andrew McDonald and had made calls to the OLG even before they had an opportunity to process it. It was clear that Jane Hansen would be leading with an article with a ‘Complaint Against UM’ style headline. She did not disappoint.
Jane Hansen of the Sunday Telegraph led with ‘New-age ‘esoteric’ breast and ovary massage healer under investigation over alleged charity law violations’. It mattered not that the ‘investigation’ had nothing to do with the ‘healer’ referred to, it mattered not that the investigation was initiated by Lance Martin, the revenge driven cyber-bully who had been harassing his targets – Serge Benhayon, Universal Medicine, and any others who he considered were related to those organisations – for over two years and along with others was becoming a serial vexatious complainant. None of this was considered by Jane Hansen in her ‘reporting’. Real investigative journalism? – Not a shred.
Jane Hansen has it seems, borrowed skills from the Byron Kaye style of journalism, at least in the sense that she had no interest in the veracity of the complaint or the malicious intent of the complainant, preferring to go with the story that had been manufactured by them. Perhaps this conduct is simply a common practice amongst seasoned journalists who would not let facts get in the way of a good story.
Byron Kaye, obviously buoyed by his initial success in deceit followed up his APHRA investigation story, refining and honing his skills on exploiting his own complaints and orchestrations to create a story, by repeating the process with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Kaye wrote a series of three articles on the TGA’s ‘investigation’ of UM’s products. What is extra-ordinary is that he initiated the complaint and then inferred that TGA was ‘accusing’ Universal Medicine of wrongdoing. In his article of 23 July 2012, ‘TGA’s Urgent Universal Inquiry’, Kaye opened with the ominous:
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has accused controversial alternative medicine group Universal Medicine of selling unregistered remedies and launched an urgent investigation into the products ‘to protect the public’.
He followed on 8 August 2012 with ’Universal Strips website following TGA investigation’, the headline inherently implied wrongdoing by Universal Medicine and the Medical Observer was patted on the back for alerting the TGA to the ‘spuriousness’ of Universal Medicine’s products. The articles inferred that there were dangerous products – though there were none. What actually occurred – in contrast to the beefed up ‘strips website’ – was that upon Kaye alerting Universal Medicine to the TGA media statement that they were conducting an ‘urgent investigation’ into Universal Medicine’s products, a Universal Medicine representative called the TGA who actually said there was no investigation. Alerted to the possibility of a potential issue Universal Medicine offered its products for review.
There never was a TGA investigation as such, and strikingly it took several days before Kaye’s complaint made it to the investigations unit, who by that time were already reviewing Universal Medicine products upon Universal Medicine’s request. The TGA review process took only a few days, no products were found to be defective and there was no request to remove any Universal Medicine products from sale. The TGA actually wrote to Universal Medicine congratulating the organisation on being so pro-active. No products or their packaging were found to be defective with only minor changes being made to wording on the Universal Medicine website.
This did not stop Byron Kaye of the Medical Observer from falsely claiming on 19 November 2012:
‘The TGA investigation stopped Universal Medicine selling certain alternative products on its website, while the AHPRA investigation is ongoing.’
The TGA never stopped Universal Medicine from selling any of its products anywhere and there had never been an ‘investigation’, merely a small review. The AHPRA ‘investigation’ into Kaye’s own complaint had been finalised a month earlier with no findings of wrongdoing. In other words the write up was completely false.
Thus, if there is no news then make some – a bogus complaint to the government provides the basis of a news lead and then it becomes about continuing the existing narrative from the first bogus article – it is formulaic and an indictment on Kaye’s professionalism.
So what controversial story did Byron Kaye expose in relation to Universal Medicine? Behind the lies and scurrilous journalism there was no story. What did Kaye really reveal? There were some unhappy husbands, there was a group that had been called a ‘cult’ by the aforesaid unhappy husbands, that someone being treated by an allied health practitioner had been later diagnosed with cancer (given that medical specialists diagnose cancer, not physiotherapists, there was no story), and that products had been sold that needed very minor adjustments to their online advertising.
There were the trumped up complaints reported as news, that notably when they were dismissed were not referred to again or mentioned to clear matters up. No, by then the lies had served their purpose.
What Byron Kaye did not consider, nor the journalists that followed, with Jane Hansen showing no more aptitude for her craft than those before her, is that those who provide you with information may not have the best of motives. Lance Martin has made the very public threats to destroy Serge Benhayon and his family, stating on one such occasion, “bringing you down is a commitment and it will happen” and, “Friendly reminder for Serge and family. We’re still here, and we’re a little less vocal because the effort is being put into making sure you are out of business ASAP.’
Martin’s ill intent would have been apparent to anyone who even scratched the surface, but this factor was left unreported by Byron Kaye, any other journalists who picked up Martin’s concocted stories and now in 2014, Jane Hansen has followed this path. Surely the motivation of your sources that clearly furnishes their opinions and more importantly, their capacity for honesty is a relevant detail in a newspaper story?
As Anna Douglass has commented:
‘Jane Hansen did not contact me at all to cross-check any of the facts, rather she took the word of my ex-husband Lance Martin as being fact, a deeply hurt man on a revengeful, hate campaign towards Universal Medicine for over 2 years now. I can tell you Lance has concocted many stories and makes unfounded allegations … about Serge Benhayon. This is all because he is devastated by the breakdown of his marriage and is seeking revenge.’
The string of media articles that commenced with Kaye’s articles also invoked serious questioning of the methods and ethics of two of the other (main) print journalists involved, Heath Aston (Sydney Morning Herald) and Josh Robertson (Courier Mail). Both these ‘professional journalists’ actively ignored the wealth of factual information that was provided to them by students of Universal Medicine (including highly qualified health practitioners) prior to writing their articles, preferring their sources led by an obviously malicious man, Lance Martin, bent on ‘seeking revenge.’
Jane Hansen reporter and using complaints procedures to make a story
Jane Hansen reported in her Sunday Telegraph articles that it was Lance Martin who was the complainant to Fair Trading and the Office of Liquor and Gaming – we rely upon the newspaper report since the College of Universal Medicine has to date not received notification of the complaint.
We knew from experience that Ms Hansen would report on the complaint – the contents of the complaint being reported as truth – as if complaining about something somehow turns the contents from a lie to a fact. Like Byron Kaye before her she is perhaps becoming the pawn for others carrying out their hate filled agenda, but she becomes so because she cannot resist the lure of a good story, however false that ‘good’ story is.
Unlike Byron Kaye she has not manufactured her own complaints for a story, but she has been complicit in using someone else’s manufactured complaint. It also does appear more than a co-incidence that Ms Hansen began following Venus Darkly and Esther Rockett on Twitter on 5 June and was supplied with the complaint created by Lance Martin, a few days later by a politician offering her a potential story line. It is just as possible that Esther Rockett and Lance Martin had already ‘sold’ her their false concoction of lies and innuendo, so the story was, as they say, already written.
Like Esther Rockett who has made at least ten baseless complaints (and counting) to the HCCC and public authorities about Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine and associated persons, Lance Martin has, according to his own publicity, made extensive complaints to the ATO, ASIC and ACCC about Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine. These false complaints obviously came to nothing, since there has been no wrongdoing, except in Lance Martin’s vicious imagination, and furthermore much time has elapsed and nothing has been heard from those authorities.
He has now added his latest offerings to the Department of Fair Trading and the Office of Gaming and Liquor about the College of Universal Medicine to his litany of other fabricated complaints. All previous complaints have been empty of any substance – and we suggest the content of those complaints were simply creations of Lance Martin’s maligned and malicious imagination. We suggest that his latest offerings to the Office of Liquor and Gaming and the Department of Fair Trading will hold no more substance than the former. They most likely will represent an irresponsible waste of public resources.
Ms Hansen should perhaps take note that to report a complaint before it can be made known to the target of the complaint suggests that she was using the complaint to give her story credibility where there was none. This has been the strategy of Esther Rockett, as if a ‘complaint’ earned her lies credibility. However, a lie remains a lie no matter who it is said to or however many times it is told.
When the latest complaints by Lance Martin are found to have no foundation, like all others initiated by himself and Esther Rockett, will Jane Hansen seek to remedy her false reporting with a full and appropriate retraction? Unlikely, since it remains part of her planned hatchet job. Her newspaper, the Sunday Telegraph appears complicit in her fabrications, since the newspaper has not responded to communications seeking corrections and retractions for the multitude of errors and false statements that comprised Jane Hansen’s substandard offering.
So we again observe journalism sinking to its apparently usual low. Is the kudos and accolades that you get a scoop on a story really worth selling out your integrity to print lies and distortions? Especially as there was really no new ‘news’, it was the same unsubstantiated accusations that had been reported two years earlier, repeated yet again by another journalist desperate, it seems, for a story. Is it fair and balanced journalism to report your source’s stories with no reference to their hate-filled agendas? Or is it a deceit upon your readers by omission? Is there any sense of decency left in journalism, Ms Hansen?
The genesis of Jane Hansen’s unscrupulous Sunday Telegraph story and her ‘angle’ are obvious, as she has been following Esther Rockett and Esther’s alter-ego, Venus Darkly on twitter. Indeed it appears that Jane Hansen was not hiding her affiliation with Esther Rockett. When approached by an independent person, who had met her in relation to another news story, to suggest that she might look at the Universal Medicine Facts site to be apprised of the facts, she was told by Jane Hansen that she at least knew of it, but it was made clear that Ms. Hansen had no interest in considering there might be another side to the story. How is that fulfilling the requirements of fair and balanced reporting, as required by the Australian Press Council? It is evident that in spite of clear and cogent evidence Jane Hansen has chosen to take sides on the facts. Is that responsible journalism? We have to ask, what credibility can a journalist have who relies upon the lies of a revenge driven man and exposed cyber-bully and internet troll? The lies Lance Martin and Esther Rockett have promulgated are extraordinary. What is perhaps more extraordinary is that a journalist, of what appeared to be a sound background, has listened to them!