The Internet is an unavoidable form of communication in the modern world. It has changed the way we communicate and, whilst it may be a vehicle for movements that inspire positive social change, it has also allowed the hateful to spread their offences to a wider audience with a seeming free licence to intimidate, harass and spread lies. It has seen the schoolyard bully grow up into the Internet troll who can post malicious or provocative comments and material on the Internet with the purpose of upsetting or harming others.
Material posted on the Internet is more harmful than taunts in the playground, it lives on in perpetuity leaving a dark digital imprint that can pursue its targets to their graves.
There is limited recourse in Australia for criminal sanctions against those who have used the Internet as a vehicle for malice. This will gradually change but for now private actions in defamation are usually the only recourse for those who have been targeted. Defamation proceedings currently provide a necessary avenue for those harmed by online conduct where we have a legal system that lags far behind regulating the most basic requirements of decency in public communication and upholding a basic value that freedom of speech should never be considered to provide freedom to harm.
For the past four years, as outlined on the Universal Medicine Facts site, a one woman show, Esther Rockett, with her sidekick Lance Martin egging her along, has concentrated all her efforts towards attacking Serge Benhayon and his business, Universal Medicine.
Her efforts appear to be fuelled by the erroneous, but deeply held fanatical belief, that she is on a mission to ‘expose’ Serge Benhayon and what he promotes and she has been at great pains to present him, by whatever means she has at her disposal, in a cloud of lies and innuendo. Her false accusations have been broad, making sure the allegations arouse moral judgment, if not, at least, to unnerve the agreeable. In addition, the strategy has also been to attack on grounds of religious beliefs, such as reincarnation and healing, along with a litany of other made up ‘crimes’ that she chooses to believe he is responsible for.
Esther Rockett has ignored all evidence that contradicts her unfounded accusations. Naturally, as one would expect when false accusations are made, there are no ‘victims’ or finding of any wrong doing. In fact, there is nothing to suggest anything indecent has ever taken place; instead, there are hundreds of people who have experienced profound benefits from all that Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine have offered and particularly from the healing techniques unique to the business.
For most suffering the kind of onslaught Esther Rockett has pursued Serge Benhayon with – dozens of fabricated and trumped up complaints to government organisations, hundreds of blogs over 3 years and hundreds of Social Media posts a month, all from Esther Rockett’s keyboard – the individual might be emotionally destroyed, their business fail or utterly collapse. Yet Serge Benhayon has gone from strength to strength, never faltering in the buoyant joy that he brings to all his work and to the many that are proud to call him ‘friend’.
His business, Universal Medicine, far from foundering under the weight of imposed lies, also flourishes, attracting hundreds of loyal customers who have all felt the benefits of what he presents and the quality of the service he offers. The principles that he teaches and by which he lives have stood him in good stead to stand steady and offer inspiration to others on how life can be fully lived even when subjected to such offence.
Most Internet trolls carry out their activities anonymously and this often results in a person thinking that they will not face any consequences for their actions and so they feel a freedom to lie, exaggerate and offend.
Before her cloak of anonymity was removed through exposure of her identity on this site, Esther Rockett’s conduct had escalated in the kind of material that she felt free to post, with outright lies and the most inflammatory and disgusting allegations about her targets.
Even after her identity was exposed, Esther Rockett made statements that suggested that she considered herself beyond the reach of the law, commenting:
‘Say what you want about Universal Medicine. They won’t sue. We’ve proven that. Benhayon does not want to get into court.’
In accordance with this attitude, Esther Rockett remained unrestrained in her online postings even after her identity was made public. Individuals targeted by her abuse have now sought recourse through the legal system. Thus, Esther Rockett finds herself the defendant in two legal actions for defamation.
The first of the legal proceedings is listed in the New South Wales Supreme Court commenced by Serge Benhayon after three years of Esther Rockett’s cyber abuse campaign.
The decision to seek remedy via the legal channels is an understandable action given there was no sign of Rockett abating her promulgation of her strategic abuse campaign, where she has falsely accused Serge Benhayon of a litany of indecencies and malignancies our society naturally detests, with an obvious intention to inflame public sentiment.
The second proceeding is listed in the District Court of Queensland commenced by two of the many individuals Esther Rockett has targeted in her campaign, which again have arisen from false accusations that would inflame the public against her targets and insinuate that they are complicit in abhorrent behaviour.
As part of her campaign against Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine, Esther Rockett has targeted many individuals that she judged to be supportive of Serge Benhayon.
Her strategy is to abuse, incite and denigrate via Twitter and blogsites and going so far as sending letters to employers, professional associations, and public bodies vilifying individuals for whatever their role in the community may be, whether it be political, professional or simply wanting to make a difference by community participation.
Ray Karam and Caroline Raphael commenced proceedings in the District Court of Queensland in December 2016 as they were two of those who had been on the receiving end of Esther Rockett’s campaign to destroy their lives and livelihoods.
In 2016 Ray Karam had contended for Council elections in Ballina, Northern NSW. A dedicated family man, Ray Karam had built his successful small businesses in Ballina from the ground up, with a love of people and his connections to the local community driving his wish to give back by way of public service.
Ray Karam had a groundswell of support for his Mayoral run from fellow business owners as well as his loyal customers who had seen, first hand, his long-term commitment to their community’s future.
Esther Rockett has trolled the Internet looking for the activities of anyone associated with Serge Benhayon with a view to disrupting the lives and work of anyone in the public sphere.
Ray Karam had made no secret of his friendship with Serge Benhayon and he was the first to acknowledge the enormous benefit he had personally received from the healing practices offered by Universal Medicine.
Indeed, Ray Karam had turned his life around through the work of Serge Benhayon, from a life broken by PTSD, to a rich fulfilling family life and life in the public sphere as head of the local chamber of commerce and ultimately seeking public office with his local council. He had also chosen to stand up against the abuse Rockett had meted out against his friend.
Ray Karam has all the qualities we should wish for in those who seek public office – loyalty, integrity, hard work and standing up to speak out against abuse – and this was recognised by his community through his strong showing in the polls.
Esther Rockett was quick to try to subvert the electoral process and for the months of the election, ensured that the Ballina community would have doubts raised about Ray Karam’s integrity. Rockett sought to place a dark cloud over his electoral campaign with attacks suggesting that he would not represent his community if elected.
Her strategy was to raise and spread scurrilous lies that he had behaved in improper ways in an attempt to overshadow what had been Karam’s solid career with the police force. Rockett went to great lengths to undermine Karam’s community standing, and went so far as to write to sitting members of the council to make a number of malicious claims about his background.
Esther Rockett had made it her full time mission at the time to spread whatever malice she could and she found support from those who were politically threatened by Karam’s popularity, who were only too happy to spread the lies that had been promulgated by Rockett on her blogsites about Serge Benhayon.
In the end, Ray Karam’s bid to be elected to council was narrowly lost by only 4 votes. It is conceivable that this tiny margin may have been a strong win in his favour if it had not been for Rockett’s malicious campaign.
In her ill-founded agenda to bring down Serge Benhayon, Esther Rockett has taken an indiscriminate scatter gun approach, with her targeting of professionals via their professional associations and her blogsites being one of her many strategies.
Rockett appears to have convinced herself that various health professionals, rather than practicing their chosen professions of medicine, nursing, social welfare or psychology, are instead using their positions to ‘recruit for a cult’ or to practice ‘sexual molestation’, or to recruit young people for ‘grooming’.
There is nothing to substantiate such claims, only a barrage of complaints with accompanying blogs and social media posts initiated by Rockett herself promoting these fantastical suggestions.
Psychologist Caroline Raphael has been one of Rockett’s many targets, again singled out because of her association with Serge Benhayon. Caroline has been a friend of Serge Benhayon’s for many years and operates practice rooms from the Universal Medicine Clinic premises. This has put Caroline Raphael on Esther Rockett’s hit list in what might be referred to as an obsessive campaign against Benhayon.
Over the past few years Esther Rockett has targeted Caroline Raphael on blogsites, with Tweets and a series of complaints to the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) and the Psychology Council, the professional body that oversees the professional conduct of psychologists.
Rockett’s online attacks directed at Raphael have been particularly vitriolic, suggesting that Raphael has been disciplined by the Psychology Council and further has been placed under conditional registration for promoting Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine, which is simply untrue.
Rockett has ignored Raphael’s attempts to correct the false publications about her.
Caroline Raphael informed Esther Rockett that suggestions that she had been disciplined were incorrect and had approached Esther Rockett requesting that she cease making such claims and remove these accusations from her blogs and social media. Esther Rockett, in a style that has become characteristic of how she deals with factual correction, chose to publish that request and further vilify her target on blog posts – making it clear that both correction and any remedy, other than legal recourse was futile. All this evidence will no doubt be put before the court.
Formal correspondence provided to Ms Rockett, showing that the complaints she was blogging and Tweeting did not warrant investigation by the Psychology Council, has not deterred Esther Rockett suggesting that Caroline Raphael has somehow, in an unspecified way, ‘breached the law’ and then further threatening Raphael with suggestions she had crossed professional boundaries by socialising with clients.
These are serious accusations. Great words to incite an audience and bring them along with you, however, just to be clear, there has been no crossing of professional boundaries with clients and nothing to suggest Caroline Raphael has stepped outside the law in her conduct.
The response was typical of Rockett, respond with a blogpost ridiculing the request to remove false and misleading material and a characteristic refusal to consider that her slant on the facts might be incorrect and then escalate the harm by throwing in a new angle of attack for good measure.
Rockett’s accusations about professional boundaries being crossed were clearly not considered to have any merit by the Psychology Council. Nor was any other wrongdoing found.
It appears that Esther Rockett had also made a further complaint along these lines to the HCCC and Psychology Council. The response from the Psychology Council is instructive and certainly suggests that Rockett’s inflammatory comments have no foundation whatsoever.
The Council wrote to Ms Raphael that:
‘The Council reviewed your responses along with the complaint material and noted that you have made the separation between your alternative and psychology practices clear to the public. For this reason, the Council determined that it would take no further action in relation to the complaint and the matter is now closed.’
As with so many of the complaints Rockett has made, they have ended the same way – case dismissed, investigation closed. Not before costing tax payers wasted dollars on unnecessary investigation.
We can, no doubt, expect a surly complaining response from Rockett that the authorities are not doing their job properly if they have not acted upon her litany of accusations. With each dismissed complaint it appears that Esther Rockett has never stopped and reflected that perhaps there really is nothing to complain about. No, she simply makes up another one. Esther Rockett will, no doubt, plough on with further unfounded complaints and keep the same accusations alive on her blogs and Twitter posts, irrespective of the fact that the Psychology Council has determined there is nothing to investigate and no wrongdoing found.
It is important to remember that Rockett does not know the individuals she is so intent on maligning. She has never met Caroline Raphael or Ray Karam (except in passing in the current legal proceedings), and Esther Rockett has certainly never been a client of Ms Raphael.
Rockett has made it clear that negotiation of any kind is futile and that nothing less than a court order would compel her to remove any offending material. Thus, Caroline Raphael and Ray Karam have sought to arrest Rockett’s personal attacks upon their lives and their businesses by taking legal action for defamation.
For anyone who is not familiar with legal process, this is a significant decision as it is enormously costly to take legal action generally and defamation proceedings are notoriously prohibitively expensive. However, even if the cost was great, both Raphael and Karam were of the view that Esther Rockett should be held accountable for her online trolling behaviour despite the likely hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on a trial. Personally, they are faced with pursuit by a relentless abuser who has sought to ruin their livelihoods and run roughshod over their lives.
However, for both Karam and Raphael, the issues at stake are broader. For those in public life it seems that online abuse and having lies promulgated about you through that medium are deemed an accepted part of the office. However, why should that be the case?
They see that their legal proceedings in defamation take a stand to show that we should not accept this form of abuse. Moreover, that Rockett represents all that we should abhor on the Internet. In our current legal system private defamation proceedings are the only available avenue to bring a troll to account. This is because the law and law enforcement have not kept up with developments in technology.
In Australia there are archaic provisions for ‘misuse of a carriage service’, with criminal sanctions available, but a lack of resources for implementation and thus a focus by law enforcement on only the most direct attacks. Even in the United Kingdom where more specific laws have been enacted, there is a lack of resources to keep up with the sheer extent of criminal activity.
Esther Rockett’s supporters appear to have aligned with her justifications for her abuses. Apparently accepting that Rockett’s simplistic propaganda – that paints her nemesis as a ‘cult’ leader and anyone associated with him as ‘cult recruiters’ – then justifies the making up of lies to fit this agenda and her relentless attacks upon her targets.
However, if one really examined what is going on, Esther Rockett’s reasons for her abuses become irrelevant – no number of justifications earns anyone the right to maim the innocent with lies.
If we take a stance other than this we are in effect aligning to every pogrom and genocide that has ever occurred.