Within a month of its return, Grubsheet Feejee has already become a significant contributor to the national debate in Fiji, with a surprisingly high number of visitors for a small country with relatively limited Internet access. On Friday alone, we attracted 6,705 views for our exclusive on the Military Council’s blueprint for the future and our tally on any day runs into the thousands. Yet it’s also clear that we have become a threat to some very powerful interests because an equally surprising amount of effort is going into discrediting our influence. And clearly by people with experience in setting up fake Internet sites and Facebook pages.
A fake blog site called Grubshit has been established and a fake Facebook page, Grubsheit, is peddling the same material, which suggests that they are the creation of the same person/people. Readers of the real thing, Grubsheet Feejee, may have already become aware of this exercise in crude propaganda. They have stolen my identity and purport to be me, with photographs taken from the real thing. And while to anyone of discernment, they are crude facsimiles and obvious fakes, nonetheless they are literate and appear to be written by someone with media experience or training.
Among the first postings on both outlets is a scurrilous piece in which I purport to give an account of being plied with wine and raped by Ashwin Raj, the Director of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission. The allegation is false – a lie – and I have already expressed my regret that Ashwin Raj – with whom I have always enjoyed a friendly and respectful relationship – has been tainted by this vicious smear.
It has its amusing side in that I am known to be about three times bigger than Ashwin, which makes his alleged assault on me highly improbable in any circumstances. Anyone who knows me would also smell a rat because of the alleged instrument of my “violation” – seven glasses of Pacific Peak Merlot. Not only would take a lot more than seven glasses to render me immobilised, I can imagine no circumstances in which Pacific Peak Merlot would ever pass my lips. It is an ultra- cheap Californian wine that is not to my taste nor, I’d imagine, Ashwin Raj’s either. So if they are striving for genuine authenticity, these trolls need to do a lot better. (Maybe an American wrote the posting).
Nonetheless, it is also clear that some people are credulous enough to believe that it is a genuine account by the real Graham Davis of an event that actually happened. How? Because of the number of “likes” on the Facebook posting and even one or two desultory comments. Stealing someone’s identity on social media and the Internet is an offence under Fijian law but that doesn’t seem to worry whoever is trying to discredit me. Poor Ashwin Raj just seems to have been collateral damage.
Someone is clearly very keen to try to counter the impact Grubsheet is already having. I make no assertion that these sites are linked to the person or persons who allegedly created other fake sites during the Fiji First election campaign in 2018. As the fictional Francis Urqhuart says in House of Cards: “You may say that, I couldn’t possibly comment”. Yet I’m also mindful of the overriding question that underpins the legal system: Cui bono? Who benefits? Who stands to gain? And the answer to that I leave to you, Dear Reader.
There’s little I can do aside from trying to get Facebook to remove the fake page and alert as many readers as possible to this crude and rather sad effort to muddy the waters and create a parallel truth. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do something about the personal abuse that has started to be directed towards me in these columns.
I have always believed in free expression and the right of anyone to criticise my opinions. But henceforth, no comment will be permitted to remain on Grubsheet unless it is accompanied by an email address which, of course, is never published. Email addresses have been removed on a great many of these offending comments, which gives rise to the imputation – to coin another legal phrase – that they may be the work of the same person or persons who have created the fake Internet and Facebook pages. But that is the new arrangement on Grubsheet and if anyone doesn’t like it, they can post their abusive comments in some fetid corner of cyberspace where they belong.
As I’ve said, the last post on the Military Council calling for a fundamental overall of the Fijian government has drawn many views – nearly 12,000 by midnight on Sunday. And don’t miss Grubsheet this week when we reveal something equally compelling – Frank Bainimarama’s designated successor. It’ll appear from midnight Thursday, Fiji time.