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Getting The Facts Right! Part Two.


JON: I heard that Dave didn't donate his kidney in Australia. He said there were problems with hospital beauracracy. Instead he drove across country to Woomera, to protest against the detention of asylum seekers.

 

"I heard"? From whom? And he went to Woomera "instead"? It would be more accurate to say that Dave went to Woomera while still waiting for a transplant to be arranged.

JON: He stayed there for five months.

Wrong. He stayed there for less than three months.

JON: Although the filming was over, Dave sent me many emails in the months that followed

Dave has some four hundred emails in his files from Jon over the past year, and yet Jon repeats his gripe from the Guardian article that Dave was sending him too many emails. In the two months that followed Dave's trip to Woomera (Easter, 2002), Jon sent Dave more than fifty emails himself, not to mention numerous other emails from Jon's fellow producers, secretaries, etc. On January 28, 2002, Jon had specifically said of Dave sending him a lot of emails, "the more the merrier". On June 5, he wrote to Dave, complaining that he had NOT heard from him for the past few weeks! He's a hard man to please.

JON: and then a video message in which he explained to me my faults.

Once again, Jon gives this picture of Dave running around with his own film crew, posting off video messages whenever he likes. The footage he is referring to here comes from the staged interview, done in October. Jon sent a list of questions, ASKING Dave to say what he disliked about Jon's Guardian article. On September 27, he wrote: "I don't agree that I can just say it. The viewer will need to know your perspective on this."

JON Every day for months I'd wake up to find scathing emails from Dave.

Every day? Scathing? No, Dave wrote about as often as Jon did, although he did criticise some of the things that Jon said. If he had said anything really terrible, of course, Jon would have used it.

JON: It began to chip away at my sanity.

We won't say what we are tempted to say here, but there is no way that Dave chipped away at Jon's sanity. If Jon really is so unstable, he should not be writing for the media in the first place.

JON: I knew I hadn't accused Dave of trying to weasel out of giving his kidney, but I began to think, maybe I had?

Because you had!

JON: I suggested apologising to Dave on screen. This moment of madness

A moment of madness? or several months of deception? Elsewhere we have chronicled Jon's offer to apologise during April and then all through the month of May. On June 6, he sent us the text to the apology that he promised to include in the documentary:

JON: In April, I wrote an article about the Jesus Christians for The Guardian. In it I suggested that Dave was overly interested in getting publicity for the group even to the extent of putting pressure on Casey to donate a kidney. I also portrayed Casey as being a little out of his depth and expressing some doubts about the operation after he'd donated. It was wrong of me to make that suggestion. Casey's regrets were extremely fleeting - a result of post-operative pain rather than anything more profound. I now understand that I made a mistake here. In addition, Dave is not overly interested in publicity. This was unfair of me. Dave's motives are as philanthropic as Sue's, and it was utterly wrong of me to place so much emphasis on this in the article. At the time I saw Dave's attempts to handle the media as being a side story as significant as the donating itself. But I now realise that the real story is Sue and the other donors' incredible and brave philanthropy, and the UK government's current unwillingness to change the laws. I am very regretful of the tone of some of the article and I'm delighted that we are back on course to make a film that will focus on the positive - not smear the group with sarcasm and innuendo, which is a regrettable character trait of mine - and not dwell on my then doubts about the motives. I am very sorry for the unfair things I wrote about Dave.

It actually sounds like a moment of sanity to us!

JON: Liesel ran a restaurant in Florida with her daughter Annette. One day, she said, Annette just vanished with her children after meeting a Jesus Christian called Paul.

Annette didn't just vanish, and Paul is not (and has never been) a Jesus Christian. He is a former member of Annette's former church. Annette spent several months making her decision to join us. During a convenient break at the restaurant, she spent a week with the Jesus Christians in Dallas. She and her children returned to Florida to tell her family of her decision and to work with her mother for another month in the restaurant, in order to give her time to find another employee. Liesel herself admits that SHE was the one who refused to farewell her own daughter.

JON: Liesel was scared and out of her depth. She wanted to find something else about the group, so she emailed Dave.

Liesel has been communicating with Annette via email all the while that she has been in the community. If Liesel really wants to find something out, wouldn't it be better to ask her own daughter, whom she should trust more than Dave? What Liesel wanted to do was to cause trouble, and it's why she used a false alias to do it.

JON: Liesel flew to Dallas to try and find her family. She hired a private detective and tracked them down to this house.

What house, Jon? Didn't you say that the Jesus Christians live in campervans in Dallas?

This is the first time that we have heard any mention of a "private detective". We received a letter from Liesel herself yesterday, stating that she "never sent private detectives or even a single detective to stalk or bother you". So who is lying?

JON: But when she got there, no one answered. She believed Dave was keeping her family away from her.

Got where, Jon? Liesel never knew the exact apartment number (and may not have known which of several buildings). All she knew was the general vicinity of where we lived. And how would Dave be keeping her family away from her if Dave was thousands of miles away in Australia at the time that she visited, as you know he was?

JON: I think its impossible to be objective about the kidneys. Your opinion changes in the way that Dave chooses to take hold of your life.

Steady down, Jon! No one has taken hold of your life. Stand up like a man and take responsibility for your own behaviour. We've heard of people lying, stealing, raping, and even killing and then later saying that they were brainwashed and therefore are not responsible. But these people at least had the excuse that they were living with the groups concerned 24/7. You just sent and received an average of 1.2 emails a day for a year. You must have a pretty weak brain if it can be "washed" that easily.

JON: Liesel's life has been shattered and she can see little good in it.

Cut the theatrics. Her restaurant business may have gone under, but she corresponds regularly with Annette, and if she ever stops playing Colombo's assistant long enough to recognise her 33-year-old daughter's right to live her own life, then things will more than likely improve dramatically.

JON: Dave wrote that Christine in Scotland was dying. He said he could instruct one of his members to give her a kidney, but if he did, I'd only accuse him of manipulation.

Here it is once again... his monstrous lie that Dave just goes around "instructing" members to donate kidneys, when he does nothing of the kind. Here is what Dave actually wrote with regard to one of the Jesus Christians in the letter referred to above: "R has said that he would like to donate in principle, but that he is afraid of needles. But R has not been the one to raise the issue. I would have to write to R and ask him a question about something about which he must already be aware. And my asking would amount to pressuring him to act now, whether or not he is afraid, in order to save Christine's life. I want you to see the predicament that we are in. If I do anything to influence R in his decision, we could be accused of manipulating him. But if we do not, then Christine will die."

JON. It turns out that Christine wasn't as sick as Dave was led to believe.

Christine was very sick, and she could have died, due to an infection and problems with dialysis. Fortunately, she recovered. Others in her condition have died suddenly.

JON: Dave emailed me to say he was a little embarrassed about his theatrics. I entered Dave's world a year ago believing the anti cult groups were the crazy ones, comparing Dave to invasion of the Body Snatchers. But now I thought of Dave that way. Why? Because I really don't like him. How could Dave sit there weighing someone's life in his hands and then blame me? I allowed myself to be influenced by Dave. Now I was out of it, I began to dislike him irrationally, I think in the way that former members of sects irrationally resent their leaders after they leave.

JON: And now it's Susan's turn to donate. She chose Larry instead of Christine on the basis of a dream which she took to be a message from God.

There were many other factors which influenced her decision besides that.

JON: Dave had said that any T.V. crew would be more reputable than me.

Did he? He can't remember saying that. He does recall saying that you were the best of a bad lot. Dave was frustrated by Jon's obsession with picking at every little fault in others, while excusing himself because at least he isn't the worst journalist in all of England. So Dave wrote, when discussing the Golden Rule with Jon, on April 8, 2002: "If you want me to compare you with the Daily Mail, then why not compare me with some of our present-day politicians, journalists, religious leaders, and cult-busters, to decide whether I really am manipulating people just because I shared an idea with them and they liked it?"

JON: Now he put this to the test. He invited Seven Network Australia's Today Tonight program to film the operation.

There was no hint of a "test". It was just another TV station wanting to film the same operation.

JON: [on the Harvard ethics debate] Steinberg had been impressed by Susan. In the end he seemed to agree that hospitals were exploiting religious fundamentalists who wanted to donate their kidneys to strangers.

We strongly question Jon's judgment here. He shows footage in which Steinberg is obviously arguing with Laura Nash, the woman making the same argument that Jon says Steinberg "seemed to agree" with. If Steinberg was really won over in the end, why didn't Jon show footage of him saying so? And the footage he does show appears to be deliberately muffled when it gets to the end of a half sentence which, taken out of context, could reflect negatively on Susan, when all it is is a question, that never gets answered: "DAVID STEINBERG: I began to think, you know, is she part of some cult? Is she really being manipulated on some level that she doesn't realise, you know, I mean, the people...." (sound is unclear)

In Steinberg's last communication with Susan before the operation he said that he could see no reason why she should not donate her kidney to Larry, and he wished her all the best for the surgery. But Jon wasn't interested in that.

More to the point, what does hospital exploitation have to do with the subject of this documentary anyway? Perhaps hospitals should pay for all blood they receive too (since they charge for it and make a profit even when they do buy it), but what does that have to do with the ethics of donating blood from the perspective of the donor? Jon has thrown in another red herring to confuse viewers.

JON: Back in Maddison the Hospital are having second thoughts about whether to let the operation go ahead. Sue's been called in to see the socialworker.

Second thoughts? No way! Interviews with a social worker and psychologist are a routine part of the process for altruistic kidney donors. This transplant was to be the first altruistic donation at that hosptial, and so they were unsure of what the protocol should be. Sue believes that it was the media interest that spooked the hospital more than any religious beliefs. They were trying to cover themselves against any future insurance claim by doing a very thorough job of the psychiatric evaluation. In the end, the proof was in the pudding, they allowed the operation to go ahead.

JON: I don't think he knew it at the time, but it would turn out that Dave inviting the Australian crew would not be as successful an operation as the transplant.

There was no such competition in Dave's mind. This is just more of Jon's imaginary joust with media competitors to see who gets the prize for most disgusting, and he presumably thinks that Today Tonight did a worse job than himself... enough reason to make him think that he must have been crazy to have ever thought that he had anything to apologise for. After all, there still are worse people than Jon Ronson in the world!

JON: Dave dismissed this report as the usual sensationalism. He said Susan's goodness shone through.

And what does Jon Ronson say of it? Did he include the report because he agreed with it, because he disagreed with it, or because he just wanted to hear someone else echo his own hatred for Dave McKay?

The report from Oz suggested that Jesus Christians are forced to give away vital organs as an entrance fee to join, and that they are being coerced by Dave to do so. Why didn't Jon have the courage to declare on air that the report was false. That was all that we had asked him to do, i.e. to satisfy himself that such claims were false. There was no Anita Foster in connection with the Today Tonight broadcast, and yet they did what Dave had started out by telling Jon that the gutter media would do with it. The difference is that some of them didn't know better, whereas Jon did.


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