Loopers’ Attacks on Dowson Are Dangerous and Devisive

The Politest Description of Fremantle Society’s Former President Roel Loopers is ‘Enigmatic’. 

Even the most casual observer will have noted that he seems to change his mind with the wind, to blow hot and cold with the same breath.

Closer examination reveals he continually manipulates the truth about his experience and achievements.  For example it was only about two weeks ago that Loopers said he had been a Fremantle resident for 17 years. Now he says he has been living here for 22 years. Soon we’ll be told that he was born here.

His flippant attitude to facts and analysis can be noted from his recent attacks on John Dowson, referring to him as ‘the old guard of Fremantle Society’.

Many of the members of The Society have lived in Fremantle for decades longer than either Loopers or Dowson. John Dowson, an historian and lecturer, has a genuine passion for the city’s architecture as well as a deep seated knowledge of the history which accompanies the infrastructure – not only the buildings but the lifestyles which blended into the old city and latterly into the immediate suburbs.

Dowson, has been maligned by detractors who see him as pedantic and have successfully labelled him as anti-development. Those detractors are developers or the supporters of developers. That includes Roel Loopers.  Do they have a vested  interest in destroying Dowson’s reputation in his drive for high quality development? You bet they do.

When studying Dowson carefully he emerges as an avid supporter of development. Backed by his study of the city and its social and economic lifestyle, he strongly favours high quality, low rise structures. Most Fremantle people favour quality development of no more than six stories.  That belief is shared by two members of The Society’s committee who have resigned saying they  cannot work with Loopers. A third recently resigned but the reason is unknown.

 Dowson Want’s High Quality development. Looper’s Changed His Mind.

Loopers had been a great admirer of Dowson. Suddenly Loopers once more changed his mind. Why? There is no reason other than the fact he sees  an attack on Dowson as another feather in his cap among his, Loopers, supporters. Loopers will always, carefully,  go with the flow but Dowson has not flinched from his “high quality,  low rise” stance. Dowson, or for that matter, any other member of the committee (other than Loopers) is not driven by ego or vested self interest. It must be remembered that before joining The Society Loopers was an advocate of high rise developments. He posted pictures on his blog, admiring proposed concrete and glass boxes of ten plus stories.

The best thing that could emerge from a Dowson victory is that Loopers keeps his promise to resign from the Fremantle Society’s committee.

Looper’s Achieved Nothing … Except turn the Society’s Newsletter into a Public Relations Mouthpiece for Developers.

And why is that? Loopers was greeted as a saviour by the society a couple of years or so back. He promised to rejuvenate the organisation. To attack  –  a cut and thrust knight in shining armour who would devour anybody who dared to ruin the city. Now he has turned the society newsletter into little more than claptrap supporting council and developers, spending much of his time socialising with the very people who plan and support crass developments.

The membership of the Society has halved in two years and, in spite of Loopers promises, has not attracted a younger brigade.

When Loopers finally retired as president (for the second time) he openly admitted he had achieved nothing.  He said:

“I have had enough of ramming my head against brick walls, my input being ignored, and my time on workshops and committees being taken for granted. When elected members become arrogant and patronising and unwilling to compromise at any level, it is time to move on and stop wasting my time”.

It didn’t cross his mind that his ideas may have been impractical, that better minds didn’t agree with him, that they had picked him as being a manipulator of facts to boost his own standing.

Blind Followers Faced Legal Action

His ideas appear to be poorly researched. A case in point is QR coding which is described world wide as being an outdated technology being replaced by more efficient systems. For some reason people blindly followed his idea. We’re yet to see it working in spite of considerable public expenditure being invested.

Recently the Society committee had to disassociate  themselves from Loopers’ blog under threats of legal action for defamation. It emerged the entire committee would be responsible for legal action following Loopers defamatory remarks made against several people (including this writer) with no supporting evidence whatsoever, being reposted on the Society’s blog.  The committee came within a hair’s breath of being sued but the simple fact is that people with no profile, let alone those who have a high public profile, will not tolerate being called cowards, nazis, bullies etc.

Loopers, and by default, the committee, were saved by the fact that Loopers is a failure (he has admitted that in his blog several times). As such he is simply not worth suing. However some of the committee members do have substantial assets and the legal advice was clear:  ‘Sue them as they have repeated his  defamations via The Society’s blog and web site’.

A Vote for Dowson Will Emasculate Loopers.

So, a vote for Dowson at todays meeting will be a vote to emasculate Loopers in much the same manner as he, Loopers, has emasculated the society.

Hopefully Dowson and Farrar (who claims to be a great friend of Loopers) can make things work between them and rescue The Society by offering constructive opposition to poor quality developments. They would also regain the profile the Society had under it’s stronger leaders, who include Dowson,  all of whom Loopers failed to invite to The Society’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

Dowson would attract many of the people who have deserted the movement. The committee would find themselves on an even keel and able to do what the society does best – encourage high quality development, and attack the fast buck gang of developers and architects who seem intent on killing off Fremantle’s character. That may go some way towards attracting the city’s newer residents to an experienced society which has respected membership base of experience and intellect. The old guard have a prodigious  record and a new and intelligent group is needed to join them to ensure a smooth transition which is less enigmatic and more decisive than the immediate past history has shown.

There is little question that if Dowson becomes president he and Henty Farrar could work well together. They have a deep respect, built over many years which will re-form the Fremantle Society into a powerful and respected body.

Fremantle’s Elections: Opposition Totally Ineffective

Fremantle Elections Less Than Nail Biting.

New Council On Notice As Social Media Wins the Day

Fremantle town Hall: Waiting for the election results. © Roger Garwood 2013
Fremantle Town Hall: Waiting for the election results.
© Roger Garwood 2013

The election count at Fremantle Town Hall on Saturday evening was a less than nail-biting experience. Years ago several hundred people would turn out to watch the results being chalked on a blackboard and in later years, when hi-tech stuff took over, a whiteboard.

An exuberant crowd of voters would become silent as a tally number was rubbed out and replaced with a fresh total. Frequently the elections were close. Finally the results indicated which candidate won and which had, well, been rubbed out.

Sterile Process

Saturday evening’s barely detectable frisson of  excitement depended on an occasional leak from the tally room. The results emerged a little later than expected and one by one sitting councillors breathed again, had pictures taken on iPhones and any talk of close results vaporised as the numbers came up on a computer screen. Sadly the process was sterile.

Many people had hoped for a close race, a change of face here and there. In the event the sitting council gained a clear mandate for its progress thus far. No sitting councillors were rolled and most recorded massive and increased margins.

What Accounted for Council’s Overwhelming Public Endorsement?

The weather may have accounted for the poor public  turnout at the town hall but what accounted for the massive endorsement of the sitting council? The past four years have seen a great deal of resistance to council’s plans. Principle among those has been the opposition to the location of  the youth plaza on The Esplanade and the open ended and all encompassing approval  by council for towering developments in the city

There may have been apathy among those who considered voting  a waste of time in the face of proposed council mergers. About 60% of eligible voters didn’t bother. It could be said that a non existent vote is an endorsement of the current council.

That point does not ring true. A more likely reason is a lack of co-ordination between the various groups who attempted to form tangible opposition individually.  A number of small organisations, all with individual interests but collectively with a broader interest in the terms of the city’s management, failed to co-ordinate their efforts in the face of a well orchestrated campaign.

Social Media Was the Winner

Brad Pettitt’s campaign on social media was highly successful. Anybody who regularly received posts from him and his followers could not be blind to the enthusiasm of his supporters. It gave a strong impression of coordinated teamwork. Nor was the mayor complacent in the face of his opposition, Mathew Hansen,  who endured massive insults on social media. (See Fremantle Backchat: “Freo’s Shock Blog Derails Democracy”.  Oct 15 2013)

Thus the current council, with many plans in place, must now concentrate on the next four years – the home run – not withstanding the proposed amalgamation. Councillors are aware the city’s future is under scrutiny, not only from the pending amalgamation but from developments already approved or waiting approval. Leading up to the campaign, in fact part of the campaign, were many mainstream media articles related to the city’s ‘rebirth’.

Council Now On Notice: No Effective Opposition

On the latter point councillors are aware they are on notice. If one poor quality development  emerges it is likely to trigger a massive backlash.

Maybe the real threat to Fremantle is amalgamation. Currently nobody seems to know what will happen. A reasonable hypothesis is that  East Fremantle and Melville will wish to retain their leafy suburbs. Fremantle, with fewer voices in its management, may experience little more than a progression of what has happened since 1983 when seeds were sown during the America’s Cup era. They grew Fremantle into a city which is now little more than a weekend playground and entertainment centre. This resulted in massive rent and high maintenance costs in the city as well as increased anti-social behaviour. The city lost it’s community based local patronage. The danger is the two councils grafted onto the city may wish to have things remain that way – Fremantle a playground surrounded by a leafy suburb.

Thus the future of the city is not only in the hands of current management but must be considered and projected by coordinated opposition groups who are currently disparate and ineffectual.

Freo’s Shock Blog Derails Democracy?

Have Roel Loopers’ insults wrecked an election campaign?

An article, published in The Conversation earlier this year, underlined unethical practices in journalism.

The author, Denis Muller, opens with the comment:

“An integral power of the media is that of portrayal: the act of determining how people, events, ideas and organisations are described to the public, and therefore how they are perceived by the public”.

<http://theconversation.com/ethical-lapses-by-journalists-contributed-to-gillards-demise-15595&gt;

Thus, if we are to accept freedom of speech within our mainstream media, which operates under a code of professional ethics,  should we apply the same ethics to the writers of blogs?

Blogs are excellent vehicles for local, national and international comment but some lack the basic tenets of social respect let alone the laws of defamation.

The incumbent Mayor of Fremantle, Dr Brad Pettitt,  has said:

“I like that Fremantle has a vibrant blogging scene. It is hard to think of any other community that has so many active bloggers and I think, despite my regular frustrations with inaccuracies  etc, it is  a whole lot more a positive than negative.That said I’d like blogs (just as I’d like the Fremantle Herald and Gazette) to talk to me or the relevant person before going to print if they have questions or concerns. The instant nature of blogs means this rarely happens which is – to be polite – somewhat challenging at times”.

Shock Jock Tactics: Loopers’ Crass Insults

In recent weeks, during the current campaign for positions on Fremantle’s council and the two-way contest for the Mayor’s job, a local blogger has descended into little more than shock jock tactics and crass hypocrisy. Comments with little or no intelligent input have been bandied about and may have been instrumental in derailing one candidate’s campaign.

Fremantle has become ‘blog central’. Most of the city’s bloggers make intelligent, well considered, comments. They make no exaggerated claims as to their worth in the community but proceed in a respectful manner and make the most of Australia’s right of free speech.  In Fremantle we have, in addition to the more intelligent input, the ‘Shock Blogger” or “The Dodgy Blogger” who, for reasons best known to him, tends to shoot from the lip. He has been noted as being a poor man’s impersonation of Alan Jones.

Regular outbursts have seen a number of people who do not toe his line of thought or have remote disagreements with him, labelled, bullies, cowards and liars et al while he hides behind right of free speech espousing his theories of social decency.

Bullshit Mr Loopers

Roel Loopers, who claims Freo’s View is the city’s ‘most popular blog’ has to stand accused of  “Bullshit”.

Let it now be levelled at him the  fact that he is a liar, a choker and a well polished hypocrite. Maybe not go so far as calling him a Nazi and coward as he did with a mayoral candidate. But ‘coward’ may be appropriately applied to Loopers –  a person with a penchant for pathetically begging for work in the face or his openly admitted failures while condemning successful people as ‘dead beats and has beens’.

Loopers apparently spits the dummy at every opportunity. In the face of opposition candidates emerging in City Ward he broke his repeated public promise to stand for council offering no explanation. Is that cowardice or just simply being afraid to face competition – chickening out? It should be remembered that he persuaded a potential president of the Fremantle Society from running for the job, telling people he could do better but would only run if he did so unopposed. In the event he was ineffectual and said so in his note at the time of his (second) resignation, complaining that nobody listened to him and he was tired of banging his head against a brick wall.

Or was that dummy spit simply because the society had ceased to become useful to him when their accommodation facility had come to an end?

Did ‘Lickspittle’ Loopers Derail Democracy?

In the face of Loopers accusing Hanssen of being a coward he did not take into account the candidate’s repeated attempts at facing voters to gain public positions, often ridiculing his election promises without offering alternative ideas. Had he forgotten that Matthew Hanssen had made Fremantle a marginal seat in this years state election, gaining about 40% of the popular vote? Politics aside Hanssen cannot be accused of choking but has to be credited with his persistence and rugged determination. Nor should his policies be dismissed. Many of them have broad popular support.

Loopers has emerged as little more than a lickspittle, a person with an obsequious attitude to people in positions of authority or who may be useful to his relentless, narcissistic, drive for popularity.

He was looking forward to preening his self admitted ego by being a mediator in a mayoral debate. That narcism was quashed when Matthew Hanssen objected to Loopers mediating. It is arguable that Loopers’ constantly changing opinions and frequently being forced into apologising for so many errors of fact, not to mention public insults of successful people, made him the least suitable choice of mediator.  And from then onwards  The Dodgy Blogger took every opportunity to attack the candidate. It is arguable that Loopers has derailed the very democratic process he claims to love. His vitriol and demonstrable lies, as well as accusations of bullying against people who challenge him, are becoming legendary.

Did Loopers’ attacks derail Hanssen’s campaign?  Matthew Hanssen was offended by the behaviour of previous audiences and reasonably asked for several changes to be made to the debate’s structure. He was deeply offended by Loopers’ remarks and it is reasonable to assume that a general accumulation of biased insults may have prompted Hanssen’s ‘no show’.  Arguably a very important part of our democratic system was derailed because of  Loopers rants. By making them he demonstrated his crass hypocrisy.

Hanssen has refrained from detailed comment and Dr Pettitt, effectively given a free kick, chose not to use it to attack his opponent. It is a pity that the process became flawed by ill considered comments. It is in the hands of organisers of future debates to tread very carefully when it comes to choosing mediators.

“He (Loopers) will stoop to whatever low necessary …”

How can Loopers,  in virtually the same breath, justifiably attack people who deface Matthew Hanssen’s election posters, caricaturing him as Hitler and then, in a contemptible attack on the candidate’s character,  liken Hanssen to Nazis and call him a coward? That would at least be offensive and, in the extreme, defamatory. The insult was published by Loopers in a widely circulated email. Matthew Hanssen has revealed to Backchat:

“I was sent the rather unnecessary  email from Loopers directly to my email account and it went to all of the organisers of the previously scheduled meeting. It was the one which made reference to me being a Nazi. I responded via email with the fact I was offended and that he should otherwise stop. I haven’t received an email from him since”.

” … obviously Loopers motivation is to see the Mayor re-elected. He will stoop to whatever lows he feels are necessary to achieve that”

In a reference to Loopers becoming a mediator Hanssen continued:

“if you cannot run a civilised debate, in the forum of the Chamber of Commerce boardroom, run by the CEO [Tim Milsom] then what chance have you got when Loopers is organising it”

It is surprising that Hanssen hasn’t taken legal action. It is known Loopers retreats when action is threatened.

Don’t be afraid to challenge dodgy blogs

It is time for those people who tolerate or endorse Loopers, feed his ego and dangerous narcism, to recognise him for what he is. But there seems to be a fear of taking him on, of questioning his stands. One commentator has said:

“People are reluctant to take him on because they are afraid of him posting adverse comments about them”.

That commentator offered a justifiable reason. He pointed out, for example, that if a person was applying for a job and the prospective employer conducted web search for background information and found something damaging written by Roel Loopers, it could wreck a chance of employment.

There is nothing to fear – The Dodgy Blogger’s figures are misleading

However, Loopers’ blog readership is not all it’s cracked up be. He frequently claims that his blog has had a new record number of hits. And so it may. But Loopers fixation with posting about 8-10 blogs a day leads to a high ‘readership’ which he implies without looking at the statistics correctly. For example, if he posts 10 ‘stories’ a day and the same 200 people hit on them, that counts as 2000 hits. Thus, by any analysis he probably only has about 250 to 300 viewers. Barely enough to be reckoned with and not enough to fear.

NOTE: Previous  Fremantle Backchat blogs are on Fremantlebackchat.com.

That blog site has been changed and older blogs will  be moved to this site:

What a Week That Was

 It started with a public meeting and finished with a war cry : ‘We Have A Vision For Fremantle’

Two weeks ago the Fremantle Inner City Residents Association (Ficra) called a public meeting, chaired by Dick Baynam, to discuss three major issues which may affect the city’s future development: The Wardens’ Cottages in Henderson Street; the issue of a youth plaza and it’s placement on The Esplanade and issues surrounding the development of Arthur Head as an arts and heritage precinct.

The meeting was well organised and former councillor John Dowson made five-minute presentations prior to the discussion of each issue. It had the potential to show what can be achieved with public input. Inexplicably some of the 200 attendees jeered the mayor, Dr Brad Pettitt, as he attempted to clarify issues.

In hindsight Ficra must see it as an error of judgement to discuss three major issues at one meeting. The net result was that two points, those related to the cottages and Arthur Head were completely lost in what amounted to a slanging match between West End  residents and about a dozen skateboard park supporters who sometimes struggled to be heard.

While the meeting didn’t quite descend into chaos the mayor and Dick Baynam did have a heated discussion when the meeting closed.

Councillor Coggin: ‘We’re Not Mad’

The following Wednesday a general meeting of the Fremantle City Council was held and important lessons must be learnt from it. Principally Ficra and the Fremantle Society must realise if they wish to gain any traction against changes in Fremantle they have to understand the power of social media  and the necessity to deliver messages succinctly across a broad base of residents.

With little effort the supporters of a Youth Plaza were able to encourage approximately two hundred skaters into the council chamber. Skaters confirmed they had responded to a Facebook posting.  Well briefed enthusiasts, parents and teachers outlined their reasons for a skateboard park to be constructed in Fremantle, supporting the council’s preferred site of The Esplanade. The case was eloquently repeated by skaters aged anywhere between 15 and 40 who were greeted with rousing applause.

To coin a skateboarding term they effectively  ‘kick flipped’ Ficra out of the debate. The evening finished with majority vote by councillors in favour of the skateboard park to be built on The Esplanade. Councillor Dave Coggin, in a moment of Churchillian eloquence and speaking on behalf of a united council effectively concluded the debate with a rallying cry:

“We are not mad. We know exactly what we are doing. We have a vision for Fremantle as a vibrant, creative and welcoming place. For more people living, working and recreating in Fremantle. Children and Youth are a core part of that vision, which is why we are welcoming them into our hearts with the Esplanade Youth Plaza”.

No Alternative

A point made after the meeting by Councillor Andrew Sullivan was that nobody, at any point in either debate, had offered a realistic alternative to the Esplanade site.

He said:  “Objectors are telling us they’d support the Youth Plaza if it were built somewhere else but they’re being disingenuous because the only sites they mention are on the fringes of the City. Those who oppose the Esplanade would be even more outraged if we moved it to Kings Square, Pioneer Reserve or Princess May Park”.

Sullivan continued: “Modern thinking on providing facilities for young people is they need to be located in the inner city where they feel safe and included. They need to be located where there is a mix of activities for toddlers through to teens so that parents can take the whole family to the one central place. It’s not easy finding a public place large enough to accommodate these different and often competing needs.
“The Esplanade is our largest inner city park and even when 20,000 people turned up to watch John Butler there was still loads of unused space, mostly where we want to put the plaza. The proposal locates the facility in the least used and most barren section of the park.
“It proposes a lot of new landscaping including seating and shade trees – it’s not just a concrete bowl. Hence, it will have far more appeal than just for skaters. I’ll certainly be very proud when it is completed”.

Will Ficra and Fremantle Society Fightback?  An Opportunity For Strong Leadership

The back to back meetings represented a setback for Ficra. Both the Fremantle Society and Ficra, who seem to have  similar broad based interests, must develop a strong plan to carry their opposition forward. They stand against a united council who rightly believe they have control of the ball and are running with it.

Now that Roel Loopers has resigned from the Fremantle Society presidency (for the second time) there is a real opportunity for the society to elect a strong, unambiguous, leader.

Loopers finally admitted failure in his presidency of the society. In his resignation he said:
“I have had enough of ramming my head against brick walls, my input being ignored, and my time on workshops and committees being taken for granted. When elected members become arrogant and patronising and unwilling to compromise at any level, it is time to move on and stop wasting my time.”

Build on Overwhelming Vote

The only chance these organisations have of overturning or modifying plans they disagree with is to do so from within the council chamber. They certainly have the numbers to fight an effective election campaign in September but they should signal their intention to challenge for seats now, promote their policies and present credible candidates. It will be essential to accommodate social media in their planning – they have just witnessed how effective it is.

Former deputy mayor John Dowson said: “It is sad council has not put this out for public consultation”  but in agreeing that residents want to have good youth facilities in Fremantle he reiterated  the feelings of the previous night’s meeting at which an overwhelming vote against the Esplanade site was recorded.

The vote at the public meeting was close to unanimous. Several councillors who attended would attest to that but without a well organised campaign it is unlikely that challenges to current planning will be effective.

Loopers BID Failed

Roel Loopers Quits BID Committee

Fremantle BackChat understands that Roel Loopers, the President of the Fremantle Society has quit his position on the board of the Fremantle Business Improvement District (BID) committee. BID is an organisation which has been established to assist businesses in Fremantle and is partially  funded by ratepayers.

Loopers resignation, unlike his resignation from the presidency of the Fremantle Society, was made without fanfare. Unlike that resignation he has apparently not been asked to reconsider his BID decision.

Deadbeats And Has Beens

Concerns had been raised about Loopers suitability to be a member of the board. Shortly before he was elected to the BID board the Fremantle based photographer had referred to a group of successful professional photographers and academics, who had organised the Fremantle Portrait Prize, as: ” … a bunch of dead beats and has beens” on social media.

The Fremantle Portrait Prize, run by a group of dedicated volunteers attracted close to 700 entries from 22 countries and world-wide publicity for the city. Though it received no public funding the success of the venture was such that about $6000 was donated to charity. Loopers comments reverberated throughout the Australian photographic industry, were condemned as unethical and unprofessional and prompted one committee member to ask : “Does Roel drink?”

Shortly after Loopers made the comments he was elected to the board of the embryonic BID and questions were asked as to whether a person who had condemned members of his own profession and openly admitted his own business was struggling was a suitable candidate to advise other business owners.

Looking For Work

In a recent blog headed “Fremantle’s Ugliest Man Looking for Work” (Freo’s View 29 March 2013) Loopers intimated that his business has failed and he is looking for work. He said: ” … as my profession has not sustained me … I am keen to find additional work to create regular income”.

Over a period of several years a number people, mostly friends and colleagues,  made generous attempts to assist Loopers but that help and advice, in nearly every instance, was rejected.

Loopers is normally a generous, jovial and gregarious character, prepared to help anybody and to volunteer for many things. He has, as a result, received public recognition in the form of a citizen’s award. He also promotes himself as Fremantle’s most popular blogger using the social media as a cut and thrust, though often one sided and inaccurate, vehicle for his opinions and is frequently outraged when his debatable opinions are challenged.

However, in describing himself as the King of Uglyland he may be advertising another side of his character.

American Journalist Threatened

It has come to the attention of Fremantle BackChat  that Loopers has periodically sent emails to members of the community who have agitated him. These emails often contain personal insults and threats of legal action. In some cases [including this writer] he made accusations of bullying and threatened to ‘inform police’. When asked to produce the evidence or to post a comment or retraction to accusations on his blog he has steadfastly refused to do so.

In one instance an American journalist, who wrote an excellent promotional article about Fremantle on the internet, was threatened with legal action for copyright infringement. The journalist was accused of illegally using Loopers pictures to illustrate the Fremantle article. If there was an infringement it was possibly on the part of the people who chose the picture and posted them on the blog, not the journalist. Loopers has never proceeded with his threats against anybody and in that case did not make an apology for his erroneous accusation.

Churlish Action

In an incident involving a local entrepreneur Loopers voluntarily supplied a set of pictures, free of charge, to be used on a promotional web site. They were excellent images and did Loopers professional ability no harm at all. However it appears he had a fit of pique, presuming his work was not well enough appreciated. As a result he asked that the pictures be removed from the site and if they were not he would take action for copyright infringement. The email was impolite and his action appeared to have been churlish.

In light of these and other intemperate outbursts it seems that the choice for Loopers to be a BID member may have been poor.

Roger Garwood

DISCLOSURE: Roger Garwood is a judge for the 2013 Fremantle International Portrait Prize. He was not involved in the organisation of the 2012 event mentioned in this article.