NSW Police Charge Friendlyjordies Producer

Image: A plain-clothed counter-terrorism officer arrested 21 year-old Kristo Langker at his Dulwich Hill home.

A producer for the Friendlyjordies YouTube channel, which is headed by comedian Jordan Shanks, has been arrested and charged with two counts of stalk/intimidate with an intent to cause fear of physical or mental harm. The alleged victim is NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro.

The charge comes soon after Barilaro commenced defamation proceedings against Jordan Shanks on 27 May. Barilaro objects to Friendlyjordies’ allegations of corruption, which focus on investments made by the state government’s NSW GO Equity Fund, which was overseen by Barilaro. Shanks also extensively criticised the Nationals leader’s policies over brumbies in Kosciuszko and alleged conflicts of interests over his Airbnb properties.

But also sure to have rankled Barilaro were Shanks’ ongoing reference to Barilaro as “Super Barilaro Bruz,” and his photoshopping a Super Mario hat onto Barilaro in his Friendlyjordies videos. Shanks’ team even rented Barilaro’s Southern Highlands mansion via Airbnb, placed Super Mario toys throughout the house, and uploaded it to YouTube. Barilaro’s lawyers say this amounts to defamation on the grounds of racial vilification. 

In April, Shanks appeared at a Macquarie University’s Politics in the Pub event, at which Barilaro was scheduled to speak. Dressed as Luigi, Shanks repeatedly pleaded with Barilaro, “Why are you suing us?”

One of the stalking charges levelled against the Friendlyjordies producer, 21 year-old Kristo Langker, relates to this event, which Langker attended. The other relates to an encounter in the Domain behind Parliament House, over which accounts differ.

The NSW Police charges against a member of Shanks team during such a high-profile defamation case prompts us to reflect on the right to political communication, arguably implied by the Australian Constitution, and brings to mind similar stunts by The Chaser, a decades old troupe of gleeful but politically sharp comedians. The forceful arrest of Langker at his home on 4 June came just a week after defamation papers were served.

Worse still, the arresting officer belonged to the Fixated Persons Unit, set up after the Lindt café siege in 2017. Mark Davis, lawyer for Shanks, described it as “shocking” to see a counter-terrorism squad “used against investigative journalism and YouTube comedians.”

We are not the only ones to draw the comparison between Friendlyjordies and the Chaser, as you can see in tweets below from Chaser team member, Dominic Knight.

Langker may end up losing the legal battle over the stalking charge. But in the bigger PR war, Barilaro is looking to be in over his head.

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