A far-right blogger took offence at the event and called for followers to give the Lord Gladstone a bad rating. But with some help from the Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society, the pub hit back. Max Chalmers reports.
A Sydney pub will go ahead with an anti-Pauline Hanson themed event, despite receiving threats to the venue and being forced to change the party’s name.
The Lord Gladstone had originally titled the Sunday afternoon party “F*CK Pauline Hanson Day”, and a Facebook page advertising the event quickly became the scene of heated arguments between those supporting the One Nation Senator-elect, and those opposed. The themed party will include special drinks and the venue’s own version of the ‘halal snack pack’, the popular meat and chips dish which has become a symbol of anti-Islamophobic politics.
Ben Johnson, a co-owner of the pub, said the event began to draw attention online after right-wing blogger The Great Aussie Patriot – aka Shermon Burgess – instructed his 23,000 followers to target it, and give the venue a bad rating on Facebook.
“This is the pub that is allowing the Left Wing ANZAC hating, Aussie flag burning street thugs to hold their event called f*!k Pauline Hanson,” Burgess wrote. “Get on their page, leave them a 1 star rating and a bad write up for supporting traitors agans’t [sic]Australia.”
Burgess has played a significant role in the Reclaim Australia movement but has more recently fallen out with other far-right personalities. According to his blog, the attacks on Pauline Hanson are part of a global international conspiracy headed by big banks, the United Nations, and Australia’s three largest political parties.
On cue, the Gladstone received a string of bad reviews and one star ratings. While some leaving comments at least initially claimed they had been provided with bad service at the venue, the front often didn’t last long.
Initially ignoring the ratings, Johnson said he decided to take action when he realised the right wing blogger was behind it. He posted in the event page advertising the party to let people know about Burgess’ campaign.
On top of this, Johnson scored support from one of the most popular Facebook groups in Australia, none other than the infamous Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society (HSPAS). The group is dedicated to celebrating the increasingly legendary dish. It has over 150,000 members.
By coincidence, one of the Gladstone’s chefs is friends with an administrator of the HSPAS group. They decided to make a rare intervention, calling on members to help the pub out.
“We will continue to focus on the important things moving forward (hoffing down sick snackies and showing love to our favourite vendors) but for now, please take 30 seconds to click the link below and show them some love,” they wrote in the Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society group.
In a digital counter-attack, as part of a proxy war between those opposing and supporting Hanson, the pub was suddenly inundated with five star reviews.
Before the event, the Gladstone had less than 200 reviews in total. By Friday evening it had received a total of 202 one-star ratings, and 862 five-star ratings, according to Johnson.
“We’re at 4.2 stars overall, which is more than we were before,” he said.
The event was intended to be provocative, and Johnson said the pub had a tradition of running unusual and unique parties.
But while winning the ratings war, and undoubtedly causing a big enough stir to ensure a packed venue on Sunday, the event title was eventually changed.
On Friday morning one of Johnson’s staff members fielded a threatening phone call. Not long after, the phone rang again.
“I don’t know how to describe it but he [sounded like] a clichéd right wing extremist. I could picture the guy without even seeing him,” Johnson said.
The caller was not impressed by the upcoming event.
“I fucking hope your insurance is up to date mate because we’re going to come down and smash your pub on Sunday,” Johnson says he was told.
The co-owner remains very upbeat about the event, and said police will be driving by on the day to keep an eye on things. He knew there would be some discussion, but was surprised by the volume of the online backlash and counter-backlash.
As a precaution, the title has now been changed to the slightly less inflammatory ‘I Don’t Like It: A Day Of Inclusiveness’.
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