The anniversary I’m not celebrating

Today is pretty momentous for me – it’s the one-year anniversary of when I got sacked for writing a blog called “Betrayal Hurts”.

My stomach still flip-flops when I think about how awful that day was. It started with me in a frothing fury because a former prisoner had spun a web of lies about Kathleen Folbigg in exchange for payment from a weekly women’s magazine to feed her drug habit. And it ended with me being told never to bother darkening my employer’s doorstep again. You don’t realise just how distressing something like that will be until it actually happens and punches you hard in the gut.

(Click here to read the gossip column inches I wish I hadn’t scored out of it, after a career spent under the radar. Shudder.)

Am I sorry I did it? Well, it wasn’t the smartest. What did I think was going to happen when I lashed out like that? And I still feel awful about the people who’d given me the job in the first place and copped the backlash.

But I don’t regret standing up for an underdog who couldn’t fight back and telling the truth behind the appalling lies.

And I don’t regret refusing to take the blog down. Hell, they’d have sacked me either way! Although, ironically, by sacking me they scored themselves waaaaay more negative publicity than my teensy tiny blog post was ever going to achieve under its own steam.

I hope that there are certain people out there who will squirm with shame when the holes in the case against Kathy are brought before the legal system again … if they have the conscience for that.

Here’s what I said (ok, confession, this is a revised version after I calmed down, the original has been lost in the ether and may have mentioned me being ashamed to have been a former editor, which I’m not. I’m incredibly proud of those years):

Betrayal hurts. Especially when it’s by someone you thought was a friend. Having a confidante expose your secrets for money is a pretty low blow.

I saw the cover of a certain women’s magazine yesterday and it made me want to cry.

The story about Kathleen Folbigg made me angry on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to start. The beginning is always a good place.

“Child Killer Outrage – Why She’s So Happy In Jail” is an interview with two former prison inmates, one of whom shared a prison cell with Kathy. The women don’t reveal their real names. The story suggests it’s because they fear repercussions, but it’s actually so readers can’t Google them and discover the crimes they committed against children that landed them in protective custody themselves.  They hide behind pseudonyms and fabricate their tall tales.

It’s so easy (and cowardly) to be loose with the truth when the person you are slandering can’t defend themselves. Kathy, as a prisoner, has no hope of pressing a libel suit for their allegations, for example that she got a “plum” job as “a reward for informing on other inmates and sleeping with a male prison guard”.

And don’t get me started on the inaccuracies those women peddle in the story. Such as the assertion Kathy’s “plum job” is working as a receptionist at the jail. She hasn’t been in that role for quite some time. Until recently, she was vaccuming, cleaning and mopping her wing in return for a miniscule wage. Should she be derided for that, too? As a mutual friend, Megz, points out: “It sux, she doesn’t want to just sit on her arse like a lot of them and she gets vilified for it.”

And the photograph in the article wasn’t taken “just a few weeks ago” – going by her hairdo, I’m guessing it’s actually many years old, like most of the outdated information the woman have offered.

The article also states she is “given” things like “free tobacco” to calm her down (she doesn’t smoke) and a “luxury” balcony to enjoy the summer breeze (a ledge barely wider than her body width and surrounded by bars).

As for the suggestion that Kathy walks “around the majority of the day smiling and heavily made up without a care in the world” … Do they seriously expect me to believe that life in prison is fun?

They assert Kathy spends “hours watching LCD flat-screen TVs”, pampering herself with “luxury beauty products and clothes” and lives in a “palatial cell” … I am gob-smacked.  How absolutely bloody ridiculous.

Let me tell you what life is really like for Kathy in prison.

There’s nothing palatial about a cell with a lino floor, a set of bunk beds with plastic-covered mattresses, and a shower, toilet and sink along the other wall. How could anyone be carefree, locked inside that cell from 3.30pm every afternoon until 8.30am the next day, and from 11.30am to 12.30pm every lunchtime for 26 years.

Yes, Kathy watches hours of TV. And she pays a rental fee for the privilege. Are they seriously suggesting the government take televisions away from prisoners? Kathy also reads and does crossword puzzles to pass the time. Should we take books away from her as well?

As for “luxury” clothes … sure, as long as they’re bottle green or maroon. And the last time I checked, they weren’t top of Karl Lagerfeld’s list of trendy shades. (His lipstick range isn’t on the prison buy-up list either, funnily enough.)

It would be laughable if the intent wasn’t so vicious. Shame on those women.

NB Regular readers will be aware that I visit Kathy in prison. If you are new to the blog, go to Murder, Medicine & Motherhood for background on the story.

5 thoughts on “The anniversary I’m not celebrating

  1. I will note this day by at least reminding u that there is a heap of us that r very proud of what you did – takes alot of guts to openly stand up for your own rights let alone someone elses!!

  2. You should be incredibly proud of what you did. You have more courage than I could even imagine and I know what I cop when standing up for Kathleen when face to face with people. But to put it out in a blog…you have my admiration.

  3. Good on you Alana. I can see why it would’ve hurt to see your former employer stoop to publishing such fabrications – especially since they are obviously more willing to do this to a person who has no way of defending herself. You have integrity and should be very proud of yourself for standing up for Kathleen. The whole incident serves as a very effective reminder that just because it’s in a magazine (usually a women’s magazine that’s published weekly) doesn’t mean it’s true. Keep up your good work!

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