Some “Pizzagate” Notes

From CNN:

A suspect arrested Sunday with an assault rifle at a Washington, DC pizzeria admitted he had come to investigate an online conspiracy theory, Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department said Sunday evening in a statement.

…”During a post arrest interview this evening, the suspect revealed that he came to the establishment to self-investigate ‘Pizza Gate’ (a fictitious online conspiracy theory),” the police department said in a statement.

“Pizza Gate” is a name given to the online false news stories begun last month that charged the Comet Ping Pong restaurant and its owner were involved in a child sex operation. The owner has vehemently denied the charges, but they continued to proliferate online…

The report comes not long after the conspiracy was covered by the BBC:

In early November, as Wikileaks steadily released piles of emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, one contact caught the attention of prankster sites and people on the paranoid fringes.

James Alefantis is the owner of Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in Washington. He’s also a big Democratic Party supporter and raised money for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He was once in a relationship with David Brock, an influential liberal operative.

Alefantis – who’s never met Clinton – appeared in the Podesta emails in connection with the fundraisers.

…Despite the complete lack of physical evidence or victim testimony, there are reasons why the hardcore conspiracy theorists are particularly sensitive to allegations of child sex abuse.

It’s known, for instance that Bill Clinton and Donald Trump flew on the private plane of convicted child abuser Jeffery Epstein

I discussed Podesta emails in the days before the US election – Wikileaks did not just release the emails, but editorialised to encourage readers to believe that Tony Podesta’s association with a performance artist was evidence that the brothers were involved in bizarre occultic ritual activity. The online mob needed little encouragement: scars on John Podesta’s hands from an operation for Dupuytren contracture were interpreted as ritual wounds; and a photo of Podesta with a drawing of a fish on his hand to advertise the environmental protection of oceans was obviously “really” a reference to Osiris.

Alt-right conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich (1) then made the link to Epstein, while also drawing attention to diplomatic efforts on behalf of Laura Silsby, an incompetent and dubious “rescuer” of Haitian orphans who fell foul of the law when she attempted to remove orphans to the Dominican Republic. Can it be proven that the plan wasn’t to bring these children to Epstein? Meanwhile, other conspiracy theorists began looking for code words in John Podesta’s emails: thus a “hotdog” is in fact a “boy”, “cheese” refers to a “little girl”, and – perhaps most significantly for what has now followed – “pizza” refers to “girl”. This list has been passed around widely.

Meanwhile, a similar story linking Clinton to “sex crime with children” was published by a site called True Pundit, which falsely claimed that evidence had been discovered on Huma Abedin’s laptop. That story was promoted online by General Michael Flynn, a former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and now Trump’s choice for National Security Adviser. Flynn’s son has now waded into the fray, opining that “Until #pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story. The left seems to  forget #PodestaEmails and the many ‘coincidences’ tied to it.” Currently, Flynn Jnr is also promoting statements by one Jack Posobiec that the Washington suspect, Edgar Maddison Welch, is a “false flag”, based on the fact that he appeared in a film in 2009 and is therefore an actor.

A couple of British conspiracies are also now being brought into the mix: one item of fake news shows supposed police e-fits of the Podestas as suspects in the Madeleine McCann case (at least that gets Clement Freud off the hook), and the BBC News article on “Pizzagate” has been dismissed as misinformation from Jimmy Savile’s protectors. There is little point arguing with these sorts of conspiracy theorists, since they know as well as anyone that the links they claim to have discovered are either absurdly tenuous or downright fraudulent. Conspiracy theories offer a satisfying sense of superiority, while foul denunciations against individuals perceived as belonging to the “elite” make the accuser feel empowered. And some of the players are simply cynics, dumping fake news into the public sphere for political reasons – debunkers can be ignored, or the mob turned against them as needed. Those instincts are now endorsed by the man who is set to take the highest political office in the USA next month.

The BBC also highlights another element to the story: an unexpected Turkish dimension, as described by the Daily Dot:

In the last week, all Turkish pro-government papers, including mainstream publications like Sabah, A Haber, Yeni Şafak, Akşam and Star, ran similar stories about the PizzaGate, using the very same images and claims from a (now banned) subreddit to convince their readers on how serious and deep-rooted the scandal was. Columnists penned articles that the PizzaGate is a part of the globalist conspiracy against Turkey, and one article even remarked that the “Teenage” in pizza-eating Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles now makes sense as a pedophilia reference after PizzaGate.

…Timing of PizzaGate was significant in that it initially blurred the public debate abound the actual child abuse problem in Turkey. Back in March, when a real child abuse scandal was revealed at the government-linked Ensar Foundation, the perpetrator received a heavy jail sentence, but the government was spared from an investigation by a diluting the issue in the Parliament. This week, Erdogan’s party brought an even more controversial draft bill that would give amnesty to child abusers if they marry their victims.

UPDATE: A further report in the Washington Post explains that nearby businesses have also been assimilated into the conspiracy theory and are now facing threats of violence. These include another pizza restaurant, supposedly involved in child pornography because of a heart logo on its website (actually a fundraiser for a children’s research hospital), and a bookshop.

UPDATE 2: One person who saw the possibility of cashing in was none other than Milo Yiannopoulos, who promised a talk on “Pizzagate: The Deep Dish on Democrats and Pedophilia”. It’s not known if he intended to endorse the conspiracy theory or just use it as a springboard for a rant on something else, although he did previously promote the “Spirit Cooking” story.

Speaking to his audience at Miami University,  Yiannopoulos began by saying: “sadly when I announced I was going to be speaking about Pizzagate this evening, I got a number of phone calls with Washington D.C. area codes saying ‘not yet’.” Thus Yiannopoulos hints that he has inside information, and gives the impression that he is in communication with important people who also have extra information, which will be revealed in due course. These are the games of a self-promoting sociopath.

Excurcus

One irony in all this is that paintings by a British female artist known as Kim Noble (not to be confused with the British male artist and comedian of the same name) have somehow become mixed into the conspiracy. Noble is a schizophrenic who paints in a variety of styles, which she says relate to her different personalities, including one called “Ria Pratt”. As Ria Pratt, she has painted a number of impressionistic images of ritual sexual abuse against children, which she claims to have suffered as a child. These images have apparently been recognised as artistically noteworthy, and some are available to view on the Saatchi Art website.

It has been suggested that she also provided some artwork for the pizza restaurant, and that this is thus evidence that somehow supports the “Pizzagate” conspiracy. The implication seems to be that her paintings celebrate abuse, when in fact they are are the anguished images of someone who believes herself to be a victim, and who wishes to expose the horror of it all. It may be relevant here that Noble has spent a long time in therapy under Valerie Sinason, the UK’s leading proponent of the belief that therapy can recover memories of ritual sexual abuse. Sinason claims that two patients had disclosed to her in the 1990s that Jimmy Savile was a ritual abuser, although for some reason she did not mention this until other posthumous allegations against Savile appeared in the media.

Footnote

(1) Cernovich complains bitterly that he is not alt-right, and that claims to the contrary are “fake news”. However, in October wrote on Twitter (in a Tweet since deleted but which still comes up as a Google search result) that “I went from libertarian to alt-right after realizing tolerance only went one way and diversity is code for white genocide”.

Andy Woodward: Some Notes on Timing and a “Stalker” Allegation

(amended – H/T Bandini in the comments)

From the Guardian:

It began with the former footballer Andy Woodward bravely stepping out of the shadows to describe to the Guardian the sexual abuse he endured as a young player. Two weeks on it has spiralled into a scandal engulfing clubs and communities across the UK.

By Friday, 18 police forces were investigating leads from at least 350 alleged victims, the NSPCC children’s charity was processing almost 1,000 reports to a hotline and one of the world’s most famous clubs, Chelsea, was facing questions about whether it had tried to hush up abuse allegations.

Woodward’s abuser was convicted of child sex offences against him and others some years ago (many of the reports do not make clear that Woodward was one of the complainants at that time). However, there is now a new police investigation, and as such there are legal restrictions on discussing the matter further in the UK.

By waiving his right to anonymity, Woodward had to overcome a sense of humiliation and shame that often overwhelms and silences victims of sexual crime. It is also reasonable to suppose that being a male victim of a male predator within a masculine environment made disclosure particularly difficult – as demonstrated by boorish comments from the darts commentator Eric Bristow, who responded by mocking footballers as “wimps” for not subjecting abusers to vigilante punishments (in a subsequent interview with Piers Morgan, Bristow managed to explain – despite constant hectoring from Morgan whenever he attempted to speak – that he had wanted to encourage victims to come forward sooner, although he later made an apology and deleted some Tweets).

However, there are a couple of aspects to the new publicity around Woodward that require a bit of critical scrutiny beyond merely referring to Woodward’s “bravery”. First, reports have mentioned in passing that Woodward was very recently dismissed from his position as a police officer with the Lancashire Constabulary “for having a relationship with the adult sister of a crime victim”. Thus Woodward had a particular motive for speaking out at this time – instant redemption from professional disgrace. Yet no-one in the media, so far as I can see, has asked him about the connection between the two events, which occurred just a week apart.

Second, Woodward entered into a bizarre Twitter exchange with the libertarian barrister Barbara Hewson, after Barbara challenged the idea that being the victim of sexual crime means that one’s life is inevitably “ruined”. Obviously, this was a provocative and controversial interjection into the discussion. She did not address Woodward directly, but her comment was brought to his attention by self-styled “CSA campaigners”, some of whom are quite reckless in their embrace of conspiracy theories and vicious in their pursuit of those facing allegations or those deemed to be insufficiently credulous.

Woodward’s response was to announce “@BarbaraHewson complete troll and stalker. Police are dealing with it”. It seems to me troubling that a high-profile figure can make such a confident boast of police action with nothing to substantiate it. Perhaps Woodward was genuinely upset and Tweeted while angry – but he has not withdrawn his claim.

Genuine victims deserve sympathy and support – but that does not mean that they become saints who can do no wrong. In this instance, Woodward attempted to use his new public status to bully someone into silence over a view he disagrees with. By his own account, he is also interacting with police with that purpose in mind. Although from what I know of Barbara I wouldn’t fancy his chances very much, this is not something that should pass unchallenged.

Scottish Esotericist Who Claimed Maitreya Appeared in Kenya in 1988 Has Died

Here’s one I missed from a few weeks ago – an obituary in the Daily Telegraph:

Benjamin Creme, who has died aged 93, was a Scottish painter, esotericist and author who spent much of his life as an evangelist for the coming of a “new world teacher”, whom Creme called Maitreya.

…He first came to international attention in 1982, when he took out a series of full-page advertisements in newspapers in Europe and America and staged a press conference in Los Angeles proclaiming the arrival of  Maitreya who, according to Creme, had left his abode in the Himalayas in a “self-created” human body and flown from Pakistan in a jumbo jet to London, where he was working as a night porter in a hospital.

maitreya-kenyaCreme was head of a Theosophical group called Share International, and he was most famous for promoting the claim that Maitreya had appeared at a prayer meeting in Nairobi in 1988, where he had been identified as Jesus. Photographs of a mysterious Arab- or Indian-looking figure (right) became a familiar sight in Share International’s advertising in newspapers and New Age magazines and in newsagents’ windows.

The story has its origins with an article that appeared in the Kenya Times, the content of which is summarised on Share International’s website:

About 6,000 worshippers at Muslim Village, Kawangware, Nairobi, believe they saw Jesus Christ, in broad daylight last week.

The scene was at the Church of Bethlehem, where Mary Sinaida Akatsa conducts miracle prayers, praying for the sick, the blind, cripples, mad people, and the barren.

…She announced that God had spoken to her and told her to “await a miracle because a very important guest would be coming to give her a very vital message.”

Five minutes later, she asked those who were singing to stop as the messenger had arrived. “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus of Nazareth!” went the loud whispers from the crowd as they raised up their hands in divine welcome.

…It took the crowd nearly 20 minutes to recover after the man left the meeting in a car belonging to a Mr Gurnam Singh, who offered to give him a lift. But it will probably take Mr Singh his lifetime to recover from the shock he got two minutes later. On reaching the bus terminus, the man informed Mr Singh to stop the car. On getting out, he walked a few paces beside the road and simply vanished into thin air.

The UPI produced a follow-up piece, which explained that the original article had been headlined “Did Jesus Christ come to Nairobi?” and that there had been speculation that the appearance had been arranged because of large crowds at a Reinhardt Bonnke rally nearby. It adds that according to Singh, the man had “asked to be dropped at the no. 56 bus stop ‘to alight and head for heaven'”. A later report suggests that rather than vanishing “into thin air”, the man had “vanished into the crowd” at the bus stop.

The UPI also noted that the Kenya Times happened “to be conducting a big circulation drive under the tutelage of a team of British tabloid experts”, and Akatsa has more recently claimed that she had been misrepresented:

A few years [before 1988], Prophetess Mary Akatsa, founder of the Jerusalem Church of Christ had prophesied that the Messiah would drop by her church.

Mary Sinaida Dorcas Akatsa now denies she brought Jesus Christ to Nairobi. She says the Indian looking man with long beards had “only came for prayers.”

“But my enemies used his presence to spread rumours and make me look bad in the eyes of the public,” says Prophetess Akatsa, who rose to prominence in the 1980s and 90s through her prayers and healing to the sick and disabled.

So far as I am aware, the “Indian looking man” has never been identified. The appropriation of the story by an occult group based in the UK and USA (California, inevitably) is a particularly striking example of how religious ideas are spread and their meaning transformed. And the interest was reciprocated, with some fundamentalist Christians in turn incorporating Creme’s claims into their own beliefs about the coming of the anti-Christ.

Ironically, Creme’s death came just a few weeks ahead of reports that a bearded Australian backpacker named Daniel Christos is exciting similar interest in Kenya; according to Mpasho,

social media was awash with news that Jesus was spotted on the streets of Nairobi walking barefoot. Kenyans went ahead to take selfies with the heavily bearded man who resembled Jesus (at least according to the movies we’ve watched about the son of God) and the whole nation couldn’t stop talking about him.

Women Accuse Billy Graham’s Grandson Tullian Tchividjian of Narcissistic Spiritual Abuse

(H/T some links via the Christian Post)

A website called Spiritual Sounding Board is in the process of publishing an account by a woman named Rachel of her affair with Tullian Tchividjian, the pastor grandson of Billy Graham. Three parts have so far appeared (here, here and here); her story also complements posts by Nate Sparks, a blogger (here and here), which relate accounts by other women who have interacted with Tchividjian.

It is well known that Tchividjian – who has just re-married after divorce – had had an affair with a member of his congregation while he was a pastor at Coral Ridge in Florida, although it wasn’t made clear at the time that the woman involved was also married. He stepped down from a subsequent position at Willow Creek earlier this year, after details of another earlier affair (which Coral Ridge had covered up) came to light.

However, the new material, written with some insight into issues around manipulative behaviour and narcissism, lifts the lid on what appears to be a case of a systematic spiritual abuser. Of course, not every detail can be corroborated, but the accounts offer a very plausible explanation for how the Tchividjian scandals arose, and there is some tangible evidence in the form of an invoice and cheque, as well as screenshots of text messages apparently sent by Tchividjian in which he asked another woman (Lisa) to attack critics on his behalf.

From these, we can see that Rachel paid $11,130 to South Florida Private Investigators Inc, and that Tchividjian paid her this amount some time later. According to Rachel, the firm was hired at Tchividjian’s behest to investigate his now ex-wife, in the hope of finding evidence of an affair. She also says that the cheque only arrived after she publicly accused him owing the debt.

Meanwhile, the screenshots (on Sparks’s blog) include one in which Tchividjian describes Julie Anne Smith, who runs the Spiritual Sounding Board website, as a “bitch” whom he asks Lisa to “get”. The texts also express extreme hostility towards his brother Boz Tchividjian, with Tullian describing him as a “snake” and a  “douche”, and asking Lisa to “pray that he dies” (this last followed by a smiley). It is perhaps relevant here that Boz Tchividjian is known for his efforts to combat and expose sex abuse within Protestant churches (Boz formed the basis for a longform article by Kathryn Joyce that appeared in the American Prospect in 2014).

Rachel also includes some broader observations:

This story is a very public example of pastoral sexual abuse – something unfortunately prevalent in the church. It is also a case study in how our ways of doing church often promote someone with a narcissistic personality and cocoon him in a position that only feeds his pathology.

Further (dots in original):

Tullian Tchividjian was a perfect storm to form a self-absorbed personality. He had the pressures of growing up in a “Christian Royal Family” (as he put it), his “middle child syndrome,” small stature, and years as quite an extreme prodigal … the ability to find easy promotion (beyond his qualification) in the Christian world due to his family name … genetic factors … family dysfunction. Many things contributed to Tullian evolving into who he is now. And who he is, is extremely dangerous to the body of Christ.

I do not believe Tullian can stop. He is addicted to his narcissistic supply. He pretends he is submitting to godly counselors, but he merely has “yes men” and “pocket pets”… people he can control. Once he burns bridges or gets caught in lies, he moves on to new horizons. He continually is scheming up a plan. He blocks all challenge and believes his own fantasy narrative. And he is incredibly, incredibly, charming, deceitful, and cunning. He fools even highly intelligent people and creates hierarchies of supporters, both male and female. He feeds off the attention others give him. He lies pathologically and appears totally immune to conscience.

For anyone whose path has ever crossed with that of a malignant narcissist, this is all rings very true.

As well as his church positions, Tchividjian also had his own vehicle, called the Liberate Network. This has now been dissolved, despite having relaunched in February. At that time, the rhetoric of “restoration” loomed large; as quoted by Christianity Today:

In February, Liberate’s board of directors relaunched the ministry with the “prayerful hope and expectation” that Tchividjian would rejoin it in the future.

“Today, Tullian continues an encouraging season of rest and healing,” the board wrote. “The elders of Willow Creek Church are presently overseeing a care plan for him, one involving routine worship, prayer, fellowship, study, professional counseling, and more.”

The missing word there, it seemed me, was “work”. Most people who lose their jobs due to misconduct are obliged to look for other kinds of  employment – both to pay the bills, and because it is clear that they are no longer suited to their previous work. It seemed to me to be grossly entitled that Tchividjian should instead get to enjoy a “season of rest”, perhaps at the expense of ordinary church members. This in itself was an indication of a manipulative individual, operating within a religious culture in need of reform.

“VIP Abuse” Detective who Warned of “Witch-Hunt” Speaks Out

The Daily Mail has a remarkable interview with the Metropolitan Police’s DCI Paul Settle, speaking in a personal capacity about his work investigating claims of “VIP sex abuse”:

DCI Settle had no idea of the ‘poisoned chalice’ he’d been handed after Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson raised a question in the Commons of a ‘powerful paedophile ring’ linked to a previous prime minister’s ‘senior adviser’.

Under-resourced, with just six staff to investigate more than 450 allegations that subsequently flooded in after Watson’s bombshell statement, DCI Settle says he set about the task ‘impartially and objectively’ — only to have his professionalism questioned by superiors within the force, who eventually removed him from the post altogether.

Settle has since been signed off from work with stress, and now spends much of his time “slumped on the sofa, often close to tears”:

‘One minute I was the lead investigator, and the next I was told I was off the case. I believe senior officers were frightened of Tom Watson; what he might do and how that might affect their careers.’

DCI Settle claims he was frozen out and isolated by senior officers.

‘It was like a switch had been turned off. One minute I was a trusted colleague — and the next it seemed people were looking at me with blank faces and avoiding me.’

The interview follows a report in the Telegraph from a couple of weeks ago that Settle’s wife had written to the Met Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, complaining about how her husband has been treated.

Tom Watson asked his question in parliament in October 2012 after allegations had been brought to his attention by a retired child protection officer named Peter McKelvie; on his website (on a page now deleted), Watson clarified that he was referring to McKelvie’s concern that “a wider investigation regarding the activities of convicted paedophile, Peter Righton was not fully investigated”.

The subsequent flurry of activity led to the conviction of Charles Napier (who admits his crimes) and two other individuals, but it also stirred up false claims and old rumours about Westminster-based “VIP paedophiles” that had previously appeared in sources such as Scallywag magazine in the 1990s. Watson was thereafter put into contact with “Nick”, who claims to have seen MPs rape and murder children, as well as “Jane”, who says that she had been raped by Leon Brittan as a young woman in 1967. McKelvie later distanced himself from a number of the more sensational “VIP” claims, although not in a way that was to his credit – as I discussed here.

During this period, Watson had a number of meetings with Settle, including one in February 2014 in which Settle explained to him why “Jane’s” complaint had been dropped in September 2013 without Brittan being interviewed. Watson appeared to accept his account, but he then wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions demanding Jane be interviewed. The letter did not formally reach the police via the DPP until 2 June 2014, but its contents were published by Exaro on 17 May 2014.

On 19 May 2014, Settle was told that a standard police review had decided that Brittan ought to be interviewed under caution as a matter of procedure after all, even though the closing of the case in September 2013 had been based on CPS advice. The new Mail article has some background:

…as the investigation got under way, DCI Settle — who began to feel that many of the allegations his team worked round the clock to corroborate were the work of plausible ‘fantasists’ or Left-wing activists — was soon viewed as a lone voice…

‘The complainant was a troubled woman with a long history of problems, who only came forward with her allegation after Tom Watson’s question in the Commons.

‘She could not remember where the alleged attack had taken place, and there was no proof she ever met Lord Brittan,’ DCI Settle says.

‘We tracked down people she named in her statement — no mean feat after 47 years — none of whom could corroborate her account.

‘One of her friends said they’d never met Lord Brittan socially, nor was he part of their circle.

‘The woman claimed that Lord Brittan had phoned her flat asking to speak to her, but the lady who supposedly took the call denied ever having received it.

‘I consulted the Crown Prosecution Service — who reviewed the file anonymously without knowing it involved a prominent person.

‘They concurred with my decision and said no further action should be taken.

Settle gave evidence about the subject to the Home Affairs Select Committee in October 2015, as I discussed here; he went so far as to say that Brittan’s interview under caution that later followed (at Brittan’s home, during his terminal illness) had been unlawful, and to describe the investigation as a “baseless witch-hunt”

Was the 19 May decision prompted by Watson, or was it going to happen anyway? I discussed some views about this here, and the CPS says not; either way, though, it turned out that Settle’s initial decision had been correct: “Jane’s” account is not just uncorroborated, but is positively contradicted by witnesses whom she herself named. (1)

However, I do have a couple of concerns about the rhetoric. Unless “Jane” has a previous history of dishonesty or delusions, the fact that she “was a troubled woman” ought not to be relevant; vague suggestions of mental illness are not helpful, and are perhaps discriminatory.

It was also previously reported that Jane is a Labour Party activist; when the above refers to allegations from “Left-wing activists”, is this a reference to Jane, made into a plural by the journalist for sensational effect, or are there really others? It seems to me that this is problematic, for two reasons: political differences should not invalidate a complaint; and, if false complaints are being made for political reasons, then these must be simply malicious and should be prosecuted.

The new interview article also includes the detail that Settle

…was later placed under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission after being accused of leaking personal information about another complainant — an accusation he fiercely denies.

This appears to confirm that Settle is the unnamed officer referenced in an Exaro article from January (no longer available due to the demise of Exaro) headlined “IPCC Probes Panorama Source over leaking of CSA survivors’ IDs”. This headline heavily implied that there had definitely been a leak that the police were probing, when in fact police were merely looking into an allegation of a leak  – a complaint most likely filed by someone at Exaro, thus generating their own exclusive.

But several of Exaro‘s supposed “VIP abuse” survivors had had their own contacts with other media professionals, and we can be sure that their names were generally known within the industry when Panorama began work on its documentary on the subject. This is particularly the case with “Nick”, who not only previously appeared on TV talking about Jimmy Savile but who at one stage had a large body of self-published writing available online.

Footnote

(1) The Daily Mail‘s current sympathy for Settle should not mean that we forget a sensationalising article it published in July 2014, which  heavily implied that the original police decision had been improper and mysterious. That article began with the claim that “Former Home Secretary Leon Brittan was only questioned over allegations he raped a student in 1967 following demands by the Director of Public Prosecutions, it has been claimed”, and added that she had “looked into the case herself after the campaigning Labour MP Tom Watson wrote to her asking that she examine the way the police handled the case”.

But that was before “campaigning Labour MP Tom Watson” became Deputy Leader of the Opposition and thus “witch-hunter Watson“, and before “Nick” had been thoroughly debunked.

Patriarch of Moscow Expresses “Respect and Gratitude” For Fidel Castro

The website of the Russian Orthodox Church carries a letter from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to Raul Castro:

Comandante Fidel was one of the most famous and outstanding state leaders of today. He gained international authority and became a legend already in his lifetime. Being flesh of the flesh of the Cuban people, he devoted all his power to make his homeland truly independent and occupy a worthy place in the world family of nations.

In the Russian Orthodox Church the name of Fidel Castro is always pronounced with respect and gratitude. With Comandante’s personal participation, a church dedicated to the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God has been erected in Havana, and Fidel, in his own expression, was ‘the commissar of the construction’.

The letter has also been reported by the pro-Kremlin Interfax news agency, which adds some background:

When he was young, the comandante was keen on the ideas of revolution and socialism, but he stood for cooperation with believers in struggle for the fair society and he once said that “there are ten thousand times more coincidences between Christianity and Communism than between Christianity and Capitalism,” and “a martyr for a religious idea” is made “of the same material as the revolutionary hero.”

Those pro-religion quotes appear to have been sourced from conversations between Castro and the liberation theologian Frei Betto in 1985, more recently published in English as Fidel and Religion. This account of course glosses over historic human rights abuses under Fidel Castro – including religious persecution – and it also ignores a current upsurge in religious oppression under his brother’s rule.

Fidel Castro wrote a short article praising the Russian Orthodox Church in 2008, which can be read in English here. Castro recalled that

…After the demise of the USSR, this church was not an ally of imperialism. That’s why in 2004, when His Eminence Vladimir Mijailovich Gundiaev, Kiril Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad visited our country, I suggested building a Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church in the capital of Cuba as a monument to Cuban-Russian friendship.

Gundiaev (var. Vladimir Gundjaev) is of course now that very same Patriarch Kirill who has sent condolences to his brother. Castro continued:

Tomorrow, Thursday, he [Gundiaev] will be in Venezuela talking with President Chavez. Both draw inspiration from identical ethical principles derived from the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the Gospels, a religious belief they both share. After that, he will be visiting Ecuador to talk with [Rafael] Correa, a political leader who was trained in the Liberation Theology.

…There is no reason to make the least concession to Yankee imperialism. I am under the impression that His Eminence feels the same way.

The column was the subject of caustic commentary by Christopher Hitchens, who observed that

…Fidel Castro has devoted the last 50 years to two causes: first, his own enshrinement as an immortal icon, and second, the unbending allegiance of Cuba to the Moscow line. Now, black-cowled Orthodox “metropolitans” line up to shake his hand… The ideology of Moscow doesn’t much matter as long as it is anti-American, and the Russian Orthodox Church has been Putin’s most devoted and reliable ally in his re-creation of an old-style Russian imperialism.

… Putin and Medvedev have made it clear that they want to reinstate Cuba’s role in the hemisphere, if only as a bore and nuisance for as long as its military dictatorship can be made to last. Castro’s apparent deathbed conversion to a religion with no Cuban adherents is the seal on this gruesome pact.

Talk of the “deathbed” proved to be premature, although it turned out that Castro’s ally in Venezuela was not long for this world. I noted Kirill’s similarly effusive reaction to Chavez’s death at the time.

It should be remembered that in 2007 Time magazine described the ROC as Putin’s “main ideological arm and a vital foreign policy instrument”.

Police Probing Recovered “Memories” of Satanic Ritual Abuse Involving Former Prime Minister Edward Heath

mail-on-sunday-heathThe Mail on Sunday has some remarkable information about the police investigation into the late Edward Heath, revealing allegations of Satanic Ritual Abuse and the role of “recovered memory” therapy. The details have been put into the public domain by Dr Rachel Hoskins, (1) an independent police expert who was asked by Wiltshire Police to review statements by a woman accuser and Operation Midland’s “Nick”.

Hoskins reveals that the woman accuser – named “Lucy X” in the article – had previously made claims of child abduction and Satanic murder after seeing a therapist in Alberta, Canada, in 1988. This therapist (“Fiona”) had herself been mentored by Lawrence Pazder, author of the notorious Michelle Remembers hoax.

Lucy X came to believe she had been the victim of Satanic Ritual Abuse after having memories recovered via hypnosis:

The stories that Lucy X began ‘remembering’ took her back to her childhood in Britain and in Africa. At first the detail in her diaries is scant. But Lucy’s descriptions grow ever more detailed under hypnosis: satanic ritual abuse in empty houses, in churches and on Salisbury Plain.

Eventually she ‘remembered’ that members of the paedophile ring had gorged themselves on blood and body parts. They maimed and murdered children in orgiastic sacrifices at the stake or on altars.

Lucy X reported this to police in 1989, but no investigation followed. And now, more than 25 years later:

Lucy soon spoke with three other women she knew well. They met and swapped fantastical tales.

Earlier this year they would ‘remember’ that Heath was a prime mover in a network of sadistic paedophile abusers.

He had apparently taken part in rituals surrounded by candles on the forest floor.

In other words, she (and her three friends) suddenly remembered the involvement of the former Prime Minister after sensational sex-abuse allegations and conspiracy theories about Heath had appeared in the media in August 2015 – including the incredible story that Heath had been present at a paedophilic orgy during which he had persuaded Harvey Proctor not to castrate “Nick” [See also update below].

Hoskins also raises the possibility of other connections:

Lucy X’s father is said to have worked alongside Nick’s dad in the same community, although it is not known if Nick and Lucy X have ever met. There appear to be links, too, in the way their evidence was produced.

Like Lucy X, Nick also told tales of ritual abuse. His early stories related to the same location where Lucy X’s family lived, before moving on to describe a VIP paedophile ring based out of Dolphin Square, London.

Helping Nick to ‘remember’ this abuse… was his psychotherapist, who took the trouble to accompany Nick to a scene of his apparent abuse.

It’s difficult to know how much significance to place in the same early location given by both – was it a place that was already the subject of online stories? Was it somewhere with particular folklore/occult connections? The fathers having “worked alongside” each others is also vague – we know that Nick’s father (or, rather, step-father) worked for an employer with thousands of employees.

However, the detail that Nick’s psychotherapist took Nick “to a scene of his apparent abuse” is significant. In February, the Guardian ran an article stating that police had evidence “pointing to the credibility of aspects of the account given by ‘Nick'”, in particular his ability to recall details of a private location where he had supposedly been abused many years ago.

This location is an army training site that is usually closed to the public, but Nick’s old blog (since deleted) showed that he and his therapist had gone there on a public open day in 2013. My understanding from this was that Nick must have impressed the police by describing the site but not disclosing that he had been there just recently – which would make him a hoaxer, and not just delusional.

However, the fact that Hoskins has this information from Wiltshire Police now raises a disturbing alternative possibility I had not considered: that the Metropolitan Police in fact did know that Nick had been to the site in 2013 – but decided to issue a misleading statement to the Guardian that made Nick’s account seem more impressive than it really was, and themselves less credulous. This was just weeks before Operation Midland finally closed down in ignominy.

Therapists “helping” people to “recover” memories has been an ongoing fiasco for years, and it’s deeply frustrating to find that it is still being taken seriously in 2016. The most tragic case is that of Carol Felstead, who, following therapy, claimed to have been violently sexually abused by politicians; she also accused family members of Satanic-related crimes that were easily disprovable. Carol died in 2005, estranged from her loved ones and tormented by the traumatic false beliefs that her therapists had put into her head. Yet according to Hoskins, the  police officer who launched the Heath investigation (the aptly named Detective Superintendent Sean Memory) was “concerned” at references to Nick’s and Lucy X’s credibility being included in his report.

Claims that now-deceased British politicians had been involved in Satanism in the 1980s were also aired in March 2015 –  in that instance, the allegations were dredged up from a 1986 fraud trial.

Update

UPDATE: A follow-up article in The Times adds the details that

The satanic allegations against him were supposed to have happened in the 1950s…

The force was contacted by three women who in the 1980s had previously made allegations to it of satanic ritual abuse involving a man referred to as ‘Ed’, Dr Hoskins told The Times.

Heath, of course, was often referred to as “Ted Heath”, but I’m not aware that “Ed Heath” was ever a usage. But in any case, the story is ludicrous, and it remains unexplained why none of the women (four including Lucy X herself) were able to identify Heath before now.

UPDATE 2: Mike Veale, the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police, has issued a statement:

…Over the last few weeks particularly, there has been much speculation about this case. Whilst it is not commonplace for us to comment on a live ongoing criminal investigation (which is what Operation Conifer is) I really am very concerned and profoundly disappointed about the impact of this speculation on the public’s confidence in the police, the potential prejudicial impact upon a live criminal investigation, not to mention the confidence of persons who have come forward with information.

…It is well known Sir Edward Heath died approximately 10 years ago; therefore there remains the likelihood that witnesses that can serve to corroborate or, equally as important, negate the allegations are still alive. If abuse has occurred then it remains relevant to support those affected and seek to bring to justice any person still living who may have committed associated criminal offences.

…a significant number of individuals have disclosed allegations of abuse. I will not be confirming numbers of people who have come forward.

…Maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of people who courageously come forward with information also remains an absolute priority for us.

…As part of the Operation Conifer investigation, we have not spoken to the witness known as ‘Nick’.

The recent media coverage regarding a confidential report that had been commissioned by Wiltshire Police as part of the investigation, through a recognised National Crime Agency registered expert, referred to satanic ritual sex abuse. Let me be clear, this part of the investigation is only one small element of the overall enquiry and does not relate to Sir Edward Heath…

The Chief Constable at least recognises that allegations may be “negated”; but referring to “people who courageously come forward with information” clearly implies that claims being made have been accepted as truthful.

Veale’s statement about the SRA element also raises another issue: if this particular allegation has nothing to do with Heath, despite Operation Conifer’s terms of reference, then clearly there has been “mission creep” of some kind. The Guardian writes that “Wiltshire chief constable says significant number of people have disclosed claims of historical abuse against ex-prime minister”, but this is inferred from Veale’s statement rather than quoted directly. The “significant number of individuals” may, apparently, in fact refer to allegations against others, who have been linked into Operation Conifer for reasons that are currently obscure – and perhaps tenuous (such as someone having the name “Ed”).

Note also that although Wiltshire Police has not met “Nick”, the statement does not clarify whether there has been liaison with the Metropolitan Police about his claims.

It is easy for police to suggest that critics lack the information required to make an informed assessment of the situation, but after the fiasco of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Midland there is no good reason why we should decline to regard extraordinary claims with critical scrutiny and scepticism. The alternative is to allow them to grow and fester unchecked until they are firmly lodged in collective memory.

Footnote

(1) Rachel Hoskins, formerly Richard Hoskins, previously assisted police with the case of “Adam”, the murdered black boy whose torso was found by the Thames in 2001.

Jo Cox Killer Convicted of Murder: Some Media Notes

From the BBC:

Thomas Mair has been found guilty of the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.

The 53-year-old shot and stabbed to death the mother-of-two in Birstall, West Yorkshire, on 16 June, a week before the EU referendum vote…

There was never any real doubt that Thomas Mair was going to be convicted: the prosecution case was overwhelming, and the killer virtually admitted to the act at a preliminary hearing in which he gave his name as “Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain”. The BBC has a background article on the killer here, noting his “library of extreme nationalist and racist material” and an “ornamental Nazi eagle”. It also draws attention to a loose end:

His chosen weapons were a knife and a small rifle usually used for pest control on farms.

Mair did not have the permission required to possess the rifle, and it is unclear where he got the gun and who modified it to make it more likely to kill a human.

I discussed some background to Mair as soon as he was named in the media in June, noting his subscription to South Africa Patriot magazine (actually published in the UK) and the controversy over whether he had been heard to shout “Britain first” as he committed the murder. Two witnesses (Graeme Howard and Clarke Rothwell), told media in June that he had shouted this, and this has now been confirmed by others, speaking under oath at the trial; as the BBC reported:

Giving evidence, senior caseworker Sandra Major said Mrs Cox told her and office manager Fazila Aswat to “let him hurt me, don’t let him hurt you”

…Asked whether the gunman had said anything, [Major] replied: “It was something along the lines of ‘Keep Britain independent,’ or ‘British independence.’

…At the end of the attack, the assailant stood up and said “Britain first, this is for Britain. Britain will always come first,” before walking off, [Aswat] told jurors.

Further:

Rashid Hussain told the jury at the Old Bailey he had dropped off a fare when he was alerted to loud noise like “fireworks going on”

… Mr Hussain added: “He said something and the last words were ‘Britain first.'”

A number of media reports during the trial decided to capitalise the first letter of “first”, giving the impression that Mair had referred specifically to the far-right group Britain First. However, although some people in the days after the killing thought they had spotted Mair in a photograph of a Britain First protest, the identification was doubtful and the trial did not reveal any links to the group. The overall context provided by the trial testimony suggests Mair was using the phrase in a general sense. (1)

It was also reported at the time of Mair’s arrest that he was suffering from a mental illness. From the Daily Mail:

The loner suspected of killing Jo Cox appeared deeply disturbed just 24 hours before the attack, a health counsellor said last night.

Thomas Mair said after stumbling into a ‘well-being centre’ on Wednesday night that he was depressed and had been on medication for a long time.

…The counsellor who spoke to him for about 15 minutes on Wednesday said she realised he was in ‘some sort of crisis’ and there appeared to be a ‘real problem’.

The above detail was eagerly seized on as positive evidence that the assassination in fact had nothing to do with politics at all, even though a politician had been assassinated just a week before the Brexit referendum and despite the killer’s background. Not unreasonably, there was a concern that mainstream campaigning on behalf of Brexit might be conflated opportunistically with far-right anti-foreigner sentiment (headlines in Germany were referring to “Der Brexit-killer“), and there was thus some impetus to obscure the political motive.

Leading the charge here was Louise Mensch, who railed against “the concocted story of the shout”, and mocked someone who noted Mair’s “Death to Trairtors” statement at his preliminary hearing with the reply “wibble wibble I’m a hatstand” (H/T @otto_english). Mensch also published a bombastic article on Heat Street, in which the descriptor “mentally ill” was applied to Mair no fewer than eight times in a thousand words or so:

Jo Cox’s Mentally Ill Killer Should Not Be Discussed in Parliament

…the mentally ill killer of heroic Jo Cox…

…Leading EU figures disgustingly appeared to connect mentally ill Thomas with the Brexit campaign…

Thomas Mair was severely mentally ill – and he may well, therefore, have had racist tendencies, which could be delusional…

Even if…Mair had supported the far right he was a mentally ill loner

…Thomas Mair’s mentally ill grudge was over a mental health closure whether or not there was old Nazi memorabilia at his house.

…We are seeing the full might of the EU bosses, of the Prime Minister, of the House of Commons, of the BNP, of the police – not as investigators but as leakers to the Guardian – deployed against a severely mentally ill man whom local people say was NOT motivated by politics at all.

…to pay tribute to Jo Cox you do not need to suggest what the motivations of her mentally ill killer were.

The article veered between telling readers what to think, and warning readers that it was too early to draw any conclusions, and that information about his far-right interests was “prejudicial” [see also update 2 below]. (2)

Now, it is true that many people hold hateful political views without becoming murderers; but it also the case that most people with mental health problems are harmless. No mitigation on mental-health grounds was offered at trial, and there is no reason to suppose that just because Mair was depressed and disturbed he therefore did not know what he was doing when he became a political assassin.

However, it is reasonable to infer that Mair’s consumption of far-right media may have exacerbated a mental instability, with fatal results. Mair is responsible for his action, but those who poisoned his troubled mind with hateful rhetoric and fantasies of racial superiority and political heroism through violence must take moral responsibility. By this I of course primarily mean the fringe far-right milieu that appears to have provided so much of his reading material; and it seems to me that this would have been a more sensible point for Mensch to have made.

Mensch, though, appears to be a paragon of reason when compared to some: in the USA, the conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich (“the meme mastermind of the alt-right”, according to the New Yorker) asserted that Mair is a “patsy” and that the killing “is a false flag by globalists”.  The IB Times had a round-up of this kind of thing in June.

UPDATE: In the hunt for an exclusive angle, the Daily Mail has come up with a lurid headline:

Did Neo-Nazi murder Jo over fear he’d lose council house he grew up in? Terrorist thought property could end up being occupied by an immigrant family – and the MP wouldn’t help him

According to the details:

Thomas Mair may have murdered MP Jo Cox because he feared losing his home of 40 years to an immigrant family.

…He suspected, possibly wrongly, it would be given to foreigners moving into his West Yorkshire town and believed the Labour MP would not help him, it was claimed.

…Mrs Hallas, who is the killer’s step-father’s half-sister, said he was a loner who ‘flipped’ at the thought of leaving the only home he had ever known.

‘You’ve got to look at the background,’ she said. ‘They kept pestering him to get him out of the house.

…‘So that was his home, that was his abode and they were trying to get him out. And when it all came out, they were trying to get him out for a family that had come from abroad wanting a three or two bedroomed house.’

The unstated context here seems to be the so-called “bedroom tax”, which penalizes the under-occupation of social housing in the UK. It is is unlikely that the local housing authority had any specific family in mind in wanting to shift Mair, or that Mair would have any information about it. Further, the headline’s statement of fact, that Jo Cox “wouldn’t help him”, is seriously qualified in the main text into something that someone “claims” Mair “believed”.

The paper’s whole approach here seems to me to be misjudged and distasteful, particularly when it is recalled that on 16 June 2016 – the day of Jo Cox’s death – the Daily Mail‘s front-page splash was a story about immigration to the UK from Europe that it subsequently admitted was inaccurate. Perhaps it was from such misleading headlines that Mair “possibly wrongly” got ideas from.

Analysis from Jane Martinson in the Guardian notes that the the Mail‘s coverage of Mair’s conviction continued to stress the personal and mental health angle, to the exclusion of ideology:

Most newspapers (certainly not just the Guardian) cited the judge’s own verdict that Mair killed her to advance his violent white supremacist ideology rather than because he “suspected the MP might not have helped him” to fight the council’s bid to move him.

Mail Online again highlighted Mair’s mental health and thoughts of matricide rather than his extreme ideology… 

On the day Cox was killed the Mail’s front page focused on the tragic waste of a woman “brutally murdered by a loner with a history of mental illness” as did many others. This was a week before the EU referendum, and Mair’s shouts of “Britain first” and “This is for Britain” were probably considered incendiary.

Yet Mair’s trial and most notably the judge’s verdict suggested that there was far more to his crime than the evil act of a mentally ill man.

UPDATE 2: Mensch has now returned to the subject, justifying her earlier article on the grounds that there was online misinformation in June (the touted photographs) and extrapolating from (very good) analysis of the trial by Matthew Scott to suggest (1) that the trial judge had erred in allowing the reading of an impact statement by Stephen Kinnock ahead of the jury deliberation, and (2) that the court-appointed defence lawyer had failed in not raising Mair’s mental health. However, Mensch’s new article does not re-visit her very firm assertion from June of a “concocted shout”, or the mockery with which she dismissed any political dimension to the killing.

Meanwhile, @anyabike has drawn a contrast between Mensch’s Tweet on the trial that “judges who predjuice the rights of mentally ill de[f]endents should be ashamed”, and her 2014 view that “the second pig in the #LeeRigy case should also have got a whole life term”, referring to the 45-year sentence handed to Michael Adebowale. Adebowale was spared a whole life tariff because of his age and mental health.

Mensch’s interpretation of the trial has been criticised by The Secret Barrister.

Footnotes

(1) There was also some interest in a photograph of a man in a Blood and Honour t-shirt doing a Nazi salute – however, this individual has tattoos on his arms which demonstrate that this person is not Mair.

(2) Mensch’s perspective on on this made her the target of a Twitter hoax in June by someone using the Twitter handle @topPlagiarist. Mensch wrote: “It is beyond disgusting that Remain trolls tried to link this man’s clearly longstanding psychopathy to the referendum. They are sick”. @topPlagiarist, under the name “Vote Leave” and using an unremarkable avatar, replied with “the left are desperate to point score from this and it’s so sad”. This earned an RT from Mensch, after which @topPlagiarist changed their name to “kill migrants” and their avatar to a Nazi swastika.

Many Twitter-users are unaware that the names and avatars of RT-ed Tweets can be amended by the original account holder (unlike the username or the text of a Tweet), and Mensch was thus falsely accused of having promoted a Nazi Tweet. There has now been renewed interest in the Tweet, and in the debunking screenshot (via Google cache) that I posted here.

Unreliable News Sites Attack List of Unreliable News Sites

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Last week Melissa Zimdars started keeping a list of popular but unreliable news sites — some she’d encountered on her own Facebook feed, others she’d searched for, still others drawn from suggestions by friends and colleagues. The plan was to show the list to students in her mass-communication classes at Merrimack College as an aid in teaching media literacy.

…In its current form, the document contains tips for analyzing news sources and a roster of over 100 websites that report unreliable and misleading content. Ms. Zimdars has separated those sites into four categories. Sites in the first category use “decontextualized or dubious information” and anger to generate traffic on social media. Those in the second share misleading or unreliable information. Sites in the third category use clickbait-style headlines or social-media descriptions, and those in the fourth report false news for the purpose of humor or satire.

Zimdars made the public following the controversy over whether fake news appearing on Facebook had affected the US election result: one such fake news creator, a certain Paul Horner, claims that he was responsible for Trump’s victory, and he says that he makes $10,000 a month from AdSense.

Compiling a list of fake sites must of course come with some methodological difficulties, which one writer at Reason argues are insurmountable. There isn’t any argument over the nature of satire sites such the Onion and Newsbiscuit (and my own favourite, the Babylon Bee), or over sites that concoct completely fraudulent stories (such as the Christian Times, discussed recently here), but when it comes to sites that are concerned with real events, at what point does having a particular perspective or style become a distorting lens that amounts to unreliability – or even bad faith?

It should be noted that Zimdars’ list is a rough-and-ready informal guide, and she doesn’t claim that it represents the findings of a research project. She’s also aware of the problems of categorisation:

…Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.

This is all very reasonable, and she presents her advice in a way that is creditable and fair-minded. Zimdar’s academic position is on the feminist left, but her list is even-handed and she explicitly commends a list of fake liberal news-sites compiled by longtime friend of this blog Ed Brayton.

Nevertheless, some conservative sites on the list are crying foul –  and responding with personalised attacks. WND (WorldNetDaily) – the site that inspired and guided Trump’s birtherism – wants its readers to bombard Zimdars and her employer with emails and phone calls, while Breitbart – now “the closest thing to a state-owned media entity” in the US, according to a recent piece in Fortune – whines that it is being targeted “for destruction”. That would be the same Breitbart that was unconcerned when its tech editor – Milo Yannopoulos – posted fabricated Twitter screenshots that he attributed to the actress Leslie Jones.

Sadly, Zimdars has now upped her privacy settings in the wake of the furore – understandably given the Twitchfork, but it means that her less reasonable critics are likely to sniff blood.

Rick Wiles and Mark Taylor Look Forward to “Tribunals” Under Trump

Charisma News has the latest from Mark Taylor, the Florida firefighter who says that God gave him a personal message in 2011 that Donald Trump would become president of the USA – apparently, Taylor has received further revelations about Trump’s role as God’s instrument on earth:

Now that it’s obvious much of what Taylor prophesied has come to pass, Wiles invited him back onto his program (interview begins at the one-hour mark) for an update…

…Wiles said he believed there will be intense spiritual opposition to cleaning up America, especially when it comes to “eradicating the deep-rooted corruption and spiritual wickedness in high places.” He said that what came out in the final weeks of the campaign via the WikiLeaks disclosures was “so hideous,” particularly the likelihood that senior members of the Clinton campaign were participants in occult practices, such as “spirit cooking.” [1]

Taylor referred to his original interview with Wiles, in which he said God was pulling back the veil and exposing the evil and corruption of the current government. He said it wasn’t even really a matter of the veil being pulled back as much as people were supernaturally exposing themselves without even knowing it via the WikiLeaks releases.

Taylor and Wiles then discussed the likelihood there will be tribunals convened in which divine justice will be meted out. They agreed the Lord was telling them these tribunals would be of the kind not seen since the Nuremberg Trials of former Nazi regime leaders after World War II.

“What I am actually hearing is that these tribunals will make Nuremberg look like a cake walk because this corruption goes so deep and it goes worldwide because the Clinton Foundation goes worldwide,” Taylor said. “I think it’s going to be on an international level.”

It’s clear from this that Wiles’s influence over Taylor now extends to a complete embrace of Wiles’s religious conspricism, which is extravagant in its scope. Right Wing Watch has logged dozens of examples of conspiracy statements from Wiles, ranging from “Satan Using Pokémon Go To Spawn ‘Demonic Powers’ And Murder Christians” through to “Hillary Clinton Has A Body Double, Fakes Her Campaign Rallies“, “Rick Wiles Suggests The UCC Shooting Was ‘Staged’ By ‘A Secret Death Squad’ Using ‘Crisis Actors’” and “9/11 Was Carried Out by the Illuminati“. On a more optimistic note, Wiles also recently looked forward to Right Wing Watch –  denounced as a “homosexual group” – being “brought down”.

Despite these fringe excesses, Wiles has had a stream of more mainstream right-wing commentators on his show TruNews, including former CIA director James Woolsey and the anti-Islam polemicist Robert Spencer. He has also in the last couple of years become a regular guest on the Jim Bakker Show (I blogged on Bakker’s promotion of conspiricism here). On Charisma News itself (a significant outlet for news tailored to Evangelicals and Pentecostals), a search for his name up to 2014 brings up just 1 result, followed by numerous from 2015 up to now.

Wiles can fairly be described as the religious counterpart of Alex Jones – and in a world in which Jones (by his own account) has just been phoned up by the President-Elect with a message of thanks for his support, it seems likely that he will enjoy further mainstreaming in the months ahead.

Footnote

[1] The “Spririt Cooking” conspiracy theory derives from a Wikileaks disclosure. An email showed that Tony Podesta was planning to attend a fund-raising dinner hosted by a performance artist named Marina Abramovic, and asking his brother if he wanted to come too; the dinner consisted of “traditional soups”, but Wikileaks extrapolated wildly to suggest it would actually be a bizarre Satanic ritual involving blood, breastmilk and sperm. The story was then heavily promoted by the Alt Right in the days before the election. I wrote about the absurdity here.