Daily Mail Says “None of Us Should be Condemned or Vilified Until Our Guilt is Proved”

Mail Jefferies

Operation Midland

A thundering editorial from the Daily Mail:

An ugly chapter in the history of the police

As the inquiry into a fantasist’s allegations of a VIP paedophile ring draws to its ignominious close, so too does a truly ugly chapter in the history of Scotland Yard.

Nothing is more fundamental to liberty and the rule of law than the presumption of innocence – the principle that none of us should be condemned or vilified until our guilt is proved.

Operation Midland has turned that cornerstone of justice on its head.

…Adding nastiness to breathtaking credulity, Sir Bernard [Hogan-Howe, head of the Met] allowed former Home Secretary Sir Leon Brittan to die under a cloud of suspicion and vilification before deigning to let his widow know the case had been dropped. Even then, he hadn’t the grace to issue a full apology.

Operation Midland, as is widely known, was set up towards the end of 2014 to investigate the claims of a man known as “Nick”, who says he was subjected to torture and sex abuse by VIPs as a child in 1970s and 1980s, and that he witnessed the murder of three children. Leon Brittan was among those he accused, although the above paragraph actually refers to a rape allegation that was made by someone else.

Nick’s claims are gothically extravagant, and have come under increasing critical scrutiny in recent months. Allegations against Lord Bramall in particular were formally dropped a few weeks ago, and it has been recently reported that the whole Operation is set to close down. This may or may not be accurate, but it is the case that Operation Midland merged into Operation Fairbank, a broader investigation into VIP abuse allegations, in October. Earlier this week, a BBC Radio 4 documentary, The Report, reported that the investigation has failed to ask for statements from crucial witnesses – it appears that rather than starting with Nick and working outwards from his personal circumstances, the police instead decided to start with media stunts, in the form of house raids.

However, the Mail‘s outrage is very much behind the curve. The paper (meaning the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday – they are virtually indistinguishable on Mail Online) was very happy to report the raid on Harvey Proctor’s home last year uncritically, and in the months before Leon Brittan’s death the paper ran insinuating articles about his “faulty memory”, implying that he had suppressed a “dossier” of evidence relating to VIP paedophiles in the 1980s. The Mail never apologised for that particular “cloud of suspicion”, even though the story was debunked in the Sunday Times. The Mail only began to write critically on the subject of VIP abuse allegations when Tom Watson MP became Deputy Leader of the Labour Party – overnight, he went from being described as “campaigning MP Tom Watson” to being portrayed as a monster who had tormented a dying man with false accusations.

But even so, it is heartening to see that Mail is now committed to “the principle that none of us should be condemned or vilified until our guilt is proved”. This has not been a major theme in the Mail‘s history.

Guilty until Proven Innocent: the Mail‘s libels against Chris Jefferies and John Yapp

Most famously, at the end of 2010 it reported the questioning of Chris Jefferies on suspicion of murder as  “Murder police quiz ‘nutty professor’ with a blue rinse”, and followed up with “Does this man hold the key to Joanna’s murder?” – a sensationalising speculation that turned out to be a QTWTAIN. Both items were front page splashes that vilified a completely innocent man, and subsequently led to a substantial libel payout.

The smearing of Jefferies came in the wake of a disastrous Mail on Sunday article in 2008, in which an innocent diplomat named John Yapp was falsely accused of groping an adult female. At the time, Yapp was facing a employment disciplinary over the allegation, and as with Jeffries two years later it seems that the paper felt safe to press on ahead of the investigation on the assumption of “no smoke without fire”.

In fact, however, Yapp was exonerated, and the Mail paid costs and damages. His firm of lawyers, Collyer Bristow, issued a scathing statement:

The articles were sensationalised and false. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed that an official enquiry has exonerated Mr Yapp of these allegations. I am happy to say that The Mail on Sunday have now published an apology making this clear and apologising for the considerable distress caused to Mr Yapp.

The appalling allegations and false reports caused my client serious and long-lasting damage both personally and professionally. The articles also caused his partner, Anne, and family profound distress.*

This was in 2009; Yapp went on to successfully sue his former employer, the Foreign Office, in 2013, which the Mail reported without reference to its own earlier role in tormenting an innocent man. Perhaps the paper hoped the later report would obscure the timeline, and its own culpability.

Jefferies recently appeared at an event with Paul Gambaccini, who spent a year under a false suspicion of child sex abuse due to Operation Yewtree. I didn’t attend, but from reports it appears that both men lamented the stupidity of the police and the way they worked with journalists.  Gambaccini said that the names of suspects are regularly leaked by police to the press, while Jefferies believes that in his case the police hoped that journalists would do some of the work for them.

The Operation Elveden Explanation

So, what’s happened to this cosy relationship between media and police? Let us return to the Daily Mail editorial:

[Hogan-Howe] is the man who spent £11million on Operation Elveden, assigning 70 detectives to investigate payments by journalists to whistleblowers and public officials (especially police sources).

More than 60 were arrested and 29 were charged. Yet only one was convicted in court, while another pleaded guilty under an obscure 13th century law. Both received suspended sentences.

Those two paragraphs, buried deep in the article, are the nearest thing to a declaration of having an interest. It is true that only two journalists have been convicted, although the above neglects to note – one suspects deliberately – that Operation Elveden has also led to a number of  police officers (and one prison officer) being convicted. In this light, the Mail‘s “ugly chapter in the history of the police”, while a valid assessment of the Operation Midland fiasco, is also opportunistic revenge.

*Disclosure: Although I do not know Yapp, I do have a personal interest in this particular libel case.

Brittan Mail Elm

Newspaper Interview Reveals Details of Sex Abuse Allegations Against Bishop George Bell

The Argus, a regional newspaper in Sussex, has published a long interview with the woman who claims to have been abused by Bishop George Bell as a child more than 60 years ago. The allegation came to light in October, when the Diocese of Chichester issued a statement in which it confirmed that it had investigated the complaint, found it to be truthful (“on the balance of probabilities”), and paid compensation.

The news was shocking – Bell was a revered churchman and a significant figure in twentieth-century British history. It was disturbing that his place in posterity could be re-written in such a devastating way on the word of unnamed “investigators” without any details entering the public domain.

According to the interview, the alleged victim, given the name “Carol” by the newspaper, was a relative of someone who worked at Bishop’s Palace in Chichester. Because Carol came from a large family, she would sometimes come with her relative to work, and even stay over for up to a week. During this time (starting at age 5, and lasting over a four-year period), Bell would read her stories, either while she sat on his knee or when she was in bed, and according to Carol (and accepted as fact by the Argus) he would use the opportunity to “interfere” with her. She told the paper that “he said it was our little secret, because God loved me”, and that when she did tell the relative she was warned not to tell “fibs”.

The lack of detail in October led to complains that Bell was being unfairly treated; Peter Hitchens complained that “no evidence has been tested,” while Charles Moore decried Bell “being ruined by an anonymous, unpublished claim, upheld by a non-court which won’t explain its decision”. It was suggested that the Diocese of Chichester was over-reacting following the conviction of Bishop Peter Ball for historic sex abuse just weeks before.

Now, at last, we at least have an account, and presumably the investigators have been able to confirm the circumstantial details. Carol refers to comments in support of Bishop Bell in her interview:

She said: “Some of the remarks I’ve read made me very upset.

“Because he did good things, they automatically assume that he couldn’t do anything wrong, which was rather hurtful because a lot of men who have done good things have also done very evil things.

“He might be a man of peace but that doesn’t take away the fact of what he did to me.”

…she became visibly upset and looked deeply hurt as she reflected on the voices speaking in support of George Bell’s legacy.

As I’ve said previously in relation to other accusations, when someone relates an traumatic experience, one should of course be mindful about adding to possible hurt or distress by expressing scepticism. However, this has to be balanced against the need to give the accused a fair hearing. Carol’s account comes across to me as credible testimony (although “our little secret” sounds a bit of a cliché), and some may judge that there is now case to answer, but it remains the word of one person, about whom we know very little, speaking about events from long ago that no-one else witnessed.

Certainly, it would be wrong to dismiss her account on the grounds of Bell’s public record – but that isn’t what Hitchens or Moore have suggested. The fact is that no-one working solely with the material in the public domain can claim to know what really happened between Bell and Carol, despite the dogma that one has a moral duty to “believe the victim” whenever an allegation is aired (an approach that has been disastrous in other contexts).

It seems to me that it is not beneficial for those considering coming forward with allegations, even though those allegations may be true, to be given unrealistic expectations about being spared critical scrutiny, or about the presumption of innocence not applying to those they accuse.

UPDATE: The current Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, has issued a statement, including the following:

“…The presence of strident voices in the public arena which have sought to undermine the survivor’s claims has added in this case to the suffering of the survivor and her family. To that extent it is not surprising that she felt it necessary to take the courageous decision to speak out in public and reveal the personal details which the Church could not…

“In some responses to the George Bell case, and to the original statements from the Church nationally and locally in the diocese of Chichester, we have witnessed shocking ignorance of the suffering felt at many different levels by victims of abuse.”

This is rather unfair. Did the Bishop really expect that October’s dramatic and opaque announcement would simply be accepted without any critical reservation? Of course one should always strive to avoid causing unnecessary suffering – but I refer back to what I say above about reasonable expectations when accusations cannot be corroborated.

Second, he appears to attribute doubts about Bell being an abuser to a callous and uncomprehending attitude towards the suffering caused by child abuse. Perhaps he’s referring to something in particular here, but without any further explanation this looks like an unwarranted and unworthy rhetorical move.

 

No, Terry Wogan Did Not say “David Icke was Correct on Jimmy Savile”

From Neon Nettle a purported news-site otherwise unknown to me:

Did Terry Wogan Admit David Icke Was Right Before his Death?

…Wogan allegedly told the BBC news service:

“I ridiculed someone who was in the process of waking up. You see I was asleep myself just as so many others were. Well, I apologise to Mr Icke unreservedly for being a snivelling arse that night on the Wogan show. David Icke was correct on Jimmy Savile and all the others, especially those in the halls of power,”

David Icke returned to The Terry Wogan show in 2006, this time the audience did not laugh at Icke, instead they listened to him without much interruption from Wogan himself.

The Neon Nettle quotes as its source for this a website called the Daily Squib – quite obviously a parody site. The Neon Nettle‘s click-bait mendacity would probably be better ignored, were it not for the fact that that the headline comes up under Google News, and that various individuals on Twitter are repeating the quote as if it were true.

Here’s the actual story. At the start of 1991, Icke was known to the public as a former sportsman and newsreader, and more currently as a spokesman for the Green Party. Early in the year, he announced that he had had some sort of mystical experience, as a result of which he now believed in a number of supernatural phenomena and regarded himself as having special cosmological significance.

This was initially covered by local television news (I remember seeing it) – some media mockery followed, and then his famous appearance on Wogan, Terry Wogan’s prime-time chat show on BBC 1. Famously, when Icke said that he appreciated the audience’s laughter, Wogan informed him that “they are laughing at you, not with you”. In 2006, Wogan and Icke met for a retrospective interview on UKTV Gold, in which Wogan conceded he had been “a bit sharp” in saying that. Icke then used the opportunity to expound on “secret societies” and “family bloodlines” and such.

Wogan was as congenial as ever, but unimpressed. In his autobiography Mustn’t Grumble, published later the same year, he referred (p. 245) to:

David Icke, no longer a gentle soul convinced that he was descended from the Godhead, that wearing turquiouse was the way to salvation, and that we were all doomed, but now a ranting demagogue convinced that we were all manipulated sheep, and, of course, all doomed.

There is no evidence anywhere that Wogan changed his mind on this in the years that followed.

Rumours about Jimmy Savile long predated his death; in 2008, for instance, he took legal action against the Sun over a story linking him to abuse in Jersey, and as far back as 1978 John Lyndon claimed to know about “all sorts of seediness” involving Savile. In 2000, Savile told Louis Theroux (in response to probing) that as a single man he preferred to give the impression of disliking children because “because we live in a very funny world” and he wished to put “salacious tabloid people off the hunt”.

Icke eventually endorsed all the Savile rumours, although this site, apparently run by rival conspiracists, documents that Icke only turned to the subject in 2011, following Savile’s death. Allegations against Savile were first taken seriously by the mainstream media and the police in late 2012, and the same site suggests that Icke has exaggerated his supposed prescience.

Wogan’s own statements on Savile appear to be contradictory; in August 2013 he gave an interview to the Telegraph:

On the Jimmy Savile allegations, he is considerably graver. “I was completely unaware of it – 99.9 per cent of us were. But I’m not sure we can be blaming the BBC for the behaviour of individuals. They can’t be held responsible. It’s a torrid time for people in the public eye. When you look at the kind of people who are being exposed by Operation Yewtree – God, it gives you pause for thought.”

However, in October 2013, he told The Times, as reported in the Independent:

He told the paper: “I was sitting at a table having lunch and Savile was sitting one up from me, and also up from me was Jean Rook [Express columnist]. And Jimmy Savile got up to go to the loo, and she looked across at me and said: ‘When are they going to expose him?’ I said: ‘That’s your job.’ And nobody ever did.”

Perhaps these statement can be reconciled – he had heard the very vague rumours, but was “completely unaware” of anything specific. But it is also likely that Wogan was being circumspect in what he chose to say – perhaps that’s not to his credit, but the subject of celebrity abuse must have been strange and disturbing territory for a light entertainer, and he probably wanted to avoid becoming the focus for any kind of controversy. I doubt many people would hold that against him.

Theodore Shoebat Introduces Another Friend

Shoebat Foundation website publishes praise of masked attack on migrants in Sweden

From Right Wing Watch:

Yesterday, radical right-wing activist Theodore Shoebat posted an extended discussion he recently had with fellow Shoebat.com contributor Andrew Bieszad about their belief that “all of the evils that we are seeing around the world can find its origin in anti-Catholicism.”

Given Shoebat’s extreme hatred of gays, it was not long before the conversation turned toward exposing the ways that “the sodomite agenda wants to colonize the whole world through the U.S. government,” with Shoebat declaring that gays in New Orleans routinely rape and murder young boys during the annual Southern Decadence event while the local police do nothing about it.

…None of this came as a surprise to Bieszad, who declared that New Orleans “really is an American Sodom and I don’t think it’s an accident that Hurricane Katrina hit there back in 2005.”

Shoebat Jnr is something of an attention-seeking monomaniac, whose rants would probably not be worth noting were it not for the fact that his father, Walid Shoebat, has built up a media profile as a supposed expert on the evils of Muslims and on the place of Muslims in Biblical prophecy, and that the Shoebat Foundation website is also T. Shoebat’s primary outlet. (1)

The website also carries items by T. Shoebat’s friends; I recently noted the presence of a certain Thomas King, who has a particular affinity with Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and whose piety has inspired him on write on T. Shoebat’s Facebook page about “the Muslim assholes and leftist liberal cunts and their Protestant ass kissing allies”. Beiszad’s own contributions to the Shoebat Foundation website include a piece in which he praises masked Swedish “patriots” for attacking immigrants (styled as “Muslim invaders”, although reported in the Daily Mail, the source he uses, as “children”) in central Stockholm.

Beiszad is proficient in Arabic, and he has an MA in Islamic Studies from Hartford Seminary; according to a 2013 profile in the National Posthe claims that “conversion to Islam was encouraged” during his course, and that he was threatened by Muslim students for expressing his opposition to Islam. His thesis was on Pseudo-​Wāqidī, a medieval writer who took the name of a seventh-century author.

Beiszad is also the author of a book, called The Lions of Faith: Saints, Blesseds, and Heroes of the Catholic Faith in the Struggle With Islam, which was commended by William Kilpatrick in the Catholic World ReportThe book was published by Lux Orbis Press, which was Beiszad’s own venture, and which has now disappeared from the internet.

An archived version of the Lux Orbis website, though, shows that Beiszad was particularly keen to showcase an endorsement by Steve Klein, a militia leader in California with links to The church at Kaweah.” Klein enthused:

You will learn the TRUE battles of the Faithful, in deadly combat against Islam to save their families. I say, buy the book – and let’s get the battle raging – for God, for Family, for those who truly love LIBERTY.

But if T. Shoebat and Beiszad are truly in agreement that “all of the evils that we are seeing around the world can find its origin in anti-Catholicism”, perhaps the fight needs to start nearer to home. Before he was famous, anti-Catholicism was actually an element of Walid Shoebat’s fundamentalism. As far as I am aware, he has never repudiated his writings from this period.

Footnote

(1) Update: I appear to have understated T. Shoebat’s significance there; Right Wing Watch notes he “was featured alongside several congressmen and GOP presidential candidates in an anti-gay ‘documentary’ produced by Janet Porter, who now just so happens to be running for a seat in the Ohio legislature.”

Cancelled: Hindu Conference with Former EDL Head and Anti-Christian Polemicist

From Sunny Hundal:

The National Council of Hindu Temples (UK) have now cancelled their conference after hundreds of Hindu members — and even some people from their own advisory board — criticised them for their decision to host Tommy Robinson at their annual confence.

Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) previously led the neo-Nazi group English Defence League, and now the neo-Nazi group PEGIDA UK. The only difference between the two, even by his own admission, is that the banners will say ‘Pegida’ instead of ‘EDL’.

…The NCHT got caught out, and they tried to save face by claiming they were “forced” to cancel because of “threats”. Embarrassing for them, not me.

The conference was scheduled for 14 February; Robinson was to speak on “British Multiculturalism” (“Multi Culturalism is the future but something has gone wrong, we all know what it is and unless we face the problem head on, we will all suffer together”) [1]. The story has been covered by Breitbart, from an angle sympathetic to Robinson and the NCHT:

The British Hindu Temple’s Presidents Conference 2016 has been cancelled after a sustained and aggressive campaign by far left activists who took offence at the fact that Tommy Robinson, an organiser of PEGIDA UK, had been invited to speak and engage in dialogue with the Hindu community.

The General Secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT), Satish K Sharma, told Breitbart London that blogger and journalism lecturer Sunny Hundal had “spread nonsense on Facebook” about the event and compared some “aggressive” far left activists involved in the campaign to the far right.

Mr. Robinson claimed that the “event has been cancelled after threats instigated by Sunny Hundal”, a well know Twitter activist who has argued that, “the far-right is using ‘divide and rule’ between Sikhs and Muslims”.

However, despite the article’s dramatic lead-in, no details of the supposed threats are given, and there is no indication of any complaints having been made to the police. According to Sunny, the Southall Black Sisters organised a protest against Robinson’s involvement, but that hardly amounts to a “threat”. Unless Breitbart can provide some evidence, it appears that the site is engaging in the fashionable practice of conflating criticism with threats.

Robinson’s presence was always going to be controversial, and if Sunny hadn’t drawn attention to it someone else probably would have, with a similar outcome.

But might Robinson’s appearance at such an event also have been controversial for him?

According to an event flyer, the line-up included, among others, Shri Kalavai Venkat on “What Every Hindu Should Know about Christianity”, and Shri Satish K. Sharma on “Interfaith – an Anglican Trojan Horse?”, along with a discussion of “Anti-Hindu Caste Legislation”. Venkat has also written a book with the same title as his presentation; according to the blurb:

…Christianity originated in a psychotic milieu, Christian beliefs are self-contradictory, and theology invalidates the need to believe. It explores the provocative question of whether Jesus is a myth. It systematically argues that Christianity lacks an ethical framework, ‘Herem warfare’ is the Christian code of holy extermination, Christian beliefs and practices may cause harm to both Hindus and Christians, and concludes that Hinduism and Christianity cannot coexist. It offers a prescription on and how to engage Christianity and why mutual respect cannot be the precondition for Hindu-Christian engagement.

Does body representing Hinduism at a national level in the UK really endorse such a view?

Perhaps Venkat could have asked Robinson about the EDL’s motto, “In hoc signo vinces” – the legendary message supposedly given by God to the Roman Emperor Constantine, that he would conquer under the sign of the Cross of Christ.

Footnote

[1] On Twitter, Robinson has now stated that subject of his presentation was in fact to have been “sexual grooming of our young children”, and he claims that this was what Sunny objected to.

HTCP Robinson

Possible Plymouth Brethren Christian Church Link to Young Britons’ Foundation Donation

In 2011, a site called Liberal Burblings drew attention to two donations to the Young Britons’ Foundation from a private company:

Donations records were submitted to the [Electoral] Commission on 30th March 2011 for £45,000 and £9,999 from Healthgear Contracts, an unincorporated association of 90 College Street, Bedford, partner: one Rodney Dummer.

The donations were accepted a few days before the 2010 General Election (as recorded on the Electoral Commission website), and the author suggests that they were related to payment for a YBF pamphlet and newspaper advert urging readers to avoid the prospect of a hung Parliament by voting Conservative. The total campaign cost was just under £135,000.

The subject has now been revisited by Mr Ceebs, who notes that a certain Rod Dummer also features on a document relating to the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (PBCC, also known as the Exclusive Brethren). Is this the same person? It’s an unusual name, and the Brethren’s involvement would fit a pattern of political campaigning on behalf of the Conservative Party going back several years. Mr Ceebs draws attention to a Times article from March 2015:

Since 2009, Brethren members have been strongly encouraged to distribute political leaflets on behalf of mainly Tory MPs to thousands of homes across their constituencies.

“When David Cameron was coming to power, the Brethren were suddenly told to leaflet as many areas as possible,” said one ex-member, who left in 2012. “They were told from the very top. There was a letter read out after one of the local meetings that we must help the Conservatives.”

Prior to this, as Mr Ceebs also notes, the Brethren produced political leaflets during the 2005 election in New Zealand – I discussed this here. And a year before that, a British Brethren member made a large donation to pay for adverts in the USA to help re-elect George W. Bush.

Excursus

Liberal Burblings also notes that invoices for the 2010 leaflets were made out not to the YBF, but to Media Intelligence Partners:

The chief executive officer of Media Intelligence Partners is Nick Wood, who was Press Secretary and Media Director for Conservative Party leaders William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith.

Christian May, is an Account Executive at Media Intelligence Partners. Their website says he “used to be Director of Operations for the Young Britons’ Foundation and served the Conservative Party as Deputy National Chairman for Conservative Future”.

In 2009, the Telegraph reported that MIP had received £66,000 in payments charged to the office expenses of Conservative MPs. Christian May appeared on this blog a month ago, when I noticed his involvement in a “social media campaign” against Ben Howlett MP.

The YBF is currently embroiled in a bullying scandal, as I discussed here.

Sunday Times Suggests Lord Bramall Accuser Has “Two Identities”

From the Sunday Times:

‘Unmask Nick’: fury at accuser’s two identities

THE anonymous figure on the screen told a graphic and disturbing story. As a seven-year-old boy he had been handed to a brutal paedophile gang who had on occasions included Jimmy Savile.

The witness, called “Stephen”, said he had been directly abused by the “sadistic” BBC presenter.

Meanwhile, another alleged victim of a paedophile gang — this one comprising politicians including a former prime minister, military figures and intelligence chiefs — was giving his account under the name “Nick”. He claimed that three boys had been murdered by this group…

It appears that the media are finally joining the dots, although it’s a painfully slow process and each step of the way is marred by confusion.

The “anonymous witness” appeared as “Stephen” on a TV documentary about Savile in the summer of 2014, [1] and his “VIP” allegations as “Nick” came a few months later. However, “Nick” also uses a third pseudonym (as now noted by the Telegraph) that predates “Stephen” and “Nick”, and his writings under this third name assimilate both strands of his allegations. Further, the fact that “Nick” had also accused Savile has been public knowledge for some time now; the detail appears in a Daily Mail profile from September, and Harvey Proctor and Lord Bramall have both confirmed that police asked them whether they knew Savile.

Thus it does not seem to me, as implied by the Sunday Times, that the man has been deliberately posing as two different people – rather, the names of “Stephen” and “Nick” were given to him by different media sources for their own purposes. Perhaps there were legal reasons for this, although it has also meant that some of “Nick’s” most lurid allegations under his original pseudonym have not come to wider attention. It is not clear why Exaro News, which has heavily invested in “Nick”, did not highlight the claimed Savile connection; and the journalist Mark Williams-Thomas has suggested on Twitter that the police were not aware of it for a while, either.

Two other reports about “Nick” are worth noting, both from the Telegraph. According to one item, he is to be investigated by the police for wasting police time; however, the details of the story show that this merely means that Harvey Proctor’s lawyers have made a request, not that the police now regard “Nick” as a suspect.

A second item carries the allegation that Nick “stole” details of his supposed abuse from the testimonies of others:

…The witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons, alleged that “Nick” had “stolen” details from other survivors’ accounts after they appeared in court records and Press interviews – and presented them as his own. 

[He] said there were “close parallels” between the claims made by “Nick” and up to six other abuse survivors.

…”His story is a collage of maybe half a dozen survivors’ experiences, with no collaboration, which have been bastardised to meet his own needs as a narcissist liar…”

Footnote

(1) The programme, titled “Jimmy Savile”, was made by Title Role Productions for a series called Crimes that Shook Britain. It was first broadcast on CI (Crime + Investigation), and later on Channel 5 as a part of Britain’s Worst Crimes.

Religious Hate: The Shoebat Family Business

Ed Brayton casts an eye over the latest offering from the Walid Shoebat Foundation:

While most wingnuts are trying everything they can to pretend that Martin Luther King was really just like them, the wingnut’s wingnuts, the fringe of the fringe like our friends at Shoebat.com, are making it clear that, to them, Martin Luther King was a heretic and was “of the Antichrist” because he had a more liberal interpretation of the Bible than their brand of Christian fascism.

And MLK isn’t the only Martin Luther to be excoriated: in other articles, his sixteenth-century namesake is similarly derided as “a spiritual Jezebel and a Balaam”, and placed alongside William Tyndale as a “blasphemous reformer”. John Wycliffe, meanwhile, is an “evil heretic”, who is helpfully “exposed”. Rival modern fundamentalists don’t get off lightly, either: in 2013, the Foundation denounced John Hagee and Tim LaHaye for anti-Catholicism.

There has always been a certain crudeness about Shoebat’s operation which has set it apart from other Christian Right groups. Walid Shoebat has stated his wish to see the Middle East destroyed by nuclear weapons, while his son Theodore is so sanguinary in his hatred for gay people that he has even alienated anti-gay activists Scott Lively and Peter LaBarbera: the former recently removed T. Shoebat’s name from a list of “Pro-Family Heroes”, while LaBarbera rejected his call for gay people to be executed. Shoebat Jnr did not respond well to this, denouncing LaBarbera as a “filthy pig” and a “traitor”.

As far back as 2008, Walid Shoebat was dropped from a Night to Honor Israel banquet organised by Christians United for Israel (this perhaps explains his dislike of Hagee), and his 2011 accusation that Mosab Hassan Yousef – a rival on the speaker circuit as a Palestinian ex-Muslim turned evangelical Christian – is in truth a Muslim “infiltrator” probably alienated some audiences and networks. However, it looks like he has just been returning to type – the criticism of Hagee for anti-Catholicism is risible when it is recalled that before he was famous, W. Shoebat published an article mocking the “Billy Graham love affair with the Pope” and opining that “the Mystery Babylon is born”.

Not all of the material on the Shoebat Foundation website is written by the father and son – some posts, such as the MLK item, are by a certain Thomas King, introduced by Theodore Shoebat as his “good friend”. King appears to have a particular affinity with Eastern Orthodox Christianity, although he expresses himself somewhat crudely. Here he is on Facebook as Thomas James King, posting to Theodore Shoebat’s Facebook page with a denunciation of “the Muslim assholes and leftist liberal cunts and their Protestant ass kissing allies”. He appears to have a particular fondness for the word “fuckers”, too.

But how “fringe” is “fringe”? Shoebat may be a bit too “red meat” for many Christians who, even though they may hate Islam and distrust Muslims, are mindful that they are supposed to hope their enemies see the light, rather than fantasize about their destruction; but the rise of Donald Trump shows that there is a cruder constituency for whom there is no stigma in hatred.

Shoebat’s stream of stories of ISIS and other Islamist atrocities – in some cases sourced from Arabic-language websites – and his commentary that this represents what Muslims are really like and what President Obama “supports”, still has a ready, and perhaps growing, audience.

Demons and Satanic Ritual Abuse: Some Posthumous Notes on Bill Subritzky

At the website of Moriel Ministries, Jacob Prasch casts a sour eye over the legacy of New Zealand-based international evangelist Bill Subritzky, who died at the end of last year:

We all have horror stories. I recall a young Kiwi believer named Colin who after being saved for only 7 weeks was taken by a friend to a Subritzky meeting in Palmerston North. Subritzky claimed a ‘word of knowledge’ that Colin’s father was a homosexual pedophile who molested him as a baby and that Subritzky needed to cast 7 demons out of Colin. In fact, when Colin was a baby his dad was in a body cast physically and sexually dysfunctional.

Prasch and Moriel represent an austere form of Christian conservatism that rejects the “signs and wonders” associated with neo-Pentecostalism. However, the story is plausible: in 1985 Subritzky published a book called Demons Defeated, which abounds with stories of how God had given him supernatural insight into people’s backgrounds. Some of these “words of knowledge” were voyeuristic and prurient:

Other forms of sexual perversion are demonic. For example, there are various forms of oral sex. I have frequently been approached by women who have tremendous problems, and I have seen this spirit upon them. I have seen a vision of the male sexual organ in front of their mouth. I have asked them whether they have participated in this activity. They have confessed…

Subritzky also promoted the idea of the discovery of Satanic Ritual Abuse through recovered memory:

We quite frequently find that as a result of satanic ritual abuse or severe prolonged trauma in childhood or severe shock, that various personalities can manifest within the one person…The traumatised person retreats into their shell and these other personalities, which in my view are demons, begin to manifest…

One of the most common of these demons is the spirit of memories. As ministry takes place, memories which have been suppressed by this spirit come back to the person’s recollection.

Subritzky’s ministry was endorsed by Derek Prince, an influential British evangelist whose own ministry emphasised the supernatural and the need to be aware of demonic forces. Subritzky’s memoir, The Cutting Edge, shows him in a number of international settings, including Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Detroit (with the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International), Hungary, and Tonga. Subritzky was especially close to Tonga’s leaders, and King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV wrote a foreword for the book.

When not casting out demons, Subritzky pursued his aims by more worldly means: he was one of the founders of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, a Christian Right lobby group. As well as his evangelising work, he was the senior partner in a law firm and a successful property developer.

In his later years, Subritzky endorsed the ministry of T.B. Joshua, a particularly controversial Nigerian evangelist dismissed by Prasch as a “pseudo Christian witchdoctor”. As I have noted previously, Joshua makes extravagant claims to supernatural powers of prophecy in relation to global and African news events. In most cases, Joshua’s supposed power is demonstrated through heavily-edited videos promoted after particular incidents; T.B. Joshua Watch shows that deceptive editing methods are employed. Many evangelical figures shun association with Joshua, and Joshua has heavily promoted Subritzky’s enthusiasm.

Subritzky in the UK

Subritzky also visited the UK, and @SAFFtweets suggests that the suicide of Caroline Marchant – a troubled young woman who had been persuaded that she had been an SRA victim, along lines inspired by Lauren Stratford’s bogus memoir (discussed here) – directly followed her attendance at an event in which Subritzky was a main speaker.

Marchant took a fatal overdose on 16 Februrary 1990 (although she lingered on for more than two weeks afterwards) while staying at the home of Reverend Kevin Logan, author of an evangelical Christian paperback called Paganism and the Occult. In the same month, Subritzky was a speaker at an event in Brighton called “The Battle Belongs to the Lord”, although I haven’t been able to confirm the exact date. For some reason, SAFF mistakenly gives a 1989 date and Southend as the location.

The event was organised by Ellel Grange, a centre for the “deliverance ministry”, and held at the Brighton Centre. The journalist Andrew Brown was in attendance, and he recalled the event in 2010, when there was a controversy over a Conservative Party election candidate who had reportedly previously performed an exorcism on a gay man. In his assessment:

The New Frontiers church to which Philippa Stroud belongs and where her husband is a major star is the fruit standard of fruit loopiness among English evangelical Christians. It was at a New Frontiers church in Brighton that I once went to hear the New Zealand evangelist Bill Surbritzky [sic], a man who believes that not merely homosexuality but smoking and swearing are caused by demonic infestation.

Following Subritzky’s death, Andrew recalled further on Twitter that

I shared a taxi through Brighton with Surbritzky once. All I could think of was his theory that there are demons of nicotine. I wanted a cigarette very badly [1, 2]

Lord Bramall’s False Accuser: A New Variant on Satanic Panic

From today’s London Times (paywalled):

The former head of the British Army, who faced a string of accusations by an anonymous man, said that among the most galling was that he took part in a Remembrance Day sex party.

Lord Bramall said: “It was completely and utterly daft. I would have been at the Cenotaph.”

As has been widely reported (and discussed on this blog yesterday), Lord Bramall’s accuser – known by the pseudonym “Nick” – claims that Bramall was part of a murderous VIP paedophile ring that also included former Prime Minister Ted Heath, cabinet ministers, and senior intelligence figures. Police have spent months – and millions of pounds – investigating Nick’s gothically extravagant tales of sex abuse, murder and torture. Bramall’s home was raided in March 2015; he was given the details of the allegations against him six weeks later (although only because of “considerable pressure” by his lawyer, according to the Times interview); and only this week has the matter been formally dropped.

The police statement uses the phrase “insufficient evidence”, but Bramall has in fact been cleared beyond any reasonable doubt. He was out of the country on some of the dates given by Nick to police, and other allegations made by Nick have proven to be unsubstantiated (in particular, his claim that the gang killed a boy on the streets of Kingston-on-Thames by running him over – there is no record or memory of the incident).

Nick’s claims about Remembrance Day are worth highlighting, as I believe they show more than anything what has been going on here: no less than a new variation of the bogus Satanic Ritual Abuse allegations that caused so much misery in the 1980s and 1990s. Satanic ritual (as popularly imagined) is an inversion of Christian ritual, characterised by upside-down crucifixes, puerile blasphemies, and lascivious celebration; the notion of SRA takes this further, with a genuine transgression that amounts to the worst thing that most people – Christian or not – can imagine. This transgressive behaviour is not just paedophilia, but intentionally sadistic paedophila, sometimes culminating in murder.

Britain is today a largely secular society, but Remembrance Day is nearest thing we still have to a “sacred” occasion in the calendar. Remembrance Day events are sombre, and everyone at commemorations is expected to behave with decorum and quiet dignity. What better way to invert all this than to imagine the head of the British Army instead celebrating with a special Remembrance Day paedophilic orgy?

Similarly, if we still have a sacred object, it is the Remembrance Day poppy. Those who choose to wear it are making a public statement about their personal mindfulness of the war dead; but Nick inverts this into an act of sexual sadism. The Daily Mail quoted a piece of Nick’s public writing (now removed from the internet) in September:

He explains, in graphic detail, why he now has ‘such mixed emotions’ on Remembrance Day.

‘I know poppies are a symbol of respect for those that have lost their lives during wars, however for me, they lost their meaning once the soldiers that hurt me physically pinned them to my bare skin.

‘I see poppies as a symbol of their hatred towards me. As a sign of respect (they said) I had to wear a poppy. So they would pin one directly to my chest and hurt me badly.

‘Once one was done, the next would unpin the poppy and move it to another part of my chest and do the same. They would all take turns until they had all had enough. The pain from the pin was nothing compared to the other pain, but it added to the humiliation.’

Where has all this come from? I will be very surprised if Nick’s fantasies have not been nurtured with the help of a “therapist” obsessed with SRA-related notions.

Nick’s case is significant not just because he has managed to derail the lives of two living public figures (Bramall and Harvey Proctor) and tarnish the memories of several others who have died: elsewhere, he has been widely praised and supported for his supposed “courage” in talking about the abuse he claims to have suffered, and he has become something of a poster-child for a cause that, through his lies, he has in fact mocked and degraded.