Cliff Richard Reveals How South Yorkshire Police Mishandled False Sex Abuse Allegations

ITV’s daytime television programme Loose Women has broadcast its exclusive interview with Cliff Richard, following the news that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided that there is insufficient evidence regarding historic allegations against him of sex abuse. South Yorkshire Police spent almost two years investigating the claims before passing to the CPS what the CPS described as “a full file of evidence”.

Here’s what the singer had to say about how the police handled the first allegation against him, which was that he had molested a boy at a Billy Graham rally at Sheffield Football Stadium in 1985:

This very first accuser made so many mistakes. And, remember – and this is not good for the South Yorkshire Police – but they didn’t even check until four weeks and two or three days later after they broke into my apartment. He got so much wrong. The room he said it happened in, apparently didn’t exist in 1985. Goalposts were never kept in rooms. And then he got the year wrong. He said it was 1983, and Billy Graham wasn’t there till ’85. So now I’m thinking to myself “well of course they’re going to just throw it out. This is nonsense.” They didn’t throw it out, and because of the raid, and because of the accusation, because of the BBC, I found myself smeared and named.

Police apparently put some effort into reconstructing his schedule for that day, telling him

“It would take at least two hours to fill that stadium. You were there for a lot longer than that.” And they said, “Also, you did another event too, before it all started. You went into a marquee, you sang a song to all these people. You spoke about your faith.” I went, “oh yeah”. And then of course I did two-and-a-half hours onstage in front of 47,000 people. And he said, “and yes, afterwards you were taken to a hotel to speak to some other people.”…. I wasn’t quick enough. I should have said: “I did all that? How did I find time to molest anybody.”

The investigating police also ignored testimony:

And apart from anything else, Glo, there were five policemen on duty that night. They’re now retired, but they volunteered their services… The five retired policemen phoned South Yorkshire Police and offered to make a statement because they felt I couldn’t have done this. They were there the whole night with me. They weren’t even answered… They wouldn’t accept the call. And so fortunately for me, they had read who my lawyers were. They phoned the lawyers, and said “we would like make statements”. And they have written statements, just in case I had to go to court, saying “in our humble opinion, this could never have happened. We were with him that whole time.” The police weren’t interested. And that’s what makes me so angry and confused, because they had all this and we could have got rid of that first accusation immediately.

Instead, the publicity meant that other false accusers decided to chance their arm – the interview did not say much about these individuals, but a companion Daily Mail article has the background:

One of his accusers turned out to be one of the country’s most dangerous sex offenders. Another is a man who previously tried to blackmail Cliff. His demands were not met and he was reported to the police.

The ‘roller skate guy’, as Cliff calls him, went on to become a religious minister. Lest anyone think that gives him credence as a witness, the ministry offers anyone a chance to ‘become ordained almost immediately’.

Cliff points out: ‘I understand you can be ordained by paying $27 online.’

The “roller skate guy” claims that Richard roller-skated into a shop, groped him, and then did the same thing a short time afterwards. The absurdity is self-evident. Meanwhile, the sex offender accuser (a serial rapist, in fact) bandwagoned on well-know conspiracy theories about Richard and Leon Brittain deriving from a supposed list of attendees at the Elm Guest House that was compiled by the convicted fraudster Chris Fay.

The interview also mentioned Paul Gambaccini, Jim Davidson, and Jimmy Tarbuck as three other celebrities who have been smeared by false sex abuse allegations; Gambaccini and Davidson have both written books about their experiences, as has the former politician Harvey Proctor, who was falsely accused of sex abuse, torture, and child murder (more on Tarbuck here). In a recent conversation with Chris Jefferies, Gambaccini reportedly observed that police are “dumber” the further up the police chain, and that while “younger cops are interested in justice… senior ones interested in results”. Cliff Richard’s preferred term is “inept”.

Gambaccini also said that the names of suspects are regularly leaked by police to the press, and this was a major aggravating factor in Cliff Richards’s case – notoriously, the BBC was on hand with a helicopter when his apartment was raided, which obviously means that they knew what was going to happen some time before Richard did. Perhaps this was down to the accuser or his handler, but I’m doubtful: we do know for sure that the police “sent the BBC an aerial photograph of Sir Cliff Richard’s home the night before the raid”, in order to facilitate the live coverage.

 The end of the Loose Women interview includes a statement from the police:

The force apologies wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused by our initial handling of the media interest in this case and has implemented the learning from this and a subsequent review.

But it seems that the police generated “the media interest” in the first place.

One more point to ponder. Cliff Richard is nearly 76 years old, and appears to be in good health. But supposing he had died a few years ago? A detail in a Daily Mail article from August 2014 gives us a clue about to how things would have developed:

The allegation against Sir Cliff first emerged in October 2012 when the alleged victim contacted Mark Williams-Thomas, an investigative journalist and former detective who worked on an ITV documentary exposing Jimmy Savile.

Yesterday, Mr Williams-Thomas confirmed that he had also passed new information to the police about Sir Cliff in addition to the allegations he heard from the alleged victim.

Almost certainly, it seems to me, the British public would by now have been subjected to high-profile television documentary on “Cliff Richard Exposed”, with tearful pseudo-victims telling their lies (cherry-picked by the editors for plausibility) while protected by dim lighting and actors’ voices. Police would then have issued a sombre statement appealing for “further victims” to come forward, and there would have been calls for the Goddard Inquiry to look into the matter. All without the man himself around to defend himself.

How many other celebrities, particularly those famous in the 1970s and 1980s, are destined to be traduced in this way once they have died?

Some Notes on Allegations Against Clement Freud

From the Daily Star:

E-mails sent to Kate and Gerry McCann by paedophile Clement Freud to be handed to inquiry

Correspondence between the late Liberal MP and the parents of missing Madeleine will be submitted to an inquiry looking into historic abuse allegations.

…The former BBC broadcaster, who died in 2009, invited Kate and Gerry McCanns to his £1million Portuguese holiday home after Maddie was taken.

The above story follows an Express article headlined “Paedophile Clement Freud knew what happened to Madeleine McCann, says rape victim”, which is the immediately qualified with the somewhat less decisive opener that “the rape victim of disgraced MP Sir Clement Freud has said she ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if he was linked to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann”.

However, the story is not just an example of tabloid sensationalism: Freud’s posthumous downfall started with a story in the Telegraph headlined “Sir Clement Freud exposed as a paedophile as police urged to probe Madeleine McCann links”, which it then followed up with “Police were told two years ago about Clement Freud’s Madeleine but ‘did nothing’ victim says.”

What exactly the police were meant to do remains mysterious, and the decision to hand over emails to the Goddard Inquiry seems to me to be a futile gesture that will only whip up conspiracy theorists.

The allegations against Freud have been widely reported, and his widow has indicated that she believes her late husband’s accusers. According to the most serious claims against him, he “groomed and abused” one girl “from the age of 10 in the 1950s”; “made advances to” a second girl “when she was 11 in 1971 and brutally raped her when she was 18”; and raped a third girl aged 17 “in the mid 60s”.

Grim if true, but what does this have to do with the McCann case? According to Matthew Freud, his father (who turned 80 in 2004) was not in Portugal when Madeleine McCann went missing; further, no-one has accused Clement Freud of molesting any child as young as Madeleine was (just under 4 years old in 2007), let alone implied anything approaching child kidnap and/or murder.

Perhaps the inference is that Freud was involved with other abusers, and befriended the McCanns so that he could keep an eye on the investigation; but again, there’s zero evidence that he was ever part of a group involved with organized abuse, and the idea is implausible and fanciful.

All we have is a wild speculation by one accuser, who says that

…it was “odd” that Freud had sought out the McCanns, because he was a “private person” who did not enjoy the media spotlight when he was not performing.

This person knew Freud in the 1960s, so it’s unclear how she knows anything about how he regarded “the media spotlight” decades later. And in any case, the link to the McCanns did not put him in “the media spotlight”. It wasn’t generally known until Kate McCann mentioned it in her book in 2011, four years after the disappearance (a bit of Googling shows that conspiracy theorists have been exercised about it since that time).

The first Telegraph article was published ahead of a documentary that was broadcast as part of ITV’s Exposure strand. The largest part of the programme concerned Slyvia Woosley, who had been informally fostered with the Freuds as a child. Woosley claims that Freud abused her from the age of 11 until she was old enough to leave home, and the programme included some corroboration: a lodger in her property later told her son that she knew that Freud was going into Woosley’s room late at night, and Woolsey says that she had a confrontational phone call with Freud’s wife about her accusations shortly after she left the Freud home (a detail Jill Freud is not denying).

The documentary also included punditry from Nazir Afzal, formerly of the Crown Prosecution Service. As noted in the Radio Times:

…According to Nazir Afzal, former national lead on the sexual abuse of children for the Crown Prosecution Service, the details of the abuse would have led to a prosecution if Sir Clement were alive today.

He tells the programme: “If I was still chief prosecutor I would have no doubt in my mind that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Sir Clement Freud, and it would definitely be in the public interest to prosecute him.”

In the programme, Afzal explained that Woosley demonstrates the “traits” of someone who has been sexually abused as a child, and that he found her “compelling”. This seemed to me be worryingly subjective – Woosley did present herself well, but Afzal is not a psychologist and to see him opining about the “traits” of victims was a bit odd.

It should also be remembered that the CPS does not make charging decisions about deceased suspects, as it recently clarified. Afzal was only speaking in a personal capacity, but such a statement risks continuing to confuse the issue.

Afzal was on the programme basically to give a verdict on the evidence – despite the fact that there has been no police investigation, and despite the fact that we can never know what kind of defence Freud might have offered. As such, his pronouncement tends towards the idea that if the CPS says it has sufficient evidence to proceed, then the accused person is probably guilty. I was reminded of Sussex Police pointlessly announcing last year that they would have arrested Bishop George Bell if he were alive today (he died 58 years ago).

Despite the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”, we all understand the idea of someone being reasonably described as a suspect. We can also reasonably conclude that someone did something they have been accused of, despite the lack of any trial (or, indeed, despite an acquittal – O.J. Simpson being the obvious example). Further, official judgments about the guilt of someone who has died may be appropriate in relation to inquests and civil actions, and there may be reasons why someone who has died is of continuing interest to the police.

However, we seem to me moving ever closer to the idea that the legal system can determine posthumous guilt based on testimony about events that occurred decades ago. This is a disturbing trend. A new article by Joshua Rozenberg on the proposed inquiry into the late Greville Janner raises related concerns.

Some Notes on Liberty GB, Paul Weston and Jack Buckby

From ITV News:

Following the decision by all major political parties to not contest the upcoming by-election for Jo Cox’s seat out of respect for her family, one smaller party has announced that it will.

Jack Buckby, who is part of ‘radical patriotic conservative’ party Liberty GB, took to social media to make the announcement that he was standing for election in Batley and Spen.

Liberty GB (var. LibertyGB) was founded in 2013 by Paul Weston, who formerly headed British Freedom; in 2011 Weston was part of a “counterjihad leadership summit” in London, after which his party made a formal association with the English Defence League. In 2014, Weston spoke at an EDL rally in London, at which he denounced David Cameron as a “traitor”.

In 2012, as I noted at the time, Weston met with allies in the USA, and he spoke at an event in New York co-hosted by Brigitte Gabriel of Act for America and Lawrence Auster. Auster, who died the following year, was a self-described “racialist” with pro-BNP views.

Buckby, as has been widely reported, is himself formerly with the BNP; in 2013, VICE described him as the “Boy Wonder of the Far-Right”, and Macleans followed up with a profile. Buckby describes himself as the founder of a student movement called “National Culturalism”, in association with John Press (or, as he prefers to style himself, “John K. Press, Ph.D”), past president of the Brooklyn Tea Party and now based in South Korea (where he teaches English at Namseoul University, although he prefers to emphasise that he gives a course on his “Culturalist” philosophy).

A recent Tweet from Liberty GB has announced that “1st interview after announcing candidacy for election will be with @Gavin_McInnes today. Turned down UK media. No respect 4 lying UK press.” Buckby and Weston have appeared on the Gavin McInnes Show previously; in 2014, Media Matters described the presenter as a “Hipster Racist”, and gave an overview:

McInnes currrently writes for Taki’s Magazine, a “paleoconservative” website that publishes overtly racist articles including ones by neo-confederates. At Taki’s, McInnes has referred to Asian-Americans as “slopes” and “riceballs,” suggested Muslims are “stupider” and “more violent” due to inbreeding, defended blackface because some minstrel shows were “just mimicking black people” and “fun,” backed the racist comments of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, and argued that to yell the n-word at someone is “not racist” but “just very rude.” He also owns his own website, StreetCarnage.com, where he defended Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s racist comments because Bundy was just “wonder[ing]” if African-Americans were better off under slavery. In 2013, 18 Milling Rising gave him a “Lifetime Achievement Award in Hipster Racism,” a brand of racism marked by making “ironically” racist “jokes.”

Buckby and Weston take the view that the Labour Party is to blame for Jo Cox’s death, and on Facebook Liberty GB quotes her pro-immigration views under the heading “Death of a Fool”. Buckby also argues that “The left and LGBT” were responsible for the Orlando shootings, for not being anti-Islam.

When it was announced that the main parties would not contest the Batley and Spen by-election, it seemed like a reasonable (although not unarguable) gesture: there would be little appetite for proper campaigning after the tragedy, and a low-key transition to a new Labour MP would send a signal that the country rejects the idea that an assassin can influence the political process. But it also now means that a far-right candidate will be campaigning against just one mainstream party opponent, with other potential alternative voices reluctant to enter the electoral process for reasons of respect and good taste.

Some Notes on Claims about Thomas Mair

At this stage, it would be unwise to draw firm inferences from what has been said about the political links and mental health of Thomas Mair (var. Tom Mair, Tommy Mair), who is alleged to have been the murderer of Jo Cox MP. However, with snippets of information and counter-claims being bandied back and forth across social media, in some cases like some grotesque game of Top Trumps, it may be useful to gather some details in one place.

(1) Britain First

From LBC:

A sign in a shop by the spot Jo Cox was killed states the claims that the gunman shouted “Britain First” are untrue.

The message in the landerette’s window says: “Please note, I did not tackle the gunman. And no one shouted Britain First at any time.”

LBC’s reporter in Birstall Bethan Davies spoke to Ahmed Tahir, the owner, who insisted he has not spoken to anyone who heard that phrase.

There seems to be a lot of fog around this particular issue. Tahir was contacted by the media because he was thought to have been at the scene. It turned out that he hadn’t been, but he offered a quote anyway based on what he’d heard:

He said: “The lady I work with heard two loud bangs but I wasn’t there, I was stuck in traffic at the time. I wish I was there because I would have tried to stop him.

“The whole street thinks it was me but it wasn’t.

“Apparently the guy who did it shouted ‘Britain first’ and if I had been there I would have tackled him.”

Media reported this second-hand account, but caution then prevailed and some sites decided to withdraw the claim (as did Maria Eagle MP, who deleted a Tweet on the subject). It’s difficult to see how Tahir can now state with such certainty that “no one shouted Britain First at any time”, unless he’s conveying the testimony of “the lady I work with”.

Meanwhile, Breitbart News has a quote from a second person:

Local restaurant owner Hicham Ben Abdallah, widely quoted across the media as having claimed Mr. Mair shouted, “Britain First” has told Breitbart London “No, no. I did not hear that”.

That’s less definitive than Tahir’s statement. There is also video of an eyewitness, who may be one of these two people or someone else, saying “I never heard that”.

However, two other individuals say that they definitely did hear the gunman shout “Britain First”, or perhaps “put Britain First”. The Guardian:

Graeme Howard, 38, was among at least two witnesses who stated that Mair was shouting “Britain first” as he carried out the attack.

And the Mail:

Eyewitness Clarke Rothwell, 42, who was working near to the murder scene, said the man – named locally as 53-year-old ‘loner’ and handyman Tommy Mair – shouted ‘Britain first’ as he launched the attack on the mother-of-two, which occurred at around 1pm.

‘The words I heard him say were Britain first, or put Britain first,’ Mr Rothwell told BBC Newsnight.

‘I can’t say exactly what it was but definitely Britain first is what he said, what he was shouting. He shouted it at least twice.’

Some more details on Britain First here.

(2) Mental health

The Telegraph has a 2010 quote:

In 2010 the Huddersfield Daily Examiner wrote that Mr Mair had started volunteering at a local park atfer learning about the opportunity through the Mirfield-based Pathways Day Centre for adults with mental health problems.

He told the newspaper at the time: “I can honestly say it has done me more good than all the psychotherapy and medication in the world.

“Many people who suffer from mental illness are socially isolated and disconnected from society, feelings of worthlessness are also common mainily caused by long-term unemployment.

The Examiner article is not online, but a shorter version was published by the Batley & Birstall NewsIt contains just the first line of Mair’s quote, and “psychotherapy” has become “physiotherapy”. It seems reasonable to conclude from the full context that “psychotherapy” is the correct version.

(3) The Springbok Club

Mair is mentioned in a Springbok Club e-newsletter from 2006:

WHERE ARE THEY NOW ?

No.86 : Mr. THOMAS MAIR of Batley.

Thomas Mair, from Batley in Yorkshire, was one of the earliest subscribers and supporters of “S.A.Patriot”. Recent correspondence sent to him has been returned to us, however, as he has evidently moved from his last known address in the Fieldhead Estate district of the town. If anyone knows of his new address then we would be very grateful to learn the details.

This suggests that the association had ended at some point before 2006, so it’s a bit misleading of the Independent to write that “the link between Thomas Mair and the Springbok Club goes back ten years”, which could be read as meaning that the link is current and has been ongoing for ten years. The Springbok Club has featured on this blog previously. One South Africa Patriot newsletter describes Clive Derby-Lewis, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the assassination of Chris Hani, as being a “political prisoner”.

(4) The National Alliance

The Southern Poverty Law Center has published receipts that show Mair

sent just over $620 to the NA, according to invoices for goods purchased from National Vanguard Books, the NA’s printing imprint. Mair purchased subscriptions for periodicals published by the imprint and he bought works that instruct readers on the “Chemistry of Powder & Explosives,” “Incendiaries,” and a work called “Improvised Munitions Handbook.” Under “Section III, No. 9” (page 125) of that handbook, there are detailed instructions for constructing a “Pipe Pistol For .38 Caliber Ammunition” from components that can be purchased from nearly any hardware store.

The NA may be best-known for the work of its now-deceased founder, William Pierce, a former physics professor who also wrote racist novels. One, The Turner Diaries, tells the post-apocalyptic fictional story of a white man fighting in a race war that may have provided inspiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Mair made his orders in December 1999 and in 2003. It should perhaps be recalled that December 1999 was just a few months after David Copeland’s far-right bombing campaign in London.

No, Orlando Massacre Was Not Predicted by ISIS Three Days Beforehand

A headline from Gateway Pundit:

ISIS Announced Florida Threat THREE Days Ago: “We Will Attack Florida”

The story has gained a certain amount of attention on social media; the implication is that this is pertinent information relating to Omar Mateen’s massacre in Orlando. However, as we’ve come to expect from Jim Hoft (“the dumbest man on the internet”), the story is an unhappy and unhelpful mix of misinformation and attention-seeking sensationalism. And it’s not a great surprise to see that the Shoebats are involved.

Here’s the actual source, Vocativ, on 8 June:

A pro-ISIS “hacking” group calling itself the United Cyber Caliphate distributed its latest “kill” list this week. The group claims the list includes names, addresses, and email addresses belonging to 8,318 people, making it one of the longest target lists ISIS-affiliated groups have distributed.

In a post Vocativ uncovered on the messaging app Telegram that was written in both English and Arabic, the United Cyber Caliphate called on its supporters to “follow” those listed and “kill them strongly to take revenge for Muslims.”

Most of the names and the accompanying addresses listed appear to belong to people in the United States, Australia, and Canada. Out of 7,848 people identified as being in the U.S. alone, 1,445 were listed as having addresses in California, 643 in Florida, 341 in Washington, 333 in Texas, 331 in Illinois, and 290 in New York. Another 312 names and addresses allegedly belong to people in Canada, while 69 allegedly belong to people in Australia. Another 39 are affiliated with the U.K. and the rest are listed with addresses in Belgium, Brazil, China, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden and Trinidad and Tobago.

In other words, a group linked to ISIS wants to incite targeted assassinations around the world. Florida is disproportionately represented, but there is nothing in the above which can reasonably be read as a prediction of the atrocity that unfolded at the Pulse nightclub.

What happened was that Florida’s CBS 12 picked up on the Florida angle in the Vocativ article for a follow-up piece the next day:

ISIS ‘kill list’ targets Palm Beach, Treasure Coast residents: Ex-FBI agent

A pro-Isis group has released a hit list with the names of more than 8,000 peoplemostly Americans.

More than 600-people live in Florida, and one security expert believes that many of those targeted live in Palm Beach County and on the Treasure Coast.

[Stuart] Kaplan believes civilians from our community are on the list.

“I would suspect a head of a hospital or, perhaps, a local community leader…”

Kaplan is concerned the list will inspire “lone wolf” style attacks.

“If in fact a sympathizer gets ahold of this list and is readily able to identify you as being his neighbor and, then, decides (because they’re a sympathizer) to go out and do something horrific to you, there is no way to calculate the potential or to prevent that.”

The list has not yet been made public.

That article was pasted onto Walid Shoebat’s website by his son Theodore, under the heading “Major Muslim Terrorists Makes This Declaration To All Americans: We Are Coming After You, We Will Attack Florida And Slaughter Americans There”. Following the massacre, Walid Shoebat then published a new post, this time entitled “We Warned You Three Days Ago That A Massacre By Muslims In Florida Was Coming And No One Listened.”

It should be remembered that Walid Shoebat used to be touted around churches and “anti-Jihad” conferences as a supposed expert on Islamic terrorism, due a supposed affiliation with the PLO in the 1970s before he became a Christian (he still gets some gigs, such as addressing police officers at Jersey Shore in 2015). It appears he’s trying to retain his supposed expert status by suggesting that by cutting-and-pasting a news report and adding a more lurid headline he somehow issued an expert “warning” that we all should have heeded.

The opportunism is obvious and desperate. In recent months, the Shoebat operation has moved to the fringes: father and son now espouse a traditionalist form of Catholicism that is contemptuous of Evangelicals (as well as just about everyone else), and Theodore in particular is now notorious for his calls for gay people (and their supporters) to be killed (on Orlando, Walid sneers that “the only ones moaning over fifty gays slaughtered are liberals, idiots and gay lovers”).

Meanwhile, Shoebat’s sometime associate Robert Spencer has also attempted to find an angle from which he can appear to have something knowledgeable to say:

Islamic State issued “kill list” including 600 Florida residents three days before Orlando gay club jihad massacre

“Kaplan is concerned the list will inspire ‘lone wolf’ style attacks.” Did Omar Mateen see this list and find it inspiring?

Spencer then pastes the CBS 12 article down to the “lone wolf” comment, leaving out the details that follow. It’s one thing to speculate reasonably based on provisional information, but that is not what’s happening here – such reasonable speculation would require balancing and assessing probabilities, not just posting a wild guess with a question mark at the end for insurance. This is charlatanism.

Footnote

One site is claiming that “Unconfirmed news reports are out this evening with shocking details  about how ISIS’s reported news agency Amaq News Agency noted that ISIS was targeting Florida three days before the massive attack”. That seems to be a confusion between Vocativ‘s report on 8 June and the Amaq News Agency stating that ISIS was taking credit for the nightclub attack after the event.

Iran-Based Cleric Linked to Orlando Says He Never “Gave the Call to a Death Sentence” at Talks on Homosexuality

Fusion draws attention to new Facebook postings by Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar:

Asked specifically about his March comments about gays in Orlando, Sekaleshfar called it an “academic discussion” where he was describing the “theoretical angle as to what Islam says.”

“I never gave the call to a death sentence,” he said, adding that extracts were taken out of context. “I was explaining what Islamic law – in a country whose people democratically desired Islamic law to be exercised – states in relation to NOT homosexuals, but rather in relation to when the act of anal copulation is executed in such an aforementioned public,” he said.

Sekaleshfar is actually here describing a talk he gave in Dearborn in 2013, advertised under the title “Homosexual Muslim? An Engaging Spiritual Discourse on Sexuality in the Islamic Tradition”. Extracts from a video of this came to media attention a few months ago (thanks to a nudge from Tom Trento’s “United West” outfit), when he was scheduled to speak at Sanford near Orlando in March on “How to Deal with the Phenomenon of Homosexuality”. It seems that Fusion has conflated the two events, although it seems likely that Sekaleshfar said the same sort of thing as at Dearborn.

The full talk he gave in Dearborn can be seen on YouTube here – his “death is the sentence” comment, which is now notorious after the massacre in Orlando, comes at 58 minutes.

On the one hand, the overall impression from the video is that the softly-spoken Sekaleshfar places so many limitations around the possibility of an execution that gay people could survive discreetly in an Islamic society:

Inside their houses they can do whatever they want, they’re free… Before we get to the sentencing it has to go through these barriers, we never get there…It’s like adultery… Four people never see the practice being done… It’s a sin, it has to be repented, that’s it, between them and Allah.

That seems not to accord with claims that Sekaleshfar is a “gays must die” preacher or that he “calls for the death of all homosexuals”, even in an Islamic society.

On the other hand, however, he soon after follows with this:

We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals it’s the same. Out of compassion, let’s get rid of him [sic, although one report transcribes as “them”] now. Because he’s contaminating society… That’s with anal intercourse… With the non-anal type, the death sentence is not executed. There it’s 100 lashes.

The implication of this is that although he acknowledges and respects the “barriers” to reaching a conviction, this is not because he wants a legal device to make life possible for gay people in an Islamic society. If execution is the most “compassionate” outcome, then surely it must be the preferred outcome.

Sekaleshfar doesn’t come across as someone who is motivated by hatred, and his tone is sorrowful rather than sanguinary. But even though his talk of execution relates to only a limited and hypothetical situation, that does not make it less dehumanizing. On Facebook, Sekaleshfar appears to be genuinely repelled by what Mateen has done – but this is where talk of executing gay people eventually leads, however it is hedged and qualified.

No, Michio Kaku Has Not “Found Proof” That God Exists

From Christian Today:

Top scientist finds proof that God exists, says humans live in a ‘world made by rules created by an intelligence’

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, who is known as one of the developers of the revolutionary String Theory, said theoretical particles known as “primitive semi-radius tachyons” may be used to prove the existence of God.

Tachyons are hypothetical particles believed to be moving faster than light and are supposedly capable of “unsticking” universe matter or vacuum space between matter particles, leaving everything free from the influences of the surrounding universe.

After conducting tests on these particles, Kaku made a very interesting conclusion: that human beings, like what has been depicted in the movies, live in a “Matrix.”

“I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence,” the renowned physicist said, as quoted by the Geophilosophical Association of Anthropological and Cultural Studies.

I see some difficulties here. First, how does one conduct “tests” on a “hypothetical” particle, and what kind of “tests” were they? Surely Kaku, as a theoretician, spends his days working on mathematics rather than conducting experiments? And what exactly are “primitive semi-radius tachyons”? Googling the phrase brings up other accounts of what Kaku is supposed to have said, but nothing else. Maybe they’re related to “sodomized electrons“?

Christian Today is only one site among many to have drawn attention in the last few days to the supposed quote as published by the Asociación Geofilosófica De Estudios Antropológicos Y Culturales (AGEAC). AGEAC mainly promotes the teachings of a certain Oscar Uzcategui, a Venezuelan esotericist (“Universal Gnosticism”) also known as V.M. Kwen Khan. The AGEAC article comes with an embedded video of an interview with Kaku taken from Big Think, although its contents do not reflect the quote attributed to him.

However, the AGEAC article is itself derivative – the earliest reference I can find to the story was published in May 2011, on a Brazilian website called Pbagora, under the headline “Cientista garante ter encontrado prova que Deus existe”. This version includes the detail that his tests had used technology devised “in 2005” (thus discounting the possibility that “tests” might have been a garbled understanding of “hypothetical calculations”). Pbagora cites as its source Scientific American, although no link is given and there doesn’t seem to be any article published by Scientific American that fits the bill.

This Portuguese version mentions “semi-raio primitivo de táquions” rather than “semi-radius”, but it still doesn’t make any sense. From there, the story made its way onto the website of the Instituto Allan Kardec de Estudos Espíritas (named for the founder of Spritism), and later to Jornal VDD, a Brazilian news-site which comes with the disclaimer “Não acredite em tudo que você lê por ai. Este é um site de humor que publica notícias que deveriam ser verdade, ou não” (“Do not believe everything you read out there. This is a humour site that publishes news that may be true or not”).

The Jornal VDD site version was translated into Spanish by Noticia Cristiana, at which point “semi-raio primitivo de táquions” became “semi-radio primitivo de táquiones”. The article came under a certain amount of derision from Spanish-speaking sceptics, particularly due to the link to Jornal VDD. Various English versions subsequently appeared on blogs, but it seems likely that the earlier Spanish version forms the basis for the AGEAC article, which for some reason does not include the “2005” detail. AGEAC’s version has now captured the imagination of sites ranging from Christian Today and Catholic Online to WND (“Big hit! Renowned scientist’s video shows God exists”) and Before It’s News.

If the quote is genuine, then, it has travelled from English into Portuguese, then into Spanish, and then back again into English. However, it looks to me more likely that the Portuguese version was either fabricated or is so garbled that it bears no relation to anything Kaku actually said.

But even if the quote is genuine, what would it signify? I’m not a scientist, and like most people I can only comprehend science through popular works – but I know enough to understand that a scientist’s grand assertion is not proof of anything. We’re told nothing about his reasoning, his data, or – crucially – what his peers have to say on the subject. These silly articles are simply meant to assure us that a Very Intelligent Person has a very good reason to believe in God, even if we can’t follow the details. Hence the quote’s fascination for a rather weird rag-bag of religious websites (although the Dawkins cult is perhaps a good example of the flipside of this sort of thing).

Kaku’s theism seems to be real enough, though. In 2011 a University of Virginia scholar named George Michael published an article in World Future Review on “Michio Kaku’s Religion of Physics”, in which he noted:

From the perspective of string theory, if the universe can be viewed as music vibrating through hyperspace, Kaku asks, “Is there a composer?” Kaku’s vision of God aligns with Einstein who believed in the God of Baruch Spinoza. Spinoza rejected the notion of a providential God. Instead, he believed in a supreme being who created the cosmos, but had no specific interest in human affairs. Likewise, Kaku’s worldview is deist, in the sense that it implies that a supreme being may have created the laws that govern the universe in the first place, but does intervene thereafter. Invoking the concept of teleology, he maintains that string theory, with its elegant symmetries, if proven correct, suggests a creator. To this end, he has long searched for the elusive equation or formula “perhaps no more than one inch long,” that will explain all physical laws in the universe.

If accurate, this is Kaku’s personal philosophical extrapolation from his work as a scientist – but it hardly amounts to a scientist “finding proof” of the existence of God, or even claiming to have done so.

Gotthard Base Tunnel Opening Ceremony Prompts Satanic Panic

Ibex manFrom the BBC:

From the World Cup to the Olympics, it is not a significant event if you don’t have an unusual opening ceremony to go with it.

This was also the case when the Gotthard base tunnel, the longest and deepest in the world, was inaugurated on Wednesday.

Here are some of the most striking moments from the ceremony – we have tried to explain what is going on as far as possible. It was not always possible

The ceremony “represented different aspects of Swiss culture”: elements included a milk float; “a topless woman decked as a bird” who “hovered above actors representing the nine construction workers who died during the building of the tunnel”; ” lots of people rolling around in white underwear”; and a man dressed as an ibex, native to the Alps.

The show (sorry, “artistic actions”) was staged by Volker Hesse, a German theatre director “known in Switzerland from his tenure as director of Theater Neumarkt in Zurich from 1993 to 1999 and through his work on productions in Bern and Basel and large-scale amateur theatre projects in Central Switzerland”. Attendees included Matteo Renzi, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande.

The ibex figure, and the less prudish elements of the display, have now exercised the feverish imaginations of conspiracy theorists. A site called Vigilant Citizen observed:

Attended by Europe’s most powerful people, the opening ceremony of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland was a dark, disturbing, weirdly satanic ritual.

…As I discussed in my article on the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics, the occult elite enjoys putting on full display its agenda and philosophy symbolic, dramatic displays which are reminiscent of dramas re-enacted in secret society rituals. Furthermore, there is no better way to showcase sheer power than putting the “Illuminati stamp of approval” on massive mega-projects such as the Olympics or major constructions.

This article was then picked up by Michael Snyder, author of The Economic Collapse Blog and a frequent contributor to Charisma News, which is run by the Strang evangelical media empire. Snyder, who previously warned that a plan to reconstruct an ancient Syrian arch in London and New York would open a portal to Baal, inevitably asked: “Was the Gotthard Base Tunnel Opening Ceremony an Illuminati Ritual Intended to Honor Satan?”. Synder’s article in turn inspired WND‘s Leo Hohmann, who reported on the “bizarre ‘demonic’ ceremony”. Hohmann also discerned an embrace between two female actors as being a simulation of “lesbian sex”.

Also unimpressed with Hesse’s efforts is the John Birch Society, which has uploaded a rumination on the “Satanic Ceremony at Opening of Swiss Gotthard Base Tunnel” by its CEO, Arthur R. Thompson. Thompson suggests that the show is an example of “how crazy the Europeans have become”, and that this is another reason for Britain to vote in favour of leaving the EU.

Vigilant Citizen previously caught the attention of Dorian Lynskey, the Guardian‘s music writer. Noting the site’s obsession with finding occult references in pop music videos, Lynskey observed in 2010:

Although the Vigilant Citizen insists he is neither a political conservative nor a religious fundamentalist, he is heir to such off-piste 60s pop critics as the Reverend David A Noebel, author of Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles, and Gary Allen, who theorised that post-Rubber Soul Beatles material was so technically sophisticated that it must have been “put together by behavioural scientists in some think tank”.

Christian Bookshop Row over “Anti-Catholic” Claim

From the religious news desk of the Daily Express:

AN UNHOLY row has broken out after the Protestant owner of a Christian bookshop refused to sell a bible to a woman – because she is CATHOLIC.

Muriel Swan, 61, was told she should “get the Pope to open a few bookshops for her” after she was turned away from The Mustard Seed Christian Bookshop.

She went to the shop to look for a gift for her eight-year-old grandson Cameron for his first Holy Communion.

But she was left cross when, she claims, staff told her they didn’t stock Catholic literature and goods – despite advertising themselves as a Christian bookshop.

…Defiant owner Chris Stala defended her store and said Muriel should “get the Pope to open a few bookshops for her”.

The story has trickled up to the national media from the Nottingham Post, which has posted a short video of Swan making her complaint outside the shop. According to Swan, the shop’s owner specifically stated that the Mustard Seed is “anti-Catholic”. However, Post also carries Stala’s response:

“We are not anti-Catholic in anyway. I am a Christian and she is too but we are part of different sects. You would not get Jehovah’s Witnesses coming here either.

…”She should get the Pope to open a few bookshops for her because he has plenty of money.”

The Express appears to have introduced a couple of distortions into the story. First, the shop did not “refuse to sell a Bible” to Swan: clearly, Swan was looking for a Catholic Bible, and probably one with a special decorative features relating to First Communion. In other words, she asked for a particular edition of the Bible that the shop did not stock. The Times, in what appears to be a further exaggeration, has headlined its own article “‘No Catholics’ in Christian bookshop”, and stated that “A woman has claimed that the Protestant owner of a Christian bookshop refused to serve her because she was a Catholic.”

Second, the Express seems undecided as to whether Swan was indeed told to “get the Pope to open a few bookshops”, or if this was a comment Stala made to the media afterwards; but the earlier Nottingham Post story makes it clear that the comment came later. However, for some reason the Express has edited out the “because he has plenty of money” part of her quote, which appears to be a jibe and is suggestive of a hostile perspective on Catholicism.

Journalistic interest in the “unholy row” (one of the most annoying clichés in journalism) does not appear to have extended to anyone actually entering the shop to browse the shelves (I haven’t been able to read the full Times article, but it seems to be derivative). It would have been fairly easy to determine if the shop has an anti-Catholic perspective; in particular, such shops tend to have a section on “cults”, and any anti-Catholic polemic will probably be found there.

The Express also quotes Swan as saying

“I’ve since found out although they are a Protestant shop but they also stock Jewish things too.”

That is not as odd as it may sound. First, there are at least two Messianic congregations in the Nottingham area; Messianic Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah and are accepted as Christians, but their style of worship retains elements of their Jewish heritage. Second, there is a trend by which some evangelicals appropriate Jewish cultural items, as an expression of philo-Semitism and in the belief that it brings their devotional practices closer to the religious world of Jesus.

Police U-Turn on PIN Issued to Journalist Highlights the Problem of “Harassment Warnings”

From the Croydon Advertiser:

THE Metropolitan Police has revoked a harassment warning given to a Croydon Advertiser journalist for questioning a convicted fraudster.

Chief reporter Gareth Davies was issued with a Police Information Notice (PIN) in March 2014 while investigating Neelam Desai’s alleged involvement in a dating website scam in which men were conned out of tens of thousands of pounds.

The Met said his attempts to question Desai – calling at her house once and sending her a politely-worded email – “went beyond what was reasonable” and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) later upheld that decision.

Mr Davies, backed by publisher Local World then new owner Trinity Mirror, challenged the ruling and, earlier this year, a High Court judge granted permission for a judicial review.

…A Trinity Mirror spokesperson said: …”The Police and IPCC will also pay most of the legal costs of the proceedings and will write to the College of Policing to request a review of the guidance on using PINs with journalists.”

The police u-turn here came just days before the judicial review was due to take place. It seems to me that the police invoking the College of Policing at this late date is opportunistic: it is an attempt to suggest that the problem due to unclear guidance rather than obviously flawed decision-making. Why didn’t the Met seek clarification back in 2014?

The decision also looks bad for the IPCC: they confirmed that the police had acted properly in issuing the PIN, only to now see the original decision that they approved being repudiated by those who made it. That hardly inspires confidence in the IPCC’s competence and true independence.

One small consolation from this wretched affair is that the Metropolitan Police were able to clarify a common misconception about PINs:

Scotland Yard said: “When a harassment warning letter is issued, there is also no implication that the alleged harassment has taken place.”

As I wrote previously, that was met with some surprise; many people are under the impression that such “warnings” at the very least reflect the considered opinion of professional law-enforcement officers that criminal conduct has occurred, and at worst that they amount to the same thing as a police caution, in which an offence is admitted. But in fact, PINs merely warn individuals that alleged conduct may amount to an offence if it continues. It is shockingly easy for a vexatious complainant to get an PIN issued to someone, and then to wave it around like some kind of trophy (see below for my experience of this).

Part of the problem is that police themselves often don’t understand how PINs are supposed to work: last year, I got Wiltshire Police to delete a highly misleading website on the subject, and police are known to talk of a PIN being “breached” despite such documents being informal and having no legal force. The issue thus goes much deeper than “using PINs with journalists”.

This is what the UK Parliament website has to say on the subject:

Constituents sometimes ask about the status of Police Information Notices (PINs) which the police may issue where there are allegations of harassment. These notices (sometimes called Harassment Warning Notices) are not covered by legislation, and don’t themselves constitute any kind of formal legal action.

…Because signing a Police Information Notice does not mean admitting any wrongdoing, there is no right of appeal. If a person is unhappy about the fact that the warning was issued, he or she could complain to the police force concerned.

This was why I was unsure whether Davies’s judicial review would succeed: the Met could have argued that the PIN cannot be revoked because there is nothing to revoke.

My interest: Dennis Rice aka Tabloid Troll

This is of some concern to me, having received a PIN myself in 2014 (from Thames Valley Police) following a malicious complaint by online troll Dennis Rice, who had been subjecting me to unpleasantness as “TabloidTroll” over an extended period from 2012-14 (he’s recently started up again, this time under his own name). Rice is actually a professional journalist himself, but his behaviour had nothing to do with how he makes his living: he was pursuing a private vendetta after I agreed with evidence that unmasked his sockpuppeting and trolling.

Rice actually received two warnings himself from police about his conduct towards me, in 2013 and 2014 – I didn’t make a big deal about this, as my goal was to get him to change his behaviour, and I did not want to misrepresent police intervention as confirming criminality (just as lack of police action would not have amounted to an exoneration). It was shortly after the second of these warning that he closed down his @tabloidtroll Twitter account.

A few weeks later, Rice retaliated by making his own complaint, claiming to have received an anonymous threatening message sent by me. Of course, I had not done this – that sort of thing is beneath me, and such a course of action would have been against my own best interests, given that the police were starting to take complaints against Rice seriously. Further, Rice has a history of claiming to have received an anonymous threat after online alteractions.

Yet a PIN was issued to me – and it didn’t even explain what I was supposed to have done (the specific allegation was only put to me weeks later). Rice now of course boasts that I have “a police warning for trolling and harassment”,  even though he must know what a PIN really is. All of this is discussed in full here.

I later made a complaint to Thames Valley Police, and initially ran up against the problem discussed above, that a PIN supposedly cannot be rescinded because it has no legal basis. I then patiently explained that it can still be the case that a PIN was issued incorrectly, and that this was the pertinent point. This elicited the obtuse police response that no officer had committed a disciplinary offence, which is where matters have been left.

Rice just a few weeks ago attempted a new complaint, against both myself and the author Peter Jukes, after Peter drew attention to new goading comments that Rice had emailed to him. However, this has now been dropped; according to the officer assigned to the case “Mr Rice has failed to return my emails or provide me any evidence of an offence”. More on that here.

(Footnote: To anticipate one objection to the above from Rice: After he received his second police warning, he wrote to me boasting that the police had apologised to him for acting on “false information” from me. I followed this up with police, who explained that the address I had given them for Rice had been out of date. Presumably this error caused some embarrassment to Rice when police showed up there, but the “apology” had nothing to do with the substance of my complaint.)