Some Notes on John Whittingdale, Byline, and Eric Li

(expanded 22 April 2016)

Whittingdale and the media
Byline Media
Note on Eric Li and The 4th Media
Li’s views
Conclusion
Excursus

Whittingdale and the media

Much has been written about whether it was right for the crowdfunding publishing platform Byline to have carried a piece at the start of April that revealed that the Minister for Culture, John Whittingdale, had previously been in a relationship with a woman who at the time was involved in the sex industry as a dominatrix. Whittingdale was and is a divorcé, and by his own account he was unaware of her profession; and it is not alleged that Whittingdale paid for her companionship.

The justification given for running the story was that several newspapers had devoted resources into researching Whittingdale’s relationship, but had then chosen not to run the story. Was this because the relationship was an intrusive “non-story”, or because newspapers preferred to keep the story in reserve as leverage over a man whose brief includes press regulation?

Follow-up articles on Byline by John Cusick, formerly of the Independent, include information that may be relevant here. Apparently, Geordie Greig, the editor of the Mail on Sunday, had shown great enthusiasm for the story, and it was only dropped at the very last minute; meanwhile Amol Rajan, editor of the Independent, changed his mind on running the story the day after attending a Society of Editors conference alongside Whittingdale. At the time, he promised Cusick an explanation, which was not forthcoming.

It is also perhaps noteworthy that after the story broke, the Mail on Sunday then published five pages about Whittingdale’s love life, including an account by another girlfriend, described by the paper as a former “porn star” (“glamour model” would probably have been a better term), and details of “an intimate relationship with the daughter of a USSR military officer”. It is reasonable to suspect that the paper already had at least some of this material before Byline published, and that there was some reason for holding it back that no longer existed once the Byline articles had appeared.

Thus it does look like Whittingale was perhaps afforded a courtesy, for whatever reason, although I’m sceptical that the dynamic was as crude as a “Sword of Damocles over James Whittingdale” (as suggested by Chris Bryant) or that the non-reporting was a “cover-up”.

Byline Media

Byline has now in turn come under scrutiny. The site is run by two young entrepreneurs, who I met in London last year, and its senior advisor is Peter Jukes, who crowd-funded his reporting on Twitter of the phone-hacking trials. I have had friendly exchanges with Peter since that time, in large part because we were both trolled at various times by Dennis Rice, the former Investigations Editor at the Mail on Sunday who was attempting to intimidate various people via his aptly named and industry approved @tabloidtroll sockpuppet account (see below for more on this).

Peter is not a member of the press reform campaigning group Hacked Off, but the organisation has been supportive of his efforts and Peter shares Hacked Off’s concerns about the UK press. It is no secret that there is an overlap of interest: for instance, Peter’s latest book is published by Martin Hickman’s Canbury Press, and Martin co-wrote Dial M for Murdoch with Tom Watson.

Hacked Off has found the Byline Whittingdale articles to be of interest (“vital questions must be answered”), taking the view that they show that Whittingdale was “potentially exposed to improper pressure from newspaper companies which had it in their power to embarrass him or worse” . From this has grown the suggestion that Hacked Off and/or Watson were somehow behind the Byline articles.

Certainly, Watson knew the story back in 2013; according to Robert Peston (who rejects the cover-up suggestion as “nuts”):

The Sunday People was the first newspaper to be offered the story at the end of 2013.

It approached Tom Watson – the Labour MP, now deputy leader of the Labour party, then a colleague of Mr Whittingdale on the Culture committee – for his advice on whether it should publish.

He told them he did not see there was a public-interest reason to run the story on Mr Whittingdale’s affair, since he was a single man, this was his private life, and the People had no evidence that Mr Whittingdale had paid for sex.

That was before Whittingdale became Culture Minister; however, Byline‘s first article, by Nick Mutch, is clearly derived from his own sources, and there is no need to postulate Watson passing it along surreptitiously more than two years later. The Guido Fawkes smear site – famous for honeytrapping an MP into texting an image of his penis – tried to make the best of it, referring vaguely to “Watson’s fingerprints” on the story.

Then came a piece in the Telegraph by Andrew Gilligan; it included the following:

Mr Jukes says that Byline.com is liberating journalism from being a “tool” of “wealthy, tax-shy billionaires” to becoming an agent of “democracy.” He claims the site is “crowdfunded” by small donations from readers.

…However, Companies House records show that almost all the site’s £540,000 funding in fact comes from three billionaires, including £160,000 from Eric Li, a Shanghai businessman who has said dictatorship works better than democracy and has called for more constraints on journalists in China.

Until 2014 Mr Li wrote regularly for The 4th Media,* a website promoting anti-Western conspiracy theories and supporting authoritarian regimes. He has said that the West “seems incapable of becoming less democratic even when its survival may depend on such a shift.”

Byline.com has promoted and defended a number of other conspiracy theories for which there is little evidence. These include the now discredited claims of a “Westminster child sex abuse ring” involving prominent establishment figures.

The site shares a number of journalists, including Mr Jukes, with Exaro, the “investigative website” that first published false sex abuse claims against the late Lord Brittan, the former defence chief Lord Bramall and the former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.

[*This phrase has since been amended to “Articles by Mr Li are published on 4th Media” – see next section for more on this]

Overlap with Exaro, it seems to me, is regrettable: I’ve written plenty about how and why Exaro got it wrong on “Westminster VIP paedos”, and I believe the site in its reporting of “Nick’s” fantastical allegations was not just flawed but also at times dishonest. But the subject hardly looms large on the Byline website; there are just a few commentary articles by David Hencke, who also writes for Exaro. When Gilligan was writing about Exaro’s Westminster claims in 2014, his own view was that “the conspiracy element cannot be wholly dismissed”, and the mainstream media were happy to refer to “investigative website Exaro” and “campaigning MP Tom Watson” until mid-2015.

Note on Eric Li and The 4th Media

Following the Telegraph article, the Paul Staines crew followed up with a short article headlined “Byline Funder on Anti-Semitic Conspiracy site”. Guido Fawkes took Gilligan’s claim that Li writes for the site (an assertion from which the Telegraph has now retreated) at face value, and highlighted material (by other authors) on the site about “Jewish banksters” and 9/11 as a “false flag” as such.

As noted above, the Telegraph has now retreated from the assertion that “Mr Li wrote regularly for The 4th Media”, instead merely stating that “Articles by Mr Li are published on 4th Media”. This is because it has been shown that The 4th Media consists largely (perhaps totally) of items cut-and-pasted from other websites. The items by Li – who usually styles himself as Eric X. Li – in fact all come from mainstream media sources, such as the Huffington Post and the Washington Post.

The Guido Fawkes site states that “Eric Li’s articles and lectures were published and cross-posted by The 4th Media ‘with permission'”, although no link is provided to prove this. The site carries 12 items by Li, published between 2012 and 2014. Only one of these has a “reprinted by permission” notice, stating “Reprinted with permission from YaleGlobal Online”. However, that particular notification has simply been pasted wholesale from an earlier reprint of the same article in the South China Morning Post.

Similarly, an article by Arundhati Roy that was reprinted by Alternet with a “Reprinted here with permission” notice has been cut and pasted by The 4th Media, complete with the exact same notice. Perhaps Roy is now also a scandalous association for anyone to have.

There are around 100 people listed as The 4th Media‘s supposed “columnists” alongside Li, including Roy, Antonio Negri, Barbara Ehrenreich, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Fidel Castro, Chris Hedges and Glenn Greenwald. The site also carries material ripped off from the Daily Mail, the Spectator (an article by Peter Hitchens), and… erm… the Daily Telegraph. Clearly, The 4th Media pirates whatever material takes its fancy, including any copyright notice that may have been in the source.

Here’s Li’s Huffington Post profile:

Eric X. Li is a venture capitalist in Shanghai. He serves on the board of directors of China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) and is vice chairman of its publishing arm CEIBS Publishing Group. Mr. Li is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute.

Further, the photo of Li used by Guido Fawkes shows Li giving a talk. This was actually a TED Talk, although the author is careful not to mention it. Perhaps this means Byline, through Li, is also linked to… erm, one of best-known and respected global ideas brands?

Given that Li has a respectable mainstream profile that Gilligan and Fawkes have avoided mentioning, and that The 4th Media engages in widespread bootlegging from many high-profile authors, it seems to me very likely that The 4th Media has simply re-used his content at its own initiative and without in fact asking for permission – despite the “with permission” notice that appears on one article, which was simply carried across from a reprint elsewhere.

A further note: The 4th Media website is published by the China April Media Group (sometimes misspelt as the China April Meida Group), based in Beijing. I can’t find any references linking Li, who is based in Shanghai, to this organisation. Further, Li does not feature on a critical profile of the site by Kremlin Trolls (which shows that the site is actually run by a certain Rev. Kiyul Chung).

Li’s views

Meanwhile, the quote from Li on democracy that Gilligan uses can be seen in context here, from a 2012 op-ed in the New York Times provocatively titled “Why China’s Political Model is Superior”. He writes:

China is on a different path. Its leaders are prepared to allow greater popular participation in political decisions if and when it is conducive to economic development and favorable to the country’s national interests, as they have done in the past 10 years.

However, China’s leaders would not hesitate to curtail those freedoms if the conditions and the needs of the nation changed. The 1980s were a time of expanding popular participation in the country’s politics that helped loosen the ideological shackles of the destructive Cultural Revolution. But it went too far and led to a vast rebellion at Tiananmen Square.

That uprising was decisively put down on June 4, 1989. The Chinese nation paid a heavy price for that violent event, but the alternatives would have been far worse.

The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed him in January, introducing him as a “provocateur”. He doesn’t sound like someone I would warm to, and his description of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests as having gone “too far” is obnoxious. Many countries have transitioned from authoritarianism to democracy without strife, including the Chinese example of Taiwan. And real threats to civil order have been neutralised without resorting to the kind of carnage and repression that was seen at Tiananmen Square.

However, it should also be remembered that civil wars and revolutions brought great suffering to China during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and Li is hardly the only person to regard China’s continuing stability as being the most important priority. I suspect his views are commonplace among successful businessmen living in mainland China.

Should Byline be concerned? Perhaps, but let he who has never done business with mainland China cast the first stone. Li is a tech investor – he has no editorial role at Byline. By contrast, the Telegraph has a sponsorship deal with the China Daily, described by the Atlantic as “the state-controlled English-language voice of the Chinese government to the outside world”. There has also been some controversy over the years in relation to News International’s extensive Chinese interests.

And as for his views on what Gilligan describes as “more constraints on journalists in China”, here’s a quote from an article he wrote for Foreign Affairs:

Complementing the party’s own antigraft efforts is the increasing independence of media outlets, both state- and privately owned. News organizations have already exposed cases of official corruption and disseminated their findings on the Internet. The CCP has responded by pursuing some of the cases that the media have brought to light. Of course, this system is not perfect, and some media outlets are themselves corrupt. Illicit payments to journalists and fabricated stories are commonplace. If these problems are not corrected quickly, Chinese media will lose what little credibility they have gained.

Accordingly, the next administration might develop more sophisticated political regulations and legal constraints on journalists to provide space for the sector to mature. Officials have already discussed instituting a press law that would protect legitimate, factual reporting and penalize acts of libel and misrepresentation. Some might view the initiative as the government reining in journalists, but the larger impact would be to make the media more credible in the eyes of the Chinese public. Journalists who take bribes or invent rumors to attract readers can hardly check government corruption.

Make of that what you will, but it clearly is not what Gilligan wishes readers to infer when he plucked out the word “constraints”.

[UPDATE (24 April): In a late intervention, Louise Mensch has highlighted Gilligan’s “dictatorship works better than democracy” summary of Li’s position, and presented it as if it were a direct quote from Li. She has also extrapolated wildly from the Guido Fawkes post to accuse Li of being an “anti Semite”; when it came to her attention that this false claim may be actionable, her response was merely that “you can’t defame a man who says dictatorship beats democracy”.]

Conclusion

The line being pushed by Guido Fawkes is that Byline is a “conspiracy website”. The articles proposing that Whittingdale may have been given special consideration by the press may prove to be a misjudgment (although Private Eye magazine thinks there may be something to it), but this is hardly David Icke territory. The fact Guido Fawkes has to find material on another site and make a tenuous link to bolster its claim speaks for itself.

But the wider point is that Byline is a publishing platform: articles are not commissioned, and a quick survey shows that the site showcases the work of career journalists, who are crowdfunded to produce material that otherwise might not get published.

As with any other news source, it will be as good as the material it presents, and I’d be surprised if it never publishes a dud. Gilligan’s attack piece wants to paint Byline as being something akin to Infowars, but the fact he resorts to a bogus funding/investment controversy rather than a rounded assessment of the site’s content shows bad faith.

There are also other errors in Gillian’s article, discussed by Zelo Street.

***
Excursus

Dennis Rice has in the last day or so emailed Peter, hinting that he may have been contacted by journalists. He wrote:

Dear Mr Jukes,

I do hope you haven’t been injured in the self irony overload from your whining about the Sunday Telegraph not asking you to comment prior to publication.

I had the same experience when you made up a story about how I was part of a Fleet Street Conspiracy of two (I had last worked on Fleet St eight in 2008 and the other person you named was Louise Mensch, an author and then MP who has at that point never written for Fleet Street)

In order to do this you moved a tweet I had posted in January 2014 – in response to your attacking my family’s hacking and privacy – forward four months to pretend it had been made in response to a book which I had zero interest in, and everyone I knew had zero interest in (a situation which continues to this day).

When this became clear to the UK Press Gazette they pulled the excerpt and unsurprisingly IPSO found in my favour.

…Meantime rest assured that if anyone contacts me about you I will (a) provide any and all information I have on your rank hypocrisy and distortions; and (b) do it for free.

Dennis Rice

At the risk of raking over old ground: yes, an aggressive Tweet that Rice published in January 2014 was mistakenly moved forward by several months, due to a late RT by someone else; but Rice was making exactly the same threats during the summer of 2014 as he was in January, albeit under his sockpuppet account name. In fact, IPSO rejected most of Rice’s complaint, and all it did was confirm that the publisher, Press Gazette, had been right to run a correction.

Second, Peter did not attack  Rice’s “family’s hacking and privacy” – a particularly obnoxious element to Rice’s bullying is the way he comes up with these bogus self-justifications.

Full details on all this here.

Meanwhile, it should be recalled that Rice had previously attempted to smear Peter by claiming he had lied about his financial circumstances in order to get crowd-funding, but Peter was able to show that the allegation was false. Even the Fawkes team – who had been contacted about it – conceded that the claim had been “a mistake”. Full details here.

In any event, there does not seem to be much evidence that journalists have used anything Rice may have told them; perhaps this is because of some genuine information on this website pertaining to Rice and the subjects of “rank hypocrisy and distortions”.

The CPS, The Police, and the Dead

From The Brief (a legal newsletter helpfully extracted here by @BarristerSecret):

Senior prosecutors have invoked new policy in rejecting a request from police that they consider charging a dead suspect with the 40-year-old murder of a teenage girl.

…A senior police source told the BBC: “We would like a clear statement that it [the Crown Prosecution Service] would have charged [Robert] Black with Genette [Tate]‘s murder. It’s the closest we can now get to justice and might offer some comfort to her family and the community”

…However, a spokesman for the CPS told The Brief yesterday that “in accordance with our policy on deceased suspects, we will not be making a charging decision in this case.”

Police were close to charging Black with Tate’s 1978 murder in January of this year, when Black died in prison. He was already serving life sentences for killing other children.

The specific wording of current CPS guidance may indeed be “new”, but it is has always been CPS policy not to charge dead suspects, for the obvious reason that dead people cannot be put on trial. The police may have had good pastoral intentions in asking the CPS to make a hypothetical charging decision, but it was a very bad idea that, if indulged, would have had a tendency to undermine a principle of justice.

In this particular instance, we can probably be reasonably confident that the police had the right man, but if a positive charging decision would have taken us “the closest we can now get to justice”, that implies that positive charging decisions in general tend to demonstrate guilt: in other words, “no smoke without fire”. But the CPS only ever has a partial view of a case, and the evidence or testimony presented before it has not been tested.

It is therefore wrong and prejudicial to regard the CPS as some sort of police peer-reviewer, who independently confirm that the police have got it right. As the CPS guidance itself notes:

In some cases the CPS may make a charging decision, which is communicated to the police, but the suspect subsequently dies before he/she has been charged by the police.

…Any public disclosure of a decision to charge should be accompanied with an explanation of the status of a charging decision, in particular that it does not mean that the deceased suspect was guilty of the alleged offence, as that would be a matter for a jury to decide.

It does not follow that a positive charging decision always means a move closer to justice – indeed, it can mean quite the opposite. (1)

This is second time in recent months that the CPS has been asked to consider a dead suspect. As Dan Hodges noted in December, in relation to Greville Janner:

Yesterday, Lord Macdonald appeared on the Today programme, and was asked what he thought about putting a dead man on trial. The former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) thought about it for a second, then gave the following response. “It’s quite finely balanced. It’s a difficult decision again for the DPP, and I don’t envy her.” Finally he concluded that there may be something “unseemly” about the whole thing.

Finely balanced? A difficult decision? We are talking here about the proposition that we should be sending our legal system off in pursuit of the dead.

In the case of Robert Black, the request was rather more modest than a posthumous trial, but it represents different degrees of the same new attitude towards what the legal system is supposed to be for: not just punishing the guilty, but providing “closure” by making authoritative pronouncements about matters of history.

It looks to me that the CPS created a rod for its own back when it u-turned on its decision not to prosecute Janner for child sex offences due to ill-health, and announced there would be a “trial of the facts”. This was the result of public pressure, as well as a statement from an alleged victim conveyed by Leicestershire Police, that described Janner as an “animal” and argued that a trial of the facts would be “in the public interest”  because we would then all “know what his victims have gone through at the hands of this man”.

Matthew Scott explained at the time why this wasn’t appropriate:

There are, of course, circumstances in which the justice system has to wrestle with defendants who are too ill to participate in a normal trial, but too dangerous to be ignored. When that is necessary the law has no choice but to adopt an uneasy compromise between the defendant’s rights and the public need for protection.

Janner’s mind had already been destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease when the decision was made to go ahead; he was not dangerous, and, if found guilty, he would have been beyond any earthly punishment. But given the new and unprecedented rationale for the “trial of the facts”, it is difficult to see why it should have made any difference whether or not his body was continuing to draw breath.

Following Janner’s death, the CPS issued a statement:

When a defendant dies during criminal proceedings, it is usual that the case no longer goes ahead following formal confirmation of the defendant’s death at a hearing before the court. However, we are considering the procedural implications of this specific case. As the High Court will close today until January 11 2016, there can be no hearing before that date.

Joshua Rozenburg asked the pertinent questions:

What is the point of perpetuating the misconception in some people’s minds that it might still be possible to continue these proceedings in some arcane way? Why can’t the CPS simply say that the prosecution is over? Who is the director of public prosecutions scared of offending?

In the end, it was left to the judge to formally confirm that the matter had been wrapped up.

Footnote

(1) Of course, in some people’s minds, the simple act of the police passing a file to the CPS is itself evidence of guilt, particularly if the CPS takes some time before coming to a negative decision (I discussed an example of this mentality recently). Indeed, even an arrest can be seen in such a light – just few months ago Sussex Police chose to confirm that posthumous allegations against Bishop George Bell would have resulted in his arrest, were it not for the fact that he had died in 1958, and this was itself cited as evidence of Bell’s probable guilt.

Daily Mail Attempts to Whip Up Controversy over Oxford Theology Degrees

From the Daily Mail:

Oxford theology students won’t have to study Christianity throughout their degree – but dons deny it’s being ‘marginalised’

  • Students and lecturers have overturned 800-year-old university tradition
  • The changing way religion is seen and practised in UK has driven change
  • Students will study Christianity in first year but have more choice later on

The authors have extracted some details from an essay in the Times Higher about humanities teaching (alluded to in the article), and added a rent-a-quote from evangelical Christian Right activist Andrea Minichiello Williams to try to generate a controversy:

Andrea Minichiello Williams, of Christian Concern, said: ‘I think it’s sad … The founding fathers of Oxford believed that truth was noble and it was found in the pursuit of theology which we understood to be the study of Christianity’.

Here’s how the Times Higher article explained it:

It is 1916. You are an undergraduate at the University of Oxford studying theology in the hope that the ministry will be a good career choice. Your timetable says that you will be studying doctrine, biblical studies, the history of Christianity and Hebrew. In year three there is a single module given over to “other religions”.

…After seven years of consultation, a new course will be arriving in September 2017 under the name “theology and religion” for the first time.

Johannes Zachhuber, professor of historical and systematic theology and the theology faculty’s board chairman, said that the name change “was the moment we chose to recognise things really have become different”. While options to study “other” religions are certainly not new, compulsory Christianity papers will be gone by the second year so students can avoid studying the religion altogether and take papers such as “feminist approaches to theology and religion”, or “Buddhism in space and time”, should they so wish…

The news also reached The Times, which tried to make a link with the recent protests against the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College.

This seems to me to be something of a non-story. The Faculty of Theology at Oxford officially became the Faculty of Theology and Religion in 2012; at the time, the website explained that:

Oxford has the largest department for the study of Theology and Religion in the UK, and is a leading international centre for teaching and research.

While the Faculty maintains its historic strengths in the study of the Bible, the history of Christianity, Theology, and Philosophy, it is now also a major centre for the study of world religions, the relation between religion and science, and the place of religion in public life.

Also, some world religions – including ancient Near Eastern traditions essential for those specializing in the Hebrew Bible – have been provided by the Faculty of Oriental Studies for some time, while “Courses for Ministry” remain available for those seeking religious ordination. As Zachhuber himself says, the (overdue) amendment to the syllabus is recognition of a change that has already happened.

Meanwhile, the “800-year-old tradition” element is a bit of a stretch, although the detail is taken from the Faculty’s website. Of course, virtually all intellectual speculation 800 years ago was (medieval Roman Catholic) “theology”. The Faculty actually traces back to a School of Theology introduced in 1869. The Spectator observed at the time that:

…the conception of allowing men whose chief interest lies in Theology, to go out in Theology at their final examination rather than in Logic and Philosophy, or Mathematics, or Natural Science, or Law and Modern History, or Modern Languages and Literature, was quite appropriate… 

It is a matter of no common importance that the University of Oxford should open honours to men who, whatever their future profession may be likely to be, prefer to acquire the necessary clearness and sureness in dealing with great and subtle questions, from theology rather than directly from logic and ethics.

No opportunistic bleating there about “tradition”. However, the magazine did worry about whether the examination would be one of opinion rather than of knowledge:

Mr. [John William] Burgon thinks, for instance, that the Messianic character of prophecy is demonstrated as completely as the equivalence of 2 and 2 to 4 can be demonstrated by our Lord’s statement “Oh fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken,—ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory I”. But this only shows how utterly incompetent Mr. Burgon is to discuss the question on which he lays down so positive an opinion. Would it involve an intellectual slur on any man’s learning and reasoning powers,—and these are what a University examination properly tests,—to believe, as so many learned men, English and German, believe, that the text of our Gospels is of very uncertain authenticity,—or that Luke, especially, was an editor of comparatively late date? Again, should any candidate be told that he was simply an ignoramus, because he had arrived at the Unitarian inference about Christ, and believed Him to be not God, but man ? … And yet, as far as we can see, the new theological statute gives no guarantee whatever that Mr. Burgon’s definition of ” ignorance ” shall not be adopted, and a candidate refused his testamur, or his proper class, for differing in opinion from the examiner.

Compare the level of discussion in the above with Williams’s barely intelligible platitude about how “truth was noble”, and with the shallowness for what passes for the supposed “controversy” that the Daily Mail wants to whip up.

In 2011, the Mail‘s sister paper attacked the BBC for using “BCE” and “CE” rather than “BC” and “AD”.

Plan to Display Digital Recreations of Palmyra Arch in London and New York Prompts End-Times Fears

From Charisma News:

A Gateway Could Be Opened When the Temple of Baal Is Erected in Times Square

In April, part of the Temple of Baal that stood in Palmyra, Syria, will be reconstructed in Times Square in New York City and in Trafalgar Square in London.

…The Institute of Digital Archaeology is the organization behind this effort, and the display of these two arches is intended to be the highlight of UNESCO’s World Heritage Week late next month.

…So could it be possible that we will be unknowingly setting up a gate or a portal of some sort in Times Square?

The author, a certain Michael Snyder, makes a link between Marduk – the deity worshipped at Palmyra as “Baal” – the Hebrew Bible’s Nimrod, and the New Testament’s Antichrist, and he suggests that the arch may be “opening up gateways and portals that are extremely dangerous and that we simply do not understand”. Snyder’s take on the arch owes more to science fiction than to evangelicalism (he even mentions Stargate), but, as I’ve noted before, there is a certain amount of overlap on the fringes.

Meanwhile, the project has been noted darkly by Jonathan Cahn, whose purported ability to discern signs of the “end times” has taken him to the top of the best-seller lists in the USA, and there is also a petition to “EVICT Baal from NYC“. Its author or authors (“Concerned Americans”) object on principle, rather than because of a specific belief that a supernatural irruption will follow:

We, the undersigned, appeal to the honorable Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City to immediately disallow the erection of the tower of Baal replica to be erected in Times Sqaure during the month of April, 2016 as part of “World Heritage Week”.

We recognize that this monument represents past a past culture of child sacrifice and sexual perversion and that creating a replica in our nation’s greatest city is in direct conflict with the values and morals of our great nation…

In fact, evidence of child sacrifice in ancient Ugaritic culture is scant (despite Biblical polemics), and it is doubtful that it ever occurred at the structure in Palmyra, which was built late during the classical period. Someone on Facebook has suggested a petition to send to Boris Johnson, but they don’t seem to got very far with it.

According to the Institute of Digital Archaeology, the project

…seeks to provide an optimistic and constructive response to the ongoing threats to history and heritage that have captured headlines over the past year  Our aim is to highlight the potential for the triumph of human ingenuity over violence by offering innovative, technology-driven options for the stewardship of objects and architecture from our shared past.

Nice sentiment – but apparently ISIS aren’t the only group to find cultural heritage an objectionable concept.

This reaction is not a big surprise, though: a few years ago an announcement of US funding to protect the archaeological site at Babylon prompted a similar hysteria, while evangelical antipathy to the existence of the seventh-century Dome of the Rock is well-documented.

World Congress of Families Heading For Georgia

From Christian Newswire:

Patriarch Ilia II, head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, who has been called “the most trusted man in Georgia,” gave his blessing to World Congress of Families and will give the keynote address at World Congress of Families X – Civilization at The Crossroads: The Natural Family as the Bulwark of Freedom and Human Values— in Tbilisi (May 15-18, 2016, www.worldcongress.ge).

…Tbilisi 2016 will be the first World Congress of Families in the Eurasian and Caucasus region (on the Old Silk Road to China) and the first in an Orthodox country.  WCF X conferences and concerts will be held in multiple venues in Tbilisi including the opening ceremony in Tbilisi’s State Philharmonic Concert Hall and the closing ceremony in the historic Rustaveli National Theatre. 

Further details about the event are available on the World Congress of Families website, including a quote from one of the local organizers:

…Levan Vasadze, Chairman of the Georgian Committee for WCF X commented, “We Georgians are honored and humbled by this great opportunity and privilege to host World Congress of Families X. As one of the oldest Christian nations on earth, we think this will be a refreshing opportunity for me and my fellow Georgians to meet Westerners (unlike those sent to Tbilisi by George Soros) who affirm human rights for all persons from conception to natural death but also defend the Truth, Beauty, and Goodness found in the Natural Family as the fundamental and only sustainable unit of society.”

The WCF Local Organizing Committee for WCF Georgia 2016 includes Levan Vasadze (Georgian business owner, rugby player, education leader, and philanthropist), Tinatin Khorbaladze, and other leaders from the Georgian Demographic Society.

The World Congress of Families, based in Rockford, Illinois, has been a focus of controversy for some time, due to its anti-gay stance and its links with Russia – issues I looked at in 2014.

Vasadze is close to Georgia’s president, Giorgi Margvelashvili. Several of Vasadze’s quotes appear in a report from the Media Diversity Institute, which describes his rhetoric as “ethno-centric and clearly anti-Western”:

“This war, the burning of the center of Kiev – was not it done by Americans?! Victoria Nuland was distributing sweet loafs to the opposition in the center of Kiev… Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine is the result of the coup d’etat staged by the Americans in Kiev.” ( Reaktsia, 13 February, Interpressnews and Geworld.ge, Reportiori, 14 February, 2015)

“The hurry and undemocratic nature of the adoption of anti-discrimination law has finalized the dictatorship of the Western liberalism in Georgia… The West has made the fatal mistake by proclaiming immorality to be a norm.” (Kviris Palitra, 20 January, 2015)

“Is our country independent or is it an insignificant republic which is still run by ambassadors and non-governmental organizations financed by the West? The West needs Georgia in this region very much, perhaps to no lesser degree than Georgia needs the West.” (Kviris Palitra, 7-13 April, 2014)

“By the way, I absolutely agree with the statements of Irakli Garibashvili many of the foreign-financed NGOs are enemies of the country.” (Kviris Palitra, 20 January, 2015)

A profile in a magazine called Tabula has more of the same:

Central to Vasadze’s rhetoric is the criticism of the West and Georgia’s pro-Western orientation. In his rhetoric the West is perverted; Americans believe in Masons and money instead of god; Catholics are enemies of Orthodox Christians, whilst Protestants do not deserve to be called Christians at all. The recognition of our territorial integrity by the West, in Vasadze’s rhetoric, is prompted only by the West’s desire to “capture” Georgia, whilst Georgia’s pro-Western policy is tantamount to the reflex of a Pavlovian dog. At the same time, for some unknown reason, Vasadze’s does not vent his ire towards Russia – a country which, by its social and cultural features, can hardly be regarded as more traditional than Western countries in any way. Even more, in his opinion the “co-religionist Russians are our allies both culturally and spiritually, not enemies.” Vasadze disapproves of excessive criticism of the absolutely anti-Christian Soviet Union too. True, he admits that the communists were bad guys, but then hails the greatest achievements of that totalitarian regime and is happy that Georgians were “viewed as a respected nation” on the vast Eurasian space in Soviet times.

At the same time, Levan Vasadze dislikes liberal democracy and is quite eloquent when describing the uselessness and evils of this political system. This is compounded by his xenophobic reasoning about the ethnic origins of certain politicians and his demands that the “regime” of the United National Movement be “brought to justice.”

However, he is critical of the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Samachablo.

The  Georgian Demographic Society appears to be the same body as the Demographic Renaissance Foundation of Georgia; the Georgian Journal reported in 2013:

Businessman Levan Vasadze will lead the Supervising Board of the Demographic Renaissance Foundation of Georgia, founders Dimitri Khundadze and Tamar Chiburdanidze announced at a presentation of board members at Tbilisi Marriott Hotel on July 16.

…Khundadze said the United Nations forecast had indicated Georgia’s population would decrease by 28 per cent by 2050, placing the Georgian gene pool under threat. The Foundation announced it wished to provide financial support for families for their third child – the determining factor for the population’s size – and planned to carry out a regional policy on the matter as well as open anti-abortion and pregnancy centers.

Operation Midland Finally Closes Down

From the Metropolitan Police:

A man in his 60s who was previously interviewed under caution has today, Monday 21 March, been advised by officers working on Operation Midland that he will face no further action.

Operation Midland has now closed.

In October 2014, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) received allegations of a serious nature involving murder and sexual assault made by a single individual. The allegations concerned non-recent matters over a 10 year period (1975-1984) at a number of locations.

The credibility of the allegations was assessed after a process involving extended questioning of the complainant by specialist child protection detectives.

…The allegations included the potential homicide of three boys. The complainant identified one of these as resembling a boy called Martin Allen who disappeared in November 1979.

In the course of the investigation, officers have not found evidence to prove that they were knowingly misled by a complainant. The MPS does not investigate complainants simply on the basis that their allegations have not been corroborated…

This understates the extravagance of the complainant’s allegations: “Nick”, as he is known to the media, accused Harvey Proctor of being part of a murderous VIP paedophile ring that also included former Prime Minister Ted Heath, and he accused the former head of the British Army, Lord Bramall, of presiding over Remembrance Day paedophilic orgies at which Remembrance poppies were pinned into Nick’s skin as a form of torture (an obvious “secular” variant on Satanic Ritual Abuse). It also glosses over how Nick’s story grew over the years, also incorporating Jimmy Savile, Greville Janner, and Leon Brittan.

In this context, the decision to emphasize the continuing tragic mystery of Martin Allen looks like a cynical attempt to make the investigation look more grounded in reality than it ever was. It should also be remembered that police were particularly impressed by Nick’s apparent ability to recall details of a military base – a location that he had actually visited as a tourist in 2013. That looks like reasonable evidence of the police being “knowingly misled by a complainant.”

The police has been very slow to back down from its initial assessment that Nick’s claims were “credible and true”: Operation Midland was folded into Operation Fairbank (a more general investigation into claims of VIP abuse) in October 2015; the case against Lord Bramall was dropped in mid-January; and reports predicting the investigation’s imminent demise appeared during February. Details of today’s announcement were leaked the media on Friday. Today’s outcome has been inevitable for months.

The news will of course be met with scepticism by those who have invested in “Nick’s” story as irrefutable evidence of the establishment’s complete and utter moral turpitude – oddly putting aside any critical thinking about the police and the legal system while attempting to strike an anti-establishment pose. In a world where David Icke fill halls, it requires little cognitive adjustment to see a failed investigation as simply further evidence of the establishment’s supposed power.

Thus Exaro News, which accompanied Nick to the police in 2014, has announced that the investigation “has been halted”, a form of expression obviously meant to imply a countervailing force – Exaro‘s Mark Watts previously denounced criticism of Operation Midland as an “unprecedented campaign, in plain sight, to halt a police investigation that the establishment fears.”

I’m all for “holding power to account”, to use Exaro‘s masthead slogan; but power is not a monopoly and there is more than one “establishment”. In this instance, we’ve seen the power of the false accuser – and it should worry everyone.

***
UPDATE: It is worth adding something about the Martin Allen disappearance. The Met Statement has the detail that:

In the course of seeking evidence which could corroborate or indeed disprove the initial allegations, more individuals came forward to provide additional information to Operation Midland. They were interviewed in September 2015. The allegations included further information relating to the disappearance of Martin Allen. This generated new lines of inquiry which have had to be thoroughly investigated.

Martin Allen’s disappearance in London in 1979 is one of those cases that has remained in the public consciousness ever since. A book was published in 1984, and articles about the subject have appeared periodically over the years. In particular, there was renewed press interest in 2009, the 30th anniversary. Many of these reports included photographs of Martin Allen; Nick’s ability to describe him, therefore, is not evidence that he ever met him.

Martin Allen was linked to Nick’s claims at an early stage; the Independent reported in November 2014:

His brother Kevin, 51, has said he was called by Detective Chief Inspector Diane Tudway of the Metropolitan Police on Friday, who told him she was investigating whether Martin’s disappearance is linked to an alleged ring made up of MPs and senior figures of authority.

Operation Midland, the investigation into the deaths, was set up this month and officers said that Operation Fairbank intelligence has led them to look into whether high-profile officials were involved in organised child sex abuse and murder in the 1970s and 1980s at locations including the Elm Guest House in Barnes, southwest London…

The case of Martin Allen’s disappearance was closed in the 1980s, but reopened in 2009 and shut again last year.

Kevin Allen said he had been told first that files relating to the case had been destroyed in a flood, and then that a retired police officer had taken them to Spain. However, these files were apparently recovered in April 2015.

The Evening Standard had further details in May 2015:

The police phoned [Kevin Allen] after the Daily Telegraph ran a story about Nick’s account last November [2014]. “They said, ‘Your brother is 80 per cent one of the three kids who were murdered’, and I said, ‘’What are you talking about?’ I didn’t hear anything else from them for 70 days then we had a meeting.’

However, ITV News now reports a statement by Kevin Allen:

“…The team only spoke to me once back in February when they informed me my brother’s case was part of the inquiry and asked for a photograph of him. I have not heard from them since…”

Presumably he means February 2015 rather than February 2016, by which time Lord Bramall had been cleared and the operation was on its last legs. February 2015 also fits better with the “70 days” timeframe after initial contact in November 2014.

Kevin Allen maintains that Operation Midland “was closed by the highest order”, obviously implying corruption. He has also alleged that a police officer warned him some time ago that he might get “hurt” if he kept alleging a cover up.

Some Notes on the Paladin Service, the Media, the CPS, and the Police

Introduction
The Media
The Crown Prosectution Service
The Police
Statistics
Botched legislation?
Footnote

(Updated April 2016)

Introduction

From the Mail on Sunday:

There were calls last night for the head of an anti-stalking charity to be investigated after her ‘outrageous’ claims that a former male colleague had stalked her were dropped.

Laura Richards, chief executive of Paladin, National Stalking Advocacy Service, accused former co-director Harry Fletcher, 69, of plaguing her ‘with up to 50 phone calls a day’.

The married family man – a leading criminal justice expert – endured 15 months of torment during which he was interviewed under caution and his professional life was placed on hold.

But as the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case due to lack of evidence last week, former MP Elfyn Llwyd, who led reform of stalking laws, called for the Charity Commission to investigate Ms Richards.

Richards’s complaint against Fletcher was first reported in the same newspaper just over a year ago, and both articles include comments from professional peers about Richards that are not to her credit. A second report from February 2015 also raised concerns about how the Paladin Service was being run: Comic Relief had suspended a grant, caseworkers had resigned, and the long-established  Suzy Lamplugh Trust had stopped making referrals to the organization, complaining that cases weren’t being picked up.

The 2015 articles were a surprise: the Paladin Service, which had been launched at the House of Lords in 2013, enjoyed widespread goodwill for its efforts on behalf of individuals who were being victimised by stalking, and Richards was a frequent media commentator on the subject. However, as we saw with Kids’ Company last summer, just because an organisation has laudable aims, that does not mean that all is well, or that a media-savvy and plausible CEO who may indeed have given real assistance to individuals in need ought to escape critical scrutiny.

Once again, this is not the kind of subject that I anticipated getting into when I started this blog, but this is where various chains of connection have led me. I have two concerns here: (1) in general, that advocacy on behalf of genuine victims is tipping over into the uncritical promotion of unsubstantiated (and even malicious) accusations; and (2) in particular, that it should be recalled that Richards was instrumental in promoting and giving credibility to false accusations of stalking by a politician with a grudge.

The Media

Starting with the latter point, I first became aware of Richards in the early autumn of 2014, when she provided quotes for a Telegraph feature with the sensationalizing headline “Stalkers: Why Career Women are their New Targets“. That piece was by Radhika Sanghani, and it complemented a softball interview with Nadine Dorries MP, who regularly deploys spiteful and false accusations of stalking in order to discourage and harass critics of her performance as a public figure. Richards’s punditry served up a diagnosis that saved Sanghani the bother of actually fact-checking various assertions that Dorries had made in her interview and in a lurid feature for the Mail on Sunday‘s Femail section (background here; I am a friend of the person Dorries was smearing).

According to Sanghani’s account:

[Richards] explains that often a professional, successful woman can be a target for a stalker, especially if they – or their work – appears in the public domain. It means that the stalker can criticise them, perhaps through a blog like Dorries’ does, and appear to have legitimate concerns.

But Richards was not just a disinterested analyst – by advocating for Dorries she was also working to raise her own media profile. Indeed, the fact that Dorries, Richards and a second complainant mentioned in Sanghani’s article soon afterwards appeared together at a public seminar on the subject of stalking indicates that the author was primarily facilitating a media strategy. It seemed to me that we were also moving into moral panic territory. The problem of online stalking and abuse is real enough, and in the autumn of 2014 it was high on the media’s agenda (a man was standing trial at this time for sending threatening texts to Stella Creasy MP, and he was subsequently jailed) – but Richards was here claiming to be able to effect the discoverie of stalking through some sort of special expert discernment.

My sceptical impression has been strengthened by a strange statement which Richards has issued in response to the new Mail on Sunday article, in which she exhorts us to ask: “who does this article benefit? Who is the actual source of this disinformation?” The answer, presumably, is that it benefits stalkers, who wish to to discredit Richards. One might have hoped that that kind of rhetorical move went out with McCarthy, but it has proven depressingly resilient.

Perhaps inevitably, Richards also raises the currently fashionable spectre of “victim blaming”. She doesn’t properly explain what she means here, but these days the phrase is commonly used against anyone who suggests that a person accused of certain crimes, particularly against women or children, might in fact be innocent (as noted last month by Dan Hodges, in an article about the Met’s bungled historical CSA investigations). We must “believe the victim”, not look for evidence.

The Crown Prosecution Service

Richards states that the CPS chose not to prosecute “the stalker” because “his behaviour is mirrored when he interacts with others [and] they felt a jury may struggle with the context”. She also claims that “for a case to get as far as being referred to the CPS means there is substantial information and evidence worthy or being assessed in the first place”, and notes that it took “almost two years”. One wonders why we ever bother with trials at all, if a referral to the CPS from the police essentially means “no smoke without fire”, and the longer it takes for the CPS to come to a decision is demonstrative of guilt.

For a long time, Paladin has heavily promoted the idea that stalkers are getting away with it because the CPS lacks understanding of current legislation (Paladin can offer training, naturally). I certainly wouldn’t want to assume CPS competence, but Paladin’s main talking point here has been less than honest. In April 2015, an article appeared in the Independent on Sunday under the headline “Compulsory training on tackling stalkers came in two years ago – but over a quarter of CPS lawyers have yet to attend”. The article included commentary from Richards, and it appears to have been produced to explain why the case brought by the second complainant in Sanghani’s 2014 Telegraph article had also failed.

But the thesis was self-evidently false: “over a quarter of CPS lawyers have yet to attend” means that nearly 75% have attended. Given the range of cases that pass through the CPS’s inbox, surely that ought to be enough to be getting on with? Paladin further sensationalized the story on Twitter by linking to it but claiming that “only 1 in 4 CPS lawyers are trained”. Perhaps this was an honest muddle, but inverting the percentage served the organization’s interest. And either way, it does not inspire confidence.

The Police

Richards previously worked as a behavioural analyst for the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO’s) homicide working group, and the Paladin Service had a formal information sharing agreement with ACPO, which I understand has been carried over to the new National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Dorries made a complaint of her own to police in 2013, by her own account after having received an anonymous “tip-off” about stalking by email. The context makes it obvious that this was actually a malicious message from someone wanting to manipulate Dorries for his own purposes (not that she’s ever complained about being so used), and the complaint in due course folded.

Now for a bit of inside information that was passed to me: a confidant of hers (Dennis Rice, aka “Tabloidtroll” – ironically, a man with a real history of aggressive online trolling and harassment, including attacks on me, among many others) soon afterwards sent a goading and triumphal email to a third party in which he boasted that “a further criminal case is being prepared by ACPO”.*

It’s not clear why he thought this, and in fact nothing came of it, but its reasonable to assume he thought that the Paladin Service somehow had the power to make this happen. Where did he get that idea from?

Statistics

Richards’s statement includes the statement that she is not surprised by the outcome because “only 1% of stalkers [are] being prosecuted under the new law”. The Paladin website explains this further:

In 2013/14 CPS figures reveal that 743 stalking offences were prosecuted whereas 9,792 were prosecuted for harassment out of the 61 175 allegations recorded by police. Therefore only 1% of cases of stalking and 16% of cases of harassment recorded by the police result in a charge and prosecution by the CPS.

This seems to me to be confused and sensationalising, for several reasons.

First, the figure of 61,175 refers to allegations of harassment and stalking combined. It makes no sense to talk of “1% of cases of stalking and 16% of cases of harassment” when we don’t know how many of the 61,175 allegations relate to the former or to the latter. Further, it is innumerate to calculate both percentages by extrapolating from “743” and “9,792” to the same overall total. If 9,792 is 16% of harassment cases, then there are 61,200 harassment cases overall, which accounts for all the 61,175 allegations without leaving any over to give to stalking. And if 743 is 1% of stalking cases, then there have been 74,300 stalking cases. We need to more than double the “61,175” figure for Paladin’s percentages to be valid.

Second, the author very tellingly conflates “allegations recorded” with “offences”. Many complaints received will not have gone forward to the CPS in the first place. There are various reasons for this: some complaints will have been invalid (even if the complainant feels genuinely aggrieved), and some complaints will founder due to lack of evidence. Some complaints may be resolved via a formal police caution, in which an offence is admitted, or via an informal notification to a suspect about an allegation having been received against them (although these “harassment warnings”, which do not require any police investigation, are sometimes misused by vexatious complainants).

And third – how many of those prosecutions were actually successful anyway? Are we to infer a 100% conviction rate?

A new report on stalking law, by Alex Chalk and Richard Graham MPs, has some rather more useful figures:

In the year ending June 2015, the police recorded 93,423 harassment complaints and 3,179 stalking complaints. Prosecutions were commenced for 12,122 harassment and stalking offences in 2014-15; this is a rise of 1,587 offences (15.1%) from 2013-14. Of these, there were 1,103 prosecutions commenced under the new stalking offences (nearly 50% rise compared to 2014). Of those, only 427 related to the more serious offence of stalking (section 4A) which carries a maximum 5 year sentence if convicted.

This suggests that around one in three stalking complaints leads to prosecutions “under the new stalking offences”, rather than just 1%, and that just under one in six prosecutions are “related to the more serious offence of stalking”, which relates to fear of violence and/or a high (“serious”) level of “alarm or distress”. Further, we also have to factor in that some cases that might be regarded as either harassment or stalking will have been dealt with satisfactorily under the older harassment laws (see below for more on this).

Of course, such statistics always gloss over qualitative differences between individual cases; but whichever way we look at it, we can be sure that Richards’s complaint did not fail because, as she infers, 99% of stalkers get away with it.

Botched legislation?

Secret Barrister has written an interesting and well-informed post about the stalking legislation, which is of some relevance to the above:

What is stalking, you ask? Well here’s the clever bit. Stalking is…”a course of conduct which amounts to harassment…and [where] the acts or omissions involved are ones associated with stalking“. To inject some colour into the dull circularity of the definition, section 2A(3) provides “examples of acts or omissions associated with stalking”. In other words, you need to prove that the defendant is guilty of both harassment and stalking, in order to convict them of stalking. Therefore proving stalking is by definition harder for the prosecution than simply proving harassment.

… If prosecutions for stalking under section 2A are indeed few and far between (and actually, it appears that the numbers are growing), it strikes me as plausible that the prosecuting authorities are doing the sensible thing, and diverting “stalking” complaints into prosecutions for harassment, improving the chances of obtaining a conviction and the resultant protections (such as a restraining order) that the court can offer.

****

Footnote

*Less than 24 hours after posting above, I received a communication from Rice, in which he threatened to damage my employment prospects:

What I have is a record of taking on sad little trolls like you on in the real world – as with pointing out to the employers of your various cohorts (all male low achievers with a loathing of successful women) how they are harass others, and in some instances the firm’s clients, online.

I haven’t had time to devote to dealing with you in that respect but if you keep persisting with your trolling then I am going to have to make some. 

His new goading email (the latest in a series of missives of this nature) also goes on at length about a (bogus) police complaint he made against me around the same time as Dorries’s outburst; perhaps he was angry at a recent update that I had made to my post about that (see here), but it’s also possible that he wants to intimidate me from discussing the above further.

UK Child Sex Abuse People’s Tribunal Report Contains VIP Satanic Ritual Abuse Claim

From the Press Association:

A Government-funded “popular tribunal” should be established on a permanent basis to take evidence from survivors of child sexual abuse, a report has recommended.

…The report of the UK Child Sex Abuse People’s Tribunal blamed “a series of institutional failings” for preventing the reporting of abuse, and claimed that there were “clear links” between children left vulnerable as a result and “predatory abuse on an organised scale”.

…The People’s Tribunal was set up in 2014 on the initiative of survivors and their supporters, and has heard the testimonies of 20 people about their experience of sexual abuse, as well as taking evidence from expert witnesses.

…The Tribunal’s legal adviser Alan Collins, a partner at Hugh James solicitors, said: “The People’s Tribunal’s preliminary findings reveal that there exists a widespread under-reporting of sexual abuse, which is the result of inadequate systems and safeguards which, if in place, would undoubtedly have led to a greater number of victims coming forward to report historic or ongoing abuse.

The above process moves from “testimonies” to “expert witnesses” to “findings” without pausing to assess the credibility of “evidence” – which means that we are asked to take at face value a story that contains the most extraordinary and wide-ranging allegations of VIP paedophilia and Satanism.

The full report is available online; it is published as an image-only pdf, which means that it cannot be searched, and it is more laborious to quote than it needs to be. Here is the relevant account (emphases added):

Z86 was sexually abused by his father from infancy, and from about the age of two years his mother began to take him to other houses (‘mansions’) where he was raped both anally and orally by elderly upper-class men. His father also took him to various holiday camps, where he was swapped with other children for abuse by a group of fathers. His father continued to abuse him into his 20s.

At the age of four, Z86 was taken to his GP’s surgery for ‘inculations’ and ‘woke to find himself’ at a nearby defence establishment. He was later taken to the same place via his Sunday school, with other children. Z86 describes children being kept in cages, tortured with electric shocks, deprived of any comfort or proper food, and eventually be ‘conditioned’ or trained to abuse and hurt other children. He believes that the training was to prepare him for child prostitution. From a newspaper photograph Z86 recognized one adult who he remembers being present on several occasions at this place.

At the age of eight, Z86 was taken abroad as part of a large extended family group where he was again abused. The abuse included sex with animals, gang rape and being used to produce child pornography. On returning to the UK he was again taken repeatedly to the defence establishment for further serious abuse. He was injected with unknown substances and given other drugs in drinks. He suspects that these were dissociative drugs, because they made him lose awareness of time and place.

As he became older he was also ‘directed’ to attend monthly ritual abuse bonfires. He was instructed for instance, to go to a particular rendez-vous at night. He recognized adults there, respected professionals, people from his local community and from schools and church groups. The activities of this group included satanic rituals and ritual murder.

As a teenager he was directed to go to particular places in London. Z86 gives details of the activities carried out there: he says that he had to wear a uniform, and he names his own ‘clients’, VIPs and other public figures.

Z86 has severe mental health problems, being diagnosed as having depression, anxiety, PTSD, and dissociative personality disorder. Since he became an adult he has received effective therapeutic help. With the support of his therapist he gave a police video interview in 2011, after which his father was arrested. Although the police wished to pursue this, the CPS decided no charges could be brought.

He then decided to try to hide his identity, changing his name and moving to another part of the country. He has received death threats and attempts to harm him, and believes that several of his friends and associates have been attacked or murdered by their former abusers. Z86 now lives abroad. Since moving to a safer situation, he has been able to talk about the organized aspects of his abuse to his therapist and to a police officer he trusts.

One wonders how the Press Association journalist managed to write a story about the report without noticing a bombshell that ought to shatter our understanding of the workings of British society. Or did he or she decide that this story is so extravagant that it would be best passed over?

The account given above is so vague as to be impossible to prove or disprove, but even with the best will in the world it is impossible to comply with the popular mantra that we must always “believe the victim”. How many “VIP” adults were part of this conspiracy? How many soldiers knew about it? Where are all the other victims? How did the whole thing escape any media or police interest? Was everyone at the “defence establishment” in on it? If not, why did no one else suspect? Why were Z86’s friends killed, yet he has only been threatened? And so on. These are serious difficulties.

The most significant detail in the above, it seems to me, is the involvement of a therapist – we know that some therapists are heavily invested in the idea of Satanic conspiracies, and there has been at least one tragedy caused by a therapist persuading a client to believe that she had been raped by politicians (with a claw hammer) and subjected to Satanic Ritual Abuse by her family. This was the case of Carol Felstead, and the specific details that she was induced to believe were demonstrably untrue. Carol died in 2005, but if she were alive today and still in the tormenting grip of her delusions, I have no doubt that she would be producing testimony similar to that of Z86 (as well as that of “Nick“). That must give pause for thought.

Some critical comment about the “Tribunal” and its report is available on the SAFF website. The SAFF author, John Freedom, notes that Collins is director of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL), which was founded by one Lee Moore,* who herself claims to be an SRA survivor and who organised seminars on the subject for the London Met. Another advisor to the UKCSAPT is Heather Bacon, “a child-protection academic who was peripherally involved in the Cleveland Scandal”, and Freedom judges that the Tribunal is “an extension of RAINS”, the Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support group.

Freedom also draws attention to an item by Ellen Lacter in the UKCSAPT report’s list of references, describing her as someone who “believes in demon infestation of the body and exorcism. She is a close aquaintence of recovered memory practitioners.” I previously wrote about Lacter, a San Diego-based psychologist,  on this blog here – she considers her “mentor” to be one Steve Oglevie, who was at the centre of a 1989 incident in Idaho in which the discovery of a dead baby led to a Satanic panic. In 2008, Lacter contributed to a book called Forensic Aspects of Dissociative Identity Disorder, which also had a chapter by Joan Coleman, the founder of RAINS. Lacter hailed the book’s publication as a sign that “the tide is beginning to turn” after years of sceptical dismissal of SRA. Looks like she was right about that, at least.

*Corrected: I originally misread the source and incorrectly stated that Moore was herself an advisor to the Tribunal

Daily Mail Questions Attack on Refugees in Stockholm Story

(Expanded)

From the Daily Mail:

Stockholm station is, remember, where a disturbing event happened a few weeks ago. According to Left-wing Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, there was a violent, unprovoked rampage by a masked mob of neo-Nazis and football hooligans who were targeting migrants, including north African street children. Aftonbladet’s reports, based on police information, made newspaper and TV headlines around the world.

The Swedish were told in Aftonbladet’s report that anti-migrant leaflets declaring ‘Enough Now’ were handed out by the Stockholm mob. The newspaper posted online a video of men in dark clothes milling about in the station as evidence of the riot.

A lone migrant witness called Christian, 16, was photographed afterwards by the paper, saying he had been slapped in the face by a man during the fracas, although he admitted he had not contacted the police about it.

Indeed, Stockholm Police confirmed to the Mail this week that since the ‘neo-Nazi’ station disturbance, no migrants – underage or otherwise – have reported any assaults on them that evening.

This raises the disturbing question as to whether the anti-migrant rampage ever took place in the way described. A local newspaper said in the aftermath that the video showed nothing more than police chasing away the leaflet distributors. The footage has no images of child refugees – and the only sign of violence appears to involve a policeman waving a baton.

For their part, the police say that a handful of the apparent protagonists were interviewed over various offences, including drunken disorder, an assault on a policeman with a bottle, and the possession of a knuckle-duster.

This is presented as evidence of “how Europe’s most liberal nation gagged its own people” from talking about attacks by migrants.

One of those newspaper headlines from “around the world” actually appeared in… the Daily Mail:

‘Hundreds-strong’ mob of masked men rampage through Stockholm station beating up refugee children in revenge attack for female asylum centre worker killed by Somali ‘boy’

This earlier article included the text of the leaflet, translated into English, including the following:

 ‘When Swedish streets are no longer safe to walk on for normal Swedes, it is our DUTY to fix the problem,’ the leaflet reads.

‘This is why, today, 200 Swedish men gathered to take a stand against the north African ‘street children’ who are running rampage in and around the capital’s central station.’

Several sites carry what appears to be a photograph of the leaflet, and the original text has been published on some sympathetic Swedish websites. Thus the existence of the leaflet rests on firmer grounds than just “the Swedish were told in Aftonbladet’s report…” It thus appears that the Mail‘s original headline about “beating up refugee children” derives from a document in which the men in masks stated their intentions, rather than from a stretched interpretation of the video.

Aftonbladet‘s reporting of the incident can be seen here (with follow ups here and here); the report includes a statement from police which confirms that the only arrests related to an assault on a police officer and someone carrying brass knuckles – in other words, the same anti-climatic details that that the Daily Mail is now presenting as a supposed revelation that the “left-wing” Aftonbladet wanted to ignore.

Also, while the Mail headline refers to “children”, which could give a misleading impression of toddlers been bashed about, Aftonbladet went for a rather more low-key “Huge Police Presence in Central Stockholm”. To me, that is not suggestive of a newspaper seeking to exaggerate violence against migrants in order to discredit critics of the country’s migration policy.

Perhaps reporters at the scene (and those writing derivative articles) could have been more critical and forensic, and perhaps police encouraged them to assume the worst, for their own reasons (as Paul Stott cautions; and there is nothing in the leaflet, by the way, that is specifically “neo-Nazi”); but insofar as there may have been exaggeration, it looks to me that it was ultimately because journalists took the masked men at their word.

There is, however, another possibility: that the Mail‘s question about “whether the anti-migrant rampage ever took place in the way described” is meant to imply not so much exaggeration, but, rather, distortion. The article begins with a portrait of Stockholm Station which suggests that it’s a seedy area where African and Arab migrants “hang around”, dealing drugs and engaging in low-level sexual harassment; are we to infer from this that the “rampage” may have been provoked?

If that is the intention, the story would be part of a trend – just couple of days ago, I discussed an account of migrants supposedly being attacked in Russia after engaging in anti-social behaviour at nightclub. However, there is reason to believe that that story was false.

Footnote

For some, news that there may have been less violence than was originally thought will be a disappointment; last month, I noted that an article published by the Walid Shoebat Foundation had written about Swedish “patriots” assaulting “Muslim invaders” with sanguinary glee.

Some Notes on the Daily Caller’s Anti-Refugee Story From Russia

Daily Caller Refugees

Here’s one I missed from a month ago. From the Daily Caller:

A group of 51 refugees were brutally assaulted outside a night club in Murmansk, Russia, after they groped and molested women at a night club Saturday.

The refugees had previously been ordered to leave Norway for “bad behavior” and tried their luck in Russia. What they didn’t realize when they went out clubbing in Murmansk is that Russians have less tolerance when it comes to sexual assault on local women than other European countries.

…The refugees tried to flee but were quickly captured by the Russians. They then took them out to the street and gave them a beating they will remember. Police arrived to break up the fight but locals report that they threw a few punches at the refugees before arresting 33 of them. Eighteen refugees were in such bad condition they had to be take to the hospital.

As shown above, the story is illustrated with a photograph of a gang of burly men, one of whom has a club, beating up another man, who cowers on the ground.

The source given in the link above is an Italian report from Imola Oggi (without the photo), which in turn cites Fort RussThe Fort Russ article is in English (“translated by Tom Winter”), and states that it “was prepared from material on social network sites.”

However, it followed an earlier report on the same site (“translated by Ollie Richardson”) which has a somewhat different version of the story:

Several refugees from Arab countries were beaten in the middle of the night of Saturday in the city of Polyarnye Zori (Murmansk oblast), reported a FlashNord source in the law enforcement bodies of the region.

The incident occurred in the nightclub Gandvik.

“According to preliminary data, five refugees were beaten in the entertainment establishment. According to witnesses, they behaved insolently and had been pestering local girls,” — said the Agency’s interlocutor.

“Five”. As opposed to “51”. And no reference to any arrests. But there’s more: the original article from FlashNord can be seen here. It was followed up on the same day with a second article, confirming that there may have been a fight outside the nightclub, but that details could not be confirmed from CCTV and it was all over by the time the police arrived.

So, it looks like there was an incident of some kind – but it is far from clear that it was anything more significant than the kind of fight that tends to occur sometimes near venues where young men have been drinking and are perhaps “on the pull”. Were refugees involved? Was the incident provoked by anti-social behaviour towards female clubbers? Nothing in the report confirms any such details (and I can’t find further evidence elsewhere) – and the story of a mass incident involving dozens of arrests appears to have been a fiction.

The photograph used by the Daily Caller doesn’t make much sense: it shows just one man being attacked, and – somewhat crucially – it was taken in middle of the day. The site either didn’t bother – or forgot – to remove the photo’s metadata caption, which identifies it as actually showing Russian Cossacks assaulting a Ukrainian in Sevastopol in 2014. It was published in its correct context in the media at the time (see below).

Did the Daily Caller intend to deceive? Robert Spencer, always eager to spread stories about how Muslims are depraved, appears to have taken it at face value as evidence, as did other right-leaning sites.

Perhaps it was intended merely to be illustrative – but given that the Daily Caller clearly approves of the outcome in their version of the story, such a photo serves to titillate, and perhaps to exhort.

Have we really reached the point where a photo of a bunch thugs beating someone up is to be celebrated because someone has said that it shows a refugee, and has further assured us that the victim did something anti-social and deserves his fate?

Spencer vs Mirror