Edward Heath: More Details of Ongoing Police Investigation Emerge

From James Gillespie at the Sunday Times:

A convicted hoaxer, a Twitter “fantasist” and a sex offender are among the people believed to have been interviewed by Wiltshire police in their investigation into claims that the former Conservative prime minister Sir Edward Heath was a paedophile.

The evidence so far from 30 people who are said to have come forward with claims of sexual abuse by Heath has reportedly been described by Mike Veale, the chief constable, as “120%” genuine.

However, an investigation by The Sunday Times has revealed that some of the people who have been questioned by officers — not all of whom claim to be victims — have previously made public claims that turned out to be false,

This comes a week after the Mail on Sunday ran a front-page splash with the headline “Police Chief: Heath Was A Paedophile”, which I discussed here. Veale responded to the MoS article by issuing a statement in which he lamented “unhelpful speculation” and confirmed that “it is not the role of the police to judge the guilt or innocence of people in our criminal justice system.” Of course, he was unable to say anything about the alleged leak itself, and he refused to be drawn when I asked him via Twitter whether he could give an assurance that he had never leaked his opinion about any ongoing case to the media. The journalist David Aaronovitch has taken the view that the article “amounts to the Chief Constable briefing through a friend without providing any evidence”, although Paul Goodman has posted alternative suggestion at Conservative Home:

The Mail’s story looks consistent with senior police officers – not necessarily from Wiltshire, and certainly not the Chief Constable – feeling that they need to justify an investigation that began in the summer of 2015, but which has not yet produced any charges.

The story was was a sensation, and it was received with glee by “VIP CSA” conspiracy theorists and accusers – particularly since it had been revealed in November that some allegations about Heath relate to Satanic Ritual Abuse. As Matthew Scott noted, in an excoriating blog post:

Former BBC sports reporter and one-time Green Party leader David Icke crowed particularly loud. He had, he pointed out, said that Heath was a paedophile Satanist who sacrificed children in his book The Biggest Secret which was published in 1998 (not available from good book sellers, but very much available on his website, or Amazon). On Monday night he took to the airwaves again through his associated internet radio station – The Richie Allen show – to remind us that the former Prime Minister was not just a paedophile but a “monumental serial Satanist responsible for the death and torture of extraordinary numbers of children.”

Allen (previously discussed by me here) also interviewed Esther Baker, who has made other VIP claims of her own that are currently under police investigation. The interview has been uploaded to Youtube with the official title “Abuse Survivor Esther Baker: ‘The Police Talking About Ted Heath’s Crimes Gives Me Hope For Justice.'”.

The story has also made its way to the USA, via a derivative version of the MoS article on Heat Street. Alex Jones referred to this at the start of a video in which he claimed (based on “British sources”) that Heath’s “officers” would bring a young girl into his presence, whose throat would be slit in front of him while he “pleasured himself”. Perhaps inevitably, these girls were supposedly procured by Jimmy Savile (or someone named “Jimmy Sav-ELLE”, according to Jones’s pronunciation).

The police investigation into Heath has involved contacting many people – including the former editor of Private Eye magazine, which revelled in homophobic innuendo against Heath during the 1970s. As the Mail on Sunday noted last month:

Unmarried Heath had been jokingly dubbed ‘Sailor Ted’ in a reference to rumours that he was gay.

‘The policeman said he wanted to know whether I had any information on Mr Heath,’ said Mr Ingrams.

‘I said, “You’re talking about jokes.” They’d obviously looked through old copies of the Eye to some extent. There were plenty of “Hello, Sailor” type of jokes.’

He added: ‘I told the policeman there was a general subject of speculation about whether the Grocer [Private Eye’s nickname for Heath] was gay or not. He had a dislike of women. He was very rude if he was sat next to women at lunch parties, just ignoring them completely.

‘It did all look like he was gay. But I never heard any evidence of paedophile rumours. It’s a waste of time and public money.’

The “convicted hoaxer” now referenced by the Sunday Times is none other than Michael Shrimpton, who believes that Heath was provided with boys to abuse and murder by German intelligence (a subject with which Shrimpton is obsessed). The “sex offender”, meanwhile, is the “1961 accuser”, whom I discussed when he went public in 2015. His story refers to a property that Heath only occupied from a later date, and the Sunday Times notes the further detail that he supposedly recognised Heath from a 1965 newspaper caption that also mentioned “Margaret Roberts” – even though she had been “Margaret Thatcher” for 14 years (although Gillespie fails to note that the photo printed in 1965 was an old one, from 1951, so “Roberts” might have been appropriate in the caption).

The alleged “Twitter fantasist”, meanwhile, came to the Sunday Times‘s attention because he had approached Veale publicly on Twitter. According to Gillespie:

He said that his accusations were based on his own experiences and those of others who confided in him. The man is well known among paedophile conspiracy theorists on the internet and has been accused of being a fantasist. “I’m no fantasist,” he insisted. “I don’t lie, I don’t make up stories. I know what I witnessed.”

The man offers no evidence for his claims. On Twitter, he has claimed that Margaret Thatcher’s entire government knew that Heath was an abuser but held back from exposing him so it could blackmail him into obeying its orders.

On Twitter, his response to this write up has been aggrieved.

This is a story that will run and run – Wiltshire Police intend to publish a report in June (which even then may be heavily redacted). It currently feels a long way off.

Daily Caller Seeks Milo Yiannopoulos’s Catholic Priest

From the Daily Caller:

Where Is The Priest Who Sexually Abused Milo Yiannopoulos?

Lost in the crushing sound of Milo Yiannopoulos’ fall has been the revelation that he was sexually abused by a priest named “Fr. Michael.”

…Milo was raised Catholic and is open about his love for the Catholic Church. In Kent, England where Milo grew up, a Catholic priest named Monsignor Michael Smith was arrested in 2010 after sexual abuse allegations were made against him by victim who called Smith a “devious predator.” According to KentLive, a publication in Kent, the victim received compensation from the Catholic Church in a civil suit in 2016.

Kent Live is the web version of the Kent and Sussex Courier, and it’s something of a novelty to see a big-time conservative US website delve into the world of British regional newspapers.

Perhaps we should be grateful that the Daily Caller author has settled on a priest who is deceased and who was already under a cloud of suspicion for a similar crime when he died in 2011. But the deduction remains highly speculative, and it tends towards encouraging reckless identifications of individuals as having committed crimes.

There are probably many “Fr Michaels” who were based in the Catholic Diocese of Southwark (a more useful geographical unit here than “Kent”) in the late 1990s to early 2000s, and all of them (whether alive or dead) are now at risk of being pursued by paedo-hunters thanks to Yiannopoulos’s semi-disclosure about alleged incidents that he has not apparently ever reported to the police. Fr Michael Smith was based in Tonbridge from the early 1990s until his death – this location is more than 20 miles from Chatham, where Yiannopoulos grew up, and nearly 45 miles from Canterbury, where he went to school. There are also other large towns in the vicinity, in particular Ashford and Maidstone.

There should also be some caution about taking Yiannopoulos’s story at face value. Focus on his provocateur antics has overshadowed the fact that he has a dubious relationship with the truth, and it does seem remarkable that someone who enjoys causing outrage just happens to have a stock of outrageous anecdotes from his youth – one of which is a stereotypical story about priestly abuse.

In fact, it’s not clear to what extent Yiannopoulos can truly lay claim to a Catholic upbringing, although it was a useful identity for his first journalism job, which was at the Catholic Herald. Yiannopoulos was raised by a part-Greek father, and Greek Roman Catholics are a tiny minority; and he went to Simon Langton school in Canterbury rather than a Roman Catholic school. Perhaps the chance of a place at a grammar school won out over a Catholic comprehensive (1), but it does lead one to wonder how it was exactly that he came to form an association with a Catholic priest. But in the current climate, perhaps it’s better not to encourage further speculation.

Footnote
1. Note for non-Brits: grammar schools are state schools that select pupils by ability following an entrance exam, while comprehensives accept any pupil within a particular geographical area. Most grammar schools became comprehensives in the 1960s and 1970s, but the older system remains partially in place in some parts of the country.

Bill Maher Under Fire Over Long-Known Views on Female Teachers and Statutory Rape

A headline from the Boston Globe:

Bill Maher, who aided Yiannopoulos’ fall, also defended sex with children

While from USA Today:

Like Milo Y, Bill Maher once defended sex between adults and minors

And so on.

Allegedly “soft” views on the subject of underage sex, in some instances dredged up from some time ago, are now regularly weaponized in public controversies; a few weeks ago Piers Morgan opportunistically denounced the actor Ewan McGregor as “paedophile-loving” for having expressed sympathy when Roman Polanski was arrested in 2009, but the trend has become turbo-charged this week with the fall of Milo Yiannopoulos.

Yiannopoulos reacted to criticism of his own views as expressed a year ago by referring to old comments by George Takei, and Maher has now come under focus because of Yiannopoulos’s recent appareance on Maher’s show. At the time, Maher, lauded  Yiannopoulos as a “young… Christopher Hitchens”, but he has since claimed to have exposed him as an “Ann Coulter wannabe”.

The lurid headlines give the impression that Maher was formerly some sort of NAMBLA advocate or an American Tom O’Carroll. In fact, he had made comments on his Politically Incorrect talk-show in 1998 defending Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher who had been convicted of having had sex with a 12-year-old pupil in the state of Washington. Maher, to studio laughter, said that she was in prison simply for having fallen in love and not conforming. This wasn’t just a case of being provocative to make the show lively: Maher made similar comments at later dates, and also lewdly lamented that Debra Lafave, a glamorous teacher convicted in Florida after sex with a 14-year-old student in 2005, had not been videoed in the act.

Maher’s attitude is commonplace, and the Daily Show dug up comparable material about Donald Trump in September. Such views reflect the sexist idea that a boy engaging in sex with a woman has achieved a precocious maturity of which he can be proud, while a girl in a similar situation with a man has been taken advantage of and seduced. Age may have something to with it: although we now take it for granted that age of consent laws should be gender neutral, even in the 1980s California law excluded the possibility of a female perpetrator of statutory rape. This was confirmed as constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1981 (the case of Michael M.), on the grounds that such laws were designed to protect girls from unwanted pregnancy.

However, Maher’s 1998 comments were challenged at the time by Celeste Greig (a California Republican who later came to grief due to a comment of her own about rape), and it doesn’t take much reflection to understand why Maher’s dismissive attitude is wrong. Of course a boy in such a situation cannot give informed consent; such experiences may be emotionally damaging and adversely affect psycho-sexual development; and in the Letourneau case, the boy became a child-father.

When Yiannopoulos was poised to address CPAC, his conservative enemies were able to present his January 2016 comments as a pernicious threat to the general consensus on consent – but using old quotes to whip up a never-ending stream of outrage about alleged “pro-paedophile” views once expressed by this or that public figure is tabloid politics and does not seem to me to be a sensible way forward for public discourse.

Incidentally, incidents of female teachers having sex with male students is an odd obsession of the conservative news website WND.

Some Notes on Milo Yiannopoulos and George Takei

From the Independent:

…Milo Yiannopoulos has attacked liberal media organisations for not scrutinising comments Star Trek actor and LGBTQ activist George Takei made about his own sexual abuse.

The former alt-right hero apologised for his quotes that surfaced this week, but accused the press of a “witch hunt”, going on to post on Facebook a news story from his own website entitled: ‘Tape of George Takei joking about child molestation pops up, Jake Tapper nowhere to be found’.

Referencing the CNN anchor’s criticisms of Yiannopoulos, it draws attention to a Howard Stern appearance in which Takei recounts the story of how he was abused as a 13-year-old boy by “18 or 19-year-old” counselors [sic, although Takei actually spoke of just one counselor – RB].

It’s not clear whether Yiannopoulos’s point is that Takei has unfairly escaped censure, or that he himself was unfairly subjected to it. Perhaps it’s both: Yiannopoulos has not quite repudiated his career-destroying jocular account of underage sex with adult men, which was recorded a year ago but came to wide attention just a few days ago; instead, he has re-framed it as the “gallows humour” of a victim describing an unhappy experience, while expressing some regret for his choice of expression. This is despite having formerly explicitly rejected the idea that he was a “victim of child abuse”.

Obviously, Yiannopoulos (until this week) and Takei are not the only individuals to recall underage sexual experiences with older partners as having been harmless or even positive. Some might say that such people must be in denial about a trauma, or if not must at the very least be psychologically distorted in ways that they don’t understand; I don’t claim to know if this is so, but even if there are instances where no harm occurred, it remains the case that such people were exploited as children by predatory adults who broke laws that protect minors from harm. It is pernicious for this to be normalized.

There are, it seems to me, several reasons why Takei’s account is being treated differently from Yiannopoulos’s claims.

1. Yiannopoulos sets out to cause outrage – it’s just that this time he bit off more than he could chew.

2. The CPAC invitation meant that Yiannopoulos was poised to bring his cynical “post-truth” nihilism and performative sexual hedonism into mainstream conservatism. Conservative opponents were thus highly motivated to find and weaponize material that would show where this might lead to (although we should not overlook the possibility of simple homophobia playing a part, too). In contrast, while Takei is something of a political activist, he doesn’t present himself as a one-man brand embodying a political revolution.

3. Takei has built up a lot of social capital over the years. His acting career has brought pleasure to millions; he comes across as likeable and good-humoured; and his Spanish-language video urging Latino Americans to vote against Trump was dignified and moving. It is regrettable that he can’t see that what happened to him was wrong, but this has to balanced against his positive contributions to public life. Yiannopoulos, in contrast, is basically a troll, and as such he was brought down by the real-world equivalent of an internet “pile-on”. There was nothing to balance his comments against.

There is also some mitigation for Takei when we consider the nature of consent in California in 1950. Homosexual activity of course was illegal at any age – which meant that the law did not provide equitable guidance for homosexual liaisons and that Takei, as a willing participant, may have been regarded as a juvenile criminal under the same laws too.

Further, the heterosexual age of consent would have provided only limited guidance. The age of consent in California has been 18 since 1920, but it is possible to marry at a younger age with parental approval, and of course a lot of activity must go on between younger peers. The law’s primary purpose was to prevent unwanted pregnancy; thus as late as 1981 the Supreme Court confirmed that there was no gender bias in having a law which excluded the possibility of a female perpetrator (although age of consent laws are now gender neutral).

Here’s how consent laws were applied in California during the mid-1990s:

Over a two year period, social workers [in Orange County] persuaded fifteen teenage girls (some as young as 13) to marry the men who impregnated them (some as old as 30) in order to escape the legal consequences of their sexual activity. In each case, the marriage was authorized by a juvenile court judge. These girls, deemed too young to choose sex, were nevertheless judged mature enough to choose marriage.

According to the author of the above (1), this demonstrates that the law was seen primarily as a device to prevent welfare dependency. Certainly, there doesn’t seem to be any underlying philosophy of child protection and informed consent.

This context does not excuse Takei’s abuser, who breached a position of trust to prey on a child. However, it may explain Takei’s lack of moral clarity about what happened to him in 1950. It’s a subject on which Takei ought to be challenged, but with a view to raising his consciousness for the common good – not personal destruction through the mob politics of outrage.

Footnote

(1) See Kate Sutherland (2003), “From Jailbird to Jailbait: Age of Consent Law and the Construction of Teenage Sexualities“, William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law 9 (3): 313-349.

Time for Milo Yiannopoulos to Contact Kent Police?

A further post on Milo Yiannopoulos’s Facebook page:

This week, for political gain, the media and the Republican establishment accused a child abuse victim of enabling child abuse. It’s sick.

This, of course, is Yiannopoulos’s new perspective on sexual experiences that he claims to have had while underage and growing up in the county of Kent in southeast England in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He revealed these incidents in a provocative and jocular manner on a radio podcast last year, in which he claimed to have lost his virginity aged 13, or maybe even  at 12, “in an interracial fivesome with a drag queen”, and subsequently to have “fucked” a teacher and to have performed fellatio on a priest.

Yiannopoulos used his experiences to argue that while he agreed that 16 years old was “probably roughly the right age” for a statutory age of consent, he was someone who had been able to give informed consent at an earlier age. He also expressed sympathy for female teachers who are targeted by predatory boys, with whom they then fall in love.

These views came to wider attention a couple of days ago, and they have not been received well. Fatally for a professional controversialist whose whole act is based around shrugging off provocations as jokes and mocking anyone who is offended or upset by what he says, Yiannopoulos felt the need to issue a clarification (for “idiots”, initially) and to express regret as his lucrative media career imploded around him.

Thus he yesterday gave a press conference, in which he again referred to having been abused – although full sex has now been reduced to “touching” and the initial “fivesome” incident has disappeared from view:

“Between the ages of 13 and 16, two men touched me in ways they should not have. One of those men was a priest.” At the time, he said, “I didn’t perceive what was happening as abusive. But I can look back now and see that it was. I still don’t view myself as a victim, but clearly I am one.”

This seems to be having it both ways – he doesn’t want to see himself as a victim, as that would be weak, but he wants others to do so, since that exposes the media as “sick”.

But if he now regards these two men as transgressors, what is he going to do about it? This is not something that happened in the distant past; he turned 13 in October 1997 and 16 in October 2000. Even if the encounter with his teacher did not happen until he was 16 (the above is ambiguous), but before it became illegal for teachers to have relationships with pupils of any age (a law to that effect was brought in during 2001), such a predatory individual obviously needs to be barred from the profession and made the subject of a more general investigation.*

If Yiannopoulos is being truthful about his past, and if he now truly believes that he was victimised by two men, should he not now make a statement about it to Kent Police in England? He has boasted that he has used his journalism to “expose child abusers”, and in his press conference he has promised that when his book is published he will give 10% of the proceeds to child abuse charities. So, why not now take action against two alleged abusers who may have continued to prey on others in the decade-and-a-half since he turned 16?

Footnote
* The age of consent for male homosexuality was actually 18 until early 2001, when it was reduced to 16. This now applies retroactively.

Milo Yiannopoulos Regrets: When a Provocateur Turns to Damage Control

From the Facebook page of professional provocateur and controversalist Milo Yiannopoulos:

I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim.

…I am horrified by pedophilia and I have devoted large portions of my career as a journalist to exposing child abusers. I’ve outed three of them, in fact — three more than most of my critics. And I’ve repeatedly expressed disgust at pedophilia in my feature and opinion writing…

But I do understand that these videos, even though some of them are edited deceptively, paint a different picture.

I’m partly to blame. My own experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous.

…I do not believe sex with 13-year-olds is okay. When I mentioned the number 13, I was talking about the age I lost my own virginity.

I shouldn’t have used the word “boy” — which gay men often do to describe young men of consenting age — instead of “young man.” That was an error.

I am certainly guilty of imprecise language, which I regret.

The above statement was posted in response to sudden media interest in an interview he gave to a radio show called Drunken Peasants a year ago (and available online since then). The interview came under critical scrutiny from a British blogger and comic book author named  Doris V. Sutherland in January, in a post that includes some relevant transcriptions; however, the controversy only became critical yesterday, when a clip of the show was publicised by unnamed US conservatives (“the Reagan Battalion”) who were opposed to CPAC inviting Yiannopoulos to speak (but apparently not, contrary to some reports, to be the keynote speaker).

The upshot is that Yiannopoulos (whom I previously wrote about here) has now been disinvited from CPAC, and Simon & Schuster has used the opportunity to dump its controversial book deal with him, which it had previously defended on free speech grounds. He has also been repudiated at a personal level by Louise Mensch, and there are also claims of discontent among his colleagues at Breitbart. The above is his second statement on the subject – the first was headed “A note for idiots”, as if he were about to explain the self-evident. The opening insult is absent in the second statement, thus conceding that he needs to win back an audience.

This comes after several months during which  Yiannopoulos has been celebrated by many conservatives as a hero who has exposed liberals’ supposed preference for shutting down debate rather than arguing; when the University of California at Berkeley recently cancelled a speech he was due to give because of safety concerns, the matter caught the personal attention of Donald Trump, who issued a Tweet threatening the withdrawal of federal funds. However, it should be noted that some conservatives always found his antics obnoxious, as noted here by the National Review.

Doubtless, this is a story that will run and run, but here are a few notes of my own:

1. The whole point of the Yiannopoulos “Milo” brand is that he says outrageous things and doesn’t care if his listeners are offended or upset. He is particularly scathing of those who would ask for special consideration because they describe themselves as having been victimised by some past unhappy experience. Yet here he is now offering a sort-of apology for going too far, and foregrounding his own experience as a victim. In other words, by attempting damage limitation he’s undercut the whole basis for his pose; the spell is broken even if he successfully disassociates from his previous comments.

2. He now self-identifies as a “child abuse victim”, and this is appropriate given that (assuming he is being truthful) he had sex with adult men while he was underage. But during his January 2016 interview he specifically stated that “I wasn’t abused as a child, or anything like that”, and he mocked as a “witch hunt” his interviewer’s disgust at sexual encounters he claims to have had with a priest at the age of 14. If he now accepts that this shouldn’t have happened, is he going to make a statement to Kent Police in the UK about the priest and about a teacher he says he also had sex with? If not, why not? It wasn’t all that long along ago, and in the case of the unnamed teacher, this is likely to be someone who is still active in the profession. (1)

3. There is also criticism that Yiannopoulos claims to have seen the sexual abuse of underage boys at parties in Hollywood, yet did not report the matter to police. He could be pressed further on this point – although there’s a possibility that he simply made it up to show off his supposed insider knowledge of what goes on behind the closed doors of the powerful.

4. He has not “devoted” parts of his career to “exposing child abusers”. In one case, he revealed the proclivities of someone on the opposing side in the “Gamergate” controversy, and in the other two examples his reporting was motivated by revenge against individuals with whom he formerly had professional dealings in the UK. He has also used the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory to promote himself (see update 2 at my post here), purporting to have privileged access to inside information that will supposedly be revealed in due course.

5. His claim about videos being “edited deceptively” is somewhat hard to take given that just a few months ago he fabricated Tweet screenshots in the name of the actress Leslie Jones in order to falsely portray her as an anti-Semite. That in itself ought to have been enough reason for Breitbart to get rid of him.

Meanwhile, Iain Martin has an interesting account of Yiannopoulos’s earlier rise to social media fame in the UK via the now-defunct Telegraph Blogs here.

Footnote

1. The age of consent for male homosexual activity in the UK was 21 until 1994, and then 18 until 2001, when it was reduced to 16 in line with heterosexual and female homosexual sex – and a new change in the law just a few weeks ago makes it clear that this lower age of consent now applies retroactively. However, in 2001 it also became a sexual offence for teachers to have affairs with pupils at their school, even when a pupil is over 16. Yiannopoulos would have attended secondary school between 1997 and 2004, including Sixth Form.

A Note on Melania Trump and The Lord’s Prayer as a Rallying Cry

From Fox News:

Melania Trump attacked for reciting ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ at campaign rally

Leftists on social media tore into First Lady Melania Trump, mocking her accent and religion and branding her everything from a hostage to a whore – all for the secular offense of reciting “The Lord’s Prayer.”…

Rounding up random Tweets on a particular news topic must be one of the easiest jobs in journalism; in this instance, unattractive mockery of Melania’s accent and presentation at the rally in Melbourne, Florida, is mixed in with some innocuous quips that can hardly be styled an “attack” (e.g. Gerry Duggan: “Trump is still there, so Melania’s prayer didn’t work”). Some of the comments have since been deleted, presumably to escape a pile-on, and in the case of the most unpleasant comment showcased by Fox (from someone with 351 followers, according to Yahoo Cache), the user has deactivated his account.

However, the website’s opener about a “secular offense” elides a deeper concern: that the decision to have Melania open the rally in this way was a political appropriation of religion that reduces the iconic words attributed to Jesus in the New Testament to a triumphalist mantra – quite literally, a rallying cry. When else has the Lord’s Prayer ever ended with a cheer?

This is not to suggest that Melania’s faith is insincere – I wouldn’t claim to know either way, and I don’t consider her past modelling career as evidence that she is not religious. But clearly, the rally’s choreographer (Bannon?) wanted a display of Trump family piety for political and rabble-rousing purposes. Having Donald Trump himself lead the prayer would have been too ludicrous and shameless: in particular, the line “forgive us our trespasses” would have reminded everyone of Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for asking God for forgiveness. And in any case, it’s more useful for Trump to be portrayed as someone who is led in worship by others, rather than as someone who leads worship.

The Trump First Family is religiously diverse: Trump himself is a Presbyterian, Melania is a Roman Catholic, and Trump’s politically significant daughter Ivanka, as far as I know, is the first ever First Family member to have publicly disaffiliated from Christianity, having converted to Orthodox Judaism. But there is every reason to suppose that Donald Trump’s own affiliation is little more than nominal, and that his recent turn to a more overt religiosity (allowing evangelical pastors to lay hands on him and such) is pure opportunism.

UPDATE: An evangelical Melbourne pastor named Joel Tooley attended the rally, and was concerned by what he saw:

…A soloist sang, “God bless America” and there was a strong sense of patriotism in the room. A pastor got up to pray and repeatedly prayed throughout his prayer, “Thank you for making this the greatest nation on earth…in Jesus’ name.”

…The First Lady approached the platform and in her rich accent, began to recite the Lord’s prayer.

I can’t explain it, but I felt sick. This wasn’t a prayer beseeching the presence of Almighty God, it felt theatrical and manipulative.

People across the room were reciting it as if it were a pep squad cheer. At the close of the prayer, the room erupted in cheering. It was so uncomfortable. I observed that Mr. Trump did not recite the prayer until the very last line, “be the glory forever and ever, amen!” As he raised his hands in the air, evoking a cheer from the crowd, “USA! USA! USA!”

…The very first words out of the President’s mouth were the words of a bully. That is not simply one person’s perspective, it is factual. He immediately began badgering and criticizing the media; like a bully inciting a crowd.

Tooley writes that the crowd turned nasty when a “grandmotherly” woman near him produced a protest sign bearing the words “You had your chance, now resign!”, and he was himself abused when he called for calm:

…two angry, screaming ladies looked at me, both of them raised their middle finger at me in my face and repeatedly yelled, “F*#% YOU!” Repeatedly.

I calmly responded, “No thank you, I’m happily married.” Their faces and their voices were filled with demonic anger.

Tooley believes there was “demonic activity”.

 

Leak To Mail on Sunday Claims Chief Constable Believes Allegations Against Ted Heath “120 Per Cent”

A dramatic front-page splash from the Mail on Sunday:

The online version expands on the claim:

Sir Edward Heath WAS a paedophile, says police chief: Astonishing claim is made that the former PM is guilty of vile crimes ‘covered up by the Establishment’

However, neither version of the headline makes clear that this all according to unnamed “sources”. Wiltshire Police has been trawling for allegations against Heath (who died 12 years ago) via Operation Conifer since August 2015, but Chief Constable Mike Veale has not made any public statement announcing Heath’s guilt. According to a police spokesman quoted at the end of the article (emphasis added):

…the Chief Constable was determined to ‘ensure the investigation is proportionate, measured and legal’ and that the job of the police was to ‘impartially investigate allegations without fear or favour and go where the evidence takes us. It is not the role of the police to judge the guilt or innocence of people in our criminal justice system.

The spokesman also declined to comment on a claim that Veale believed the allegations “120 per cent” – a striking phrase that is now likely to define Veale’s career, just as the words “credible and true” will be forever linked with the Metropolitan Police’s “Operation Midland” fiasco.

According to the article, “more than 30 people have come forward with claims of sexual abuse” against Heath, and some accusers “are believed to have told police they went on to commit sexual abuse crimes themselves as a result”. Further, according to a “source”:

‘There are very close similarities in the accounts given by those who have come forward. The same names used for him, the same places and same type of incidents keep coming up.

‘What stands out is that the people giving these accounts are not connected but the stories and the details dovetail…’

This may amount to strong evidence against Heath, but without more detail it is impossible to assess whether the “close similarities” really reflect uncontaminated independent testimonies. Several allegations against Heath appeared in the media in 2015, and there is also a wealth of online conspiracy material about Heath and other politicians. If police have been merely comparing interview notes, this may not have been properly taken into account. (1)

Operation Conifer has been controversial from the beginning: police are apparently going through Heath’s papers looking for evidence, and late last year the Mail on Sunday revealed that one accuser was making particularly incredible allegations that linked Heath to Satanic Ritual Abuse; this person had been under the care of a therapist who had “recovered” the memories.

The article also outlines some known allegations against Heath

The claims, some of which have been proved false, include alleged links to a convicted brothel keeper known as Madame Ling-Ling. A paedophile dossier compiled by Labour peer Baroness Castle said he offered young boys trips on his yacht, and in a separate incident one man claimed Sir Edward picked him up hitchhiking in Kent as a 12-year-old in the 1960s and lured him to his Mayfair flat.

Labour MP Tom Watson also said he had received allegations about Sir Edward. However the claims Mr Veale is investigating, which date from the 1960s to 1990s, are not linked to the discredited evidence of the man known as ‘Nick’, who alleged a high-level paedophile ring.

This needs some unpicking. First, Myra Forde (aka “Madame Ling-Ling”) ran a brothel in Salisbury, where Heath lived in retirement. In 1991 she was facing prosecution, and she apparently raised Heath’s name in the hope that the authorities would be deterred from taking action. The trial was indeed dropped, although for unconnected reasons and she was successfully prosecuted in 1995. She did not name Heath at this later trial. Her brothel involved underage girls, which is significant given that the allegations against Heath concern boys.

Second, we have no evidence that Barbara Castle ever compiled a “paedophile dossier”. The claim that such a dossier existed comes from a journalist named Don Hale, who says that Castle gave it to him in the 1970s but that it was taken from him by police before he could use it. Hale’s claims appeared 2014, but he made no mention of Heath. His article on the subject in the Sunday Mirror also included a number of direct quotes that he attributed to Castle, although he did not explain how he was able to remember what she had said to him so exactly decades before. I discussed this in more detail here.

Third, claims that Heath took children out for a spin on his sailing yacht are only sinister once one has decided that he must have been an abuser. But according to accounts, he took children out in groups, and his yacht was a racing vessel with a a three-man crew and without any private space. This is hardly conducive to committing acts of abuse.

Fourth, the 1961 “hitchhiker” accuser mentions a grand apartment, which was inconsistent with where Heath was living at the time, but which reflects a dating error that appears in a biography of Heath.

I discussed all these allegations (and others) against Heath in 2015.

According to the Mail on Sunday article, Wiltshire Police intends to publish its report in June – although in December, Veale said that his final report would be “confidential”. So, that’s at least three and a half months during which conspiracists and those who enjoy making allegations of “VIP paedophilia” will be deluging social media with the most lurid assertions – all based on the authority of what a Chief Constable allegedly “believes”, but without any substantiating detail. And even come June, we may still be none the wiser.

The Mail splash also includes a sensationalizing sub-section heading, titled “Do These Photos Undermine Ex PMs defence?” Such a heading obviously implies compromising material, when in fact the photos merely show that, contrary to a claim otherwise, Heath owned a car and drove it himself in 1975.

UPDATE (20 February): In response to the article, Veale has put out a bland statement in which he reiterates a complaint he made in December about “unhelpful and inappropriate speculation”.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has for some reason rehashed parts of the Mail on Sunday‘s November splash about how several women (who appear to be connected to each other) had accused Heath of being involved in Satanic Ritual Abuse. This in turn forms the basis for an article in the Sun, but neither new piece contains any new information.

Footnote

(1) An example: in the case of Operation Midland, the Metropolitan Police were particularly impressed by the accuser’s ability to describe a private location where he was supposedly abused as a child – but they were unaware that the location held open days for tourists, and that the accuser had visited there just a couple of years before.

The Year of Trumpification and Other Donald Trump Prophecies

A striking word of caution from Steve Shultz, editor of neo-Pentecostal prophecy website Elijah List:

Of course we must always remind ourselves and others that President Trump is not our Savior. Jesus Christ is.

But God has both appointed and anointed President Trump to take the reins during the time and season when many of God’s prophets are hearing words such as

• A New RENAISSANCE!

• The Greatest Awakening of All Time.

• More miracles than at any time in History.

• The Time for GREATER WORKS than Christ, as HE PROMISED!

Ahead of the election, neo-Pentecostal prophets received messages from God comparing Donald Trump to Cyrus (a non-believing ruler who restored the Jews to Jerusalem and Judea) and to King David (whose heroism was flawed due to sexual indiscretions) – useful rationales for voting for a man whose character and appetites were otherwise completely incompatible with Christian Right values.

It has also been claimed that prophets were told years ago that Trump would one day be president: in 2007, God told “singing prophet” Kim Clement that “I will raise up the Trump to become a trumpet, and Bill Gates to open up the gate”, which, although obscure at the time, is now taken to be a reference to the election. Then, in 2011, God made himself clearer to a retired Florida fire-fighter named Mark Taylor, while Taylor was watching Trump on TV.

During the campaign itself, God told Denise Goulet, wife of Pastor Paul Goulet, that Trump was his “son, with whom I am well pleased”, while a Messianic Rabbi used numerology to prove that God had arranged for Trump to become president at just this moment. On the day of the inauguration, God further made his views known by a bit of rain, supposedly a “blessing”.

Since then, God has continued to communicate with various prophets about Trump and the meaning of his presidency. Shultz’s Elijah List is a sort of clearing house for these messages and visions, and some items are further disseminated via Charisma News, which is part of Stephen Strang’s evangelical/neo-Pentecostal media empire. Charisma‘s correspondent here is Bob Eschliman, who ahead of the election also produced secular anti-Clinton articles for the website. Eschliman tends to quote the prophecies at length, one suspects because they are very difficult to encapsulate coherently.

Here are some examples from Charisma:

20 January: Stephen Powell Shares Prophetic Words for President Trump
“This man will batter through demonic barriers, even on the world stage, which no man or woman in world history has been able to have the breakthrough in before…”

30 January: Prophecy: 2017 Will Be a Year of ‘Trumpification’
From Gale Sheehan of the Christian International Apostolic Network: “We are moving into a year of ‘Trumpification’ here in the United States like maybe no other year in our history. This word was coined to represent the effect of our next president on the affairs of men.”

1 February: Prophecy: The Lord Is Decreeing a Clarion Call for Intercessors
Lana Vawser warns of demonic snakes “with a specific assignment to do whatever it took to hinder what God is birthing in the United States of America and through President Donald Trump”.

1 February: Prophecy: Donald Trump Is Unstoppable Because the Lord Is Unstoppable
God told Stephen Powell that “This man is unstoppable because I’m unstoppable. My kingdom is unstoppable, and this man has a mandate from heaven; he has momentum that is not his own. His movement will not dissipate, it will grow, and it will reach beyond the borders of American governing. It will inspire; it will stir up a nest.”

2 February: Prophecy: ‘Even This Week, I Will Shake Your Courts!’
Via Hank Kunneman, senior pastor of Lord of Hosts Church in Omaha: “Watch even this week, I will shake your courts and I’m going to establish as I said before. I am stepping in upon your courts for I am the Supreme Judge. And what I have planned shall now balance your courts, but very soon there will be vacancies again, and I’ve said to you and say to you again I am breathing upon your courts.”

6 February: Prophecy: Trump’s Inauguration Signals a Time of Reconstitution for America
From Diane Lake of Starfire Ministries: “We can expect the Lord’s glory to shine through like never before. God re-establishing His covenant is going to usher a movement of greater glory—expect new levels of glory, new dimensions of His presence and expansion within the prophetic. Watch for His voice to come forth from the cloud (Ex. 34:5; Luke 9:33-35).”

6 February: Prophecy: Here’s What Edie Bayer Saw While Praying for President Trump
“I believe that Jesus is giving us a ‘new hat’ to wear! Just like the horse in my vision wore a hat as protection from the blazing sun, this new hat will be one that protects us from the elements that would affect our mind, will and emotions.”

8 February: John Kilpatrick: Through President Trump, the Lord Is Lifting Up Truth Again
“The Lord said that He is changing the appetites of people. Instead of rejoicing in rumors and lies, the people will now become excited to hear truth again. They will love the truth and reject the lies as well as the liars.”

Excavators Claim to Have Identified New Cave Where Dead Sea Scrolls were Formerly Located

From BBC News:

New Dead Sea Scrolls cave discovered

Archaeologists have found a cave that once housed Dead Sea scrolls in a cliff in the Judean desert – the first such discovery in over 60 years.

Israel’s Hebrew University said the ancient parchments were missing from the cave, and were probably looted by Bedouin people in the 1950s.

…The team excavating the latest cave was led by Dr Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with Dr Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia.

The article is one of many deriving from a press release from the Hebrew University – and it’s ironic to see the Daily Mail offering up the slightly more cautious headline:

Has the 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave been found? Excavators discover a new site they believe was once home to the ancient religious writings

The Mail frequently introduces sensational yet dubious claims with question-marks, as a distancing device (e.g. from 2014: “Are these the bones of a water demon?”-  a classic QTWTAIN) – but in this instance the paper is being very reasonable, even if just by habit rather than design. The claims reflect the considered opinion of professional archaeologists, but they have not so far been peer-reviewed or formally published.

According to the university press release, the findings don’t just indicate the past presence of scrolls, but actually “prove” they were there. These findings include “a leather strap”, which the archaeologists state was “for binding the scroll”; a cloth, which they assure us “wrapped the scrolls”; and “tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments”. There were also Second Temple period storage jars that had been placed in niches (or “hidden in niches”, to use the press release’s terminology); a small piece of parchment, found “rolled up in a jug”, which “was being processed for writing” (not sure if this means “is being processed”, to see if there is writing on it); and a 1950s pick-axe, which suggests that the site had been ransacked in modern times. Thus the press release is based on an interpretation of the site, without scientific tests on organic remains, and without any detailed account of the methodology employed by the excavators.

Stories about archaeology that relate to the Bible are often presented sensationally. This is clearly a significant find, but it’s a shame to see the Hebrew University play up to sensationalism rather than urge caution. The cave was explored as part of a project called “Operation Scroll”, which is already dubious: archaeology is not a treasure hunt, and a project focusing on a quest for desired objects rather than the interpretation of a site does not reflect best practice, even though other objects are also being logged – in this instance, Chalcolithic and Neolithic flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated carnelian stamp seal. (In fact, the name “Operation Scroll” was also used previously, in late 1993 and early 1994, when the Israel Antiquities Authority ordered a rush survey in the wake of the first Oslo Accord.)

The press release adds that the cave is to be known as “Q12”, the letter before the number indicating that no scrolls were found on the site. Otherwise, the the number should go first, as in cave “4Q” – although this convention is not universally applied and I’ve seen plenty of works that write of “Q4” as the site of the most famous discoveries. The advantage of having the number first is that the cave number can then be combined more clearly with a numbered document or fragment.

The involvement of Randall Price and his students is worth special notice: Price is indeed a professional archaeologist, and there is no reason to doubt his formal competence when it comes to digging and identification. However, he is also an evangelist and apologist, and as such his formal expertise can be put into the service of extravagant theories and absurd projects – thus in 2009 he was involved in a ridiculous expedition to look for Noah’s Ark. He is also a prolific author of apocalyptic Christian Zionist tomes and DVDs, with titles such as The Coming Last Days Temple and How the MidEast Conflict is Preparing the World for the End Time.

Price is not the only evangelical archaeologist to engage in this kind of thing – in September, there was a report concerning Steven Collins, director of the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project in Jordan. Collins apparently told a church audience that he had found a building that may have been used by Moses while he was writing the Book of Deuteronomy – a proposition so ludicrous that it verges on trolling Biblical scholarship.

For some reason, Fox News has decided to report on the exploration of “Q12” with an odd article co-authored by one Jeremiah J. Johnston, “president of Christian Thinkers Society”, and Craig A. Evans, John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University. Their piece purports to explain how the “Incredible new Discovery Proves that the Dead Sea Scrolls belong to Israel”; but the discovery, even if confirmed, is not “incredible”, and the article’s polemical points do not pertain to anything found in the new excavation.