Online Harassment by Conservative Party Activists: A Decade of Mishandled Complaints

From Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads:

For more than a decade I’ve been publishing warnings about the dark places social media will take us when politicians do not take threatening behaviour seriously, deliberately turn a blind eye to it from their own supporters when it suits them, and/or even engage in it themselves.

… this is not a party or political problem, but a widespread, long-standing and worsening problem that will only get better when people in authority finally grasp the nettle and take responsibility rather than see bullying as something to be played down when it happens in your own ranks, and capitalised on when it appears to originate from the opposition.

Tim goes on to write about his own experience of being on the receiving end of online harassment after drawing attention to politically motivated social-media bullying by activists within the Conservative Party. This is of some particular interest to me: in 2009, Tim also uncovered evidence about bogus terror-related stories being fed to tabloid newspapers, which crossed over with one of this blog’s concerns. My own related observations on the subject meant that I found myself being targeted by some of the same malign elements that he found himself up against.

Tim’s post explains  how this all began, and then details one facet of what has followed since. There is much more that could be said, but the strand highlighted by Tim’s post is the most topical thread to the story given current concerns and allegations about bullying and political activism in the UK.

In short, and with some complementary details:

1. In 2006, Tim discovered that two activists associated with Anne Milton MP had created an anonymous blog that maliciously accused a local Liberal Democrat in her Guildford constituency of being a paedophile. Tim brought this to the attention to Jonathan Lord MP, who was heading a local election campaign involving these same activists. Lord did have a quiet word with them, but he declined to formally censure them or investigate their behaviour. I discussed this here.

2. In 2009, Tim and I met a third Conservative party activist with links to Milton, who claimed to have some background information about the fake “terror” stories being placed in newspapers. However, it turned out that this man had a grudge against former associates, and he went too far with his antics when he claimed to have “found” a document with details about Tim’s home address. Police traced this document back to this man, who then claimed that he had been working to “expose” us all along.

He also boasted that Milton wanted Tim “downed”, and he then embarked what has ever since been an sporadic harassment campaign. He began by posting a childishly abusive song about Tim to YouTube, complete with piano accompaniment (since removed, although a copy has been saved), and he has continued with a long line of sockpuppet blogs and Twitter feeds (several of which have since been suspended for abuse). We also have multiple testimony and evidence that his campaign has included paedo-smears.

3. Tim adds: “Throughout this affair, people have been targeted with fabricated evidence causing them needless concerns for their safety. One of these people is Nadine Dorries”. That evidence included a bogus image that purposed to show packaging for anti-psychotic medication supposedly retrieved from Tim’s dustbin, as well as false and distorted information in a poison pen letter sent via a third party in 2013.

4. In 2012, Tim wrote to an influential local Conservative about the matter, a member of the House of Lords. A paedophile smear appeared on Wikipedia the very next day. Obviously, it is not suggested that the person Tim had written to was responsible for this – but clearly, the email was complacently forwarded by this person to someone who was malicious.

5. In 2015, Tim raised the 2006 concern via a channel that brought his email to the attention of Grant Shapps in his then-capacity as Conservative Party Chair. Tim has in the past – and indeed still is – extremely critical of Shapps’ former business practices, and it is not a great surprise that Shapps mishandled the complaint. Indeed, Shapps leaked it to hostile parties, who made merry over it. This is of some relevance to the wider and urgent question about how bullying allegations are dealt with within the party – as I noted in October, it appears that “Complaining to CCHQ about Bullying Risks Escalating Attacks“.*

Tim suggests that there is a need for (1) “A wholly independent investigation into the handling of bullying complaints by all parties going back at least 10 years”; (2) “A report detailing what measures might be taken to improve current protocols for all parties and how they are followed”; and (3) “A specific option that should be considered is the creation of an independent body to cover all parties and handle all initial complaints of harassment, bullying, abuse and similar behaviour.” That seems to be a reasonable and non-partisan way forward.

Footnote
*There is evidence that Shapps also initially saw Tim as a handy scapegoat for the “contribsxWikipedia mystery, until the Liberal Democrat activism of the Wikipedia editor who first noted contribsx came to light and the whole business became hopelessly but conveniently muddled.

Jim Bakker and the David Ickeization of Christianity

Just how important is Jim Bakker to American Christianity today? He now belongs to an older generation of televangelists, and despite having had a bit of a comeback in recent years, he remains a diminished figure compared to his status before the sex and financial scandal of 1987 and his subsequent imprisonment.

However, his Jim Bakker Show continues to be a favoured platform for evangelical “names”, such as the bestselling “End Times” author Jonathan Cahn, Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin, and Rick Joyner, who now controls the land on which Bakker’s doomed Heritage USA project was built. Upcoming guests include Anne Graham Lotz (Billy Graham’s daughter), the anti-Islam activist Brigitte Gabriel, and Steve Strang, who heads the neo-Pentecostal Charisma media empire. Strang’s Charisma News often carries articles derived from the Jim Bakker Show. Bakker also has links with Joseph Farah of WND, and in 2014 Farah, Bakker, and Cahn led WND tour of the Holy Land.

The pre-1987 Bakker and his then-wife Tammy Faye were kitschy and to an outsider’s eye somewhat risible, but it should be remembered that Bakker fell out with Jimmy Swaggart over Swaggart’s anti-Catholicism. It’s also easy to mock Prosperity Gospel teachings, but the glamour of the Bakkers’ lifestyle was also aspirational and motivational; those of us who have not experienced the poverty and lack of dignity that many of  the Bakkers’ older viewers may have remembered from childhood ought to bear that in mind before sneering. We will probably never know if Jim Bakker’s sexual liaison with Jessica Hahn was consensual or, as she alleges, was a rape, but overall it seems to me that the semi-sympathetic portrayal of Bakker by Kevin Spacey in the 1990 film Fall for Grace is a reasonable interpretation. Spacey’s Bakker is self-entitled and negligent in his financial stewardship, but not a predator or a con-man.

After prison, Bakker wrote a book entitled I Was Wrong, in which he repudiated the Prosperity Gospel. However, he also started emphasizing the End Times: in 1998 he published Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse, in which he warned that the millennium bug (Y2K) may well “be a highly plausible explanation for what the Bible refers to as the black horse of famine and economic chaos”, and in recent years he has started claiming to have received visions from God about imminent disaster. In this, he certainly does appear to be predatory: notoriously, Bakker now hawks overpriced survival products, particularly grim long-life foodstuffs optimistically packaged with names such as a “30-Day Fiesta Bucket”.

Bakker’s self-serving fear-mongering also includes inviting conspiracy theorists onto his show as guests. Thus Charisma News now reports:

Vatican Built on Bones of Giants in Pre-Noah Age

The Vatican was built on the bones of giants and other artifacts that date to the days before Noah, author Timothy Alberino tells Jim Bakker.

But, “This isn’t a Catholic thing,” Alberino says. “This is the institution of Rome, the Holy See.”

Most Catholics have no idea what lurks beneath the surface of the Vatican, Bakker’s panelists say.

“Hidden away in the vaults and the archives … we discovered proof … that in fact—and this isn’t just some sort of conspiracy theory, it is the truth—that the Vatican has had access to hidden artifacts, especially artifacts relating to the reality of the world before the flood of Noah that they have confiscated and hidden away or covered up,” Alberino says.

This absurdity follows a recent appearance on the same show by Thomas Horn, a conspiracist whose projects include Exo-Vaticana: Petrus Romanus, Project L.U.C.I.F.E.R. and the Vatican’s Astonishing Plan for the Arrival of an Alien Savior (taglines include “The Role of Petrus Romanus for the coming Alien Serpent-Savior”).

Pentecostalism has a strong sense of the other-worldly, and its emphasis on spiritual forces sometimes means a readiness to accept claims about “occult” and Satanic conspiracies. Sometimes, pop-culture science-fiction elements may be incorporated, such as the idea that UFOs are visions of demons. However, the extravagance of the conspiracy theories now being promoted by Bakker are closer to the realms of David Icke’s imaginings than the exhortations of old-time religion or even the old conspiracy theories that were dusted off and made less overtly anti-semitic by Bakker’s old employer Pat Robertson in 1991.

Alberino, as quoted above, distinguishes Catholics from “the institution of Rome”, but it’s clear that his scheme boils down to anti-Catholicism. How else can one reasonably interpret a sensationalist DVD created by Alberino and an associate named Steve Quayle, called The Unholy See: The Vatican Knows all the Secrets, which shows a figure in a black cowl flanked by images of an alien being, St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and an Illuminati symbol? If Catholics are not bad people, it’s only because they don’t know about the Satanic nature of their leadership, it seems.

Other videos on YouTube include Alberino discussing the “Illuminati Infiltration of Christianity” with Fritz Springmeier, or talking with a certain Leo Lyon Zagami about a book called Confessions of an Illuminati, Volume I: The Whole Truth About the Illuminati and the New World Order (see Swallowing the Camel here for more on Zagami’s claims and those of other bogus “Illuminati defectors”).

Even the Bible gets a science-fiction re-interpretation, with Alberino discussing how Cain was “the first born hybrid son of the devil” and how there are “serpentseed links to the Sons of God”. This is completely bizarre and heterodox, and when considered alongside Springmeier’s claims about Illuminati “bloodlines”, alarm bells ought to be going off. The idea that a particular genetic ancestry is somehow the secret key to understanding world trends or events has an obvious endpoint: that some people – or perhaps a specific group of people – are less human than the rest of us.

This conspiracy milieu is something I’ve noted before, and Bakker is not the only figure linking this kind of material to Christian religious beliefs. Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural is another example, and there’s also Chuck Missler, whose Koinonia House “Christian Think Tank” includes Joseph FarahErgun Caner,  Jerome CorsiAlan Keyes, and Tim LaHaye. At the moment, conspiracy talk about “what lurks beneath the surface of the Vatican” seems marginal and exotic – but the impression given when someone like Anne Graham Lotz sits on a sofa that has just been vacated by someone like Thomas Horn is that crackpot ideas about “alien serpent-saviors” and such may headed for the evangelical mainstream.

This is the David Ickeization of Christianity.

Some Notes on Milo Yiannopoulos

Much – indeed, probably too much – has been written in recent days about the journalist and self-described “comedy character” and narcissist Milo Yiannopoulos, now banned from Twitter following allegations that he incited racist abuse against Leslie Jones, a black American Hollywood comedian and actress currently starring in the remake of Ghostbusters. Along with this particular controversy, attention has also focused on his role as a leading presence in the “Alt Right” at the recent Republican National Convention, where he arranged a “Gays for Trump” party that was addressed  by the anti-Islam and birther conspiracist Pamela Geller and the Dutch politican Geert Wilders.

Dozens of articles and commentary pieces have appeared, arguing over whether Twitter acted rightly to remove an abusive presence from its service or did so because it is biased against conservatives. There have also been pieces debating the merits or otherwise of  Yiannopoulos’s various provocations (at Spiked, Tom Slater refers to “sociopathic wind-up merchants”), as well as general backgrounders in various languages: “Qui est Milo Yiannopoulos, journaliste pro-Trump banni de Twitter ?”, asks Le Monde, while the Dutch Vrij Nederland has a piece on “Milo Yiannopoulos: de ‘ultieme troll’ op wiens feestje Wilders sprak”. Among the best of the crop is a first-person account by the left-wing journalist Laurie Penny of attending the RNC in Yiannopoulos’s company – in her words, “a story about how trolls took the wheel of the clown car of modern politics” and about “the insider traders of the attention economy”.

Given this feeding frenzy, there seems little to add other than to note that this has been a particularly weird career trajectory for a son of Chatham (Kent, UK) whose journalistic break was with the Catholic Herald, and that his rise to international prominence is a depressing example of how the sheer force of narcissistic personality in an entertainment culture can make questions of honesty and integrity apparently irrelevant. However, there are few points that, although not new, may be worth highlighting:

(1) Yiannopoulos’s “provocation” antics formerly included using the name “Milo Wagner”, at which time he dropped “is he being serious or not?” hints of Third Reich adulation. Screenshots and commentary were presented in early 2013 on The Blog that Peter Wrote (since deleted but archived here). It seems to me that this ought to be problematic for Geller and Wilders.

(2) The focus on whether Yiannopoulos was responsible for crude racist abuse sent to Leslie Jones by others has overshadowed his specific strategy of engaging in personal destruction through intrusion, misrepresentation, and outright fabrication. An article by Leigh Alexander (who opposes the Twitter ban for making Yiannopoulos a “martyr”) has the background:

Trying to make it look as if the target deserves abuse is a classic far-right tactic Yiannopoulos has been instrumental in helping create – the mobs dig into a target’s personal life, family relationships, old online profiles and more to find any snippet of information, however stripped of context, that could isolate the target and prohibit sympathy. For example, when a writer I had worked with was critical of Yiannopoulos and his “movement”, they responded by digging up childhood chat logs they could use to make her look as though she were a pedophile. Their goal was not to express themselves through speech; their goal was to remove her support network and to get her employers to distance themselves from her.

This is a key distinction. In the case of Jones, Yiannopoulos disseminated fake tweet screencaps purporting to be from the actress wherein she expressed antisemitic views, for the purpose of rationalizing further racist abuse from his followers.

The screenshots included a bogus Tweet that had a “delete” option at its base, which proved that it had been made by someone who was logged into the fake account that was being screenshotted. It appears likely that Yiannopoulos was himself the creator of this impersonator sockpuppet account.

(3) Several years ago, Yiannopoulos established an online media presence through a start-up called The Kernel. It did not end well, as Charles Arthur reported in the Guardian at the end of 2012:

London startup blog the Kernel is to close after its parent company Sentinel Media could not satisfy bailiffs’ demands for payment of £16,853…

One contributor won an industrial tribunal; further:

In emails seen by MediaGuardian, Yiannopoulos threatened to publish what he claimed were embarrassing details and photographs of one contributor who sought repayment, and said “I can’t ignore the fact that the majority of damage to The Kernel can be traced back to you and your childish, capricious behaviour”.

Further details were published by Max Dunbar.

Yiannopoulos apparently claimed that payment would soon be forthcoming due to a family inheritance. Arthur’s probing here led to a threat of violence from a Twitter account which identified itself as being run by Yiannopoulos’s father (it was also confirmed as such by Yiannopoulos himself, although whether this is true is anyone’s guess). Just three Tweets were posted, confirming the inheritance and adding “I wish i could meet Mr. Arthur I’d like to shake hands with his windpipe but i am not sure he would enjoy the meeting as much as i would.”

Point 1 above relates specifically to Yiannopoulos; points 2 and 3, however, are of interest because they encapsulate a wider online malaise that goes beyond just “a classic far-right tactic”. A media project crumbles amid financial scandal and threats against those owed money, yet personal stock continues to rise. Threats of violence are made, but fail to generate interest or censure. A supposed journalist fabricates screenshot evidence, yet his main outlet – in this case Breitbart, where Yiannopoulos is technology editor – does not fear losing credibility, and indeed revels in his antics. There’s a lot of it about.

Footnote

As is well-known, Yiannopoulos’s legal name is (or was) Milo Hanrahan. A longer and more difficult surname combined with a short and less common first name has had the effect that he is now often referred to as just “Milo”, and that the name “Milo” is currently synonymous almost exclusively with him. It is worth the effort to avoid colluding with this kind of thing.

The Daily Express and the Illuminati

Sunny Illuminati

(Sunny’s Tweet here)

From the Daily Express:

Does hand sign made by Merkel, May and now Juncker prove there is a secret EU illuminati?

SPECULATION is mounting there is a secret society within the EU after senior figures were snapped making the same masonic-style hand signal.

By JON AUSTIN

European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker was the latest EU bigwig to be photographed “giving the code” after he was snapped with his hands in the rhombus shape – known as a Merkel Diamond…

It comes after new British Prime Minster Theresa May was pictured separately making the same hand gesture earlier this month.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has been snapped so many times making the shape, which involves pressing the thumbs and index fingers together to create a diamond, that her name was added to its official description…

Other famous faces including Gordon Brown, the Duchess of Cornwall and Recep Tayyip Erdogan have also been spotted making the ‘Merkel diamond’.

The article cites “conspiracy theory website illuminatiRex” and “the conspiracy theory forum run by David Icke”, and is filed under the paper’s “Weird” section. It is fair to say that the paper has run the story primarily for entertainment value, and that readers are not expected to take the claim very seriously.

However, as I noted just recently in a post about claims that CERN had “opened a portal” to a demonic realm, material from the Express does feed conspiracy theorising, as well as just reflecting it. In the CERN example, an Express article was used as a source for an piece published by Charisma News, which belongs to an American evangelical media empire.

Other “Illuminati” articles run by the Express include “Inside Bilderberg: Leaders and elites meet in ‘illuminati’ style to decide New World Order” (also by Austin); “Chillingly accurate 200-year-old letter predicts WW3 and final battle against Islam” (by Selina Sykes, relaying Albert Pike’s views on the subject); “EXCLUSIVE: ‘Secret plan to inject us ALL with ID chips through vaccination programme‘” (Austin again – “Mr Parkes, who also works as a driving instructor, said the Illuminati were about to start their twisted chipping programme in the new year”); and “REVEALED: Inside the 5 secret societies that REALLY control the world…” (by Sykes – “Rumours say the entertainment and music industry have been infiltrated by Illuminati members who are using the media to brainwash the masses).

Meanwhile, “lifestyle and travel” correspondent Felicity Thistlewaite has chipped in with “CHERYL FERGISON, famous for playing Heather Trott in EastEnders, has accused Katie Hopkins of being an Illuminati member.”

Jon Austin covers “science, nature and the paranormal” for the paper. Recent pieces include “Moment ‘Nasa cover up’ caught on film as ‘buildings on the moon’ discovered“; “Second UFO researcher dies fuelling claims of ‘Men in Black’ murder spree“; and “SHOCK CLAIM: ‘World will END’ when poles flip and mega earthquake strikes ON JULY 29“.

UPDATE: The story has been picked up by the Daily Mail, which writes of “a bizarre internet conspiracy theory”; this article in turn has received a link from the US conservative website WND, a few of whose commentators have taken the proposition seriously:

Hmm….Bilderbergers…etc…They all want a “One world Government”…

Can the Bible be anymore accurate people?????

Read Your Bible!!

…and you will know why we don’t want Hillary in Office..and Obama ruling the World!

***

and we have another terror attack in Germany….. thanks merkelmuslim….

***

If you truly want to understand the nature of the Satanic Conspiracy we are facing, read your Bible and join the John Birch Society. JBS has been educating Americans about this threat for 50 years. The Word of God has been doing it for thousands of years. Don’t worry though, God laughs at their plans and He tells us so in His Word.

***

That is such an unnatural (uncomfortable) position to put one’s hands in, makes you wonder why anyone would do that except for a specific reason (or formerly broken hands?)

Exhibition Notice at Welsh Assembly Hints at “VIP Paedophile” Claims

From the website of the National Assembly for Wales (emphasis added):

Calendar Event
EXHIBITION: Wall of Silence
Date: Monday 27 June 2016 to Sunday 3 July 2016

Location: Pierhead Main Hall

Description: The Wall of Silence is the inspiration of Carl. Carl grew up in Powys and is in recovery from child sexual abuse. He was abused by some powerful people and is now decades on seeking justice… He came up with the concept of the Wall of Silence which has seen a huge variety of photographs, poems, stories, paintings and other mediums sent to him by survivors and victims from across the UK…. The Survivors Trust Cymru has worked with Carl to bring this exhibition to Wales supporting Welsh survivors to have a voice…

An article about the display can be read on the website of the Cambrian News. The exhibition has been on tour since January; it started at Colston Hall in Bristol and subsequently travelled to City Hall in London (where it was part of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Awareness Week) and to Avon and Somerset Police HQ North Somerset.

The exhibition was organised by the Southmead Project, a Bristol-based therapy service, in collaboration with RAVSCA (Raising Awareness for Victims & Survivors of Child Abuse) – which was created by Carl himself – and the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC). According to the Wall of Silence website: “Carl is in recovery from child sexual abuse: his story is one of extreme terror, mental turmoil, heartbreak, sadness and fear”. However, there is no specific reference there to “powerful people”.

The exhibition has certainly given a platform to individuals who have suffered childhood sexual abuse, and it will have done good if it encourages genuine victims to speak out, or at least to feel less isolated.

But this vague reference to “some powerful people” is problematic, it seems to me. Of course, a powerful person can be an abuser, but so can all sorts of people. What purpose does the phrase “abused by some powerful people” serve on the Assembly website, other than to imply that this was a particular aggravating factor in Carl’s abuse? And what can we conclude from that, other than that this is a vague reference to “VIP paedophiles”?

This impression is confirmed by the distinctive drawing used to represent Carl on the Wall of Silence website: a silhouette of a hunched and brooding boy, overlaid with red hand-prints. This was the well-known avatar on Twitter of “Carl Survivor”, who Tweeted for a period as @carl_survivor and as @ravsca1. Both accounts went offline a few months ago, but some of what he had to say can still be gleaned from his interactions with others; it can quickly be established that this was the same person, and that he did indeed claim to have been the victim of VIP paedophiles – including none other than Leon Brittan.

It seems to me that there is a odd disconnect between the sensational and specific claims made by Carl on Twitter and the the more generic way they have been presented by the “Wall of Silence”. There has also been no explanation for his sudden disappearance from social media earlier this year, despite the fact that at the time he was being lauded as a kind of inspirational role model and gaining a public profile as an advocate on the subject (although he chose to maintain his legal right to anonymity).

And now we find claims about being “abused by powerful people” appearing on a governmental website as a passing detail and without apparently attracting controversy or comment. Given the background context here, that’s a bit odd in itself.

Ultra-Orthodox Messianism in Israel Is “Exciting News” For US Evangelicals

WND reports:

Top rabbis: Unmistakable signs of Messiah coming

A conversation between two of the most distinguished rabbis in Israel indicates scholars of the Torah see unmistakable signs of the coming of the Messiah. What’s more, in the Messianic era, Christians will become a source of Torah learning, as believers in Jesus Christ rediscover the source of their beliefs in both Judaism and the Torah.

The conversation took place between Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch and Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, both of whom are regarded as leading experts in the Torah.

During the conversation, Rabbi Kanievsky reportedly predicted the imminent coming of the Messiah, before the end of the year after the Shemitah….

Rabbi Sternbuch contested the timing, and said before the Messiah will come, the Christians and the Arabs will “come to Israel.” [*] Rabbi Kanievsky added “all the non-fruit bearing trees in Israel will bear fruit,” meaning Christians will be learning Torah. Thus, the breach between Christians and Jews will be healed, as both communities turn to the study of God’s Word.

WND cites a site called Breaking Israel News, and goes on to add enthusiastic commentary from its stable of “End Times” authors: Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, of Harbinger fame; Mark Biltz, who developed the “Blood Moon Tetrad” eschatological theory; the birther activist Carl Gallups, who once argued that Jesus named Barack Obama as Satan and who wrote a book about how an ancient kabbalist living in Israel had supposedly accepted Jesus just before his death; and Bill Cloud, author of Esau Rising: Ancient Adversaries and the War for America’s Soul:

Cloud says the consequences of this kind of teaching spreading among Jews could be earth-shattering.

“This is exciting news because it demonstrates how many Christians and many Jews are recognizing that Messiah’s coming is near and how that portends a reconciliation between the two,” he said. “In my view, as Christians awaken to what they have been blind to – an obligation to keep the Torah – it will provoke our Jewish friends to see what they have been blind to – the identity of the Messiah.”

Some context for this thinking can be found in a post I wrote about links between evangelical/fundamentlist Christianity and Judaism a while back.

Breaking Israel News describes itself as offering

a fresh and Biblical perspective on the latest news from Israel and the Middle East. Our bias is not liberal or conservative – just Biblical. Breaking Israel News was started in July 2013 by Rabbi Tuly Weisz, Director of Israel365, after thousands of Jewish and Christian Zionists requested more news items and insight from Israel. Since its inception, the site has grown tremendously. Breaking Israel News is visited by over 100,000 people every day from over 100 countries around the world and averages 2.5 million page-views per month.

Ultra-orthodox rabbis ruminating about the the coming of the Messiah appears to be one of the site’s stock themes, culled from ultra-Orthodox news sources:  just over a year ago, the same site reported Kanievsky as warning people not to travel outside Israel due to the imminence of the event, while other articles include an account of how Rabbi Aharon Shtern had “revealed an astounding teaching handed down from father to son for untold generations regarding the End of Days”, which related to conflict between Russia and Turkey.

However, the information conveyed appears to be somewhat selective: for instance, the article used by WND neglects to mention that Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch is actually a leader in the anti-Zionist strand of ultra-Orthodoxy.

Other recent “prophecy” articles on the site include “End of Days Yellowstone Volcano Prophesied in Zechariah“; “Disaster Comet Nibiru Coming to Cleanse the World, Says Jewish Academic“; “Global Warming Prophesied as Punishment for Not Building Temple“; “The World is Facing the Final War of Gog and Magog Says Rabbinic Scholar“; and “Bible Codes Reflect What Brexit Wrought for Europe“(the “expert” here predictably found his code confirmation after the event, although another code-related article chances a Clinton win in November).

Tuly Weisz is an American Orthodox Rabbi who moved to Israel in 2011, and he maintains strong links with Evangelicals. He was formerly Co-Director of “Teach for Israel”, which describes itself as “an organization connecting rabbis and Christian leaders, Jews and Christians in their mutual Biblical love for Israel.”

****

* Footnote

Sternbuch is quoted:

“We have an ancient authenticated hand-written manuscript from the Rambam (a Spanish Torah authority from the twelfth century), in which he says that before the coming of the Messiah, the Christians and the Ishmaelites (Arabs) will come to Israel,” he pointed out.

The manuscript the rabbi referred to is a recent version of the Rambam’s Mishnah Torah, recently published with restored sections censored by medieval Christian authorities.

Presumably this is a reference to Laws of Kings 11:4, which included a passage about Jesus. Maimonides wrote that it was “obvious” Jesus had not been the Messiah, and he said that Jesus had been “instrumental in changing the Torah and causing the world to err and serve another beside God”. However:

All these matters relating to Jesus of Nazareth and the Ishmaelite [Mohammed] who came after him only served to clear the way for King Messiah prepare the whole world to worship God with one accord… Thus the messianic hope, the Torah, and the commandments have become familiar topics – topics of conversation [among the inhabitants] of the far isles and many people, uncircumcized of heart or flesh. They are discussing these matters and the commandments of the Torah…

But when the true King Messiah will appear and succeed… they will forthwith recant and realize that they have inherited nothing but lies from their fathers, that their prophets and forbears led them astray.

In December, an Orthodox Rabbinic statement on Christianity, titled To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven:  Toward a Partnership between Jews and Christians, cited this passage as evidence that Maimonides here “acknowledge[s] that the emergence of Christianity in human history is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations.”

It is clear the passage refers to Christians and Muslims accepting the truth of Judaism, rather than actually moving to Israel. However, Breaking Israel News takes Sternbuch’s “come to Israel” quote literally, and goes on to observe increasing numbers of Christians and Muslims living in the area since 1948.

English Churchman Promotes Satanic Ritual Abuse Claims

Expanded

From the latest issue of the English Churchman (24 June and 1 July 2016, p. 3 – screenshot via Anna Raccoon here):

Christians Demand Action Against Satanist Ritual Abuse
by Wilfred Wong

Satanist Ritual Abuse (SRA) exists in Britain and is a growing problem, harming and destroying the lives of an increasing number of children and vulnerable adults because the UK authorities are simply not taking this crime seriously, a conference in London of about 60 Christians heard on Saturday 21 May. The conference was organised by the Christian organisation, the Coalition Against Satanist Ritual Abuse (CASRA).

An earlier and expanded version on the magazine’s Facebook page adds that CASRA “was founded in February 2014 to provide a permanent UK organisation that campaigns against SRA, conducts research on this issue and publicly exposes it.” Details, however, are scarce.

Wong is a non-practising barrister, and he previously worked as parliamentary officer and researcher for the Jubilee Group and its successor, Jubilee Action, to highlight international humanitarian issues such as the persecution of Christians in Islamic lands and the plight of street children in South America – in 2005 he was praised in parliament for his efforts on the latter subject by Lord Alton. More recently, he has worked for a religious charity that assists impoverished children in Cairo.

However, he has also for many years now been associated with extravagant allegations of Satanic Ritual Abuse. As Damian Thompson wrote in 2002, under the headline “The people who believe that Satanists might eat your baby”:

…Yesterday, a private meeting at Westminster, chaired by Lord Alton, discussed assaults on children by hooded, chanting Satanists. “You may be aware,” the organisers said, “that, for several years, there have been reports of the ritual abuse of children and in some cases ritual murder. The rituals reportedly often involve the Black Mass and the wearing of robes. Adult survivors of ritual abuse are divulging important evidence regarding the large scale of this problem in the UK.”

One of the organisers, Wilfred Wong, an evangelical Christian, is campaigning for ritual abuse to be made a specific crime, so that the Satanists – responsible for “hundreds, if not thousands” of sexual assaults and murders – can be brought to justice. “But so far little has been done,” he says plaintively.

Alton apparently said he would keep an open mind on the subject.

However, Wong’s article for the English Churchman is not just more of the same. He continues:

…Robert Green, the leading campaigner on Scotland’s largest, current SRA case, the Hollie Greig case, said that Hollie, a young woman with Down’s Syndrome, had identified 23 alleged Satanist Ritual Abusers, including a senior police officer, 2 Head Teachers, 2 Social Workers and a Judge. Green said that Greig has described not only experiencing SRA but also witnessing the Satanists ritually sacrificing a man. The Scottish Police have refused to thoroughly investigate Greig’s allegations and tried to silence Green by imprisoning him at least twice.

Here’s the actual background on this story, from the Scottish Herald in 2012:

IT is the biggest Scottish story on the internet. A girl with Down’s Syndrome portrayed as the sex slave of a ring of paedophiles for a decade and a half and the victim of a cover-up reaching to the highest law officers and politicians in the land.

…Those named include a prominent sheriff who supposedly abused children at the home of his sister, despite the fact he does not have a sister.

…Four of the “victims” would have been in their 20s at the time of the abuse. Two police investigations have resulted in no charges.

Only one person has been convicted in connection with Hollie Greig: a 66-year-old campaigner from Warrington called Robert Green.

He was jailed earlier this year for harassing those he falsely accused of paedophilia.

Green’s conviction did not make headlines in Scotland. But it did spark international attention on websites such as that of David Icke, the former BBC sports presenter who thinks the world is ruled by lizards.

See also Anna Raccoon’s blog for an in-depth debunking from 2010.

It is important to note that in 2012 the allegation was paedophilia, and an article by Wong that was published last year by Anglican Mainstream states only that Greig was subjected to “sexual abuse”. Yet now Wong presents us with a story about Satanism and human sacrifice.

Wong’s promotion of the Hollie Greig story takes us beyond familiar evangelical Satanic Panic tropes and into a darker conspiracy theory milieu. Wong has featured on Brian Gerrish’s UK Column internet TV show; Gerrish promotes numerous conspiracy theories on his programme and elsewhere (including as a guest on Alex Jones’s Infowars), and last year he helped to promote the vicious but ludicrous “Hampstead” Satanic panic. Wong was asked by Gerrish about the Hampstead claims as part of his interview:

“Because of the sheer gravity of the allegations, the very least the police should do is thoroughly investigate them and not prejudge them, and neither should the media,” Wong says. “We’re only asking the police to do their job.”

This may sound guarded, but I’d be very surprised if Wong ever declares those who were falsely accused of paedophilia and eating babies to be innocent.

Wong is not a well-meaning and energetic campaigner who has gone astray due to an idée fixe, but someone who is actively causing harm to innocent people by promoting and endorsing false allegations. The Hollie Greig story is a clear example of the bone-headed unfalsifiability of conspiracy theorising, with Green’s imprisonment simply confirming the truth of the conspiracy.

As Anna notes in relation to the Hampstead claims:

Mrs Justice Pauffley’s judgment was unequivocal in its condemnation of the damage wrought by the ‘campaigners’ who had latched onto the story. Those who are new to this story may not be aware that these campaigners have kept up their threats to the parents, children, and teachers of this small school for nigh on 2 years now. Each child has an adult accompanying them 24 hours a day, at home, at school, so seriously are the threats to ‘kidnap them and rescue them from this paedophile ring’ taken. The parents and teachers all have CCTV and panic alarms fitted to their homes.

Anna cites Wong’s English Churchman article about Hollie Greig as a further example of how “these deluded and obsessional souls will not stop”.

Footnote

The English Churchman, founded in 1843, represents an old-fashioned kind of “Reformed” fundamentalism. It’s editor, the Reverend Peter Ratcliff, is a minister with a four-church group called the Church of England (Continuing).

Trump Pastor Offers “The Most Explicitly Partisan Prayer Heard at a Major Party Convention in Modern Times”

From Bloomberg, 17 July:

A prominent African American evangelical leader has been added to a prime-time speaking slot at the Republican National Convention — a last-minute scheduling change by Trump campaign strategists in the wake the shooting deaths of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Pastor Mark Burns, who often opens for Trump at his campaign rallies, will deliver a speech with a message that focusses on the need for bridging divisions in America.

“Unity — that’s the central theme to my message,” Burns said. “We need to talk about coming together as a nation. I will be talking about unity and love. We must not be focused on our divisions. We are one people. We need unity and love.”

And here’s how that message of “unity and love” panned out the next day – Amy Sullivan reports:

After telling attendees of the Republican National Convention that “Our enemy is not other Republicans but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party,” a South Carolina pastor offered the most explicitly partisan prayer heard at a major party convention in modern times.

…”We are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ,” Burns told delegates, before closing his eyes in prayer.

That the Republican National Convention might feature a religious leader who calls on God to give a Republican candidate “the power and authority to be the next president of the United States of America” may not surprise many who have followed the role of the religious right in American politics over the past few decades. But while some pastors have sometimes offered such prayers within their own churches and communities, party conventions have largely featured religious leaders who make an effort to keep their language nonpartisan.

Burns’s prayer was the Benediction for the RNC’s daytime business – the better-known Paula White (blogged here in 2012 being wrapped in a Torah scroll) gave a second Benediction at the end of the evening session – by which time the convention hall was mostly empty.

Time has the background for White’s involvement:

Last September, White gathered a group of preachers to meet with Trump at Trump Tower, including prominent pentecostal televangelists Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Trinity Broadcasting Network founder Jan Crouch, “Preachers of LA” reality star Clarence McClendon, and newcomers to the national scene like South Carolina pastor Mark Burns.

Trump’s attempt to look pensive and reverent as the preachers laid hands on him was one of the more amusing sights in the history of his campaign.

White has apparently been a “close friend and spiritual mentor” to Trump for 15 years, and she recently announced that “God has His hand” on the candidate. She was also the source of the story that Trump had recently accepted “a relationship with Jesus Christ”, which was made public by James Dobson following Trump’s meeting with 900 evangelical leaders in New York City last month (the “leaders” also included Joseph Farah, whose website WND guided Trump during his birther period). Dobson famously called Trump a “baby Christian”, so as not to raise expectations unrealistically. Also backing Trump is Jerry Falwell Jnr – although there was controversy when Falwell and Trump were photographed in Trump’s office with a framed cover from Playboy in the background.

Bloomberg‘s description of Mark Burns as “prominent” evangelical leader supporting Trump is somewhat circular: unlike White, Burns has achieved prominence because of his association with Trump. Time has a profile by Elisabeth Dias and Diane Tsai:

Trump surrogate Mark Burns, 36, is a televangelist, and he runs a church television studio in Easley with his wife and six children. Trump’s candidacy has thrust Burns into the national political spotlight for the first time. For Burns, it is a sign of God’s blessing. “For someone like Donald Trump to say, ‘Hey, your heart is right, your spirit is right, you’re my real friend, come follow me,'” Burns says, “that speaks volumes.”

And Burns straightway left his net and followed him.

Further RNC Benedictions at are scheduled from Sajid Tarar (Founder of American Muslims for Trump – profiled here), Archbishop Demetrios (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans) and Roger W. Gries (Catholic – Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus).

Covering the invocations: Rabbi Ari Wolf and Monsignor Keiran Harrington (Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, NY) spoke yesterday; following up will be Harmeet Dhillon (a trial lawyer from San Francisco), Nathan Johnson (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and Reverend Dr Steve Bailey (New Philadelphia First United Methodist Church).

Bogus Fox News “Terrorism Expert” Sentenced for Fraud

Also: Man who exposed him says “not one ‘conservative’ media outlet wanted anything to do with breaking this story” in 2013

Reuters reports:

A man who has appeared on Fox News as a guest “terrorism analyst” was sentenced to 33 months in prison on Friday on charges that he fraudulently claimed to have been a CIA agent for decades, U.S. prosecutors said.

Wayne Simmons… admitted that he defrauded the government in 2008 when he got work as a team leader in an Army program, and again in 2010 when he was deployed to Afghanistan as an intelligence adviser.

He said he made similar false statements in a 2009 bid to get work with the State Department’s Worldwide Protective Service.

Simmons also admitted to defrauding an unidentified woman out of $125,000…

A lengthy account of Simmons’s activities and eventual exposure was published by the New York Times Magazine in March. The author, Alex French, includes a quote from an unnamed manager with the US Army’s Human Terrain System program, who explained that

“Wayne was like a lot of folks taking advantage of the poor screening by the BAE recruiters to draw good pay during training and then cop out.”… “We had a lot of this.” He described Simmons as “a mile wide” and “an inch deep.”

Simmons’s involvement with the Defense Department’s Retired Military Analysts program brought him into direct contact with Donald Rumsfeld, and Rumsfeld provided him with an endorsement for a novel, The Natanz Directive. In fact, however, Simmons’s real history, which French says “reveals a certain sort of aimlessness”, involved working as a waiter, managing an “adult themed” hot tub, and semi-professional American football.

A central figure in French’s account is Kent Clizbe, a former CIA officer with his own line in conservative punditry (he is the author of Willing Accomplices: How K.G.B. Covert Influence Agents Created Political Correctness and Destroyed America). Clizbe first suspected that Simmons was a fraud after meeting him at a lunch in 2010; he compiled “obvious inaccuracies”, and found that no-one in spook circles seemed to know who he was. Clizbe took his concerns to his former boss, who is identified in the story by his middle initial – perhaps regrettably, this happens to be “M.”:

Clizbe pointed out the irregularities in Simmons’s biography, and M. became convinced he was a fraud.

M. alerted Paul Vallely, the retired two-star general who founded Stand Up America, an organization that promotes a conservative foreign-policy agenda through analysis on cable-news networks and talk radio. Vallely met Simmons through Fox News and invited him to serve on the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, a collection of military brass, C.I.A. officers and politicians determined to uncover the truth about the September 2012 embassy attack in Libya. M. remained suspicious when Vallely failed to respond after a month.

French also notes that two other men had suspicions about Simmons: Gary Berntsen, a former CIA counterterrorism officer, and  Colonel David Hunt. Hunt had contacted a senior Fox programming executive, Bill Shine, about Simmons, but to no avail.

Clizbe wrote an article about Simmons in 2013, which he posted to his blog in 2015. On publication, he explained:

I met, spoke with, corresponded with, and shared the results of my vetting with Fox News, other media figures, high-level CIA retirees, the Benghazi group Simmons was closely associated with, and many others. No one was interested in printing this story then.

The “conservative” media has huge problems. Wayne Simmons is a great poster boy for those problems… 

Simmons, when shown a pre-publication copy for his comments, called all his “conservative” protectors to circle their wagons around him. A host of high-level military and CIA retirees (see the Benghazi Committee roster) made clear that they would broach no criticisms of their fake “covert operator,” Simmons. Not one “conservative” media outlet wanted anything to do with breaking this story–in 2013. See the damage done when the truth finally outed in 2015.

That “damage” has included gleeful articles on Media Matters, including one noting that Accuracy on Media had been scrubbing articles about Simmons from its Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi website.

But is this simply a problem of “conservative media”?  In  2002 Christopher Hitchens related that during the 1970s he had

learned the useful lesson that the world of the ‘terrorism expert’ is made up of the most incompetent amateurs.

Certainly, I’ve seen individuals feature in mainstream media who I know for a fact to be frauds.

Pokémon Satanic Panic

From Right Wing Watch:

On Monday, “Trunews” host Rick Wiles recounted a story about how he called the police after seeing a man taking photos of his office building, only to discover that the suspicious man was simply playing Pokémon Go on his phone.

“What if this technology is transferred to Islamic jihadists and Islamic jihadists have an app that shows them where Christians are located geographically?” he asked

…This conversation led “Trunews” cohost Edward Szall to read a fake quote from the creator of Pokémon allegedly endorsing Satanism.

“They’re spawning demons inside your church,” Wiles said… “this technology will be used by the enemies of the cross to target, locate and execute Christians.”

This is an old theme in a certain strand of evangelicalism; way back in 1999 the Denver Post reported from the Colorado Springs Grace Fellowship Church, where a “minister used a blowtorch and a sword during a church service this week to drive home his belief that Pokemon games and toys are only sugar-coated instruments of the occult and evil”:

children’s pastor Mark Juvera… burned Pokemon trading cards with a blowtorch and struck a plastic Pokemon action figure with a 30-inch sword. Juvera’s 9-year-old son then tore the limbs and head off a Pokemon doll.

During the demonstration, the children chanted: “Burn it. Burn it,” and “Chop it up. Chop it up.”

The rise of Pokémon Go has now revived these fears, and Wiles’s warnings are echoed by Michael Snyder, a conspiracy theorist whose views are promoted within neo-Pentecostal evangelicalism by the Charisma media empire:

Is Pokemon Go Evil, Dangerous or Demonic?

…Even the Washington Post admits that there are creatures such as “a flaming demon” in Pokemon Go. As players progress through the game, they collect these monsters and demons, train them, and have them fight against Pokemon owned by others.

…Often seeing something in a movie or coming across something in a video game can spark an interest or open a door into something deeper. For instance, occult organizations admit that one of their best recruiting tools is Harry Potter.

Snyder also draws attention to the assessment of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry that the game “conditions the child who… into accepting occult and evolutionary principles”, and he notes an old article by “occult expert Bill Schnoebelen“, who claims that “The Pokémon games and comics, etc., teach what I have called a magic worldview that is completely opposed to the Bible”.

This endorsement of Schnoebelen is particularly pernicious here: the supposed “occult expert” does not simply have a spiritual objection to occult ideas, but promotes numerous inflammatory conspiracy theories based on an eventful pseudo-autobiography. According to a profile published by Jack Chick, he trained as a Catholic priest, but due to “the influence of liberal professors” he instead became a Wiccan. Occult “Spiritual Masters” then directed him to become involved with “Freemasonry, cultural spiritualism (Voodoo, etc.) Thelema (the Aleister Crowley cult), Rosicrucianism, the Catholic priesthood, Mormonism, and various Eastern philosophies”, before he inevitably ended up at the Church of Satan, and then “underground Satanism” (quote marks in original).

Of course, as a Freemason Schnoebelen wasn’t just your average trouser-leg roller: he supposedly became a “32nd degree Mason, Rosicrucian and Knight Templar,” and joined the Illuminati. Oh, and he’s also an “ex-vampire”, too. It seems there isn’t single group that this Forrest Gump of occultism doesn’t have the goods on.

As I mentioned just a few days ago, this may all seem a bit marginal and silly – but some of us remember the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, and view with concern a revival of this kind of conspiricism. We can giggle at credulous American fundamentalists and ranting radio hosts getting worked up over Japanese fantasy animals, but the ideologues in this paranoid milieu have the potential to cause real harm, as they have done so in the past.