Libel Case to Test 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

An interesting UK libel action is in the offing. The Socialist Unity blog carries a message from far-left activist Tony Greenstein:

On February 13th 2008 I initiated proceedings in the High Court for libel and defamation against Gilad Atzmon, who will be well known to many people.

…I have therefore issued proceedings in respect of:

False allegations of serious criminal conduct and fraud. concerning alleged offences over 20 years ago, contrary to s.8 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

False allegations of violent crimes, in particular against Jewish people

False allegations of race hate crimes against Jewish people

False allegations of vandalising church property

Greenstein and Atzmon are both Jews known for strong anti-Zionist views; however, Atzmon also expounds weird “Jewish power” conspiracy theories. Here’s a taster:

We must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously…American Jewry makes any debate on whether the Protocols of the Elders of Zionitic forgery are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy. So far they are doing pretty well for themselves at least.

This kind of discourse has had a baleful influence over pro-Palestinian (and anti-war) activism in the UK in recent years, and Greenstein’s polemics against it prompted Atzmon to compose an essay which claimed that Greenstein had had some minor criminal convictions in the 1980s. Without going into the details (readers can look for those themselves), the alleged crimes were personal rather than political matters, and Atzmon has apparently raised them simply as an ad hominem argument.

In the UK, minor criminal offences become “spent” after a period of time, which means they need not be disclosed to employers except in certain circumstances, and the person concerned no longer has a criminal record. The law also says that a person can be sued for libel if they publicise a spent conviction for “malicious” reasons, meaning that something can be true but also libellous, depending on the motive of the person doing the disclosing. Unfortunately, however, this part of the Act raises numerous questions: how exactly does one prove or refute a charge of “malice”? What counts as “disclosing” a spent conviction when something may have been reported in newspapers at the time, and be well-remembered in certain circles anyway? Can one publish some details of a case, but not others? At the moment, even when someone is confident that they are not malicious and that they can justify mentioning a spent conviction, the possible legal hassles may result in self-censorship; someone wishing to write about the history of a political movement or of certain individuals with a public profile may find themselves unable to give a full narrative due to fear of the Act, and this has had an impact on Wikipedia.

As far as I am aware, this will be the first time that the 1974 Act will be tested in court, and hopefully the case will provide some guidance.

Gaddafi Attacks Christian Scriptures at Mosque Opening

Nine heads of state present; chaotic scenes

Time to discuss Uganda, where Colonel Gaddafi has just opened a new mosque – the largest in sub-Saharan Africa and modestly named The Gaddafi National Mosque. From Rwanda, the Kigali New Times gives us the VIP list:

President Paul Kagame will today join nine other Heads of State in the Ugandan Capital Kampala during the inauguration of a mosque named after Libyan President Col. Muammar Gaddafi

…Organisers in Kampala yesterday confirmed that Presidents Mwai Kibaki (Kenya), Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi) and Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete had also confirmed their participation. Also expected to attend are Presidents Idriss Deby of Chad, Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir of Sudan, Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal), Mali’s Amadou Toumani Toure and Mamadou Tandja of Niger.

The Kampala Monitor reports that Gaddafi tactfully decided to use the occasion to indulge in his favourite topic of Biblical deconstruction:

Speaking to the mammoth crowd that braved the afternoon heat in Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium after leading the Thuhur (afternoon) prayer, Col. Gadaffi said any Bible and Tora (Old Testament) that does not mention Prophet Muhammad was written by mankind and therefore a fraud.

“The Bible we have now is not the one that was revealed to Issa [Jesus] and the Old Testament is not the one that was revealed to Musa. Muhammad is mentioned in both (original versions), but the Tora and Bible we have now, there is no mention of him,” the Libyan leader, more known for his controversial statements than his piety, said.

“It means that it (Bible) has been forged. Prophet Muhammad was sent to mankind. Allah wanted mankind to have one religion. The Koran that we have is the only book that was sent by Allah. We believe in the Bible as well as the Tora.”

Gaddafi’s predictable diatribe included a question for the non-Muslim world:

“Why doesn’t the world use the birth of Muhammad as a dating process? He was the last prophet; the seal of all prophets. It is racist, its hatred.”

The Monitor observes that

Col. Gaddafi’s remarks, just like the similar ones he made exactly a year ago in West Africa are bound to court some controversy in a deeply religious Uganda.

I blogged those comments at the time, and added a bit of context.

The report also tells us that

President Museveni said he would put the Archbishop of Uganda, Luke Orombi and Bishop Cyprian Lwanga of Kampala Archdiocese to task to explain the omission of Prophet Muhammad from the Bible.

We’ll look forward to that. According to a second Monitor report, Gaddafi’s plans for a show of unity at the event didn’t quite go to plan:

THE Gadaffi National Mosque was opened yesterday amid chaotic supremacy battles between Libyan and Ugandan security officials.

The last of those battles played out at an entrance to the mosque, where President Yoweri Museveni watched in bewilderment as his guards battled the Libyans…Mr Museveni and Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi watched as reporters, diplomats and security officials created a melee…

The Ugandans then turned their attention to Kagame’s Rwandan security team:

When Kagame’s aide tried to open the door, Ugandan security operatives pushed him back. A scuffle ensued between the operatives until Kagame’s guard, forcefully got his master inside.

The police, meanwhile, held back the frustrated faithful. However, at least some of the crowd were happy:

Old women were seen carrying photos of “Brother Leader Gadaffi”, drawn from their purses, and they cried out in excitement whenever his name was called out on the microphone.

It was also a day for some Muslims to praise Idi Amin; one Muslim leader, for example, claimed the opening of the mosque was a realisation of Amin’s dream.

I blogged on efforts to rehabilitate Amin here.

The mosque opening comes just a few days after Gaddafi addressed an Afro-Arab youth conference. The youth were inevitably treated to a bargain bucket of pensées from the garrulous Colonel there, too:

Gadaffi…said term limits were alien to Africa and inhibited people from expressing their will.

He hailed leaders like President Yoweri Museveni and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe as African heroes, who should continue ruling.

An opposition politician named Ssebaana Kizito claims that Gaddafi persuaded Museveni to remove term limits for his position – although it’s perhaps just as likely that Museveni was encouraged by the likes of Morris Cerullo, whose 2007 Ugandan visit I blogged here.

God Speaks to Chuck Pierce

“We are heading into two of the most rearranging, realigning months that we have ever known in the history of this generation”

A bulk email arrives from Stephen Strang, editor of the neo-Pentecostal Charisma magazine:

I am personally inviting you to be a part of our first-ever teleconference onThursday, March 20th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. My special guest will be Chuck Pierce, President of Glory of Zion International Ministries. He has been used by God to intercede and mobilize prayer throughout the world.

Our focus during the conference call will be “Prayer and Intercession in Our Political Times.” I believe this conference call is pivotal and strategic to the current events happening in our nation. Chuck has recently stated “there will have to be a 21-day ‘push’ in the Spirit culminating on April 20 for … the atmosphere in our nation to shift so voters are not deceived by all the political rhetoric from the candidates and the media.”

Strang explains the importance of prayer:

I believe prayer and spiritual warfare brought about shifts in prior political campaigns—such as the narrow win in Florida for George W. Bush during the recount in 2000. Prayer was also responsible for the installation of certain Supreme Court justices when their appointments appeared to be politically unlikely.

There follows a letter from Pierce (a prominent neo-Pentecostal leader), who explains how God sent him a message during a nighttime trip to the toilet:

We are heading into two of the most rearranging, realigning months that we have ever known in the history of this generation. What occurs during these days will set a course for our lives and this nation. The Lord woke me at 1 o’clock on Tuesday morning. As I walked into the bathroom I noticed a calligraphy verse: Lean not on your own understanding. This verse lit up even though the light was not on in the bathroom. The verse became red and yellow like fire. When I went back in at 5 AM, I noticed that the verse was actually in navy blue!

During this second nocturnal visit, God revealed a 1,500 essay to Pierce, which he was able to write down verbatim afterwards. However, it seems that God was in a rather vague and rambling mood. Here’s a taster:

Abrasive circumstances will increase over these next 40 days. Lean not on your own understanding. I will show you things that you do not know during this time. I will cause you to see the pattern that I am forming. Do not fall into an understanding of the past, even the past 40 years, for in the next 40 days I am producing a new time of understanding in My people. For My wisdom is not your wisdom. I am creating a fear and an awe of Me! I will show you how evil is working. I will let you hear the voice of evil – that voice that has been distracting, confronting, and taunting you. My cause will rise up in you…Don’t miss your window of opportunity or fail to recognize the catalyst I am creating for rearranged momentum. Receive an anointing to leap over the mountain that has been deceiving and intimidating you…

Etc, etc. The full text is available here.

BBC Drama: Green Wades In

From the Daily Mail:

The BBC is facing accusations of rewriting the Easter story by claiming Christ was nailed to the cross in a foetal position.

Actually, “the BBC” is claiming no such thing; however, a particular drama – The Passion – co-commissioned by the broadcaster (along with HBO) does apparently feature the crucifixion in such a position, as is historically possible. The drama also seeks intelligently to re-explore the motivations of Judas, Pilate, and Caiaphas. Cue – inevitably – Stephen Green of Christian Voice:

Yet again a revisionist slant has to be put on a story that is transparent.

“It’s fine to have an alternative look at the motivation of people such as Caiaphas, Pilate and Judas, but the fact remains that these guys were instrumental in an innocent man meeting his death.”

So, it’s “fine to have an alternative look”, but Green has a Pavlovian need to complain anyway! Still, anything to keep the profile up.

For sensible commentary on the programme, the links and analysis on Mark Goodacre’s blog are probably the best starting place.

Meanwhile, Green will perhaps have something meatier to get his teeth into after Friday, when with perhaps unfortunate timing the soap opera Eastenders will feature an especially daft foray into Gothic horror. A character named Max is buried alive by his wife and her lover: does he die, or will his burial place be found empty in the next episode, to be broadcast on Easter Monday?

(For all your Stephen Green needs, check out MediaWatchWatch)

Tibet Protests: Anti-Independence Buddhist Leaders Speak

From – inevitably – Xinhua:

The 11th Panchen Lama Gyaincain Norbu condemned on Sunday the lawless riot in Lhasa, saying the sabotage acts run counter to the Buddhism tenets.

“The rioters’ acts not only harmed the interests of the nation and the people, but also violated the aim of Buddhism,” Panchen said.

“We resolutely oppose all activities to split the country and undermine ethnic unity. We strongly condemn the crime of a tiny number of people to hurt the lives and properties of the people,” he said.

The teenage Gyaincain Norbu doubtless knows on which side his bread is buttered; he was infamously installed as a puppet spiritual leader by the Chinese authorities several years ago, and the Tibetan protests have reportedly included calls for the release of his rival for the position, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who was chosen by the Dalai Lama and who has been under arrest in China since the age of six (last year, China famously declared that the reincarnations of such “Living Buddhas” must be approved by the government). Gyaincain Norbu also resides in China, although he makes visits to Tibet to dispense blessings – in fact, he appeared in a BBC documentary series, A Year in Tibet, just a few days ago. The inhabitants of Gyantse, the town featured in the programme, appeared to respect his status, despite reports that he is unpopular.

Supporting Gyaincain Norbu’s position on the protests is Dazhag Dainzin Geleg, a vice-president of the Tibetan Branch of the Buddhist Association of China:

“A handful of Buddhist monks didn’t study the scriptures, didn’t follow our religious canon, but echoed the Dalai clique in splittist efforts to undermine the stability in Tibet and destroy the order of the Tibetan Buddhism,”

The president of the Tibetan branch of the Buddhist Association of China is Zhukang Tubdain Kaizhub, who enjoys the spiritual status of “Living Buddha” and the worldly title of “vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference of Tibet Autonomous Region”. The Association is a branch of the Chinese government, and he has been keen to stress that there is religious freedom Tibet.

Another vice-president of the Tibetan branch of the Buddhist Association of China (and “Living Buddha”) is Phagpala Geleg Namgyal, a prominent collaborationist and CCP official. Last year a young female refugee made certain allegations against him on the TibetInfoNet website.

Name variations: Erdini Gyantsen Norpo; Dupkang·Tupden Kedup; Pagbalha Geleg Namgyai. There is probably also an alternative transliteration for Dazhag Dainzin Geleg, but I haven’t been able to find it.

Paul Cameron Cited by Russian Orthodox Spokesman

Russian Orthodox church spokesman Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin unveils a new plan to encourage morality, via a subtle advertising campaign. Interfax reports:

we can make such an advert: here is a happy just married couple leaving the church after wedding, and here is night-clubber with a glass of cognac with prostitutes and pederasts. And “Part II”: five years have passed – the couple is among their children, while the marry-maker [sic] is in hospital dying from AIDS.

Just why “pederasts” would be in a night-club is not explained, but given the homophobia of the Orthodox Church it’s very likely Chaplin is using the word to refer to gay men. The following raises our suspicions further:

The representative of the Russian Orthodox Church cited results of Paul Cameron’s research. According to them [sic], life span of homosexuals and lesbian is 20% lower than that of ordinary people in Denmark and Norway.

Paul Cameron needs little introduction; the Southern Poverty Law Center has reviewed his work here.

Pepsi Nepal and UPF Promote “One Family Under God”

A couple of weeks ago on my Universal Peace Federation sub-blog I noted a UPI report from Nepal, which described how

two major business groups from Nepal — Pepsi Co. and the Chaudhary Group — have joined hands with two key nonprofit NGOs — Project Healing Touch of India and the Universal Peace Federation of Nepal — to offer a solution to a people in despair.

The project concerns micro-financing and business training; however, it is now clear (although unsurprising) that UPF theology will also be promoted. The Rising Nepal reports:

The project aims at enabling those in the most vulnerable sections of society to earn a respectable living, be self- supporting, make a contribution to society, and live in dignity inspired by three of the fundamental pillars in the UPF philosophy as-that sustainable peace can only be built on the principle of living for the sake of others, that irrespective of religion, language, cultural or ethnic background we are essentially “One Family Under God,” and UPF’s wholehearted support to fulfill the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

No mention is made of the “One Family Under God’s” “True Father” on earth: Rev. Moon. It should be recalled that Moon’s works and ideas were recently praised by Nepalese politicans.

What the rhetoric of “One Family Under God” actually means is made clear in this video:

This video is rather more slick than the following 1997 effort, recently unearthed by John Gorenfeld:

Satanic Ritual Abuse, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and David Shayler

Several months ago former MI5 whistleblower turned conspiracy-theorist David Shayler decided to follow the David Icke route, announcing the discovery of deep spiritual mysteries and declaring himself to be the reincarnation of Jesus. Given the rather jokey way he made this revelation – “I’m Brian and so is my wife: The Messiah is to hold a press conference this week” – one wonders if this was some kind of send-up; other conspiracy theories have also been suggested, in which he is still working for MI5 to discredit criticism of the Iraq war and the supposed “truth” about 9/11, or has been brainwashed to achieve this purpose. Most likely, I would hazard, Shayler is masterminding a conspiracy to avoid getting a proper job.

His latest ramblings, however (see below), are rather less jokey:

…The New World Order is not just a political force, the New World Order uses the dark side. We know this from the extensive testimonies to things like Satanic abuse. These are not things you’ll read about in the mainstream media, but I assure you, if you go in the internet you’ll find ample, well-researched evidence there.

What’s more chilling: the attempt to resurrect a conspiracy theory which resulted in ruined lives and blighted childhoods in the 1980s and 1990s, or the fact that a man who believes citing “the internet” counts as an authoritative source was once employed in a position of responsibility? But that’s not even the half of it:

…That New World Order, using those dark forces, has tried to convince us that Jesus came 2,000 years ago and changed nothing, or that Jesus didn’t come at all, or that he came but he wasn’t divine.

But who exactly has tried to convince us of this? Does he mean certain Biblical scholars of various kinds? Or does he mean Unitarians or Mormons or Muslims, since these religious traditions reject the idea of the Trinity? Or does he mean the group hinted at here:

…Taking my cue from Jesus in the Bible, the first thing I’m going to say and do is turn the tables on the money-lenders. And I say to every government in the world, print your own money…Until now, every country in the world has been controlled by a central bank. We know from documents like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion that they were going to use the money supply to create recessions and depressions, and that’s exactly what they have done throughout the twentieth century and are doing now, basically.

I suppose it should be remembered that not all conspiracy theories that use the Protocols are aimed against Jews; the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail authors concocted an alternative yarn connecting the document to a Masonic “Priory of Sion” (Of course, this is also nonsense, as well as being irresponsible and in bad taste). However, Shayler makes no attempt to clarify what he means, and coming after his garbled evocation of Jesus overturning the tables of the moneychangers, one is inclined not to give the benefit of the doubt.

Many of us can remember David Icke’s debut as a spiritual guru in 1991, when he became a figure of national mirth for his bizarre prophecies and pronouncements (Shayler, by the way, promises us the universe will “change shape” in 2012). A few years later, Icke was featured in a documentary with Jon Ronson, and he came across as a rather sad figure – wheeling his suitcase around the UK and the USA and speaking to small groups of cranks, when he had once enjoyed a high-profile career as a BBC sports reporter. A more recent documentary, in contrast, showed us queues of people eagerly waiting to fill medium-sized London venues where Icke was due to appear. Perhaps Shayler saw the same programme, and decided to see if he could win at the same game.

(Hat tips: Harry’s Place, The Nation of Duncan)

Ted Baehr Hypocrisy Shock

Back in 2004 (see here), Ted Baehr of the Christian conservative “Movieguide” and of WorldNetDaily thundered against the film Kinsey, which he alleged whitewashed a monstrous figure responsible for corrupting American society. Beahr urged us to consider the evidence provided by his friend Judith Reisman, who had proven that the historical Kinsey had had a strange sex life and therefore that all his data was worthless. Baehr also claimed that Reisman had been deliberately excluded from previews of Kinsey, and he found this particularly reprehensible.

In 2008, however, Baehr is more than happy to endorse the idea of selective pre-screenings for a film more to his liking. Over to his latest column at WorldNetDaily:

Atheists are enraged. The politically correct academic nomenclature is upset. A reporter in Florida even posed as a minister to sneak into a church screening to stop actor, pundit and financial guru Ben Stein’s new movie about the totalitarian attempts by Darwinian scientists to suppress dissent, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.”

Baehr is referring to the case of Roger Moore (no, not that one), film critic for the Orlando Sentinel. Moore received an invitation to a screening, but when the invitation was revoked he decided to attend anyway – and avoided signing a non-disclosure agreement. He did nothing to attempt “stop” the film, and he did not “pose as a minister” (that embellishment appeared after the review was published). He did, though, write a harsh review – details can be seen on his blog. Presumably Baehr, who raged against Fox over its alleged treatment of Reisman, approves of Stein’s strategy of controlling who gets to see the film before its general release, and of holding soft-ball press conferences.

This is far from being Baehr’s first dip into the waters of hypocrisy – last year he denounced violent films for inspiring the Virginia Tech massacre not long after presenting an award to Chuck Norris.

Savage Copyright Suit Dismissed

An important case reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:

A federal judge said Friday she’s inclined to dismiss a lawsuit by conservative radio talk show host Michael Savage against a Muslim rights group that reprinted his attacks against Islam and called for an advertising boycott.

Savage sued the Council on American-Islamic Relations in December after the organization posted excerpts from an Oct. 29 broadcast in which he called the Quran a “hateful little book … a document of slavery” and said, “I don’t want to hear one more word about Islam. Take your religion and shove it.”

His lawsuit accused the group of violating Savage’s copyright by posting more than four minutes of excerpts on its Web site without his permission. He also claimed that the group was engaged in racketeering, saying it poses as a civil rights organization but is actually a “mouthpiece of international terror” that helped to fund the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Savage’s vulgar and tedious anti-Muslim rants have been part of the US scene for several years; Salon profiled him a while ago here. WND has more of the quote highlighted by CAIR:

I’m not gonna put my wife in a hijab. And I’m not gonna put my daughter in a burqa. And I’m not getting’ on my all-fours and braying to Mecca. And you could drop dead if you don’t like it. You can shove it up your pipe.

This is fairly average from the man whom Brigitte Gabriel’s American Congress of Truth describes as “the best in the fight against IslamoNazism” (I blogged on Gabriel, and noted her October visit to London, here. She is particularly popular in Christian Zionist circles).

Savage claims this was taken “out of context”, and he raised money from his listeners to fund the copyright lawsuit. Savage claimed that this was about defending his free speech in the face of CAIR’s call for a boycott, which is a rather strange interpretation of the first amendment. Perhaps realising this (a) looked ridiculous and hypocritical, (b) would be detrimental to “fair use” provisions in American free speech, and (c) very likely to fail anyway, he opportunistically added the racketing charge at a later date. And sure enough, now that the lawsuit has been thrown out, his supporters are whinging about a “victory for terrorism”.

CAIR put forward a useful precedent on the issue:

Thomas Burke, a lawyer for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said at the hearing that the organization was entitled to excerpt Savage’s words for fundraising purposes. He cited a 1986 ruling by the federal appeals court in San Francisco allowing the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s organization to use copyrighted material in a Hustler magazine parody of Falwell to generate contributions.

However, the judge – now on the receiving end of abuse from Savage’s supporters – has allowed the radio host to re-file an amended suit.