John Coles and the Theme of Terrorism

As has been widely blogged, UK Sun hack John Coles has caused disgust across the Brit blogosphere with a nasty hachet job aimed at Steve Nutt, a young man of no interest to the wider public. This is because Nutt’s father is David Nutt, who until recently was the government’s main drugs advisor before being sacked after suggesting that some of the risks around drug taking had been overstated in comparison with other potentially dangerous activities. This prompted Coles to bring all his investigative skills to bear for a background piece – which in his case meant accessing the Facebook accounts of Nutt’s children for a shocking exposé:

THE youngest son of Professor David Nutt – sacked as government drugs adviser – has posted pictures of himself on Facebook apparently smoking dope…

…It was not known if the professor at London’s elite Imperial College has been privy to his daughter Lydia’s Facebook pages.

Photos show her and girl pals cavorting with a bottle of spirits in hand – and were uploaded two years before she turned 18.

Meanwhile older lad Johnny, 26, has posted photos of himself prancing NAKED in the snow in Sweden.

Also:

Steve Nutt thinks his dad is probably more famous than he’ll ever be, BARRING A TERRORIST ATROCITY THAT IS… “

Terrorism is a theme that regularly crops up in his messages.

Shockingly, instead of sticking a portrait of himself in his “profile” photo slot like most Facebook users, his image is of an orange labelled “product of Israel” – one half of which is a GRENADE.

But terrorism is also a theme that “regularly crops up”  in Coles’ lazy hackery; let us remember this Guardian article:

On 7 January the Sun’s front page splash, under the headline “Terror Target Sugar”, quoted claims by “anti-terror expert” Glen Jenvey that online Muslim forum Ummah.com was being used by extremists to target leading British Jews in revenge for Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

The Sun subsequently removed the story, which carried the bylines of John Coles and Mike Sullivan, from its website.

Coles and Sullivan were spoonfed bogus information that had in fact been generated by Jenvey himself (see here); in fairness, it came to them via a news agency, and Jenvey had an endorsement from Patrick Mercer MP (which still needs further explanation), but they took responsibility for the Sun piece with their bylines – and the story fell apart thanks to a bit of on-line digging by Tim Ireland that put the hacks to shame. So now we’ve twice seen Coles trying to puff up fears over “terrorism”; in the first instance by using material that a competent journalist would have rejected, and in  the second by absurdly over-egging a non-story about a private individual using material found on Facebook.

Of course, Facebook offers endless fields of easy gleanings for hacks looking to cobble together easy copy – see Paula Murray.

Flip Benham: “Richard Bartholomew has the Spiritual Depth of a Pie Tin”

Flip Benham

Rev. Flip Benham

Here’s one I missed from the end of September – a blog post attributed to none other than Rev Flip Benham, Director of Operation Save America and Operation Rescue and famous as the man who baptized a repentant Norma McCorvey (“Roe” of “Roe vs Wade”), discussing my spiritual state (see here, scroll down – for some reason there’s no permalink):

Richard Bartholomew has the spiritual depth of a pie tin when it comes to understanding the Gospel battle we are involved in.  He has a tremendous amount of knowledge but little spiritual depth.  He is like a swamp – a mile wide but only an inch deep. 

Benham is annoyed at a short blog entry I did concerning Operation Save America’s protest against a Muslim group holding a open-air prayer meeting at the Capitol in Washington DC. He goes on to explain the true spiritual depths of the event:

What took place in Washington D.C., this past Friday, September 25, 2009, was no attempt at all for Muslims to approach Almighty God in prayer.  They can’t reach God for there is no other Name by which men must approach God but the Name of Jesus.  It was a strategic attempt by the devil to dethrone the God of the Bible.  It was an attempt to replace or level the playing field between the living and true God of the Bible with the false god Allah.  It was an attempt to declare that God and Allah are one and the same – they are not!  Islam is a lie birthed in the deepest pits of hell.  It will not be tolerated by God and it certainly must not be tolerated by Christians…When Muslims gathered on the lawn of our nation’s Capital, they were declaring that “Allah is God and there is no other, and Mohammed is his prophet.”  This is the first pillar of Islam.  It is a contradiction and violation of the first Commandment of Almighty God, “Thou shalt have no other God’s before me.”  We Christians have allowed God’s House to become a den of robbers.  We refuse to wield the sharp double edged Sword of the Spirit and stand for God’s Truth in the Name of Jesus.

By the way, the backs of the t-shirts are even better…

Operation Save America T-Shirts

(Second t-shirt reads “Abortion is Murder; Homosexuality is Sin; Islam is a Lie; Evolution is a Delusion; Feminism is Rebellion; Liberalism is a False Religion; Conservativism is [Pretend] Salt” – thanks to a commentator for identifying the missing word)

Benham’s denunciation comes in the wake of a rebuke from the Official Street Preachers I received in February.

Nuremberg Rally: Health and Safety Edition

Via Right Wing Watch:

Background here.

Hasanballs

From press release by Gregg Wooding of I AM PR Services (“Mission: Overcoming evil with Good [News]”) on behalf of apocalyptic Christian author Joel Richardson:

Is it coincidence that Major Nidal Malik Hasan was a devout Muslim, that 90 percent of the current world fighting involves Islamic terror movements, that Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion climbing at four times the rate of Christianity, and that abuses associated with Sharia Law are sweeping the globe?

According to The Islamic Anti-Christ, Richardson doesn’t think so. “I am trying to present a new paradigm without making people upset,” Richardson said recently on the eve of the third printing of his popular book. “But, people have staked their careers on it,” he said.

Richardson’s end times theory is based on biblical scripture including Micah 5–“He will deliver us from the Assyrian when he invades our land and marches into our borders.”

…Theories presented in The Islamic Anti-Christ continue to grow in popularity as the world watches the injustices of Muslim Law spread across the globe and infiltrate many sectors of U.S. society. Most recently the terrorist-style murders by Major Nidal Malik Hasan in Fort Hood, TX and the imprisonment of Maryam Rustampoor and Marzieh Amirizadeh, two Iranian women who converted from Islam to Christianity, are events Richardson points to on his website, www.joelstrumpet.com, as evidence of things to come.

Wooding is former PR man to Billy Graham and TD Jakes. Hilariously, the article also describes the shameless serial liar Joseph Farah as a “faith leader”, and describes Richardson’s spat with Hal Lindsey, who is not at all happy with Richardson muscling in on the market for bogus prophecy paperbacks aimed at credulous fundamentalists.

More on the “Islamic Anti-Christ” here.

Richardson Islamic Antichrist

New Report on Libel Reform Launched

Free Speech is not For Sale

Yesterday I managed to get along to the Free Word Centre in Farringdon Road (London) for the launch of the Free Speech is not For Sale report and campaign for the reform of English libel law, initiated by English PEN and Index on Censorship. The event has been widely covered in the media; the current campaign has gained steam due to issues of libel tourism – which has resulted in laws being passed in the USA to protect American citizens from the London High Court – and the alarming situation of scientists and science writers being threatened for making professional judgements. At the moment, if you are moderately wealthy or if you have a lawyer who is motivated to make threats on your behalf at a cheap rate, it is very easy to suppress free speech on matters of public interest: costs are huge (and may not be fully recovered even if you successfully defend an action), damages can be devastating, the burden of proof is on the defendant, and judges often interpret the law in strange ways. In fact, if you have only limited resources you can still cause a great deal of trouble for someone by dragging them into court over a matter that is unreasonable. Consequently, those of us who are neither extremely rich nor so poor we have nothing to lose are forced to self-censor; and if a libel threat does come there is little that can be done besides backing down by removing material and perhaps issuing an insincere but nevertheless degrading and discrediting apology – and in some cases handing over money.

The report makes a number of recommendations, summarized here. These include capping costs and damages, curbing libel tourism, establishing libel tribunals as a cheaper alternative to trials, updating the law to reflect the reality of the internet, and strengthening public interest and fair comment defences. Also:

Exempt large and medium-sized corporate bodies and associations from libel law unless they can prove malicious falsehood.

Apparently that one is based on an Australian model, and I was sad to see it did not go further. In the USA, the bar is set at “malicious falsehood” for anyone who involves themselves in public affairs, and that’s how it should be in the UK.

But will this report have any effect? As was pointed out at the launch, calls for reform have been going on for a long time – and indeed, I’m not aware that the Policy Exchange seminar on the subject which was held in July 2008 had any practical consequencies. However, there is reason for optimism: MPs are taking an interest – a Parliamentary report on “press standards, privacy and libel” is due to be released next month, and Denis MacShane and Evan Harris were present at the launch – and there was an address from Sir Ken MacDonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions. Even a partner from law firm Carter-Ruck agreed there was need for reform, particularly praising the tribunal idea.

But there is still much to do. Blogger Allen Green of Jack of Kent, who was present at the launch, praises the report (as do I) for its succinctness and practicality in a new blog post, but he warns:

By itself it changes nothing.

Law can only be changed by influencing the legislature, or the case-by-case development of the law by the courts. It will not be enough to read and admire the report: it should be sent to every MP, senior civil servant, and judge.

Each political party should now address the report and, if possible, make a manifesto commitment to make parliamentary time – and civil service resources – available for libel reform, which should proceed on a all-party basis.

Speaking from the audience, he suggested that the whole law should be scrapped rather than reformed, since laws against malicious falsehood offer sufficient protection. However, as he admits today, “I doubt it is practical politics”.

Meanwhile, there’s an article on recent abuses of English libel law – including the antics of solicitor Shahrokh Mireskandari (known to bloggers for his attempt to sue Harry’s Place on behalf of a fugitive Hamas commander last year, although that case is not mentioned) – in the latest Private Eye magazine (1249, p. 7).

Police Probe “The Revelations of the Mystics”

November 2003:

Greater Manchester Police have confirmed they restarted a search for a missing man after receiving information from a psychic.

It is understood the medium discovered the information about Vinny Derrick at an unrelated meeting.

But officers have told the BBC the information was so convincing they decided to carry out a further search.

August 2009:

THE family of a young man has made an emotional appeal for information on the sixth anniversary of his disappearance.

Vinny Derrick, from Castle Donington, was last seen leaving a nightclub in Manchester on August 29, 2003.

Well, at least that shows the police should now know better than to listen to psychics…

Alas!

POLICE launched a full-blown murder inquiry into a suicide victim’s death, after a mystic claimed he had been killed by gangsters.

Detectives investigated the death of Lampeter baker Carlos Assaf despite conclusive evidence he had hanged himself at his flat.

…A spokeswoman for Dyfed-Powys Police said the authority had a duty to investigate potential leads.

She added: “The revelations of the mystics were brought to our attention via the family, and these were followed to reassure the family that the full circumstances of the death were as they appeared.”

Author of Anti-Homosexuality Bill Selected for “Servant Leadership Team” after Meeting Held by US-Based “College of Prayer International”

Staying with Uganda, the New Vision reports the latest on David Bahati, the MP behind the proposed draconian “Anti-Homosexuality Bill”; he was among attendees at a recent prayer meeting for parliamentarians, after which (emphasis added)

…eight MPs were selected to be in the servant leadership team for Parliament for three years.

They included Ruth Tuma, Alice Alaso, Beatrice Lagada, Moses Ntahobari, Capt. Grace Kyomugisha, Benson Obua, David Bahati and the East African legislative assembly MP, Maj. Gen Mugisha Muntu.

The prayer meeting was run by Dr. Fred Hartley, president of the College of Prayer International, who instructed MPs on the power of prayer:

Hartley explained to the MPs that the Kingdom of God involves righteousness, joy, peace and the Holy Spirit. He told the MPs that if they prayed in line with the Kingdom of God they would be able to cast out demons.

“True signs of wonders will follow if you pray in truth. The blind will see, the lame will walk and the deaf will hear,” he said.

One MP explained how he had helped a woman give birth through prayer; others, however, were more interested in politically-tinged miracles:

During testimonies, Soroti Woman MP Alice Alaso (FDC) testified that Apostle Julius Oyet prophesied in 2000 at Lugogo stadium that she would win elections in 2001.

“Indeed, I won elections without spending money and I will continue doing so,” Alaso said.

Oyet is not the only Ugandan neo-Pentecostal leader to have made electoral prophecies; I blogged on Robert Kayanja’s efforts here.

The College of Prayer International is based in the USA (Georgia) and has numerous campuses around the world. According to its website:

The College of Prayer is a ministry of the Revival Prayer Institute, Inc. established to mentor Christian leaders who will reach a lost world through a revived church. We are a faith ministry organized exclusively for the purpose of mentoring and encouraging pastors, wives, Christian leaders, missionaries, intercessors – all who desire to more effectively impact their world through fervent revival prayer, prayer evangelism, intercession, and worship.

And as for Hartley:

As President of the College of Prayer International, Fred is our visionary leader. He was mentored by Armin Gesswein, whose ideas and passions helped shape the COP. Fred is also the Lead Pastor at Lilburn Alliance Church, a church located in metro Atlanta, Georgia where he and his wife Sherry have served since 1988. Fred is the author of thirteen books.

His church bio adds the details that his father was the comics illustrator Al Hartley, and that his grandfather was Congressman Fred. A. Hartley, Jr.

The late Gesswein was a much-respected figure in American evangelicalism, known for his emphasis on prayer; as a revivalist he was among the first to promote Billy Graham, and he was associated with Fuller Theological Seminary.

Rick Warren Repudiates Martin Ssempa

From Warren Throckmorton’s blog:

STATEMENT FROM PASTOR RICK & KAY WARREN REGARDING ACTIVITIES OF MARTIN SSEMPA IN UGANDA 

Martin Ssempa does not represent me, my wife Kay, Saddleback Church, nor the Global PEACE Plan strategy. In 2007, we completely severed contact with Mr. Ssempa  when we learned that his views and actions were in serious conflict with our own. Our role, and the role of the PEACE Plan, whether in Uganda or any other country, is always pastoral and never political. We vigorously oppose anything that hinders the goals of the PEACE Plan: Promoting reconciliation, Equipping ethical leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick, and Educating the next generation.

Throckmorton is himself a conservative Christian, but he has been forthright in his opposition to the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill under consideration in Uganda and backed by religious leaders such as Ssempa. In a recent article published in the Uganda Independent, Throckmorton noted the story from John’s Gospel of the woman taken in adultery:

As I read the Anti-Homosexuality Bill proposed in Uganda by MPs David Bahati and Benson Obua, I wonder if perhaps these gentlemen think Jesus should have picked up a stone. Instead, Jesus intervened on behalf of the woman, was He wrong? Clearly, He did not believe adultery was proper. But He signaled a new way of dealing with sin, one which emphasizes mercy and freedom, rather than coercion and death. People must choose to follow the teachings of Christ, not be coerced by Pharisees or government officials. The human heart cannot be changed by laws, but through the freely chosen grace of Christ.

Brothers and sisters, jailing or killing gays or those suspected of being gay or those who know gays cannot create a righteous people, and in fact may further a self-righteous people. One may disapprove of homosexuality, and still treat homosexuals as you would want to be treated. Who among us could stand if our private sins were judged in such a manner as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009?

Warren was apparently moved to make his statement after being contacted by Throckmorton and by Andrew Marin. According to Marin:

As recent as the middle of last week, Martin Ssempa was still mentioned on Saddleback’s website. However, all links to Ssempa were swiftly removed when Dr. Throckmorton and I were both in direct contact with Rick and Kay Warren’s spokesperson questioning the potential longstanding connection between Saddleback and what is currently happening in Uganda through Ssempa.

The first response we received was from Kay Warren, who said she was quote, “horrified”, that there were still mentions of Ssempa on their website. She had staff work through the night to remove every link to Ssempa…

However, Political Research Associates complains that:

In an October 31 statement, Rick Warren distanced himself from one Ugandan antigay activist but that is not good enough. We need him to denounce the bill itself, and challenge his friend Archbishop Henry Orombi’s support of it.

PRA is about to release a report on US evangelicals and gay rights in Africa, written by a Zambian Anglican priest named Kapya Kaoma. According to him:

“Rick Warren shows one face in the United States where he says he loves gays, and another face in Africa, which is on the verge of pogroms against this community,” said Reverend Kaoma. “We need to hear his voice loud and clear on this issue that gays and lesbians are entitled to full human rights.”

PRA also notes that

In March 2008, U.S. evangelical leader Rick Warren told Ugandans that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right.

I blogged this here; and I’ve some background on Uganda’s absurd Ethics and Integrity Minister, James Nsaba Buturo, here.

Papers Profile Paul Staines

As Bonfire Night draws near, journalists use the occasion as an hook on which to write profiles of Paul Staines, who blogs as Guido Fawkes. The Catholic Herald has piece in which Staines discusses his cultural Catholic background (he admits to no longer having a “personal relationship with God”) and offers up some mysterious assertions about how the Catholic Church supposedly relates to the UK government:

New Labour, he says, is anti-Catholic fundamentally because it dislikes any moral opposition (this is classic Popper).

“New Labour see the Catholic Church as a rival institution. Ideologically they sees themselves as the political arm of the British people. The Catholic Church is a rival hierarchical structure with a different social philosophy. Bertrand Russel compared the Communist Party and Catholic Church’s structure. Modern management consultants talk about flat management structures, and the Church is a good example. How many levels are there from Pope to laity? Seven? Six? From customer to CEO in six levels. That’s fantastic.

“Obviously you have the abortion issue, and their secular religion about homosexuality. The Church’s position is ‘we’re not anti but we’re not pro’. The Labour party’s position is they’re pro.”

There is also this baffling claim:

Along the way Staines has had his legal problems, although he is a famed opponent of libel lawyers and difficult to sue, so complicated has he made his dealings.

In fact, Staines is a very poor champon of free speech against libel laws. Although the Libertarian Alliance, whom he used to work for, calls for an end to defamation laws, Staines has more than once waved lawyers around at bloggers when it has suited him to suppress information (see here), or when he has felt particularly riled (see here). It’s also questionable whether he would himself be as “difficult to sue” as he thinks. Although he mainly lives abroad, his use of foreign hosting services for his blog is of no relevance given that it can be accessed in the UK. He defends himself in a new Guardian profile:

“People say to me, ‘You’re a libertarian. People should be able to tell lies about you and you should put up with that,'” he says, his slack body language suddenly stiffening at the cafe table. “I don’t mind being called an extreme rightwinger. I can put up with being called sexist, because I probably am . . . But my reputation is my property.”

That might cut more ice if he had actually been accused maliciously of something that was untrue – but he has never brought a case, just used lawyers (in particular Donal Blaney) to make threats over matters that in the USA would be regarded as fair game for discussion given Staines’ position as a public figure.

The Guardian also has more details about his 1980s libertarian activism:

As a teenager in London in the early 80s, he rebelled against his leftwing father by devouring libertarian books and joining the Young Conservatives. Mainstream Toryism soon seemed too tame: at university in Hull, he joined the then-notorious Federation of Conservative Students. The FCS “spoke a language I could understand – Thatcher on drugs . . . anti-Communist, anti-Wet and mainly reactionary,” he wrote later. “I never wore a ‘Hang Mandela’ badge but I hung out with people who did . . . We were so obnoxious that the Conservative party decided to close [us] down.”

At Hull, Staines even wrote a letter suggesting that the FCS had “some common ground”, as he puts it now, with the British National party. He justifies the letter, rather cryptically, by saying that he wrote it as an “agent provocateur . . . to smoke people out”, but concedes that his father, who is Anglo-Indian, was “absolutely aghast”. In the late 80s Staines was also a supporter of the apartheid government in South Africa. He says he now regrets it: “I think perhaps we were taken in. We were sold the line that ‘[Apartheid] South Africa is a bulwark against communism.'”

Conservative libertarians and South Africa in the 1980s is a subject which I wrote about in February last year; many libertarians were “taken in”, although there were reports as early as 1987 claiming that supposedly “independent” groups in South Africa with which British and American libertarians were making links (in the latter case through Jack Abramoff) were in fact receiving funding from the regime. It’s good that Staines shows some self-criticism on this issue at least  – some other “libertarians” of the era could follow his example here.

More on right-libertarians here.

Grim Reaper Backs EDL

EDL Reaper

The above picture shows one of the leaders of the English Defence League, delivering a speech in Leeds on Saturday.  His face is apparently obscured as he fears Muslim vengance (that was his explanation on Newsnight recently), although he promises us that Anjem Choudary will not be allowed to take over the UK. The Israeli flag has been seen at other EDL events; it represents a vicarious identification with Israel in its various conflicts.

Video here.