“VIP Abuse” Detective who Warned of “Witch-Hunt” Speaks Out

The Daily Mail has a remarkable interview with the Metropolitan Police’s DCI Paul Settle, speaking in a personal capacity about his work investigating claims of “VIP sex abuse”:

DCI Settle had no idea of the ‘poisoned chalice’ he’d been handed after Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson raised a question in the Commons of a ‘powerful paedophile ring’ linked to a previous prime minister’s ‘senior adviser’.

Under-resourced, with just six staff to investigate more than 450 allegations that subsequently flooded in after Watson’s bombshell statement, DCI Settle says he set about the task ‘impartially and objectively’ — only to have his professionalism questioned by superiors within the force, who eventually removed him from the post altogether.

Settle has since been signed off from work with stress, and now spends much of his time “slumped on the sofa, often close to tears”:

‘One minute I was the lead investigator, and the next I was told I was off the case. I believe senior officers were frightened of Tom Watson; what he might do and how that might affect their careers.’

DCI Settle claims he was frozen out and isolated by senior officers.

‘It was like a switch had been turned off. One minute I was a trusted colleague — and the next it seemed people were looking at me with blank faces and avoiding me.’

The interview follows a report in the Telegraph from a couple of weeks ago that Settle’s wife had written to the Met Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, complaining about how her husband has been treated.

Tom Watson asked his question in parliament in October 2012 after allegations had been brought to his attention by a retired child protection officer named Peter McKelvie; on his website (on a page now deleted), Watson clarified that he was referring to McKelvie’s concern that “a wider investigation regarding the activities of convicted paedophile, Peter Righton was not fully investigated”.

The subsequent flurry of activity led to the conviction of Charles Napier (who admits his crimes) and two other individuals, but it also stirred up false claims and old rumours about Westminster-based “VIP paedophiles” that had previously appeared in sources such as Scallywag magazine in the 1990s. Watson was thereafter put into contact with “Nick”, who claims to have seen MPs rape and murder children, as well as “Jane”, who says that she had been raped by Leon Brittan as a young woman in 1967. McKelvie later distanced himself from a number of the more sensational “VIP” claims, although not in a way that was to his credit – as I discussed here.

During this period, Watson had a number of meetings with Settle, including one in February 2014 in which Settle explained to him why “Jane’s” complaint had been dropped in September 2013 without Brittan being interviewed. Watson appeared to accept his account, but he then wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions demanding Jane be interviewed. The letter did not formally reach the police via the DPP until 2 June 2014, but its contents were published by Exaro on 17 May 2014.

On 19 May 2014, Settle was told that a standard police review had decided that Brittan ought to be interviewed under caution as a matter of procedure after all, even though the closing of the case in September 2013 had been based on CPS advice. The new Mail article has some background:

…as the investigation got under way, DCI Settle — who began to feel that many of the allegations his team worked round the clock to corroborate were the work of plausible ‘fantasists’ or Left-wing activists — was soon viewed as a lone voice…

‘The complainant was a troubled woman with a long history of problems, who only came forward with her allegation after Tom Watson’s question in the Commons.

‘She could not remember where the alleged attack had taken place, and there was no proof she ever met Lord Brittan,’ DCI Settle says.

‘We tracked down people she named in her statement — no mean feat after 47 years — none of whom could corroborate her account.

‘One of her friends said they’d never met Lord Brittan socially, nor was he part of their circle.

‘The woman claimed that Lord Brittan had phoned her flat asking to speak to her, but the lady who supposedly took the call denied ever having received it.

‘I consulted the Crown Prosecution Service — who reviewed the file anonymously without knowing it involved a prominent person.

‘They concurred with my decision and said no further action should be taken.

Settle gave evidence about the subject to the Home Affairs Select Committee in October 2015, as I discussed here; he went so far as to say that Brittan’s interview under caution that later followed (at Brittan’s home, during his terminal illness) had been unlawful, and to describe the investigation as a “baseless witch-hunt”

Was the 19 May decision prompted by Watson, or was it going to happen anyway? I discussed some views about this here, and the CPS says not; either way, though, it turned out that Settle’s initial decision had been correct: “Jane’s” account is not just uncorroborated, but is positively contradicted by witnesses whom she herself named. (1)

However, I do have a couple of concerns about the rhetoric. Unless “Jane” has a previous history of dishonesty or delusions, the fact that she “was a troubled woman” ought not to be relevant; vague suggestions of mental illness are not helpful, and are perhaps discriminatory.

It was also previously reported that Jane is a Labour Party activist; when the above refers to allegations from “Left-wing activists”, is this a reference to Jane, made into a plural by the journalist for sensational effect, or are there really others? It seems to me that this is problematic, for two reasons: political differences should not invalidate a complaint; and, if false complaints are being made for political reasons, then these must be simply malicious and should be prosecuted.

The new interview article also includes the detail that Settle

…was later placed under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission after being accused of leaking personal information about another complainant — an accusation he fiercely denies.

This appears to confirm that Settle is the unnamed officer referenced in an Exaro article from January (no longer available due to the demise of Exaro) headlined “IPCC Probes Panorama Source over leaking of CSA survivors’ IDs”. This headline heavily implied that there had definitely been a leak that the police were probing, when in fact police were merely looking into an allegation of a leak  – a complaint most likely filed by someone at Exaro, thus generating their own exclusive.

But several of Exaro‘s supposed “VIP abuse” survivors had had their own contacts with other media professionals, and we can be sure that their names were generally known within the industry when Panorama began work on its documentary on the subject. This is particularly the case with “Nick”, who not only previously appeared on TV talking about Jimmy Savile but who at one stage had a large body of self-published writing available online.

Footnote

(1) The Daily Mail‘s current sympathy for Settle should not mean that we forget a sensationalising article it published in July 2014, which  heavily implied that the original police decision had been improper and mysterious. That article began with the claim that “Former Home Secretary Leon Brittan was only questioned over allegations he raped a student in 1967 following demands by the Director of Public Prosecutions, it has been claimed”, and added that she had “looked into the case herself after the campaigning Labour MP Tom Watson wrote to her asking that she examine the way the police handled the case”.

But that was before “campaigning Labour MP Tom Watson” became Deputy Leader of the Opposition and thus “witch-hunter Watson“, and before “Nick” had been thoroughly debunked.

Patriarch of Moscow Expresses “Respect and Gratitude” For Fidel Castro

The website of the Russian Orthodox Church carries a letter from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to Raul Castro:

Comandante Fidel was one of the most famous and outstanding state leaders of today. He gained international authority and became a legend already in his lifetime. Being flesh of the flesh of the Cuban people, he devoted all his power to make his homeland truly independent and occupy a worthy place in the world family of nations.

In the Russian Orthodox Church the name of Fidel Castro is always pronounced with respect and gratitude. With Comandante’s personal participation, a church dedicated to the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God has been erected in Havana, and Fidel, in his own expression, was ‘the commissar of the construction’.

The letter has also been reported by the pro-Kremlin Interfax news agency, which adds some background:

When he was young, the comandante was keen on the ideas of revolution and socialism, but he stood for cooperation with believers in struggle for the fair society and he once said that “there are ten thousand times more coincidences between Christianity and Communism than between Christianity and Capitalism,” and “a martyr for a religious idea” is made “of the same material as the revolutionary hero.”

Those pro-religion quotes appear to have been sourced from conversations between Castro and the liberation theologian Frei Betto in 1985, more recently published in English as Fidel and Religion. This account of course glosses over historic human rights abuses under Fidel Castro – including religious persecution – and it also ignores a current upsurge in religious oppression under his brother’s rule.

Fidel Castro wrote a short article praising the Russian Orthodox Church in 2008, which can be read in English here. Castro recalled that

…After the demise of the USSR, this church was not an ally of imperialism. That’s why in 2004, when His Eminence Vladimir Mijailovich Gundiaev, Kiril Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad visited our country, I suggested building a Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church in the capital of Cuba as a monument to Cuban-Russian friendship.

Gundiaev (var. Vladimir Gundjaev) is of course now that very same Patriarch Kirill who has sent condolences to his brother. Castro continued:

Tomorrow, Thursday, he [Gundiaev] will be in Venezuela talking with President Chavez. Both draw inspiration from identical ethical principles derived from the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the Gospels, a religious belief they both share. After that, he will be visiting Ecuador to talk with [Rafael] Correa, a political leader who was trained in the Liberation Theology.

…There is no reason to make the least concession to Yankee imperialism. I am under the impression that His Eminence feels the same way.

The column was the subject of caustic commentary by Christopher Hitchens, who observed that

…Fidel Castro has devoted the last 50 years to two causes: first, his own enshrinement as an immortal icon, and second, the unbending allegiance of Cuba to the Moscow line. Now, black-cowled Orthodox “metropolitans” line up to shake his hand… The ideology of Moscow doesn’t much matter as long as it is anti-American, and the Russian Orthodox Church has been Putin’s most devoted and reliable ally in his re-creation of an old-style Russian imperialism.

… Putin and Medvedev have made it clear that they want to reinstate Cuba’s role in the hemisphere, if only as a bore and nuisance for as long as its military dictatorship can be made to last. Castro’s apparent deathbed conversion to a religion with no Cuban adherents is the seal on this gruesome pact.

Talk of the “deathbed” proved to be premature, although it turned out that Castro’s ally in Venezuela was not long for this world. I noted Kirill’s similarly effusive reaction to Chavez’s death at the time.

It should be remembered that in 2007 Time magazine described the ROC as Putin’s “main ideological arm and a vital foreign policy instrument”.

Police Probing Recovered “Memories” of Satanic Ritual Abuse Involving Former Prime Minister Edward Heath

mail-on-sunday-heathThe Mail on Sunday has some remarkable information about the police investigation into the late Edward Heath, revealing allegations of Satanic Ritual Abuse and the role of “recovered memory” therapy. The details have been put into the public domain by Dr Rachel Hoskins, (1) an independent police expert who was asked by Wiltshire Police to review statements by a woman accuser and Operation Midland’s “Nick”.

Hoskins reveals that the woman accuser – named “Lucy X” in the article – had previously made claims of child abduction and Satanic murder after seeing a therapist in Alberta, Canada, in 1988. This therapist (“Fiona”) had herself been mentored by Lawrence Pazder, author of the notorious Michelle Remembers hoax.

Lucy X came to believe she had been the victim of Satanic Ritual Abuse after having memories recovered via hypnosis:

The stories that Lucy X began ‘remembering’ took her back to her childhood in Britain and in Africa. At first the detail in her diaries is scant. But Lucy’s descriptions grow ever more detailed under hypnosis: satanic ritual abuse in empty houses, in churches and on Salisbury Plain.

Eventually she ‘remembered’ that members of the paedophile ring had gorged themselves on blood and body parts. They maimed and murdered children in orgiastic sacrifices at the stake or on altars.

Lucy X reported this to police in 1989, but no investigation followed. And now, more than 25 years later:

Lucy soon spoke with three other women she knew well. They met and swapped fantastical tales.

Earlier this year they would ‘remember’ that Heath was a prime mover in a network of sadistic paedophile abusers.

He had apparently taken part in rituals surrounded by candles on the forest floor.

In other words, she (and her three friends) suddenly remembered the involvement of the former Prime Minister after sensational sex-abuse allegations and conspiracy theories about Heath had appeared in the media in August 2015 – including the incredible story that Heath had been present at a paedophilic orgy during which he had persuaded Harvey Proctor not to castrate “Nick” [See also Update below].

Hoskins also raises the possibility of other connections:

Lucy X’s father is said to have worked alongside Nick’s dad in the same community, although it is not known if Nick and Lucy X have ever met. There appear to be links, too, in the way their evidence was produced.

Like Lucy X, Nick also told tales of ritual abuse. His early stories related to the same location where Lucy X’s family lived, before moving on to describe a VIP paedophile ring based out of Dolphin Square, London.

Helping Nick to ‘remember’ this abuse… was his psychotherapist, who took the trouble to accompany Nick to a scene of his apparent abuse.

It’s difficult to know how much significance to place in the same early location given by both – was it a place that was already the subject of online stories? Was it somewhere with particular folklore/occult connections? The fathers having “worked alongside” each others is also vague – we know that Nick’s father (or, rather, step-father) worked for an employer with thousands of employees.

However, the detail that Nick’s psychotherapist took Nick “to a scene of his apparent abuse” is significant. In February, the Guardian ran an article stating that police had evidence “pointing to the credibility of aspects of the account given by ‘Nick'”, in particular his ability to recall details of a private location where he had supposedly been abused many years ago.

This location is an army training site that is usually closed to the public, but Nick’s old blog (since deleted) showed that he and his therapist had gone there on a public open day in 2013. My understanding from this was that Nick must have impressed the police by describing the site but not disclosing that he had been there just recently – which would make him a hoaxer, and not just delusional.

However, the fact that Hoskins has this information from Wiltshire Police now raises a disturbing alternative possibility I had not considered: that the Metropolitan Police in fact did know that Nick had been to the site in 2013 – but decided to issue a misleading statement to the Guardian that made Nick’s account seem more impressive than it really was, and themselves less credulous. This was just weeks before Operation Midland finally closed down in ignominy.

Therapists “helping” people to “recover” memories has been an ongoing fiasco for years, and it’s deeply frustrating to find that it is still being taken seriously in 2016. The most tragic case is that of Carol Felstead, who, following therapy, claimed to have been violently sexually abused by politicians; she also accused family members of Satanic-related crimes that were easily disprovable. Carol died in 2005, estranged from her loved ones and tormented by the traumatic false beliefs that her therapists had put into her head. Yet according to Hoskins, the  police officer who launched the Heath investigation (the aptly named Detective Superintendent Sean Memory) was “concerned” at references to Nick’s and Lucy X’s credibility being included in his report.

Claims that now-deceased British politicians had been involved in Satanism in the 1980s were also aired in March 2015 –  in that instance, the allegations were dredged up from a 1986 fraud trial.

UPDATE: A follow-up article in The Times adds the details that

The satanic allegations against him were supposed to have happened in the 1950s…

The force was contacted by three women who in the 1980s had previously made allegations to it of satanic ritual abuse involving a man referred to as ‘Ed’, Dr Hoskins told The Times.

Heath, of course, was often referred to as “Ted Heath”, but I’m not aware that “Ed Heath” was ever a usage. But in any case, the story is ludicrous, and it remains unexplained why none of the women (four including Lucy X herself) were able to identify Heath before now.

UPDATE 2: Mike Veale, the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police, has issued a statement:

…Over the last few weeks particularly, there has been much speculation about this case. Whilst it is not commonplace for us to comment on a live ongoing criminal investigation (which is what Operation Conifer is) I really am very concerned and profoundly disappointed about the impact of this speculation on the public’s confidence in the police, the potential prejudicial impact upon a live criminal investigation, not to mention the confidence of persons who have come forward with information.

…It is well known Sir Edward Heath died approximately 10 years ago; therefore there remains the likelihood that witnesses that can serve to corroborate or, equally as important, negate the allegations are still alive. If abuse has occurred then it remains relevant to support those affected and seek to bring to justice any person still living who may have committed associated criminal offences.

…a significant number of individuals have disclosed allegations of abuse. I will not be confirming numbers of people who have come forward.

…Maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of people who courageously come forward with information also remains an absolute priority for us.

…As part of the Operation Conifer investigation, we have not spoken to the witness known as ‘Nick’.

The recent media coverage regarding a confidential report that had been commissioned by Wiltshire Police as part of the investigation, through a recognised National Crime Agency registered expert, referred to satanic ritual sex abuse. Let me be clear, this part of the investigation is only one small element of the overall enquiry and does not relate to Sir Edward Heath…

The Chief Constable at least recognises that allegations may be “negated”; but referring to “people who courageously come forward with information” clearly implies that claims being made have been accepted as truthful.

Veale’s statement about the SRA element also raises another issue: if this particular allegation has nothing to do with Heath, despite Operation Conifer’s terms of reference, then clearly there has been “mission creep” of some kind. The Guardian writes that “Wiltshire chief constable says significant number of people have disclosed claims of historical abuse against ex-prime minister”, but this is inferred from Veale’s statement rather than quoted directly. The “significant number of individuals” may, apparently, in fact refer to allegations against others, who have been linked into Operation Conifer for reasons that are currently obscure – and perhaps tenuous (such as someone having the name “Ed”).

Note also that although Wiltshire Police has not met “Nick”, the statement does not clarify whether there has been liaison with the Metropolitan Police about his claims.

It is easy for police to suggest that critics lack the information required to make an informed assessment of the situation, but after the fiasco of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Midland there is no good reason why we should decline to regard extraordinary claims with critical scrutiny and scepticism. The alternative is to allow them to grow and fester unchecked until they are firmly lodged in collective memory.

UPDATE 3: The therapist has now been named in an article published by the National Post in Canada. Further discussion from me here.

Footnote

(1) Rachel Hoskins, formerly Richard Hoskins, previously assisted police with the case of “Adam”, the murdered black boy whose torso was found by the Thames in 2001.

Jo Cox Killer Convicted of Murder: Some Media Notes

From the BBC:

Thomas Mair has been found guilty of the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.

The 53-year-old shot and stabbed to death the mother-of-two in Birstall, West Yorkshire, on 16 June, a week before the EU referendum vote…

There was never any real doubt that Thomas Mair was going to be convicted: the prosecution case was overwhelming, and the killer virtually admitted to the act at a preliminary hearing in which he gave his name as “Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain”. The BBC has a background article on the killer here, noting his “library of extreme nationalist and racist material” and an “ornamental Nazi eagle”. It also draws attention to a loose end:

His chosen weapons were a knife and a small rifle usually used for pest control on farms.

Mair did not have the permission required to possess the rifle, and it is unclear where he got the gun and who modified it to make it more likely to kill a human.

I discussed some background to Mair as soon as he was named in the media in June, noting his subscription to South Africa Patriot magazine (actually published in the UK) and the controversy over whether he had been heard to shout “Britain first” as he committed the murder. Two witnesses (Graeme Howard and Clarke Rothwell), told media in June that he had shouted this, and this has now been confirmed by others, speaking under oath at the trial; as the BBC reported:

Giving evidence, senior caseworker Sandra Major said Mrs Cox told her and office manager Fazila Aswat to “let him hurt me, don’t let him hurt you”

…Asked whether the gunman had said anything, [Major] replied: “It was something along the lines of ‘Keep Britain independent,’ or ‘British independence.’

…At the end of the attack, the assailant stood up and said “Britain first, this is for Britain. Britain will always come first,” before walking off, [Aswat] told jurors.

Further:

Rashid Hussain told the jury at the Old Bailey he had dropped off a fare when he was alerted to loud noise like “fireworks going on”

… Mr Hussain added: “He said something and the last words were ‘Britain first.'”

A number of media reports during the trial decided to capitalise the first letter of “first”, giving the impression that Mair had referred specifically to the far-right group Britain First. However, although some people in the days after the killing thought they had spotted Mair in a photograph of a Britain First protest, the identification was doubtful and the trial did not reveal any links to the group. The overall context provided by the trial testimony suggests Mair was using the phrase in a general sense. (1)

It was also reported at the time of Mair’s arrest that he was suffering from a mental illness. From the Daily Mail:

The loner suspected of killing Jo Cox appeared deeply disturbed just 24 hours before the attack, a health counsellor said last night.

Thomas Mair said after stumbling into a ‘well-being centre’ on Wednesday night that he was depressed and had been on medication for a long time.

…The counsellor who spoke to him for about 15 minutes on Wednesday said she realised he was in ‘some sort of crisis’ and there appeared to be a ‘real problem’.

The above detail was eagerly seized on as positive evidence that the assassination in fact had nothing to do with politics at all, even though a politician had been assassinated just a week before the Brexit referendum and despite the killer’s background. Not unreasonably, there was a concern that mainstream campaigning on behalf of Brexit might be conflated opportunistically with far-right anti-foreigner sentiment (headlines in Germany were referring to “Der Brexit-killer“), and there was thus some impetus to obscure the political motive.

Leading the charge here was Louise Mensch, who railed against “the concocted story of the shout”, and mocked someone who noted Mair’s “Death to Trairtors” statement at his preliminary hearing with the reply “wibble wibble I’m a hatstand” (H/T @otto_english). Mensch also published a bombastic article on Heat Street, in which the descriptor “mentally ill” was applied to Mair no fewer than eight times in a thousand words or so:

Jo Cox’s Mentally Ill Killer Should Not Be Discussed in Parliament

…the mentally ill killer of heroic Jo Cox…

…Leading EU figures disgustingly appeared to connect mentally ill Thomas with the Brexit campaign…

Thomas Mair was severely mentally ill – and he may well, therefore, have had racist tendencies, which could be delusional…

Even if…Mair had supported the far right he was a mentally ill loner

…Thomas Mair’s mentally ill grudge was over a mental health closure whether or not there was old Nazi memorabilia at his house.

…We are seeing the full might of the EU bosses, of the Prime Minister, of the House of Commons, of the BNP, of the police – not as investigators but as leakers to the Guardian – deployed against a severely mentally ill man whom local people say was NOT motivated by politics at all.

…to pay tribute to Jo Cox you do not need to suggest what the motivations of her mentally ill killer were.

The article veered between telling readers what to think, and warning readers that it was too early to draw any conclusions, and that information about his far-right interests was “prejudicial” [see also update 2 below]. (2)

Now, it is true that many people hold hateful political views without becoming murderers; but it also the case that most people with mental health problems are harmless. No mitigation on mental-health grounds was offered at trial, and there is no reason to suppose that just because Mair was depressed and disturbed he therefore did not know what he was doing when he became a political assassin.

However, it is reasonable to infer that Mair’s consumption of far-right media may have exacerbated a mental instability, with fatal results. Mair is responsible for his action, but those who poisoned his troubled mind with hateful rhetoric and fantasies of racial superiority and political heroism through violence must take moral responsibility. By this I of course primarily mean the fringe far-right milieu that appears to have provided so much of his reading material; and it seems to me that this would have been a more sensible point for Mensch to have made.

Mensch, though, appears to be a paragon of reason when compared to some: in the USA, the conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich (“the meme mastermind of the alt-right”, according to the New Yorker) asserted that Mair is a “patsy” and that the killing “is a false flag by globalists”.  The IB Times had a round-up of this kind of thing in June.

UPDATE: In the hunt for an exclusive angle, the Daily Mail has come up with a lurid headline:

Did Neo-Nazi murder Jo over fear he’d lose council house he grew up in? Terrorist thought property could end up being occupied by an immigrant family – and the MP wouldn’t help him

According to the details:

Thomas Mair may have murdered MP Jo Cox because he feared losing his home of 40 years to an immigrant family.

…He suspected, possibly wrongly, it would be given to foreigners moving into his West Yorkshire town and believed the Labour MP would not help him, it was claimed.

…Mrs Hallas, who is the killer’s step-father’s half-sister, said he was a loner who ‘flipped’ at the thought of leaving the only home he had ever known.

‘You’ve got to look at the background,’ she said. ‘They kept pestering him to get him out of the house.

…‘So that was his home, that was his abode and they were trying to get him out. And when it all came out, they were trying to get him out for a family that had come from abroad wanting a three or two bedroomed house.’

The unstated context here seems to be the so-called “bedroom tax”, which penalizes the under-occupation of social housing in the UK. It is is unlikely that the local housing authority had any specific family in mind in wanting to shift Mair, or that Mair would have any information about it. Further, the headline’s statement of fact, that Jo Cox “wouldn’t help him”, is seriously qualified in the main text into something that someone “claims” Mair “believed”.

The paper’s whole approach here seems to me to be misjudged and distasteful, particularly when it is recalled that on 16 June 2016 – the day of Jo Cox’s death – the Daily Mail‘s front-page splash was a story about immigration to the UK from Europe that it subsequently admitted was inaccurate. Perhaps it was from such misleading headlines that Mair “possibly wrongly” got ideas from.

Analysis from Jane Martinson in the Guardian notes that the the Mail‘s coverage of Mair’s conviction continued to stress the personal and mental health angle, to the exclusion of ideology:

Most newspapers (certainly not just the Guardian) cited the judge’s own verdict that Mair killed her to advance his violent white supremacist ideology rather than because he “suspected the MP might not have helped him” to fight the council’s bid to move him.

Mail Online again highlighted Mair’s mental health and thoughts of matricide rather than his extreme ideology… 

On the day Cox was killed the Mail’s front page focused on the tragic waste of a woman “brutally murdered by a loner with a history of mental illness” as did many others. This was a week before the EU referendum, and Mair’s shouts of “Britain first” and “This is for Britain” were probably considered incendiary.

Yet Mair’s trial and most notably the judge’s verdict suggested that there was far more to his crime than the evil act of a mentally ill man.

UPDATE 2: Mensch has now returned to the subject, justifying her earlier article on the grounds that there was online misinformation in June (the touted photographs) and extrapolating from (very good) analysis of the trial by Matthew Scott to suggest (1) that the trial judge had erred in allowing the reading of an impact statement by Stephen Kinnock ahead of the jury deliberation, and (2) that the court-appointed defence lawyer had failed in not raising Mair’s mental health. However, Mensch’s new article does not re-visit her very firm assertion from June of a “concocted shout”, or the mockery with which she dismissed any political dimension to the killing.

Meanwhile, @anyabike has drawn a contrast between Mensch’s Tweet on the trial that “judges who predjuice the rights of mentally ill de[f]endents should be ashamed”, and her 2014 view that “the second pig in the #LeeRigy case should also have got a whole life term”, referring to the 45-year sentence handed to Michael Adebowale. Adebowale was spared a whole life tariff because of his age and mental health.

Mensch’s interpretation of the trial has been criticised by The Secret Barrister.

Footnotes

(1) There was also some interest in a photograph of a man in a Blood and Honour t-shirt doing a Nazi salute – however, this individual has tattoos on his arms which demonstrate that this person is not Mair.

(2) Mensch’s perspective on on this made her the target of a Twitter hoax in June by someone using the Twitter handle @topPlagiarist. Mensch wrote: “It is beyond disgusting that Remain trolls tried to link this man’s clearly longstanding psychopathy to the referendum. They are sick”. @topPlagiarist, under the name “Vote Leave” and using an unremarkable avatar, replied with “the left are desperate to point score from this and it’s so sad”. This earned an RT from Mensch, after which @topPlagiarist changed their name to “kill migrants” and their avatar to a Nazi swastika.

Many Twitter-users are unaware that the names and avatars of RT-ed Tweets can be amended by the original account holder (unlike the username or the text of a Tweet), and Mensch was thus falsely accused of having promoted a Nazi Tweet. There has now been renewed interest in the Tweet, and in the debunking screenshot (via Google cache) that I posted here.

Unreliable News Sites Attack List of Unreliable News Sites

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Last week Melissa Zimdars started keeping a list of popular but unreliable news sites — some she’d encountered on her own Facebook feed, others she’d searched for, still others drawn from suggestions by friends and colleagues. The plan was to show the list to students in her mass-communication classes at Merrimack College as an aid in teaching media literacy.

…In its current form, the document contains tips for analyzing news sources and a roster of over 100 websites that report unreliable and misleading content. Ms. Zimdars has separated those sites into four categories. Sites in the first category use “decontextualized or dubious information” and anger to generate traffic on social media. Those in the second share misleading or unreliable information. Sites in the third category use clickbait-style headlines or social-media descriptions, and those in the fourth report false news for the purpose of humor or satire.

Zimdars made the public following the controversy over whether fake news appearing on Facebook had affected the US election result: one such fake news creator, a certain Paul Horner, claims that he was responsible for Trump’s victory, and he says that he makes $10,000 a month from AdSense.

Compiling a list of fake sites must of course come with some methodological difficulties, which one writer at Reason argues are insurmountable. There isn’t any argument over the nature of satire sites such the Onion and Newsbiscuit (and my own favourite, the Babylon Bee), or over sites that concoct completely fraudulent stories (such as the Christian Times, discussed recently here), but when it comes to sites that are concerned with real events, at what point does having a particular perspective or style become a distorting lens that amounts to unreliability – or even bad faith?

It should be noted that Zimdars’ list is a rough-and-ready informal guide, and she doesn’t claim that it represents the findings of a research project. She’s also aware of the problems of categorisation:

…Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.

This is all very reasonable, and she presents her advice in a way that is creditable and fair-minded. Zimdar’s academic position is on the feminist left, but her list is even-handed and she explicitly commends a list of fake liberal news-sites compiled by longtime friend of this blog Ed Brayton.

Nevertheless, some conservative sites on the list are crying foul –  and responding with personalised attacks. WND (WorldNetDaily) – the site that inspired and guided Trump’s birtherism – wants its readers to bombard Zimdars and her employer with emails and phone calls, while Breitbart – now “the closest thing to a state-owned media entity” in the US, according to a recent piece in Fortune – whines that it is being targeted “for destruction”. That would be the same Breitbart that was unconcerned when its tech editor – Milo Yannopoulos – posted fabricated Twitter screenshots that he attributed to the actress Leslie Jones.

Sadly, Zimdars has now upped her privacy settings in the wake of the furore – understandably given the Twitchfork, but it means that her less reasonable critics are likely to sniff blood.

Rick Wiles and Mark Taylor Look Forward to “Tribunals” Under Trump

Charisma News has the latest from Mark Taylor, the Florida firefighter who says that God gave him a personal message in 2011 that Donald Trump would become president of the USA – apparently, Taylor has received further revelations about Trump’s role as God’s instrument on earth:

Now that it’s obvious much of what Taylor prophesied has come to pass, Wiles invited him back onto his program (interview begins at the one-hour mark) for an update…

…Wiles said he believed there will be intense spiritual opposition to cleaning up America, especially when it comes to “eradicating the deep-rooted corruption and spiritual wickedness in high places.” He said that what came out in the final weeks of the campaign via the WikiLeaks disclosures was “so hideous,” particularly the likelihood that senior members of the Clinton campaign were participants in occult practices, such as “spirit cooking.” [1]

Taylor referred to his original interview with Wiles, in which he said God was pulling back the veil and exposing the evil and corruption of the current government. He said it wasn’t even really a matter of the veil being pulled back as much as people were supernaturally exposing themselves without even knowing it via the WikiLeaks releases.

Taylor and Wiles then discussed the likelihood there will be tribunals convened in which divine justice will be meted out. They agreed the Lord was telling them these tribunals would be of the kind not seen since the Nuremberg Trials of former Nazi regime leaders after World War II.

“What I am actually hearing is that these tribunals will make Nuremberg look like a cake walk because this corruption goes so deep and it goes worldwide because the Clinton Foundation goes worldwide,” Taylor said. “I think it’s going to be on an international level.”

It’s clear from this that Wiles’s influence over Taylor now extends to a complete embrace of Wiles’s religious conspricism, which is extravagant in its scope. Right Wing Watch has logged dozens of examples of conspiracy statements from Wiles, ranging from “Satan Using Pokémon Go To Spawn ‘Demonic Powers’ And Murder Christians” through to “Hillary Clinton Has A Body Double, Fakes Her Campaign Rallies“, “Rick Wiles Suggests The UCC Shooting Was ‘Staged’ By ‘A Secret Death Squad’ Using ‘Crisis Actors’” and “9/11 Was Carried Out by the Illuminati“. On a more optimistic note, Wiles also recently looked forward to Right Wing Watch –  denounced as a “homosexual group” – being “brought down”.

Despite these fringe excesses, Wiles has had a stream of more mainstream right-wing commentators on his show TruNews, including former CIA director James Woolsey and the anti-Islam polemicist Robert Spencer. He has also in the last couple of years become a regular guest on the Jim Bakker Show (I blogged on Bakker’s promotion of conspiricism here). On Charisma News itself (a significant outlet for news tailored to Evangelicals and Pentecostals), a search for his name up to 2014 brings up just 1 result, followed by numerous from 2015 up to now.

Wiles can fairly be described as the religious counterpart of Alex Jones – and in a world in which Jones (by his own account) has just been phoned up by the President-Elect with a message of thanks for his support, it seems likely that he will enjoy further mainstreaming in the months ahead.

Footnote

[1] The “Spririt Cooking” conspiracy theory derives from a Wikileaks disclosure. An email showed that Tony Podesta was planning to attend a fund-raising dinner hosted by a performance artist named Marina Abramovic, and asking his brother if he wanted to come too; the dinner consisted of “traditional soups”, but Wikileaks extrapolated wildly to suggest it would actually be a bizarre Satanic ritual involving blood, breastmilk and sperm. The story was then heavily promoted by the Alt Right in the days before the election. I wrote about the absurdity here.

VIP Sex Abuse Claims: Police Probe Probe Group That Threatened to Expose Ted Heath As Gay

The Times Diary, 24 June 1972, discusses a work called Discipline or Corruption, published in 1966 by a London based outfit called “Fact and Fiction”:

…Under her English pseudonym, Karen Cooper, Miss Kwiatkowski advises her readers that they must “either perpetuate corruption or encourage discipline and responsibility… either pull society downwards, or elevate man and contribute towards his evolution”.

To rub home her message (which seems to be that the whole British entertainment industry is based on practises generally associated with Sodom and Gomorrah) Miss Kwiatkowski describes her adventures in an English university town, at provincial drama school, in the glittering world of London’s showbiz people (“they all called one another ‘dear’ and ‘darling’ and other affectionate words”) and with a model agency where she was daily propositioned by men (“some of them are household names and they carry the crest of the British Royal Family on their business letter-paper”)

The book also has contributions from Miss Kwiatkowski’s associates, Susan Harris, George Martin and Anna Darl…

What has this got to do with anything? Marie-Louise Kwiatkowski (var. Marie-Luise Kwiatkowski-Brantenberg) had a few months before achieved overnight notoriety by tipping ink over Prime Minister Ted Heath; although it was not reported at the time, she had also denounced him as “a damn homosexual”, and letters were subsequently sent to Heath from Martin and Darl threatening to expose Heath’s alleged sexuality to the world.

In 1974, Kwiatkowski published a pamphlet called I Challenge Ted Heath (sometimes referred to as I Challenged Ted Heath), some of which has been made available by Malcolm Redfellow here. She stated that she was against homosexuals having influence over society, and she blamed “homosexual collusion” for a planning application problem she was having in central London. The work does not appear to refer to child abuse anywhere, and the author does not appear to have had access to any private information about Heath.

Kwiatkowski and her associates were in fact all part of dysfunctional cult-like group that called itself the Institute for Personal Development. Kwiatkowski was sentenced to six months in prison, and she killed herself a few years later.

But what has that got to do with anything? Today’s Sunday Times has the answer:

Police investigating Edward Heath on suspicion of child sex abuse have been accused of mounting a “fishing expedition” after it emerged they are questioning witnesses over a bizarre incident in 1972 with no apparent link to paedophilia.

The Wiltshire police team of 21 officers and staff is focusing on an altercation during which a cult member shouted “you damn homosexual” and threw printer ink over the late prime minister during a European summit in Brussels…

The article is paywalled, although the Mail has bashed out a derivative piece. Harvey Proctor’s complaint that he was subjected to a devastating police investigation due to “a homosexual witch hunt” does not fully explain his ordeal (I think other motives were involved), but this particular disclosure does tend to suggest that it is part of the story. Imagine the police approaching Kwiatkowski’s surviving associates and asking: “when you wrote those letters threatening to expose Ted Heath as gay, did you have any child sex abuse in mind?”

The existence of the letters to Heath came to light in February 2016; the Mail on Sunday reported that papers about the matter were “to be kept top-secret until 2042”, but had been obtained via a Freedom of Information Request. This was several months after Wiltshire Police had announced a police inquiry into allegations against Heath – despite the fact he had died 10 years before. One wonders if police were pondering this “Kwiatkowski” line of enquiry before the Mail on Sunday article came along at a convenient moment. I discussed various allegations against Ted Heath – and their many difficulties – here.

Footnotes

The work Discipline or Corruption was published under the name of Constantin Stanislavski, even though he had died several decades before. In Google Books I have found a reference to one other book supposedly published by Fact and Fiction, in 1982 – a work entitled Christopher Martin, Great Burstead, and the Mayflower – but this appears to be a referencing error.

The 1972 Times Diary item came to my attention via a website called From the Heart of Europe; the Martin Redfellow blog post via Powerbase.

Operation Midland: Some Notes on the Outcome and the Damage

Police admit “failures”

Harvey Proctor left “destitute” by false allegation

John Mann MP sees false accuser as part of a conspiracy

Police “relied on the advice of Nick’s counsellor” 

From the BBC:

Numerous errors were made in Scotland Yard’s investigation into paedophile allegations against VIPs, an independent review has found.

The decision to abandon Operation Midland should have been taken “much earlier”, Sir Richard Henriques said.

Five officers have been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) following the review.

The Met Police commissioner accepted “accountability for these failures” and apologised to those involved.

The report was published in redacted form on 8 November, leading to speculation that police had hoped that it would receive less media attention due to the US election. [1]

Much has been written about the report and its findings, as well as what this means for police competency in general – as Matthew Scott notes in his forensic analysis of the report:

If the Met’s finest detectives can conduct as disastrous an investigation as this in a multiple murder investigation involving prominent politicians, one shudders to think what ineptitudes are likely to exist in lower profile investigations of “ordinary” historic sex cases.

I have discussed Nick’s allegations on this blog a number times, one reason being that I could see parallels with the mishandling of false claims of “Satanic Ritual Abuse” in the 1980s. Nick’s most lurid allegation was that as a child he had witnessed the then-Conservative MP Harvey Proctor murder a boy at a paedophile orgy, and that he himself had only escaped being castrated by Proctor due to the intervention of a fellow orgiast, none other than former Prime Minister Ted Heath. Without going into these details, a senior officer told the media before the investigation had even got underway that Nick’s stories were “credible and true”.

Proctor, who had been living in contented obscurity for decades following a sex scandal in 1987, says that he is now destitute, and – having been forced to move abroad due to the destruction of his privacy and reputation – is now separated from his loved ones. Iain Dale has organised a whip-round, which to my mind is not so much an act of charity as a reasonable request that Proctor should be paid by public subscription for the service he has done by exposing the fiasco (and in this matter I ask those of progressive political inclination to put to one side the disagreeable right-wing politics with which he is identified).

The Henriques Report ought to be the stake through the heart of this particular conspiracy theory, although of course some will never be satisfied: the popular police Tweeter known as “Inspector Gadget” (whose professional status and anonymity together give him license to pronounce on subjects without having to be accountable) sneered that the report was merely a case of “Establishment decides police shouldn’t have investigated establishment”, while another police Tweeter known as @portlyplod declared that Nick’s claims have not yet been disproven, [2] and that Daily Telegraph reporters might be “Paedophilia supporters” for calling them false.

Meanwhile, the Labour MP John Mann, who crowed when the police raided Proctor’s home that he would be “the first of many to be investigated”, sees Nick himself as part of the conspiracy:

The names he gave for Dolphin Square were not the names I had heard from many different peop;le, including those living in Dolphin Square. They were well known but entirely different names.

My conclusion, as I told the Met and top journalists, was either that Nick was telling an incredible truth or he was being used to throw confusion and doubt into a vital enquiry. My view all along was that the latter was the case.

Not just should Nick be prosecuted, but we need to know where or who he got his information from, because some of it was too near to the knuckle to be fantasised, but critically inaccurate when it came to proof and names of living individuals.

Mann, it should be recalled, claims to have got his hands on a “Dickens dossier” from the 1980s, and thus to have privileged access to names of VIP paedophiles.

On Mann’s last point, it’s obvious where Nick got his information from: the name “Harvey Proctor” has seen synonymous with rent-boy vice since the the scandal of the 1980s (he paid two 19-year-olds, who specifically told him they were over 21), and claims about “Dolphin Square” and such were published in Scallywag in the 1990s and later disseminated via the internet. These stories have been part of a conspiracy milieu for a long time – and Nick may have either researched them himself or had the information given to him.

This in turn leads us to a particular point of interest in the Henriques Report, that police

relied on the advice of Nick’s counsellor without sufficiently evaluating her experience or qualifications.

We know from Nick’s writings (previously online but removed once journalists started showing some critical interest) that he has been under the care of a therapist, and this raises an issue that Matthew highlighted when he first wrote about Nick in 2014:

There is nothing new about allegations being made against Tory politicians of the period, and they are not necessarily truthful. A not dissimilar account of Conservative Party MPs being involved in sexual abuse was given in the 1990s by someone called Carol Felstead and it provides a cautionary tale for anyone who might wish to rush to judgement. According to Carol’s therapists, she was anally raped in Conservative Central Office by a Tory MP with a claw hammer, and raped by not one but two members of Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet.

Just like Nick, Carol supposedly said she was abused first by her parents…

Some of Carol’s story was told… to one of the country’s best known therapists and psychoanalysts, Dr Valerie Sinason, who incorporated some of it (changing Carol’s name to “Rita”) into the work that made her name: Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse.

…Now, despite the detailed and distressing history supposedly given by Carol to her therapists, her accounts of abuse at the hands of her parents were demonstrable nonsense.

…The fantasy only emerged after she had begun her therapy.

Nick is currently being investigated for allegedly attempting to pervert the course of justice – if I were his defence counsel, I would be urging him to say as much about his therapists as possible.

Footnotes

[1] Mark Watts, who formerly championed and promoted Nick’s allegations at Exaro, has an alternative theory: that the date was chosen to coincide with the funeral of Martin Allen’s mother. Allen was a 15-year-old who went missing in central London in 1979 and has never been seen since. Nick’s supporters have suggested that he may have been the unidentified boy that Nick says he saw Proctor kill, and the police investigated this line of inquiry. No evidence was found, but for Martin Allen’s brother Kevin, who uses Twitter, venting against Proctor is now the way he expresses his ongoing grief and frustration (more background here).

Watts encourages him to imagine the worst, with Tweets such as this:

Martin Allen went missing 37 years ago today.

Met decides to publish summary of Henriques report on day of his mother’s funeral.

It knew.

According to the Metropolitan Police, as quoted on 5 November, it had received the report on 31 October and was currently working on what needed to be redacted for legal reasons. It said that “The earliest opportunity to publish is Tuesday, 8 November.”

[2] In fact, Nick’s claims are not just unsubstantiated and implausible – they also come with a number of difficulties.

Lord Bramall, the then-Head of the British Army, was abroad in Hong Kong at the time when Nick claims he was presiding over a sadistic Remembrance Day paedophile orgy; and a boy whom Nick claims was run over and killed in a Kingston street as a “warning” to him as been shown beyond reasonable doubt not to have existed. Further, Nick’s claims grew and changed over time, starting with allegations against his step-father and a shadowy paedophile ring, but later encompassing public figures.

Nick’s most impressive piece of testimony concerned an army base in the west of England, where he was supposedly taken as a child to be abused. Police confirmed that Nick’s description of the site was accurate, which would seem to support his account. However, Nick’s deleted online writings show that he visited the site with his therapist during a public open day in 2013. That he apparently misled the police on this point (or allowed them to draw a false inference about his childhood recall) does suggest bad faith rather than just delusion.

Spiritual Forces and the Election of Donald Trump: Some Notes

It’s God Wot Won It

From Franklin Graham on Facebook:

Many thought the Trump/Pence ticket didn’t have a chance. None of them understand the God-factor.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians from across the United States have been praying. This year they came out to every state capitol to pray for this election and for the future of America. Prayer groups were started. Families prayed. Churches prayed. Then Christians went to the polls, and God showed up.

While the media scratches their heads and tries to understand how this happened, I believe that God’s hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control of our country.

Graham here infers a general spiritual atmosphere that inspired the faithful to vote for Trump; in contrast, Michele Bachmann has a rather more mechanistic view of spiritual causality in which (rather narcissistically) she was at ground zero of a cosmic drama. WND has the details:

…A large prayer group had gathered in Dallas, hosted by Ken Copeland ministries… Presenters David Barton and former Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., invited viewers to join in prayer… As they prayed, something began to stir.

“At the precise moment we began broadcasting on Daystar,” Bachmann told WND, “as the polls were still open, and a national audience of believers joined together and prayed in concert, we literally saw the race break in favor of Trump.”

“The Times put out a timeline tracking the election results as they broke for Trump last night,” Bachmann continued. “We went wild in the Dallas studio last night when David Barton, Ken and Terri Copeland, and various pastors saw that the victory for Trump began exactly at the precise moment believers corporately, over national television, sought the Lord for His favor upon our nation.”

At the neo-Pentecostal end of Evangelicalism, the contours of God’s intervention are explained in rather more elaborate detail. As Jennifer LeClaire writes in Charisma News:

In the 1990s, a Jezebel curse was released over our nation. Today, it is broken.

…An evil, unseen kingdom was toppled in the wee hours of Nov. 9. As the ekklesia—the governing church—continues rising in the years ahead, we’ll see the manifestation of this divine toppling in both the spirit and the natural. A demonic throne was overturned today and more demonic thrones will be toppled as the violent governing intercessors, emboldened by the Spirit of God, take them down by force in prayer in the name of Jesus (Matt. 11:12).

LeClaire explains that Jezebel refers to “ever-increasing manifestations of immorality and idolatry” since 1993, presumably coinciding with the arrival of Bill Clinton in the White House.

Somewhat Delphically, God told LeClaire the day before the election that “on Election Day, a Kingdom Will Be Toppled”, but although she understood this to mean that Trump would win, she judged it prudent to avoid “prophetic presumption” by clarifying this point before the results were in.

More details of the “Heavenly War Over the Election” were provided just before election day by Frank Amedia, who warned of “the SPIRITUAL WAR  that is being waged by the Lord Jesus Christ and His Body here on earth against the diabolical forces of the spiritual fortress alliance of satan, Jezebel, Ahab and Abaddon.

The “Jezebel Spirit” was also linked to Clinton by Pastor Saeed Abedin, who complained that Clinton had not done enough to free him from imprisonment in Iran. Just before the election, Abedin also revealed that God had shown him the face of the next US president while he was in prison in Iran, and he later realised that this was Trump.

Prophets of Trump

Ahead of the election, a number of individuals claimed that God had given them insight into how Trump would win. A firefighter named  Mark Taylor apparently got the word from God in 2011, while watching Trump being interviewed on TV, and he wrote down what God told him:

The Spirit of God says, I have chosen this man, Donald Trump, for such a time as this. For as Benjamin Netanyahu is to Israel, so shall this man be to the United States of America! For I will use this man to bring honor, respect and restoration to America. America will be respected once again as the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth, (other than Israel). The dollar will be the strongest it has ever been in the history of the United States, and will once again be the currency by which all others are judged…

More recently, Charisma‘s Michael Brown relates the story of Pastor Jeremiah Johnson, who received a punning communication from God in July 2015:

Jeremiah knew very little about Trump when he wrote these words: “I was in a time of prayer several weeks ago when God began to speak to me concerning the destiny of Donald Trump in America. The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, ‘Trump shall become My trumpet to the American people, for he possesses qualities that are even hard to find in My people these days… I will use the wealth that I have given him to expose and launch investigations searching for the truth. Just as I raised up Cyrus to fulfill My purposes and plans, so have I raised up Trump to fulfill my purposes and plans prior to the 2016 election… Though many see the outward pride and arrogance, I have given him the tender heart of a father that wants to lend a helping hand to the poor and the needy, to the foreigner and the stranger.'”

Trump as Cyrus became the most popular evangelical rationalization for embracing Trump; the alternative was to accept James Dobson’s dubious claim that Trump had suddenly found Jesus but was still a “baby Christian” from who we shouldn’t expect much evidence of religious conversion.

Another early believer was Lance Wallnau; as Charisma‘s CEO Stephen Strang wrote in October:

Lance Wallnau believes God is raising up Donald Trump like he did King Cyrus in Isaiah 45. When the charismatic speaker/business consultant first said this long before the billionaire businessman received the Republican nomination, nearly everyone thought he was nuts.

Now, Wallnau’s analysis is ringing true with many Christians who are looking to make sense spiritually of this very strange election season.

Wallnau also believes God gives leaders “common grace” to be instruments of His purposes—ones like Lincoln or Churchill or Thatcher.

Wallnau also thinks that Trump himself has prophetic powers, pointing to a 2015 Tweet by Trump that Anthony Weiner would “tell the world” about Clinton’s emails as evidence that Trump had foreseen Mark Comey’s October Surprise announcement. Wallnau’s own powers, though, are fallible – and he got tied up in knots as he attempted to discern how God was sending messages about the election via the World Series.

But Christians didn’t have a monopoly on Trump prophecies: a few days before the election there was interest in Rabbi Matityahu Glazerson, who claimed to have found confirmation that Trump would win via codes in the Bibles, while Hindu Sena, a Trump-supporting Hindu group in India, now say they were certain Trump would win because “Hillary’s stars did not reflect the presidency but Mr. Trump’s did”.

I wrote about how evangelical leaders have been supporting Trump here.

Prophets of Dud

Alas, a few people somehow got their spiritual wires crossed, perhaps due to spiritual interference from the mass of secular election bloviators. In Nigeria, TV evangelist T.B. Joshua has been widely mocked for deleting a Facebook post from 6 November in which he had declared that God had shown him a woman winning the election (he’s since restored the item); while back in Israel a rival Bible code expert, Kikar Hashabbat, saw Clinton’s name among the Torah’s Hebrew and a kabbalist by the name of Netanel Shriki had confidently predicted a win for Clinton at 55%. Shriki went astray despite having the power to destroy Hamas tunnels by the power of prayer.

Peruvian shamans also failed to call it right, predicting in December that “The US will band together so that Trump does not become the United States Republican Candidate”; a more recent attempt to get the gods to punish him so that his bid would fail didn’t work out either.

No, Tony Podesta Does Not Drink Breastmilk and Sperm

Reference to 1996 Spirit Cooking art project whips up “Satanic sex cult” conspiracy theories among Trump supporters

From We Are Change:

In perhaps the most disturbing Wikileaks release to date, Tony Podesta (John Podesta’s brother) is invited to a “Spirit Cooking” dinner with performance artist Marina Abramovic.

…While this seems like a completely normal and uninspiring email, a look at what “spirit cooking” is, changes things immediately.

…In the video [here], Abramovic is seen painting the recipe for these “spirit dinners,” using what appears to be thickly congealed blood. The recipe read, at one point, “mix fresh breast milk with fresh sperm, drink on earthquake nights.”

The article is by Cassandra Fairbanks, an author who also writes for Sputnik, and it has been officially endorsed by Wikileaks on Twitter: “The Podestas’ “Spirit Cooking” dinner? It’s not what you think. It’s blood, sperm and breastmilk. But mostly blood.” Other sites have also picked up the story, with Inquistr announcing that “John Podesta’s WikiLeaks Email Brings Evil And Satanic Cult Buzz To Hillary Clinton“, and Twitter is now full of deranged comments about elite Satanism and such. The email itself can be seen here; a follow-up email confirms that John Podesta did not attend.

Abramovic’s Spirit Cooking with Essential Aphrodisiac Recipes was a series of etchings and accompanying texts published by Editions Jacob Samuel in 1996 in a limited edition of 21 copies; the book is apparently 39 pages long, and the publisher has made the full text available on its website here.

The “breastmilk and sperm” item appears first, as an “essence drink”, and the instructions continue:

look in the mirror
for as long as it is necessary
for your face to disappear
don’t eat the light

There’s then a reference to self-harm: “with a sharp knife / cut deeply into the middle finger / of your left hand / eat the pain”; then to “fresh morning urine / sprinkle over nightmare dreams”; and then we’re advised that “in time of doubt / keep a small metorite stone / in your mouth”.

The book also contains a number of other “recipes”: for “fire food” (“on top of a volcano / open your mouth / wait until your tongue becomes fire…”); one “to be consumed on a solar eclipse” (“3 glasses of water / that a ruby has been soaking in for 3 days… / 13,000 grams of jealousy”); and then the “aphrodisiac recipe” (“7 days without eating/ 7 days without talking / 7 days without sleeping…”).

According to a blurb at MoMA, the book’s recipes are “evocative instructions for actions or thoughts”. Clearly, though, the “recipes” are not meant to be taken literally. From what I can make out from an essay in Spanish by Ana Bernstein available here (pdf), it seems that that the text is “performed”, but this involves simply writing the poems (which Bernstein compares with haikus) while painting “Power Objects”; the video thus shows Abramovic painting a figurine (using pig’s blood, apparently – hence the reference to blood in the Wikileaks Tweet), but she is not ingesting anything. If any actual ritual is implied then surely the “earthquake night” needs to apply, too?

I won’t quote further from the book out of respect for copyright, but it is blatantly obvious that this is simply an art project, and that the recipes cannot be used as the basis for any actual dinner party. I imagine the “Spirit Cooking dinner” referenced in the email was an event where perhaps the work was read from or performed by the author, or perhaps placed on display [See UPDATE 3 below, which confirms it was a normal dinner at which fundraisers for her projects were given “a Spirit Cooking memento”].

UPDATE: Wikileaks is also now drawing attention to a 2013 reddit interview with Abramovic, in which she discusses her interest in the occult:

Marina!, What place do you see the occult having within contemporary art; can magick be made (not simply appropriated/ performed)? Thanks, K

Everything depends on which context you are doing what you are doing. If you are doing the occult magic in the context of art or in a gallery, then it is the art. If you are doing it in different context, in spiritual circles or private house or on TV shows, it is not art. The intention, the context for what is made, and where it is made defines what art is or not.

This aspect to Abramovic’s art is well-documented, but the above does not refer to “Spirit Cooking”, nor does it imply that the Spirit Cooking book forms the basis for any real-world ritual activity – much less that she serves up breastmilk and semen to her dinner guests.

UPDATE 2: In one particularly feverish extrapolation, Mike Cernovich explains that the email proves that Clinton’s inner circle belongs to a “sex cult”, and that apparently occult symbolism in Abramovic’s work is evidence of a secret society making itself known to “taunt the public”.

Cernovich then refers to other Wikileaks emails that reportedly show “Hillary’s efforts to protect Laura Silsby, who was caught trafficking 33 children from Haiti”. Silsby was one of several Baptist missionaries famously arrested in Haiti in 2010, and it was already known that Bill Clinton had made diplomatic efforts on her behalf. Without any evidence, Cernovich suggests that “perhaps those children were destined for Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘pedophile island,’ a sex cult resort that Bill Clinton visited dozens of times.”

Cernovich doesn’t respond well to criticisms of his theory; when someone on Twitter suggested that Cernovich is “actually losing his mind”, Cernovich’s reply was that the doubter is “a pedophile apologist”.

UPDATE 3: Art News has interviewed Abramovic about the claims:

The dinner, she explained, was a reward for donors to a Kickstarter campaign she had run. Tony Podesta has collected her work since the 1990s, and he attended, but John couldn’t make it. In fact, she has never met John Podesta.

“It was just a normal dinner,” Abramovic said, adding that about 10 people attended. “It was actually just a normal menu, which I call spirit cooking. There was no blood, no anything else. We just call things funny names, that’s all.” (The Kickstarter page advertised “traditional soups.”)

Also:

“Anybody who wants can read my memoirs and find out that [my work] is far away from Satanism,” she said.

The Kickstarter page confirms that those who pledged $10,000 would be invited to

A dinner night with Marina during which she will teach you and other backers at this level how to cook a series of traditional soups, which you will all enjoy together. The night will end with the making of a golden ball, a recipe given to Marina in a Tibetan monastery. Marina will bring to this dinner a Spirit Cooking memento for each backer to keep.

UPDATE 4: The story has a spin-off in the form of a photo of John Podesta posed standing with a drawing of a fish on the palm of his left hand and the number “14” on the palm of his right.  Conspiracy-mongers see in the left hand a reference to an esoteric symbol called “The Hand of the Mysteries” (or “The Hand of the Philosopher”), in which an open (right) palm bears an image of a fish and each fingertip is topped with an esoteric object. The “14” meanwhile, supposedly refers to Osiris, who was cut into 14 parts and scattered – his penis then being eaten by a fish.

The photo was posted to Twitter by Podesta in September 2015, along with an explanation:

Important but overlooked Global Goal: no. 14— we must protect our oceans and life they sustain

This refers to the United Nations’ 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development, of which number 14 is “oceans”. However, there is little hope of progress with believers in these kinds of conspiracies at the best of times; citing a United Nations project as counter-evidence is probably akin to pouring petrol on fire.

UPDATE 5: Some conspiracists are also drawing attention to another email, in which John Podesta refers to a wound on his hand in an exchange with a hand surgeon:

I’ve been doing well, but fear that the little finger may be getting infected. I saw Daniel Saturday and this morning and all seemed fine except the place where the finger joins the palm continues to weep.

Does this not prove that Podesta has followed the instruction to “cut deeply into the middle finger of your left hand”?

Actually, no – a wound to the base of the little finger is different from a deep cut to be middle finger, and the email dates to January 2014, more than a year before his brother’s dinner with Abramovic.

Further, the reason Podesta is communicating with his hand surgeon is because he’s just had an operation on it. A later email written to the surgeon after he fell when out running explains the background:

Dr. Haque,

I took a tumble this morning while running. Besides a few scrapes and bruises, I’m ok. The little finger on my left hand (the one you operated on last January) got hyper-extended and the first knuckle up from the palm is red and inflamed.

The surgeon replied that he had removed “Dupuytren’s fibrous tissue cords” in January – this is a condition in which fibrous tissue prevents the finger extending properly. “The place where the finger joins the palm” is exactly the place where one would expect medical intervention to occur.