Automated Messages From Tommy Robinson Cited in Finsbury Park Mosque Attack Trial

Note: In this post I discuss the way that prosecution evidence produced in a live trial has been presented in the media. However, no inference should be drawn about the significance or validity of that evidence while the trial is in progress.

The Independent‘s Lizzie Dearden reports from the trial of Darren Osborne, who is accused of having driven a van into worshippers leaving Finsbury Park Mosque in June:

The alleged Finsbury Park terror attacker read messages from Tommy Robinson and Jayda Fransen in the lead-up to the atrocity, a court has heard.

…Mr Osborne joined Twitter on 3 June and [allegedly] started following far-right accounts, including some linked to the far-right extremist group Britain First.

Prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC said he received a “direct message” from Ms Fransen, the group’s deputy leader, on the same day but did not detail its contents.

….The following week, he received an email from Mr Robinson, the former English Defence League leader, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the court heard.

…Discussing the Isis-linked terror attack that killed 22 people in Manchester the previous month, it said: “What Salman Abedi did is not the beginning, and it won’t be the end…”

…The second email from Mr Robinson to Mr Osborne came on 14 June and detailed the campaign for a woman whose rapists were not prosecuted, jurors were told.

“Dear Darren, you know about the terrible crimes committed against [name redacted] of Sunderland,”….

The formal “Dear Darren” in the second message from Robinson is an obvious sign that the messages were circulars rather than personal communications – and a bit of googling shows that at least some of the text from the first email corresponds to the blurb for a protest event that was held in Manchester in June. This is made clearer in a BBC News report:

…Mr Osborne later received an invitation to a demonstration from an account using the name Tommy Robinson calling for participants to “stand up and say no more” to extremism.

Mr Rees said: “No-one is suggesting it’s him [Mr Robinson] in person but obviously people who follow Tommy Robinson.”

Despite this, however, the initial impression in media reports and Tweets was that the prosecution was claiming that Robinson had been in personal contact with Osborne – an impression heightened by confusion between the alleged “direct message” from Fransen and the emails sent on behalf of Robinson.

At 3.15pm, Dearden wrote on Twitter that “To all those asking what medium Tommy Robinson sent messages to Darren Osborne by – the prosecution said they were direct but gave no further detail”; 25 minutes later, she explained that “The two messages from Mr Robinson were automated emails sent out to a mailing list of subscribers to The Rebel website, and had been screengrabbed by Mr Osborne” (or “allegedly screengrabbed”, it may have been wiser to have written). This was an hour after Fiona Hamilton of The Times similarly “clarified” a Tweet from the morning. @MetroUK, meanwhile, decided to delete a Tweet stating that “Finsbury Park ‘attacker got Twitter DMs from Tommy Robinson days before attack’.

The alleged message from Fransen is known only from the record of a notification; the content itself is lost. It seems to me that it may well have been an automated “Thank you for following” DM or similar.

Robinson has responded to the coverage by claiming that Dearden has put his “life in danger” by “fake news & misrepresentations”; he may have reason to complain, but the indignant pose is hard to take from a man who once told a crowd that “every single Muslim… got away with killing and maiming British citizens” on 7/7 (to give just one example of unreasonable rabble-rousing). The question of direct contact with the accused is distinct from the question of whether the accused was inspired by Robinson and, if so, whether Robinson is culpable due to “fake news & misrepresentations” of his own.

In the wake of the terror attack, Robinson posted Tweets alleging that the mosque was a hotbed of extremism, adding that “I’m not justifying it, I’ve said many times if government or police don’t sort these centres of hate they will create monsters as seen tonight.” As evidence, he drew attention to The Suicide Factory, a book about the mosque’s association with Abu Hamza. For some reason, though, he did not feel the need to clarify that the book had been published more than ten years ago, and that Abu Hamza had been expelled in 2003. The mosque closed down a few months later, and opened under new management in 2005. It is no longer a focus of controversies over extremism.

However, a couple of days before the attack, the mosque’s troubled past was referenced in the media in relation to the organiser of a protest held in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy – I discussed this here.

A Note on “Weaponising” Social Media Abuse By Claiming Victimhood

From Douglas Murray at the Spectator:

Last week I wrote in this space about Cathy Newman’s catastrophic interview with the Canadian academic Jordan Peterson. Since then a number of things have happened. One is that millions of people around the world have watched Newman’s undisguisedly partisan interview. The other is that Channel 4 has tried to turn the tables by claiming victimhood.

…Of course genuine threats against public figures should be treated with the utmost seriousness. Actual threats require the police to get involved. Threatening anybody with violence is not only wrong but a crime. People mocking you mercilessly on the other hand (‘So what you’re saying, Professor Peterson, is that lobster women should be paid less lobster money than men’) is neither a police matter nor even a matter for security specialists. It’s something that everybody in the public eye has to deal with, and only certain types of people try to weaponise to their own advantage.

The interview has been dissected in some detail by Conor Freidersdorf at the Atlantic; it is reasonable to take the view that in this instance the aggressive scepticism that we like to see from journalists in conversation with public figures was compromised by Newman’s personal animosity, resulting in misjudged lines of attack that repeatedly misrepresented her interview subject. After the interview, it was reported that Newman had been “rocked” by death threats and that her employer had brought in a security specialist.

So who are these “certain types of people” of whom Murray speaks? Murray doesn’t say – instead, he changes the subject by complaining that while there has been high-profile sympathy for Newman, there was nothing comparable when it was revealed during a terror trial that an Islamist terrorist had expressed a wish to behead Katie Hopkins. This then segues into a rebuke of those who have made merry over the fact that Hopkins is currently selling her house, apparently to meet her financial obligations after losing a libel case (a case in which she had acknowledged making a false claim but had refused to apologise).

In fact, what Murray refers to as ” tr[ying] to turn the tables by claiming victimhood” is standard practice these days. I looked at two examples just last month. One concerned a Mail on Sunday front page splash blaming Jeremy Corbyn for abusive comments received by a Conservative MP after Corbyn quite reasonably denounced his banter in the House of Commons (the article even uses the phrase “the MP turned the tables on Mr Corbyn” in relation to his complaint). The other example was the ludicrous press coverage of the Stop Funding Hate campaign, which for the most part has consisted of “exposing” uncivil Tweets by random individuals who have RTed Tweets posted by the campaign – thus criticism of the press becomes “online hatred”.

The point is not that those on the receiving end of social media incivility – whether abuse, harassment or threats – are wrong to complain publicly, or that the media should ignore it. Rather, it is that coverage should be proportionate and precise, and that there should be some scepticism when this sort of thing diverts attention away from legitimate criticism or is used to stigmatise or intimidate critics by supposed association.

“Westminster VIP Child Sex Abuse” Accuser Granted IICSA “Core Participant” Status

On Lord Bramall: “Who’s that cow bag saying Bramall is an innocent man?”

From the Sunday Times:

A former MP is to write to Alexis Jay, head of an inquiry into child sex abuse, challenging her decision to grant a key role to a woman he describes as a “fantasist”.

John Hemming, who was the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley from 2005 until 2015, was accused by Esther Baker of raping her at paedophile sex orgies in woods at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, when she was aged between six and 11. She said police officers would stand guard, and bring back children who ran away.

The Staffordshire force investigated the allegations for more than two years but dropped the case in September.

Now Baker, 35, has been granted “core participant” status for the Westminster strand of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, chaired by Jay. The special status will allow Baker to see confidential documents and she could also claim expenses. Baker will also be allowed to suggests questions to be put to witnesses giving evidence.

An earlier article covering the same ground was published yesterday in the Daily Mail. Both pieces quote Hemming as saying that Baker has “a public track record of continually changing her public allegations”, with the earlier article adding that:

…In a High Court witness statement this month, the ex-MP claimed that two weeks before she accused him of rape, Miss Baker had emailed him and sought his help.

He said: ‘She did not accuse me of being a rapist … she said she had been abused as a child in a faith-related paedophile ring. Her own MP and the Prime Minister did not assist her so she forwarded the email to me asking for my help.

…In his statement, part of legal action he is taking against a supporter of Miss Baker, Mr Hemming alleged that prior to accusing him she tweeted that she had ‘never’ met an MP.

I previously discussed the case in September, and before that in October 2015. Although Baker has never used the phrase “Satanic Ritual Abuse”, her account of being abused in woodlands with police guards and the participation of professionals such as a judge are obvious SRA tropes.

It is true that Baker’s allegations changed and developed – she first gave an interview to  Channel 4 News as “Becky” in January 2015, in which she said that she had been abused “in a church setting”, and that some of the abusers had been police officers who attended the church. These police officers were later described as guards at woodland orgies. Later, Baker went on to explain that she had been transported by night without her mother’s knowledge to Dolphin Square in London, where she had been subjected to sex abuse by VIPs. She claimed to recall a “medical room” described by “Darren”, a now-discredited “Westminster VIP” accuser who in turn claimed to remember seeing Baker.

The Sunday Times says that Baker first claimed that politicians were involved in her alleged abuse in May 2015, although she has published a screenshot showing that she had accused Hemming privately to a third party on 30 January 2015. Three months before this date, Hemming had criticised the decision to make Fiona Woolf the head of the IICSA – in contrast, Woolf was supported by a significant activist with links to Baker.

Baker also remains a strong supporter of Operation Midland’s “Nick”, whose sensational claims of having seen public figures rape, torture and murder children sent the Metropolitan Police on a multi-million pound wild-goose chase: in February 2016 she asked “Who’s that cow bag saying Bramall is an innocent man?”, referring to Nick’s allegations against the former Chief of the General Staff of the British Army. According to Nick, Lord Bramall would spend Remembrance Sunday not in commemoration of Britain’s war dead, but instead participating in sadistic CSA orgies during which remembrance poppies were pinned onto his victim’s bare skin – bizarre ritual inversions that again recall SRA.

Baker has many supporters on social media who are invested in the idea of “VIP abuse” conspiracies as being the secret key to understanding British public life over many decades. These supporters believe that pointing out difficulties and inconsistencies in “survivor” allegations is an act of wickedness, and probably part of a conspiracy to protect and promote paedophiles. Baker’s contemptuous “cow bag” abuse against someone for daring to defend the reputation of the elderly Lord Bramall is just a hint of what lies ahead for those who give testimony to the IICSA that is not to her liking.

In response to the new articles, supporters argue that the material can be dismissed out of hand for the simple reason that it has been published in the Daily Mail. Baker also says that her case in fact is ongoing, and that there is further evidence that she cannot currently talk about but that “due process” will reveal. It should be noted that although the Sunday Times article says that Staffordshire Police “dropped the case”, the decision was actually taken by the CPS, on the grounds that Baker’s allegations could be a case of mistaken identity. Baker is currently challenging this decision through formal channels (she says “they applied the wrong guidelines”), and the article has the detail that “Staffordshire police have said they will continue to support her”. Further, she has indicated that the police are still investigating other complaints she has made, and as such reports that raise doubts about her Hemming allegations are “prejudicial”.  According to her account, we are unlikely to know more until 2019.

Hemming’s name was not publicised in the media until September 2017, when he came forward (although activists had named him at events before then, and it was widely known that he had been accused by Baker). This meant that his initial quotes on the subject in 2015 were not at the time directly attributed to him, such as this one in the Guardian:

The former MP said: “We must continue to listen to people who allege that they have been abused as children. We must not be derailed by … politicians, like Jess Phillips and John Mann, who have been openly campaigning on one side of this case during an ongoing police investigation.”

Phillips won Hemming’s seat in the 2015 General Election, since when she has achieved wide public recognition. The same article includes indignant denials from the two politicians, although it is certainly the case that they promoted Baker’s narrative and would have known that Hemming was the “former MP”. However, neither Phillips nor Mann have made further public statements about Baker since the CPS dropped the case and Hemming went public.

Guatemala’s President Follows Trump in Accepting Award From “End Times” Author

A press release from the Friends of Zion Museum:

Guatemala’s Evangelical President Morales accepted the Friends of Zion Award in the Presidential Palace from Friends of Zion founder Dr. Mike Evans for his historic decision to move the Guatemalan Embassy to Jerusalem.

In December President Donald Trump, received the Friends of Zion Award from Dr. Mike Evans in the oval office at an event attended by Vice President Pence, Senior Advisors Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump and faith leaders representing over 150 million Christians globally.

Evans, as I noted last month, is a high-profile Christian Zionist who has written numerous books linking current global politics to the “End Times”: his many titles include The Final Move Beyond Iraq (blogged here); Showdown with Nuclear Iran: Radical Islam’s Messianic Mission to Destroy Israel and Cripple the United States (written with the assistance of Jerome Corsi, whose birther “investigations” inspired Trump); and The Final Generation: Jesus is Coming Soon (“Bible prophecy after Bible prophecy points to the likelihood that the last generation before Jesus’ return is now on the Earth”).

Over the years, Evans has built relationships with Israel’s political establishment, and Israeli Ambassador Mattanya Cohen was in attendance when Evans presented Morales with the award, which came just days after anti-corruption protestors in Guatemala were violently suppressed by state forces.

In August, Guatemala’s constitutional court blocked Morales’s attempt to expel Ivan Velásquez, the Colombian head of the UN’s International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. At the time, it was reported that Velásquez enjoyed the support of the US ambassador, Todd D. Robinson; however, Robinson was transferred to Venezuela in December, and in the same month Reuters quoted Michael Shifter of Inter-American Dialogue as saying that Morales’s support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “is a pretty low-cost way for Morales to make sure the Trump administration is on his side”.

Given that Evans has recently paid for more than a hundred “God Bless Trump” signs to appear around Jerusalem, it looks like it is also a “low-cost way” for Morales to promote himself as a pious Evangelical who is doing God’s work, rather than as a more controversial figure.

More “Rothschild” Conspiracy Mongering in the Labour Party Revealed

From the website of the Hastings & Rye Labour Party:

Below you will find statements supporting the individual candidacy of the shortlisted candidates for the Parliamentary Selection for Hastings & Rye Constituency Labour Party.

Update: 16 January 2018

The Parliamentary Selection Committee decided to remove  Michelle Harris from the shortlist. This was a retrospective decision when new information came to the attention of the committee.

The “new information” relates to Harris’s inability to tell the difference between supporting Palestinian rights and (a) making ill-considered references to the Holocaust in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and (b) promoting David Icke’s memes and posts about “Rothschild Zionism”. Here’s an example of the latter:

It should be noted that this isn’t some young activist who might not know any better – Harris has been a practising barrister since 2000. Her posts appear to have first been noted a few days ago by Marlon Solomon, who has previously made the case that Icke should be regarded a “leading antisemite” rather than as a marginal clown with risible sci-fi ideas about the Queen being a giant lizard from another dimension.

The name “Rothschild” has exercised the imaginations of conspiracy theorists for 200 years (as discussed by Brian Cathcart here), who believe that the family is somehow the key to understanding the nature of banking and the history of the modern state of Israel. The further implication – sometimes admitted, at other times denied – is that the family’s supposed influence reveals a more general point about a secret and unaccountable “Jewish influence”. Icke himself seems to have come up with the formulation “Rothschild Zionism”.

Harris’s 2014 promotion of Icke is just one example of how his conspiracy thinking has infected the political left in the UK – last February I noted the case of a Labour councillor named John Clarke who announced that he was “anti-Rothschild not Antisemitic” after posting a meme on how “the Rothschild family… has been creating almost all of the world’s money at interest for a couple hundred years”. Clarke made no mention of Icke, but I suggested then that his “anti-Rothschild” pose must serve to mainstream Icke’s “Rothschild Zionism” ideas.

I critiqued the basis for “Rothschild” conspiricism both in my post about Clarke and in a post about the US alt-right here. It’s a theory and a pseudo-explanation that appears to be attractive to some on the left and on the right.

UPDATE: Harris has responded to the media coverage. She writes that

the post had been doctored to make it look bad, but what I’d actually shared was a picture of Gaza being bombed with a tagline this is not defence; and a meme praising an Israeli Jewish man who had refused to join the IDF.

It is not clear from this in what way exactly the post was “doctored”, but this does not amount to a denial that she posted a reference by David Icke to “Rothschild Zionist Israel”. I take it to mean that the picture and the meme were the point of her post, rather than Icke’s “Rothschild Zionist” comment introducing them, but that these were absent from the screenshot.

She also writes:

 I don’t personally use either term [“Rothschild” and “Zionist”]. The former because whilst I fully accept that the Israel propaganda and vested interests affect the honest reporting of the situation, it adds nothing in my view to single out one. As to Zionists I’ve had arguments with some of these trolls because I won’t delete people who use it, but don’t myself use it, as I think the word has different meanings to different people, and as such has little value as a word.

I take this and the above to mean that although she does not use the term “Rothschild Zionist” herself, she is tolerant of it. Her criticism is that “Rothschild” should not be singled out because it “adds nothing” to do so, not that using a Jewish surname in this way promotes very old anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and is actually misleading.

It was also reported that she had joined a David Icke group on Facebook. On this point, she writes that

It is also said I belong to a David Icke group but their screenshot showed I hadn’t joined but been added by another Facebook user, and thus is another lazy attempt to smear.

Clinical Psychologist Who Wrote Warboys Report Monstered as “Soft Justice Campaigner”

From the Mail Online:

A psychologist said to have recommended the release if the black cab rapist has spent 30 years calling for softer sentences for sex offenders, it has been revealed…

[John Worboys’s] release was signed off by the Parole Board following a report by Dr Jackie Craissati, a renowned clinical psychologist hired by Worboys’ defence team. 

It has now been revealed that Dr Craissati has campaigned for soft justice for sexual predators and paedophiles, who she claims should be ‘treated’ in the community.

At the weekend, the Observer reported that “prison and probation officials have complained that disproportionate weight was given to external advice” by an independent psychologist “hired by Worboys’s defence team”; the same article stated that the psychologist’s “identity is protected by parole board procedures”, but Craissati’s name was apparently leaked to the Daily Express. This prompted Paul Staines’s Guido Fawkes website to dig out some quotes from old media interviews and publications, presented as a list of “gotchas”. Staines’s site is directly referenced in the Mail Online story, which also copies Staines’s “soft justice” formulation.

The url for the Guido Fawkes article indicates that the original plan was to headline with the claim that Craissati has “spent her career” campaigning for “soft justice”, although at some point the headline was softened to just “campaigned”. This seems to be an acknowledgement that the central claim is weak. The supposed “campaign” appears to consist of providing a few media quotes when asked, and the fact that she wrote a book in 1998 called Child Sexual Abusers: A Community Treatment Approach. And these details, as expected, are not presented fairly by Staines.

Staines writes that the book “calls for” community treatment, heavily implying some sort of manifesto. However, although the text notes that as of 1997 “judges were increasingly inclined to ignore recommendations for community treatment”, the book is not a critique of sentencing policy but rather a description and assessment of such treatment as it already exists (in particular, the book focuses on the Challenge Project in southeast London). It may be popular to say that all offenders should simply be locked up forever, but the fact is that a range of professionals are tasked with managing offenders who are not in prison, and as such a book on the subject may be of some use. Thus the book blurb describes itself as of interest to “all professionals involved in the assessment and treatment of sex offenders, predominantly probation, social services and mental health professionals”.

Other quotes highlighted by Staines include Craissati’s observation that “it would seem that – despite under-reporting – a number of convicted sex offenders do not sexually reoffend.” If that is what the evidence indicates, it’s difficult to see why she ought not to say it, and it’s hardly a great surprise. There is also a reference to an interview, in which she stated that

[Media] coverage tends to make child molesters defensive, anxious, withdrawn, unco-operative… It makes my job much more difficult. It makes them go back into themselves when I’ve spent a year trying to get them to take responsibility.”

Staines removes “when I’ve spent a year trying to get them to take responsibility” from her quote, in order to give the impression that she is placing the sensitivities of offenders ahead of the public’s right to know and to express moral censure. In fact, though, she is simply explaining a reality of her job. And observation appears to be the basis for all the handful of quotes assembled by Staines and MailOnline and presented as evidence of a “campaign for soft justice”.

Of course, a clinical perspective on offenders is not the only factor that society needs to take into account when dealing with child sex abuse. Victims deserve justice, and may suffer if they don’t get it; there is the value of deterrence; and while offenders may be patients it must never be forgotten that they are also criminals. The justice system as a whole needs to ask more than just “is this person currently dangerous?”, but there is no reason to suppose that Craissati objects to this. The quotes do not support the thesis that her report on Warboys – the details of which remain unknown – was driven by an ideology of “soft justice”.

It’s also currently unclear how important her Warboys report was anyway. While the Observer article led with the opinion of unnamed “prison and probation officials” as conveyed by Harry Fletcher (former assistant general secretary of NAPO, the probation officers’ union), the very last paragraph has a quote from a Parole Board spokesperson that offers a different perspective:

“The parole board carefully considered a detailed dossier of evidence of nearly 400 pages and heard evidence from nine witnesses, including four psychologists, two probation officers and three members of prison staff… The independent parole board panel took account of all of that evidence. It is simply untrue to say that they were overly influenced by one individual’s evidence.”

UPDATE: As expected, the mood on social media is ugly, with crudely abusive comments about Craissati, exhortations to harassment and at least one user expressing a wish that she should come to harm. Social media has also introduced the distortion that she was “on the parole board”.

Wall of Silence: Exhibition Inspired by Leon Brittan Accuser Coming to Parliament

A news release:

We start 2018 with some fantastic news from our good friends at Southmead Project. Over the last couple of years, the charity has curated the Wall of Silence – a touring exhibition including images, poems and stories from victims and survivors of child abuse. The exhibition has travelled around the country – from City Hall London to the Avon and Somerset Police headquarters – and has played an vital role in raising awareness about child abuse and championing the services that organisations like Southmead Project provides in helping survivors.

The charity has confirmed that the exhibition will now spend a week in the Upper Waiting Hall at the Houses of Parliament, commencing on Monday 16 April…

Southmead’s Mike Pierce previously announced this in December, and he specifically thanked the Labour MP Sarah Champion for her assistance.

I noted the exhibition’s presence at the National Assembly of Wales during 2016. At that time, the exhibition blurb said that it was the inspiration of someone called Carl, who said that he had been “abused by some powerful people”. Although this was somewhat vague, anyone who looked at the Carl’s social media output (since deleted) would very quickly see that he was claiming to have been victimised by VIPs at Westminster, in particular the late Conservative former Home Secretary Leon Brittan.

The Southmead Project’s webpage on the subject used to include a link to a specific “Wall of Silence” website, which explained that

Carl is in recovery from child sexual abuse: his story is one of extreme terror, mental turmoil, heartbreak, sadness and fear. Like many survivors and victims, he wishes to do something positive about the situation – both for himself and others and so he launched RAVSCA (Raising Awareness for Victims & Survivors of Child Abuse) an on-line space where survivors and victims of abuse could share their experiences through photographs, poems, stories and paintings.

This link has since been removed and the website is dead; a RAVSCA Facebook page is also now gone. Google results for RAVSCA bring up old results from 2015 and 2016, the most prominent of which are fundraising pages created by Carl himself (here and here), abandoned having achieved only a percentage of the requested funds. Carl’s original vision was for “a photographic exhibition for National Association for People Abused in Childhood” before Southmead took charge – however, although he raised money on this basis, RAVSCA was never itself registered as a charity and Carl was anonymous and therefore unaccountable.

Does the disappearance of RAVSCA mean that Carl’s story is no longer part of the Wall of Silence, despite the fact that he was the original inspiration for it? If so, there needs to be a proper explanation for this. Carl made shocking allegations against Leon Brittan, and now his project is to be set up in the very location where Brittan worked and made his name as a national public figure. One might have thought this would be a matter of some controversy, especially given that several allegations made against Brittan shortly before his death have failed to be substantiated.

But perhaps we ought not to ask too many questions – when the journalist Sean O’Neill of The Times asked Pierce for more information about it, a third party (Esther Baker, an associate of the Labour MP Jess Phillips) immediately intervened to denounce O’Neill as the “king paedo-protector” and to caution Pierce not to reply.

Some Notes on “The White Pendragons”

From the Washington Post:

An anti-Islamic nationalist wheeled a homemade gallows into central London, led a group of men into a conference hall and attempted to “arrest” the city’s first Muslim mayor as he gave a speech Saturday.

The group failed, and was eventually escorted out by the same police officers they had asked to apprehend Mayor Sadiq Khan. They still managed to delay the speech for 15 minutes as they accused Khan of treachery, tyranny and disrespecting President Trump.

The incident occurred at the Fabian Society New Year Conference at Friends Meeting House in Euston Road.

The disruption was widely reported in the UK, although the “gallows” detail appears to have been mostly overlooked (it was parked around the back, in Taviton Street; images were uploaded to Facebook). The group calls itself “White Pendragons” or “White Pendragon”, and members wear distinctive black t-shirts bearing the image of a dragon. The dragon is very similar to the dragon as depicted on the Welsh flag (the main difference – apart from the image being white rather than red – is with the position of the tail). Some members appear to prefer “Pen Dragon”, presumably to evoke (but not properly translate) the Welsh original “Pen Draig”, meaning “Chief Dragon”.

The dragon logo comes with slogans:

Take Back Control / Rule of Law / Common Law / Lawful Rebellion / Magna Carta 1215 

This is instantly recognisable as “sovereign citizen” or “freeman of the land” type rhetoric: the general idea is that there is something in the law that has been overlooked or suppressed, but which means that the legal system as we know it is largely invalid. The particular form this takes with this group appear to derive from ideas posted online by the British Constitution Group. Thus Sadiq Khan has broken the “real” law, and group members have the legal “common law” authority to arrest him (and from the gallows, perhaps we should infer more than just that). The group has also published a “Pre Action Notice” that it apparently sent to the Queen at Buckingham Palace in October.

Paul Brand of ITV News managed to speak to and film one of the protestors after his ejection from the event. As he Tweeted:

Sadiq Khan’s speech at @thefabians conference interrupted by protest by group called White Pendragon who tell me Fabians are subverting society (link) / They claim they are not a racist group, nor far right. But they told us Sadiq Khan has no right to be Mayor of London, referencing his religion (link) / Asked several times for some clarity on what their objection to the Fabians is. They claim Fabians are subverting the constitution of the UK and one quoted the Magna Carta. Not entirely clear how they think Fabians are doing this. (link) / The man in this clip would appear to be Davey Russell, a leading member of the EDL, who is known for posting his views of Islam on YouTube. (link)

Those “views” have also been expressed by Russell in the form of tearing a page from a copy of the Qur’an and spitting on it. In 2016 he was convicted of running a pirate radio station out of his home in Kent as “DJ Bossmann”; his station, Motiv-8 (var. Motive8) has moved online (for some reason the co.uk url redirects to one in South Africa).

Russell also describes himself as “Sargent at Arms, AKA party whip” of a political party called “England, Takes Back Control (Party)”, which uses the phrases and image associated with “White Pendragon”. Aims include “an expedient inquiry into perjury of oath by those previously elected and those not elected but have sworn oaths, purpose to prosecute Treason”, and the outlawing not just of the Fabian Society, but also the Muslim Brotherhood, Chatham House, Common Purpose, and “additional seditious and or pernicious groups”. On the other hand, though, “no form of political correctness should subvert free speech”.

The leader of the party is Graham Moore, who was formerly with UKIP and then the English Democrats. This time, though, he’s found a position for life, as “Officials or Officers cannot resign as they have sworn an oath which cannot be resigned.” Moore was an English Democrat candidate in the 2015 General Election and the 2016 Tooting by-election, but despite not receiving very much support (in the latter he got fewer votes than the Monster Raving Loony Party) he has more than once been invited to speak on the Kremlin-financed TV station RT.

Another site connected with the group is called “The People’s Bailiffs”, which explains that the t-shirts can be purchased from Adrian Langton of “Patriot Screen Printing”.

But how significant is the group? Media stunts tend to provide massive publicity boosts that that are disproportionate to an individual’s or a group’s influence. However, looking through Facebook pages associated with the group, I found more than a 100 users using the “Pendragon” logo as their avatar before I stopped counting.

Bette Davis’s Daughter and Satanic Panic

Here’s one I missed from October: a Mail Online article by Tom Leonard with “astonishing new allegations” from Bette Davis’s daughter Barbara Hyman, better known as “B.D. Hyman”:

…She says her mother was so possessive that she couldn’t tolerate her marriage — aged just 16 — in 1963 to British film executive, Jeremy Hyman, 13 years her senior.

Unable to persuade her daughter to leave Hyman, the actress apparently placed a ‘demonic’ curse on their family that led to their older son developing bipolar disorder and Bede being diagnosed with ‘terminal’ cancer, which she miraculously survived.

…Even more dramatically, she also relates how one night, at Davis’s Beverly Hills mansion in 1984, she watched her mother go through occult rituals in a ‘last-ditch attempt’ to make Bede ‘run back to her’.

Lying in bed, she says she suddenly felt tremendously scared. As she locked the French doors to the terrace, Davis appeared on the balcony and rattled the doors.

‘She began demonic cackling and I watched her transform into a Satanic figure — a Satanic face, long claws on the ends of her hands as she scraped at the glass,’ Bede said.

This was in fact the second article from Mail Online on the subject – the same ground was covered in March, although in that version Davis’s “long claws” manifested in 1982. The earlier piece was based on videos uploaded by Hyman to YouTube in 2015, and Hyman in fact claimed that “Bette Davis engaged in a Satanic assault against her family” in a 2003 magazine interview. The news hook for the March article was the TV series Feud (currently available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer), in which “B.D.” is depicted as a teenager, while Leonard’s October piece was a response to a new sympathetic memoir of Davis by her former personal assistant Kathryn Sermak.

Hyman notoriously attacked her mother’s reputation in her 1985 memoir My Mother’s Keeper, which was published at a time when Davis was seriously ill. However, as Leonard notes, “there is nothing about witchcraft” in this earlier account. She followed up with Narrow is the Way, which she co-wrote with her husband; this sequel includes an account of her religious conversion that was soon afterwards summarised in The Forerunner, and now available online. Hyman said that she became interested in Christianity through an encounter with a travelling salesman named Serafino Fazio, and that she was subsequently healed of an illness after she saw Pat Robertson miraculously describe her “age, location, and back problem” during an episode of the 700 Club. According to a 1985 report in the Washington Post, much of the the advance for My Mother’s Keeper was donated to Robertson and to her local Assemblies of God church.

Hyman’s ministry is based in Charlottesville, VA, and her 2003 reference to Davis as committing a “Satanic assault” was made in a local magazine called The Hook. The profile has further details:

 When asked how her family came to Charlottesville after a five-year stint in the Bahamas, she says, “Virginia was the last bastion of real fox hunting left in America, and that was what God used to get us here.”

She’s tracking bigger prey now. Rooting out satanic infiltration of contemporary culture, B.D. Hyman warns in her 2002 book, The Rapture, The Tribulation And Beyond, that babies are sacrificed on Halloween; Harry Potter indoctrinates children into the occult; and the Antichrist is promoting his agenda of homosexuality. Aggressively.

As for the coming time of tribulation, B.D. Hyman writes: “People will pray for death but not die. There is no repentance for those who receive the mark of the beast… [just] eternal condemnation and torment in the lake of fire.”

Hyman also told The Hook that she has “hundreds” of ministry partners; one supporter provided a testimony of healing for the article, and Hyman further claimed that some partners have been cured of Aids.

Hyman’s father was Bette Davis’s third husband, William Grant Sherry, who married her nanny Marion Richards two days after being divorced by Davis. Hyman told the Washington Post that Davis had told her that her father had run off with Richards, when in fact Davis had thrown him over for her next husband, Gary Merrill. Time magazine quoted Sherry as describing his new – rather younger – wife as a “very spiritually impressive girl”. Details about Sherry’s later life are scarce, although according to Hyman’s website he became an “elder” in a “cult”, which he in due course left following “intercessory prayer”. He died in 1995.

One interesting connection here is that Marion Sherry, who died in 2014, had a niece named Pamela Leigh Richards, who maintains a webpage with details about her “Uncle Grant and Aunt Marion”. Pamela Richards is probably best known as David Icke’s second wife; it’s curious that while the fundamentalist Hyman claims that her mother physically transformed into “a Satanic figure”, her New Age step-cousin was for a time married to a man who claims that various public figures are shape-shifting reptiles (a belief that Richards says contributed to the end of their marriage, as Icke feared that she might be one).

Toby Young Accidentally Draws Attention to “Secret” London Conference on Intelligence

The Guardian reports:

University College London has launched an urgent investigation into how a senior academic was able to secretly host conferences on eugenics and intelligence with notorious speakers including white supremacists.

The London Conference on Intelligence was said to have been run secretly for at least three years by James Thompson, an honorary senior lecturer at the university, including contributions from a researcher who has previously advocated child rape. (1)

The conferences have come to attention now because of the participation of the journalist Toby Young, who has recently withdrawn from a new role as a member of the government’s new Office for Students. Young stepped down following controversy over a history of coarsely lecherous comments and trolling on Twitter (2) – he clung on despite the matter being put to the Prime Minister in an interview, front-page headlines and a question being raised in Parliament, but changed his mind a couple of days ago.

The initial narrative from Young’s supporters was that he had been forced out by a “Twitter mob” (Piers Morgan) and “armchair critics” (Jo Johnson) who had been unfairly making a fuss about the boorish provocateur image he has cultivated over many years (cue Brendan O’Neill on auto-pilot) [UPDATE: Zelo Street has a round-up here], although according to a Guardian report he finally went following a “barrage of nudges… from his colleagues on the board as well as allies in the Conservative party”. It was also just before his association with the conferences came to attention in the London Student newspaper and Private Eye magazine (1461, p. 11 – not officially online but widely bootlegged on social media).

Young was already controversial for an essay opining that the since the rich will soon be screening embryos to ensure the intelligence of offspring, the technology should also be made available for free to “low-income parents”. He described this as “progressive eugenics”, although when he gave the Constance Holden Memorial Address at the International Society for Intelligence Research in October 2017 he made a distinction between research into “group differences between human beings that have emerged as a result of differential evolution” and the “horrors” of the “eugenics movement”.

Young’s speech was uploaded to YouTube and unofficially transcribed on Medium. His main theme was that researchers are being vilified:

I discovered just how cautious scholars in this field can be when I was invited to attend a 2-day conference on intelligence at University College London by James [Thompson] earlier this year. Attendees were only told the venue at the last minute — an anonymous antechamber at the end of a long corridor called “Lecture Room 22″ — and asked not to share this information with anyone else. One of the attendees, on discovering I was a journalist, pleaded with me not to write about the fact that he was there: he didn’t want his colleagues to find out. It was like a meeting of Charter 77 in Václav Havel’s flat in Prague in the 1970s. But these precautions were not unreasonable considering the reaction that any reference to between-group differences in IQ generally provokes.

For some reason, the London Conference on Intelligence organisers were unwilling to share the 2017 conference programme with Private Eye, and so the magazine instead looked at material presented in previous years:

LCI 2015 included papers arguing that racial differences in penis length  predict different levels of parental care, that racial “admixture” has a negative effect on population quality, that “skin brightness” is a factor in global development, and that country-level differences in the number of Nobel Prizes can be explained by racial differences in male hormone levels.

One paper presented at the 2016 conference argued that “low IQ, high fertility Southern non-Western immigration… threatens the sustainability of European democracy, welfare and civilisation…”

The Eye and London Student further note that Richard Lynn was a participant, and both cite the SPLC for background. Quotes from Lynn have been assembled by the SPLC here – they include comments provided by Lynn to VDARE and Right Now! magazine. I noted Lynn’s association with Right Now! on this blog previously, in connection with praise he received from Antony Flew. London Student goes into further details about Lynn’s Ulster Institute for Social Research and its journal Mankind Quarterly, noting the former’s funding by the Pioneer Fund and the some historical discreditable associations of the latter.

The Eye asked Young for a quote; he replied that “I don’t accept that listening to someone express an idea constitutes tacit acceptance or approval of that idea, no matter how unpalatable”. But no-one had actually suggested such a thing, and one wonders why he chose such a response rather than explain where he in fact stands on the subject. The reference in his 2017 speech gives a strong impression of sympathy for the LCI’s project, which is obviously ideological and prescriptive.

The Eye also says that after James Thompson spoke with them on the phone, he then called back by mistake and asked for “Toby”; one wonders whether we should draw inferences about IQ from this example of incompetent handling of telephone equipment. Thompson has a blog, which is published on Ron Unz’s Unz Review website; some other material on the site has been lifted from other sources, but this is not the case with Thompson’s writing, which specifically refers to being hosted on the site. The Daily Telegraph notes some quotes here.

I’ll leave to others to discuss in detail the issue of intelligence and genetics, and the explanatory power or otherwise of IQ for understanding human behaviours and societies. However, I am sceptical that “intelligence” is one “thing” that will ever be usefully isolated from other variables (social, environmental, and genetic) for the benefit of human progress or understanding. One phenomenon I have observed in relation to this is the overlap between people who boast about their membership of MENSA and people who are cranks.

UPDATE: Toby Young has responded to the press reports in the Spectator, complaining of misrepresentation. As regards the conference:

I popped in for a few hours on a Saturday and sat at the back. I did not present a paper or give a lecture or appear on a platform or anything remotely like that. I had not met any of the other people in the lecture room before, save for Dr Thompson, and was unfamiliar with their work. I was completely ignorant of what had been discussed at the same event in previous years. All I knew was that some of them occupied the weird and whacky outer fringe of the world of genetics.

My reason for attending was because I had been asked – as a journalist – to give a lecture by the International Society of Intelligence Researchers at the University of Montreal later in the year and I was planning to talk about the history of controversies provoked by intelligence researchers. I thought the UCL conference would provide me with some anecdotal material for the lecture – and it did.

…Yes, I heard some people express some pretty odd views. But I don’t accept that listening to someone putting forward an idea constitutes tacit acceptance or approval of that idea, however unpalatable. That’s the kind of reasoning that leads to people being no-platformed on university campuses.

It’s perhaps unfortunate that he did not refer to the “odd views” in his anecdote, in which he instead merely mentioned research into “between-group differences in IQ” and chose to compare attendees with the Eastern European dissidents who worked against Communism.

It should also be pointed out that while holding “secret” conference may protect an event from disruption and speakers from intimidation, the effect is itself a kind of “no-platforming”, in that only those likely to be in sympathy with the project are invited to attend. Young heard “some people express some pretty odd views”, but were these outliers who were then criticised by the other attendees, or were they received with approval? And is the vague descriptor “odd” here being used to gloss over something more unpleasant?

Footnotes

1. The “researcher who has previously advocated child rape” mentioned by the Guardian is one Emil Kirkegaard, who runs the LCI website. On his personal website, he has suggested that sexual activity with a “sleeping” child could be “a compromise”, because “If they dont notice it is difficult to see how they cud be harmed”. In a defensive update to his post, he irritably explained that he he does not advocate any change in the law, and was merely making “a straightforward application of utilitarianism to a hot issue.” Perhaps most of us don’t have the IQ to understand why this isn’t a bit “off”.

2. Young’s comments on Twitter (now mostly deleted) included lascivious observations about breasts and a joke about having his “dick” up a woman’s “arse”. He also replied to a woman who said that she was upset by a scene of poverty in Africa on television with a joke suggesting that he was using the same material for masturbatory purposes. The woman concerned has no public profile and not many Twitter followers – thus this was not just a bad-taste comment but the coarse mockery by a celebrity of a random member of the public. We may now make further inferences about this “joke”.